Me, Jessi and Margo in front of the U-505, a German U-boat. It was captured by the US Navy. Quite an accomplishment, as the Germans were hellbent on sinking it themselves.
The area of town we are staying at is called River North. Unimaginably it is called that because it is just north of the Chicago River. It is also west of Michigan Ave (Magnificent Mile Shopping), but which side of the River you live on, is more important that which side of Michigan Ave you do. Recalling the opening line to Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown”, you get “On the Southside of Chicago. It’s the baddest part of town” We Jim must have been a local. I mention this because today’s trip was through the Southside of Chicago to the Hyde Park area, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Hyde Park is actually a good part of town. Just don’t venture too far. Our trip through really wasn’t bad as far as seeing crime or decay. It didn’t even look overly dirty. Parts of it, mostly where they built the new White Sox stadium, Cellular One Field, looked pretty good. But the guide books scare you and advise not to wander away from train stations after dark, and to stay with crowds. Neither were going to be a problem for us.
Anyway, we started out a , and with a long subway ride and a longer bus ride finally were in the museum at .
My wife's view of the infield. She didn't really care.
But, we had gotten a late start. I had wanted to be there 30 minutes later. I had hoped to get the first tour of the U-505 sub exhibit. We got the fifth. That ended up throwing us out of sorts for the rest of the day. Oh, well. Things don’t always go to plan. Like at about (please reference above for a guess of where we would have been at), I noticed that I didn’t have my camera. Grrrrrrrrrr. So our first stop was the gift shop for a $9.99 disposable camera. Then off to the cafeteria, because we even skipped breakfast.
We finally got to start seeing the museum at about . A full hour behind schedule, and with several youth groups competing for the Loudest and Most Annoying Medal at this year’s competition.
Me and Jessi. Really, I'm not drunk.
The Museum of Science and Industry has a lot of exhibits dealing with just that, science and industry. High on my list was the Coal Mine and the U-505 submarine. So our first stop was the U-505 as we needed a timed ticket to take the tour. The U-505 was/is a German submarine. “U” is short for Utterseeboot. Which is German for "under sea boat". If you are into World War II at all this would be some what interesting. But as a family this would be the 3rd WW II sub we have seen and 2nd we have toured. It would be old hat. But, this one had two twists. First, German WW II subs are pretty scares in the US. Mainly because those that we didn’t sink, the Germans scrapped later. Secondly, because we captured this one. Think about it. It’s combat conditions, how do you capture a sub? There are no lines of communication to the enemy.
You can’t say “OK. You guys surface, give up, and we will stop dropping these depth charges on you.” Even if you could, the sub itself had cutting edge technology. Acoustic homing torpedoes, the Enigma Coding machine, and such. German High Command gave its captains strict orders. They were to scuttle the ship. To facilitate that there were explosive charges that they could set off to sink it. So forcing to give up was just about impossible. But, out boys found a way. Using depth charges they caused enough damage to force the ship to the surface. The captain figured he could get his crew off and still sink his boat. It didn’t happen that way. The crew didn’t set off the charges, but they did open a vent that allowed water in. That came close to sinking the ship, but the captain of the group of ships attacking this sub had put together a boarding party of specialists. This particular captain was actively trying to capture a U-boat.
Those building are across the street from the stadium and have bleachers built on top of them. Cubs fans are a bit crazy.
This boarding party managed to close the vent and get the water pumped out. To make a long story short, we got it, and it ended up in Chicago. It sat outside the museum for 50 years. Nature was doing a better job of destroying the sub than her crew did. So it under went a 35 million dollar face lift, with a new inside exhibit. To me what resulted was worth the price of the ticket. It was very well done, and very educational.
By the time we got through it was about , and we had another timed ticket for the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibit. I thought it would be worth doing. I was wrong. I came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t that impressed by what he actually accomplished.
The manual scoreboard at Wrigley. It's a baseball icon.
He was without a doubt a genius. He definitely was way ahead of his time. But, after the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, name me anything he actually did. There were other painting and sculptures. If you are a student of the arts you could probably rattle them off. But with respect to the scientific accomplishments, not much. The exhibit began with a short film. It was actually a butchered version of the one on the History Channel. They condensed what I think was two hours (It might have only been one. I only got to see part of it on TV), down to 5 minutes. That was the most interesting part of the exhibit to me. The museum did a very good job. They took a number of the Di Vinci drawings from his notebooks, you know the ones you always see when they talk about him, and actually made them. You see while Leonardo had about 15,000 pages of notes and drawings, he never got around to making much of anything.
My serious face
Then when you read the descriptions, they were littered with things like “this was never built” or “this would not work” or “he could not convince anyone to buy this idea”. I never thought about him in this light. Again, genius, but my conclusion was that he needed Ritalin, so he could focus on a handful of ideas and take them to fruition.
