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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give." - Ben Carson

Ben Carson?

You mean the politically misguided neurosurgeon who has thrown his hat into the lion's den that is the 2016 presidential sess pool, Ben Carson?

THAT Ben Carson??!?

Yuuuuup. Who knew?

I could have chosen a quote from Mother Teresa, but Carson's hit the nail on the head.

One of the greatest gifts of circling the sun a handful of decades is the ability to be generous with those you love. In my latter teens, I was the recipient of the loving generosity of my oldest sister, whom I have adored and looked up to since my birth. She took me to New York City for the first time at the tender age of 14, awakening within me an insatiable desire to travel, explore and experience environs beyond the confines of our little hamlet. I am and shall be forever grateful to her.

P.S.: She's STILL taking care of me with that big ole heart of hers.

Anywho, I had the pleasure to pay it forward last week. Geo and I gifted our nephew, Alex a trip to Chicago for his high school graduation. He has been wanting to go there since he read Eric Larson's Devil In The White City several years ago. The story sparked his interest in the 1893 World's Fair and the many wonders which emerged from it. The only remaining building from the World's Fair houses the Museum of Science and Industry in South Chicago. You can read a little of the history in Alex's well written blog here. But, of course the major attraction for him was The Bean.

I see you!
hello gorgeous 
And who could blame him. The charm of the Bean is irresistible. More on that later.

a beautiful morning for a first flight

flying makes rising pre-pre-dawn palatable

here we go!!

All three of us, Alex, his Mom (Gina) and I awoke at 3:30am for our flight to Chi-town. It was a beautiful morning for Alex's first ever flight. Everything was a new experience for him: the shuttle, the tram, the moving sidewalks. He LOVED the moving sidewalks. Of course we goofed off on them, walking in slo-mo, turning around, jumping off. My inner 12 year old was happy as shit.

It's a kick reliving firsts through unjaded eyes.

let's say you're in Chicago
and you're rattling along on the el

Once we landed, we took the Orange line from Midway to Center City, dumped our luggage at the hotel and hightailed it to Millennium Park. The Club Quarters is perfectly located being only three blocks from the park. There is so much to see in Chicago. Public artworks like Calder stabiles, beautiful plantings and the architecture... My GOD the architecture is magnificent! When in Chicago ALWAYS LOOK UP! Seriously. I didn't even think I cared about such things until we perambulated around this metropolis.

of course we made him jump by the Calder

day moon, sears tower, sun

reflections of windows from the building across the street

deco at its finest

union carbide building
aka the champaign bottle building

We spent the first day wandering around Millennium Park, visiting the Masters in the Art Institute of Chicago, stuffing ourselves to bursting with Giordano's deep dish, and riding The El north to see Blue Man. We were all exhausted when we finally called it a day close to 1am.

happy camper

Art Institute of Chicago

who is the child here?

michigan ave plantings

hands down the most gorgeous van gogh i've had the pleasure to see in person
the texture is like icing

i'm not crazy.
you see it, too, right?

madame cezanne for geo
so many amazing works of art

always with the politeness

stunning dragonfly found on the sidewalk

death by deep dish

visa is welcomed
guns...not so much

neither one had any idea what they were in for

interior of blue man theater

Nora Epinephrine and Sarah Tonin speak the truth

balls, streamers, dancing skeletons and other fantastic shit happened

In a day of high points, the greatest was watching the sheer joy on Alex's face when he stepped onto the plaza and saw the Bean for the first time. He was so thrilled and giddy (okay, a controlled giddy, but giddy nonetheless) to finally see the Bean. Gina and I couldn't help but smile big goofy grins at his unmitigated joy. It made my heart burst to see him so happy. You know, it's really fucking cool to witness someone's wish come true.

fun with the bean

trippy bean interior

you can't NOT touch it

future album cover for whisker kit

But wait! There's more.

Day two started with a crazy, big breakfast at a place Alex found called Wildberry, where we were served Sasquatch portions of delicious breakfast foods including this BIGASS cinnamon roll french toast.

French toast.

Made with Cinnabon rolls.

Hellooooo Diabetus!

my teeth just fell out

After fighting off the sugar coma, we went to the river for an architectural cruise. If you find yourself in Chicago, I highly recommend this cruise. We learned so much about the history of the city's rebuild after the devastating Chicago fire of 1871. It's a beautiful showcase of the varied styles of architecture.

obligatory ode to wilco

i swear we could touch the underside of the bridges

looking back at the city from Navy Pier

bridge underbelly

Before we boarded the cruise, there was a duck derby launch for charity. As some of you may remember, Pittsburgh was host two summers ago to a giant rubber ducky. Alex, like the rest of the city, was enamored with bright yellow ball of cheerful. How serendipitous to find a big blow up duck! It's like the city knew Alex was coming to visit.

this ornate building is a Target?!?

terrier or schnauzer?
c'mon! admit it. you see a dog, too.
i got a problem...

