Navy Pier – Chicago

Bored with the shopping on Magnificent Mile, your eyes struggle to focus on something that isn’t a shop.  Finally they land on a small and simple signpost reading ‘Navy Pier’, with an arrow pointing the way.  Well, anything to escape this current situation.  Looking at Navy ships sounds as good as anything.  Your feet lead you East towards the lake.

Emerging from the city skyline you realize that you have been fooled by the sign, or more truthfully fooled yourself, as signs are rarely at fault.  Opening in front of you is a large park and pedestrian walkway, with modern buildings and a ferris wheel watching over all.  No large grey ships are to be found.  Instead of a Navy Pier it is more of a city center, or tourist attraction if you please.

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Spanish Steps and Ferris Wheel

You begin your walk around this 3,300 foot(1,010 meter) long pier.  Starting on the right side like all sane people, you start your loop.  Have no fear of the pier collapsing.  It has been standing strong for one hundred and one years.  You think back to those days, imagining the people who came before you.  The Roaring Twenties with the women dressed to kill in Art Nouveau sequined dresses, the men in suits, walking arm in arm along the pier.  Enjoying the live bands, fireworks, concerts, and even airplane and motorboat races.  Out on the water are freighters lined up to dock and leisure ships departing full of tourists.  It is a bustling sight.

Enjoying the cold lake breeze you walk past the wave wall, which is touted as the Spanish Steps of Chicago(They are really in Rome), and the Ferris Wheel.  You would love to ride the wheel but those are a lot of steps and there is no elevator(A glaring omission of the planning council).  You continue your walk around the pier, passing restaurants and a gift shop, all the time admiring the cleanliness and beauty of this pier.  You wonder if it looked this good during the Great War.

This poor little pier is barely a year old and yet it has been taken over by several regiments of soldiers and Red Cross workers, who now live here.  In one area is a barracks for new recruits and a jail for draft dodgers.  It certainly is no where near as clean.

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Way out to sea

Coming to the end of the pier and its empty beer garden you quickly make the loop around without stopping, as the cold wind is too intense.  With head tucked in and bones frozen, you breath a sigh of relief as you finally get your back to the wind.  Looking onto this building that stands 3000 feet out in the lake you are amazed to see how little it has changed in a hundred years.

Sailors and Marines are training everywhere, becoming metalsmiths, mechanics, and diesel operators.  The noise and amount of people is incredible.  This Navy pier has become the largest training facility of its kind in the world, playing an important part in this second world war.  When the war is over there are rumors that it will become a University.

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 Quite a skyline

Walking this North side of the pier is quite different from the South side.  You feel like you are in the back of everything.  There are high walls and loading docks.  You spend most of your time enjoying the fine skyline in front of you as you pass Uber and Lyft pick-up points.  As you come back onto land and into the pier’s bus terminal you praise the city and the nameless people involved for the redevelopment in 1990 of this amazing area.

Navy Pier has stood through fortune and disuse for a hundred years.  May it prosper and always return from downturns for a hundred more.

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Wheel, wood, water, and wuildings

Photos – Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

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On the Threshold
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The Three Mushroom Tombs(My nickname)
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One High Doorway.  Ready for a flood of biblical proportions.
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Three More Rooms
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Such a Good Use of a Hill
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I Could Have Done Better
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Too Bad There Is No Scale Here, as This One Is Massive
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King of the Tombs.  Just Two Thousand Years Too Late
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The Beautiful Surrounding Countryside. 
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Alone with 131 Tombs
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I Once Caught a Tomb This Big

Chicago – Museum of Science and Industry

IMG_1524.JPGChicago has no shortage of things to do but you decide on the Museum of Science and Industry since it is extremely highly rated on Tripadvisor.  It is located on the lake but far south of downtown.  You consider renting a bicycle and riding the eight miles from your hotel but quickly dismiss the idea as it is so freezing cold that you would most likely have to snap a dog off the bike before being able to use it.  You could take the “L” which gets you a block from the museum but you decide on a bus so you can see more of the city from street level.IMG_1527.JPG

Riding the bus takes you through multiple forms of the city.  You begin from the incredible triple-decker Wacker drive and cruise the city streets stocked with office workers and the mandatory Starbucks and Chipotle’s, enter a motorway where you can catch a glimpse of what might kindly be called ghetto housing, then quickly get off the motorway, pass through a Hispanic neighborhood and turn onto a long residential street that dead ends into the museum.  It is quite a diverse bus trip.  IMG_1530.JPG

