As with other neighborhoods throughout the city, the Cultural Mile has its share of itinerant peddlers.
Staking out their turf at virtually every corner on South Michigan Ave. is a cadre of destitute donation specialists, tourist wranglers and undiscovered performance artists — all of whom seek financial remuneration in one form or another from anyone who passes on the pedestrian thoroughfare (the sidewalk). Even the ubiquitous Streetwise vendor has found his spot — Lake St. and Michigan Ave. — and is spewing out charm as only an upbeat entrepreneurial news vendor can. “C’mon, people. It’s OK to smile on a Tuesday! How about a Streetwise?”
Last week, on one of my regular strolls down the Cultural Mile, competition for my attention was fierce among the peddlers — everyone wanted me to “buy in” to their thing. And then, as I approached the southwest corner of Michigan and Randolph, I saw something I have never seen before in my six decades of walking up and down just about every sidewalk in downtown Chicago. There on the corner was a gentleman — I didn’t get his name — playing a vibraphone for donations and tips at 11:30 a.m. on a Thursday.
A vibraphone! Not a guitar, not a saxophone, not even one of those makeshift plastic bucket drums. He was playing a vibraphone!!!!!! And he was quite good at it.
It’s just another reason to love the Cultural Mile. Elsewhere in the city there are basic run-of-the mill street peddlers and performance artists. On the Chicago Cultural Mile, we have musicians who play vibraphones!
It’s only fitting.
Emily, Marge and Elliot Densley, Charlotte, N.C.
The easiest way to meet someone in Chicago is to offer to take their picture. It’s the oldest trick in the book.
That’s what I did recently on a stifling summer afternoon with the temperature and humidity both creeping into the 90s. Marge Densley and her two children, Emily and Elliot, were doing a little sightseeing and had just arrived at Millennium Park after visiting Navy Pier. They needed the requisite group shot in front of Cloud Gate with the Chicago Cultural Mile skyline in the background but they were not able to coax any bystanders into helping them snap the photo. I stepped forward and offered my assistance.
Residents of Charlotte, N.C., the Densleys were revisiting some of their favorite local attractions — places Marge used to take the kids when they were much younger and when the family was still living in Beverly on the city’s far South Side. The outing was kind of a “let’s-see-if-anything-has-changed-since-the-last-time-we-were-here” tour of famous Chicago attractions.
Asked what she liked best about Anish Kappor’s sculpture, Emily was terse. “It’s shiny,” she muttered.
Perhaps the most economical — but accurate — description of the sculpture in history. Somewhere in the vast beyond, Mies van der Rohe — he of the “less is more” school of architectural thought — is nodding with great approval.