chicago

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I think I’ve been to the Adler Planetarium four times in my life. I remember going there once when I was quite young indeed and the planetarium show scared me. They were talking about the other planets and mentioned that the atmosphere of Jupiter was poisonous. I had uncorrected nearsightedness at that age* and the image that accompanied that statement looked frightening to me, like some kind of wall that was melting gruesomely. I sometimes wonder what that image actually was.

So, as a result, I wasn’t a fan until I got to be much older (and got glasses). I think we did one field trip there, but don’t quote me on that. The next time I am certain that we went was when I was in my teens or early twenties and the show was different. The one thing I came away with that time was that the Planetarium show was great, but that the building itself is very small, and the exhibits were not terribly exciting.

I returned again in August of 2016. There is a planetarium in Salt Lake City that Alex and I didn’t have a chance to visit, so I promised him a trip to the Adler during our Chicago trip. The building is much larger now. Well, they haven’t actually enlarged the building, because it’s a landmark, but they added a glassed-in portion that’s probably as large as the original building itself, plus it has several sublevels.

When we went, there were exhibits on telescopes, the nature of the universe, a model solar system that is beautiful but certainly didn’t look to scale to me. They also have a meteorite that you can touch. One can also see the oldest planetarium in the city, the Atwood Sphere, which dates from 1913 and has 692 holes drilled in it, each representing one of the brightest stars in the sky.

See what I mean about this not looking like it’s to scale? Jupiter and Saturn are almost touching and they look awfully close to Venus there.

The Adler Planetarium was named for Max Adler, an executive at Sears Roebuck & Co. (presumably Adler was the “Co.”), who donated the money to build it. Adler had seen some planetaria in Europe and felt that the United States needed one. The planetarium opened in 1930 (so the Atwood Sphere obviously was somewhere else prior to that point; where, I don’t know).

So I was much more impressed by the Planetarium this time than last time. Alex and I were trying to cover a lot of territory in a short time, so we went to a show that was held in one of the sublevels and had a flat screen rather than a dome, so I owe him a dome planetarium show. Looks like San Antonio College has a planetarium show on Friday nights. I might be taking a Friday night off sometimes soon and then we’ll have a brand-new South Texas Destination to share.

And I think I’ve found where the Atwood Sphere has been all its life. It was originally housed in the Chicago Academy of Sciences museum. The museum was in the Matthew Laflin building in Lincoln Park until 1994. The sphere was moved to the Adler in 1995, and then in 1999 the Academy of Sciences museum moved to a new building, still in Lincoln Park, and was renamed the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

So it looks like my next trip to Chicago (tentatively scheduled for 2019) will include the Notebeart museum in addition to the Chicago History Museum, the Oriental Institute Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

*So here’s how it was discovered that I was nearsighted. I’d been telling people that my perceptions weren’t the same as theirs for years. As an example, I didn’t believe that the candles in a Catholic church were candles. They looked like the blinking lights like on the control panel of the Enterprise on Star Trek. After the service (wedding?) my mom took me up to see that they were, in fact, candles.

I guess my parents chalked things like this up to imagination and it didn’t occur to my parents that this “imagination” that I had was nearsightedness until we went to the circus in 1973. We were waiting for it to start and I asked them what time it was and they both said, “You can’t see the clock?” I couldn’t. They indicated that it was on the wall and I looked way up and down the amphitheater (or was it the Coliseum? No, I’m pretty sure it was the Amphitheater.**). No clock. Finally my mom put her opera glasses in front of my face and adjusted until the clock came into focus. It had been right in font of me the whole time.

** I checked with my dad and, in a surprise come-from-behind victory, it was the Chicago Stadium.

Looks like we’ll be returning to 1988 on or around December 2, because this brings me to the end of our 2016 travels.

