Saturday, 1 September 2012

Day 3: All the learnings!

The jetlag appears to have subsided: this morning we rose at the nicely holiday-appropriate time of 8am. It seems wrong for me to have been in America for two days without having had pancakes, so that situation was swiftly remedied. Pancakes are one of my favourite things about America. Unfortunately, balancing out the carb-laden awesomeness was one of my least-favourite things about America. If any Americans read this, please, I beg you, if someone asks you for tea, do not serve them a cup of hot water and a still-wrapped tea bag. The number of ways in which this is unacceptable and wrong could fill a blog by itself, but I digress. On the bright side, at least the tea wasn't Lipton.

After blowing off the morning to get manicures and pedicures, we returned to the convention. So far, I have to say that the only thing Chicon has going for it is the fact that it's in Chicago. Teaching kids about rockets yesterday was fun - as was the planetarium of course, which I guess was technically on the con programme - but today I only felt inspired to go to one programme item, and that was disappointingly bland. We did wander around the dealers' room, but it's hard to muster the same excitement about obscure books that we used to when everything under the sun is available on Amazon. Also not helping our impression of this con is the fact that the recent blow-up in British fandom about gender parity doesn't appear to have crossed the Atlantic; in just a couple of hours of milling around the con, I overheard no less than four separate conversations bemoaning the dominance of white men on panels.

Fortunately, the convention wasn't the only (or in the end even primary) reason for the trip, and even if it was then Chicago has turned out to be worth the cost of the flight by itself.

There didn't seem to be much on this evening anyway, so we decided to take the Chicago Architecture Foundation's boat tour, which had come highly recommended. It's pretty pricey (about $45) but for that you get 90 minutes with a very informed guide, so it was well worth the investment.

A rocket, cunningly disguised as a building

Some cool things we learned:
  1. That Chicago once burned down, just like London
  2. That the flow of the Chicago River was deliberately reversed to stop it polluting the drinking water in Lake Michigan (this was news to me, anyway)
  3. What an "Art Deco" building is (hey, I've never pretended to know a thing about architecture, or anything designy for that matter)
  4. That those stolen rocks we saw yesterday were brought back (read: nicked) by reporters for the Chicago Tribune
  5. Chicago doesn't appear to be as big as we had assumed it was
We also got to see some of the things we're going to be doing in the next few days. This is the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower:

See those slightly bumpy bits sticking out of the top? That's the Skydeck, the transparent-floored capsule thingys we'll be braving before we head out.

And this is where our adventure west will begin, at the start of the original Route 66:

We also learned one disappointing thing: that amazing car park we saw on the first day? Apparently it's strictly valet parking only, which I guess explains why there isn't a pile of broken cars on the street. Alas, this has shattered my illusions about the mad parking skills of Chicago residents.


  1. Ah, pancakes! I imagine the authentic ones are better than the ones served up in Giraffe! :)

    Sorry Worldcon is proving to be less than hoped, but I'm glad you've got plenty to do in Chicago. The boat tour sounded fun and I imagine the evenings are warm at the moment, which would have made it a pleasant experience even without the guide. Did they mention that the city's name is from a French version of the native American word "shikaakwa" which means 'stinky onion'? :) Because the juvenile is still strong in me, whenever I'm reminded of this fact I want to snigger a bit! :)

    As for your visit to the Skydeck - please take a photo! You're far, far braver than me - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do it. :-/

  2. Sorry the con's turned out so disappointing, but I'm glad you've found lots of other great things to do.

    The last time I was in the Sears tower I think I was about 12, and they didn't have those sky-pod things, which I think I'm glad for. I definitely wouldn't be able to do one of those (some combination of acro/basophobia makes me and glass floors a bad combination).