Chicago Photo Tribute #8: Little Details off Michigan Avenue

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, as begun last April:

[This coming] weekend is the fourth annual Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (that “C2E2″ thing I won’t shut up about) at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, which my wife and I will be attending for our third time. As a tribute to this fascinating city, and an intro to C2E2 newcomers to provide ideas of what else Chicago has to offer while they’re in town, a few of this week’s posts will be dedicated to out experiences in the Windy City when we’re not gleefully clustered indoors with thousands of other comics and sci-fi fans.

As luck would have it, my wife and I will be heading northwest once again in two weeks for this year’s Wizard World Chicago. What began last spring as a short-term miniseries, and then became slightly irrelevant as the event passed, is suddenly relevant once more. Call it the circle of geek-convention life.

With some of our past Chicago experiences, we’ve taken a time-out away from the cons for local sightseeing as a husband/wife quality-time thing. Today’s feature presentation is that shiny attractor of affluent tourists, the Magnificent Mile, the long line of upscale clothing stores and skyscraper-shaped malls dotting both sides of Michigan Avenue northward from Wacker Avenue.

Magnificent Mile sign, Chicago

We’ve strolled the Mile a couple of times, but we never buy anything. Any MCC readers with impeccable fashion tastes have surely discerned from our past photos that our clothing budget is far more modest than our convention budget. We have our priorities.

Much more interesting to us than shirts with three-digit price tags: statues! Even if that statue commemorates Captain George “Cap” Wellington Streeter, whose life story as told by WikiPedia makes him out to be one of Chicago’s most notorious 19th-century evildoers. Even though the Mile’s locality of Streeterville is named after him, it’s a telling detail that this statue is estranged behind the John Hancock Tower, not in front of it. In hindsight the emergency responders tending to business behind Streeter’s back are a sort of irony we hadn’t intended.

Across the street from the monolithic Hancock Tower is the Historic Water Tower, one of the few landmarks still standing tall since the 1860s. It remains in use as an art gallery, and as an art piece unto itself.

Historic Water Tower, Chicago

For those upset that the previous photo lopped off the tower’s pinnacle, here’s another shot taken sixteen months earlier on a different trip with poorer lighting. I would eventually forget we already had a photo on file.

Historic Water Tower, Magnificent Mile, Chicago

For those who prefer landmarks in miniature, witness this scale model of the Historic Water Tower at the top of the Water Tower Place escalators across the street. I was more interested in the fountains to our side. The model was an incidental bonus.

Historic Water Tower model, John Hancock Tower, Magnificent Mile, Chicago

Also at the Water Tower Place (another multi-level mall) was a most unusual set of fast-food furniture. Their tiny M Burger location is a few rows of taller tables adjoined to shorter tables, accompanied respectively by barstools and movable benches. Lots of utilitarian flatness everywhere.

M Burger, John Hancock Tower, Chicago

For elderly Chicago buildings with intricate detail, you’d be hard pressed to top the Tribune Tower, home of the Chicago Tribune. Setting aside that newspaper’s integral role as an offscreen villain in season five of The Wire, their HQ has been a Michigan Avenue fixture since 1925. Something about Gothic architecture speaks to the malnourished humanities student who’s lain dormant inside me since college. I enjoy staring at the details, including the statue of Nathan Hale, beloved martyr of the American Revolution.

Chicago Tribune, Nathan Hale statue, Chicago

The design elements aren’t all exterior. Though visitors can’t venture beyond the lobby, the engraved quotes, topographical map, and overall old-school decor are ample exhibits.

Tribune Tower interior, Chicago

Beyond the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue crosses Chicago River and becomes part of the Loop. This is me posing on a staircase leading down from street level to the riverside, trying to allow for a little bridgework in the shot behind me. If nothing else, this photo proves that yes, perhaps a Magnificent Mile shopping spree would overhaul my image.

Randall A. Golden, Midlife Crisis Crossover

(For previous entries in the Chicago Photo Tribute series, click the “Chicago” tag and follow the trail backward through time. Thanks for reading!)

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