Saturday, May 31, 2008

ChicagoRound: Billy Goat Tavern

Cheezborger! Cheezborger! Cheezborger!

The Billy Goat Tavern has been a part of the Chicago burgers-and-beers landscape since 1934, but it wasn't until 1978 that it became world-famous in a series of Saturday Night Live sketches that lovingly mocked the chopped language of its Greek owners and staff.

And yes, they still talk that way when you order off their limited, greasy and altogether delicious menu.

The flagship Billy Goat Tavern sits under Michigan Avenue, near the Wrigley Building. Shoppers on the Magic Mile between the Wrigley Building and the Gap probably don't realize they're actually on a bridge above a vast subterranean world of streets, parking lots, delivery bays ... and the Billy Goat. Here's the sign at the entrance to the tavern, with the underbelly of Michigan Avenue just beyond the white pillars:


And here's the garish but still relatively modest front door, complete with billy goat-themed puns and a proud nod to the SNL skit that put the Billy Goat on America's cultural map:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am weak

I bought a package of Chips Ahoy!® brand chocolate chip cookies to work yesterday with the intention of nibbling on one or two a day for the next few weeks. We don’t keep cookies in the house because the domestic partner doesn’t trust himself around the irresistible deliciousness of pre-packaged snacks. I, however, have long maintained that I am in complete control of myself in the presence of uniformly stacked circles of crumbly brown-sugary goodness flecked with melty bits of chocolate. At least at home.

Because today when I reached in my food drawer for a couple cookies, I found nothing but apples and oatmeal and low-fat granola bars. Because apparently I HAD EATEN THE ENTIRE BAG OF CHIPS AHOY!® BRAND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES YESTERDAY.

I. am. so. ashamed.

Thankfully, I still have a bag of really shitty candy-coated chocolate Easter eggs in my other drawer. And I am totally able to eat them in moderation. Because they taste like Barbie shoes. But they contain chocolate, which is one of the essential writer food groups … along with Diet Pepsi, honey-roasted peanuts and bitter regret.

But with only a few morsels of plastic chocolate in my belly, it’s been a long, long day. Longer than a conference call in a sun-baked meeting room. Longer than watching Dubya try to recite the alphabet in order. Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean. Higher than any bird ever flew. Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens.

God, I need a cookie.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our first Magic Mile!

I know. It's a totally gay name for our sprint training. But "MM" fits unobtrusively on our scheduling spreadsheet so what can you do?

In any case, we had our first Magic Mile training run on Saturday. And I did OK. We met at the well-appointed quarter-mile track at the tony intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. And after our standard rah-rah pre-run talk, we took off. We all ran a mile at our target pace (my group is shooting for 9:00, which is about what I need to maintain to run the marathon in under four hours) and then we sprinted the second mile to see just how fast we could do it. My peeps all stayed together easily for our first mile, but once we took off on our sprint, they quickly left me wheezing in their dust. They finished in the 7:05 range and I wasn't too terribly far behind them, clocking in at 7:33. But I have my work cut out for me.

Once we had all crossed that finish line—and then waited for all the girls to pee—we trotted over to the lakefront and whipped out another 2.5 miles at our target pace. Here we are before that run, smiling and happy in the lovely running weather in front of our lovely lake:

And here we are after the run, with our bulging bellies and our thinner wallets. Since we were downtown, we opted to have our first post-run brunch as a team (even though it was our fourth week training together) someplace kinda fancy. The Pierrot Gourmet—a part of the Peninsula Hotel—does a rustic French-provincial brunch that's full of charm and deliciousness ... only it does it at prices that rustic provincial French people probably can't afford. If you go, try the breakfast bread pudding. But do it only after you've timed yourself on a mile sprint so you have room for all the extra carbs.