Having discovered previously that the hotel breakfast was somewhat less exciting than one could hope, Alex and I skipped it and instead checked out of our hotel, leaving our suitcases behind the front desk. Then we started off for Lincoln Park. Now, as I have told you before, my folks and I didn’t spend much time in Lincoln Park in the past, and I had hoped to spend some time exploring the park. We had two things counting against us however. 1. We had plans to meet with Alex’s uncle (my former brother-in-law) for lunch so we had to get to the park, do whatever exploring we needed to do, and get back to the uncle’s work by 1:00 and 2. It was really bleeding hot out there that day. You’d think that nearly a quarter of a century in South Texas would make me immune to the heat, but if anything, I think it’s made me more sensitive.

Alex and I had been eyeing the Water Taxi service for our entire trip, and this was our chance. We caught the Water Taxi at 2 North Riverside Plaza and took it all the way to the Michigan Avenue Bridge. I got pictures of some of the more famous buildings of Chicago — Marina Towers, the Merchandise Mart, 333 Wacker Drive and so on from the river level. Once we were on street level, we took a bus to Lincoln Park. I had kind of hoped to stop at the Water Tower on our way up, but apparently if you are using cash you can’t get the transfer on the bus.

Once we got to Lincoln Park, we headed directly for the zoo. I put a few dollars in the “support the zoo” donation jar and we got to exploring. Fortunately I had been to Lincoln Park Zoo in the previous 15 years or so, so I at least knew about the Park Place Cafe food court. Because that was one of our first stops. We got some veggies and pop (and I think we bought a pastry of some sort?) and fortified ourselves for the walk.

We explored pretty much all of the zoo, but it was getting late and I had one more stop that I wanted to make before heading to lunch.  Back in 2014, when Alex and I went to Italy, we went to the beach in Santa Severa and I took a picture of my feet in the Mediterranean. I followed that up with my feet in the Great Salt Lake, and so, of course, I needed to get a picture of my feet in Lake Michigan (even though I’ve swum in Lake Michigan a bunch of times, I felt that I needed that picture for a sense of completion). So Alex and I hiked out to the lake and I got my picture. Then we walked back to the bus stop and took the bus to a couple of blocks north of his uncle’s work.

Lincoln Park Lake Chicago

The lake outside Cafe Brauer, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, looking south towards downtown, 2016

We had a very nice (if a bit brief) lunch with his uncle, and then Alex and I headed back north on Michigan Avenue. I really, really wanted Alex to see the Water Tower, as it is such an important landmark for the city. As we walked, I pointed out some of the more interesting buildings (including Chicago Place, which was a mall for about 20 years but is currently being converted into office space).

After we visited the Water Tower, we walked back down Michigan Avenue until just after we crossed the Michigan Avenue Bridge and hiked back along the new-ish Riverwalk of the river. When I was growing up, all there was along the river were steep cliffs of concrete. I really enjoyed the landscaping and construction along the Riverwalk and hope that this ends up being a real boon to the city.

Then we walked back to our hotel, picked up our suitcases, and headed off to the subway station to begin our trip back to Texas.

This was the original first paragraph that I wrote for this post: I have to admit that I’ve only been to the Shedd Aquarium (the full name of which is “John G. Shedd Aquarium”) a few times.  I recall a childhood field trip to the Aquarium, one trip with my parents when I was pretty young, and a trip sometime in the early 1990s.

At this point, I remembered that I had a trip to Chicago scheduled and that Alex and I could actually visit the aquarium and wouldn’t need the explanation that I hadn’t been there in over 20 years. So we did.

One thing that I’ve noticed about Chicago is that retail was a big deal there in a way that it doesn’t seem to have been in other cities. In Pittsburgh, for example, the Carnegie family was a big deal — the Carnegie Museums, Carnegie Mellon University, etc. In Chicago, one of the leading families was the Field family and you see their name on the Field Museum, for example. Marshall Field & Co. also was instrumental in the founding of the Shedd Aquarium.  you see, John G. Shedd was an executive at Marshall Field & Co.

