Friday, September 23, 2011

Jumping the Shark.

Van Buren Station Morning
- Van Buren Street Station 10:45 A.M.

"Losing sight of a pasttime
The years fly right by with the drinks"

I'd been to Chicago four times previously. The first time on a family trip. Then it was with my 8th grade class. Some years later I got there, made it to the hotel, started drinking and stumbled onto the train to go listen to The Lawrence Arms play songs like the one quoted above and for which this post is named after. The fourth time: - an impulse with little money and a desire to take a vacation.

This most recent time, it was to see baseball and spend time with my dad, uncle and cousin. When you're on a vacation with family it makes it harder to see the things you want to see, to break away and go exploring. Not that I don't enjoy spending time with my family, I did and I love them dearly, but it's hard to make the photographs you want when you're stuck at all the usual tourist spots - just another human amongst the other DSLR wielding yuppies with their generic camera straps crowding in front of the Cloud Gate.

The Bean

I knew I'd come back to Cincinnati, edit the photographs and post them on my website. They're pictures of Chicago and they're details of my trip. I don't want to make it seem as if this website has become a place to showcase my vacation photographs and tell the same story that a thousand other tourists are telling their friends - "Jumping the Shark" so to speak. The hobby of photography and writing becoming nothing more than a teenage girl's "Mertle Beach 2006" album on facebook if you catch my drift. I don't want to be a tourist. I don't want to view Chicago as some foreign entity. It's not Calcutta, it's not Paris and it's not a world away. It's an American city, I like to think I understand the city and how I want to photograph and portray it, that I can see past the "magnificent mile" and souveneir shops. I want to think that my photographs are somehow unique amongst the endless sea of the usual generic tourist captures and that this website and the content it offers hasn't "jumped the shark" into typical internet photographic mediocrity as if I'm "losing sight of a pasttime."

- Pantograph atop a train at the Van Buren Station.

Bird Shit and Rust
- The Jay Pritzger Pavillion.

We came in on a Friday afternoon and unloaded our bags at a hotel whose interior looked like that of the one from Ghostbusters. The first stop was to get something to eat. A Chicago Style Hot Dog made for a wonderful dinner and a nice change of pace from the small coneys offered by Skyline Chili back home.

Chicago Style Hot Dog

We had planned to go to the Chicago Fire game that night. In the past, I've done nothing but rag on Major League Soccer. That opinion changed though when I went to a Columbus Crew game earlier this year. That night, The Fire reinforced to me why I was wrong about soccer.

Chicago Fire Flag

Some rules of the sport certainly could change in order to make the game more interesting, but the rowdy fans setting off smoke bombs and chanting the entire match make it totally worth it.

Chicago Fire Game
- Fans in "Section 8" set off smoke bombs after the Fire score a goal.

On the way back to the hotel we passed a 7/11. I always forget that those exist. Coming from a city dominated by United Dairy Farmers and Circle K, the 7/11 exists only in your mind as a place on television. In desperate need of the nourishment provided by Liption's Raspberry Iced Tea, I convinced my dad to follow me in my first visit to a 7/11. The clerk at the counter glared at me as I photographed the interior of the majestic, never before experienced convenience store.

- The first 7/11 I ever stepped foot in.

The next day we had plans for a double header: Cubs @ Wrigley and White Sox @ New Comiskey (U.S. Cellular Field).

Michigan Ave.
- A non-traditional way of making a non-traditional postcard.

Roosevelt University
- Roosevelt University building.

We hopped on the Red Line headed for Addison.

Red Line Warning
- Red Line warnings.

Red Line Escalator Signage
- Red Line Escalator Signs.

I was breaking a promise to myself. In multiple tirades of (usually alcohol induced) Redlegs pride, I had vowed to never step foot in Wrigley Field. I had encountered enough rude and snobby Cubs fans in my life to never care to visit the "friendly confines." As a baseball fan though, I was told it was something I had to do.

Wrigley Field Intersection
- Wrigley Field.

We went to a sports bar called "Sluggers," where we sampled Old Style beer and took in a painting of Mike Ditka on the wall.

Old Style Can
- A can of Old Style, the Hudepohl of Chicago.

Chicago Bar
- "Sluggers."

Ditka Painting
- A portrait of the mighty Mike Ditka.

From vendors on the crowded street, I bought a Cubs t-shirt cleverly disguised as a Pabst Blue Ribbon logo. We entered into the crowded stadium and took our seats. The Cubs were playing the Cardinals - it was kind of like watching the Germans fight the Russians during World War II, you don't really like either side.

