Tag Archives: The Pier

in which the countdown clock ticks onward

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“Family killed by pigeons. Need bb gun for revenge.”

Today, I got to spend the day with the lovely family of my best friend 14! They came to see the live show last night, and then visited the office and took me out to lunch today. It was, in a word, lovely. The only thing missing was 14.

I was fairly proud of how well I steered them through the city, though when you consider the fact that everything we went to was either on the Pier or on Michigan Ave, it’s far less impressive. Next week, my tour guide skills will be truly put to the test when my friend Sondheim comes to visit.

My time here in Chicago is winding down. As soon as I settle in, and am able to tell the difference between Wacker and Wabash, I am leaving. With two weeks left on the clock, I have begun to mentally brace myself for routine to become memory. I experienced the same phenomenon when I moved home from England – it is the transformation from ordinary to exceptional, simply because it is no longer available. I love Chicago. I have loved Chicago almost from the moment I arrived. There are so many things I will miss about this city. Even the things I hate – the abundance of revolving doors, the preposterously daring pigeons, the insane bikers, the aggressive pedestrians, the alarmingly high murder rate, the way the city always smells like hot dogs – I will sort of pine for.  I don’t think there will ever be a time that I don’t miss this city.

So I’m not really certain what the point of this is. Just to say that the Chicago chapter of my life is closing, and yet I still don’t know which way is north. But there are more important things to know about a city.

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in which i explore the turf of a masked vigilante

I’m pleased to report that tonight, I, along with thousands of other fans across the city, will be donning my cape and bullet proof armor and lining up to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. Though I’m not really a Batman fangirl, per say, or a comic book fan at all, I am a Chris Nolan admirer, and I just have a general policy of supporting all the nerdcentric events that I can. It’s nice to be among your people.

I also feel an increased kinship to Batman because I recently learned that Nolan’s re-imagined trilogy was filmed right here in Chi-town. Seems appropriate, that the US city with the highest murder-per-capita rate should double for the crime-ridden stink hole that is Gotham.

I learned that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight1 were filmed here probably the second day I was in Chicago2, but I assumed that I myself would never cross paths with the locations for the film. I assumed I would have to go looking for them, something that I didn’t really have time to do, even though few things give me greater pleasure than standing where movies were filmed. Then yesterday, after a long discussion at work about how to talk about Batman in the show, I decided to look up shooting locations for Dark Knight in Chicago. Turns out, they filmed most of the movie in places I walk by every single day. If I had been here just a few years earlier, I might have been plowed down by the Batmoblie as I crossed the street to work.

So, in honor of the opening of the Dark Knight Rises tonight3, let’s take a little tour of filming locations from its predecessor, The Dark Knight, around my apartment. Let me emphasize that all of these places are on my walk to work.

1. Lower Wacker Drive. Wacker is a street within a street, much like Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play. There is the above ground street, and then there is a lower level on which people can drive, but it is creepy and tunnel like, with lots of iron pillars holding up the top half of this street sandwich.

In normal life, as I pass by it along the river, it looks like this:

Though in the past, it looked like this:

Yes, this is the very street where semitruck riding Heath Ledger chases down half-eaten face man4  and then Bruce Wayne goes plowing through on the Batcycle5 in an attempt to save him.

2. The Chicago Theatre. Last week, it hosted Nikki Minaj6. A few years ago, it was supposed to host the royal Moscow Ballet, and Maggie Gyllenhaall was going to attend with creepy half-face man, but unfortunately, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne decided to run off with the entire company. Man, he ruins everything!

3. Hotel 71. Normal hotel on the outside.

Inside, it was the shooting location for the Wayne penthouse. Ya know, for the view.

Swanky.

4. Navy Pier. Ah, my very stomping grounds! And here I thought it was nothing more than a tourist trap with the “Wait, Wait” office tucked in. This is my view from work:

This is also where ferries full of people were transported out of Gotham, then stranded in the middle of the harbor and told they had to blow each other up. Somehow they neglected to get the ferris wheel and children’s museum in the shot.

5. Monroe and LaSalle. I don’t usually go here, but funny, I was this morning on an errand.

This is the exact spot where this happens.

And then they fight!

