Does a Part of Chicago Defy Gravity?

Believe it or not, the worlds largest public library is in Chicago; the Harold Washington Library Center, which has a collection of over 2,000,000 books! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the library, but I did get to see the laws of gravity broken! Keep reading to find out what all else I witnessed as I ended 2015 in the Windy City!

The Bean in Chicago

During St. Patricks Day the city dyes the river green in celebration, however…
orange powder is used to create the green hue!

Okay, so while I didn’t technically “end” 2015 in Chi-Town, it was the last trip I took of the year. And if you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that oddly enough it was also my first trip of the year when I had the world’s greatest hotdog there, or atleast the best one I’ve ever had! This was another business trip much like my Denver visit, and also for the same reason which was visiting field offices for various reasons, but as I’ve said before, that’s the boring part of my trips. Besides, why focus on that when I can view 4 states while up 103 stories in the Willis (Sears) Tower?

Willis (Sears) Tower window view south/west

Willis (Sears) Tower window view south/west

“That’ll be ten bucks sir”
“Ten dollars!?” I thought to myself, this better be pretty good!
“Here ya go!” I paid the master mixologist behind the bar and headed to find a seat. Thumping groovy upbeat jazz plays over the speakers, I slide between the hipsters of the city and slip into a booth. I take a sip of the pricey drink and BAM! I’m hit with a strong orange taste that takes my tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride. I had watched the bartender make the drink just a moment ago, he threw a few ice cubes into a glass, next a slice of orange peel, some liquids I can’t figure out due to the dark red lighting, and he tops it off by spiking 2 grapes onto a pick. Classy, expensive, and mysterious, that’s the feel of this place. It’s hard to tell what year it is in here, maybe the 1950’s? It seems like the kind of hangout you might see in an episode of Mad Men. The strong glow of the red neon lights along the walls gives it a slight 1970’s Vegas feel, and the crowd is full of late 90’s hipsters, only with the addition of iPhones.

The place is crowded and the tables fully occupied except for 2, the one is too far to attempt, it’ll be occupied by the time I get halfway there, the other was a sure shot, it was directly across from where I waited for my drink to be done. You could argue that most of the people in here fit into the “beautiful people” category; a blonde walks through the pulled maroon drapes at the front door, she looks just like Elisha Cuthbert, stopping for a moment to remove her coat and fix her hair before continuing. A table diagonally across from my booth has a Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a Paul Giamatti sitting across from a Lucy Liu with a tan top hat, which seems odd, but she owns the look. The one bartender looks like Penelope Cruz and the other resembles Pete Wentz.

Descent into O'Hare

I flew into O’Hare from Hopkins on a pretty cloudy day, this unfortunately prevented me from being able to view the amazing city from the air, so I would be sure to makeup for that while I was on the ground. It’s tough deciding where to go in the third biggest city in the US (even though most people seem to agree that it feels bigger than LA), so I’ll try my best to suggest some key spots. And while some may be obvious, there’s a few that aren’t as well known! In addition to some unknown locations, a common unknown fact is that Chi-Town is the home of the word “Jazz”! So when you visit, make sure to catch some live jazz music, it’s honestly not that hard, most downtown bars (ecspecially the more upscale ones) have live jazz bands almost nightly! But you’re probably wondering about some shady looking place on some random street; you’re not sure if you want to turn away from it or go in just to find out what kind of place it is. Atleast this was my reaction when I came across a place called The California Clipper Lounge.

California Clipper

The California Clipper has a very seedy vibe outside, but inside it’s very different, the only color inside is red except for the blue clock above IMG_1966the entrance/exit, much like that of a David Lynch film. It’s the place I described further up and it’s very popular with the locals; tourists and out-of-towners will probably stay away due it’s shady allure on the outside, which could very well be intentional just so the locals can keep it to themselves. I eventually sat across from a couple girls; there were no empty seats by the time they entered so they asked if I would share the booth. The one girl actually knew one of the musicians in the band who started performing shortly after the women sat down. Trying to make conversation was barren, the music was too loud to hear anyone speak. I spent some time here before going back to the hotel, but visiting this place is quite an experience to be had. The atmosphere is unlike anything else I’ve experenced, it’s dark and shady but very alive and thrilling in an almost subtle way.

California Clipper Lounge interior

When it comes to food, your options seem almost limitless. My first night I settled on going to a place called Timothy O’Tooles, just a few blocks from my downtown hotel. It caught my attention originally when I was driving around the city looking for my hotel, I figured that I would walk past it and get a window view inside to see if it looked inviting. Well, on my way walking to it (I was practically right across the street from it heading for the crosswalk) I witness a woman get thrown out of a vehicle. The driver stopped in the middle of the road practically¬† between me and my view of Timothy O’Tooles, got out and walked around the passanger side rear door, opened it, and actually pulled the woman out with enough force for her to fall back a few feet from the car. The driver then quickly ran back to the drivers seat and stepped on the gas before even having time to close his own driver door. The woman was yelling and screaming, her speech was severly slurred and her ability to walk was obviously inhibited by alcohol. She started running towards me asking for a pen and paper, she kept screaming the license plate number, I immediately started at a fast pace to the crosswalk and began to cross before I was supposed (traffic was slow). She then turned her attention to someone else who witnessed thing who wasn’t too far behind me and they kept backing up away from her. I didn’t stick around to see what happened, I went right into Timothy O’Tooles instantly to avoid the crazed woman targetting me again.

The window view I was hoping to get of the place would’ve been pointless as I only would’ve seen the lobby, there’s a set of stairs to go down where they proceed to check your ID. The place is really nice, they have an oval shaped bar in the center, a karaoke stage in the back corner, and tables of various sizes taking up the rest of the place. There’s a good amount of TV’s, so if there’s a game on you want to watch you could probably view it from most seats. The food is excellent, I ended up getting burger topped with provolone, lettuce, tomato, pickels, and fried onions, and a side for cheesy fries. I was full about 3 quarters of the way through it, but it was so good I had to finish it! There was also some karaoke that started up about 10 minutes before I left, I’m not a fan of karaoke so I usually don’t stick around a place that offers it, but I would easily come back here again for the food! Wow!

Timothy O'Toole's

My 2nd day wasn’t too eventful, not much to cover, but my 3rd day offered some excitement. I decided to go up into the John Hancock center, I figured that with my bad fear oof heights, it would be much easier to handle than the Willis (Sears) Tower. I started heading from the western end of Chicago, coming from one of the offices I visited, towards the city and when I started taking a turn south on the freeway to go to the John Hancock center I got a glimpse of the Willis (Sears) Tower and thought “Why come all the way here and not do the one thing I REALLY want to do?”. So, I replaced my fear of heights with the fear of regret and started heading towards the towering goliath.

See those tiny little boxes sticking out towards the very top? That was my destination...

See those tiny little boxes sticking out towards the very top? That was my destination…

I walked around the city a little first, there was still a good amount of daylight and figured I should end the day with the big challange. It’s a really beautiful city, both far away and upclose. I didn’t run into any bad situations luckily, as the crime in Chicago can be bad at times. I explored much of the famous “loop” which was defined by the cable cars that used to serve the downtown area back in the late 1800’s, but now the “loop” is more defined by the elevated rail system that loops around a good chunk of the city. Also during this time (late 1800’s into and during most of the 1900’s) this area was basically the current Dubai in terms of architecture; Chicago was shooting up the tallest buildings the world had ever seen. The original Chicago Stock exchange building, the Home Insurance Building (tallest in the world upon completion in 1884), the Masonic Temple, the John Hancock Center (2nd tallest in the world upon completion in 1969), the Aon Center (4th tallest world-wide upon completion), and of course the Willis (Sears) Tower which was completed in 1973 and held the record of the tallest building in the world for 25 years! And with the construction of the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, it looks as though not even the Burj Khalifa will hold the record for that long.

The Wrigley Building

The Wrigley Building with the Trump Internation Hotel & Tower in the background.

After grabbing some shots of various buildings, with one of my favorites being The Wrigley Building, I make my way towards the Willis (Sears) Tower. I paced back and forth for awhile in the lobby for the Skydeck, debating my choice to go up. After about 15 minutes I make my way towards the elevator…. which suddenly goes down. Which is probably good for me as I was pretty nervous and the sudden anti-climax got me calmed down. I made my way through the ticketing system and all the statistics about the building, it’s history, it’s architect, and so on. I ask before purchasing my ticket how long the ride is, which I’m told is roughly a minute. A minute seems like a long time to be in an elevator, but considering it’s 103 stories, a minute is actually pretty quick which averages 1.7 floors every second! And given that the elevator has a very slow start and a very slow stop, you’re probably going closer to 3-4 floors per second during the majority of the ride. On the way up your ears will be popping as well, but I’ll admit it’s easily the smoothest elevator I’ve ever been on!

Chicago from Willis Tower

View from Willis Tower

The views from the observation floor are amazing! You’d go crazy trying to count how many buildings you can see from here. And when the weather is clear enough, you can see Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana! The big challange for myself, anyone with a fear of heights, and even some braver people is the Skydeck Ledge; where you stand a piece of glass 1,353 feet above the streets of Chicago!

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Skydeck Ledge

Panoramic view of the far right Skydeck Ledge at sunset.

After enjoying the breath-taking views of Chicago, I went to grab something to eat. I purposely avoided eating just incase I got nauceous. I grabbed some salmon at a place called Bandera which featured a live jazz band performing Christmas music. This was an excellent meal as well!

Bandera salmon

The next morning I still had some time before catching my flight, so I did a bit more wandering around to hit a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a very very long time and had completely forgot about during my visit earlier in the year. The famous “Cloud Gate”, but more commonly known by it’s nickname “The Bean”.

Cloud Gate

The Bean

This is certainly something you also must experience in person. I thought it was funny that this thing ALWAYS looks clean in movies and pictures and travel shows, and figured it was probably pretty dirty in person; some crew probably cleaned it before filming, but that’s not the case! This thing really is that clean looking! If you run up to it and touch it, you’ll see your fingerprints, but they seem to disappear the moment you step back or look away. It’s made from 168 steel plates welded together and very highly polished, it might very well be the coolest thing you’ll ever see!

So you may be wondering about the part of Chicago that defies gravity….

The Chicago River

The answer would be the Chicago river! How? The Chicago river flows upstream! This is a man-made marvel that was done 1900 due to an extreme weather event that threatened the city’s water supply. So while it may not be as epic as the view from the Willis Tower, or as mind-blowing as Cloud Gate, it’s a pretty cool fact to know when you view it.

And for the flight back to Cleveland; I give you the smallest plane I’ve been on yet… This thing bounced all around over the smallest clouds.

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