A Travellerspoint blog

Chicago, center of so much. December 4 - 7, 2009

Tripping through the downtown streets of the city where looking straight up is the only way to find out if it is night or day.

semi-overcast -3 °C


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Costa Rica Itinerary - November 15, 2009

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Afraid to Go - December 1, 2009

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Chicago - December 4 - 7, 2009

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So much of this city is in shadow. - Buildings line the streets like a residential subdivision and in an attempt to literally outshine the last grand design the streets are left in a solar vacuum.

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The highest and most architecturally stunning structures spiral from every nook and corner to what seems a mile in the sky. Standing on almost every square foot of the downtown area are glass and steel monuments to Americas' greatest companies like the original spiked Sears building, now the Willis Building, The classical AT&T Corporate center, Prudential Plaza and the Wrigley building.

"Numerous architects have constructed landmark buildings of varying styles in Chicago. Some of these are the so-called "Chicago seven": James Ingo Freed, Tom Beeby, Larry Booth, Stuart Cohen, James Nagle, Stanley Tigerman, and Ben Weese." - Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_ChicagoArchitecture of Chicago - Wikipedia

"Since most buildings within the downtown area were destroyed (the most famous exception being the Water Tower) by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Chicago buildings are noted for their originality rather than their antiquity." - Wikipedia

Here is some taped images which take you through some of what I saw through my lenses.

This is the immensely popular Cloud Gate Sculpture

This Huge structure is Cloud Gate, a three-story, 110-ton steel sculpture is called "The Bean". The sculpture is the work of world-renowned artist Anish Kapoor and was privately funded and the total cost was $23 million.

Cloud Gate is a highly polished reflective steel sculpture that is meant to resemble a drop of mercury hovering at the point of landing on a plaza of the park. When Millennium Park opened in 2004, the grid of welds around each metal panel was still visible. In early 2005, workers polished out the seams. The curved, mirror-like surface of the sculpture provides striking reflections of visitors, the city skyline (particularly the historic Michigan Avenue "Streetwall") and the sky. Since its installation, Cloud Gate has probably become the most popular sculpture in the city. - Wikipedia

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Bodies lay twisted and distorted as their reflections are caught with their digital cameras. It would be hard to image how the money spent on this enormus project can be justified in light of the inequalities that exist in this American society and as I stand back in both a personal and an intellectual reflection I am disturbed that we can be so easily distracted from the social realities around us by a bright shining object. I am not beyond the allure of the sculpture as I click madly with my Lumix and writhe upon the freezing ground to get another distorted view from below seeing myself and others in some strange combinations with the fading Chicago skyline.
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A parade of more than 100 Santa Clause came to dance around the gleaming mercury blob. ...as if to add insult to my derision toward the spiritual warping of the Christmas season. I am reminded how the majority revel in the celebrations that I so obviously try to avoid by leaving the family christmas dinner behind. I intentionally savor every forkfull of gallo pinto on December 25th...on the beach....in my bathing suit... with beer.
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A spherical contrast to the perpendicular masses of steel and glass. A myriad of form and textures appeals to the photographer in me and I cannot help myself as I fill another memory stick with strange and exotic shapes and color.

Taking leave for a moment from the fixed assets of Chicago I was equally impressed with the friendly, easy going nature of the folks on the street. Understanding that we tourists have the immediate identifiable factor of gaping mouths and crooked necks we were treated by locals with courteous responses to our questions and an eagerness to make us feel at home. There was, however, an underlying tone that there was a very large and elite percentage of the city population that was far removed from the everyday comings and goings on the streets and that my presence and whatever contribution I was making to the welfare of the city was of little consequence to them.
There were few properties anywhere in the central Chicago that did not have "a million" somewhere in the descriptive sentences from the tour guides.
Common to the streets are performer of all types, in all weather, and Chicago had some cold days while we were there. Here is an excerpt from the video above of the Chicago Street Drummers.

Chicagos' Street Drummers

Personal Plea for Peace

An articulate and impassioned voice for anti-war, the homeless and fair access to health care is part of the message by a protest group who loudly presented their case in amongst the rush of holiday shoppers.

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a - Huge crowds find a million decorative reasons to shop for baby reindeer and plush Santa's in the central square.

b - The stone age of architecture glows amongst the spires of steel and glass.

c - A warm and entertaining ride through the pomp and glitter of downtown.

Our trolley Tour guide was absolutely hilarious with her references to wealthy and upscale neighbourhoods, not shying away from some of the truths that give this place such a prosperous image.
And did I mention how cozy it was inside the trolley while the cold winds off Lake Michigan funnel through the maze of buildings outside.
I have found that in most large cities you are best to choose the most interesting general tour of the main attractions and it will give you reference to your places of most interest. $35 may seem steep for the backpacker but it will save you an enormous amount of walking.

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a - Dr. Carolyn Campbell presenting a social justice paper.

b - De-icing our plane before leaving Newark.

c - Cursing the coldest day of my life.

Engineering excellence allows for these huge structures to co-exist with tiny footprints on the street.

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The "Union Station", the orginal hub of train travel in the mid west shows its' glorious past in the massive columns at the entrance to the time worn marble steps at the entrance.

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A variety of character in the people as well

Posted by WebWeaver 17:30 Archived in USA Tagged photography

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