LaSalle is also where the funeral procession for…er….someone happens. I wanted to say Gary Oldman, but he doesn’t die….he does get shot though. Spoiler alert!

There’s plenty of other places – the Chicago Post Office was the bank the Joker robs, and the hospital that gets blown up is here too – these are just the ones I pass on my way to work.

And, I would be remiss if I did not include Batman, perched on the Sears Tower, surveying his city. My city. Our city.

It’s okay, Batman. We can share.

“When Chicago is ashes….you have my permission to move to Boston.”

  1. And I’m assuming Dark Knight Rises as well.
  2. my friend Ms. Bennet shared with me the experience of working at a theatre in the city that doubled at the theatre where Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed in the first film. She said it was an interesting experience, working in a theatre whose facade was completely redesigned to read Gotham Playhouse and look all creepy.
  3. And then my subsequent battle to stay awake at work tomorrow after staying up all night watching it,
  4. I am obviously very familiar with the Batman canon.
  5. That’s a thing, right?
  6. Pardon me while I throw up in my mouth.
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in which i give what sound like made-up directions, and take the wrong stairs.

If I was to describe to you my walk to work, you would probably think that I was giving you directions to the setting of a children’s fantasy novel, or laying out an absurd practical joke of which you were about to fall victim.

The location of the WBEZ office, which headquarters both NPR in Chicago (which I work for) and one of Chicago’s premier public radio stations, is in an incredibly bizarre location for such a professional establishment. It is located near the end of Navy Pier, also known as Chicago’s best tourist trap, where the thrills are cheap, and the food is not1.

If I were giving you directions to get to the WBEZ office, it would include real instructions such as “As you walk along the pier, go past the House of Mirrors, past the pirate ship, turn left at The Billy Goats Tavern, and if you hit the lighthouse, you’ve gone too far.”

Really. It’s the most unlikely place for a public radio station to be located2.

Once inside, the WBEZ building is not a particularly complex one. But I’ve never been good with directions. Today, I won a small victory when I managed to find the mail room all by myself after only being shown where it was twice, and discovered a new secret door out onto the roof terrace3.

So I was feeling rather confident when I decided to try a new set of stairs down from the third floor. I was also feeling rather good about these stairs because I took them yesterday when our staff went in mass together down to catch a cab to the Chase Bank Auditorium, where we do our weekly live shows.

But, as you may have guessed from the fact that I am writing about it, and I only write about things with a good story attached, the stairs I ended up on were not the same stairs as I took yesterday.

On these stairs, there was a sign on the door saying, “WARNING4  NO REENTRANCE.” Which I thought was odd, but progressed anyways. Only to find that these really weren’t stairs, it was instead a really short ramp thing, next to three stairs that clearly did not lead to another floor, and then another ominous white door with a little window, like something out of mental institution. Just as I realized I had made a grave error, I heard the no reentrance door shut behind me, and lock. Trapped.

Cautiously, unsure what I would find on the other side but mostly panicking that it was also locked, I ventured down the ramp and towards the white door. On the other side, I found what looked like the inside of a conference center, with tall ceilings and carpets that brought to mind the print of my bedroom curtains in England5. The whole room was very nice and spanking clean and had velvet ropes over the doors, clearly signifying that this was not somewhere I was supposed to be.

I wandered the halls for a while, clinging to exit signs when I saw them and praying not to run into security guards. The whole place was eerily still, and I felt myself subconsciously begin to tiptoe.

Eventually I found my way out. I still am not entirely sure where I ended up, other than I finally came out in the seating area of a very expensive restaurant6.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and fled back on to the main thoroughfare, vowing to never again to stray from the path that I knew well.

  1. Seriously, everything on the McDonald’s dollar menu costs two.
  2. It’s also just a few buildings down from a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and yesterday I watched a man vigorously try to get his son to eat there instead of McDonald’s. The son was seven, and totally not buying it.
  3. Which overlooks the lake and oh my lanta it is a view that a landlocked kid from Utah will never grow tired of.
  4. Always a bad way for a sign to start
  5. For those of you who didn’t follow my adventures in England, these curtains were barftastic.
  6. But is there really any other kind on the Pier?
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