Chicago Photos Posted

Much to the displeasure of those around me, I love taking photos. Maybe love is too small a word. Once, on a trip, trying to rush me along, Helaine called out, “Enough Ansel.”

I’ve posted a sampling of my Chicago photos in the gallery section of the website. If you have a high speed connection, try the slideshow feature in the upper right hand part of the screen.

Finally… if you’d like to read my series of Chicago entries, in the order they were written (as opposed to the blogging norm of most recent first), I’ve set up a page just for that.

Boy Are My Arms Tired

On a trip, the most difficult thing for me is getting to sleep. No matter what I do, I always find a reason to put it off. So, it’s no surprise it was after 1:30 AM CST before I fell asleep. Actually, it would have been difficult to go to bed any earlier as I had a noisy neighbor in an adjacent room.

Good opportunity for some thoughts on The Grand Hyatt. The walls were paper thin – don’t like that. On the other hand the bed was very comfortable with good lighting when I needed it (like reading things on the nightstand).

The TV didn’t pull from it’s cabinet making it difficult to watch while using the computer (which was tethered to the high speed Internet line). The desk and chair at the DSL cable’s termination were excellent. The swivel chair was very handy and a nice touch… and it was comfortable .

I had never stayed in a room with the right chair for a desk area and it really makes a difference.

The bathroom was well lit with a good sized sink area. The shower curtain was cloth/plastic and hund from a rod that curved outward from the tub. That’s why Sunday morning, when I forgot to tuck it in, the floor was flooded. The water pressure was excellent. The towels were almost large and thick enough (water pressure and towel size/thickness make or break a hotel room for me).

My meetings started early Saturday morning and lasted all day. I am pleasantly surprised that I did get something positive from the trip. Most of the presenters were excellent, but not all. Most of the presentations were correct for the audience, not all.

That’s about all I can say. Sorry.

The meetings ended at 5:30 and after a break to wash my face, call home and check email, Kirk (my boss) and I headed over to WMAQ Channel 5, the NBC owned and operated station in Chicago. One of our former anchors, Darren Kramer, is now a weekend anchor there.

WMAQ is located in a brand new facility not far from the Tribune and WGN Radio. The building is an homage to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the NBC headquarters in New York City. In a plaza in front of the building is a freestanding building containing a single studio with glass walls, like the one the Today Show broadcasts from. That studio is used for the morning news.

The newsroom, and studio used for the Saturday show is on the second flood of the building. The newsroom itself is large and contains a second studio used for Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish outlet. We met Darren’s co-anchor and the weekend weatherperson and then went upstairs.

WMAQ has three studios on the third floor – and uses none of them. One is leased to Jerry Springer, and I understand taping days for that show are a trip, to say the least. A second studio is used for Judge Mathis, a court show which used to precede our news cast (and provided horrible ratings as the lead-in). More interesting is what’s come of the third studio.

It is outfitted like 8H (Conan’s studio) in New York, with audience seating. On weekend nights, a live Sinatra tribute is performed (though not broadcast) from there. It’s a pretty cool idea. We were in the studio for a moment and the setup and performance going on were very impressive. The room was just right for what was going on.

Dinner was downstairs in an Italian restaurant. I’ve become pretty good at ordering while dieting. It was Caesar salad as an appetizer and a steak entr

Chicago By Night

Wow. I am just blown away. Years ago, my agent at the time asked me if I would be interested in working in Chicago. I said no. What an idiot!

The city is vibrant. Downtown is clean and full of people. I am entranced by the architecture. There are restaurants and there is entertainment.

Of course the downside is the weather. Chicago is full of weather. It’s cold, windy and snows in the winter. Thunderstorms and heat can be brutal during the summer.

And, of course, I am not driving through Chicago traffic as a resident would. The city itself seems very livable – good for me, but not for my wife who is not a city dweller and probably never will be.

My boss and I left our hotel and walked the ten minutes down Michigan Avenue to Lawrys. It’s a fancy steakhouse. After a quick sit at the bar (club soda for me – a non-drinker even off the diet) we were ushered into the dining room.

The wait staff is costumed. I’m to sure exactly how to describe it, but our waitress was dressed like a formal maid in a wealthy European home. Though the menu is simple, ordering is not. Certain dishes need to be requested early – like my asparagus and mushrooms.

