Today’s Wall Street Journal has an review of a new Chicago skyscraper. Otherwise laudatory, the writer found it necessary to mention that the building, and Chicago, sits on the east side of Lake Michigan.
It’s bad enough that the WSJ feels it is necessary to mention Chicago is on Lake Michigan, but the east side?
We went to the Sundays On State street festival on this beautiful Chicago summer day. There was lots of singing and dancing and we got hungry and went into the old Marshall Field’s store (some people call it “Macy’s”). One of the few remaining grand department stores.
The Walnut Room has been serving lunch since 1907. It’s a lovely place for lunch, and yes, it has a lot of walnut.
My grandmother would take me there as a treat when I was a tot.
They also have drag show brunches.
But I don’t remember that from when I was little.
I had their signature chicken pot pie, “based on the original 1890 recipe”. It’s interesting to taste a little of what people ate way back when. The bowl in this promotional picture is labelled “Marshall Field and Company”, but mine said “The Walnut Room”. I don’t know if they really have any bowls left that say “Marshall Field”. That just doesn’t seem like something Macy’s would allow.
The maitre d’ came by and I told him it was just like it was sixty years ago. He said that he hears that a lot.
The Walnut Room is on the seventh floor, and although CVH does not like elevators, she likes stairs and escalators even less. The elevators have been modernized a little in the last sixty years; for example, the lady in the corner who took you up and down is no longer there.
The elevators still have mechanical annunciators. I thought the sound was really neat, but the scrape-clunk-ding just made my wife nervous. And when all the button lights went out and the elevator zipped down to the ground floor she was not reassured. The sign on the elevator that said “Out of Order” didn’t exactly help, either. These elevators are victims of deferred maintenance. Who knows how much longer the store will be open….
We went to the heart of Little India for groceries. This is a pretty authentic part of town; you will see lots of people in traditional Indian dress, which is also widely available for sale.
And there is a large yantra painted in the main intersection:
Grocery-wise, this section of Devon Avenue is the antithesis, the polar opposite, if you will, of the neighborhood I described in The Land of No-Cook. I think there must be more grocery stores per block here than anywhere else in Chicago. And they are selling real ingredients, not just prepared items. How so many grocery stores can be supported in such concentration, I don’t know; residents here must cook all the time.
We visited the recently reopened Patel Brothers. This is where Patel Brothers started; it’s Patel Bros. Number 1.
Patel Bros always has the best selection of Horlicks.
And they obviously pride themselves on customer service. We even got a nice reusable grocery bag with our small purchase.
A beautiful summer morning here in Chicago, and I went for a bike ride through the park.
The Lyft people maintain a fleet of rental bicycles in the city. There are several thousand bicycles and hundreds of stations where you pick one up or take it back. There is a station in the park not far from our building.
These machines are very heavy, very clunky, and very slow. It’s like pedaling a Buick. But they are good physical activity, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance or bringing them back to where you started, as you can leave them at any station in the city. They are not like riding a real bike; it’s more like an exercise bike at the gym. If you can imagine the exercise bike at the gym going out the door and through the park, you get the idea.
I rode downtown along the lakefront, intending to leave the bike there and take the bus home. However, when I arrived at the station, all the docks were full and there was nowhere to leave the bike (you are charged a per-minute fee until you return the bike to a dock).
There was a Divvy man there, and he told me “Sorry, this station is full.”
Then he asked me, “Russian cedar?”
I said “What?”
He asked me again, “Russian cedar?”
I’m thinking that I have no idea what kind of bush a Russian cedar is or why he would be asking me about one when he said, “There’s a station at the corner of Rush and Cedar,” pointing westward.
I don’t like riding on city streets, but it turned out that to get to Rush and Cedar, I pedalled through a residential area of the Gold Coast and there wasn’t any traffic.
Big fancy condo towers. And when women came out of them, I was astounded. They looked like people on TV! I had no idea there were actually people that looked like that outside of Hollywood.
But after I docked the bike at Rush and Cedar, and was walking back to Michigan Avenue, a fat sleek rat ambled across the sidewalk right in front of one of those super expensive high rises. So even the rich have the same rats the rest of us do.
It turns out that the beach behind our building is a popular place to launch fireworks on the Fourth of July. And after two hours of listening to concussive blasts and watching the flashes light up the entire beach, my curiosity got the better of my common sense and I went outside to see what was going on.
When we lived in the Heights, every fourth of July, and especially every New Year’s Eve, was awash in the sound of firecrackers, occasional M-80s, and most of all, small bore arms fire shot into the air.
But these people on the beach were serious. And apparently flush with stimulus checks. These fireworks were the real deal. They shot up about a hundred feet into the air and came down in pretty showers of sparkling color. These were not lose-a-finger fireworks; these were lose-your-entire-arm fireworks. And they were launching less than a hundred feet from our building. I watched one go off, admired its beauty, got covered in a cloud of black powder smoke, and immediately went back inside, leaving a surprisingly large group of people still out on the beach.
There was only one report in the newspaper of a young man blowing his hand off. So I guess these things are a lot safer than they appear.
Special occasion today, and we went downtown to Chicago’s oldest Italian restaurant, The Village (since 1927).
Fortunately, they appear to have updated since 1927. It’s a cute place.
Seafood mannicotti, carpaccio, eggplant parmigiana, panna cotta. The red sauce tasted like real tomatoes! It did not come out of a Ragú jar, that’s for sure; I don’t know where they even get tomatoes that taste like that. Should’ve asked.
CVH liked the carpaccio; I thought it looked like a visit to a slaughterhouse, but as long as she is happy, I am happy.
The weather here has been San Diego-like lately. This means it’s a little cold for me (long sleeves in June?!), but I admit I’m probably the only one who thinks so. The air is very clear, and the sky a beautiful blue. CVH likes the 20C degree, low humidity weather, so we went for some walks.
We went to the Wrigley Building, which due to a fortuitous bend in the road, still enjoys a prominent position in the northbound view of Michigan Avenue from downtown.
The Wrigley has a stunning Walgreens, too. With public restrooms. Good to know when you’re walking around downtown. Very good to know.
We walked along the Riverwalk. Some of the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and you’re starting to see more people downtown. We sat here by the water. I don’t know where everybody went when this picture was taken; it was pretty busy when we were there.
As sightseeing boats went by, with tourists on their decks, I waved at them and called out “Spend moneeeey!”
We walked down to Wolf Point, where the three branches of the Chicago river converge. This is symbolized in the Municipal Device, which is kind of Chicago’s logo.
The next day we took the number 36 bus from our neighborhood to another neighborhood. It, like ours, is mostly residential, but along the commercial street it seemed like every other business was a restaurant. Nothing against restaurants, but how much can people eat out? A lot, it seems. We have several grocery stores in our neighborhood, and they all look pretty much the same on the inside – meat counters and dairy cases in the back, produce bins on the right, and aisles of packaged groceries in the middle.
But when we entered the grocery store in this other neighborhood, there were no produce bins. No dairy cases. No aisles. Just lots and lots of food that has already been prepared and cooked. No ingredients. To be fair, I think there was another floor upstairs where they kept all the real groceries, but there was an entire grocery store-sized ground floor with no groceries. Apparently people in this neighborhood never cook. Maybe apartments in this part of town don’t come with kitchens; I’ll need to look at some real estate listings.