Monday, June 1, 2009

Chicago, the touring part

Chicago...what a great walking city! We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the pavement, pausing to discover things we probably would have missed if we'd been whisking past it all in a car.

Like this statue of "American Gothic," the Grant Wood painting rendered in three quite tall dimensions--three stories tall, in fact! (Don't dawdle if you want to see it--it's only there until October 2010.)

Hey, haven't I seen you two somewhere before? Some people look soooo familiar... (I never knew the painting was THAT big!)

The "American Gothic" painting itself is in the Art Institute of Chicago. We enjoyed a leisurely amble through there, too. Tons of great art--a lot of which you'll recognize if you weren't faking mono during art appreciation class. The Asian collections were outstanding, too, but it was the public art all over town that appealed to me most. Public art is quite big in Chicago (remember Cows on Parade?)

Millennium Park, just north of the Art Institute, is brimming with great art that is accessible in some curious ways. Like this 50-foot high LED-animated sculpture of one Chicagoan's face. His expression changes subtly until water pours from his mouth and onto the plaza below, where you can wade and splash about. Then this face disappears and the face of another Chicagoan appears.

Personally, I think it's impossible not to get a hoot out of Cloud Gate, better known as "The Bean," that giant shiny metallic bean-shaped thingy that no one seems to get enough of. It was fun looking at ourselves mirrored in it, examining the city at all angles, and then watching other people get a kick out of it, too.

(If you want to see something cool, go to Google Maps, zoom in on the satellite image of Chicago and look for this sculpture. You'll see the skyscraper tops curve around it like fingers gripping a baseball.)

Some of the sculpture is actually performance sculpture. And it will even let you hold its copper-spray-painted toy shotgun! However, it WON'T let the pigeons poop on it. Smart sculpture.

We decided to park it after awhile and take an architectural tour of the city, which we enjoyed from the upper deck of a boat plying the Chicago River. Chicago is a city that loves to build, so it was fun to discover the creativity that reveals itself in layers upon layers of building design.

The Chicago skyline is a great blend of the old, the new and the somewhere-in-between.

The Carbide and Carbon Building, glimpsed through the rigging of a crane (always building...) was fashioned to look like a champagne bottle. And that's real 24-kt. gold up there, lots of it. Built in 1929, it's now a Hard Rock Hotel. Cha-cha-cha!

This building overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan has undulating balconies and facade work designed to make it look like a flow of water, as if there weren't enough already...

They call these two towers the corncobs. That would take an awful lot of butter and salt.

This great little house built onto the side of a bridge and perched over the Chicago River reminds me of what you'd see in some old European city. Several of these overlook the water, attached to bridges up and down the river.

Apparently, this dude likes to dress in bright colors, stand on the bridge and wave at people like us. He's such a fixture that he was incorporated into our tour guide's routine. I guess there are worse ways one could spend one's retirement.

This mirrored building was designed to showcase those around it. Groovy!

I highly recommend that anyone visiting Chicago make time for a river architecture tour (we chose Wendella, which was excellent). It's a great way to take a load off while you get a good look at some of the components of one of America's most remarkable skylines.

Look up at those buildings all you want to, but at some point it's fun to go up into one of them and look down at all the rest, which we did in the John Hancock Building. Except for the wobbliness in our knees when we got too close to the windows, 95 stories above Chicago was a cool place to be. Now I understand why our cats like to climb to the top of their tree and look down on us and the rest of the house. It's fun!

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