Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The rain, the park, and other things

This is part two of my recent travelogue.  Part one is here.  And more photos are here.

Rendezvoused with my son Matt in Chicago. The first night we went for steak at Gibson’s on Rush Street in what locals call “the Viagra Triangle.” Had the two-artery special. These folks know how to cook cows.

Stayed at the Westin hotel known for it’s great urinals. In fact, a longtime big league announcer bought one for his home and had the hotel measure its exact height from the ground. That must’ve been an interesting “How can I help you?” call.

But we sure picked the right weekend to stay at the Westin because it was the site of the annual Arthur Murray Dance-o-Rama! Everyone dressed in costume. It was like the seniors’ version of Comic-com. A guy in full cowboy regalia with spurs stepped onto the elevator with me. And I don’t know where that Latin dance team from Omaha got their Gaucho get-ups but I’m guessing the Zorro gift shop at Disneyland.

Hawked my book on the WGN-9 Mid-Day News. The station is God knows where. Certainly the cab driver didn’t have a clue. Drove by Wrigley Field and I think Wisconsin. Following my segment Jane Seymour hawked her art. I know Jane; directed her in DHARMA & GREG. She’s one of the sweetest Medicine Women on the planet. She hugged me and better yet, gave me a ride back to the hotel. How many people can say they hobnobbed with Jane Seymour and Jesus Montero in the same day?

Drove by the new Soldier Field. The original fa├žade with the distinctive Doric columns are still in place. But the seating bowl is now a modern state-of-the-art saucer design. So the home of the Chicago Bears now combines the very compatible styles of Greco-Roman architecture with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA..

Played a three-game weekend series with the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago. First night there was a shooting on the South Side in an area called “Terror Town” and eight people were whacked. And here’s how rough that neighborhood is -- the Sox won!

The ballpark is in a residential area, mostly large apartment buildings and senior housing. The P.A. announcer asks fans to be considerate and not make excessive noise when leaving the park. Use silencers. Then they shoot off fireworks whenever a White Sox player hits a home run even if it’s1:00 in the morning.

On Saturday Matt and I grabbed a Gino’s pizza then waddled down to Millennium Park. Highlight was this giant mirrored sphere shaped liked a kidney bean called Cloud Gate. Distorted reflections of the city gave the skyline a fun house effect, but it made me look thinner! The Cloud Gate is a marvel of engineering although not nearly as wondrous as the latrines at the Westin.

Sunday was a 1:00 game with a one-hour flight to Minneapolis to follow. Estimated time of arrival: 6:00. My son had a 7:00 PM four-hour flight back to San Jose. He arrived at his destination before we landed at ours. Our game included four hours of rain delays, a loss, and on the way to the airport our equipment truck hit a fire hydrant and broke an axle.
It was raining so hard at the time that if the hydrant burst and water spewed fifty feet into the air, no one would know. Fortunately, our spectacular equipment manager, Ted Walsh, managed to somehow commandeer the Milwaukee Brewers’ truck (that’s like calling around on a Sunday night hoping to find the Hope Diamond or a plumber) and we were able to take off with all our bats and Ben-Gay in tow. But that was after another ninety-minute delay. By the time I got in my room it was 11:30.

The original plan was to share a Bludgeon of Beef from Manny’s Steakhouse with our producer/engineer Kevin Cremin, but we decided perhaps 78 ounces of cow attached to a dinosaur bone at midnight was probably not the best thing to do without writing a suicide note.

Stayed again at the W Hotel in the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. With the mood lighting and pink and purple fluorescents, the lobby looked like Christian Grey’s Room of Pain.

Made another TV book appearance – this time on KSTP’s “Twin-Cities Live” program, which was broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair. For sheer Americana, goofiness, and deep-fried everything you just can’t beat a State Fair and Minnesota has one of the best.
I guess walking around a dusty fairgrounds stopping by the Miracle of Birth Center, seeing the Dairy Queens’ busts carved in butter, going on the tractor ride, watching the hog calling contest, shearing sheep, and observing pet surgery performed by members of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association can make you hungry for tongue tacos, bacon ice cream, spaghetti on a stick, gators on a stick, cheese curds, a “Yosemite SAMwich”, camel sliders, all-you-can-drink milk, and that one can’t-miss item – lamb fries (which are really testicles). For me, there’s not enough all-you-can-drink milk that could wash down that savory.