Your first view of the museum is impressive.  It looks like it belongs on the Mall in Washington D.C.  A large grass field, which hides the underground parking garage, opens up in front of the building.  All in all a beautiful site and very welcoming.  IMG_1534.JPG

You cross this grass field and enter into a pillbox well in front of the building itself.  This leads to a stairwell which then leads you deep underground to the ticket counter, coat check, and gift shop.  After looking over the bewildering amount of ticket options you finally decide on the basic ticket and proceed up an escalator that brings you into a foyer.  Here is seating for the restaurant.  From here the museum spreads into multiple wings and three levels.  Keep your map at the ready so you can see what you wish to see.  Or if you are up for an adventure and have all day just start roaming around.  IMG_1541.JPG

You come across rooms for children, rooms where you can touch and play with stuff, rooms full of planes and trains, a large model of Chicago, an old United 727, a mirror maze, avalanche simulator, famous cars, models of important ships, and dozens of other things.  You are glad you decided to spend a whole day here as you need it to see(and touch) everything.  Your one regret is not paying for the add-ons.  You are missing out on the Lego exhibit, as well as Robot Revolution, the U-505 submarine tour, Coal Mine, Future Energy Chicago and others.  There is so much to do!IMG_1542.JPG

Extremely happy and with a smile on your face you get your coat from the coat check and walk up the stairs, out the pillbox, and back to the bus stop.  Time to go see the Bean now.

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Franklin Park- Chicago

Be extremely careful using GPS if you have a job interview in Franklin Park, Illinois.

The misses and I visited the Chicago area to see about a job opportunity for her.  We wished to see this Franklin Park area before the interview to get the vibe and feel if it felt like home.  Setting off from our hotel I type Franklin Park into the GPS and away we go.  Never having been to Chicago we put all our faith in the GPS.  We have all heard the stories of people blindly following GPS and had a laugh, but yet it is difficult not to trust it.

The view getting progressively worse as we move along.  Things aren’t on the up and up as we pass through an Hispanic neighborhood.  It isn’t too bad as it is busy and a few people are walking the streets, but it isn’t where we would choose to live.  The GPS says we are a mile from Franklin Park and we have already made our minds up not to live or work here.

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Not a Starbucks to be seen

The neighborhoods continue their decline as we continue on.  Our windows go up and doors get locked.  The misses wishes to escape but I’ve come this far and want to see this Franklin Park.  Only two minutes until our destination we make a right turn and good lord we are in the ghetto.  This isn’t a joke anymore.  The streets are empty.  The buildings along the road also look empty and derelict.  Keeping my eyes focused straight ahead I go as fast as possible(damn speed bumps) to get out of here.  Off to my right I catch a glimpse of a park.  So this is Franklin PARK in Chicago, not Franklin Park the town in Illinois.  Maybe the park is beautiful, and maybe the people are amazing and some of the nicest in the world, but like all of us I judge but what I see, and I could see that we did not belong there.

Getting off that empty road that belongs more in a third world war zone and not in Americas second city we breath a sigh of relief.  If it is this bad on the West side I cannot imagine how bad it is in the South side that we always hear about in the news.  I feel sorry for those that have to live and survive in such circumstances.  Trying again with the GPS we proceed to the Franklin Park we truly wanted, which is located near O’Hare airport on the West side of the city.  Here is more our style we thought as we got out of our car and walked around.  Happy in our safe and easy life.

 

A Facebook discussion/argument about the current state of Poland and Hungary

Me: Why are all my favorite countries going backwards? USA, Poland, Hungary. Damn you democracy letting the uninformed and idiots vote. Carry the torch and save us from ourselves France and Germany. And New Zealand just keep minding your own business and being awesome down in your corner.

Them: Is there something wrong with democracy in Poland? Oh wait, you mean those fake news? I wish the democracy was over, unfortunately it is sound and safe in my country.

Me: I am not in Poland at the moment so I cannot speak first hand about it but my other friends there disagree with you. And I’m sorry to hear that “fake news” has spread beyond the USA. So since the Economist, news channels, and my friends are all lying what is the real story?  I can speak first hand about Hungary becoming a shitty place. Everything the news and Economist report about my new home are true, so I find it difficult to believe they are lying about Poland having a shitty government. It is difficult to believe that the EU is making stuff up about Poland as well. A simple rule of thumb is that if the whole world is telling you that you are wrong then you probably are.

