Category Archives: Chicago

Big City, Big Game

I picked up a book this weekend and only had time to read the first paragraph:

“Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zürich a backwater.” (The Flaneur,  Edmund White, page 1).  

As I was reading this, I was awaiting a valet to bring my car, releasing it from the ridiculously expensive parking facility at the hotel where I had been staying.   I looked up at the buildings overhead as the “L” rattled by and wondered where Chicago fits into that schema — a big city or a collection of villages?  Where does any city fit, really? It’s all a matter of perspective.

Years ago I had a colleague remark that she liked living in Chicago over New York because Chicago was more “livable”.   “It has everything New York has, but it’s on a human scale”, she claimed.  “You can walk the sidewalks and see the sky and smell the lake.”   Having spent lots of time in NYC, I can attest that you can walk the sidewalks there too, see the sky and smell the water as the tides roll in and out.  Sometimes you don’t want to smell that, but you can. I lived in London for a short while a long time ago, and I’ve visited LA and Rome. Indianapolis, where I live, often thought of as a “small town”, is actually ranked as the 13th largest city in the US (Jacksonville, with a mere 1655 more people recently moved ahead of us in this ranking by the Census Bureau).   Each of these cities are different, each big — and parochial — in their own ways.

Chicago, though it self-deprecatingly refers to itself as the Second City (it’s actually ranked 3rd — sorry Windy City), is a big city, one that doesn’t take a backseat to any other, whether in amenities, or attitude.  I’m not sure that it matters how you set the scale; it still is big.


Big City Skyline

Big is the theme for this Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week.  We didn’t think of this weekend as a really big weekend, but we did have a medium-sized adventure planned:  a quick drive to Chicago to see a ballgame and then to see an art exhibit.   We love to mix highbrow and lowbrow!   Or something like that.

It isn’t a difficult drive to Chicago from where I live, at least not until you hit the Dan Ryan.  There are signs that read “xx minutes to Circle” along the Dan Ryan.  I wouldn’t know how to hack a sign board nor am I the kind of risk taker that would if I did, but I am amused thinking that the sign should be amended to read:  “xx minutes until you leave this Circle of Hell.” Sometimes to me it seems that Chicago does stalled highway traffic like nobody else!

Dan Ryan, Chicago, Traffic,

Big Traffic Jam

Eventually, though, we arrived at our destination.  It isn’t the biggest ball park — far from it — but that’s part of Wrigley’s charm:



It was a beautiful afternoon for a ball game.  Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Frenchman.   “I zee these game on the satellite.  Bazeball?  It haz no rules, yes?”   Ah, baseball!  It has rules — and lots of stats, too, but I think its quintessential charm is that its allure cannot be fully explained to one who has not experienced it firsthand.  There is nothing like spending an afternoon on a warm summer day, blue skies above with only a few clouds, watching a ball game languidly wend through nine innings.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

The One and Only Wrigley Field

Of course, sitting there enjoying the game, the sunshine, and perhaps some liquid refreshment, can make one tired.   That is why the 7th inning stretch is so critical.  A few years ago, while on a business trip, I was given two tickets to a Cubs game at the last-minute.   Accompanying me on this trip was one of my employees who had just become an US citizen.   She was excited to go as she had never seen a baseball game; we had no choice but to ditch the office early.  She knew that I was not your typical American Sports Enthusiast and she wasn’t sure that I was correct when I told her that the scores were “runs“, not “points” and that the game divisions were “innings“, not “quarters“.   I tried to explain the game to her as best I could.  But, I had neglected to tell her about the 7th inning stretch.

She was bewildered when the crowd suddenly stood in unison.  “Everybody stands now” I said, waving her to her feet.

For the rest of the game?” she asked skeptically.

No.  Just to sing the song! And to stretch!“.   The band started playing…

Take Me Out to The BallGame ….  

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks...

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…

“Is this like the National Anthem of Baseball?” she asked.

It is indeed like that.

As I write this I wonder:  maybe one of the special charms of baseball is that it only seems big but isn’t really at all.  Sure, it’s big business; just look at the price of the tickets and concessions.  Look at the picture of the stadium above.  See those seats high above the outfield?  Those are not inside Wrigley Field.  They are on top of buildings across the street from the field.  Tell me that isn’t about enterprising people making big money off of the game too.  The hot dogs, sodas, cotton candy and beers are all big too.   Fans track their favorite teams and players.   We make a few minutes, more than two-thirds of the way through the game, into a big deal where everyone sings a silly song, waves their arms, and laughs.  And yet, it isn’t about being big and oversized.  It’s about taking time from our big, busy lives to relax and watch a leisurely game.

It was a fun afternoon in an anti-big sort of way.

And the Cubs beat the Cards.   Now, that is a big deal!

What’s your idea of BIG?  Join Ailsa’s Travel Theme and let us know.  Be sure to leave a link at Where’s My Backpack?

