A WHITE NEW YEAR A view of snowy Chicago from the entrance to The Field Museum.
Danny does the snowy, windy city
AFTER three very mild January days in the American Midwest, I was beginning to think the Chicago winter was a myth. Wasn’t I the eejit?
Up to eight inches of snow fell in the ‘Windy City’ in 24 hours. Once I heard the forecast, I vowed to spend the day indoors, and had a companion in mind – a boy (or girl) named Sue.
Sue is the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex. Housed in Chicago’s Field Museum, he (or she) was named after Susan Hendrickson, the fossil-hunter who discovered him (or her) in South Dakota in 1990.
We can’t determine Sue’s gender, but he (or she) looks pretty good for a guy (or gal) who’s been dead 65 million years. The skeleton dominates the museum’s main entrance hall, and even has its own gift shop. An examination of Sue’s brain revealed huge olfactory bulbs, which means T Rex probably had a great sense of smell. Jurassic Park would have been very different if the carnivore had sniffed out the two kids early in the movie and chewed them up.
Sue isn’t the most famous creature in Chicago history, however. That honour belongs to a cow who, over 140 years ago, allegedly kicked over a paraffin lamp in a stable owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. That started a fire which raged for 27 hours and killed 250 people. When the Great Fire of 1871 was finally put out, 17,000 buildings had been destroyed, but Mrs O’Leary’s stable was still standing.
Having paid the price for building wooden stuff, Chicago became the birthplace of the skyscraper. It’s also home to a famous deep-dish pizza which was too filling for a friend, and a homeless man rejected it when she offered him the bulk of it.
Before the snow came, I rode the elevated train, did an architectural walking tour, saw the baseball stadium Wrigley Field and visited the 102nd floor of what used to be called Sears Tower. The tallest building in the US is now known as Willis Tower, and the lobby contains a 20-foot high Lego model of the high-rise structure created from over 50,000 bricks. Outside a nearby bank, a woman held up a placard which read: ‘I can’t afford my own politician so I made this sign instead’.
I’ve found Chicagoans to be a friendly bunch, offering directions and unsolicited information. One man asked if I was “from Christchurch or Mayo”, and explained that he really wants to see Westport. “My sister married a guy from there,” he explained, “and they still have a town bard”. If they do, that’s news to me, but it wasn’t my place to spoil his dreams of the old country.
Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.