Them: well, many friends of mine both in Poland and in Hungary disagree with you too but we are probably “bigots”, “fascists” and you tell me what else, as the one enlightened by the Economist and CNN. Oh, you probably still believe in so called “independent” media.  “Eat shit, millions of flies can’t be wrong”

Me:  That escalated quickly. I was actually asking your opinion of what the lies are in Poland. Your response doesn’t help your point much. Plus a comparison of flies liking shit to humans judging humans is well played and effective. Excellent job of having an enlightened conversation. I have always considered you a friend and don’t mind if you have different beliefs. But you must be able to defend them instead of being aggressive and stupid.

Them:  Please, think independently. Don’t follow fake news just because the source makes itself look “cool”. You can do better than that. Read your comment on “thumb rule” again and then read mine so you’ll understand my point. Hopefully. I’m not saying that Polish government is great, I personally didn’t vote for them as they’re socialists and I am clearly not. But the whole furious attack from media, obviously independent, (the fact that they represent Germany’s political interest is a total coincidence and don’t even dare to think differently) is just outraging. The same with the UE institutions. They’re so ultra democratic, right? So why they can’t stand a democratically elected government, still, even now, supported by vast majority of Polish people? How does it work? Democracy is when all goes smoothly like Germany wants but when the majority of citizens in another country wants something else, it’s a threat to democracy? Erdogan in Turkey, if needed by the UE, is ok, he’s a very nice guy, respecting democratic rules and so on, but in Poland, where everybody is free to express his/her opinion and protest against whatever he/she pleases, democracy is in danger? Our government is finally trying to kick some mafias’ butts the opposition is throwing a tantrum simply because they’re loosing their privileges, that’s all. People, get a life! The UE should focus on solving its real problems. The West is unable to protect their own citizens from stupid attacks, but focuses on “national egoisms” in Eastern Europe instead.

Them:  Nobody respects or likes Erdogan, but right now he fills a need of the EU so they put up with him. It isn’t exactly a bombshell that countries and people do what is in their best interest at the moment, even if it makes them hypocritical. But Turkey is not part of the EU. Poland is, and Poland is not following EU rules, which are quite an important part of being a member. And that is why the EU is not “minding its own business”. If Poles do not want to follow the rules they should give back all the EU money they received, exit the union, and take their chances with Russia. That is an extreme example and I believe not what most Poles would want, but hopefully it gets my meaning across. Poland is EU business. But this is all vague chit-chat. I am still interested in the fake news part of your belief. Please pick any Economist story from the past year and tell me exactly what was false in it. Facts only please, no “some people said”, or “some people believe”. Remember that just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t make it “fake news”.

Them:  Sorry but I’ll pass here. I simply cannot argue with someone copy-pasting already digested media coverages, ready to use, without need to question them. It’d be an easy job for you as you’re constantly being provided with what to think and say. That’s why I’m so much agains the democracy as it’s just too easy to manipulate the public opinion. My tip: take extra care whenever in an article you see words like “nationalism”, “fascism”, “far-right” and other such commonly misused terms (often by your beloved the Economist to which “far-right” is virtually everything by now), especially if they come from sources defending “the only right opinions an intelligent, elite part of the society is expected to have”. If something is making you feel angry or outraged, it because it’s meant to do it. And regarding not following EU rules, don’t bother yourself with Poland, where Poles themselves want changes and support their government, which doesn’t have any implications on the other EU countries at all. Look what Germany is doing, accepting (inviting!) thousands of people from outside of the UE, without checking who they are and consulting other UE members. By not accepting them we (Poles, Hungarians etc) are the ones respecting the EU rules. Regarding leaving the EU and giving the money back, if we do so, will Germany give back the money they actually made in Poland? If the Economist and the other “enlightened” ones kindly shed the light on this topic and how many local businesses went bankrupt, instead of insisting that the EU cares so much about the democracy and wellbeing of Poles in general, let me know.  and regarding fake news: first thing coming to my mind, could you show me the Economist’s explanation on why they’re calling PiS (Law and Justice, the ruling party) as “far-right” and “winning the election because of spreading conspiracy theories” (the Economist, just after the elections and at least 3 times later), which theories PiS is spreading, what makes the Economist think they’re conspiracy ones? Being professionals they must have given some examples and clarifications, right? It must be me who missed that part. Obviously, the current situation is also explained in details, with all the historical background on how Polish juridical system has been formed after the communist era, with all the corruption scandals and other reasons which led to the current situation. Or they skipped that part as it would be just too long to read? Or maybe they just don’t want to touch it as the opposition, backing the corrupt judges, is pro German? Just a few things to keep in mind while watching news next time.