The main dish is prepared tableside from a silver colored rolling cart. In fact, nearly everything was prepared at the table, including our salads. Al in all, dinner was very good and I’d go back again.

On the way back to the hotel a street saxophonist played the Sanford and Son theme. It was perfectly fitting.

The real stuff starts tomorrow morning at 8:15 AM. That’s early for me… even when it’s only an elevator ride away.

I Like Chicago

My experience in Chicago is very limited. Years ago I had been here briefly for my niece’s bat mitzvah. There was no traveling into town – I stuck to the ‘burbs. This trip will be very different.

Our bumpy flight let up for a while, and then we headed groundward. I had my headphones on, listening to air traffic control. As Chicago’s tower gave out landing instructions, the wind gusts hit 37 knots or 43 mph.

When the wind blows that fast, it is never steady and it’s hardly ever directly down the runway. I watched as our wings bobbed up and down. Flying slower, preparing to land, a plane becomes less aerodynamic. This was a difficult landing and the crew up front was earning their pay.

We had met up with our two counterparts from Springfield. No one had checked bags so it was directly to a cab. The three of them climbed in the back while I took the front passenger seat. The seat itself resembled my apartment as a bachelor (minus the mushrooms growing through the bathroom floor).

Our driver was a round faced man with lots of facial hair and a ready smile. After deciding which Hyatt we were at, we were on the road.

I snapped a few shots through the window. He could see I was a little obsessed, so when I saw a car alongside with a particularly apropos license plate, he rolled my window down so I could get a better shot.

As the expressway let out into a city street he pointed to a McDonald’s, taking up what looked like an entire city block. The world’s busiest McDonald’s he said. Who I am I to dispute that?

Check in at the hotel was easy. I am up, just above the 20th floor. My room with single king size bed is nicely sized. There is free high speed Internet access.

My window looks directly across a courtyard to a boxy glass clad office building. I spent a few minutes looking at the people working across the way, wondering what it was they were doing. I’m sure they spend a significant amount of time looking back at what the people are doing here in the hotel. Use your imagination.

We were hungry and set out for lunch. Walking is the best way to see a city. Hopefully someone will explain it to me, but Chicago’s downtown has a very distinct architectural style. There is very detailed masonry seen on many buildings. Often buildings top out with interesting touches, as opposed to a flat roof on a tall building. I’m going to add a photo gallery as there are too many shots to have here on the blog.

We crossed the Chicago River over the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Chicago River is about as wide as a good sized city street. The natural banks no longer exist. The river is now an glorified canal. If there is traffic on the river, I didn’t see it, though the bridges are draw bridges.

Across the river I discovered a Chicago of double decker streets. Again, this is something I am discovering, but it is probably quite well known. By double decker, it is as if someone decided the city was too busy so they built another one on top of the first. There are streets under streets. Intersections exist under intersections with traffic lights and sidewalks and shops. I’ve never seen anything like it.

While walking in the subterranean world we went past a true cultural icon, The Billy Goat Caf

Greetings from ORD

Six O’Clock is just too early to get up. That puts me on the outs with most of America. I’ve always been a night person – even as a kid. Now, as an adult working second shift, it’s even more ingrained.

It had been foggy on the drive home from work last night and there was still a smudge in the air as I set out this morning. I-91 is normally lightly traveled during my works hours. That is changed at 7:00 AM. There was traffic but it moved smoothly up through Hartford and then into Windsor Locks where Bradley International is located.

It was an opportunity to tune around through morning radio. My friend Bob Lacey, who I met my first day in radio in October 1969, is syndicated, so I tuned around looking for “Bob & Sheri” out of Charlotte. Other than a few days spent in Charlotte itself a few years ago, I hadn’t heard them.

The show is great – woman friendly and FCC friendly. I caught a segment with an improv comedian from Florida. It was funny, thought there was probably more in studio laughter than he deserved. Studio laughter is important because it telegraphs to the audience that you’re funny. I’m serious. It creates a shared experience when you’re listening to the radio alone. As much as we hate ‘canned laughter’ or sweetening on sitcoms, it’s tough to watch them without it.

I found Bob and Sheri on “The Beach” from Long Island. As I drove north the signal faded around Meriden. Bob will be glad I finally listened.

