Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chicago's free trolley service will come to an end

One of the great things about Chicago was the trolley system. You could get on downtown and ride to Navy Pier, where you could be insulted by employees at Navy Pier's many concession stands. But the paid trolleys will continue and although they are expensive, it was well worth the time and money to ride.

Sunday, I took my son downtown where I did an interview with Canada's CBC TV. Afterwards, we wandered around to Michigan Avenue and decided to grab one of those double decker buses. The one we picked was the Chicago trollye double decker service. The service makes about 13 stops throughout the downtown region using the double decker buses or the single deck trolleys. The cost was $29 for adults and I think $17 for children. (My son is 7.) Still, for $46, I figured, he would enjoy it and enjoy it he did. It was great. The drivers are well-informed about the city's history. I had forgotten much of the trivia about the city, like Michigan Avenue had once been a gravel street lined by posh homes that was designed to be a major shopping center. Michigan Avenue was rebuilt to specifically look like the Champs e lyse in Paris. It ended on the south end at the Chicago River.

Wolf Point, the intersection where the Chicago river divides into two legs of the river, is one of the city's most recognized symbols.

And, why do they bother to dye the Chicago River green on St. Patrick's Day when the Chicago River is already green?

It was a great trip. We got off at Navy Pier to eat. You can get on and off the trollers and the double decker bus at each stop and hop back on another trolley or doubledecker bus that comes by later. They run about 15 minutes to 20 minutes apart. Every other one is a trolley and a double decker bus. Sunday was warm so we sat ont he upper deck.

Grant Park has a prohibition to prevent any buildings there not because it was intended to preserve the park for the benefit of the public, but because the owner of one of the major stores -- was it Fields? -- didn't want a competitor to open a shop there and got the city to pass the law.

It went on and on, far better than I can do. (Although every May I lead four tours for the City (free as a volunteer) of Arab Chicago, based on my book "Arabs of Chicagoland" -- which is available at all major book stores including Borders and Barnes and Noble. (Ding. Ding. Ding. -- A plug for myself.)

At Navy Pier, though, we went to America's Dog where I bought some Chicago hot dogs -- no one puts ketchup on a Chicago dog, I was reminded during the tour. And Gyros is not a Greek invention but an invention of Greek Americans in Chicago. Created right here by Greek immigrants. (In Arabic, it is called a shawerma sandwich and they were invented in the Middle East and copied by Greek immigrants, renamed and sold in Chicago -- that's the real history but people hate Arabs so much we don't get any credit.) -- (By the way, November is Arab American Heritage Month but you wouldn't know it from the absence of any mention of it in the Chicago media -- further proof that the mainstream media is biased, bigoted and racist. But I digress.)

Anyway, when we went to get the hot dog order, the clerk at the concession hit the Sprite my son ordered an dspilled some of it. He just grabbed the top, slapped it back on and they swore using the F-word. In front of my 7 year old. he didn't care, of course. He was joking around with a female co-worker. I told him to keep the Sprite and I bought my son a drink someplace else. but I doubt I'll ever go back to America's Dog again, considering they have no class.

Really, the f-word in public? Pathetic.

The three hotdogs cost me $18 anyway. So it wasn't worth it.

Next week, I'll have a Chicago trolley guide on my radio show talking about Chicago's great history. No politics. Just trivia.

Despite the bad experience at Navy Pier -- maybe they should move the Children's Museum to Grant Park just to get away from the x-rated language at America's Dog -- I highly recommend the Chicago trolley tour. It's costly but it is well worth the time.

-- Ray Hanania

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