Photo: Kristine Sherred
Standing just inside the Dearborn Street entrance of Chase Tower, Amanda Scotese welcomes her Friday Chicago Detours group to “Explore the Loop without Freezing.” This morning brings only four curious people together, but Scotese caps the number of tickets at twenty anyway, creating what she characterizes as a unique, personal and immersive urban experience. The attendees give their names and hometowns before Scotese pulls out the multimedia component, an iPad, starting with a nineteenth-century clip of a Chicago intersection and a Studs Terkel snippet.
“It’s not just facts. This is about stories and a theme that binds them together,” says Scotese.
Her digital collection of archival footage, ephemera and images “you can’t piece together on the Internet” complement her mental reserve of “forgotten stories,” as she calls the fascinating history she shares at each stop. She encourages questions and conversation, fostering a collaborative educational environment unlike the talking head on run-of-the-mill tours.
“People love to learn!” she exclaims. “I don’t pretend to know everything, and I’m not into making up answers.” Anything she doesn’t know, she researches and posts answers to on the Chicago Detours blog. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dina Elenbogen
I am floating in the underbelly of the city, the same way the summer my son was an infant, walking along the lake with him strapped to my body at dawn, I’d feel as if I were moving through the underbelly of the day. On this boat I take to work, floating under bridges and taking in new angles and facades of buildings, this city feels unfamiliar. It’s like looking into a face you’ve known for a long time and seeing an entirely new quality of beauty.
I used to envy friends who were able to walk only steps from the train to their buildings but now I realize that I am the lucky one. After a thirty-minute train ride on which I review for the writing class I’ll teach later in the morning, I arrive in the city, walk a few steps, and my boat is usually waiting for me. I step off the pier at Wacker and down a few steps into the yellow boat. I usually sit uncovered on a bench in the back. Some mornings I’ll commune with the red steel bridges that we pass between Madison (1922), and the Michigan Avenue Bridge (1920). Other times it will be the glass facades of the newer buildings next to the old stone and turrets of the Crain Communications Building and the Wrigley Building. If the boat didn’t hit the cement at Michigan Avenue to disembark, I’d probably drift away with my thoughts all morning. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have ever gone to Lollapalooza, attended a concert at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion or simply strolled through its elegant gardens, you should consider joining Lawrence Okrent and the Friends of Downtown this Thursday, December 2, for a brown-bag luncheon presentation about the origins and rich history of Grant Park.
Urban planning and zoning expert Okrent (who prefers to be called Larry) has more than forty years experience navigating the history and peculiarities of Chicago land development. Not to mention that over his career, Okrent has amassed an extensive archive of aerial and historical photographs of Chicago. Who better then to illustrate the complex history of Grant Park.
Okrent can tell you, for example, that the land that is now Grant Park was once just a gap of water standing between the natural Lake Michigan shoreline and the elevated Illinois Trestle just to the east. And you might be interested to learn that that little water gap was first filled in with rubble from the Great Fire or that the park didn’t attain its characteristic landscaping until the 1920’s and thirties. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago lost an international icon in 2006 when Marshall Field’s was officially changed into a Macy’s, a company largely associated with New York. And despite the time that has elapsed, to many Chicagoans, including Jim McKay, this change was an insult that will not go on without a fight.
So fight is what they have done, even as the years have worn on. McKay’s Field’s Fans Chicago (fieldsfanschicago.org), a non-sponsored, non-commercial and non-profit group that is not affiliated with Marshall Field’s or any of its previous owners, began organizing and sharing its opinion on the matter as soon as the change was made. Field’s Fans has been keeping its ear to the ground to keep up with the general opinion of Chicago shoppers on the question at hand. Read the rest of this entry »
Denver’s B-cycle bike-sharing program—500 bikes, fifty kiosks—received a million dollars in city and state funding. Minneapolis’ not-for-profit Nice Ride program—1,000 bikes, sixty kiosks—received $350,000 in funding from its city. Almost $7 million in federal, state and local funding will expand the DC/Arlington SmartBike program to 500 bikes, fifty kiosks. Boston will start their program with $3 million in federal funding, likely with 2,500 bikes and 290 kiosks.
