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It’s spring, which means Art Chicago is back at the Merchandise Mart!  This year a Buckminster Fuller “Fly Eye Dome” is featured in one of the main lobbies, in addition to the floors and floors of wonderful artwork and antiques and artifacts of creativity which are there to be seen this weekend.  I’m so there.

A highlight from last year’s show:  a small round coffee table with a glass double-sided mirrored surface and inside in neon letters, half of the word ECHO.  A glance downward reveals the rabbit hole.

Overall height, infinite

Overall height, infinite

This was actually just announced on the morning traffic report (and confirmed at Metra’s Service Updates page)

Milwaukee District North Line Trains are currently stopped in the vicinity of Libertyville due to a large section of concrete which fell from the 294 overpass.

Train #2101 will not operate today.

Train #2103 will be delayed for undetermined amount of time.

I know this is a serious but not too unusual of an issue (especially in the spring – surely concrete is subject to the same temperature- and water-related stresses as the pothole-filled road surface).  Still, I can’t help but imagine that the highway is starting to feel threatened with all this talk of high speed rail, public transit infrastructure, and a little jealous of “Amtrak Joe” Biden’s visit yesterday.  So it took matters into its own hands and has started sabotaging its rail-bound neighbor.

Update:  I later heard on the radio that a semi truck had collided with a support and knocked concrete onto the tracks.  Not the transit battle I had imagined, but somehow it remains an interesting symbolic statement.

This is actually the second truck-screwing-up-rail-schedule incident that’s happened in the last couple weeks.  On Friday afternoon a truck hit one of the electrical conduits which services the South Shore Line into Indiana, causing that area of the system to shut down and necessitating diesel trains covering the evening rush hour.  Maybe the highways do have it in for trains here in Chicago …

I’m spending some quality time in Highland, Indiana this weekend, seeing family and getting to know the new computer, not to mention enjoying an afternoon at Bean Counters, the local coffee-next-to-an-accountant’s-office on Kennedy.  The hazy, always-threatening-to-rain weather complemented the unfortunate sight of the Town Theatre just north of downtown Highland, now (permanently?) closed.

It was a great old theatre – I believe I’ve only been once, to see “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” a few years ago.  “Preserved” isn’t quite the right word, but what sticks in my mind are the old-style marquee above the front doors, two life-size suits of armor flanking either side of the screen up on platforms, and enjoying a piece of cake in the lobby during intermission (and come to think of it, add “having an intermission” to that list).

The ripped-up road outside only added to the pathos, not to mention the fact that the poster from the last movie they’d shown – “Young at Heart” – was still in the frame outside.  I walked over to get a snapshot.

Town Theatre on Kennedy Ave. (Highland IN)

Town Theatre on Kennedy Ave. (Highland IN)

When I have more time this summer, I should take a leaf (post?) out of other urbanist photoblogs, drive down for the day, and do a photo study of northwest Indiana.

On the way I passed one of the old railroad corridors that Highland has turned into a bike trail.  Given that most of this area used to be a swamp, it’s not surprising to see a lot of standing water in the land’s lowest spots.

A pair of ducks by the bike trail (Highland, IN)

A pair of ducks by the bike trail (Highland, IN)

Still have that old song from “The Music Man” in my head.

“Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, let me sing it once again… Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, that’s the town that knew me when!”

Arbor Day is this Friday, April 24th – hug a tree!  Plant a tree!  Send the Arbor Day Foundation money to plant trees for you!  Even cities need trees…

I reiterate:  this blog won’t be ALL about LEGO urbanism.  But this post pretty much has to be.

One of my goals for getting back into “LEGOing” (correct verb? dunno) is to recreate some of the Chicago and city sights in LEGO form… not so much the Sears Tower and famous landmarks, but more ordinary things like a street corner, a rehabbed 3-flat, possibly a courtyard building or a vacant lot with a construction trailer.  No direction-following here, my friends!

My first project was a new Bucktown-style condo, complete with roof deck, two-story interior floor plan, European-looking car, and dude with a newspaper:

Project 1:  Bucktown Condo (exterior shot)

Project 1: Bucktown Condo (exterior)

Before deconstructing I got a cutaway shot of the first floor.  The high-res image reminded me that these LEGOs probably need a clean…

Project 1:  Bucktown Condo (interior, first floor)

Project 1: Bucktown Condo (interior, first floor)

More awesome than this, however, are the advanced-level yuppie LEGO sets available in their store.  If you’re not wowed by Star Wars, the Taj Mahal, or that lame farm set, check these out.  I recently purchased the “Green Grocer” set (comes with a cat and mouse and croissants!!!) but you can also get the “Corner Cafe” and “Market Street” (urban factory) sets – and THEY LINK TOGETHER.  The website claims you can even link 4 of the cafe sets together in a block, but this begs the question of who would spend $600 for multiples of the same set.

In any case, these sets are delightfully European and/or yuppie, and listed as Ages 16+, so it’s totally fine.

LEGO Store: Green Grocer set | Corner Cafe set | Market Street set

I also purchased a decidedly suburban set, the standard white-and-red House set.  Two notable features:  set includes a full complement of red 45 degree roof pieces, totally worth it; and it has directions for a few different layouts, all of which would fit comfortably at the end of a cul-de-sac.

And in a major throwback to the 1950s, LEGO also re-released their Town Plan set.  I was tempted to buy it if only to recreate some of Lake Street in Oak Park, but decided I wasn’t into it, beyond the old cinema building.

More legitimate thoughts on urban planning (and more LEGOs) to come.

For my post it seemed appropriate to start at the beginning of many a journey in the city … waiting for the city bus.  While the palm tree suggests this is not in fact in Chicago, it might as well be.  No doubt three #2 buses are tailing each other a few blocks down the road after badly-timed traffic lights and having to load a long line of people at every other stop.  But at least the doctor and fancy lady look too happy to have been waiting long.

Waiting for the 2 Bus in LegoLand

Waiting for the 2 Bus in LegoLand

I can promise this blog won’t be exclusively urbanist-LEGO humor, but gotta start with the important stuff.