Pop quiz! Do you remember what I'm using to track my training runs? That's correct! I use my fabulous new almost-a-house-payment Garmin™ Forerunner® 405, which comes with a heart monitor, GPS tracking and complimentary valet services. My favorite feature of the watch is the virtual partner, a little animated figure—I call him Beverly d'Angelo—that runs exactly at the pace you program it to maintain. The watch also has a figure representing you—I call this one Jake—that shows you your pace in relation to your virtual partner's, so you can just glance down when you're running and see if you're ahead or behind where you need to be. Which is really handy on longer runs when you can start to lollygag without even realizing it.

Here's what it looks like when Jake is beating the pants off Beverly:

What's even cooler is when you stop for any reason, the GPS knows you've stopped and your little figure bends over as though he's exhausted. Unfortunately, I can't find a screen shot showing you how cute it looks. So I tried to replicate its cuteness Saturday morning for Matthew, but we accidentally captured it facing backward. And I look like I might be pooping. Which I'm pretty sure isn't the visual the Garmin people are going for when their little stick figure collapses, but it's all I've got so you're gonna have to go with me on this one. And by "go" I don't mean "poop." Because I would never ask you to poop with me. That would just be gross. Almost as gross as talking about poop endlessly instead of letting you see the picture. Which looks like this:

And yes, this is one of the first pictures taken of my new, slightly-less-lumpy head. Which I thought might make me more aerodynamic, but since everyone beat me by almost 30 seconds on Saturday I guess I'm wrong. On the plus side, I can now run my fingers through my hair without triggering pain receptors on my scalp. So there's that. And I go to work almost every morning having totally beaten Beverly d'Angelo in a footrace. Which, quite frankly, is probably more than you can say.

Friday, May 23, 2008

At last my head is complete again!

Or something like that.

The bitches stitches are out, the itching has stopped and as soon as they kick us out of work today I'm gonna find a haircut store and get someone to mow my mangy head back into submission.

I keep touching the spots where the bumps were. AND THEY'RE GONE! Though they're still kind of ... um ... moist ... from the gobs of Polysporin® I've been rubbing on them three times a day for the last nine days.

Changing. It keeps changing. I feel smooth spots ... where there were bumps of keratin ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ChicagoRound: St. Joseph Hospital

St. Joseph Hospital sits at Diversey and Lake Shore Drive in the extreme southeast corner of the Boystown area. More importantly, it overlooks one of the free Gatorade stations set up by Fleet Feet every weekend morning along the lakefront running trail. I've been admiring the building's organic shapes and funky 1962 architecture for eight years, and I love the way the way its aqua accents and its gently undulating pediment reflect the waves of nearby Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What I had for lunch today


Sandwich: Turkey and pepper jack cheese on wheat bread with a little bit of lettuce (because processed turkey and processed cheese on processed bread needs some crunch if it's gonna go down without a fight)

Salad: Spinach and romaine (because I ran out of spinach this morning) with raspberries, mandarin oranges and fat-free raspberry vinaigrette

Drink: Water (because I'm trying to wean myself off of diet soda) in a sports-themed glass to impress all the chicks (or because it was the only glass glass in our lunchroom cupboard and I prefer not to drink out of plastic because it always smells like ... well ... plastic)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tranny hot mess!

No, I’m not entirely sure what that means. Or if it indicates that something is good or bad. Or even if it’s what the kids are still saying these days.

But every time I see my hair in the mirror, I do not see something that looks gender-confident, cool or organized.

I’m happy to report that the bumpectomy sites on my head are healing nicely, but the Polysporin® gobs are making an oilfield of my hair. And I didn’t plan my haircut schedule very well around the bump removal; I’m well into the fluffy phase that signals I’m overdue for a trim, but I’m not sure I should have a barber poking around my wounds with a pair of scissors or running a #1.5 guard over my stitches just yet. So I’m just left to hope that the paparazzi leave me alone until the stitches come out on Friday at 10:00 am and I can get to a haircut store to restore order on my noggin.

