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John Hancock Center, Schumy Lunch, and Lake Michigan!

August 14, 2011, 10:25 PM

Okay, so I’m late in posting this, but I think most would agree that it’s better to have worn myself out so completely at the pool (and giving myself swimmer’s ear in the process – yay me) and being so tired from it that I go right to sleep when I get home is preferable to not getting my exercise in and writing Journal entries on time.

So aside from the previously-discussed argument with the unprofessional CTA employee, the rest of that day went very well, though the argument did leave me a bit shaken for a while. But when that discussion happened, we were on our way back down to the Magnificent Mile, since Mom and I were going to visit the John Hancock Center observation deck.

We quickly found the Hancock Center, and found the ticket counter for the observation deck. Interestingly enough, the ticket counter is actually one level below street level. I find that kind of ironic when you consider that you have to go down to go up to the 94th floor where the observation deck is. Meanwhile, the lady at the counter, who looked like she was my age, asked where Camp Rainbow was. I told her that it was from Today’s Special, and was created for the show. It clicked with her, and she immediately recognized the shirt. SCORE! Let’s admit it – “Camp Rainbow” is a really obscure reference in Today’s Special, considering it was one episode (“Summer Camp”), though Jeff’s shirt made a cameo appearance later in “Storms”. But the lady at the counter was on her game! I was impressed.

Then after that, Mom and I got the obligatory observation-deck photo, taken on the lower level in front of a green screen:

"Official" John Hancock Center photo
Photo: John Hancock Center

And there we are. First, I didn’t realize that I was that much taller than Mom (I mean, I knew I was taller, but not that much taller). Then I also was impressed about how good I looked in the photo. All those hours in the pool have started to pay off, I believe.

Then up the elevator we went. The ride was surprisingly fast for 94 floors, and unlike the Sears Tower, this one does make your ears pop as you ride it. I also rediscovered a lingering effect from my days in Potomac Hall. I’ve mentioned it before that Potomac Hall’s elevators would suddenly drop its occupants a little bit (usually a few inches) before opening the doors. The amount of the drop was directly proportional to the size of the load in the elevator and the height from the bottom of the shaft. Thus at Potomac Hall, the worst drop came with a fully-loaded elevator at the fifth floor, where it would suddenly drop a foot or so before the doors opened. So at the Hancock Center, I noticed myself anticipating that drop, even though it’s been eight years since I’ve ridden those elevators, and that Chicago and Harrisonburg are 700 miles away. But I was still half expecting that drop, and found myself mentally preparing for it. And this even though such a thing would never fly in a skyscraper elevator and would be rectified immediately, and also wouldn’t happen in a properly maintained elevator. But due to Potomac Hall, I’m always somewhat relieved when the elevator arrives at its floor, coming to a smooth stop, and then the doors open. Thank you, James Madison University, for scarring me for life when it comes to elevators.

Now once we were on the observation deck, Mom and I had a blast. I got to work photographing, and Mom was enjoying the view from up there. It’s always interesting what you spot from above. I found a nearby building’s rooftop pool particularly interesting:

Two men swimming on a rooftop pool near the Hancock Center

Something about these people doing laps 40 stories up, going back and forth and back and forth, had a certain mesmerizing effect on me. Then I also found it amusing that my camera could resolve such detail, with my being able to tell what strokes the two swimmers were doing, and what they were wearing. For the record, the man on the left is wearing a black speedo, and the man on the right is bald and wearing boardshorts.

I also got some interesting shots of the lakefront, this being one of them:

Umbrellas on a lakefront beach

I also found myself particularly intrigued by some of the equipment on the buildings, and thus found myself taking multiple photos of the fans on the roof of Water Tower Place. Take a look:

Fans on the roof of Water Tower Place

Fans on the roof of Water Tower Place

Then I realized what I was doing (and how many photos I’d taken), and asked myself why I just took so many photos of the fans. I just follow what intrigues me, I suppose.

Also, unlike the Sears Tower, Big John has an open-air section on its observation deck… kind of. Take a look:

The open air observation deck

Basically, it’s a screened-in corridor that allows you to feel the outside air, but not much different from the indoor portion. There’s no sense of being outside, unfortunately. I would love for either Hancock or Sears (pardon, “Willis”) to add a real outdoor observation deck, similar to the one that the World Trade Center had prior to 9/11. Now that would be a cool view.

Then after finishing at the observation deck, we prepared to go back down. I jokingly suggested that we take the stairs down – all 94 floors. I even did some calculations, probably on very sloppy foundations, but whatever. Basically, I figured this: Back in 1999, I guesstimated that it took Mom and I about five minutes to go down 15 floors at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto (already you see the problem with this, but stay with me). Thus by that, we cleared a floor every 20 seconds, or 0.33 minutes. Thus having the amount of time per floor (and that was with our luggage in tow!), I multiplied that by 94 to get 31.33 minutes, i.e. 31 minutes and 20 seconds to get to street level at the Hancock Center. Mom to me: No. But still, I am in far better shape than I was six months ago. I could have done it if Mom had let me. My legs would probably feel like they were about to fall off when I was done, but I could have done it. But, as expected (since I wasn’t really serious about taking the stairs down 94 floors), we took the elevator. Going down, once the elevator got going at full speed, you kind of got the feeling of being lighter on your feet. Seriously, the elevator’s descent speed kind of lifted you slightly, relative to your surroundings. I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to zero gravity, but it’s an interesting feeling.

