The boys are out of school and it is now offically summer vacation. One of the things that I wanted to do with the boys last summer, but never got around to it, was to take a Water Taxi to Chinatown. I love any chance to get on a boat and I have actually never been to Ping Tom Park, the new-ish park where the taxi stops in Chinatown. So when I heard that it was going to be in the mid-70s on Tuesday and saw that I had no meetings or calls or anything pressing on my calendar, I knew just what we were going to do.
Last summer Ben was terrified of getting on a boat of any size. He didn't even want to go on the Tall Ship Windy for a Pirate Cruise, it was that bad. On Tuesday he wasn't quite as fearful but he also wasn't quite convinced that it was going to be enjoyable in any way.
We took the #147 bus downtown and got off at the Wrigley Building, then we walked down the steps to the Riverwalk. And sitting there as if on cue was a bright yellow and black Water Taxi. We climbed aboard and sat up in the front. As soon as the taxi took off heading south, Ben turned around to look at me and his face was covered with a huge grin. He was totally hooked. I was both thrilled and relieved. "This is fun!" he hollered as the boat picked up speed.
You actually have to take two taxis to get to Ping Tom Park. We took one from Michigan Avenue to Madison/The Ogilve Center and then from there we took another one to Ping Tom. The boys didn't mind at all, they actually dug that we got to get on two different taxis. It's so good sometimes to think like a kid!. Two taxis isn't a hassle, it's twice as much fun!
We arrived at Ping Tom Park and my plan was to walk in to Chinatown and either get a snack or a light lunch. Maybe duck into a few shops and get a little trinket of some sort. But what I didn't realize is that in the park itself is a neat little playground. Ben pointed at the playground and said, "Please, please can we go play?" Seeing how this was all about having a fun adventure, I said "Of course!" I'm really glad we did because I got a much better sense of the park than if we would have just walked right on through.
Ben dug the mini climbing wall and jumping off the slide. Sam wasn't feeling so hot so he just chilled out in the shade listening to Harry Potter on his headphones. I sat down under a tree and read the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.
There's this totally cool, almost universal thing that Chicago kids do with their local parks: They give them their own names. Oh sure, there might be an official green sign with white lettering annoucing the name of the park but that really doesn't matter, because the kids are going to make some connection or observation and then come up with a name. So in our hood, our go-to playlot is known as "Giraffe Park." Not because there's a giraffe structure there but because years ago there was a faded mural on the building next door that had a very modern 70's-style silhouette of three giraffes. The building was torn down years ago as part of an expansion of the playlot but all the kids still call it Giraffe Park. (It's official CPD name is Bromann Playlot.) So if I were a kid and I had to come up with a name for Ping Tom Park, I reckon' I'd call it Train Park. And the reason for that is, as I was sitting in the park I realized that three different trains "encircle" the park. There's the el train right overhead, so close you can hear the automated announcment of "The doors are closing." To the west, across the river, I saw several Amtrak trains pass through a beautiful old steel bridge. And then, just as Ben was running to get a drink of water, the bells starting clanging and at grade level a pretty impressive (and long) frieght train came lumbering past. I felt like a big little kid, standing there just digging it.
And I think my favorite word for 2012 might be "Intermodal" and with the taxi and the river and the trains surrounding us, it was all that and more in Ping on Monday!
We did walk towards Chinatown but Sam's tummy was giving him a wee bit of trouble. We managed to duck into Aji Ichiban, a crazy good candy shop in the courtyard mall on Archer. (It's amazing how a brighly lit shop filled with oodles of sweets can make you temporarily forget about your tummy troubles.) The boys each picked out three pieces of candy and I scored a wee bag of dried mango. And Ben was once again wearing a very large grin. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Chinatown, they have an amazing array of Asian & Ameircan candies as well as an entire wall of dried fruits and nuts. I actually bought dried Hawthorn Berries there once.
We also managed to duck into one of those goofy Chinatown shops filled with lots of well, crap, but Sam perked up when he picked out some Chinese firecrackers, "snails" and smoke bombs. Ben picked out a hyper-cute big-eyed Panda and a bag of chocolate Fortune Cookies and I scored a Bento Box for less than $3. Ben turned to me and said, "It's like we're on a vacation!" Yes, there is something to be said about acting like tourists in your own town. And as the title of this post proclaims in a somewhat Dr. Suessian way, (and is what I absolutely adore about the fine city of Chicago) there (really) is always something new to do!
I think we might find ourselves back on the water taxi before summer ends. Sam said he wants to go back when he's feeling more like himself and he wants to go to a proper Chinese restaurant. Sounds good to me, who know what new things we'll find the next time we head out? Here's to summer, hope yours is full of happy adventures!