While the stitched-up wounds still sting a little, the bumps are definitely gone! So my staff of milliners and phrenologists can finally stop with the wringing of hands and the gnashing of teeth. I’ve also had three good runs since the surgery, and the sweat on my head hasn’t seemed to cause any healing issues. We cranked out eight miles on Saturday morning at our 9-minute-mile target marathon pace—which I am clearly not quite ready for—but then I ran four easy, breezy miles this morning ... and when I finished, my fancy new GPS-enabled running watch told me that I’d done them all at an 8:51 pace. Which is, for me, actually pretty huge. The crowd goes wild!

Plus, I’m wearing my muffin-top jeans today that usually fit only in the latter stages of marathon training. And they’re not cutting off any vital circulation. So far. In fact, they feel pretty comfortable. But I’m still leaving my shirt untucked. And I’m politely declining every request to retrieve something off a high shelf. Because I may be a tranny hot mess, but I’m not about to be a Love-Handle Larry. Whatever that means.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Like I need another hole in my head

I had my lumps removed yesterday!

Well, two of them. So I'm still kinda lumpy.

See, I've had six pilar cysts on my head since as far back as I can remember. Most common in middle-age women (like me!), pilar cysts are little rubbery growths filled with keratin, the building-block protein that generates hair, nails and skin. So by some stretches of the imagination I've been carrying the inchoate members of my septupletude just under my scalp for 40 years and I just murdered my way down to being quintuplets. Or something like that.

In any case, pilar cysts are benign and harmless (like me! except when I murder!) and amount to little more than curious little bumps to be discovered only by people who playfully tousle your hair. (Of course, people who mess up my hair are also subject to murder, but they at least take some guilt with them to the grave.) In the last year, though, two of my little cysts had started hurting. In a pain–pain–pain rhythm synched to my beating heart. And one of them had a tendency to bleed whenever my discount hair stylist nicked it with his discount clippers. So my dermatologist and I decided they should be removed. Unfortunately, scheduling their removal involved a two-month pas de trois coordinating little pieces of information between my insurance carrier, my dermatologist and the scheduling service my dermatologist uses. But everything finally converged yesterday morning, and at 8:30 sharp I finally found myself lying on an examination table while a nurse injected a local anesthetic all around my two condemned little brethren. Which was actually the most painful part.

While she was doing that and then busying herself setting out scalpels and sutures and all the other accoutrements of outpatient surgery, the doctor left the room and came back with a ... clock radio. Seriously.

Nurse! Hand me a scalpel! Now I need a sponge! Now I need some Digital Digital Get Down ... STAT!

When I gave him a quizzical look that said Dude ... do you realize that your sole contribution to the surgery preparation at hand has been to set a a freakin' clock radio on the hospital gown hamper next to the not-for-pretend surgery stuff your nurse is setting out? he explained that since the surgery was on my head and so close to my ears, the cutting and scraping actions of his scalpel would produce squeaking noises that I could actually hear. HOW COOL IS THAT? He told me he brought in the clock radio to drown out the squeaky noises in case they would freak me out. WHICH OF COURSE THEY WOULDN'T. If I got to actually hear myself going from lumpy to smooth (well, less lumpy), I didn't want to miss a single note of it.

I told him I'd really love to hear the squeaking of his scalpel against my lumpy head, but apparently he'd had enough people seriously freak out about it that he insisted on playing music. Unfortunately, his radio got shitty reception in the examination room, so my distraction music was about 20% Billy Joel and about 80% khhhhhhh!

Once the radio had started soothing me with its dulcet tones, the doctor and I began the awkward process of getting me in a position on the table where he could conveniently stab me on the top left side of my head and the back left side of the base of my skull, where my two condemned little brethren had been residing. The process was made weirder by the fact that the anesthetic was actually making me light-headed as it oozed past my lumps and deep into my hooker-and-porn-addled brain. And also because I was wearing only underwear and a hospital gown that kept falling off every time I rolled over to try a new position.

But we eventually found a workable position with me on my stomach and my arms smooshed up under my chest and neck like a mummy, and the doctor commenced hacking away at my poor condemned little brethren. And I'm sad to report that the acoustics in my head are such that I don't think I would have heard any squeaking even if Neil Sedaka hadn't been crackling on the fire next to me.