Shedd Aquarium Dome

Shedd Aquarium Dome, 2016

I wasn’t really thrilled by the aquarium when I was younger. For my first visits, I was too short to really see into the tanks comfortably (I loved the reef in the center of the building, though, since the glass goes all the way down to the floor). I loved the architecture, though. There are carvings of sea life, like scallop shells and sea stars, in the details on the building, and the octagonal dome above the reef is gorgeous. The rest of the building is long sort of galleries with an arched ceiling that gives the building a unique feel.

In 1991, they opened the Abbott Oceanarium and then they made another addition in 2003.  Today the Shedd Aquarium is home to 32,000 animals, including dolphins, beluga whales, and sharks. There is also a tank holding sea lampreys, which are a major pest animal in the Great Lakes.

Most of the museum is accessible to wheelchair users. If you give the museum two weeks’ notice they can also get a sign language interpreter for deaf visitors. Also, as I write this, there are plans to add special features for blind visitors.

I almost got ahead of myself and said that this was about 2017. This is the worst time of year for me in the pharmacy. We’re pulling medications that expire in early 2017 off of the shelves. So I will be dating everything 2017 until this time in 2017, when I will suddenly decide that it’s 2018.

The one place that Alex always wants to go when we visit Chicago is the Chicago Botanic Garden. I at first worried that I might have to rent a car so that we could drive to Glencoe, but when I started planning I discovered that the Braeside station on the Union Pacific/North Metra line is a straight shot down Lake Cook Road from the garden (note: As always, this is how it worked in 2016. I make no promises that it will stay that way indefinitely.)

So, the morning of our third day in Chicago, Alex and I got up and stopped by another couple of notable buildings, this time the Sears Tower and the Chicago Board of Trade building. We went into the Sears Tower so that Alex could see “The Universe,” the Calder mobile in the lobby (which, at first, he misheard as “Caldermobile,” like Batmobile, but for Alexander Calder, I guess). We went to the Board of Trade building because, well, it’s the Board of Trade building.

After this, we walked to the Ogilvie Transportation Center, where we caught the next train to Glencoe. On the way, we passed the Morton Salt storage facility that has had a wall collapse two times. Google seems to think that the first collapse was in 1989, but I can’t find anything specific about that collapse. The second one (in 2014), however, was big news. You see, in the intervening 15 years, a car dealership moved in next door and they had parking spots right up against that wall. So, yeah. The cars that had been parked there ended up covered in bricks and salt. 11 cars were damaged in the wall collapse. I told Alex this whole story as we went past. The building is hard to miss. It says, “MORTON SALT” on the roof.

When we got to the Braeside station, it was a one-mile walk to the gardens. There is a pedestrian entrance to the garden that is lovely. Much nicer than the parking lot. We stopped in the visitor’s center and stopped in the cafeteria for a snack. Then we hit the garden. They’ve added a few things in the six years since we were last there. I think that the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden was new. Also I think that there is more to the Dixon Prairie than there was last time. Otherwise, though, it was pretty much the same lovely garden as usual.

There were only two negatives. One was apparently they had just done something — spread manure, maybe? — under the trees, and the smell burned our sinuses. As a result we had to avoid the trees. And then, possibly because we were avoiding the trees, it was hot. Like, really hot. Like, almost Texas hot. As a result, we left an hour or two earlier than we’d originally planned. We got most of the gardens in during the almost three hours we spent in the garden, tough. Then we slogged back through the heat to the Braeside train station.

While we were on the train back to Chicago, I texted a friend that we had planned to meet to let him know that we were going to be a lot earlier than we’d expected to be. We met our friend by the Michigan Avenue bridge (one of my favorite places in the city) and he showed us around his work. Then the three of us headed for Navy Pier, where Alex and I had plans to see the fireworks.

Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

The passageway to the tracks, Union Station, Chicago, Illinois, 2016

We got dinner from the food court at Navy Pier. Alex and our friend got hot dogs, I got the strange combination of an Italian beef sandwich and a Greek salad (They were delicious, by the way). Our friend had to head home soon after dinner, so Alex and I found a seat for watching the fireworks. It turns out we weren’t quite in the perfect spot for the fireworks, so we moved a little closer and I got some pictures of the fireworks. Then, as everyone else on the pier headed home, we walked farther onto the pier.

