If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Did you know that the original Playboy mansion was in Chicago? I sure as hell didn’t, else I wouldn’t have left it till the penultimate day of my second trip here before checking it out. Turns out I’ve actually walked by it countless times, as it’s just around the corner from Dave’s apartment and on our way to the pub. Alas, the last of the bunnies left in the early 80’s when Hef moved full-time to LA. Ground zero of Chicago hedonism is now here (and here).

Apparently there used to be a brass plate on the door with the Latin inscription, Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare (“If you don’t swing, don’t ring”). I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about golf.

Top 5 Chicago landmarks

Saw this while out shopping with Dave this morning.

Last time you saw it, there would have been a sign out front saying ‘Championship Vinyl’. Pretty cool huh?

BTW, I must (?) confess that my inner child couldn’t help but snigger at the address – Cnr Milwaukee & Honore Sts, Wicker Park. IIRC ‘Honore’ is another term for ‘scrotum’ – an obscure reference to French writer HonorĂ© de Balzac .

*fnar fnar fnar*

And the duck said…

… ‘I don’t know, doc – it started out as a boil on my ass.’

Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp!

I finally got around to hitting the Surgery Museum today. I really like museums, especially the smaller ones. Wellington got shafted when they gave up their old museum in exchange for Te Papa. It might be a great exhibition hall / function venue, but Te Papa is NOT a museum. The Auckland museum is one of the best I’ve ever seen, with thousands of real artifacts and pieces of historical significance on display. Isn’t that what museums are supposed to be?

I think the reason I like museums so much is that they provide a context that stimulates the imagination. After I went to the whaling museum in Picton (essentially some guy’s house, jam-packed with remnants of the old NZ whaling stations) I dreamed about that stuff for weeks. Maybe that’s why many museums are finding it hard to attract visitors these days – people don’t have imaginations anymore, so they just don’t get it. That’s really sad, but I still don’t see that the answer is to dumb it down to the point where you’re little more than a glorified art gallery. As far as museums go, the whaling museum at Picton kicks Te Papa’s ass.

Anyhoo, enough ranting (for now). The Surgery Museum was pretty cool – click here for pics.

Thank you Mrs O’Leary*

I’ve heard a lot of people comment on Chicago’s great architecture, and from what I’d seen until this morning it was easy to agree with them. Then I took the architecture tour, and somehow the word ‘great’ just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Amazing? Fantastic? Incredible? That’ll do.

There’s a lot of history and stunning design lining the streets of this city, but I think the thing that impresses me the most is the attention to detail. There are beautiful buildings, sure, but also bridges, curbs, the lakefront, the riverside – it’s all designed to make the city beautiful. One of the original planners of Chicago (the guide mentioned him today but I forget his name) had the then-crazy notion that if the city is a beautiful place, beautiful people (i.e. non-scumbags, not the Paris Hilton kind) will live in it. One direct consequence of this, for example, was the modelling of the riverside walks on the Seine in Paris.

I took a ton of pictures today, so click on the image below to view. You’ll have to forgive the lack of captions – there is far more to say here than I could ever do justice. I highly recommend you buy/borrow/steal a book on Chicago architecture and read it till it falls to bits (as I am going to do in amout 20 minutes).

*Reputed cause of the Great Chicago Fire. Brilliant architects flocked to the city in the reconstruction and… ta-daaaaaa!

Creepy creepy creepy

The International College of Surgeons is a few doors up from Dave’s apartment, right next to the Museum of Surgical Science (closed today, sadly, so will have to pop back later in the week). This statue sits in front of the former, presumably there to scare the living shit out of school children, homeless people and others less able to afford a top-shelf quack.

They say if you see a statue of a soldier whose horse has one leg in the air it means he died from wounds sustained in battle. If the horse has both front legs in the air it means he died in battle. (And presumably, if the horse has three legs in the air it means he died in a riding accident). Anyhoo, this statue suggests to me that the poor sap met his end at the hands of a medical student. I understand that back in the day it was cheaper to make your own cadavers rather than buy stiffs through the usual channels, and I get the impression that the College is rubbing it in.

Got the willies? Me too!

After dark

As much as you can get sick of the noise etc, I think cities really are beautiful at night and Chicago is no exception. I’ve been meaning to take some night shots for a while, but this is all I’ve managed thus far due to other nocturnal priorities. Will try and organise a ‘quiet’ night while I’m here (i.e. head out a bit later) so I can take some more.

Chicago by night

Chris Cornell – how good is he?

