Sept 13, Chicago


I get off the train at Addison, and follow the crowd over to the stadium -- the Jons were right about there not always being tons of parking around stadiums! Not like Dodger Stadium or the Oakland Coliseum. There are several small shops, sports bars and Cubs stuff all over the place. From the train I could see that the game wasn't sold out, so I find gate D (nearest one) and the ticket guy points me towards the box office. I ask the box office dude what kind of seats he's got available -- how much do I want to spend? not much over $11. Well, $11 will get me into the terrace, 3rd row. Which is of course fine with me, I have no idea how high up "terrace" level is, but 3rd row means only 2 people in front of me. Hopefully they wouldn't both be tall.

I go in...and am promptly amazed by both my seat and the stadium! Wrigley Field has got to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world. Considering my less-than-extensive first-hand knowledge of this, I still think other, newer, stadiums would be hard-pressed to surpass this. Terrace is about 14 rows back, up just enough to see over the people walking in the aisle. I have a single seat, on the thin-diagonal side of the steps, so there *is* no 1st row seat...but there's someone sitting in mine! so I sit in front of him. Heehee. Totally unblocked view, lots of room, just on the right field side of first base, which is just excellent for seeing all the throws from Ryne Sandberg to Mark Grace! Happy Jen.

The lights are new, apparently as recently as a couple of years old. The scoreboard is manual; there's a guy sitting up there watching the game, changed green-painted rectangles out by hand, numbers in yellow for mid-inning scores, numbers in white for end-of-inning totals. 10 slots only! I don't know what they do with more-than-10-inning games. Plus, there are slots for every other game in both the american and national leagues! This being a 2:20pm game on a friday, Chicago Time, the words "Nite Game" are posted over all the other games...but I like the style.

By the 7th inning stretch I was getting I stayed for Harry Cary singing "take me out to the ball game", then ran to get coffee... get a little thermogenic pickup! Great seat, but in the shade, and Chicago *does* get a lot of wind...temp around 58F without the wind that day! But nice and sunny with big threatening clouds hurrying through and running off towards the Lake. This city exemplifies the "if you don't like the weather wait 10 minutes" idea, here, it really is only 10 minutes!

Cubs win, 5-2 I think, over the Phillies. I think Cubs fans are like Cal fans: their team doesn't win many titles but the fans are faithful diehards. I was sitting about 150 feet below/to the side of 6 or 7 elderly women, all totally decked out in Cubs hats, Cubs jackets, Cubs shirts, writing down all the stats as the game went on, and basically very into the game. There were lots of young fathers taking off from work and bringing young sons as well, many, many 2-4 year olds propped up upon his father's shoulders, also decked out in CubWear. Once a fan of the Cubs, always a fan...

After the game, I took the train back into downtown, and headed over towards Navy Pier. Now, this *is* after Labor Day, and it's getting cooler, so I didn't expect it to be very crowded (it wasn't). But I did enjoy going through all the indoor-mall shops on the south side of the street leading to the pier (I suppose that when it snows it helps to not have that affect shoppers, especially if it keeps them close to the stores!). The pier itself was cool, the best part being the indoor garden/pavilion. Scattered planters, lots of big leafy semi-tropical plans, and tiny lights on strings hanging down from the roof. The best part was the water, little jets would shoot out water over to other pools, in a pattern-timed manner that would usually have, instead of an arc of water, a little leaping tube!

I walked out to the end of the pier, looked at all the tour boats going out, at the various pubs and shops, then came back and rode the Ferris Wheel at sunset...but about 7 years ago apparently someone stupid got it into their head to build this huge monolithic black building directly west of the pier...totally blocking the sunset! I was miffed, but took pictures anyway.

Caught a bus back to downtown, and walked towards Grant Park, to get pictures of Buckingham Fountain at night with all the lights on. Gave a panhandler my sandwich (he asked for that after asking for the change, and I'm much more likely to give food than money). I warned him it was a garlic bagel, but he didn't really mind. So I ate at the Russian Palace...more expensive than I'd liked, but the borscht and siberian pelmeni were good, and I hadn't really seen much else open that time of night that I was in the mood for...all the sandwich/pizza places had closed, and the Soul Food By The Pound weren't open either. Bummer! I had wanted to try that. So, I ate, then took my fountain pictures, and walked over to Congress to catch the bus...saw a Lincoln statue, smaller version than at the D.C. Memorial, but very striking nonetheless, looking out over the gardens. Caught the #6 back to the hostel. I tried calling Jon again, no luck...I had tried calling thursday night to see if he wanted to skip over here for the Cubs game. Turns out, I was calling his work number! I found the yellow post-it he'd written his home address/phone on in the recesses of my bag, and immediately realized that was Not The Number I'd been dialing. whoops!

So, I did talk to him, confirming the 12:33pm arrival on saturday in Ann Arbor. I then called the Chicago Metra number, 876-7000, to get info on how to get to Union Station by bus/rail before 6:45am saturday morning. I get a combination of 3 busses, starting at 61st and Stony Point Rd. Union Station is downtown, now why I need 3 busses is beyond me, but that's what they say. I then ask the guy at the hostel desk that night if 61st and Stony Point is really where I think it is, and he looks at me in horror: you're going *where*?

61st and Stony Point, right?

Now? And you want to live?

No, tomorrow morning...

You don't want to do that. Do you know what area that is? That area has been declared an emergency zone, you know, if you open a business there you don't have to pay taxes! that's one of the worst areas around!

Gee, I'm glad I asked him. My lucky day...

He told me to just take the RTA train up -- note, Not Metra, from the station 2.5 blocks from the hostel (I'd passed under it several times already), and that in 16 minutes I'd be downtown. A bit more expensive than the bus, a whopping $1.95, but I could get on it at 6:09 and have time to walk over to Union Station from the Van Buren stop. He was very nice, gave me all sorts of details -- the station/ticket is similar to BART station protocol, which platform to get on, and an admonition to not get on the 6:07 train, that just turned around and went back the way it had come after it's passengers transferred to the downtown-bound train.

Off to bed after that. Well, okay, I stopped by the TV room and flipped channels for a while. Then sleep. After all, I had to get up at 5am to comfortably make it onto the platform by 6am...