Steve’s Birthday Week, Part 3: More Chicago fun (or, Thai-Thai!)

I would have liked to have had posted this message while I was still in Chicago, but time was short and, even more important, Internet access was shitty. You’d expect different in a big city like Chicago, but I had a hard time getting a free wireless connection, even at a Panera’s that promised it. It worked one day, kind of, the next day fine, and the third day not at all.

Anyway, in brief, here’s what I did on Wednesday, which was more or less my “day off” before my part of the conference activities began in earnest:

After spending a fair amount of the morning grading essays for my online class, I hiked down to the Tribune Tower to see my friend Bruce, who works there. He and I have known each other since freshman year in college, which I guess was 22 years ago now. Jeesh, that’s depressing; I was a freshman before most of our current first year students were born.

Anyway, we had a lovely lunch at a sort of yuppie Thai restaurant in that sort of yuppie/touristy neighborhood near the Trib Tower and the Magnificent Mile. I had a Pad Thai with some kind of fish that was pretty darn tasty. But hey, what do I know about Thai food, other than I like it and, because Annette isn’t so fond of it, I don’t tend to eat it that much. We talked some business, we talked some sports (Bruce is crushing me in the NCAA Basketball tourney as far as picks go), we talked family, etc.

On my walk back to the hotel, I went through Millenium Park, which is right off of Michigan and just north of the Art Institute. I can’t remember the last time I was in Chicago, but this was new to me, and pretty darn cool. If you follow the link above, you can see the real photographs, but I have two here from the camera phone that turned out pretty good if you ask me.

This is a picture of Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” what the web site describes as a “110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above.” It’s pretty cool, but I was a little disappointed to find that the bottom part of the sculpture, which you are supposed to be able to walk under and such, was closed off– you can kind of see it in this picture, I think. The blue line on “the bean” (as it is popularly known) is tape, and underneath it is a crew polishing the thing.

This is “The Crown Fountain,” which was designed by Jaume Plensa. Basically, it’s two big glass towers which project these enormous video faces. “Weather permitting,” as they say, water comes spitting out where the mouth is. Also very cool, and it looked even more cool when I ended up taking a cab ride by it at night.

I went back to the hotel and did some more grading, and then it was time to meet up with my friends Troy and Lisa. I picked Troy up at his downtown office, and let me just say that driving around downtown Chicago (really, any very large city) is a bit like an elaborate video game. Judging by some of the quasi-illegal/questionable things I did, it appears to me you get three lives.

Anyway, we went out to their house, which is on the Chicago-side of the Chicago/Oak Park line. A really neat neighborhood with lots of “Chicago Bungalows,” a house style I hadn’t heard of before. Troy and Lisa don’t have one of these, but their house is brick and of a similar 1930’s era. We went out for my second Thai meal of the day, one decidedly different from the yuppie-fied lunch. This place was clean and no frills, and while I think you could get Pad Thai, we all ended up with selections quite a bit different from that– crispy omelette (which was shockingly orangish-red), a soup with coconut milk in it– I believe it’s called Tom Ka Gai– spicy chicken and beef, little egg roll-like things, etc. Very very tasty.

Thanks again for the hospitality, folks.

As for the rest of my trip: it was conference/work stuff pretty much all day on Thursday (that’s “official blog” stuff), a bit of conference stuff Friday morning, and then back home. Despite the fact that I was out until well after 2 am on Thursday, I am up this early after not being awake off and on for the last couple of hours.

I have always heard old people need less sleep….

Anyway, happy birthday to me. To wrap up my birthday week, I’m hanging out with Will today (while Annette gets caught up on school stuff) and then we’re all going out for fancy Italian tonight.

Slight Update:

Troy emailed me to let me know the restaurant we went (and that is just down the street from them, too) is Amarind’s and here’s a review.

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