Wrigley Concourse
- Wrigley Concourse.

Wrigley was worth seeing though and I'm glad I experienced it. It's certainly the "thing" that gets people to go to Cubs games. It's a scene, it's a sight to see - the activity on the field sure as hell isn't nor has it been in a long time.

Wrigley Field

The bathrooms had been re-modeled and weren't that bad. The stadium has character, I'll give it that, but it almost seems like more of a "scene" than a baseball game. People crowd the upper deck patios in their pink Cubs shirts where the game can't even be viewed and you can check in on Facebook that YOU were there.

Wrigley Concessions
- Wrigley concessions.

The majority of the game was boring. I realize the scoreboard is traditional, but seriously some modern upgrades wouldn't kill the Cubs organization. 90% of the scoreboard is wasted on out-of-town scores that just have "Nite (not spelled right) Game" written across them.

- The "skyyline" of Chicago as viewed from Wrigley.

The game was pretty uneventful except for the roar of the USAF Thunderbirds who flew overhead for the air show up by the lake. The Cubs eeked it out though and the crowd sang some goofy "fight" song to the chagrin of the departing Cardinals fans. I've met some nasty Cub fans in my life, but the folks from St. Louis aren't really doing themselves any favors. No matter how nasty things get between Cubs and Reds fans - we will always have a mutual hatred for the Red Birds.

Red Line Subway
- Red Line trains crossing paths.

We fought our way to the top of the Adisson station platform, like we were queing for a ride at an amusement park. It didn't help that it was rush hour. Eventually we made our way onto the train and rode it to the next baseball game - Rangers at White Sox.

35 St. Station Bikes
- Bikes at the 35th St. Station.

New Comiskey Park (truthfully known as U.S. Cellular Field), is a different world from Wrigley. It's a newer facility, built in the early 90's and renovated in the early 2000's. A game there isn't a "scene" or an "event," and truthfully it's not much different than attending a game at Great American Ballpark. I prefer it to Wrigley though. Not just because I'm a Reds fan with a bias against the Cubs, but because I could actually sit comfortably and read stats on the scoreboard - a scoreboard that is the greatest in baseball.

New Cominskey
- New Comiskey.

Chicago from New Cominskey Upper Deck
- Chicago as seen through the grating of Comiskey's upper deck.

U.S. Cellular Field Scoreboard
- The greatest scoreboard in all of baseball.

The multi-colored "spinning" lights atop the New Comiskey scoreboard are a retro throwback to the ones that were atop the original Comiskey scoreboard. Looking through my dad's baseball books as a kid, I thought they were the coolest thing and still hold true to that belief today.

Skyline from U.S. Cellular Field
- Downtown Chicago as seen from Comiskey.

The White Sox were not as lucky as the Natioal League team to the North, Josh Hamilton and the Rangers shut them down. We boarded the Red Line again and headed back to our downtown hotel. The rest of my family decided to get some rest. I went back to the 7/11 to experience it again and took the camera with me. I had to do some exploring, I had to get away for a bit and see the city.

Hotel Elevator
- Hotel elevator.

I love the John Hancock Building so naturally it was the first place I went. On all the trips I've taken to Chicago as an adult, I've woud up at the Chicago Ave. Red Line station. I got off there, walking past the MacDonalds I had been recovering from a hangover at two years prior. I stood outside the Hancock Building, pointed the camera up and started shooting photos. Despite being accused of photographing people who were coming out of the buildig by a drunken girl and her boyfriend, my hapiness of standing at the base of that buildig couldn't be crushed. I simply said "don't flatter yourself" to the pair who thought I had photographed them and remembered the iconic structure and how it appeared on the intro to Family Matters.

Hancock Tower
- Hancock Tower.

My Favorite Chicago MacDonalds
- The Chicago MacDonalds I always end up at.

Riding the train back, I walked over to Grant Park before going back to the hotel. I took some shots of the Van Buren Station while a homeless man slept on the bench next to me.

Overlooking Van Buren Station Tracks
- Van Buren Station 1:37 A.M.

Rainy Last Day

We left the next morning as the rain started to fall.


  1. These are great--I've always wanted to spend time in Chicago. Thanks for posting!

  2. I completely understand your sentiments on not wanting to shoot the touristy stuff. I'm the same way. I was just in NYC and didn't shoot as much as I wanted simply because I didn't want to feel like a tourist, haha. You did a great job with these!

  3. I think I need to get a new camera strap :-(