Author: Heather

I love travel, ballet, cats and my hometown of NYC.

Flight Patterns

When I was in Chicago this weekend, I spent an hour at the Art Institute. Though that short amount of time didn’t allow me to see everything, I was able to explore most of the gorgeous modern wing, as well as two special exhibits: “Fashioning the Object: Bless, Boudicca, Sandra Backlund”В and “Rethinking Typologies: Architecture and Design from the Permanent Collection.”В They were both beautifully done, but one piece from the latter really wowed me.

“Flight Patterns” is an animated rendering of air traffic patterns over North America during one day (August 12, 2008). To create it, artist Aaron Koblin parsed FAA data and charted the courses of 205,000 different planes; the colors correspond to the type of aircraft model.

The resulting video is both beautiful and mesmerizing. The individual flight paths converge until they form a rough outline of the United States. Within that, you can see various hubs–like NYC, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles–light up as more of the traffic passes through them. I eventually had to tear myself away from the piece because I could have watched it for hours.

Watching the video at home isn’t the same as seeing it on a larger, gallery screen, but you can get the idea:

(Photo via The Art Institute of Chicago, video via Aaron Koblin)

A Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I went to Chicago to visit my good friend Lindsay, who moved there a few years ago. Even though I got in late Friday night and left Sunday afternoon, I still managed to see/do/eat a ton. Lindsay was a fabulous host and planned a great weekend–we really packed in as much as we could for my very first trip to the Windy City!

Lindsay lives at the intersection of two great neighborhoods–Old Town and Gold Coast–and is just a few minutes from the lake. So on Saturday morning, I woke up early and went for a run along the Lake Trail. It was chilly but sunny and I was excited to see so many other runners out. I thought Boston was a big running city, but it’s got nothing on Chicago–I’ve never seen so many runners out at once.

I planned to go for a short jog, but ended up running about 5 miles from North Avenue to a little past Belmont Harbor. The scenery was so pretty that I didn’t want to stop, not even to take pictures. I did manage to snap these few, though:

Afterwards, Lindsay and I walked south through the Gold Coast. Her neighborhood is so pretty–lots of stately old houses, leafy green trees and tulips blooming along the sidewalk.

We made our way to North Michigan Avenue, which is basically Chicago’s Fifth Avenue. Once we reached the downtown area, Lindsay headed back and I continued on.

Before going to Millennium Park, I inhaled a few tacos at Frontera Fresco (I figured I might as well try Rick Bayless’ Macy’s outpost since I didn’t have a res at the actualВ Frontera!) and made a cupcake pitstop at the super-cute Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique for a red velvet fix. (Yum!)В 

Millennium Park is just as cool as it looks in photos. Thanks to the nice weather, lots of other people were out photographing themselves at Cloud Gate

…and scoping out the animated Crowd Fountain faces.

I spent some time admiring the tulips (they were blooming all over the city!)…

…and chillaxin’ in the Lurie Garden.

Then I headed into the Art Institute to explore the gorgeous modern wing and some special exhibits.

I met Lindsay in the West Loop for dinner. The industrial area has a hip, up-and-coming vibe that kind of reminds me of Williamsburg–except without swarms of hipsters. We had dinner at The Publican, a fairly new restaurant that focuses on beer, pork and seafood. (Um, how can you go wrong with that?) The space was designed with a beer hall in mind, so there’s lots of natural wood and large, communal tables.

We ordered a few small plates. My favorite was squid with farro, oranges, cheese and chorizo vinaigrette.

We topped off the evening with drinks at Maude’s, a cocktail bar with a retro vibe. (Slightly blurry photo–I’m still getting used to using my new camera in low light!)

Next morning, we walked through Lincoln Park to Floriole Bakery and Cafe, one of Lindsay’s favorire daytime spots. I can certainly see why she frequents it–I’m already planning to try to replicate the bacon and arugula sandwich I had there.

On the way back to the Gold Coast, we stopped at the Lincoln Park Nature Boardwalk. Check out the amazing view of the skyline!В 

Of course I couldn’t leave Chicago without having deep dish. So before I boarded the bus for the airport, Lindsay and I had an early dinner at Lou Malnati’s. The local chain’s Gold Coast location has a nice seating area with comfy chairs looking out onto the street and we were lucky to snag window seats. (Especially since all the pies are made to order and take at least a half hour.)

