Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ain't no tourist no mo!

Well, I feel as though I am officially no longer a tourist. That's right, last night after my Mom and Dad left, Rach and I drove up to the city. We drove right past the Cockaigne of gluttony and crowds of people and enormous flocks of birds shoveling bits of fried food into their faces and beaks at taste of Chicago, and straight on to the north side of the city. We decided to pick up a Chicago Moleskine. I've been wanting one for a while, but we have to be super uber careful when it comes to purchases. So we have been fretting and debating whether or not we should spend the frivolous $15.00 to buy the Moleskine. Finally, irresponsible frugality-be-damned won over, and we drove out to get one.

Artist's rendering of a Chicago Moleskine

We parked at the front of a line of parked cars, fed the meter, and walked down the street to the store. The store was sooper cool. It's called P.O.S.H. and it's just a really great little store. I'm not one for lingering around a store and looking at stuff, but I enjoyed browsing the few shelves there were in here. While we were there, Rach stumbled across a mug for $8.00. We decided since we were throwing our budget out the window, we'd go ahead and spend an extra $8.00. So, we bought the mug.

Artist's rendering of Rachel's new mug killing a bug... uh, near a rug?

We wandered around the store a little more, dillydallying for Lord-knows-why, looking at all the things in the store. We left, and went for a very short walk down State Street, and decided to head back to our car.

On the way back to our car we saw a city biker's Cockaigne. A crowd of bikers were doing what they call a critical mass. (Basically, loads of people crowd the streets on their bicycles effectively shutting the streets down. No traffic can drive while so many people ride their bicycles down the street.) We watched, stunned, for a solid two minutes, while bikes and bikes and bikes rode past. Then, we turned the corner for our car.

Much to my surprise, and elderly Polish man came out and started yelling for me. I turned around and he said "I'm sorry. Me no English, only Polish." I said "That's ok." He pointed to where our car was and said "Towing."

Yes. He said "Towing."

Turns out, our parkingspot was a Parking Cop's Cockaigne. The seven or eight cars that were parked on the street were all illegally parked and the Chicago Transit Authority, or whatever hegemon it is that decides to tow vehicles, took fault with our car, and only our car. None of the other vehicles were ticketed, and mine was the only one towed. As if to add insult to injury, there was still 20 minutes on the meter.

Artist's rendering of the City Transportation Hegemon towing our car.

So, Rach went to Starbucks and I went into Fed Ex Kinkos to see if we could find the number for the city pound. The girl I spoke with was ultra nice, and got me the number from the city's website. I dialed and went into the Starbucks where Rach was on the phone. Then, I became homocidally angry when the city pound's phone message spoke only spanish. Rachel calmly spoke to some other woman while I, in an uncontrolled rage, went into the street and tried unsuccessfully to murder forty-five parking meters while thousands of bicycles continued to stream by.

We finally got the address, and walked fifteen blocks to the city pound (located conveniently underneath two overpasses and next to a huge hole in the earth where a sky scaper used to be) to get our car.

So, now I am the proud owner of a $270.00 Moleskine. And I have a court date on Tuesday. We aren't tourists anymore.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Ok... I'm going overboard on the posts, but this was my word of the day today, and I love it. I'm going to try to bring it back into normal use.

Cockaigne \kah-KAYN\, noun:
An imaginary land of ease and luxury.

Outside, in the dark, a wobbly patch of life upon the blue snow, the deer perhaps browsed, her soft blob of a nose rapturously sunk in the chilly winter greenery, her modest brain-stem steeped in some dream of a Cockaigne for herbivores.
-- John Updike, Toward the End of Time

Everyone was seeking renewal, a golden century, a Cockaigne of the spirit.
-- Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Touring it up!

First things first, Rachel and I decided two days ago that we would get on the train and head up to the city to pretend to be tourists for a day. (Now that we live in the city, we feel like we can "pretend" to be tourists.) Above is a picture of the skyline I took from the North side of Navy Pier. To date, this is the second best view of the city I've seen. The other is just North of the 37th street beach. I'll take a picture of that one when my rear end is healed, and we go for another kamakazi bike ride.

Also, an old friend named Joel Daniel Harris emailed me to say that he was in town for the day. He was on a random road trip sort of across Michigan and stopped in Chicago with his friend Lindsay. It was great to see the both of them, and to get to know Lindsay a little, since we never really sat down and had coffee or anything at Malone. Turns out, she's a pretty cool person, and Joel as always, was fun to hang around. I really really enjoy that guy, and it was wonderful to see him. Joel, if you're reading this right now, I mean it. Every bit of it. You're a good guy. Please look up the lyrics to the Golden Girls Theme Song and pretend like it's me singing. (Except "the biggest gift" part, I wouldn't buy a big gift, because we're on a budget, and big gifts are expensive. The biggest gift would probably be from one of your rich friends.)

Here we are eating free M&M Ice Cream pops we got from a vendor on the street.

Then, are you ready for this? Rachel, Norah and I went to the Lego store on Michigan Avenue because an old friend Tommy Gallagher told me that there was a life sized Darth Vader there made of Legos. The store isn't that big, but I was smiling like a dog with a skunk in his mouth when we walked in. (Ok. That's not a great simile, but I was smiling a lot.)

Here are a few pictures we took:

Duh duh duh duh da duh duh da duh.
(It sounds better when John Williams says it.)

Beep whir whizzle blip!
Again. Some things just don't translate well to the written word.

SERIOUSLY?! A SIX FOOT MAN MADE OF LEGOS! I wish I was a kid again. I would totally take him apart and build a giant blue wall. (Funny story: When this picture was taken, I sat like that on the bench for a good thirty seconds while Rach set up the camera. Meanwhile, several, and I mean SEVERAL, people walked by laughing out loud at me. I was in my prime.)

Shortly after this photo was taken, Norah jumped up and tried to beat up the Lego girl so she could make the Lego boy her boyfriend.

When we got home from our tourist trip, I read a blog by a friend of Babs and Carrie's. The guy and I have very different opinions about politics, and after the discussion I am having a lot of thoughts about politics, disagreements, the Christian church, Pacifism, and the extent to which my Christianity should affect my life in the blogosphere. But none of you are here for those thoughts... I'll post on it anyway later.

In other news, my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law are all coming to visit this weekend. I am totally excited. Every day this past two weeks, I've awoken Norah with the countdown. I wake Norah up saying "Only three more days until Grandma and Grandpa get here!" I'm really not trying to tell her anything, I'm just excited. We'll post pictures after the visit.

Also, I want you to hear two things. (I couldn't figure out how to post just sound clips, so below you'll find two movie clips that should play the sounds I'm talking about.) The first is the current bane of my existence. The second, is just awesome.

Sound the First: Norah's Friggin' Puppy. A.K.A. - The Bane of my Current Existence.

Sound the Second: Rach Sings Norah a Lullaby, Friggin' Awesome.

Next time Gadget.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The White City

Ok... I know, I just posted, but I thought any history minded people out there might be interested in this one.

My brother Tim has been trying to get me to read this book called The Devil in the White City. So, almost immediately after moving in, we got our library cards, and I picked the book up. It was quite an interesting read, and was all about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Here's some of what I learned, and some pictures.

In 1893, Chicago was the site of the World Columbian Exposition. Or the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The fair took place just south of us, here in Hyde Park. To host the fair, the city of Chicago built an entire city of buildings all styled after Grecian architecture. Every building was painted brilliant white, and lit with electricity (which was new back then). The result was a dazzlingly beautiful experience that according to the book, resulted in many people fainting from the sight of it. As with all World Fairs,t he buildings were not intended to be permanent and slowly all but one were removed. The last remaining building is now the Museum of Science and Industry just south of us.

Here is a picture I stitched together of the Museum of Science and Industry, the only remaining building from the fair.

This was Midway Plaisance, where all different nations and tribes set up exhibits.

This was the administration building, where the replica of Big Mary stands today.

This was the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building, at the time, the largest roofed expanse ever built.

In addition to building a dazzling white city, Chicago also contracted a man by the name of Olmstead to do the landscaping for the World's Fair. Olmstead was the same man who designed Central Park in New York City, and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina. In his landscaping of the World's Fair in Chicago, one of his most prized design features was called "The Wooded Island." It was Olmstead's idea to keep the island completely wooded and free of buildings. Nearly every country that was setting up exhibits requested to have space on the wooded island, and finally Olmstead buckled, and gave some of the prized real estate to the Japanese. He believed that if any of the countries would respect the landscape, it would be the Japanese.

The Wooded Island is still remaining from Olmstead's day, and after reading the book, I was eager to go find it. So, Rachel, Branden Mast, Norah and I all took a drive a few blocks south to find the Wooded Island.

Much to my surprise, we also stumbled upon a recreation of Big Mary, the statue of the Republic that was once standing in what was supposed to be the Fair's grand entranceway. The statue is enormous as you can see in the picture below.

Think that's big? The real one was three times this size.

Here I tried to make Big Mary 3 times bigger than the last picture. The result should give you an idea as to the original Big Mary's real size.

This is a photo of Big Mary as she stood looking over the Court of Honor.

Just North of Big Mary is Olmstead's wooded Island. Today, the part that Olmstead would have loved, the part that has just gone wild with trees and vines, appears very run down and unappealing. The leading through it is broken and the benches on the sides are falling apart. The only people we saw on the short trail appeared to be either homeless or strung out on drugs. That was a big disappointment to me.

But, we did stumble up on the Japanese Garden, which was quite beautiful. It probably wasn't part of the original World's Fair, but I snapped a few pictures of the it anyway.

So, there you have it. A little history tour of the World's Fair that was held just south of my apartment a little over a hundred years ago.

Friday, June 20, 2008

First Real Chicago Post

I know I know, it's about time. Sorry... to all of you who have been eagerly awaiting this post, me so sorry. For those of you who have not been eagerly awaiting this post, I'm not sorry. Which leaves me feeling confounded. Anyway, enough with my emotions.

Let me start by saying that, right now, my butt hurts. A LOT. I'll explain later.

We left the big Wheels on Friday June 6th. I admit, I was ecstatic. I drove circles around the moving truck as we pulled out of the parking lot. (Litterally. I drove in several circles around the moving truck as Rachel drove it out of the parking lot.) We arrived in Canton, and I got one last Lime Soda at Taggart's before we left early Saturday morning. Saturday's drive was pretty uneventful and fun. I got to ride with everyone for a while and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with everyone on the way. (Not to mention solving a few of the world's problems before actually arriving in Chicago.)

Upon arriving in Chicago, we promptly got lost on the South Side for a few minutes. Luckily, I am fluent in Gang Sign, so I flashed as many as I could out the window while Wendy drapped dew rags from our stereo antennae. We told the moving truck company that the bullet holes were there when we got it.

When we finally arrived at our apartment, four blocks east of Barack Obama's house, I was ready to go. We unloaded the truck in record time (because it was the first time we had ever unloaded that truck) and promptly set about taking things out of boxes and spreading them about the floor. Meanwhile, we were all four blocks east of Barack Obama's house.

Then, we all left the apartment and hit the town. We ate at Giordano's on Rush St. just north of Navy Pier. (About fifty blocks north of Barack Obama's house.)

Here's the gang at Giordano's downtown.  

Then, we walked around in Millenium Park and drove home, (which is just four blocks to the east of Barack Obama's house) to crash on various sleeping surfaces. When we awoke, Carrie, Wendy, Jay, Branden, Rachel, and I walked four blocks west to Barack Obama's house. There were various secret service men parked in various cars outside and five or six media personnel with cameras trained on his shuttered windows. I promptly tackled one of the secret service men just to see what would happen. Turns out, they're pretty tough. But, I think I gave one of them a black eye. Then, we walked the four blocks back home.

Branden stuck around through Sunday afternoon, which was awesome. And Rachel's Mom and Dad came up with Norah. They were kind enough to watch her and bring her up the next day so we didn't have to take care of her while we moved. It was a HUGE help. We hung out with Grandma and Grandpa McCowin for a while and toured the University of Chicago Campus. After a quick tour, and a smash and grab run through the Oriental Institute, we drove past Barack Obama's house, which is only four blocks away. After our tour of Hyde Park, Grandma and Grandpa McCowin took off.

This is a shot of one street to our west.  I just thought the gardens here were really pretty.

The next few days went by in a sort of blur. We basically tried to explore town on foot. On Monday Rachel had a job interview, which she ended up nailing and they told her to apply for the managerial position before offering her the lower job for which she had actually interviewed.

