Monday, April 30, 2007

Chicago in April

Note for new readers: Whenever I go out of town I file these travelblogs in the hopes that an editor will discover them and want to compile them for a book. I keep waiting... and waiting... and waiting...

Chicago in April. It’s either 8 degrees or 80 degrees. We experienced both. Summer in the city and winter in the cabin of an American Airlines Boeing 767. It seems that since AA refurbished their 767’s anyone in rows 20-24 sit in an arctic blast. The airline is aware of the problem but it would take money to repair so better to just freeze out 28 passengers every flight. And who knows? Maybe soon they can charge for blankets and hot coffee and make a tidy profit. In other words -- doing what they do best.

My wife and I were in the City of Wind to see the musical revue our daughter, Annie wrote and directed at Northwestern. It was so genuinely funny that I went from relieved, to proud, to threatened. I hope she hires me someday. I’m preparing a sample of my work. (“Frasier, dad? Do you have anything more recent?”)

On Saturday the temperature went from 50 to 80 and the entire city poured outdoors. Patio cafes were brimming, parks were jammed, surgeons were moving operations to the roofs of local hospitals.

There was no need for me to go to L.A. TAN to get some color. And I was able to walk four blocks without getting frostbite so no need to workout at L.A. FITNESS – two mainstays of Chicago.

KAMA SUTRA: THE MUSICAL and MENOPAUSE: THE MUSICAL are both currently playing. Each is the story of Madonna.

Every expressway – in and out of the city on a Friday – is a parking lot. If I worked downtown I think I’d rather never see my home again than to fight that traffic.

And yet, despite the brutal weather, congestion, and Cubs everyone is so NICE. And unlike Los Angeles, waiters are actually waiters not actors thinking they’re playing waiters.

I guess 28,000,000 nice people help compensate for Frank Lloyd Wright.

Among the many great sights in Chicago was gas under $3.00. Most of our photos from this trip were me at a Citgo station.

There is a local chain called the Homemade Pizza Company. They prepare frozen pizzas for you and you take them home. They have no ovens. I can think of another name for the Homemade Pizza Company – “Any Market”! I wonder if they offer delivery services: “Guaranteed to arrive frozen or your money back.”

Chicago is known for its great museums. Did not get to the American Bar Association Museum of Law (didn’t want to brave the long lines), the National Asian-American Sports Hall of Fame, the Leather Archives & Museum (perfect for showing off that L.A. TAN), or the International Museum of Surgical Sciences (I wonder if they have a hands-on room for the kiddies?).

I passed a place offering “Generic Dentistry”. What the hell is that? They use the CVS brand Novocain? Kenmore spit sinks?

Plans continue for “the Spire” (pictured), that 150-story tower to be erected on Chicago’s lakefront (along with three floors of underground parking). During winter windstorms that thing will swing back and forth like a metronome. The developers say that’s a good thing -- your views change. I hear Oprah wants the south-west corner penthouse so on a clear day she can see her other home… in Santa Barbara.

And not to be outdone, nearby Evanston unveiled plans for a 49-story condominium skyscraper that would be the largest building in Chicago’s SUBURBS. It would kick serious ass over the puny 31-floor Oakbrook Terrace Tower. Do you think if Northwestern had a football team that went to a bowl game more than once every thirty years the city wouldn’t feel compelled to erect these er…giant shafts? I’m just asking.

On Sunday I took the “El” to the southside – where the stockyards meet the shore. Went to see the “other” Chicago baseball team play (y’know, the one that actually won a World Series in our lifetime). The White Sox were hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Some Other City in Fine Print. Considering the traffic on the Santa Ana Freway if you do live in Los Angeles and want to see your Angels it’s easier to go to Chicago.

“The Palehose” play in U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park). U.S. Cellular must’ve really paid through the nose to get them to change the name from Park to Field too. The park/field/stadium/yard/crib/diamond is 16 years old and has already been refurbished. Good thing too. It’s much improved. You used to get vertigo from the upper deck. Now you can sit up there without harnesses. If you haven’t been to “the Cell” since the name change, check it out. Great fun. And the hot dogs are fresh. They were probably made across the street.