We walked to the end of the pier and watched the beacon from Chicago Harbor Light for a while. Then I took a picture of Alex on the couch of Bob Hartley, Bob Newhart’s character from the 1970s Bob Newhart Show. I also took a picture of an insomniac seagull that Google photos thought was a picture of the moon. we walked back down the back side of the pier, where there were fewer other people and the lighting was more subdued. I got some lovely pictures of the pier back there, and we continued on to the bus back to our hotel.

We checked with the driver to make sure we were on the right bus, and then we completely missed our stop. We ended up at Union Station, which I had been wanting to visit anyhow. So I took Alex into the station and pointed out the corner where Zod threatens the family in Man of Steel (I find violent scenes in movies to be really boring, so I spent those scenes in Man of Steel trying to identify buildings, because I was pretty sure that they were using Chicago as Metropolis. Once they arrived at Union Station, I was certain that they were using Chicago as Metropolis).

At some point on the walk back to our hotel, S Health let me know that I had set a new step record that day. This really did not surprise me a bit. My previous record had been 12.25 miles on the day we visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This day, my new record was 14.37 miles. It may be a long time before I beat that one.

We got up early and hit the complimentary breakfast, which was lackluster. The “scrambled eggs” tasted like those cholesterol-free artificial eggs, judging by the overwhelming onion flavor that they had. I’m not a big fan of onions, so that was disappointing.

Then we hit the road. Our first stop was the Harold Washington Library, which I, personally, love. Yeah, I can see the disenchantment with the big verdigris structures on top, but I love the rest of the red granite exterior and the inside is lovely. I also have a sentimental connection to the building. They were putting the finishing touches on it during my time working in the Loop and I walked past the construction site nearly daily. My folks and I also went on one of the official tours when the library officially opened, but I don’t recall ever visiting the winter garden on the top floor. So, Alex and I took the escalators all the way up and then all the way back down again. I have to admit that I slipped my shoes off in the winter garden because they were just the tiniest bit squeaky and the silence up there made the squeakiness really loud.

After we left the Harold Washington Library, we continued eastward on Van Buren and into Grant Park. We passed the statue of Lincoln and then headed for Buckingham Fountain. From there, we went on to the Field Museum of Natural History.

While in the Field Museum, we visited all of my favorite exhibits: Ancient Egypt, the gemstone and jade halls, the taxidermied Lions of Tsavo, and, of course, the dinosaurs. They have modified that section of the museum since the last time I was there, focusing on the eras in which the different animals on display went extinct. They also have the old Charles R. Knight paintings in the same rooms with their respective eras. I love those old paintings, even though they’re a bit out of date by today’s scientific standards. Isn’t it interesting that two of the artists whose work I’ve loved since I was a child — Monet and Knight — both had visual impairments? I have always been extremely nearsighted, so perhaps something about their work feels sort of “homey” or something. We also found that the meteorites, which had been removed from display for decades, if I recall correctly, were back on display. It was lovely seeing them again.

We headed from there to the Adler Planetarium (writeup to follow someday). I hadn’t been to the planetarium in years. Since the last time I was there, they added a whole glassed-in section, and, I think, at least one sublevel. So Alex and I spent quite a bit of time there. We were constrained by time and finances, so we had to pick just one show to see, which ended up being in just a regular auditorium, rather than being in the big dome. I have promised Alex that we’ll do another planetarium sometime soon so that we can get the dome show in.

After that we went to the Shedd Aquarium (which I also have yet to write up). We got the most basic admission, which only lets you in to see the fish and other animals on the main level. But that ended up being enough. I also love the building itself. The attention to detail in the doorways and things makes just walking around the building an enjoyable experience.