Now it was past . We had grabbed a quick snack to tide us over, and I wanted to take care of the Coal Mine, before our final timed ticket, an IMAX film about Greece. We had the choice of that or the Tour de France. They were included in the package we bought, so we had to choose one.
Bleachers on top of buildings
But, it was off to the Coal Mine. My grandfather was killed in a coal mine accident in 1935. The descriptions I read about this said it was a real or realistic coal mine from 1933. You start by riding some type of elevator down 600 feet to reach it. Now I’m telling you what I heard and read, because we never got to see it. By the time we got there the wait was 45 minutes and the actual mine tour was 30 more. We might have just made it to our movie, even with the wait.. I was even prepared to sacrifice the movie anyway, but there was an entire youth group ahead of us. The noise and aggravation of having a couple of million kids, who morality and the law prevented you from quieting, convinced us to seek diversion elsewhere. We decided on the Chick Hatchery. It was close and featured the opportunity for us city folk (Me & Jessi, Margo spent her early days out in the country) to see a chick hatch. It can be a ten hour ordeal, but there were a couple who were in their 9th hour when we got there. After about 20 minutes or so, we got to see them flop out of their mostly broken shell. It wasn’t New Year’s fireworks, but still neat. You always pictured eggs as where breakfast comes from. It was a little weird to see an animal come out.
It was IMAX time, so we headed over to the theater. Technically this was an OMNIMAX theater. The difference is that IMAX is a very large, rectangular screen. OMNIMAX is a very large concave dome. It’s like you’re staring inside Paul Bunyan’s mixing bowl. It’s really a great effect. I highly recommend that you see a film on one. Just not this one. We lasted about 15 minutes. I have never walked out of movie in my life, but this one was free and time was much more precious even if we had paid for it. None of were interested in the archeological history of Greece. So, out we went and off to try the Coal Mine again. The line had not gone down at all. Still an 1 ¼ hours until we would be through it. That was even a little more time than we had to spend. I would have stayed until the place closed, except we had tickets to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. That happens to be #3 on my Life Goal list, so we took in a few more sights and then we were off to our hotel.
We ate dinner at the Rain Forest Café, and then grabbed the subway to the Addison stop on the Red Line. Speaking of the subway, in Chicago they call it “The El”, for Elevated Train. That is of course because the tracks don’t run underground. Or at least they didn’t use to. Most of the Red Line, which so far is the only part of the system we have been on, is underground. That’s because it’s newer, probably only 50 years old, instead of 75 or more. But, today we got to see some of the elevated portions, both going to the museum and now heading to Wrigley. Another interesting fact, both the White Sox’s stadium and the Cubs’ stadium have a stop on this same stretch of tracks. But, each team’s fans hate each other. In front of Wrigley Field there was a vendor selling a shirt that said “Suck the White Fox” and another proclaiming “never Cell-out Field. Where there are move drive-bys, then line drives” A reference to it’s location in the heart of the Southside, Leroy Brown’s old stomping ground. Wrigley is located firmly on the Northside. It’s like the Gangland Wars between Al Capone and Bugs Moran are being fought via proxy. But, we got to Wrigley and settled in our seats by the start of bottom of the first. So we missed the National Anthem. Not the end of the world, but I was looking forward to it. They were playing division rival, and the National League Champion, Houston Astros. Roy Oswalt was on the mound for Houston, and a rookie, Marmol for the Cubs. Our seats were on the field level, most of the way up, in left field foul territory. We had no shot at a foul ball. But, I enjoyed the game. I got my beer and a hot dog. I had some peanuts and got to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” As a bonus there was an Astros Fan sitting behind us. Behind him was a mercilious Cubs fan. Once the Cub fan was sufficiently lubricated, about the 3rd inning, he was on this guy the rest of the game. Once, the Astro fan just tried to make nice with the guy, by telling him what a good fan he was for his team. The guy yelled down for him to “Shut up! We hate you! Don’t try to be friends!. I thought it was kind of funny. I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I had been on that end. But I wasn’t. One other thing, Wrigley is in the heart of a business/residential district. Old buildings. There is an intersection of two streets directly behind centerfield. Waveland Ave runs along left field and Sheffield Ave along right. Most of the buildings on those streets have flat roofs. Those that do have installed their own bleachers. The owners sell their own tickets, in one manner or another, and they watch the games from there. We got a few pictures. The only adventure left was our trip back. Wrigley Field holds 41,000 people. As it was a rare night game, it was packed. Guess what, there is little parking around Wrigley. Certainly no big lot. So almost everyone uses either the bus or the subway. We left in the bottom of the eighth, as the Cubs had it sown up, 4-1, giving up just four hits, and the Astros having just three outs left. We weren’t alone. We had to skip the first train, as it was just too packed. On the second we barely got on. But better than trying to drive and park.