Once the doctor had pulled the first little dead brother lump of keratin out of my head, he (jokingly, I presume) asked me if I wanted to see it. Is the pope a boy-raping drag queen? OF COURSE I WANTED TO SEE IT.

On a completely unrelated note here, I've spent the last month relaunching a web site for a well-known client that offers lawn improvement programs including fertilizers, weed killers and the elimination of destructive, unsightly pests like grubs. In fact, just this week I finished writing about grubs. White, wiggly, disgusting, pus-like grubs. Which made it completely ironic—but still apropos of nothing—when I lifted my head from my little mummy pose and saw dangling right in front of me in the doctor's tweezers a lump of bloody, hairy keratin that looked like ... Rush Limbaugh's tiny little penis. Or a grub, now that I think about it.

Which. Was. Totally. Cool. Rush Limbaugh imagery notwithstanding.

Even cooler: The second incision disgorged two grub-like lumps of keratin. It was like I'd won the Disgusting Things Growing Under Your Scalp Jackpot!

By then, the clock radio reception had taken a turn for the worse, so the nurse hit some button and it switched to a talk-radio program. Which was fine until I started paying attention ... and I heard a husky female proclaim that the day's topic of discussion was "embracing your biblical femininity." Which, in combination with just having seen Rush Limbaugh's tiny little penis, was a little too much excitement for one morning.

Fortunately, I was soon sutured up, slathered with a couple protective, nourishing gobs of Polysporin® and sent on my way with strict instructions not to drink alcohol for 24 hours. Even though I'd just been forced to look at Rush Limbaugh's tiny little penis.

And it seemed like I was healing nicely until a couple hours later when the local anesthetic wore off in the middle of a client call and holy shit it felt like bickering monkeys were scaling my slightly less lumpy head with pickaxes.

But thanks to a bottle of OTC pain relievers and some panic-inducing (and therefore suitably distracting) deadlines, I survived the day without harming any monkeys.

After work, some co-workers and I took some clients to a Cubs game. I hadn't counted on it being colder than the pope's dead, black heart by late afternoon and I was woefully underdressed. So I stopped to buy a Wrigley Field shirt on my way in. And by the time I got to our seats I discovered we were sitting in two rows ... and my empty seat was in the front, putting the gooey back of my head directly in the sightlines of one of the clients who make my salary possible. Concerned that the sight of my pulsing wound would make him vomit his pizza rolls all over my professional future, I discreetly sent my colleague (who was sitting next to him) the international symbol for Does it look like I've been shot or stabbed in the base of my skull and my hair is now clotted with blood and brain matter that is in reality just a protective, nourishing gob of Polysporin®? He responded with the international symbol for Dude, can I have some of your nachos? Which I took to be polite-in-front-of-the-client code for No.

Here's the view from our kick-ass seats:

The Cubs won, by the way. Even without my lucky lumps in attendance. And I didn't freeze—or bleed—to death. And my head actually felt better by the end of the game. But it was still oozy. So before I climbed into bed I stuffed my pillow and its 800-thread-count pillowcase in a protective, blood-stain-colored T-shirt. Because a less lumpy head deserves a fancy elitist lifestyle. Which always starts with an unstained pillowcase.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sponsor me in the AIDS Marathon!

Last year, my friends and family and co-workers and even strangers like you who occasionally drop by to read my blog—and how cool are you?—helped me raise $3,001 in donations when I ran the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. This year will be my fifth marathon, my third with the AIDS Foundation and my first with the foundation’s new advanced training program, which promises to help me FINALLY beat my four-hour goal.

But running a marathon in under four hours is just a goal of vanity. People living with HIV and AIDS have much more important goals … like staying healthy so they can go to work and afford insurance and medical care and food for themselves and their families.