When I first heard that Chris Cornell had recorded a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ I figured he must have lost his frickin’ mind. Maybe he has, but this is still a great arrangent. I gather it’ll be on his new album, ‘Carry On’, due out in May. If this is anything to go by I strongly recommend checking it out.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2MgwAJrfXo]

Take me out to the ballgame

Last time I came to Chicago it was the middle of winter, so my excursions to Wrigleyville have thus far been limited to checking out the nightlife. There are some pretty cool bars in the area (all having great live music), but you really haven’t been to Chicago until you’ve seen the Cubs play at home.

Today they were playing the St Louis Cardinals. It was my first ballgame and I have to admit I was really impressed. I’d never really thought much of it, but baseball is actually a great game to watch – all the tension and drama of a one-dayer, but with fewer delays and a crowd full of eye-candy (locals tell me that Wrigley Field is regarded as America’s biggest singles bar). And they bring beer to your seat. And hotdogs. All you want.

Today’s game was a real nail biter. The cubs drew level on the last pitch of the 9th innings, forcing a 10th. Then with no outs in the 10th the Cardinals sent three runners in with a MASSIVE home-run, which the Cubs were unable to beat. Result: 12-9 to the Cardinals (but surely baseball was the winner of the day?).

Oh, a couple of tidbits I picked up today:

  • When you’re approaching any event (ballgame, concert etc) in the US, people will ask if they can buy your tickets. These guys are scalpers, and ‘Can I buy your tickets’ is code for ‘Do you want to buy tickets’.
  • When a home run gets hit into the stand, tradition is that whoever catches the ball can keep it… unless it’s the visiting team scoring. If the visiting team scores a homer the ball gets tossed back into the infield in disgust. In the second innings today the Cardinals shot one right out of the park onto Addison St. About 20 seconds later the ball came flying back over the wall. Piss funny.
  • When attending a ballgame at Wrigley Field, either wear a Cubs shirt, or a shirt containing NONE of the visiting team’s colours. By pure coincidence Dave and I both ended up wearing red (Cardinals colour) shirts today, and it was touch and go till one of the beer swilling dickheads in front of us noticed that Dave was sporting a Cubs cap.
  • American guys, for the most part, are tossers. (Ok, we knew that already)

You know the drill – click on the image to see additional pics.

Wrigley Field

A room with a view

I borrowed Dave’s camera this morning when I ventured out for breakfast. I couldn’t find anything that could reasonably be called ‘breakfast’ (by anyone with the slightest understanding of basic nutrition), so had to settle for pancakes. Am working on the assumption that these hopefully just contain flour, eggs and milk – if anyone knows otherwise, please keep it to yourself or I could very well starve!

Seriously, the food in this place is just nasty. Huge portions, nasty food. No matter where you go its always the same: soup, buffalo wings, spare ribs, burgers, sandwhiches and steaks – all proclaimed by the proprietor to be the city’s/state’s best. I doubt that, and even if it were true that still wouldn’t impress me, given the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, Chicago is an amazing city and I really love it. It’s just a shame to see that on so many fronts (food, retail stores etc) people seem happy to trade off quality for cost. Nobody seems to care that you can’t find a good nutritious meal (trust me – I’ve looked), because what’s on offer is good and cheap. Well – cheap, at least.

A similar situation applies to *unprocessed* foods. Go to any market and you can buy *fresh* meats and vegetables, but it’s nothing like the quality we’re used to in NZ. I’d pay ANYTHING (seriously) for a piece of NZ lamb and some fresh vegetables right now.

*sigh*

Bitching and moaning aside, this is a fantastic city. Ths image below shows the view from Dave’s apartment. The big blue thing on the left is Lake Michigan. The road out front is Lake Shore Drive (guess why they call it that?), and the fun park with the ferris wheel is Navy Pier. Where Lake Shore Drive hooks round to the left before heading towards Navy Pier is the start of Michigan Avenue (if you were to keep going straight ahead instead of turning left to follow Lake Shore you’ll be on Michigan). Michigan Avenue is where all the prime retail is, including the Apple store (Apple stores are simply awesome!). So you can see we’re pretty central.

On a clear day you would see the top of the Hancock building towering above the cluster of buildings at the start of Michigan Avenue. Pretty cool view huh?

Looking back from the lake, Dave’s apartment is pretty much right in front of the intersection of State and Division Sts, right by what locals refer to as the Viagra Triangle and right in the middle of the Chicago party district. Wall to wall clubs, bars and restaurants. If I don’t get some sleep soon I am going to die.

Sweet Home Chicago

Anyhoo, click on the image to view a few of the better shots I got today. Am taking a river cruise later in the week to check out some of the city’s fantastic architecture (I had no idea that Frank Lloyd Wright was from Chicago), so stay tuned for more and better updates.

Rock on!