Me:  It is amazing how the whole world has split into two sides and cannot discuss or have moderate opinions. Please stop with the vague rhetoric and let us pick one topic to discuss. How about PiS and the Economist calling them far-right. They say this because the government is passing laws to exert control over the media, civil service, prosecutor’s office, police, and other offices, which in a democracy should be independent. Is this true or not? A simple yes or no please. Is the government trying to control and influence these institutions. And I do not remember reading that the Economist calls them far-right. I believe they say that the government is leaning to the far-right or heading that direction. I haven’t looked it up yet but will go through my old issues to check. And I’m sorry if you think so but Poland is no longer an independent country. It is part of the EU. It wasn’t forced upon you and you get the benefits of it so suck it up and accept the drawbacks as well. EU law says you must accept refugees to ease the burden on Italy and others so accept the damn refugees or fight to keep them out in EU court, but you cannot just refuse not to take them in. No picking and choosing what rules you like and which you don’t. It is all or none. An exact parallel is with the Muslim ban that Trump pushed through. It is ridiculous, sad, and illegal but it is currently law and being enforced while it goes through the court system. Sadly instead of going through the courts Poland and Hungary just refuse to take immigrants. So the system is still working in the USA(thankfully), but not in Hungary or Poland.  If you could explain to me exactly where the news is lying about Poland I will change my opinion and accept the Poland is doing great, but vague statements about Germany, the EU, and fake news are not convincing me.

No response from them……

 

 

 

Venetian Hotel Casino – Las Vegas

At the North end of the Strip lie the Venetian and its sister property, the Palazzo.  As is the norm for Vegas both are gigantic and beautiful, actually making the combined property the largest hotel and casino in the world.  This is doubly impressive considering that the rooms are all suites and double the size of the average Vegas hotel room.

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Bar on the shops level

As you pass the front of the property you see a mock Italian main square complete with clock tower and pool full of gondolas.  These gondolas are more than decoration.  You are able to ride in them complete with a beautifully singing driver, rower, guide, or however you wish to call them.

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Front of the Venetian

As you pull into valet you are greeted with more beauty, class, and excellent service.  Leaving your car and luggage you are whisked inside where a lovely foyer opens in front of you.  A sunlight garden with statue commands the center of this area.  You proceed past this to the reception.  Here a bank of employees are busy checking guests in.  After being well taken care of you proceed towards the elevators.  This is a short walk by Vegas standards through a massive hallway that opens up on the casino.  Dazed by the bright flashing lights from the slot machines you continue straight through to another hallway and the elevators.  Showing a security guard dressed in Italian style your room key you proceed to your elevator and up to your room.

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Lobby of the Venetian

All has been classy and beautiful so far and this continues as you roam the hallways on your floor looking for your room.  Finding your room you open the door and are greeted with a huge space ending in a massive window overlooking the Strip.  Inspecting everything you begin by staring out the window and enjoying your commanding view of this desert city.  The Mirage casino hotel looks back at you from across the road.  At night you are able to watch their free show from your room.  You take in your work desk with printer, couch for about 100 people, big screen television and huge and comfortable bed.  You carefully eyeball the mini-bar while holding your breath as the prices are outrageous and charged by touching them as they sit on sensors.  God save you if you move one of the items.  Extremely satisfied you move to the bathroom where a large bathtub, beautiful shower with unbelievable pressure, and even a make-up table greet you.  The toilet is in a separate room.  Some items show age but all is well.

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View of the Strip

Well, you didn’t come to Vegas to sit in your roam so lets roam around this city of a property.  Your first stop should be the casino.  Here you have a wide array of slot machines and table games.  Take a seat at a machine, order a drink from the beautiful cocktail waitresses(who are employed as models and not employees so they can be fired if they get pregnant, old, or ugly), and enjoy some lights and sounds.  When this bores you move over to a table game.  Here the dealers are not as friendly as in Reno but Vegas is quite an impersonal place, so no worries.  When you get tired of throwing your money away you have a decision to make.  Try one of the pricey restaurants, the cheaper food court, get drunk, go dancing, see a show, hang out by the pool, or browse the shops.  You will get to all of these so only the order matters.

