Saturday, November 03, 2007

The most fun you can have with a 1 Day Fun Pass

So I set out Halloween Wednesday with my Chicago exploration companion DK to see how much fun we could possibly have with a CTA 1 Day "Fun Pass." Actually, I only got the $5 pass because I was a bit short on cash to get a weekly one, and DK didn't even have a pass but a regular transit card, so this is a remarkably poor framing device for this story, but I wanted something better than "we hung out all day."

Anyway, I was running late on the bus, as nearly always happens when I meet up with DK, who has never actually taken a CTA bus (!!!!). From North/Clybourn, we headed on the Red Line up to Wrigley Field--he wanted photos of both ballparks on a day when they weren't surrounded by inconvenient crowds of fans. There's work going on inside Wrigley, and something with hoses in front when we showed up. We circled the park, got a few shots. Lunch at the Horizon Cafe at Broadway & Grace. I had the 4-cheese grilled cheese: cheddar, a couple others, parmesan-crusted bread. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but I do try to get to the Horizon now and then. I showed him a bit of Lakeview, including my first apartment in Chicago, a studio in a very bland apartment building on Grace.

Back to the Red Line at Sheridan, more crowded than we expected that time of day. We got a seat in what would be the conductor's area, the "private booth" as I called it. You get a nice view out the window, and a nice view of the colored lights on the next car, and we also got a nice view (aroma too) of a bag of leftover fast-food trash at our feet.

You can sort of see Chinatown reflected here. We intended to get out at 35th, but rode all the way to 95th (he's only been there once) because the view, or something, was just so compelling, we didn't want to move. Got out at 95th, looked at the massive bus terminal, got the same seats on a different car. At Sox/35th, we noted the old Comiskey homeplate, all that remains of the former stadium. I honestly never noticed this here before, since I'm not given to wandering through ballpark parking lots.

I've still never been in Wrigley, but I have been in U.S. Cellular, back when it was "new Comiskey," on a school field trip, long before I lived in Chicago. We walked on 35th to Bridgeport, noting the new housing construction, or promise of it, popping up everywhere. This sign is next to a sort-of-abandoned-looking lamp warehouse/store.

Mid-afternoon, kids were already out trick-or-treating. Three houses in a row on 35th had the same sign posted. Regrettably, I didn't get a shot of the middle house, with a woman sitting in front of the sign, talking on the phone.

Since we'd eaten already, the Ramova Grill or the Bridgeport Restaurant (which I seriously doubt still has the "soda fountain" advertised on its old neon sign) will have to wait for another trip (I've been to both). But we went to my favorite-so-far dollar store in Chicago, the insane Dollar Function, just north of 35th on Halsted. I bought two sequined masks I've had no occasion to wear. I needed to use the restroom at the Daley branch library. As we waited to cross, we saw a girl of maybe 10 in a "sexy devil" costume, with a skirt much shorter than I'd wear in public. I read quite a bit on the sexy-costume issue in the feminist blogospere last week (I'll sum it up: 1) the middle-aged scolds whining about how women dress too sexy on Halloween are engaging in "slut-shaming" 2) but why are women expected to be supersexy on Halloween and [straight] men aren't? 3) sexy costumes for girls are out there [seriously, French maid costumes?!] and that's really creepy). But that's a rant for another time...

We kept walking on 35th; I thought there'd be some interesting industrial stuff to check out, and maybe a quiet spot to sit near the river, but there didn't seem to be, so we went clear to Ashland, noting the Zhou Brothers building, Iron Studios, empty Spiegel buildings, and Pepsi bottling plant along the way. Now, I hadn't orchestrated the day to end up at sunset at a certain abandoned silo complex, but it wasn't terribly far from 35th & Ashland, so we kept walking in the chill. We noted an abandoned factory a Flickr friend had recently explored, but it was too close to sunset, no time to check it out. Oh, and I was wearing a vintage dress and coat, forgot to mention that. Not really a costume, but something a little wackier than I'd normally wear around town.

This is what the sky looked like as we walked through a quasi-private industrial drive to get to the silos. I could have used this day to prove that DK and I could have fun together without breaking any laws, but then we were at a hole in a fence with a "no trespassing" sign...Well, we went a whole FIVE HOURS together without breaking any laws. Someone'd obviously been there since our visit a week ago, as there was an easier way into the building now. Damn, and I was actually looking forward to a painful, undignified crawl in in my purple polyester dress. I counted the steps to the top this time--138, and only one is broken. Walking onto a roof, we ran into three young taggers--my first-ever run-in with strangers in an abandoned building! We all nonchalantly said hi to each other. They acted as if it's the most normal thing in the world to run into a guy with a big camera and a woman in a vintage floral coat and pantyhose in an abandoned structure 10 stories up. The view there is spectacular. You get both Chicago's amazing skyline, and a superb view of industry: the canal, warehouses, factories. We sat safely far away from the edge and watched it get dark. Here's a poor imitation of what we saw.

Then, just like last week, off to Huck Finn for dinner. This is not the first time I've eaten at two of these restaurants in one day. I had hot tea, which I never order at these places (honey and lemon, mmm) and a tomato stuffed with turkey salad, served with a hard-boiled egg and far too much coleslaw. Once again, they were out of giant donuts. Poor DK, he'll see one someday...We took the Orange Line from Leavitt to downtown and parted. Eight hours, two ballparks, two "family restaurants," four miles+ walking, one abandoned structure. That is a lot of fun on one pass.

The pass didn't run out after that but the fun sure did. At North and Wells, I got a delicious cider drink at Starbucks and stuff at Walgreens and waited for the #72 bus. And waited. After 15-20 minutes I thought the wait was definitely unusual. After 40, I was furious. Yes, the bus took 40+ minutes to show up (Halloween isn't a CTA holiday, is it?), only ONE bus showed up then (I'd expected at least 2 or 3 bunched up), and it took a good 45 minutes instead of 25-30 to actually get home because of the crowding. (That's my poor attempt at surreptitious CTA photography.) Yeah, not like anyone had anyplace to be at 9:00 on Halloween night. By the time I got home at 10:22, DK had already posted the day's photos to Flickr. He is certainly not eager to try a CTA bus now.

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