Travelogue: Chicago


We spent the last full week of summer traveling to Chicago where we visited with cousins, watched baseball games, and enjoyed the art, architecture, and culture this great city has to offer.  Mind you, we didn’t get to far out of the Loop and the adjacent areas, so we basically scratched the surface of what Chicago has to offer, but it was a good introduction for the kids first visit. Aside from some sibling bickering, everyone had a great time.

Tuesday

  • We arrived early in the morning at O’Hare International Airport where I was delighted to see Michael Hayden’s Sky’s the Limit neon light display that I first saw back in 1991 is still gracing the pedestrian walkway with the accompaniment of “Rhapsody in Blue.”
  • We rode the Blue Line into the city and checked into the vintage hotel Inn of Chicago, that stands among the fancy stores, gleaming hotels, and massive hospitals of the Near North.
  • The bell staff recommended eating lunch at Giordano’s, so we settled in for some Chicago-style stuffed pizza.  It was yummy.
  • Despite being tired and cranky, we went to the Field Museum to see the dinosaurs and mummies.  I felt the museum was slightly overwhelming, looking a little rough around the edges.  But the Evolving Planet exhibition is very well done, and although Sue the T Rex was officially supposed to be off exhibit, I was delighted we got to peak through a window to see her in her new exhibit space under construction.

Wednesday

  • Peter and I picked up breakfast at Stan’s Doughnuts whose super healthy baked goods were sold in the lobby of a hospital.
  • Next came one of the highlights of our trip, a sort-of double header between the Mets and Cubs at Wrigley FieldFull report here.
  • In the evening, we rode a free trolley bus (much to Kay’s delight) to Navy Pier. Kay and Susan rode the swings, and Kay and I soared above Lake Michigan in the Centennial Wheel.  We finished the day with the weekly firework display.

Thursday

  • We walked up the Magnificent Mile and passed by the Gothic Revival structure of the Chicago Water Tower, one of the prominent survivors of the Great Fire of 1871.
  • We ate delicious pancakes and omelets for breakfast at Wildberry Cafe.
  • Peter wasn’t feeling well, so I took Kay Millennium Park where we explored Cloud Gate and the Crown Fountain.  And then Kay played and played and played (and Daddy pushed the swings harder) in Maggie Daley Park. We also strolled through Grant Park to see Buckingham Fountain.
  • We met up with Susan and Peter for dinner at Miller’s Pub in The Loop. The restaurant had kind of an old-school feel to it in the fact that the tables and booths were arranged in a way I  haven’t seen since I was a kid.  The food was good, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
  • We finished Thursday with more baseball as the Red Sox and White Sox played a night game at Guaranteed Rate Field.   Full report here.

Friday

  • We once again started the day with doughnuts for breakfast at Do-Rite Doughnuts.  They were delicious.
  • We sailed on the Chicago River on Wendella Boats to explore the architecture and history of the city.  Chicago is known for it’s intensive architectural tours, but this 45-minute cruise was just right to satisfy a geeky Dad without testing the kids’ patience.
  • While the rest of the family rested at the hotel, I took myself on a self-guide art and architecture walk of The Loop, where I could admire the works of Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Daniel Burnham.
  • In the evening we ventured out on the Brown Line to visit with Susan’s cousins. The kids got play, the adults got to talk, and we all enjoyed authentic Mexican takeaway food!

Saturday

  • Our final meal was brunch at West Egg Cafe, once again recommended by the bell staff at the hotel. It was both tasty and filling.
  • Riding a double-decker Big Bus Tour around any city would not make my top 100 list of things to do, but Peter’s always wanted to take one of these tours, and since he was still not feeling well it was a good way to see the city without too much exertion.  Peter and I did the full loop, while Susan and Kay hopped off so Kay could play some more at Maggie Daley Park.

 

Chicago is a great city! I must make sure to not wait over a decade before I return there again. I’d even consider living in Chicago, especially now that Rahm Emanuel is stepping down as Mayor.

Advertisements

Photopost: A Mismatched Pair of Sox


Our family visited our second Chicago ballpark in as many days with a visit to see our Boston Red Sox play their Chicago White Sox.  The game took place at Guaranteed Rate Field, possibly the saddest corporate naming rights ever awarded to a sports venue.  This was my second visit having previously seen the White Sox play the Rays in 2004 at what was then called U.S. Cellular Field. For that game I sat in the bleachers and remember having a generally favorable impression of the ballpark.

