Sunday, September 17, 2017
06:44 Good morning —
Every other Sunday we will be park-hopping around the city documenting its myriad examples of green spaces. We will explore everything from tiny playlots and pocket beaches to urban farms and the crown jewels of the district and on to the far future pavilions for viewing the Andromeda-Milky Way galactic collision.
As carless Chicagoans, we will also use this opportunity to check out the city’s non-vehicular transit infrastructure. We will pedal down bike lanes and trails, hop on buses and trains, definitely use our own two feet, and perhaps flag down a canoe or convince strangers to give us piggyback rides.
En route to starting point —
07:52 START —
On today’s broad — cast we’ll be exploring two South Side parks: Washington and Jackson Parks. Midway Plaisance Park, which connects the two, is reserved for another time. Because the two are such large parks — they total 910 acres, per Chicago Park District — compare that with Central Park’s 843 acres, per Wikipedia — we’ll only do a full whirligig at Washington Park. At Jackson Park, we’ll concentrate mostly on the parcel land grabbed for the Obama Presidential Center.
In fact, today’s leitmotif will be the Obamas. In piecing together a sort of spatial biography, we will be making stops at some of the places along our route associated with 44 and Michelle Obama. And the first such stop is where we START: Whitney Young Magnet High School, Mrs. Obama’s secondary alma mater. Behind Olmsted One is the school’s greenhouse.
07:59 Let’s go —
A reminder to our readers — listeners — watchers that a huge part of CCHHIICCAAGGOOSS is all about the city’s non-vehicular transportation infrastructure. Hence, the following detailed description of our route:
From the greenhouse, it’s a half-block walk to Jackson Boulevard and Loomis Street. On Loomis, we’ll head due south to Harrison Street on its buffered bike lanes — then due east to Wabash Avenue on its buffered bike lanes — then due south to 18th Street on its combination bike lanes and marked shared lanes — then due east to Calumet Avenue on its marked shared lanes — then due south to where Cermark Road turns into Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
From this intersection of Calumet—Cermak—King to the I-55 underpass is the only section of our route to Washington Park without a bike lane — a two-block desert through the campus of McCormick Place. We might walk it. Past the underpass, it’ll be a straight 3 miler down King Drive all the way south to Washington Park.
08:09 Route Marker: Harrison Street —
On our favorite bike lane: leafy, smooth, quiet, no parked cars and a continuous, direct route to downtown and lakefront from our neck of the woods. Acting as sign posts on this route are the Brutalist monolith of Walter Netsch’s University Hall and the Art Deco monolith of the Old Main Post Office.
08:39 Offshoot: Grant Park —
At the intersection of Harrison and Wabash. A block away is Grant Park, the site of Obama’s 2008 Election Night celebrations. Since our route doesn’t take us any closer, we only get a tiny sliver of a view. Just like a memory constricted by a diverging present.
09:24 Route Marker: Wabash Avenue
09:31 Offshoot: McCormick Place —
Walking our bikes through McCormick Place. Just remembered that this was the site of Obama’s 2012 Election Night celebrations. Parks are where Hope gets birthed. At mega malls are where it comes to bunker itself from disappointments.
[Postscript: The American Society of Pediatrics was holding their annual national conference and expo in one of the buildings. Outside was a small band of anti-vaccine and anti-circumcision protestors. Many of the men protesting wore all white with bright, circular red stains on their crotches. “FORESKIN IS NOT A BIRTH DEFECT,” one sign said.]
09:53 Offshoot: Monument to the Great Northern Migration —
At the gateway to Bronzeville, the Black Metropolis, is the Monument to the Great Northern Migration, commemorating one of the seismic events in Chicago’s history — the movement of millions of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north — which brought some of Michelle Obama’s ancestors to the city.
[Postscript: By Alison Saar. The man depicted is oriented northward and wears clothing that appears to be made from worn out soles of shoes.]
