Saturday, September 26, 2015

September 25, 2015 Las Vegas...Life is Beautiful Festival

Since I was on call last night, I only got 3 hours of sleep before heading to Las Vegas this morning. We met my brother, George and his friend Manny, while checking in to the hotel. We had lunch at Triple George down the street and then slept for a few hours. Then Chrissy and I headed to the Life is Beautiful festival on the streets of Downtown Las Vegas.

Since this is an Art, Food and Music festival, there is plenty to see while walking from stage to stage. Here's a meerkat art installation on the side of a bus...

...of course my zookeeper wife recognized the meerkats right away. 

A little message from the Hydrant Club. Our dogs would love this dog park.

One of the most famous dogs in the world...punked out a little bit.

We wandered around the festival grounds on a very hot evening...which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be...because like everyone says...IT'S A DRY HEAT.

This festival and it's organizers are trying to revitalize the downtown neighborhood which has a lot of empty buildings and vacant lots...which provide great places for some street art. 

It looks like we will have a great view of Sunday nights supermoon eclipse.

We got up close for our first band of the festival...Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

They put on a great show. The singer was in the crowd several times during the set. The crowd sang and danced along to all the songs while the large band followed the singer Alex Ebert's many orchestration changes. This was a fun show with great music that blended many influences. After their set, I was so full of energy...I no longer doubted that I would last until the end of Stevie Wonder's set at 1 am. We caught some reggae music by Rebelution on our way to find something to eat for dinner.

At 9:30 pm it was still 93 degrees. So after grabbing a Biloxi buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and some Korean Tacos w/ sweet soy onions and cilantro, we cooled off with Mai Tai...Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum with Bols Orange Curacao, Fresh Lime & Giffard Orgeat. Very tasty and really hit the spot.

Stage backdrop while roadies set up the stage.

I really enjoyed the Irish soul music of Hozier but we left before his set ended to catch 21 Pilots because I missed their set at Lollapalooza and heard they put on a great show.

A little message to let you know Snoop Dogg is playing here Saturday.
21 Pilots were energetic and fun. We were way in the back and the sound was great. This festival definitely does sound better than Lolla and Riot Fest. It was now time to see a true musical legend, so we decided another cold drink was in order...Born on the Bayou...Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb Liqueur, Rhum Clement Select Barrel with fresh lemon and mango tea...Life is beautiful with tasty alcohol.

Stevie Wonder lived up to all expectations of mine. The music, the incredible songs, amazing musicians, the showmanship, the humor, the love, the dancing, the huge crowd singing along and the messages about changing the all added up to a near out of body musical times the chills up my spine lasted for minutes...other times I just closed my eyes and let the power of the music cause me to float away in my own mind. Another mind blowing musical experience for me at a perfectly named festival.

Stevie gave every musician a chance in the spotlight...they definitely deserved it because the band was amazingly talented. But the highlight was when he challenged each of the five background singers to out sing him...which every one of them did in their own way...listening to people who can sing like that sent chills up and down my spine each time...Stevie just laughed as each one upstaged him and stole the show...a true musical legend.

We ended our very long day at Pizza Rock for a real NYC slice and a Mexican Coke. Then went to bed 24 hours after waking up this morning.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7, 2015 Labor Day & Steelworkers Park

The dogs and I started our day a Calumet Park on Chicago's South Side. We took a dip in Lake Michigan to cool down on an already very warm and humid morning.

Oslo looking through a window on the steel breakwall to see the rest of Lake Michigan.

We relaxed on the hill next to the Coast Guard station because there was a cool breeze blowing off the lake. Then we headed to a new park I noticed while driving down the newest section of Lake Shore Drive. I only saw the entrance and I knew it was on the old US Steel South Works property. I also knew that there is a grand plan to build a new neighborhood here but I haven't heard much lately about the progress of that plan. I did see a sign for a future Mariano's Supermarket at the entrance to the park. Which seems strange because there are no residential areas anywhere near here. So I drove into the park.

This is the first sign I saw after parking my car. It lays out the plan to redevelop this as Chicago's newest and most ecologically efficient neighborhood. My first thought was cynical...this will be a place for rich people.

