Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 30 August 2010

Chicago 2

Sunday in the City

Chicago is constantly becoming. The old elevated trains and 60 old iron drawbridges are remnants from a time gone by...

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

- Carl Sandburg

If you get a chance, read "The Devil in the White City" about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a classic American Psycho Killer of that time period. The 1893 fair had a Ferris wheel that could carry 2,215 at a time. The wheel had a diameter of 250 feet and had 36 cars carrying 60 riders in each car. It was powered by a 1,000 horsepower steam engine.

They had originally thought to build a taller Eiffel Tower. Most of the buildings burned down shortly after the fair. Dr. H.H. Holmes designed a hotel for the explicit purpose of murdering and cremating the young women who came to Chicago to find work....his final tally will never be known and might well be unsurpassed...

The elevated train line runs in a circle around innermost Chicago...the expression "In the Loop" apparently originated here.

We take the "West" tour today though Chinatown, Little Italy and the Greek areas. It also runs though what everyone, including the residents, used to call "Jewtown". It was a more brutal, less politically correct, era...

Lunch in Little Italy is good, but it must have had a lot of salt. I bought about a gallon of water on the walk back to catch the 4:30 train back to Joliet.

We've seen a lot of these curved buildings in NYC...

The fountain area in Millennium Park is full of children. The tower is built of glass blocks and illuminated from within by a moving face.

This is a mirror in the Chicago art museum.

More pictures from the 96th floor of the John Hancock building.

The train on Sunday has lots of kids in bathing suits heading for the Lake Michigan beaches.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

View From Joliet


We're camped out at the Empress Casino in Joliet, Illinois. Friday night we went in to buy a drink and look over the casino.

The bar has an electronic poker machine on the tabletop. You don't put in coins anymore. Now you insert paper money or your credit card. It's stunning to think I could set there and lose $30,000 or whatever my remaining credit limit might be.

The last time I remember gambling was 1966 in Okinawa. The club had some slots. I dropped in two quarters and lost both times, which put me off gambling. In 1980 I used Excel to generate six random numbers and bought a dollar lottery ticket and also lost. This time I lost two dollar bills. I played for a quarter a hand. Twice I could have won three quarters on three of a kind, but I pushed the wrong buttons and hit "deal" instead of "hold" and lost one of my trips in error.

Joliet is depressing. The old prison is famous. You might remember "Joliet" Jake Blues, Elwood Blue's brother. The little city is dirty and poor, but convenient for our runs into Chicago on the Rock Island Line.
Down the rock island line is a might good road
Oh the rock island line is the road to ride
The rock island line is a mighty good road
Well if you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station of the rock island line

This is the Hancock Building.

The run into Chicago is an hour and twenty minutes. We pay seven dollars each for a weekend pass...all you can ride...

I left the camera memory card in the computer again, so we head for the John Hancock tower and pick up another 4 gig card in Best Buy...

We get another weekend pass on the double decker tourist bus and spend the day hopping on and off. The old Sears Tower is now the tallest building in this hemisphere. It's the Willis Tower now. A small English Insurance firm leased three floor last year and bought the naming rights.

Chicago has spectacular architecture. We spend Saturday snapping pictures and visit the Art Museum. It's ok...lots of Gaugins, Monets, etc....I think we liked the ones in St. Louis and Kansas City more...

This is Marina City, which the locals call the "Corncob" buildings. Bob Newhart lived here in the old Bob Newhart show.

We ended the day with a couple of drinks in the "Signature" room of the John Hancock building on the 96th floor....I kept looking for airplanes, but nothing happened...

We love this thing. It's in Millenium Park and it's called "The Bean". It's designed to give a panoramic view of downtown.

This structure is the bandstand in Millenium Park.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I'm in Love

With the Village of Climax

We spent two days at a State Park in Port Huron, Michigan, After crossing back into the U.S.A. The crossing was not the best. It took 90 minutes to get up to the border guard. I love the new scanners that look for WMD on semi-trucks and cars.

My first move, back in the U.S., was to Google a smoke shop in Port Huron. They had choices of 60 different varieties of pipe tobacco at $16 a pound. My last ounce in Ontario cost $30 and they only had one brand behind the counter, out of the view of children. I bought two pounds.

Today we traveled West toward Chicago. We stopped in a rest area to Google the train schedule between Michigan City and Chicago and found that the train line is shut down for repairs this weekend. We revised our plans to pick up the train much further West in East Chicago to Millennium Station. That was a station too far for today's drive, so we veered off to Cold Brook County Park near the Village of Climax.

The park is very beautiful compared to, for example, a commercial KOA or any other commercial park semi-filled with all the trashy seasonal campers we've been seeing all summer in New England and Canada. The problem with seasonal campers is that they leave their campers for the season and only visit the camps on occasional end up with a high ratio of ugly trailers and RVs to people and all the kitchy decorations, ugly string lights and cheesy landscaping that goes with semi-permanent or permanent trailer parks.

So...The Village of Climax....It's mostly corn fields right now..I have no idea how high an elephant's eye might be, but this corn is higher than my eye...six feet into the field and you'd be lost...but the people are so friendly and helpful...they know you're a's a very small town...and go out of their way to help you find your way. They have a little library, a grocery store, a small bank, a hairdresser and an auto body shop that looks very busy...

I love it...With a name like Climax, it's got to be good...Everything came together for Climax in 1976, when the local High School won the Class D State championship in Basketball...tomorrow I will be interviewing local residents to see what happened to the local team, who are now all about 50.

I'm sure Mrs. Phred will also love Climax...we may just stop here and sell the RV...stay tuned..

Monday, 23 August 2010

36 Hours in Toronto

Toronto, Canada

We returned to Niagara to find that we had somehow left one of the refrigerator doors open during the trip to Toronto.

Worse, the lemons I bought for the blueberry pies went bad and the RV is swarming with little black fruit flies that are driving Mrs. Phred crazy.

We've made some fruit fly traps. One is a bowl of water, vinegar and dish washing soap. The other is a glass of wine covered with Saran wrap with holes punched in the top.

We woke up early and checked out of the Victoria Hotel. We took our clothes to the car in the parking garage. The hotel was a great location in the center of Toronto.

We started our walk by trudging two miles East to the old distillery district. The Canadians have always made good whiskey, but now the old district is full of art, shop, high condos and restaurants. They've recycled the old distillery buildings.

We turn back and walk eight miles West down Queen street, passing again though downtown and getting into some seedy areas making an interesting comeback.

We take a detour though Chinatown. My feet are hurting after the ten mile hike so we stop a a little bar for a Molson draft.

We find a streetcar going back to the parking garage and talk the conductor into accepting a combination of American and Canadian currency. It's hard to remember that public transit always requires exact change.

These guys are right outside the art gallery we hiked ten miles to see. It was closed between exhibits. Actually, it's not the destination, it's the journey. Toronto is a lovely, booming city. We saw town homes, big condos and office buildings...a mix of old and new...we could live here a month or so to check it out.

Toronto at Night