Saturday, March 14, 2009


About two years ago, my 16-year-old (then 14) discovered podcasts. He particularly liked the NPR News Quiz Show, "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me". I would be doing things around the house and I would hear him laughing out loud to seemingly nothing. Then I would know what he was listening to.

When I asked the kids what they wanted to do during Spring Break, they both said "Go to Chicago!" Easy enough. I love the city. If given a choice of where to live, I'd go back and forth between an apartment in the city and a place in the middle of nowhere.

When scheduling the time for us to go, I remembered that they tape "Wait Wait" in downtown Chicago on Thursday nights. I checked into tickets and when I told Jake, you would have thought I had just given him tickets to see The Beatles. Wait. Let me rephrase that. Jake doesn't outwardly show much excitement about anything. He keeps his emotions well encased in his lanky posture. It all comes out in his smile and his eyes. He was stoked. Luckily Madison had heard the show too and was mildly willing to go along. While her dream tickets would have been more along the lines of Project Runway, she did get a promise that we would shop for a dress for her next big event: The 8th Grade Graduation. *sigh*

So off we went to the big city. We had one errand to do while we were there. Jake's cello needed a new bridge and we were told there was a place right downtown that would work on it. I knew the logistics sucked for parking, so we made a plan. We found The Fine Arts Building, a very cool old place among many very cool old places.

I pulled into an alley amidst a high traffic area. Jake jumped out, grabbed the cello and headed to the instrument shop. I had given him directions to our hotel, a mile away. He's been to Chicago before along with NYC and Boston. He's interested in going to college in a big city. I wanted to give him some space to feel comfortable on his own in the midst of the city chaos.

In the meantime, Madison and I arrived at the hotel and got settled in. After a while, I got a call from Jake. He sounded invigorated, confident and cold! It was a high of only about 25 that day and, you guessed it, windy! He was already at the hotel. He'd made it without any problems and just needed the room number. When he got to the room, he was excited to tell us about the elevator in the Fine Arts Building. "It was one of those old elevators with two sets of elaborate doors and an attendant!" Cool.

After lunch, Jake wanted to check out the gigantic Border's store, while Madison and I began our search for the perfect dress. Eventually, Jake met up with us again. He wasn't impressed with the store, Forever XXI, but at least he had found something at Border's to make the time pass more quickly.


He also found this gem and couldn't help photographing it. Jake loves irony.


We ended the shopping time with a quick visit to The Art Institute. At 5:00 on Thursdays, there is no fee to get in, so a line had already formed when we arrived at 4:45pm.


The homeless are well aware of this Thursday evening opportunity and while I didn't see them inside the museum, they didn't hesitate to ask the patrons for some change. I pulled out a $5 to give to a woman collecting for the Jane Addams Hull House and another $5 fell out of my purse. I swear it was like a bunch of pigeons dropped down to get the breadcrumbs I dropped. I gave the elusive $5 to the first guy that saw it and went on my way.

There was an exhibit by Yousuf Karsh, a portrait photographer. I had heard of Annie Lebowitz, but not of Karsh. Wow. Amazing black and white photos of Churchill, Audrey Hepburn, Hemingway, Castro, Picasso, Warhol, etc.

We headed upstairs to the architectural work. Great works by Frank Lloyd Wright,

Do you see the American flag in the piece?


but also wonderful gates from doorways, artists unknown. Wouldn't you love to have this as the entrance to your home?


From the Art Institute we headed west into the Loop to the prestigious (not) Chase Auditorium for the Wait Wait show. We were told to stand in a holding area until the auditorium doors were open. So there we were standing among other NPR geeks like ourselves. It was a well-behaved, orderly group.


As our 'wait' time passed and the group grew larger, what amused me was this: We had been told to stand in a serpentine line. Imagine the rope lines at the movie theater or at a theme park. Now....take away the rope lines. Never before had I been asked to stand in a serpentine line without the rope. And never would I have expected people to actually heed the rules that the rope line insists you follow. It became even more hilarious to me after the doors opened, because the group of approximately 500 people actually walked in a serpentine even though there were no rope lines. Would a group of people going to see Rush Limbaugh have followed the invisible rope line? These are questions a philosophy major asks. Welcome to my messed-up mind.

Once inside the Chase Auditorium, we found good seats near the front. They had music piped in for us to listen to while we waited for the show to start. Whoever makes the soundtrack is brilliant. It was a bit like walking past six different dorm rooms in 1979. We heard Air Supply, Supertramp, Lyle Lovett, and The Who playing everyone's favorite, "Squeezebox".

I looked around and got a good assessment of the group sitting close-by. In the midst of an inspiring amount of grey hair, sat a fur-wearing redhead looking horribly uncomfortable. By the end of the show, she seemed to lighten up and even enjoy herself a bit.

I won't go into details about the taping of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, because if you haven't ever heard it, you would find my description of it exceedingly dull. If you are a fan, you'll be delighted to know that they introduce Peter Segel, Carl Kasell and the panelists Chicago Bulls style. Remember the stadium going dark, then the colored strobe lights with the Alan Parsons Project music? Do the Chicago Bulls still use that introduction? Or did that go out with Michael Jordan? Anyway, all the panelists on Wait, Wait are just as geeky in person, Paula Poundstone especially. Carl Kasell is very tall and they all stand around after the show ready and willing to chat and sign autographs. They have a merch table where I could have picked up the Wait Wait Commemmorative Plate (yes, really) or the Bowling Shirt with the name 'Carl' embroidered on the pocket. I am an NPR geek. It's official now.

The next day we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some very cool exhibits that I couldn't take pictures of. But I did sneak this one. Sorry for the bad...err..cloudy quality. I took it on my phone. Imagine this covering an entire wall.


Onward through and out of the city to drop Jake off at his debate tournament. (No spectators allowed, hmph) Madison and I headed over to what we later deemed The Cave of Capitalism, but is better known as Woodfield Mall. While the city is filled with diversity ranging from the uber-wealthy to the high-fashion to the artsy-fartsy, Woodfield is filled with ummmmmm....errr.....I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was depressing. It was the young girls trying to look grown-up. It was the aging women trying to look young. But after a few hours, we found our exit and stepped outside into the sunshine. We found ourselves gasping for air. Yes! We made it out of the Perfumed Corridors of Barbie Hell. I was relieved to know that Madison was as anxious to leave as I was. After we settled in at home, she suggested we watch Little Miss Sunshine. When the family arrives at the hotel in Redondo Beach and gets a load of the miniature barbie dolls, I yelled out "That! That is Woodfield Mall!" Madison laughed in agreement.

God, I love my kids.