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Foyer between Venetian and Palazzo

The restaurants are spread all over the property so you should consult a map for which cuisine you feel like or ask any of the helpful staff.  Many of them are located in the connecting hallway to the Palazzo.  Here there is also located a large foyer which is decorated to current events. Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, an more.  After enjoying their decorations you ride the escalator up one floor to the shops and gondola.  Here is a shopping mall with an Italian town facade flanking a canal where the gondolas roam and sweet songs echo.  Enjoy a ride and the window shopping.  Get an ice cream in the center and sit under a painted sky.

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Gondolas on the shop level

After a full day of walking you head out to the pool to relax.  Or more correctly to the ten pools that are available.  Roaming through them all and finding one to your satisfaction you camp out for a few hours and relax.  Enjoy the drink service, quality chairs and towels, and clean water.  If you feel like partying don’t worry, there is a pool for that.

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The party pool having a Maxim event

Come night you make your way to one of the bars for a few drinks and quality conversation.  Perhaps you will watch one of the shows on offer in the many theaters or just maybe you feel like going clubbing.  Do as you wish as both the TAO club and the shows are some of the best in Vegas.  Have no fears of enjoying yourself and staying up to sunrise, as you have that incredible room to pass out in when you need to recuperate.

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Painted sky in the main square of the shops level

All in all the Venetian and Palazzo are probably the best places to stay in Las Vegas if you can swing it, and judging by the riff-raff roaming the floors, you can.

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Just a giant mask in the front of the Venetian

Battle Creek, Michigan

Leaving freezing Chicago heading for Detroit you turn your car heater on full blast to melt the icicles that have formed in your hair.  Thankful that you have a car and not a Tauntaun you watch the city skyline fade as you head to the East side of Michigan.

Darn near the exact midpoint of your journey you come to a town called Battle Creek.  Wanting a break you get off the motorway and head downtown.  It must be a weekend as there is no traffic and nobody on the streets as you easily find a parking space smack dab in the center.  Getting out of the car you are first struck with the temperature.  It is like an oven compared with Chicago.  Leaving your heavy coat you start your exploration and quickly find a map.  Here you are hit with the motto of the town, “Cereal Capitol of the World”.  Intrigued you proceed towards a sign that reads “Tourist Information”.  Here is a little room full of cereal souvenirs and other knick-knacks.  You peruse for a bit, read the history of the town, and then leave without buying anything.

It turns out this is the home of Kelloggs and Post.  They appear to own the town.  Everything is named for them and about them.  The airport, the buildings, everything.  It is exactly the same relationship as GM in Detroit, and with the exact same result.  It is a dying place. Cereal is the only job opportunity.  That being said they are doing a fantastic job trying to survive.

As you roam the town you come across a quaint main street with the usual restaurants and shops and a single Starbucks.  As you pass behind the main street you are greeted with a fine river dwarfed by a fantastic high school rising behind it.  How has this building come to be in this place?  It belongs in a rich neighborhood of Washington D.C.  Extremely impressed you continue your walk, finding nice bike and walking paths and little parks. IMG_1560.JPG

What a surprising few hours you have spent.  It isn’t a beautiful place or very interesting but for some reason you like it.  Having seen everything this town has to offer you head back to your car.  Driving out of the town you come across other beautiful buildings of learning.  Their education budget must be very high.  You also notice for sale signs on houses and stop to look at a few, almost buckling your knees as you look at the prices.  Housing is ridiculously cheap.  Again amazed at this town you continue on and come across the lifeblood of this place.  The cereal factories.  There is little beautiful or impressive about a factory, and cereal isn’t exactly worth stealing, so you leave well enough alone continue on.  IMG_1562.JPG

Outside of town and before getting on the motorway you come to a lake.  Investigating more closely you find a quiet, pretty, clear, and peaceful lake.  Perhaps in the summer it gets busy and noisy but for now it is tranquil.  As you stand there you wonder if you would be happy living here, enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine on your balcony overlooking this lake. It is possible.  IMG_1566.JPG

Farewell Cereal Capitol of the World, we wish you the best.