Despite ongoing advances in the treatment of AIDS, the epidemic is far from over. More than one million Americans—and 40 million more around the world—are now living with HIV. It’s no longer the gay disease once self-righteously dismissed by the religious right; it’s now the LEADING cause of death among adults age 15-59 worldwide—gay or straight, black or white, male or female. The LEADING cause. That’s a lot of people who are not only sick, but potentially homeless, jobless, ostracized, trying to raise children or otherwise in desperate need of what the AIDS Foundation provides.

So please. Whip out your credit card, click on the red logo above or to your right and join me in our race to control—and maybe even beat—this disease.

You’ll get a tax writeoff. The AIDS Foundation will get much-needed funds for providing direct medical care, food, housing and other vital services for people living with HIV and AIDS. Your friends and neighbors living with the disease will get assistance and dignity and hope. And I will maybe get to beat a goal that’s been taunting me since 2004. Everybody wins!

Remember: Sponsoring me is as easy as clicking the red logo. And thanks again for your generosity!

Jake

P.S. It can take up to five business days for your donations to be acknowledged on my pledge page. But the AIDS Foundation of Chicago has been extremely prompt at mailing acknowledgement letters for tax deductions. And after the marathon I'll post a list of donors here AND send personal thank-you notes and emails to all of you for whom I have contact information. But please don’t let the site's weird little technical problem stop you from donating. You can give any amount you want.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My new best friends:

My new AIDS Marathon training group had its first official all-as-a-group run Saturday morning, and here we are posing triumphantly for our first group picture.

Well, most of us. We ran six miles at our target marathon speed of 9-minute miles. But some of us (ahem) aren't quite capable of sustaining that speed on longish runs just yet, and we clocked in at 9:12 miles. And by the time we crossed the finish line, some of the faster folks had grown impatient in the excruciatingly long wait and had moved on to bigger and better Saturday-morning activities. So they missed the picture.

Which, in a few rambling sentences, sums up my initial impression of our probable group dynamic this summer. I hope I'm wrong, but I just didn't get the feeling that we're going to bond over hours of chatty run gossip and post-run brunches the way last two summers' groups did. In fact, Saturday's post-run group brunch consisted of: me and Matthew and the domestic parter, who is running in a different group. But the brunch still included pancakes, and that's really all you can ask of a brunch.

After we got cleaned up, the domestic partner and I went to his niece's first communion at Our Lady of the Mumbling Pastor in one of Chicago's lovely northern suburbs. I wore a brand new shirt that I discovered was noticeably too big in the neck once I got my tie tied, but I wasn't in the mood to re-think my entire wardrobe, so I probably look like I've been on a hunger strike in all the family photos. After the mass, which featured a parade of impossibly adorable second-graders, we retired to the domestic partner-in-laws' house for food, food, more food and exceptionally delicious cake, followed by a couple hours of Barbies and Disney princesses in the nieces' well-appointed playroom. Because nothing says gay uncles like a couple hours of Barbies and Disney princesses. Even when one of the uncles looks like he's playing dress-up in his daddy's shirt.

Today was going to start with another run, but it was freaking 48 degrees and rainy here in not-so-springy Chicago. AS. IF. So we did Plan B: brunch in Chicago's originally-Swedish-but-now-just-gay Andersonville neighborhood. Then we went shopping in its charming originally-Swedish-but-now-just-gay boutiques, where I found the perfect buffet for our dining room ... assuming the domestic partner and I master the art of shitting money. Then we went to a Mother's Day showing of Mommie Dearest at the architecturally fabulous Music Box Theatre. The event included Joan Crawford impersonators, a Joan Crawford look-alike contest and a performance by The Joans, which is probably the world's only Joan Crawford-themed punk rock band. But I'm too lazy to google it to make sure, so I could be wrong.

