Friday, March 21, 2003

Street bloggin' man.

The Chicago Food Depository Awards Dinner last night was at the Sheraton, which is east of Michigan Avenue and west of Lake Shore Drive, right on north bank of the Chicago River across from Wacker Drive, which is along the south bank. There really isn’t much to say about the event itself; it was the fifth one for me, and it first involves a “mixer” of sorts just outside the hotel’s bland — I mean grand — ballroom, which was as crowded as Groucho Marx’s stateroom. Because of my sore foot, I found one of the few chairs and sat through the mixer this year.

Then came the main event, in the ballroom: dinner and awards given for “Chicago office broker of the year,” “Chicago property manager of the year,” “Chicago developer of the year,” and the like. Companies buy tables at the event, and the money goes to a local food bank charity. Press mice like me get invited to sit at various companies’ tables because, well, these companies want us to think favorably of them (and I do: Equity Office Properties, the largest commercial landlord in the USA, kindly let me sit at one of its tables).

The emcee for the evening, a newsreader on one of the local stations, warned us early on that traffic in parts of downtown Chicago had been bollix’d by anti-war protesters. He gave us updates as the evening went on. Apparently several thousand people started at Federal Plaza, which is in the heart of downtown, and then unexpectedly went eastward and jammed up Lake Shore Drive. From there, they went north and then west, to Michigan Avenue, onto the Magnificent Mile shopping district.

That’s a long walk, from Federal Plaza to the Mag Mile. Plenty of opportunity for mischief, but it seems that the arrests didn’t start until the demonstrators wanted to go south on Michigan Ave. The protesters’ route also represented a long arc around the Sheraton, but all I could see from a window (when I went to the bathroom) were a lot of police cars on Lower Wacker Drive, headed for Lake Shore Drive, which did seem to be empty of traffic at that moment.

At about 9 p.m., at the end of the event, Kevin D. and I got in the taxi queue to go to Union Station. Had my foot been healthy, I might have simply walked the 25 minutes or so to the train station, since the evening was so pleasant (in the 50s F). Kevin later said he could hear protesting hubbub off in the distance from our line in the queue, but I hadn’t been paying any attention, so I missed it. In any case, it took 40 minutes to get the head of queue — and for this, I blame the protesters. In previous years, the queue went much faster. Bah.

So we missed the 9:30 p.m. train to the western suburbs out of Union Station. We repaired to the Union Station McDonald’s to wait for the 10:30. It was just about the only place open (except a bar). A lot of people were there, watching the televisions, which offered up the usual amalgam of breathless speculation and bits of actual war news.

Speaking of breathless speculation, I just heard on the radio that perhaps a division in Basra (8,000 Iraqis) has surrendered — Army psyops has been trying to persuade them to fight like Frenchmen, it seems. Maybe it’s working.

“Shock ’n’ Awe”: the first catchphrase of the war. Someday it might be the name of a heavy metal band.


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