Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chicago's Millennium Park

Due to Thanksgiving and other generalized laziness, I have not been so great about blogging. So forgive the lag in my entries. As I last wrote, we were in Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving, and I still have some cool photos, so I'll pick up where I left off.

When I was working on the downtown L.A. revitalization, I was involved with the planning and development of a 3-decades-in-the-making, it's-gonna-be-L.A.'s-Champs-Elysee development called Grand Avenue. All the while, the developers kept referring to Chicago's Millennium Park as their model because it was just sooooooo great. With all that talk, and the fact that hardly anyone seemed to have actually experienced the mythical "Millennium Park," I figured it must actually be quite lame.

No so, my friend. If you ever get to Chicago, Millennium Park is not to be missed. The giant bean-looking thing above must be 30 feet tall (the impression on the underside alone is like 10 feet tall) and is hands-down the most impressive sculpture I've ever seen. It took over a year to polish the steel to that kind of fun-house mirror finish and the thing, formally called "Cloud Gate" but colloquially known as the Bean, is something that literally looks different every time you look at it, and from every different perspective. It's just ridiculous gravy on top that it reflects Chicago's incredible architectural skyline and blue skies.

The other photo is of one of these giant glass-block-covered video screens- 2 of these face each other- that are also like 40 feet tall. The best part- and you can't see it in the photo- is that the screens have a spout at the mouth level so it looks like the faces are spewing water out onto the concourse, where people can frolic. Un-freaking-believable park. And I haven't even mentioned the ice skating rink or the 6,000 person outdoor amphiteather.

OK, so where am I going here? You know that I couldn't step 10 paces into the park without being knocked over by the fact that there were NO homeless people anywhere to be found. I flagged down a roving park security guard who drives, get this a SEGWAY! (soooo "millennial") and asked him where all the homeless people were. How do you manage to have NONE?

The strapping, cute young white guy- who stood about 7 1/2 feet tall on top of the Segway- when pressed replied, "Well we don't beat them up or anything. I mean, it's a public park and all!" To which I had to explain that No, I was not looking for his military tactics at bruising the poor to keep them out. I just meant that, well, I was from L.A. and we have them in every public park you can find . . . was the secret in keeping the park well-programmed so there are always lots of "regular" folks in there . . . ah, forget it, I had already horrified the fresh faced young guy with what he thought I was suggesting . . .

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