We closed our whirlwind day of gay clich├ęs at Sidetrack for a couple hours of show tunes tonight. In between the belting divas, I got to play wingman for a buddy who was working a hunky little Italian in the back bar, which isn't so crowded and loud so you can have actual conversations when you're there. Wingman, as you may know, isn't always an easy job. You have to be cute and interesting and approachable, but considerably less cute and interesting and approachable than your leading man. You have to stay alert and keep on top of the situation in case you have to jump in and play emergency rescue boyfriend at a moment's notice. And you have to know when to get the hell out of the way so you don't get hit by flying sparks. Because collateral spark burns are rarely covered by basic insurance plans. Unfortunately, I don't think there was a love connection tonight, but the hunky little Italian was very nice. And distractingly hunky. Not that I was noticing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Miles away from the finish

So we’re—what?—six days into marathon training and I’m already injured. My left calf seized up on Tuesday, but I ran on it anyway. BIG MISTAKE. I’ve had a limp since then, and the damn thing is still tender to the touch.

So today the domestic partner and I went to see a lawyer. Which, as a sentence, should win me some kind of misleading-transition award. Because we went to the lawyer to finally set up wills, powers of attorney and everything else you need to keep yourself legally protected when the American Taliban has made sure you can’t get the basic protections of marriage.

So we sat for an hour in nice leatherback chairs and discussed with a dude who had been up until then a complete stranger to us exactly who gets our stuff when we die (Nick Lachey!), who gets to make decisions about our health should we be come incapacitated (Tom Welling!) and who should be first in line to give us mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (James Marsden!) should we fall into an unconscious swoon. We should get a rough draft of all our documents in a week or so, which we will dutifully read during Family Guy commercials. Then we’ll sign everything in the presence of witnesses and we’ll be one fabulous party with delicious cake away from being as legally married as we possibly can.

And when my calf heals, I’ll be using my left leg to kick anyone in the face who tells people we’re somehow a “threat” to traditional marriage. Because there’s no use exacerbating an injury right at the top of training season.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ChicagoRound: angles and circles

This parking garage sits on a grassy lot at the south end of the Loop. I've always been fascinated by its pedestrian geometry of angles and parallels—they were clearly designed around the building's function as a ramp with little regard for its outer aesthetic. Its workaday blandness is jarring and ugly in juxtaposition to the soaring architecture around it ... and yet I still find it to be strangely beautiful. It's kind of like a pug at a greyhound convention:


The RedEye is a tabloid offshoot of the Chicago Tribune. Launched in 2002 (in ill-timed competition with the strikingly similar but short-lived Red Streak, a tabloid offshoot of the Chicago Sun-Times), it's written by lazy, one-source writers for lazy, one-celled readers who apparently find detailed content to be burdensome and off-putting. The RedEye's sole creative achievement is its iconic red i-shaped dispensers that stand on every other street corner in the city. The orb-like red dot on the top of each dispenser originally featured a bold white FREE on each side, but creative vandals all across Chicago have spent the last few years picking at the Fs and the Rs so that it's hard to find a dispenser today that doesn't proudly proclaim "I PEE":

Sunday, May 04, 2008

It's that time again

Time to make sure I'm in bed every Friday at a reasonable hour. Time to stock up on sunscreen and laundry detergent. Time to ask everyone I know—and don't know, for that matter—for money. Time to start blogging endlessly about my running and eating and pooping schedules. Time to start training for this year's Chicago Marathon!

After doing two marathons on my own in less than 4:30 and two marathons with the AIDS Marathon training program (which is designed just to get people across a finish line) in the 5:00+ range, I was intending to train on my own again this summer. BECAUSE I MUST BEAT FOUR HOURS. But then the AIDS Marathon developed a new advanced program for people looking to hit a specific time goal. So I'm back on board ... and slightly nervous about what's in store for me.

Our first training run started Saturday morning under bright sun and unseasonable chill ... after we first stood around filling out a ton of forms enumerating our injuries and our goals:


Then we ran three miles as fast as our little legs could carry us so we could get placed in our pace groups. I have no idea what inspired me to dress like I was auditioning for Blue's Clues: The Musical when I knew Matthew would be recording the day on his spiffy new camera:


Unfortunately, our pacing runs happened in multiple heats, and the first finishers in my group didn't stick around so we could all get to know each other. And have our picture taken for my blog. THE. NERVE. So here I am with Peter and Matthew from last year. Peter is in the group ahead of us this year, because he totally kicked our asses on Saturday. Technically, I timed in in the group behind Matthew, but I want to spend the summer coughing up my own lungs, so I promoted myself to his pace group for the summer. I will live to regret this.


