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June 20, 2009

Blogging While Brown: Touring Chicago

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IMG_3300 How does the song go?  "Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town..."

Well the last couple of days I've been toddlin' all over Chicago, using my valuable sightseeing time, before covering today's Blogging While Brown conference for BlogHer.

Even though I was in Chicago once before, this is my first real trip here.  The last time was only a hurried taxi ride around the city IMG_3350 during a two hour layover at O'Hare. 

The weather hasn't been very cooperative, but even with all the rain and thunderstorms, it's still raining less than it was in New York when I left.  And I can't complain too much because I got enough sun yesterday to get in an architectural boat tour of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan in a Seadog speed boat.

Our tour guide was Heather, an English major at the University of Chicago.  She writes her own material IMG_3319 and she was not only informative but very funny.  She told us about the IMG_3326 "black and boxy," "boxy and black" style of architecture, but also about all the other creative designs that trim the Chicago skyline.

There's the triangular shaped building that's a prison with an exercise yard on top, the three cloverleaf-like Lake Point Tower, the twin corn cob shaped towers that make up Marina City, and of course the third highest building in the world, the Sears Tower.

After seeing those buildings from the water yesterday, it was great to see another perspective of them today from the top of the Sears Tower itself. 

I got there before the skies opened up so the visibility, though not ideal, was good enough for an exciting experience.

Call me naive, but for some reason I was startled by the airport-like security we had to go through to get to the observation deck.  Of course, I shouldn't have been, but it caught me off guard.

IMG_3363I paid the extra $5 for the audio tour and I'm glad I did.  It helped identify all the important Chicago landmarks. 

Several of those landmarks I've seen from the back of Chicago Transit buses the last couple of days.  Yesterday I took the bus to the very cool Navy Pier and today I took a ride through the South Side of Chicago to the Dusable Museum of African American History. 

I figured since it was pouring rain when I left, a museum day was just the ticket.  But of course as soon as I spent forty-five minutes on the bus getting there, the weather had turned bright and sunny.

Two women got into a fight on the bus, which made me feel quite at home.  The bus driver made me pay twice because I took the bus in the wrong direction to the end of the line and then wanted to take the same bus back.  Considering I only went about seven stops the wrong way, I thought she might have given me a break.

The museum was interesting, but just okay.  I get the feeling it's still a work in progress and hopefully their collections will expand after their new wing is opened.  Most of the exhibits were either African in origin or displays of artifacts from the civil rights movement.  There was also a tribute to blacks in the military and a small gallery showcasing paintings and sculptures by black artists.  I was disappointed because I thought the exhibits of paintings and sculptures would be more extensive.

The most startling thing at the museum?  A moving, life size, seated figure of the late Mayor Harold Washington that at first appeared to be real.  It scared the life out of a six year old who started screaming when she saw it and I sympathized 'cause an animatronic Harold Washington wasn't at all what I'd expected.

That's enough for now.  I'll have more on my Chicago travels, and of course the Blogging While Brown conference later today and tomorrow. 


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