After indulging on Ghiradelli ice cream and chocolates, we ended our second evening at fabled Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs defeat the Giants. The ivy outfield wall, the manual scoreboard, the infamous apartment rooftop bleachers, the sideline bullpens (pitchers actually warm up on the field along the first and third base lines. madness), the legendary Chicago dogs, Harry Carey's cartoon visage... all added up to a fantastic trip back in baseball history. And we got to see two homers, one for the Giants which was thrown back, as one does in Chicago.

famed rooftop bleachers across the street
you again?

but i prefer vodka
courtesy of alex

beautiful night for a game
seriously, we won the weather lottery on this trip

can you spot the little man in the booth

Because we live in an uber capitalistic society, everything is for sale. Ergo, each inning was sponsored by different venders, two at a time. It kind of became a game as to which two businesses would be paired on the jumbotron. Then this happened.

Okay, I'm bullshitting you, but HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN!!

museum of science and industry

Day three was spent exploring the Museum of Science and Industry. We only scratched the surface of this multi-building expanse, but we made sure to see the Nazi U-boat seized by the US Navy off the coast of Africa during World War II. Its capture was a turning point in the war. Without its enigma machine, America and the allies would not have been able to crack the German codes. The story told via multimedia was riveting.

We also went to the transportation exhibit where there was a model of the city of Chicago with working trains, and Alex got to sit in a Combine.

nazi uboat

seriously?! wth is with the guns?
and that hair... and back fat..

aviation through the ages

skyline miniature with giant girl in red skirt scaling the sears tower

that time the science museum fixed a missing bathroom stall leg

approximately the 100th starbucks spotted in two days

fun with science

time passes
we got to shake our asses

Lady Dispenser aghast at the happenings in the loo 

We rounded out the day at Navy Pier noshing at Bubba Gump, gazing at a gorgeous Tiffany windows display and telling our troubles to the good Dr. Bob Hartley, aka Bob Newhart. Okay, so that was just me.

dude stole my shirt

waitstaff cues

it's shrimpTASTIC!

just in case you were wondering...

tiffany at his finest
(photo by gina)

****for far better photos, please peruse Alex's collection here.

On the Orange line to Midway to catch our plane home, Alex had an interesting encounter with a rider who seemed a little baked. At first he was spouting some political BS, then this happened.

Guy: Where you going?

Alex: Pittsburgh

Guy: Pittsburgh??!? Why you want to go there?

Alex: Um... it's where I live.

Guy, gazing out the window: Looks like it's going to rain.
(beat beat)
A lot of people are going to die tonight.
*doors open. he walks out.

Alex to me: Well, that got a dark.

Welcome to the crazy ass world of city living.

After standing in a ridiculously long security line at Midway, our plane was an hour late leaving. The pilot decided to make up some time by shortening a 75 minute flight to 58 minutes. He kept his word. When we landed at Pittsburgh International, he continued to put the pedal to the metal. Instead of the usual sloth-like taxi to the gate, this guy BOOKED! I mean, he was SCREAMING down the tarmac. I fully expected him to pull a stunt man move and do a hard 90 degree turn into the gate tipped up on one wheel.

Welcome to P-Burgh, MOFOs!! Now get OUT OF MY GD PLANE!

Either he had a ton of money riding on his arrival time or he had to pee. BAD. Whatever. He shaved off a good 30 minutes which makes him aces in my book.

Which carbon dates me to the Jurassic era.

Side Notes:

There are Starbucks EVERY-FUCKING-WHERE. It became a joke with us. "Oh, hey look. A Starbucks. I was wondering if there might be one here."

Before The El closes its doors, there is a church chime that plays. We started crossing ourselves when the chime rang. With an average of eight stops per ride, there was a crap-ton of crossing going on during the 30 minute ride.

There is "no guns" signage posted in subway entrances, ticket windows, museums, roving dingos.

There is no garbage on the city streets. NONE. NADA. NEGATORY. After the fire in 1871, the city was rebuilt on three levels, street, through traffic on the second level and garbage collection and trains relegated to the third level. Brilliant.

Everyone is so fucking kind. CTA workers, passersby, the homeless guy on the street who was quick with directions to a tourist hot spot.

Dear woman on the Metra using your iPhone to apply eyeliner while talking via your earphones. The train is NOT the place to liberally apply cream to your gnarly hooves.

It is SO great traveling with a tech-savvy teen. He figured out all of the transportation (except the Uber. I had him on the Uber thang) and found us places to eat. I should start a Rent-A-Techy Teen business for us oldsters. That'd be gold, Jerry! GOLD!

Well, that was our Planes, Trains and Ubermobile adventure. I can't tell you the indescribable joy it brought me to watch Alex absorb every new experience. Seeing his happiness made my heart fuller than I ever imagined. He's such a great kid: kind, whip-smart, open minded, full of hope and optimism. I'm so proud of him and his accomplishments so far in his young life. No matter where his journey takes him, we will always have this little adventure to connect us for all time.

I hope our three little days in Chicago will inspire Alex to stay curious, keep pushing the boundaries of his comfort zone and embrace the world as his playground.

No go forth and rock that college thang, Boo!

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