When Millennium Park first showed the signs of budget overruns and litigation between the city and its main contractors I vowed not to step foot in the park, using the argument that it was nothing more than a major stroking of Richie Daley's ego. Then I changed my mind under the rationale that part of that $475 million was my tax dollars and traffic tickets put to use.
The park is a beautiful achievement. It looks like CGI imaging from a summer blockbuster given actual form and planted in the middle of downtown Chicago. With the enormous cost overruns Millennium Park could either be the catalyst to a new economic boom in Chicago or the straw that triggers an economic collapse that makes Detroit in the 1970's pale in comparison. My hunch is on the former, which is a sucker's bet.
The park is abundant with "2001" style monoliths that people are simply drawn toward. Although photograph enthusiasts and stoners are oddly attracted to the "Cloud Gate" sculpture- also known as "the bean", my favorite part of the park is the Pritzker pavilion. With it's crisscross design of tubular structures supporting the speakers overhead, the pavilion is amazing to hear and beautiful to view. The Crown Fountain is Daley's answer to the Picasso in the plaza that bears his father's name: modern art erected for all to see. Two towering fountains spraying water down to a reflecting pool. The towers contain LED projection screens that broadcast outdoor scenes and the faces of 1,000 Chicagoans for 12 minutes at a time. The Fountain was most popular with small children when I visited the park Saturday night.
Yesterday I biked to the Chinatown Summer Fair and took in the atmosphere. Few cities celebrate summer with the sense of urgency of Chicago. Chinatown's fair had everything I've come to expect from a street festival or block party: lots of grilled food, a kiddie stage, tents full of name brand fashion and sunglass knockoffs (three pairs of sunglasses for 20 bucks) and cover bands galore on the main stage. The band I saw yesterday, Covergurl, did an inspired set of glam metal, alternative, and one original. They meant business, too. The "u" in "Covergurl" was spelled with umlauts, which always signifies that they're in touch with their metal. And the lead singer- who I guess is Covergurl, prowled the stage like dancer at Crazy Horse who takes pride in her work that she doesn't have to resort to the "private" lap dances to make the rent.
Two things separate Chinatown's fair from most of the Lincoln Park street fairs. The Chinatown fair was well-represented with bubble tea vendors. I heart the bubble tea. Whoever came up with the idea of putting tapioca pearls in tea was a genius. It adds such an unexpected texture to drinking tea I can't properly do it justice with an explanation. To quote Sideshow Mel from The Simpsons: "It's like a hootenanny in my mouth!!"
The best thing about Chinatown's summer fair: $2.50 bottles of Tsingtao. Knowing that a cup of Miller Lite at Printer's row Book Fair cost $4, I figured I saved ten bucks in beer money yesterday. Yeehaw.
So this week shapes up to be uneventful, really. Everything is once again loaded up front, so if I can get through to Wednesday without a major meltdown I'll consider it a blessing. Thursday evening sees a editorial board meeting for Make Magazine, the first one in months. Friday marks the beginning of the Silent Summer FIlm Festival at the beautiful Gateway Theater in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. The festival is always a highlight of my summer and the Gateway is one of the city's most underrated theaters.
Then Saturday we have the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Ping Tom Park, baby. The last time I paddled the river I capsized my kayak and disinfected my mouth to ward off the aftereffects of the two gulps of water I took in. I've been wanting to do this race for years and managed to get on a team at the last minute. I'm stoked.
Finally Sunday sees the first performance of Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg outside the Hideout. They'll be taking the stage at the Summer on Southport Festival at 9 p.m. This is a must-go.
Well, I'm spent now. On to work and lazing about. Hasta.