The Minnesota State University football coach was arrested on child pornography charges. Seems he took videos of his 9, 8 and 5-year old children dancing nude and had them on his school-issued cellphone. His wife has defended him. Her quote: “My family does what every family does.” Really? Every family? I don’t think so. Even Woody Allen waited until Soon-yi was of proper age.

Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, is an absolute showpiece. The limestone, steel, and glass design is unique and elegant. And we happened to be there the four days all season they didn’t need a roof. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was on hand to announce that Minnesota will host the 2014 All-Star Game. The last time the Twins had an All-Star game was 1985, the year Selig bought that suit he was wearing.

The Mariners won three-of-four and we flew back to Seattle. Landed in time to race over to CenturyLink Field and catch the second half of the crucial pre-season NFL game between the Seakhawks and Oakland Raiders. It was the world’s largest outdoor frat party or political convention. 50,000 crazed pickled fans then staggered out onto the street. I’m guessing 32,000 accidents before they even got out of the parking structures.

The next morning I flew back to Los Angeles, but not before seeing a very suspicious character at Sea-Tac Airport. Middle-Eastern, swarthy, dark beard, turban – all the signs of a terrorist. He was the TSA agent.

Thanks to the Mariners, KIRO, WGN-TV, KSTP-TV, and Jane Seymour for a great trip. Oh, and the Milwaukee Brewers. Without your truck we’d probably still be on the tarmac.

Note:  Again, I invite you to check out my book of travelogues -- WHERE THE HELL AM I?  TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED.  Kindle version is a paltry $3.99.  See the world through really distorted glasses.  


The Curmudgeon said...

Hawked my book on the WGN-9 Mid-Day News. The station is God knows where. Certainly the cab driver didn’t have a clue. Drove by Wrigley Field and I think Wisconsin.

Neither you nor your cabbie were Chicago natives. Growing up in Chicago in the 60s kids learned two addresses -- their home address and WGN's -- and not necessarily in that order.

2501 W. Bradley Place was the address for the postcards that kids sent to be made the 'at home' player on The Grand Prize Game -- a daily feature of Bozo's Circus (in those days, a live TV extravaganza, with Ringmaster Ned and Bob Trendler and the Big Top Band).

Kids had to hope to be picked as the 'at home player' because -- unless your grandparents put you down for tickets when your own parents were born -- you'd never get a chance to see the actual show.

Actually, I did get to go to Bozo once -- and I even got picked for tug of war contest. Ringmaster Ned asked my name and everything -- but I must have mumbled because he called me by the wrong name. And we lost the tug of war -- but I got a genuine Bozo decal. It was stuck to a dresser for years before some Philistine painted it over.

Fast forward nearly 50 years. I had to be at WGN for a political show (OK, I didn't have to be there; I was on the list to get by security because I'd arranged for one of the show's guests to be there). Anyway, I got to peek inside the old Bozo studio -- much of the set is still there -- and I was totally geeked. Hey, the newsroom was interesting, too -- but I saw the Bozo set.

I was working from home the day you were on, but I didn't realize that the Noon News now starts at 11:00am. So I didn't get to see your interview live. I was at the Cell Sunday -- we did leave when the tarp came out after Flowers hit the go-ahead home run in the 7th. It was nice of the umpires to wait like that....

PatGLex said...

Ah, that picture of the midway at the Minnesota State Fair brings back memories.....I lived in Minnesota for 20 years -- 5 of them across the street from the State Fairgrounds -- and always lived for that time of year when one could get good grilled corn and some of the best french fries.

And...did the Twins fans boo Selig? There is no love lost on him in that town, ever since he tried to "contract" the team. I doubt even the announcement of the All-Star Game (given to every team with a new stadium as soon as possible after its completion) would change their minds.

Anonymous said...

It's called 'The Bean', Ken. Not cloud gate or whatever. It's like calling the Sears Tower, Willis tower.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

Explains the Diane Chambers remark in the the Frasier episode, "The Show Where Diane Comes Back," when she tells Frasier about burning Jane Seymour's hair on the set of "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman."

One of my favorite episodes, but I always wondered how they got to put a direct reference to a performing actor into the show. Helps if you know the actor.

Mike said...

The ballpark is in a residential area, mostly large apartment buildings and senior housing.
Did someone slip a briefcase of money to the Zoning Commission?

Seeing the Dairy Queens’ busts carved in butter.
That should be: Seeing busts of the Dairy Queens carved in butter. But then, I wasn't there.

Ben Kubelsky said...

Gino's pizza?! Ken, you totally missed out... Go a few more blocks west next time and eat at the original... The one that begat the others... Lou Malnati's

Win1908 said...