Chicago? Chicago’s new B-cycle program (chicago.bcycle.com), operated by bike-rental company Bike and Roll, receives zero dollars in public funding. It launched July 30 with 100 bikes at six kiosks, mostly downtown along the lakefront. Memberships are $35, with the first hour free and every half-hour after that $2.50, up to $40 a day, encouraging shorter trips. Getting a widespread, affordable bike-sharing program in our flat city is still an uphill battle. Read the rest of this entry »
An iPad and a handful of iPhone 4s sit on the table at the Argo Tea at Dearborn and Adams at 8:30 in the morning. Their owners are gathered around the table, and even while they talk to each other, their devices are hard at work. Pek Pongpaet’s iPad shows off an app he created, a database of inspirational business quotes. Bruno Pieroni’s iPhone snaps a picture of a bar code on a pack of gum and instantaneously he knows what store will give him the best price. I take a photo of Erin Borreson’s business card with my iPhone and, suddenly, I’m directed to her website. It’s not an Apple gathering, it’s likemind, a monthly meetup on the third Friday of the month for people interested in creativity and technology. You don’t actually have to be an Apple devotee to attend, but be prepared to defend your smartphone of choice. Some people come to trade business cards, while others just want to hear what new innovations creative techies are excited about. “There’s no set rules. There’s no set agenda,” says Mike Maddaloni, who helps coordinate the events. Allison Hosack, a leadership development consultant who also does personal training, laughs as she looks at her phone. “He’s a quick little sucker, ain’t he. I already got a LinkedIn request from Pek.” She looks at the QR code on Erin’s business card that sent me to Erin’s website. “You want to barter personal training for cards?” (Ella Christoph)
“At 12:11, casually converge on the BP pedestrian bridge. Wear all black and bring a black umbrella. Wait for the first whistle at 12:20, sit down close to those around you and open your umbrella. Wait for the second whistle at 12:35 and disperse. Do not linger.”
These were the simple yet precise instructions for the BP Black Friday Flash Mob. The essence of a flash mob is in its secrecy. And so the protestors, all alerted via Facebook and word-of-mouth, were relatively unaware of who actually invited them to participate. The Facebook event, entitled “Oil over the Bridge,” was created by Oliver Bridge, presumably a pseudonym. In addition to those precise instructions, an auxiliary message requested: “Anyone who wants to be a secret agent, wear a white hat.” This is where Lott Hill steps in. In donning his white fedora, Lott has no idea what he will be getting himself into, given the vagueness of the instructions. Read the rest of this entry »
Nearly two hours before the night’s speaker is scheduled to go on and yet people are already buzzing around shaking off the weather inside the Conaway Center at Chicago’s Columbia College. A woman directs people to the registration line. A man jokes to his friend about her hair, but she chalks it up to the wind. A trio of adults weigh their chances of getting into tonight’s event. It feels not unlike lining up for dodgeball. No one wants to get picked last.
Two student ushers direct people to the overflow room and tell the lucky ones—those who registered early enough for tonight’s event—that the Film Row Cinema will open shortly. A few men try to flirt their way out of the room and into the theater. “I’ve got overflow tickets,” a man in a ball cap says, smirking. “How likely is it we’ll get in?”
A woman appears in a headset, “You know it’s really hit or miss. I don’t want to promise anything.” Read the rest of this entry »
On a Monday afternoon, diehard fans of a late-night legend huddle in the cold outside NBC headquarters in Pioneer Court. More than a hundred people stand in the picket line, waving colorful signs displaying admiration for the redheaded funny man who has been making people laugh for his entire adult life.
A mother and her two young daughters stand clad in orange attire, the theme for this evening’s march along Michigan Avenue. “My daughter is the biggest Conan fan,” says the proud mom. Fans in Conan wigs and orange wool caps pace in front of the tower as security guards keep them just beyond the NBC property. “This is actually a Trump wig,” says Qais of his hair garb. “This feud is worse then Leno vs. Letterman.” Read the rest of this entry »
This time-honored tradition, which nips at your nose the day before Thanksgiving, is spent in the freezing rain. Swarms of people are bundled in winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves as they stand and wait for the massive tree in the middle of Daley Plaza to illuminate and inform that the holidays are upon us.
Families and couples from all over the Chicago area, spanning from Algonquin to Zion, flock to this historical event that has been a city staple for years, bringing back the Christmas spirit before a dreaded month of crowded malls and retail nightmares consume their lives. Tourists stuff their faces with authentic German-style pastries and bratwurst as they peruse the Christkindlmarket. The aisles are filled with trinkets, artwork and countless other overpriced souvenirs to commemorate the trek downtown during the start of the most wonderful time of year.
Helping to celebrate the occasion is local movie star and daytime talk-show host Bonnie Hunt, always proud to call Chicago her hometown, saying this city makes her feel pretty when compared to Los Angeles, but we can let that slide. Read the rest of this entry »