The pizza was exactly how I’d hoped it would be–thick and bready with a crispy crust and a fresh tomato sauce. I inhaled two slices. (And now that I’m writing this, I wish there was a good deep dish place in NYC!)

It’s a good thing I had that pizza, because my flight home was a bit of a disaster. It was delayed, due to bad weather in NYC. And when the pilot attempted to land at LGA, the wind made him overshoot the runway–which we skimmed before taking off again so we “didn’t end up in the water.” We ended up flying to Philly, refueling there, then turning around and flying back to LGA. I got home at 3 a.m.

But that was the only dark spot on the weekend. Thanks again, Linds, for being such an awesome host–can’t wait for my next trip out there or your next jaunt out east!

River Tubing Ridiculousness

Last week, when it actually felt like summer, Karen and I were chatting about river tubing. Each year, we round up about a dozen of our friends (and about 8 times that amount of beer), drive to where Jersey meets Pennsylvania and spend a hot summer day floating down the Delaware River.

Somehow, during our conversation, she stumbled across these amazing images of a newlywed couple tubing in their wedding attire. Apparently, they met while tubing and wanted to “trash the dress” while floating down the Guadalupe River.

I actually think that’s a pretty cute–and hilarious–idea. All that’s missing are a few champagne glasses!

Would you do something like this on your wedding day?

And one more crazy tubing pic (which is NOT how it looks where we go!):

(Tubing wedding photos via Austin Americana Studio, tubing crowd photo via KGNB. Thanks to Karen for the links!)

My First (Work) Computer

The other day, a co-worker introduced me to the awesome Tumblr, My First Computer, where readers submit photos of themselves with (surprise!) their first computers. In typical Tumblr fashion, most snapshots feature people in their ’80s glory alongside clunky computers of the time:

You get the idea. After scrolling through the posts, I was tempted to send in a photo of me with an ancient computer. But it’s not from 1985. It’s from 2005:

atex

From 2004 to 2006, I worked at the Boston Herald (which was a great gig). At the time, they were just starting to move the newsroom off an ancient computer system–called Atex–and onto PCs. The shift was gradual and done by seniority–so as a lowly editorial assistant, I was not at the top of the list to receive one. And I never did. For the two and a half years I worked there, I used that crazy-looking, 1970s-era computer in the photo above. It had no mouse (all on-screen actions were done via a series of commands), no internet (and therefore no e-mail), no color (just green characters on a black screen) and no audio or video capabilities.

I’m still amazed at everything I was able to accomplish on that machine. At the time, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, podcasts and digital music were in their infancy–and I covered all that (and hundreds of other stories) on a computer straight out of All the President’s Men.

I was thrilled to get a normal computer at my next job. But I still have fond memories of Atex. In fact, there are some days when I sit at my PC and wish I could tab over a row of text and capitalize or lower case each letter with the click of a button–like I could on Atex.

(In case you were wondering, I’m wearing a shirt made of duct tape in that photo. My co-worker was covering Duck Brand’s duct tape prom outfit photo contest and I decided to prove that yes, you really can make clothing out of duct tape.)

Off to Chicago!

Tonight, I’m headed to Chicago for the first time ever! (I know–it amazes me, too, to think that I’ve been to places like Bolivia and China but not Chicago, Los Angeles or a slew of other U.S. cities. Or Canada for that matter.)

I’m looking forward to stuffing myself on deep dish pizza, checking out Millennium Park and the Art Institute, having dinner here and wandering around different neighborhoods. (Andersonville sounds particularly cool!)

But I’m even more excited to see my good friend, Lindsay, who moved there years ago and whom I haven’t seen in ages.

Got any recommendations about what I should see and do? Let me know!

(And maybe I’ll finally get this song out of my head–it tends to play on a continuous loop every time I think about Chicago.)

(Image via Ork Posters)

Sleep No More

Last Tuesday, Reen and I had an extra special hobby night.* Instead of meeting for our usual happy hour, we saw Sleep No More. (And right in time, too. The show closes at the end of June.)

We’d heard nothing but good things about the production, which is basically MacbethВ set in a 1920s hotel–but the audience doesn’t just sit and watch. Clad in beaked masks and forbidden from speaking, they follow individual performers who run, dance, strip and act out key scenes in various floors of the hotel.

Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. Would I become a sweaty mess from running around? Or be able to follow the plot since I barely remembered Macbeth, despite reading it twice, years ago? And would it really be as amazing as everyone said it was?

