Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Puberty, for people like me, drags on."

Canals of Amsterdam - European Winter

Amsterdam Canal, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

"I've drunk gallons of chablis, danced the samba. I've sat outside the casino at Monte Carlo in the hours between closing time and dawn to listen to the shots of suicides and no longer concern myself with the administration of my estates, my foreign possessions where butterflies lie dead on pins in glass cases while I attend cocktail and dinner parties, go grouse shooting in Scotland, sailing the Aegean, in Dothea for polo, in Morano for the races, Champagne breakfasts, golf tournaments, hunting parties, nightclubs, marinas, movie stars, playing cards, polo mallets... the winter chalet in San Moritz, the summer villa in Biarritz."

"I live in airports, in grand hotels, in office high-rises. I serve nature, I perform all my biological duties. Puberty, for people like me, drags on...." - Joe Frank (Ashtray at the End of the World)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Living in my Uptown World

Summer weekends in Chicago are what make living here all worth it. Actually it doesn't make up for the bad things - winter, crime, sprawl, winter... but that's not within the scope of this post. This weekend I was "on call" which meant I was more or less tethered to an area within 5 or 10 minutes of my apartment. This area, for those who are not "in the know" when it comes to Chicago neighborhoods, is known as Uptown.

Uptown is an incredibly diverse neighborhood. A college professor at Truman College once told me that there are more foreign languages spoken at home in this zip code than anywhere else in America. With a population over 60,000 it's much larger than either of the towns where I grew up. All those people - and it's just a neighborhood. There are neighborhoods within this neighborhood. Uptown Square, Buena Park, Sheridan Park, Margate Park, Andersonville Terrace, and New Chinatown.

I live in New Chinatown and wouldn't have it any other way. The lakefront is less than a ten minute walk from my apartment, through a pleasant lakefront neighborhood and the northern stretch of Lincoln Park. The name "New Chinatown" refers to the fact that Chinatown is actually on the south side and this neighborhood is on the north side. The small concentration of Vietnamese immigrants to this neighborhood got it the name. Obviously a Vietnamese man does not a Chinaman make, but the name "Vietnamesetown" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. As a result of living in this vibrant Asian community, I get all kinds of awesome food for pennies. I'm also steps from several major transit options.

Uptown started out as the terminus of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad after they built a station there in 1900. This neighborhood was the summer hang-out for wealthy folks living downtown. Essanay Studios on Argyle street (that's my street) produced over 1400 movies and over 450 were produced during a period when 4 out of every 5 movies was produced in Chicago. Essanay produced the vast majority of those movies. There is now a small college standing where the studios once were (St. Augustine College) but it's easy to imagine it as a movie studio with its gated entrance. When I ride past it on my way to work I like to imagine Charlie Chaplain standing outside smoking cigarettes, cursing Chicago's recent ban on all indoor smoking.

But I digress... I spent the weekend milling about the neighborhood. I walked to Borders, walked my dog. On Saturday night, Isabelle and I walked to the lakefront to watch the Venetian Nights fireworks show downtown. Sunday brought more of the same. I'm eagerly anticipating my upcoming trip to San Francisco and Clearlake, California!

- Andy

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Postcard Shot!

Eastern "Cicada Killer" Wasp, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

This shot was difficult to get right. First of all, the wind was gusting a bit so the wasp didn't want to sit still. To add excitement, I didn't know at the time that their sting was mostly harmless... so I kept jumping back to the amusement of onlookers. After several takes, this one turned out perfectly, exactly what I wanted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chinatown Summer Fair and Millennium & Grant Parks

One of the nice things about Chicago in the summer is there's something big happening every weekend. On Sunday morning I learned on public radio that the Chinatown Summer Fair happened to be that day.

I decided to ride the "el" to Chinatown and check it out. That was a little lame, but the food I ate was pretty good and cheap. Personally, I like Chinatown a lot better when it isn't Chinatown Summer Fair. It's obviously a great neighborhood to experience authentic Chinese food and culture, but there's also something distinctly Chicago about it. For one thing, the train rattles past regularly... drowning out the sound of anything but a Summer Fair band.

Chinatown Summer Festival Chinatown Summer Festival Chinatown Summer Fair Chinatown Summer Festival

After that I went to Millennium Park on the lakefront and wandered down toward Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain and took some pictures in the Lurie Garden. The weather remained fantastic all day, despite reports that it was to storm in the afternoon. It was hot, but the lake provided a cool breeze that made it easy to walk around. There were people everywhere because there was some kind of "family fest" taking place in Millennium Park. Walking around the lakefront parks downtown reminds me how much Chicago is an international destination. I hear so many foreign languages that with my eyes closed it would be hard to tell I'm in an American city!