For this game, I made the mistake of buying cheap seats in the 500 level thinking we would enjoy having seats near the front of the upper rather than the back of a lower section.  Turns out the 500 level was eerily empty for a close-to-elimination White Sox game on a Thursday night. The section also has a vertiginously steep rake.  I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium so I had no problem with this, but my son has gone to most of his games at Fenway Park, so being close to the edge made him uneasy.

The game started well for the White Sox as Rick Porcello once again struggled while pitching in the early innings and Lucas Giolito shutdown the Red Sox potent offense. Avisail Garcia lit up the exploding scoreboard with a homer in the first inning and the Pale Hose were up 4-0 after two innings.  Pitching dominated for the next 4 innings until the Red Sox were able to tie up the game with a 4-run rally in the 7th capped by Mookie Betts 2-run home run.

The Red Sox scored another five runs in a 9th inning rally, including a J.D. Martinez blast,  but that time I was heading home with my punchy little girl.  We cheered from the Red Line platform as we saw the Red Sox take the lead on the scoreboard alongside the highway.  Meanwhile, Susan and Peter had snuck down to the field level seats for the final inning where Peter secured another baseball from Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel by way of a security guard.  All because Peter said “please.”

Guaranteed Rate Field is a tough ballpark to judge, especially compared with Wrigley Field across town which has all the advantages.  The White Sox ballpark was built right at the end of the “Modern” era when jewel boxes like Comiskey Park were still considered “old and outdated” rather than a classic ballpark that should be preserved, but just too early for the Retro ballpark boom of the 1990s which may have recreated Comiskey’s charms with modern ammenities.  The baseball-only facility fortunately avoided the problems of the multi-purpose stadiums and domes of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but didn’t quite achieve the elegance of Dodger Stadium or Kauffman Stadium. While Wrigley Field feels part and parcel of its Chicago neighborhood, Guaranteed Rate Field is set apart by a massive 16-lane freeway and acres of parking (where Comiskey Park used to stand), with the South Side neighborhood basically invisible and the Chicago skyline an attractive – but distant – vista on the horizon.  Ultimately it’s a tale of levels with the field level and bleachers being and enjoyable place to watch a ballgame while the distant upper levels are much less so.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. AT&T Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium

Photopost: Wrigley Field


Last week I returned to the best ballpark in Major League Baseball (sorry Fenway Park, you’re a close second) for a game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. I previously attended a full Cubs-Mets series at Wrigley Field in 2004. This was the first time my wife, Susan, and kids, Peter and Kay, would visit this baseball cathedral. We only intended to attend one game, but the previous night’s game was suspended due to thunderstorms in the 10th inning, so we ended up seeing the last two innings of that game as well.

We got tickets for the bleachers with hopes of catching some home runs.  Renovations have significantly changed Wrigley Field since my previous visit when the area under the bleachers was a no-frills area with chain link fences, bare bone concessions, and an ambiance unchanged from 1914.  Now everything is beautiful red brick with Cubs memorabilia exhibits and fancy concession stands.  Even the restrooms have been modernized, albeit they’ve kept the notorious urinal trenches. The bullpens – once in foul territory right along the baselines – are now hidden under the bleachers (something that will become significant to us later).

Our early arrival meant that we could snag seats in the front row right behind the ivy-covered wall.  A light rain fell before the resumption of Tuesday night’s game, but stopped as Michael Conforto came to bat with a count of 2 balls and no strike. Two innings later, the Cubs walked-off the first game on an error by Mets reliever Paul Sewald.  Another light rain fell between games.

The official Wednesday afternoon game was an exciting game featuring:

The kids didn’t catch any homeruns but Peter did get 2 balls from the outfielders and Kay also got one.  The most exciting encounter, though, happened deep under the bleachers when we were getting french fries from the concessions stand.  A security guard approached us and said “C.J. Edwards has a ball for the girl.” We approached the back door of the hidden bullpen and saw the Cubs reliever peeking out the crack of the door. His arm shot out and tossed a ball to Kay, and he quickly disappeared behind the closed door.  “He likes to do that for the kids sometimes,” said the security guard.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a wonderful afternoon at a brilliant ballpark, and the Cubs organization made it a fun experience for the family.

Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. AT&T Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium

Photopost: Nationals Park


Last week, I posted photos from my business trip to Washington, D.C. with the intention of posting more.  But as the remainder of my trip was largely in conference rooms, the bulk of my remaining photographs are from Nationals Park, so I’m going to focus this post there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I took in the Washington Nationals’ game against the Miami Marlins on Friday, August 16th.  This was my first visit to Nationals Park, having seen the Nats play in their previous home at RFK Stadium in 2005, and the Montreal Expos at Stade Olympique in 1999.  This is the 12th current Major League ballpark I’ve been to, in addition to 6 former ballparks (see my updated rankings at the end of this post).

The ballpark is well-located within the city.  I was able to ride to the game on a bikeshare bike and dock near the entrance, and the Navy Yard Metro station was a short walk away after the game.  There’s not much to do in the immediate area of Nationals Park but with at least a dozen cranes in the sky, I expect that will be different in the near future.  The design of the ballpark is pleasant if generic Retro-Classic with good sightlines of the field from every part of the ballpark I visited.  There are also nice views of the Anacostia River from the ramps, and glimpses of the U.S. Capitol dome from the upper deck.  Oddly, the stone wall design behind home plate that is so prominent when watching a game on tv is not repeated anywhere else in the stadium.

The atmosphere was good with the Nationals’ fans engaged in the game, and almost all of them wearing the Hawaiian shirts given out at the gate.  I particularly enjoyed the “N-A-T-S, Nats! Nats! Nats!” cheer after each Nationals’ run scored.  Talented organist Matthew Van Hoose played a number of Aretha Franklin tunes since the legendary soul singer had died a day earlier.  The famous Presidents Race was fun, but brief.  Most puzzling is that the Nationals have a bullpen cart (a gimmick from the 70s that should’ve stayed dead), but none of the Nationals’ relievers actually used it.  So the cart would just circle the field as the relievers walked to the mound.  Oh, and the Nats’ fans really, really hate their relief pitchers, like Boston-level nastiness.

It was a fun night, and I’ll be happy to go back to Nationals Park.

Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. AT&T Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium

 

Photopost: Washington, D.C., so far…


I’m in Washington, D.C. for the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. I didn’t have room to pack my good camera but I thought I’d share some smartphone photos.

What I’ve done so far:

  • Arrived for the Archive-It Partner Meeting held in the Conservation Pavilion at the National Zoo! I presented, thus fulfilling my childhood dream of working in a zoo, at least for 15 minutes.
  • While at the zoo, I visited with the Great Pandas, Cheetahs, Gorillas, Orangutans, Tigers, Lions, and my favorite, North American River Otters.
  • Ate grits with waffles at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop.
  • Visited the National Museum of American History. Highlights include an exhibit on the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign and The Nation We Build Together where two character interpreters from the era of the Greensboro Lunch Counter protest recreate nonviolent direct action training with the guests.
  • Took in a D.C. United soccer match at their new stadium with a large and vociferous crowd. Wayne Rooney scored twice in United’s 4-1 win.

Related post: Washington, D.C. (October 2012)

Photopost: Camping at Wolfe’s Neck Farm


Last week we celebrated the end of the school year with our somewhat annual stay at Wolfe’s Neck Oceanfront Camping in Freeport, Maine. We tented in the woods by Casco Bay, roasted marshmallows, biked nearly everywhere, shopped in Freeport, visited the Wolfe’s Neck Center farm, and most significantly, we went hiking with goats!

Related posts:

Photopost: Father’s Day on Stellwagen Bank


On Father’s Day, my kids celebrated a whale of a dad by taking me on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch. We were lucky enough to see majestic humpback whales, a mama and a baby, trying to catch a snooze on a clear and calm day. When we returned to Boston, the kids hadn’t reached their fill of nautical adventures, so we took the MBTA Ferry from Long Wharf to the Charlestown Navy Yard. There we saw lots of Big Dogs, steel sculptures by Dale Rogers, and played on the playground.

Related Posts:

Photopost: Metropolitan Museum of Art, part 2


Some of my favorite works of art from a Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, largely in the Asian and American art galleries.

See part 1 from last year for more arty goodness.