I had the answers to my questions within a few minutes. After a drink in the hotel’s jazz bar, we were given masks, ushered into an elevator and dumped out on a random floor. From there, we wandered through the dimly lit rooms until a performer–who we later identified as one of the witches–ran by. We took off after him.

He led us to all the performers who congregated, three times during the night, at a key banquet scene in the ballroom. Once they dispersed, we latched on to Macbeth and ran after him around for the next hour. We watched him murder Duncan (or at least, we assumed it was Duncan), wash blood off his hands and romp around with Lady Macbeth. We saw Birnam Wood advance, watched Lady Macbeth go crazy and noted when the witches predicted Macbeth’s imminent fall. We also ate sketchy candy from jars in a sweets shop and stumbled upon a naked rave. I never quite picked up the plotline or figured out exactly who every performer was–but that’s not the point. Sleep No More is all about the immersive, voyeuristic experience.

I’ll admit, there were times when running–literally sprinting–after performers did get tiring and tiresome. (And sweaty!) I felt a little weary of the gimmick toward the end. And at a few points, when there were too many other masked viewers around, I wanted to push my way through them and scream “I want to see!” so I could actually catch a glimpse of the performers.

They truly made Sleep No More such a cool experience. Sure, the dramatic lighting, intricate sets, eerie music and overall production values were top-notch. But the performers were amazing. They were clearly seasoned dancers. (I later read that all but three had serious training.) And the conditions they had to perform in were incredibly difficult–dimly lit rooms filled with props and just inches away from all of us bumbling, masked viewers getting in their way. Yet, they were fearless. They lept, turned and threw themselves over furniture and onto each other. I never once saw anyone break character. And all for little reward, too. At the end of the show, there’s no applause or bow–the audience simply files out in (stunned) silence. But I imagine that for them, just being part of such a unique experience is gratification enough.

(Top photo via Sleep No More’s Facebook page; middle photo via NYMag)

*hobby night = drinking after work on Tuesdays.

Reimagining Times Square

This week’s New York MagazineВ contains a really interesting piece about a $45 million plan to overhaul Times Square. According to writer Justin Davidson, the project will begin next fall with the goal of making the area a safer, cleaner, less congested place where New Yorkers may actually want to spend time:

Curbs will vanish. Pedestrian areas will be leveled and clad in tweedy concrete tiles that run lengthwise down Broadway and the Seventh Avenue sidewalks, meeting in an angled confluence of patterns. Nickel-size steel discs set into the pavement will catch the light and toss it back into the brilliant air. Instead of perching on metal chairs, loiterers will be able to sit, lean, sprawl, jump, and stand on ten massive black granite benches up to 50 feet long and five feet wide…the square will be de-В­cluttered of the traffic signs, bollards, cones, and boxes that cause foot traffic to seize up. With any luck, crowds will gather and mingle only in the center plain between the benches, leaving free-flowing channels on either side for the rest of us,В who have somewhere to be, people!

Like most New Yorkers, I try to skirt Times Square at all costs. Due to unavoidable day-to-day circumstances, though–working in an office right in the middle of it, needing to cut from east side to west–I’ve found myself there more than I’d have liked, over the years. My typical M.O. is to weave around gaping tourists and get out as soon as possible. But I’ll admit that I’ve had surprising moments when I could see the appeal in the whole gaudy, flashy, over-commercialized, crowded sensory overload.В During a particularly long, cold winter, I was shocked to find comfort in the brightness and buzzy energy as I’d rush across the southern end of the square, several times a week. And when you think of how tourists must feel when they first step into Times Square, surrounded by all those lights and people, you can imagine that it must be exhilarating. (Or, at least I can. I remember how wowed I was the first time I saw the Hong Kong skyline which, like Times Square, is just a slew of neon signs set against a dramatic backdrop of buildings, when it comes down to it.)

Tourist empathy aside, I don’t know if I’d ever intentionally spend time in the area. Even with the planned changes, I don’t think it’ll appeal to me. There’ll still be the massive chain restaurants, over-the-top signs, blatant commercialism, crowds. But if, like the NY Mag article hopes, the new design eases congestion, contains the masses and opens up thoroughfares for us locals, then I’ll gladly welcome it. I’m fine handing over the bulk of Times Square to tourists–as long as I have somewhere to walk.

(Image via NYMag)