I had planned to take Alex to Aurelio’s Pizza* in Homewood. While we were looking up train schedules, I stumbled across the information that there is (or perhaps was, for those of you reading this in the future) an Aurelio’s in the South Loop, almost on the doorstep of the Museum Campus. As it was around 5:00 by then, we sat down for a while before heading off for pizza. I got some pictures of the museums without crowds around them while we enjoyed the early evening.

I had hoped to make it to the park on Northerly Island (which used to be the Meigs Field airport), but, again, it was 5:00 by this time and we were exhausted.

We had our pizza and then headed back towards our hotel. On the way up Michigan Avenue, I happened to notice the Rosenberg Fountain, which may be the oldest piece of public art in Grant Park (I’m not sure if the fountain or the Art Institute lions are older). So I made Alex stop so that I could take pictures. One thing led to another and we ended up walking back north through the park while I took pictures of the art.

Then we hiked back to our hotel and got some rest for what would turn out to be a record-setting day of walking on our third day in Chicago.

*I hardly ever mention the names of businesses in these writeups, but I figured that this would be far more complicated if I tried to talk around the name of the restaurant rather than just naming it outright.

I like to leave for our destination as early as possible when I travel. When driving, that generally means leaving the night before the trip, particularly if the trip will take us up the Interstate 35 corridor. Interstate 35 is kind of a nightmare at the best of times, and morning rush hour is not the best of times. It’s nice to leave San Antonio at around 10:30 p.m., though. By the time you’re through Dallas, it’s just about sunrise and you’re on your way to Texarkana.

For flying, this generally means a flight sometime between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. For this trip, we ended up with a 6:30 a.m. flight, which, with picking up our luggage and riding on the Blue Line subway, had us in the Loop by 11:00. We emerged from the tunnel beneath Daley Plaza and walked to our hotel to check in. As luck would have it, our room was ready by then, so we dropped off our bags and headed out for the day.

Our first stop was the department store formerly known as Marshall Field’s. We admired the Tiffany ceiling and then went down to the food court in the basement. They seem to have remodeled since my last visit, but the food was excellent. I got roasted chicken with green beans and rice. Alex got just the chicken and a smoothie.  He helped me finish the rice.

I then dragged Alex up to the 7th floor, where we peeked in at the Walnut Room and then looked down one of the atria to the first floor. We left the department store and then walked to the Chicago Cultural Center.

The Chicago Cultural Center is the original building for the Chicago Public Library. After the Great Chicago Fire, the citizens of London donated thousands of books to the city. The city government, understanding that this gift deserved a suitable building, built a five-story building, with mosaics and what is one of the largest Tiffany domes in the world, to house the collection.

Tiffany Dome, Chicago Cultural Center

The dome of the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois

We actually entered through the “wrong” side of the building (on Randolph Street), which is the side that the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda is on. The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization for veterans of the Union Army during the Civil War. The entrance isn’t quite as grand as the Washington Street side and the dome (by Healy and Millet) is lovely, but less impressive than the dome on the library side.

We explored some of the art exhibits in the center, including Paul Catanese’s Visible from Space.

After we left the Cultural Center, we went to Millennium Park and stood in the mist from the Crown Fountain (which seems to be showing its age a bit) and admired the Bean (more formally known as the Cloud Gate). We then walked from there to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we wandered around for a while. I made sure we caught most of the really notable works including A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Nighthawks, At the Moulin Rouge, and America Windows. American Gothic was in a for-pay exhibit but was put near a glass window so that we could see it from the outside of the exhibit. We also went into the recreation of the trading room from the Chicago Stock Exchange building and then after we left the museum went around to the back to admire the arch that once stood over the door of the exchange.

We returned to our hotel room and ordered a pizza. Alex fell asleep literally while eating, so I ate most of the pizza myself. Then, while he was still asleep, I went out onto the street in front of our hotel and checked out some of the places I remembered visiting from my days working in the Loop. One of the restaurants I used to visit is now a falafel place. I also caught a Magmar and a Jynx while I was out there.