The advanced training program requires that we have running watches. I don't even own a real watch because I have a slight birth defect in my wrists: abnormally large pisiforms that make wearing a watch kind of painful. But I really want to beat my 4:00 goal, so I am now the proud owner of a Garmin Forerunner® 405, which monitors my heart rate via a little thing I strap to my moobs, tracks my running distance via GPS satellites and mixes me a vodka tonic after each successful run. It's kind of expensive, but I've never bought a watch in my life, so I simply tapped into 40 years of unspent watch money to pay for it.


While I had my wallet out on Saturday, I also got a fresh pair of Brooks® Adrenaline™ GTS 8s. Benefit #271 of training for a marathon: You get to buy shoes! These shoes have been correcting my pronation and supination issues—and making my feet look huge and manly—for years. My podiatrist—who I'm pretty sure is not an employee of the Brooks company–advised me to replace my running shoes every 100 miles, so I dutifully get a new pair every every spring and every fall. According to the Brooks marketing materials, the company is constantly improving this shoe ... and giving it a new accent color every season. This season's color is yellow, which is so perfect because I totally don't have any yellow shoes yet!



So everything is in place for a fabulous summer of AIDS Marathon training: the shoes, the watch, the little strap for my moobs ... all that's left is the shameless plea for you to sponsor me. But I haven't set up my donor page yet, so you're off the hook for the time being. But take this opportunity now to find your wallet and memorize your credit card number because I'll be begging for money in the near future. You've been warned.

Friday, May 02, 2008

ChicagoRound:
Trump International Hotel and Tower

As you've probably heard, I loathe almost everything about Donald Trump and his arrogant blowhardery. But I love the shiny new so-big-it-must-be-overcompensating-for-something hotel and tower he's erecting (ahem) on Wacker Drive at the Chicago River. Scheduled to be completed in 2009, it will be the second-tallest building in Chicago (after the Sears Tower and before the AON Building and the John Hancock Center) ... until it gets trumped (ahem) by Santiago Calatrava's spectacular Chicago Spire in 2011.

The hotel, which opened on January 30, 2008, occupies the first 27 floors of Trump Tower. It is in full operation as the building still rises above it. You can see the cranes on the top of the building in this photo. That's Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1973 IBM Building (officially called 330 North Wabash) poking up in the background:


Here's a shot of the front of the Trump Tower taken next to the IBM Building, which is on the right. The structure on the left is an ugly parking garage whose ribbed metal cladding has dripped rust stains all over the sidewalk around it. Wabash Street, which runs in front of Trump Tower, is actually a bridge. I took this picture on Kinzie Street right before it runs under Wabash, so I'm actually standing a story below the first floor of Trump Tower:


Here's the entrance from the actual first floor on Wacker Drive. The squatty parking garage sits directly across the street from the entrance, so I'm not entirely sure what building you see reflected here. The front of Trump Tower does sit at an angle, so the reflection could be the condo tower just to its north:

Here's the view looking west from the cute little plaza behind the Wrigley Building. I'm assuming that funky structure near the bottom of the picture is the parking ramp entrance. You can't see it in this picture, but just to the right is a McDonald's with the coolest chairs. They're pearlescent green, and each one has a giant button in the middle of its back. I may steal a couple for our bedroom. My only complaint about the development of plaza is the stone used for the little walls along the walkways you can see in the bottom right corner. It's a beautiful polished limestone, but it doesn't match any of its surroundings: the gray concrete of the sidewalk, the sleek mirrored cladding of the Trump Tower, the blood-red brick of the McDonald's or the shiny glazed terra-cotta of the Wrigley Building: