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Day in the Life: Downtown Chicago

I don't get downtown much, but I was downtown recently and had some time to really take in my surroundings. A few observations.

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1. You know those those big electronic street kiosks with ads that keep changing? Every time I passed one along my route between the Randolph Street Metra station and my first destination at Monroe and LaSalle, Tea Leoni kept popping up in the same ad for Di Modolo jewelry. It was like those eyes kept following me, kind of like that 3D picture of crucified Jesus in Born In East LA. If I was paranoid, I'd have thought maybe the Chicago Police Department was using her ads for streetside surveillance work.

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2. A window in the Tribune Tower has a moon rock brought back by the astronauts from the Apollo-whatever mission in 1971. It looks like lava from Hawaii, but still, how fucking cool is that?

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3. I'm almost tempted to say the bicycle art along Michigan Avenue sucks. I know: Why don't we scour the suburbs on trash day for a boatload of rusty old bikes, do some wacky things like weld a few frames to each other, put the handlebars on backwards, paint them Day-Glo colors, stick them in the middle of some tulip gardens next to the curb, and call it civic art? I've seen collisions between two bike messengers that were more inspiring.

Every single one of whoever made these artifacts missed the boat by making them civic art instead of putting them all in the middle of Atlas Galleries on North Michigan Avenue and charging $42,000 a pop. I don't know - maybe the hunger from being starving artists makes you not think straight or something.

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4. Speaking of Atlas Galleries and things inspired, if the funky-coyote art of Markus Pierson in the north window doesn't make you even the teeniest bit amused, you need to march your cynical-ass life out to Michigan Avenue and push it in front of the first speeding cab you see so you can get a new one.

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5. There are a lot of crummy places to work in the city. Take your pick. My leading candidate is the Garrett Popcorn store. I passed two of these places and instead of thinking, "Hey, that's some great-smellin' popcorn, I think I'll get me some," I ended up pondering whether it might be possible to develop contact-high diabetes. I'm not sure which would be worse, working at Garrett's and overdosing on the sickly, overwhelming aroma of caramel all day, or working at a notions shop and overdosing on the sickly, overwhelming aroma of potpourri all day.

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6.Seen one escalator, seen 'em all. But when was the last time you saw how one works? Maybe I'm just easily fascinated, but I thought the uncovered, moving innards of the escalator between the first and second floors of the Crate & Barrel on North Michigan Avenue was pretty neat. There didn't appear to be any escalator repairman-looking people working on it and none of the other escalators had their innards exposed, but the thing was moving, so I wasn't sure whether it was in the middle of regular maintenance or the Crate & Barrel folks just thought it might be a nice touch for customers to be able to see escalator guts.

Mundane stuff like that may not fascinate many adults other than me, but if you have an 8-year-old kid in tow, seeing moving escalator innards might be one of the higher points of his day. Because I guarantee that any 8-year-old getting dragged around the Magnificent Mile isn't in it for the entertainment. Only problem is, you'd have to ride the floors all day to get more than one passing glance at moving escalator guts. Even I'm not easily-fascinated enough to do that.

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7. Along with stuff like bricks from Hans Christan Andersen's house and the house in Holland where the pilgrims gathered to pray before sailing over on the Mayflower, the Tribune building has a bent ribbon of steel from one of the World Trade Center towers stuck into its wall on the Pioneer Court side. I'm not much on patriotic symbolism, but I kept thinking of the parallel of this ribbon of metal to The Wall in Washington, D.C., in that you didn't have to actually be there to be able to appreciate the gravity of either one afterward.

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8. My job makes me design the endless river of boring-ass institutional marketing shit banks insist on putting out. Which means I find myself wishing several times a week that someone would just put a gun to the back of my head and pull the trigger. That's why I'd love to buy whoever came up with Washington Mutual's "Free Range Checkin" window banners (the photos of baby chickens pull it together: checkin', chicken, get it?) in the the 230 West Monroe building a drink or three, because creativity and wit like that doesn't get rewarded enough.

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9. My train was about to leave, so I didn't have any time to catch the name of the flute-playing musician at the entrance to the Randolph Street Metra station at 12:30 p.m. But this guy deserves a whole pile of spare change for putting out some totally bitchin' jazz instead of being some guitar-playing rummy doing off-key Hank Williams at the bottom of the stairway.

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Share your Day in the Life, be it People, Place or Thing.

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Photos: 1. leonionline.com | 2. Chad Kerychuk | 3. Eric Pancer | 4. Atlas Galleries | 5. JellyBeanJill13 | 6. Paul Fontana | 7. Chad Kerychuk | 8. Janet Dong | 9. Beachwood Reporter file photo.



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Posted on May 30, 2007


MUSIC - Muddy Waters Museum Has Mojo.
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POLITICS - President Trump Has 3,400 Conflicts Of Interest.
SPORTS - The Big Ten's Blood Money.

BOOKS - Searching For The World's Largest Owl.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - New Mop Shaped Like Taco.


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