Eastern "Cicada Killer" Wasp Wasting my Summer Trump Tower Chicago Cloud Gate (AKA "The Bean")

- Andy

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lincoln Park Zoo

Kevin had the day off so he came over to play games and hang out. After playing Team Fortress 2 for a while, we decided to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago's free zoo. Don't let the fact that it's free fool you into believing it is a substandard zoo for the hoi polloi. Not so at all. This is an excellent zoo with a rich animal collection. I visit the zoo fairly often because I like zoos and it's convenient to me. I can take public transit and be there in 15 minutes.

Last time I was at the zoo, I wanted to see the zebras but couldn't find them. I also really wanted to see the tiger again. Kevin wanted to see the warthogs because they were inside last time he was there. We did find the warthogs and the zebras, but the tiger was inside. We still saw him, but he was behind bars, which is evident in the photos I took.

Warthogs Pygmy Hippo Giraffe Grevy's Zebra Bactrian Camels

Lake Malawi Cichlids Bonobo Face Tiger African Lion White Lipped Deer

- Andy

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Last Weekend of Vacation

I'd love to stay... the city calls me home, more hassles, fuss, and lies... on the phone - Morcheeba

On Saturday morning I had wanted to go to Tijuana. I decided after picking up my passport from the post office that I didn't want to go there by myself, but by the time I called Michael he and Katie had already made plans to pick up a friend to see a movie. Brian's passport just expired, so he couldn't come with me either, so rather than go to Tijuana, Brian, Jen, Matthew, and Anna Rose took me to Coronado for lunch. We had sandwiches and cheese at Terrine on the island.

San Diego Skyline San Diego Last Set 167 Coronado Beach USS George Washington

After lunch, we went back home and I drove over to Michael's house to play Wii. We bowled for a while and played some tennis. Then it was a pitcher's duel in baseball for several games. Finally we left to go to a party in the neighborhood and showed up just in time to see the food packed up and taken away to a concert. Michael and I ran to In & Out for some burgers and by the time we got back, new people had shown up with more food. Excellent!

After everyone started trickling back from the concert, Brian and Jen and the kids arrived at the party. It started to get late, so we went back to Brian's house and I packed my bags.

At 8:30am on Sunday my flight back to Detroit -- and then back to Chicago began. The bleached-blonde 19-year old girls sitting next to me on the four and a half hour flight to Detroit said, "Oh my God, this is the longest flight I've ever been on!" I told them the flight from San Francisco to Sydney is 15 hours. One of them said, "Oh my God I would die." I secretly hoped that would happen soon. I arrived back in Chicago at 5:30 CDT.

San Diego Last Set 170 San Diego Last Set 176 Cloud Sea Midway

- Andy

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Beer and Fireworks!

Independence Day! Fourth of July! We went to a friend's house who had a swimming pool and a brewery in his back yard. Two things that work fantastically well together on a day like July 4th.

They had even built a small bathroom with a toilet next to the pool for changing and of course peeing. This certainly reduces the amount of urine in the pool significantly. We wrapped Katie's leg up with two garbage bags and lots of duct tape and she sat on the inflatable raft. A few more people turned up and we had a good time.

Afterwards, we drove to Stone Brewery in Escondito. The brewery has really nice grounds with a waterfall and gardens. I walked around with Michael and Matthew before ordering dinner. Michael and I split a steak for two with three sides. After dinner, we went to Brian and Jen's neighbor's house to watch the fireworks from their balcony. We also had cake and the kids all wished a happy birthday to America.

San Diego Last Set 005 San Diego Last Set 009 Flower at Stone Brewery San Diego Last Set 020 San Diego Last Set 021

San Diego Sunset Fireworks Fireworks Fireworks Fireworks Video

Happy 4th of July!

- Andy

San Diego Zoo and Cash'd Out at Canes

Live entertainment!

On Thursday I got up and made breakfast and then made haste for the zoo. The San Diego Zoo is excellent! They have a huge range of animals and the grounds are well done. I started by wandering around the southern part of the zoo and quickly realized I needed to adopt a plan or I wouldn't see everything. I had already seen the gorillas and giant panda, so I could skip over them. I took the moving walkway up to the polar bears and then walked back down past the predatory birds. Then I walked back toward the entrance and took the cable car once again toward the polar bears. This time I walked back down and then to the north so I could see the Australian species. I had a huge hamburger at the "Sydney Bar & Grill" where they also happened to serve beer, so I had a corona.

Meercats Red River Hog Peacock Polar Bear at the San Diego Zoo Okapi

Steller's Sea Eagle Siberian Brown Bear Giraffe Zebra Mandrill

After I got back from the zoo, I had dinner with Brian, Jen, Matthew, and Anna Rose. Then Michael, Katie, and Ellen showed up and invited me to go see Cash'd Out, a Johnny Cash tribute band, at Canes Bar and Grill on the beach. The venue was awesome. The first band, Suicide Cowboy, was good - but not my kind of music. The second band, Rip Carson, was more rockabilly and the singer was funny. Finally at around 11pm Cash'd Out came on. They were brilliant! The guy sounded just like Johnny Cash and the delivery was very tight despite his guitar breaking a string early in the set.

Rip Carson Cash'd Out Cash'd Out

- Andy