Just past that was a bench with a somewhat less majestic sign. This was when I found out that this was called Steelworkers Memorial Park. Today being Labor Day, I figured it had to be more than an accidental happenstance that I decided to check this place out today.
This statue greeted me as I entered the park. A tribute to all those immigrants and Chicagoans who worked at the steel plants located here for well over 100 years.

Now I am feeling better about my trip here. I am a strong believer in the labor movement's history in this country. The union jobs at this south side mill created a middle class neighborhood here in the first half of the 1900's. When those jobs were taken away, the people who prospered by those jobs moved away and the neighborhood's economy disappeared with those good jobs. A story that occurred all over this country but especially here in the midwest "Rust Belt" the factories that built this country and won two world wars closed during the 1970's and Eighties. Yes, these are the thoughts going through my head as I wandered around the park.

I have always had a ton of respect for what Daniel Burnham did for the people of Chicago...all the people, not just the wealthy ones.

You rarely hear anyone make statements like this anymore. Maybe that is exactly what is wrong with this country nowadays. The time has come for our voices to be heard by the politicians, the people who make land development deals behind closed doors without any public input and the banks that supply the money to both of them. The attack on the middle class during this century has been amazing to me. It used to surprise me that working class people would vote for anti union politicians. Anyone that knows the true version of American history, should already understand that access to good paying jobs is what made the United States of America a great country. It was wave after wave of poor immigrants looking for a better life and finding one through working hard and fighting for workers rights to collective bargaining, 8 hours a day & 40 hour work weeks, vacation pay, worker's safety and overtime pay. Now I wonder why so many people are so quick to give that all back to those currently in charge. I refuse to forget all the battles my immigrant ancestors fought so I could have all the things they dreamed about. And I am disgusted by all those people who have forgotten the unbelievable conditions our ancestors were forced to work under. This is what I am thinking about as I walk through this park on Labor Day.  

The park was almost empty during my time here. I did exchange pleasantries with an older man that walked by and said hello to a younger lady jogging in the park.

A construction barge on Lake Michigan.

Nola always checking the tall grass for squirrels. There were a ton of grasshoppers and they were not shy about jumping onto the dogs. At one point, it looked like Nola was trying to swat them away from her face. It made me laugh as she jumped up to swing her paw in front of her face.

The signs were very interesting. I hope all this does get built. I also hope that everyone can afford to live here whenever it is completed. I was happy to see that park land is an important part of this new plan.

In order to get a natural area to grow on an old steel mill site, this area was covered with a layer of river sludge. 
It must be working because there were several signs of beauty returning to this area.

As much as I love open park lands, I also love repurposing America's industrial past. The last time I was in the South Works plant was in the late eighties or early nineties. We had a call to work on a gas pump here for one of the demolition companies. It was an extremely foggy morning and you really could not see 10 feet in from of you. At one point, I got out and walked ahead of  my boss's van just to make sure we didn't drive into the lake. I remember being mad because I wanted to see what this incredible place looked like on the inside. So as I walked toward the remains of the ore walls, the historical importance of this place was overwhelming to me. Depending on where you read about South Works, as many as 20,000 or possibly 30,000 worked here at it's production peak. So how many worked here over 100 years of operation. And how many buildings and bridges have I seen that were built with steel from this place. Yes, the history geek in me was excited to be walking on this ground.

I read later that this structure was a half mile long. It was where the iron ore was off loaded from barges and ships traveling on the Great Lakes.

Mother nature has reclaimed the land without human help here too.

Oslo & Nola looking to go for a swim again.

Lots of warning signs about trespassing, climbing and fishing. All of them with the development company and US Steel listed as property owners. This is the largest undeveloped parcel of land in the city of Chicago. 

I had to keep these two away from the edge, they kept looking down like they were gonna jump in.

These were the only structures I saw that were still partially standing.

I took this on the way out because the sun was right behind it on the way in. It is an interesting tribute to those that worked here. 

These signs were out in the parking lot. They are worth reading. If you click on the picture it will reopen full size.

This is part of the above sign. It glosses over many contributing factors to the closing of the steel mill but maybe that is left to history. My only problem with that is...

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill

...I think we are repeating it now.