When I was broadcasting for the Baltimore Orioles I called the very first night game there. I also filled for four hours during their very first rain delay. That and my Emmy are my two proudest achievements.

I remember they used to announce on the P.A. that this was a residential area so fans were asked to please leave quietly so as not to wake up the neighborhood. Then they would shoot off deafening fireworks every time a White Sox player hit a home run.

Gee, folks in "Chicagoland" sure seem to like Barack Obama more than Hillary Clinton. Even though Hillary is from Chicago.

When kids on the street say, “Do you want to buy the Tribune?” they mean the whole corporation.

Sunday night was beautiful – warm, balmy, perfect for walking around. But just to remind us this was Chicago, a huge lightening storm appeared out of nowhere complete with loud crashing thunder. Or, it could have just been Jim Thome hitting another home run for the White Sox.

Either way, it’s my kind of town.

Tomorrow: The AMERICAN IDOL recap. Here's hoping they get back to music and stop trying to be sincere. It really puts a crimp in my snarkiness.


Benaiah said...

I moved to Chicago in July and I hate it here! The weather is so bad that it defies description. On my birthday it was snowing with gusts of wind of 25 MPH so that it hit your face like daggers. But the real topper was that it was only in the mid 30s but it was snowing so hard that there was still snow on the ground like god dumped a half melted slushy over the entire city. You caught the only good weather in about a month.

I am moving to Boston, so obviously I haven't learned my lesson.

Unknown said...

<< I can think of another name for the Homemade Pizza Company – “Any Market”! >>


gotta love chicago.

Unknown said...

oh, and benaiah. weather aside, chicago is a far cooler city than boston. at least that's what this expat manhattanite in los angeles thinks.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in That Toddling Town...I actually saw a man who danced with his wife. In Chicago. But I never saw a building like the twisted dork or whatever that horrid building is going to be called.

Oh, and by the way -- We don't care who wins so long as it's the Cubs. R.I.P. Harry

Andrew Wickliffe said...

Lover's Lane moved, by the way. I think the new location has more space.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if you go to Chicago in nine and half years you could catch the Olympics

The Curmudgeon said...

Speaking as a proud resident of Chicago -- thanks, Mr. Levine, for the great snapshot.

Speaking as a life-long Sox fan, I agree, "The Cell" (the current nickname comes from U.S. Cellular Field -- Cingular is the company that doesn't have Joan Cusack at its spokesperson) is much improved since it opened. With the green seats back it no longer looks so much like an homage to Yankee Stadium.

And, finally, speaking as a taxpayer, Mr. Levine: Come back soon -- and bring money! Those hotel and meal taxes help defray my property tax bill....

By Ken Levine said...

Oops. My bad. Thanks Curmudge. Have made the correction.

VP81955 said...

Speaking as a life-long Sox fan, I agree, "The Cell" (the current nickname comes from U.S. Cellular Field -- Cingular is the company that doesn't have Joan Cusack at its spokesperson) is much improved since it opened. With the green seats back it no longer looks so much like an homage to Yankee Stadium.

Actually, it always seemed like a homage to a Dr. Moreau-like blending of Yankee Stadium and Royals Stadium, but that's neither here nor there. Which was exactly the problem with the park until the renovations -- unlike its demolished predecessor, it had no feel, no sense of place.

Back in the eighties, when a new park for the Sox was being bandied about, a local architect proposed a ballpark which would have been on parkland just north of the old Comiskey site and whose shape would have been somewhat similar to the old Polo Grounds in New York (where, as fate would have it, the Sox had won their last World Series prior to 2005 -- an 88-year wait largely devoid of pretentious literary claptrap written about it), with the Chicago skyline in the background. It would have been magnificent instead of merely utilitarian.

Anonymous said...