After that, it was too dark outside for me to feel perfectly comfortable walking around by myself, so I went back to the room myself to get some rest for our next, even more exhausting, day.

When we left Chicago, I was wondering if I got any decent pictures of Lincoln Park. As it turned out, the only pictures of the park that weren’t of the zoo that I got, as it turned out, were one picture of the Couch mausoleum that I took from a moving bus (so it’s not the best picture ever), a few pictures of the Albert Caldwell Lily Pool, and a couple of pictures of the beach just a little south of where Lake Shore Drive would intersect with Belden Avenue if Belden Avenue went through. Which it doesn’t.

Anyway, I haven’t found anything that I liked well enough to showcase in my post on Lincoln Park, so on to the zoo. I have 47 pictures from the zoo, so I’m sure that I can find something that I can work with there.

Lincoln Park Zoo began, for all intents and purposes, with two swans in 1868. In 1874, a bear cub joined the swans, and the zoo was underway. I’m not sure when exactly the “there are two swans and a bear cub in Lincoln Park” gave way to a formal “Lincoln Park Zoo,” but the first zoo director, Cyrus DeVry, was hired in 1888, so it’s likely to have been somewhere in that period.

Over time, the zoo grew, with the addition of new buildings and species. Today, there are over 1,000 specimens of over 200 species in the zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo Entrance Animals

The animals above the entrance to Lincoln Park Zoo

At the moment (and for the foreseeable future), Lincoln Park Zoo is free to the public. I don’t normally talk about admissions fees because that’s not “evergreen.” Someday the admissions cost will go up which means that one of two things would have to happen.  One, I would have to track the cost of admission to absolutely everything that I’ll ever write about that has an admission fee (the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Antonio Zoo, the Empire State Building,  the Ruins of Pompeii) and then keep those pages updated. Two, I would have to resign myself to having out-of-date information on my page. And, honestly, this is what would be more likely to happen.

I’m making an exception to the above rule in this case because not having an admission charge is highly unusual. There are 142 accredited zoos in the United States and of those, from what I can tell, fewer than ten have no admission fee. In the case of Lincoln Park Zoo, the money to run the zoo is largely covered by the fee for parking in the lots near the zoo and the sale of food and souvenirs. They take donations as well, and I threw a few dollars in that bucket while I was there. Any shortfall beyond that is covered by the city. The parking lot, by the way, is not a “throw a quarter in the meter” type parking. It costs roughly the same as any private parking lot in a big city. Therefore it’s more cost-effective to drive if you have several people in the car with you. On this visit, we didn’t drive; we didn’t have a car available to us. We took the bus.

As one would imagine from the location, Lincoln Park Zoo is a lovely, parklike zoo, with lots of greenery. It’s a nice place to do some walking and watch the people and the animals.  There is food available at the zoo, the most prominent of which (at least it’s the only one that stood out to me) is the food court at the Park Place Café. This food court has been there since Alex was maybe three, so it’s likely to turn out to be a long-term fixture at the zoo.

As to the animals, well, there are animals at the zoo. I think that the western lowland gorillas made the biggest impression on me. This is at least in part to the fact that a silverback was leaning up against the join between two windows when we were there, allowing me to get several really lovely pictures of him. Of course, gorillas and Lincoln Park Zoo have had a long association. In 1930, the zoo acquired a gorilla named Bushman. Bushman lived for another 21 years at the zoo, and during my childhood, most of the adults in my life had fond memories of him. He was taxidermied and is on display at the Field Museum of Natural History.

I think this will end up being three parts. Next up, Grant Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.

On our first full day in Chicago, we walked to the Museum Campus up the Lake Shore Drive side of Grant Park and then back down the Michigan Avenue side after dinner (actually, we hadn’t planned to revisit Grant Park, but more on that when I do my blow-by-blow account of the actual trip).