Then after the Hancock Center, we headed over to Food & Water Watch’s Chicago office, where we had “Schumy Lunch” with Emily and the interns. And we did something very typical for Schumy Lunch: Whole Foods. Except this was no ordinary Whole Foods. This was one of their flagship locations. Check this out:

Feel inferior yet? Seeing this store, it makes the Whole Foods on P Street in DC seem rather small. But unlike this monster Whole Foods, I know where everything is at the P Street store, and they all know me there.

And look inside:

Inside the Lincoln Park Whole Foods store

Quite a store, indeed. We had a great time, too, as we discussed so much and saw exactly how much this Whole Foods offered (including a Wellness Center!). Trust me – we could only dream of many of these features at the comparatively small stores in the District.

Then before we all parted company, we got a group photo:

Left to right, you have Zafreen, Mom, me, and then Emily. Not pictured was Jennifer, who was behind the camera taking the picture. And if I do say so myself, I look quite a bit smaller compared to last year's trip. I'm not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly have lost some weight.

Left to right, you have Zafreen, Mom, me, and then Emily. Not pictured was Jennifer, who was behind the camera taking the picture. And if I do say so myself, I look quite a bit smaller compared to last year’s trip. I’m not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly have lost some weight.

Then I struck a pose:

Tourist pose!

Before we left DC, Mom and I saw these two tourists at Union Station taking pictures of one another in the station while we were having lunch. One of them struck that pose. I wanted to make it a recurring theme on this trip, but somehow that didn’t pan out. Thus we only got the one shot, and here it is. I still find it a very amusing pose, though.

Then after Schumy Lunch, Mom and I got our goodbyes, and we headed back to the Loop. We were going to spend some time at the Art Institute, and spend time we did. This was Mom’s thing, and I made sure that she knew it was her thing. Basically, the Hancock Center was my idea. I also planned the lunch. So when Mom asked me what I wanted to see, I told her that this was her thing, and that she should feel free to take us to see whatever she wanted to see. And as it turned out, we had a blast. We started out doing the miniatures, which I at first thought would be kind of dull, but turned out to be the best part of the show. First we noticed how detailed each of the scenes was (the miniatures were of rooms from American and European homes from the 1500s through the 20th century, by the way). Then we noticed how they even showed adjacent rooms and yards and such. You really had to look hard to see something functional, rather than something that was done up as part of the exhibit. I think I really surprised Mom about how much I knew about 19th century American decor, as I’m explaining decorative items from the antebellum period and as it transitions into Victorian decor in the latter part of the century. Victorian decor can be described thusly: heavy patterns, big mirrors over the fireplaces, and lots of fringe. Then we also navigated our way through the museum to find American Gothic. This wasn’t a reproduction or anything – this was the real McCoy. My first reaction was that it was a lot smaller than I expected. I don’t quite know what size I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.

Then after the Art Institute, we met up with Sis and Chris, and then we stopped so that Chris could have a bite to eat, as he had to go to work very soon. It’s kind of a shame the way it currently works out for them, as they have opposite work schedules, and thus despite being married, they don’t get to see each other all that often. Then we all took the “L” back to Rogers Park. We transferred from Brown to Red at Fullerton, and Chris parted company with us to go to work from there as well.

Then once we got back, we discovered exactly how close to Lake Michigan that the two of them lived. Just a few blocks from their house, and you were on the lakefront. Mom and I were amazed. This is also where we noticed how well I had been keeping up all day, too. Last year, I was complaining that they were going too fast. This year, I was the one getting told to slow down periodically. I only asked them to wait up once, and that was because I had to stop for something or other and they got ahead of me. But otherwise, I was always keeping-up-to-ahead. Go me. Did I mention I’m in much better shape this year?

And here’s the lake:

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a haze over the city on this particular day, but even with the haze, it was still a beautiful sight.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a haze over the city on this particular day, but even with the haze, it was still a beautiful sight. And we got to watch dogs go swimming, and see people enjoying the beach:

The girl in the pink appeared to be looking for something, but unfortunately, I couldn't figure out just what she was looking for.

The girl in the pink appeared to be looking for something, but unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out just what she was looking for.

Then after spending time at the lake, the three of us headed over to Leona’s, where we had eaten before on our last visit to Chicago. Still a top-notch restaurant, and we had a great time. Then Mom and I took the “L” back to our hotel, and we were done for the night.

More on Chicago later on, and hopefully this swimmer’s ear will go away by then (though I’m not holding my breath on that one, but we’ll see).

Web site: Leona's

Song: Ways to improve the Motorola Droid's Battery Life. I need to take some tips from this site, as my phone performed horribly on this trip. I think it was dead by 7:00 every single day in Chicago. I made sure that the phone charged whenever I had an opportunity, and it still died on me.

Quote: So there you go!