10:02 Route Marker: Martin Luther King Jr. Drive —
Radio silence for a bit as we navigate our way down the superlinearity of King Drive, passing through first the Prairie Shores apartment tower complex. And breakfast. We’ll return at Washington Park.
11:22 Offshoot: Arts Block —
We have set up temporary base camp at the Currency Exchange Café at Theaster Gates’s Arts Block, besides the Garfield station of the Green Line. Half a block to the east is Washington Park.
11:36 WHIRLIGIG #1a: Washington Park —
Because of the weather forecast and the mammoth size of today’s parks, we undertook this whirligig in advance over several days, though written as one visit. After breakfast, there will be a second whirligig to patch a few things here and there.
Resuming our broad — cast at our next temporary base camp at the South Shore Cultural Center.
16:04 WHIRLIGIG #1b: Washington Park —
Our post-breakfast walk was perfumed with pulverized earth, jock straps drying on the grass and barbecue — and soundtracked by Michael Jackson and exuberant cheers in Spanish and Hindi/Urdu.
16:09 Offshoot: Reva and David Logan Center for Arts —
A closer look of the Neo-Neo-Gothic tower of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, lead architects of the future Obama Presidential Center. One wonders how this affected the Obamas in their selection of the duo. It’s imposing with an affectation of transparency and accessibility.
16:15 Offshoot: University of Chicago Law Quadrangle —
A view towards the University of Chicago Law Quadrangle, where Obama taught constitutional law. Designed by Eero Saarinen with landscapes by Dan Kiley, divine what you will on its effects on Obama’s spatial biography.
[Postscript: A twitter reply regarding Dan Kiley’s contribution to the law quadrangle.]
We did what we came here for at our current temporary base camp. So decamping and going to set up at our next base camp — the nearest Whole Foods.
Resuming broad — cast —
18:20 WHIRLIGIG #2: Jackson Park Perennial Garden —
Both in the first released site plan of the Obama Presidential Center (May 2017) and its updated version (August 2017), the site of the Jackson Park Perennial Garden is reserved for a circular water basin.
21:13 WHIRLIGIG #3: The Jackson Park Site of the Future Obama Presidential Center —
(In Which A Model Of The Obama Presidential Center’s Museum Building Is Made Out Of Jackson Park Above Which It Will Stand)
That’s a wrap of the parks, but we have a couple more Obama-related sites in the vicinity —
21:26 Offshoot: South Shore Cultural Center —
Posh carpeting at the South Shore Cultural Center, the site of the Obamas wedding reception. This is all we’re posting today, because we’d like to reserve the park for future broad — casts.
21:47 Offshoot: Obama Family House in Kenwood —
Last Saturday, we joined the Slow Roll through Bronzeville. After doing a loop — de — loop through the historic neighborhood, we segued to Kenwood, snaked through the Secret Service barricades, which were not manned by even a single (visible) Secret Service agent or security force, and rolled on by the Obama Family house on Greenwood Avenue.
22:02 Offshoot: Obama Family House on the Lakefront —
Only recently did we learn — to our great surprise — that the Obamas had only lived at their current Kenwood house for three years when he became 44. And that for much of their time in Chicago as a married couple, they lived much closer to the lakefront — in fact, ON the lakefront, right on the edge of Burnham Park. A short walk away is Promontory Point.
22:30 Offshoot: 41.827957, -87.600216 —
We were told that the photo below of Barack and Michelle Obama on the lakefront looking towards the skyline was taken in 2012, but remembered seeing it for the first time at the twilight of his presidency, as one of the splash images on their then recently debuted Obama Foundation website.
At the twilight of today’s broad — cast — a literal twilight — post-twilight, while heading home to complete it, we took a photo of the same stretch of lakefront and the skyline.
22:36 And that’s a wrap —
Stay tuned in a fortnight’s time for more whirligigs and loop-de-loops through the Chicago Park District.
[Postscript: Below is a simplified map of our stops and route. Only use this as a general reference guide to plan your own outings, NOT for point-by-point directions.]