The Apollo Theater in Chicago is currently in their "Life Cycle" series, I think. They made it big with "The Vagina Monologues", then followed it up with "Menopause: The Musical". Right now they're advertising "Bingo: The Musical". I'm afraid of what comes next. "Hospice: The Musical"? "Prune Juice & a Nap: The Musical"? "Six Feet Under: The Musical"?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the pizzas at HomeMade Pizza are not frozen. They are freshly made to order, but yes, you do cook them yourself.

Tim Susman said...

Your comment that U.S. Cellular Field is 16 years old made me pause. 17 years ago, I guess it was now, I was living in Philly and a friend and I went on a road trip to see old Comiskey before it was demolished and "new Comiskey" went up. We caught a couple Cubs games and one Sox game. Doesn't seem that long ago now.

I've been back to Chicago many times, but never to new Comiskey/ U.S. Cellular. Thanks for the review...

Unknown said...

Trying to think of how Frank Lloyd Wright might've handled "The Spire". I guess it would lay horizontal, and probably leak from its resevoir tip.

Keep travelblogging!! Even if the publishers don't call...they are always a fun read.

Anonymous said...

It is kinda funny that in the Midwest and East coasts we have Hollywood Tans and L.A. Fitness.

I don't remember any Midwest or East coast references to physical appearance enhancements during my time in LA.

It usually works the other way ...things that make you fat get attributed to the rest of the country (i.e. Chicago style pizza. Philly cheesesteak, Boston cream pie, etc.)

Anonymous said...

I was exiled there in the '70's when the Navy sent me to protect America from North Vietnamese gunboats, I guess. Never figured out that one.

It was a step up from miserable to live in a place where the state bird is the mosquito; and where anyone can proudly serve the political machine, like John Wayne Gacey, for example.

Yep, my most memorable experience from that gulag was listening to my friend recount the then recent story of her false arrest by one of Da Boyz in Blue. Her father (fortunately, an attorney) had to pay off the court bailiff, judge and arresting officer in order to have the bogus charges dropped.

...Oh, and after court was dismissed, the arresting officer asked her out.

Yea, baby. Welcome to Chicago!

Anonymous said...

Also, for the record, it's no longer Cingular, but the "new" ATT.

landgirl said...

Sorry to disappoint--I am not the long awaited editor, but my blogpal Curmudgeon sent me here to your blog and I enjoyed it very much. I was born in Chicago and from time to time miss it. I live now in Scotland, so it was nice to think about pizza, baseball, Frank Lloyd Wright, and live theatre.

Anonymous said...

"weather aside, Chicago is a..."

Hold it right there. When dealing with Chicago, one must NEVER put weather aside.

My lifelong experience of Chicago (More extensive than I'd like. Mother was raised there, and kept dragging us back for visits) is that the weather is insane, as I would have to be before living there. I understand that it's population remains there during the October-to-May interval, though I can not conceive of why. It is unfit for human habitation during those months, as opposed to being merely awful the rest of the time. (99 degrees with 100% humidity? How does one dress for that?)

I did indeed find it to be full of extemely nice, if clearly charmingly demented, people. Okay, I guess you were pointing out that Frank Lloyd Wright (Whom we had out here too. Plenty of Wright structures in Los Angeles) wasn't a nice person. This is a fact. But few nice people leave behind the mgnificent legacy that Wright did. If it takes a bastard to make a "Falling Water", than we need more bastards, and fewer "nice" folk.

Anonymous said...

I think the Spire looks cool... I mean, at least it's different.

Anyway, I've never been to Chicago. It's one of the places I've most wanted to visit, being the 3rd largest city in the country and all, but I've never gotten around to it.

All of these weather stories from the north make me glad I'm in Atlanta. Then it starts raining all winter long and I get jealous of southern California. I also wonder if a person raised in LA gets scared to death when they hear thunder. Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

I actually saw Bingo the Musical at the Apollo and don't let the name fool you.
This is one energetic and well written piece of work.
Very funny and the actors are extremely talented. Worth seeing -far outshines menopause.