Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chicago stories: The Bean

Officially, it's called Cloud Gate, but everyone knows it as The Bean. It's Anish Kapoor's installation in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, and on an extremely hot day in early August, it drew people to the shade it provided. Standing underneath it, looking up at your distorted reflection, you're cooled by the breeze that glides through the arched opening.

I'm a sucker for distorted reflections, shooting any and all angles to ensure I don't miss a view I'd wish I had later. The sun didn't fully cooperate since we happened to visit the park near midday, and with the heat, I was too lazy to make the extra movements necessary to pull the graduated neutral density filter out of my bag. So with this shot, I pushed the saturation up to the max to exaggerate the sun's white-out and give it a bit of a painted look while creating a sharp demarcation of The Bean's edges. Other shots from the plaza show the installation in truer colors, but considering how heavy the air felt that afternoon, I like how the enhanced colors add some weight to the image.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chicago stories: Hopleaf

Oh, man, the beer selection at Hopleaf was amazing. I can still taste this one now, and not in a bad way.

Our trip had two main purposes: to see the Mets and Cubs upon our arrival and to eat and drink our way around Chicago. The city's got some great restaurants and bars, so in between museums and baseball and sleeping, we hit what we could.

But this one. Woah. It was our destination on this afternoon, a bit out of the way from anywhere else we were that day. And it's not like we went there for a liquid lunch -- it was strictly for the comfort of beer. If it wasn't for our dinner reservations that night, we might have stayed and used the menu as a checklist.

Drunk (and nearly drunken):

1. 3 Floyds Gumballhead, Munster, Indiana
2. Dogfish Head Festina Peche, Lewes, Delaware
3. De Konick, Belgium
4. Lagunitas Sirius Ale, Petaluma, California
5. 3 Floyds Alphoa King Ale

The De Konick was described as an "ale with pilsner malts and Saaz hops brewed over direct flame" -- refreshing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chicago stories: Riding the El

"Let's say you're in Chicago and you're rattling along on the El" -- Rhett Miller

We rattled along on the El all weekend. No need to rent a car in this city. This is the Randolph & Wabash station in the Loop, the stop where Sandra Bullock's Lucy worked in a token booth and saved Peter Gallagher's Peter when he fell onto the tracks. But that's not why we went there. We had been in Millennium Park and this was the closest station.

Anyway, our trip began with the hour-long rattling ride from O'Hare to downtown on a Friday morning, just as Lollapalooza was getting under way. Just after we passed a treatment plant of some kind -- probably water, but maybe I thought it was sewage at the time -- and two high school stoners got on the train, I remarked to Casey, "I think I smell the sewage plant." Two stops later, Casey corrected me: "I don't think it was the sewage plant you smelled." Stoner 1 and Stoner 2 didn't spend much time focusing on their feet, though they were sure to hydrate themselves before a day in the sun at Grant Park, stuffing bottled water into the pockets of their oversized shorts.

But the best part, and the reason I'm recalling them here, is their inability to learn from their mistakes. Seriously, kids, behavioral history is filled with accounts of even the simplest animals learning from unpleasant experiences so that they do not repeat the actions that illicit those painful reactions. Not these boys.

The car we were on had different doors from what you'd expect on a subway. Instead of two panels that slide to either side, they had four-paneled doors that opened in a bi-fold fashion, much like you might find on a closet in your house. They fold in, so that if you are standing within about a foot of the door, you're going to get hit by it.

Guess where Stoner 1 and Stoner 2 insisted on standing. They spent the whole trip within bi-fold distance, with one of the two in particular getting whacked repeatedly. Yet as exasperated as he got, he never made an attempt to stand closer to the interior of the train.

When we finally reached our stop at Clark and Lake, they were standing in front of the door that was about to open. With our suitcases -- and the ridiculously short time the doors stay open on the Chicago MTA system -- I wanted to ensure we got off the train quickly, so I asked them to move as we pulled into the station, saving him another bruise.

But I'm sure he got whacked again before getting out.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chicago stories: Lou Malnati's

(I could basically chronicle our trip to Chicago last weekend in each of my three blogs -- my baseball blog, because we went to a Mets-Cubs game at Wrigley; my general blog, because that's where I tend to record everyday stuff; and this one, because my original plan with this was to post photos with some frequency and tell the stories behind them and whatnot. As I was browsing through them in my Flickr account, I decided to explain this one, then came up with the idea to post the photo and account here. Seems like a good idea to do with other pics from the trip, so we'll see how well I stick to that plan.)

[Photo by the wife.]

So we wake up slowly on Saturday morning after sleeping in and miss the free "breakfast" (Lender's bagels, yogurt and boxed cereal) offered by the Hampton Inn Downtown. "No problem," we say. "We'll just go straight to Lou Malnati's for deep dish on an empty stomach." (Which was a perfect plan, by the way.)

It's a warm day -- not terribly humid, like Sunday would be -- and when we sit down, we're given small glasses of water, as one usually is upon being seated at a restaurant. The waitress takes our order, and while Casey has an iced tea, I say I'm fine with the water for now. Yet when she returns with Casey's tea -- in a huge glass like this one -- she also brings me this water.

Casey and I just stare at each other, bewildered. My plan (and I stuck to it, too) was to order a beer upon the arrival of our pizza. Throughout the course of our lunch, I drank the beer and thwarted the bus boys' attempts to refill my tiny water glass, pointing each time (I think three different bus boys came by) to the bucket of water I had that hadn't been touched.

By the end of the pizza, I'd emptied my pint as well as the small water glass. Just before leaving, I wanted one last sip. It was a prolonged sip, and here it is.