First we passed the Seated Lincoln statue:

Lincoln Statue, Grant Park

The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Grant Park, 2016

I thought about cropping this so that we’re closer to Lincoln, but I like the AON Center (formerly known as the Standard Oil Building) and Two Prudential Plaza so much that I left it this way. This is cropped, however. The original photo was taken from so far away that you can see the pillars on either side of the statue.

I took a picture of the Chicago skyline from near Buckingham Fountain (my favorite photo of which is on my Tumblr), but I cannot find a good way to post it without weird diagonal lines on Mid-Continental Plaza.  I’ll continue working on this problem. Or maybe I’ll just give up.

Anyway, on our way back through Grant Park, I got a picture of what may be the oldest piece of public art in the park, the Joseph Rosenberg Fountain.  Rosenberg got his start as a newsboy and was never (or seldom, at least) able to find someone willing to give him a drink. So in his will, he left money to the city to put a fountain where people could get free water. The fountain still works, but the water is non-potable.

Rosenberg Fountain, Chicago

Joseph Rosenberg Fountain, Chicago, 2016

Another photograph that I’m wrestling with was of The Bowman, one of the two statues of Native Americans on horses that stand at Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. It was getting pretty late by the time we walked through Grant Park and the picture is pretty badly backlit. It is, however, the closest I’ve ever been to either statue, so I’d like to share it once I get the kinks worked out.

One of the first places we visited (just after the Marshall Field & Co. Building, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Millennium Park) was the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’ve been going to the Art Institute of Chicago for decades. When I was 14 or so, my parents joined the museum, giving us basically unlimited visits for free, so we could just kind of arrive whenever and leave whenever without a lot of pressure to “get our money’s worth.” So, while I was a little rusty on this visit, I once pretty much knew the museum like the back of my hand.

Ever since I was very, very little, I’ve had memories of my parents and me in a museum that had art and also had a spiral staircase with a large window behind it. I seem to recall that there was a statue of a mushroom in the center of the staircase. I thought for years that it was a very odd dream until we visited for the first time in years, when I was about ten or so, and I found the staircase.  I still have no idea about the mushroom.

Anyhow, here’s the staircase:

Art Institute of Chicago spiral staircase

The spiral staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago

I took a lot of pictures of some of my favorite, and some of the most notable, artworks in the museum’s collections, but those are mostly for my own amusement and for me to look back at them and go, “I remember that trip.” American Gothic had been removed from its customary location in favor of being in a special exhibition on art in the Great Depression, which cost extra money. I saw it through the exit door of the exhibition and took a picture, just for the entertainment value. I’m playing around with it in Paint.Net and if I ever get something usable, I’ll let you know.

I took some more pictures of the museum itself, including this one of the new Modern Wing:

Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing

The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago

And this one of the reconstructed trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange:

Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room

Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, Art Institute of Chicago

This may be the final installment or, as I said above, there may be one more. I need to go through my pictures from our final day in Chicago and see if I got any good pictures of Lincoln Park that were of the park itself and not of Lincoln Park Zoo. It was really, really warm that day and we were meeting a friend for lunch, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore Lincoln Park. It was pretty much visit the zoo, take pictures of the lake, and then get on the bus and get to our lunch meeting.

One way or another, we’ll be back in Chicago on or about October 1, I think. If not then, then October 5 for certain.  Probably.

Alex and I took a trip to Chicago on August 8 through 11, 2016. Partly the trip was because I was homesick; I hadn’t been home in six years.  But part of the trip was because my now-ex has most of our photographs from our previous trips to Chicago. I started writing about Chicago destinations in past posts, but since my ex has the pictures, I couldn’t post any pictures with them.

So here are a few pictures that I will, ideally, be moving to those posts, and probably a few more that I’m particularly fond of.

First, is the Field Museum of Natural History. Arguably my favorite museum in Chicago (if it’s not my favorite, it’s a very, very close second to the Art Institute of Chicago). I’m not sure which image(s) I’m going to use, so I’ll post three of my favorites here. I reserve the right to come back and say, “Ooh! Here’s another nice one!” at some later date.