I parked the car at a remote lot and started to pull my bags as the cell phone rang. No matter what I do, no matter how I set it, the cell phone reverts to the same ring… the sound of an actual bell. Most of the time it’s in vibrate only mode, but in the car, out of my pocket, I need the noise.

It was Helaine calling. She had been looking online and United didn’t have a flight with the number I had. Not only that, they didn’t have a flight to Chicago at my time! I told her not to worry… though how was I to know?

At Bradley I approached the United counter and was greeted by a large man with a huge bandage on one finger and that same arm in a sling. He was a fan, greeted me by name, and helped me get what I needed. I always hope at that moment of recognition the words, “and we’re putting you up front today” will follow. It did not. But, he was very nice and the boarding pass process went smoothly.

I’m not sure what happened with my flight number… and seat assignment. My boss, also traveling today, and I were supposed to have adjoining aisle seats. Instead, we’re both in the middle, deep in the upper teens on a flight other than the one listed on our reservations. The flight is overbooked by two.

There is a pecking order to seat assignments. Most casual flyer’s don’t know this, most business flayers do. The seat I’m in is normally reserved for someone’s aunt who flies once a year. Frequent fliers, of which I am currently not, are on the aisle and by the windows and much closer to the front.

The girl, sitting to my left, quickly fell asleep, leaning her head against the bulkhead and her butt toward the armrest. I wish I had retractable elbows. Though both of my ‘neighbors’ are slim, I’m really jammed in. This must be horrendous for someone who is large.

I had casually checked the Chicago weather over the last few days. Originally it looked like thunderstorms might coincide with my arrival. I remember circling Bradley a few years ago as a thunderstorm crossed the field. The pilot came on the PA system and said a thunderstorm was there and, “we don’t do thunderstorms.”

Now, the forecast had changed. By the time I left Connecticut, the front had already crossed through Chicago. In the terminal, with my boss and two others from our sister station in Springfield, I mentioned that it would be a bumpy flight and probably a rough landing (winds were predicted to gust at 50+ mph).

As I write this, we’re in the middle of the bumpiness. The plane has been shuddering as if we’re on a very rough road. A few minutes ago, the pilot came on the PA again, illuminating the seatbelt sign at the same time and telling the flight attendants to sit as well. It’s tough to type when the keys are moving away from your fingers.

He didn’t know if the turbulence would be light or moderate. I extended that for him as I listened to include severe. So far, the turbulence has been far short of that.

Soon we’ll be in Chicago. With no checked luggage, the trip to the hotel should be easy.

Off To Chicago

I’m on my way to Chicago tomorrow morning for a few days. It’s work related, and though it’s not nefarious, I don’t think I can talk about why I’m going.

Hopefully, on my way home I’ll say it was valuable. Right now, I’d rather not be going. But, I’m going with an open mind.

As I packed, I thought about how much of home I was taking with me. I’m taking a laptop. The hotel, right in the center of the city, has high speed Internet access in all rooms and Wifi access from the lobby. Still, I double checked to make sure my modem would work should it be necessary.

I have grown addicted to email, to writing in this blog, and the web in general.

I’m also taking my cell phone. This is such a recent change in our societal norms. It used to be, if you were in Chicago, you were in Chicago… and difficult to find. With cell phones, I’m a local call, no matter where I am.

Earlier this year, while I was visiting my family in Florida, someone called from work asking me if I could be in early to be in a tease. I explained I was on the golf course in West Palm Beach.

I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. But, it’s my choice to take the phone, so I must be leaning toward good.

I’ll also be taking the digital camera, plenty of memory, and a cable to move images to the laptop. Since I’ve never really spent any time in downtown Chicago, I’m looking forward to getting as many shots as I can. Right after I get home, the camera is going to the hospital for a pixel that’s always on.

Chicago’s most recognized landmark is the Sears Tower. But, to me, nothing says Chicago more than the succession of bridges over the Chicago River. I remember seeing that image every week on The Bob Newhart Show.

Considering I won’t be home until midnight tonight, I’m leaving awfully early tomorrow. I’ll be leaving the house around 7:00 AM for the shlep to Bradley. At the moment fog and rain seem probable. In Chicago thunderstorms might show. By the end of the weekend, there’s the chance of snow.

I’ve gotta remember to pack my open mind.