I thought the same thing. Gino's is fine, but you have to go to Lou Malnati's next time and get the three-artery sausage patty. Lou's is the best.

And then stop by Mr. Beef for a beef sandwich. Jay Leno took a bunch of Mr. Beef sandwiches with him on Letterman when Dave did his show in Chicago in the mid-80s. It's been downhill for Leno ever since.

Friday question: what are some of your favorite (and least favorite) ballparks you've visited around the country and is there one or two you haven't seen yet that you'd love to get to?

Michelle said...

I don't have pictures or videos of my naked kids on my phone BUT I wouldn't think someone who did was into child pornography. Naked pictures of someone else's kids would definitely raise an eyebrow though. However, my parents have naked pictures of me on Kodak slides and in picture albums. So, I fail to see the inherent issue here. If the coach changed his infant child's diapers or helps the toddler shower is that molestation now? He must have been doing something else with those videos to get caught up in a Sandusky.

rdcobb said...

Calling the area around U.S. Cellular a "residential area" is being kind. There's a reason that the Sox park is referred to as "The Cell" in prison cell.

It's a really nice park, though.

RCP said...

Always enjoy your travelogues - Chicago is definitely one city I'd like to visit. The tongue taco reminds me of that saying, "I don't want to taste anything that's tasting me on the way down."

Michelle said...

..."So, I fail to see the inherent issue here."

I'm sure most parents have photos of their naked babies - but one of these kids was 9 - I don't know about you, but the thought of being a naked nine-year-old in front of my parents gives me the creeps.

DJ said...

Directly north of the park, it is. West of the viaduct, it is. South of the park is a former industrial area. East of the park, past the Dan Ryan Expressway, was the site of the Robert Taylor Homes housing project. All gone.

Vacant lots in the one-mile square around the ballpark are going for close to $1 million.

VP81955 said...

While the beloved old Comiskey on the north side of 35th Street was razed, the Sox (or whomever handled the construction of the parking lot on its site) showed some ingenuity by outlining where the baseball diamond had been -- something, alas, that wasn't done when Citizens Bank Park was erected and the Vet next door was razed. So South Side kids can figure out where Luke Appling played shortstop and Billy Pierce pitched, but Philly kids can only guess where Mike Schmidt patrolled third base and Steve Carlton fired his slider.

(At least they have statues near the Cit; then again, why should I care about all this? I'm a Nats fan now.)

benson said...

@Mr. Curmudgeon. You are so correct. Right down the street from Lane Tech, and the hallowed grounds that were Riverview. A friend once won the Grand Prize game.

Years later, came to find out one of our morning guy's dad was on the crew at WGN and knew Bob Bell, Ray Raynor, all those people personally. I don't get impressed by too much, but that was coool.

YEKIMI said...

Awww, Chicago. Visited a friend there once and stayed overnight.Told me to make sure EVERYTHING in my car was out of sight and if possible even remove my radio. Woke up the next morning, looked out his apartment window to see some idiot peeing on my car tire in broad daylight. I was getting ready to yell out the window at the jerk when he told me not to, it would only attract gunfire. Just glad I didn't leave a car window cracked open. And this happened in a pretty ritzy neighborhood! Even with that having happened, I'd still go back. I love Chicago, lots to do there.

Loosehead said...

Think you'll find a turban makes him a Sikh, not a terrorist.

Dave Creek said...

Dang, Ken -- I was at the "bean" the same day you were, walking with fans and other writers from the World Science Fiction Convention at the Hyatt! Too bad I missed the opportunity to say "Hi!"

Gary said...

Next time you're in Chicago, go to Twin Anchors restaurant for fantastic ribs. A great little neighborhood restaurant, it was featured in the movie "Return To Me," disguised as "O'Reilly's Italian Restaurant."

Anonymous said...

Ken, great blog post and title, I love that song by the Cowsills.

Anonymous said...

Boy do I agree with Michelle - The MSU-Mankato coach had problems with his phone and brought them to the University's IT department. The person there saw a clip of naked kids dancing. That person did not know that they were the Coach's own kids dancing around, and so reported it. The police investigated. All fine. But to publicly arrest a man because he video'd his kids goofing around naked is cooccoland. You may think 9 is too old, but that is a hard line to draw, and up to each family. I'll bet there is no trial and the charges are dropped.

Barry Traylor said...

My question of the day is how in the world do they keep that saucer looking thingie so shiny?