While Rach was interviewing, I went to the bank three times (because I kept forgetting something I apparently needed to open a bank account), then, I went to the coffee shop, to CVS, to the grocery store, Borders and the public library without ever getting into my car. (AWESOME!)

While we weren't walking around town, we were basically putting Norah in cute outfits and taking pictures of her.

About two days ago I started my search for a new bike. The one I have now was reclaimed from the WJU RA closet. (The seat on it is miserable. And no, that's not why my butt hurts right now, but we're getting there.) On our search for a bike, we found this awesome Bike Shop just north of the city called "Nearly New Bikes." We really liked the guy selling the bikes, but couldn't see paying $125 for a used 1965 Schwinn. Even if they are collector's items. I don't collect Schwinns, so why would I want a collector's item? That night however, we found an old Schwinn online for $80. Still a lot, but we figured we'd drive out.

Turns out, the guy who posted the add lived about an hour away from us in a town called West Chicago. When we got there he had multiple bikes out in his front driveway and after talking some, and looking at the bikes, and talking some more, and putting the bikes in the car, and talking some more, and bungeeing the trunk down, and talking some more, and paying the guy, and talking some more, and taking the trash cans back, and talking some more, and then talking a little bit more, we got two old bikes in reasonably good condition, and a seat for Norah, all for $60.

The next day we purchased heavy duty locks for the bikes for $50. So, our locks are actually worth $5 less than the bikes that they lock up. (Interesting I know.)

Which brings us to why my butt hurts. We spent all day yesterday getting the bikes ready. I took the chains off, and oiled them up. I rotated the brakes, and lubed all the lines, I adjusted the seats and handle bars, and bolted Norah's seat to my bike.

Today, we went for it. We strapped Norah into her little bike seat and headed for the Lake Front Path. It was BEAUTIFUL. We biked all the way to down town and ate at a bakery on Monroe and Wabash. (Unfortunately, I think we both kind of forgot that when you bike into Downtown, you have to then bike home.) The trip was ROUGH. First of all, it rained so hard we had to stop and take shelter under some trees just by McCormick Place. Then, before we even got to the 37th street beach, I was pretty much uselessly exhausted. See, Monroe and Wabash is exactly 7.54 miles from our house. (I marked it out a path on Google Earth.) Which means that we biked a total of 15 miles today. It doesn't sound that much until you remember that I haven't ridden a bike for about ten years, and I had about 30 pounds of Norah and kid chair strapped to the back of my bike, and I'm much fatter than I was when I last biked, and I was sopping wet. But overall, the trip was worth it. I might be a little tired now, with a sore rear, but it was fun. We got to see the Lake Front, we saw Buckingham Fountain, we spent too much money on lunch, and we saw all the beaches between our house and the Shedd Aquarium. All in all, a good day.

As soon as we got home, we saw an add on Freecycle for a desk. (Freecycle is a Yahoo group through which you can basically give your stuff away. You just put up a post saying you don't want this or that any more and all somebody else has to do is come by and pick it up for free. Yeah I know. Awesome.) So Rach, Norah and I hauled our throbbing keisters into the car, and drove up to the North Side to pick up a free desk. Now, after hauling it up the stairs, and making chicken and bean burritos for dinner, I'm sitting on the couch with a beer finally posting on my blog. So there you are. We're in Chicago.

Now, I am going to put some donut pillows down on the bed, and go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here in Chicago!

Well, this is my first post here in Chicago Illinois. I'm sitting at a computer in the Chicago Public Library on 49th and Blackstone right now. It's a small marble building with gorgeous murals painted on the ceiling above the front entrance. There aren't very many books at this branch, which was a bit of a surprise. I'm excited to check out the library down town, as I imagine it's a nice one.

We'll be posting pictures and everything of our current digs as soon as I get the internet up and running, which will be as early as Friday or as late as Monday. (Keep an eye out.)

On a fun note, we found out that we live four blocks from Barack Obama! We walked past his house the other day and there were dozens of secret service people around and a few news cameras. I sat and talked with one of the reporters for a few minutes about his job of stalking the Presidential Nominee. Hopefully his kids will come by for Halloween!

Anyway, there's a timer counting down the amount of time I'm permitted on this computer, so I'll go now. We'll post more later!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Moving Tomorrow!

Well, tomorrow we move out of the big Wheels... as you can see, we are packed and ready to roll.

Chicago... HERE WE COME!