Field Museum Chicago 2016

The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, 2016. Alex and I were in the Museum Campus until after the museums closed so I was able to get this nice photograph of the north entrance without any people in it.

Tsavo lions, Chicago, 2016

The Lions of Tsavo, two of the most famous “residents” of the museum. These lions (well, the lions that used to wear these skins) killed and ate around 35 people in Tsavo, Kenya, in the 19th century. The lions’ skulls are also on display in the same case. You can see one of the skulls there in the lower left-hand corner.

Sue the T-Rex, 2016

Sue the tyrannosaurus rex. Sue is yet another popular “resident,” visible in Stanley Field Hall

Millennium Park was my next post, so here are a few of my favorites from there. I will definitely include the first image because I attempted to describe it in the post and failed miserably, so why not include a photo?

decorative wall, Millennium Park, 2016

The back of the plot of land that eventually became the westernmost part of Millennium Park had a wall similar to this along the back of it.

I spent several minutes trying to find the best reflection of the skyline on the Cloud Gate (also known as the “Bean”), but didn’t find any that really spoke to me. Maybe later, after further examination, I’ll find one, or maybe I’ll just have to make the sacrifice and go back to Chicago at some point other than the height of the tourist season (imagine a fake sigh here). So, instead, here’s one I really liked of the Crown Fountain.

Crown Fountain, 2016

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park Chicago, 2016

I think I’ll stop here for now and return to this topic in two weeks or so with photos from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, also perhaps of Lincoln Park, though most of those pictures I took were of the zoo, which I haven’t posted on yet. And then, two weeks or so after that, we’ll go forward with (in two-week increments) Lincoln Park Zoo, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and some of the highlights of Chicago architecture. We should be in November by then.

I’ve run some numbers and it looks like I’ll be able to return to Chicago to take photos of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Oriental Institute and perhaps some suburban destinations, in 2018 or 2019.

Every Last One, by Rachel Hartigan Shea, photographs by Joel Sartore

In my last National Geographic post, I said that this article will also be tangentially about death. And extinction, cancer, John James Audubon painting the portraits of dead birds, there’s a lot of death, and potential death, going on here.

Joel Sartore is a photographer who used to travel all over the world, until his wife, Kathy, developed cancer. Sartore needed to be there for her and to take care of his kids, so he stopped traveling for his work. Using John James Audubon as his inspiration, he decided that he wanted to start taking portraits of animals. As you may or may not know, Audubon was drawing, which takes longer than photography, and he needed his subjects to sit still longer than they would in life, so every bird that Audubon drew was dead and wired into a natural pose.

Sartore contacted a friend who worked at a local zoo and got his friend to lend him a white box and a naked mole rat. And thus Sartore’s new career was born. Some of the animals that Sartore is photographing are endangered, some even critically endangered. Sartore photographed one of the last five northern white rhinoceros in the world just before she died. Sartore’s photographs are amazing. In this article, we see 77 of his photographs. Sartore estimates that it will take 25 years to finish photographing just the species that are in zoos. He may not live to see that part of his career finished.

Oh, and Kathy had another bout of cancer in 2012, but has been cancer-free for four years now. His son, Cole, had Hodgkins lymphoma in 2012, but Hodgkins lymphoma is curable, so his prognosis is excellent.

Urban Parks, by Ken Otterbourg, photographs by Simon Roberts

If you’ve been reading here very long at all, you’ll see that I really love urban parks, so this article was right up my alley. Otterbourg traces the origins of some of our urban parks, mostly focusing on lands that have been reclaimed from other uses, including the rebirths of the Cuyahoga and Chonggyecheon rivers, the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and other parks.

I’m disappointed that Millennium Park isn’t listed here. The creation of the park above a parking lot and old railroad lines seems right in keeping with the “reclaming land to make parks” theme of this article. Speaking of which, it’s August, so it’s only about two months before I return to walking San Antonio’s own reclaimed-land park, the Peak Greenway.