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day 9: cake, art, and spider tower
Friday, Sept. 03, 2004 | link

The change between Sac City and windy city is so severe, and it happened so very fast, I'm suffering from a small case of, as new friend and fellow Gemini/h2so4 contributor Kevin called it, the "cultural bends," a phenomenon that leads to a whole lot of me looking up at the tall, tall buildings and smiling a big, medicated smile and taking pictures of everything, everything, everything.

More Advice for Next Time
(from nice reader Rob)

World's Largest Catsup Bottle (Collinsville, IL): Built in 1950 in a former catsup company town, legend has it that it causes red hair in the unborn babies of pregnant women who pass too close. Take heed, and take Collinsville Exit 159 off the I-55/70. Based on my reasearch and travels across this country, the 1950's was a time in American history when a lot of prodigious ball rolling and phallus erecting was occuring. I'm no Freud, but could there be a link between this and the alleged sexual repression of the era? On that note, I conclude with the World's Largest Cherry Pie (Charlevoix, MI): The pie just South of Charlevoix was cooked on site in an oven constructed by Medusa Concrete Co. The pie recipe has a 1976 date on it so maybe it was for the Cherry Festival during the bi-centennial. The pie sits in front of the Charlevoix Fire Dept Station #2 at 6591 US-31.

(from beloved Colin Lingle)
Evany, darling, I see you're on your criss-cross country Cannonball Run and I am just making the bold assumption that you will be going through Chicago. I mean, it would be REALLY REALLY SILLY to drive BY Chicago. Moreover, if you are making a stop in the City of Broad Shoulders (that's a nice way of calling a city fat), then you should REALLY go get some deep dish pizza at Uno's downtown. Go early if you can, like, just as (or just before) they open, so as not to get stuck in a fearsome line, but go you must. Lunch is generally a good time to go, and that's when the early rule applies. Here's your info: Pizzeria Uno, 29 East Ohio Street (downtown Chicago).

We're staying downtown, right in the middle of the Starbuckses and office buildings, so when I walk out onto the streets and do my whole hayseed act, I brush up against actual, working people bustling their way to meetings or back from snaring a triple-foamy, and they all look so authentic. As I watch them with my "look at 'em go" wonder, it feels as though I'm at the zoo, looking in at a "Natives of Chicago Work, Feed" exhibit.

When the roles are reversed and I'm home, racing around the streets of San Francisco, and I come across tourists with their underwater pace and unabashed stares, sometimes I'm struck with the memory of my first time seeing the gates of China Town or the man sprayed silver. And that distant memory of the scariness and wonder overlaps with my well-worn, old-hat understanding of the same location, and together the now and the then strike a disconcertingly overlapped chord, kind of like the sensation of looking at something real through 3D glasses.

Back in the HotWired heydays, tours of German, French, Japanese ... investors? tourists? would come through the office and watch us type into our computers in our miserable sea of Nerf crossbows and Razor scooters and other wacky multimedia props, and I always felt uncomfortably selfconscious, like, should I wave? Do some tricks? Surely this, blank faces blue with monitor light, can't be what they came here to see?

But then four years ago, when Todd and I did the cross country trip, we followed a tip in one of my guidebooks and stopped in at an actual Oklahoma City cattle auction, and suddenly I was on the other end of the stick. We were so clearly city, with our cameras and sunglasses pushed back on our heads, that those cowboys just looked at us like, what the heehaw? Why would anyone be here who wasn't buying cows or getting paid to sell them? I think subconsciously we were expecting a level of removal, perhaps a two-way mirror, and the reality of it, us walking right into the middle of people's jobs, it was more than a little disconcerting.

Anyway, today Jill and I went to the Grand Lux for lunch. I had the beet and goat cheese salad with a side of broccoli, beautiful green food! For desset Jill and I split a "cake collision," which she had specifically remembered with deep fondness from an earilier visit to Chicago. Moist and delicious cake with thick frosting coated in chocolate chips mounted by two scoops of vanilla ice cream, fine-chocolate fudge topping, and whipped cream. A collision all right, and I don't think I'm insured?

After this trip, I'm going to need to take a small vacation from sugar. Long roadtrips require treat incentives, of course, but I do feel a little ... slow after ten days of the non-stop pie-train. Certainly I can ride the cake-collision fumes for at least a week.

This afternoon we walked through Millennium Park and its nice selection of public art that really made me happy. The huge mirror bean, Uwe Ommer's Family Album project (in Chicago through September 26) very much appeals to the voyeur in me, who as a babysitter delighted in looking through other people's family albums. And Jaume Plensa's awesome 50-foot block face fountains, which combine elements like glass bricks, projected video faces, and varying water spouts (one of which periodically "spits" water out the "mouth" of each face). But the most important element of the sculpture-fountains are the hordes of screaming, splashing kids in bathing suits at the base of each fountain, just losing their MINDS over the thrill of it.

After the park we made our way to the Art Institute museum, home of lots of amazing and famous paintings (seeing American Gothic in person felt like fitting punctuation for this trip) as well as some nice samples of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, moldings, and windows (to continue a theme).

After the art we walked home along the waters of Lake Michigan, which is huge like an ocean except, my native Illinoisian mother tells me, the edges of it freeze into wave-patterned statues in the winter, which the Pacific doesn't do typically.

Then tonight Kevin took us to the top floor of Neiman's for a round of Carol's Cookies, then to the 95th-floor Signature Room, "the restaurant Chicago looks up to," for pina coladas and a gigantic view of all Chicago, including a disturbing number of fat and highly functional spiders clinging to webs all along the outsides of the windows. Our waitress told us they "just blow up here and stick where they land," that no, they aren't brown recluses or black widows but "Charlotte's Web spiders," and that they eat "bugs."

A spectacular view of Chicago and a spider.

The view from the "best view in Chicago" bathroom.

After spider tower, Kevin took us out to dinner at Giordano's, where we landed some authentic Chicago pizza stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and four heart attacks of cheese. Sunch a nice night!

It's one of my favorite things to be led around a new town by an actual resident (generally speaking, I prefer visiting people to visiting places), and Kevin was especially fantastic at it because his brain is riddled with local lowdown, including significant buildings and statues and rocks that we would have passed blindly on our own. That's the thing about having insiders hold your hand, they transform a flat painting of a foreign city -- with its loosely sketched, guide-book recommended, must-see sights -- into an actual three-dimensional space.

After our local-color night and foot-sore day, it was home again home again, back to our little Red Roof Inn with its urine-scented shower curtain.

Tomorrow we head for Jill's birthplace, the mighty Ohio!

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

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