 

 

Photopost: Frosty Photos


Some recent photographs from Boston and Vermont of a land encased in snow and ice.  This time of year creates some interesting photo opportunities but with them the challenges of light and white balance.

Photopost: Battleship Cove


On a chilly day with light snow and battleship gray skies, my children and I kicked off the holiday break with a visit to Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.  The museum his home to the World War II era US ships USS Massachusetts, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and the submarine USS Lionfish, as well as the Soviet/East German corvette Hiddensee, all afloat on the Taunton River.  Turns out that one child really enjoyed Battleship Cove and one adamantly did not so we did not get to explore it as thoroughly as we might have hoped.

 

 

 

Photopost: Thanksgiving Day Parade 2017


Somehow had a worse perspective than last year, but here are some photos from the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Photopost: New England Aquarium


My daughter and I took advantage of the chilly holiday Friday to visit the New England Aquarium.  The Giant Ocean Tank is always awe-inspiring and we got to see divers film the animals up close and listen to them answer questions.  We also spent considerable time at the shark & ray touch pool, the tidepool touch tank, and with the penguins.  As a novice photographer, I found that adjusting for white balance and shutter speed in the Aquarium was challenging, so there’s not so many great photographs, but still a record of our fun visit.

Related post: Photopost: Whale Watch

Photoposts: Autumnal Sundries


I got a new smartphone recently. Unlike the previous one which would notify me repeatedly that the memory was full if I took more than one photo, this one actually has space to save pictures. So here are some recent smartphone photos.

Also, although it’s about 10 years after it was cool, but I recently set up an Instagram account should you be interested in more photographs.

Photopost: American Museum of Natural History


Last weekend my son & I made a whirlwind visit to my mother in New York and we stopped by to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Highlights include:

  • the 3-D movie Earthflight where it felt like birds flew threw the theater and included an exciting sequence of gannets, dolphin, and fish all interacting underwater.
  • the mind-blowing comparisons of sizes of cosmic objects in the Rose Center of Earth and Space
  • The Willamette Meteorite (my son still doesn’t believe it’s real)
  • paleontoligical remains of dinosaurs and ancient mammals of unusual size

\

Related post: Photopost: American Museum of Natural History (2015)

Photopost: Mount Desert Island


We spent the long Labor Day weekend visiting Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park in Maine. It was our first visit in 10 years, and thus our first visit with the kids. I’ve been blogging long enough to have a full travelogue of our “babymoon” in 2007 still online.

We stayed at terrific vacation home in Bass Harbor on the “quiet side” of the island.

Highlights of the trip include:

Here is a small selection of my photos of this most photogenic island.

Photopost: Oldtime Baseball Game


Last Thursday, my daughter and I attended the Oldtime Baseball Game in Cambridge, MA. This annual event features players wearing woolen baseball uniforms in the style of classic major and minor league teams of the past. The players are mostly college and high school players from across the country, plus a handful of celebrities. This year Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez returned to the mound and with him came big crowds.

I’d attended the Oldtime Baseball Game several times before, but not since I moved south of the river from Somerville to Jamaica Plain ten years ago. It’s good to see that the fundraiser is growing more popular even though it meant that we ended up having to sit 4 people deep behind the outfield fence. And it was a treat to see Pedro pitch again. I believe he allowed no baserunners in his two innings pitched, and he even came to bat (albeit striking out), something he didn’t do all too often in a Red Sox uniform.

Trying to take photos with a chainlink fence in the way and my daughter grabbing my arm at the wrong moment was challenging, but here are some of the photographs that came out ok.

Photopost: Charles River City Splash


Yesterday I participated in the Charles River Conservancy’s annual City Splash event at the Arthur Fiedler Pier just off the Esplanade.  Jumping into Charles River may seem frightening to some, after all this is the river that inspired the song “Dirty Water.”  But this event is partly to show that decades of work and investment into cleaning the river making it one of the cleanest urban rivers in America.  I can’t tell you how exhilarating is is to drop into the river’s cool waters after a long day of work and float while looking up at the Back Bay skyline.  This was my second City Splash, and I hope to do it again, maybe even more than once a year.  The Charles River Conservancy is working to make Charles River swimming a permanent summer feature by building a swim park adjacent to North Point Park.  This wouldn’t be the first time as the North End Beach allowed residents of local tenements a place to bathe over 100 years ago (although there was probably less concern for water quality back then).