  1.  travel theme: big | my sweetpainteddream
  2.  Travel theme: Big | Sandstone and amber
  3.  Travel Theme: Big | Sin Polaris
  4.  Travel theme: Big | “I dwell in possibility…”
  5.  Travel Theme: Big | SC Surf Butler
  6.  hollywood cemetery {travel theme: big} | nomad, interrupted
  7.  Travel theme: Big « Sasieology
  8.  Travel Theme : Big | Chronicles of a Public Transit Use
  9. Travel Theme: Big | dadirridreaming
  10. Big- Ailsa’s weekly Travel Theme | The Rider
  11. Travel Theme: Big | Lucid Gypsy

Kick back. Relax!

From my photo archives . . .


Photo Friday: Glowing

When I read this week’s Photo Friday prompt, I immediately thought that I didn’t have anything that fit the prompt “GLOWING”. If that were really the case, I would not have spent the last two hours looking through folder after folder of pictures that I could have used. I finally settled on this one — over glowing sunsets or harbor mornings, over bright, sunlit clouds and bright lights of Big Cities reflected in building windows — because I like the way that the girl’s dress has the same colors as the light sculpture behind her and that both sets of colors are reflected in the water. I also chose it because I suspect that the children’s faces are glowing as well. Can’t you see that in this picture?

Glowing Feet; Glowing Faces

Taken May, 2010, Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, Chicago, Canon Rebel xSI, 1/400, f5.6, ISO 400

Photo Friday, on Sunday


'Round the Loop

Submission for Photo Friday.

When I was a child, I wanted to live in this building. I still try to pick it out of the skyline as I drive into Chicago. The movie, Nothing in Common starred Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. I don’t remember much about it — other than this building was in the opening sequence — and, even though I was by then an adult, I was jealous of Hanks’ character that he lived there!

Added Note: My husband told me today that this building is named “Marina City”. He was surprised that I didn’t know that — I am too! He also was surprised that we never talked about this building before — he said that it was one of his favorites and that he was at a reception in this building years ago while attending something at IBM, which was located nearby. I took this photo a few years ago and he was with me. Either both of us have forgotten that we’ve talked about this before, or he wasn’t paying attention to what I was shooting.

Here is the wiki page for this building. Very interesting, including that it was commissioned by the Union of Janitors and Elevator Operators, was the tallest reinforced concrete building when built in 1967, and, although it has been featured in several movies in the past and on the label of Mercury Records, the condo association now claims that they own the intellectual property rights to all images of this building for commercial purposes. I didn’t know that you could claim photographic rights to a building. Hmmmm. Interesting.

>Who Am I? Am I A City?


And the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
And once while the time whistles blew and blew again
The men answered: Long ago we gave you a name,
Long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.
Early the red men gave a name to the river,

the place of the skunk
the river of wild onion smell,

– The Windy City, Carl Sandburg

Love Chicago? Love poetry?
Don’t know Chicago? Don’t know too much about poetry?

Whatever your answer, you should check out the Poetry Foundation’s Chicago Poetry Tour.

This is an amazing feature produced by the Poetry Foundation with several tours of Chicago, featuring poetry from many Chicago poets. You can watch the tours online, with audio recordings of poets reading their works about or inspired by the city. Or, you can download the audio to play as you walk through the city. The site also has downloadable maps. There are 22 tours of downtown Chicago landmarks and surrounding neighborhoods. You can listen to Carl Sandburg reciting The Windy City, or Gwendolen Brooks, reciting her We Real Cool, as well as readings by other poets, writers, and critics. You can navigate to specific poems or poets, rather than navigating via the tour map.

I often think that New York is my favorite city in the world, but if I give it ‘Best in World’ title, I think it could be exempted from the competition for the Best in US laurels, a title which would then, undoubtedly, go to Chicago.

I’d love to see similar features of other cities, featuring snippets of poetry and prose of and about each city. Hmmm…this has me pondering what I would choose to include if this was done for my hometown. I think that’s a future blog post.

>Hands in the dirt and a trip to Chicago

>Today was gardening day. While I only have one flat of flowers planted so far, my guys and I did a lot of shoveling of dirt today. There is something invigorating about the smell of dirt and worms on a cool, sunny Spring day.

Here are some pictures from the garden:

It’s going to take more than one flat to cover this hill side, newly without ground cover because the landscapers cleared the wrong area. That’s okay, though, it allows for adding some color on the wooded slope. Complements the sign too!

I found this delicate little wildflower in the woods as I was planting the begonias.

Right now, standing on my porch or walking down the driveway, is a sensory delight, with the honeysuckle in bloom. Some call this a weed. While it is invasive — it’s even banned in Illinois — I like it a lot. Lonicera maackii:

Speaking of gardening and gardens, I was in Chicago last week and had the opportunity to walk through Millennium Park. Lurie Gardens is beautiful.

I was with a Dutch friend who especially liked the tulips:

As we approached Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, I thought maybe they had changed it. I liked the changing mural of flowers on the glass wall, but was a little disappointed that it wasn’t what I expected.

Then, the picture changed:

How can you not smile at this? Even though it was cold, there were children splashing in the water. How can one resist laughing?

From Carl Sandburg’s poem Chicago:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Since I was with friends on their first trip to the US, we did the tourist-y thing and went to the top of the John Hancock building. I haven’t done that since sometime in the 1970’s. We also walked on the beach for awhile. Although they live on the Indian Ocean, my friends were amazed by Lake Michigan.

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

One last view of the City of Broad Shoulders.