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Travel: McCrea Ranch

Last night’s Cowboy Cookout and Ranch Tour at movie star Joel McCrea’s ranch in Southern California was perfect. The air was a bit chilly. But, with everyone helping to make the annual Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation fundraiser a success, from bus driver Pete and ranch staff to the poet, the band and McCrea’s grandson Wyatt, who lives there, the place was warm, relaxed and rooted in Western culture. Guests added Hollywood glamour.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

You’ve probably seen Joel McCrea’s movies. Whether romancing Claudette Colbert in Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story or Veronica Lake in Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels or leading as handsome, freethinking young Dr. Kildare or in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, he was a commanding presence on screen. But the underrated, underappreciated actor—who was 6’4 in height—was most comfortable in Westerns, appearing with his wife Frances Dee in Wells Fargo, Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific opposite Barbara Stanwyck, Wichita, as Bat Masterson in The Gunfight at Dodge City, opposite Randolph Scott in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, usually as lead and hero of the motion picture. I’d recently seen him as the title character in The Virginian, the 1946 Western. After that, McCrea appeared in mostly Westerns, including his last picture, 1976’s Mustang Country.

Apparently, the Golden Age-era movie star made the Western part of his life. Encouraged by his mentor, humorist Will Rogers, McCrea bought the first thousand acres of private ranch property in Ventura County—what’s now northern Thousand Oaks, California—in the early Hollywood years and made ranching a labor of love. Eventually, Joel McCrea would buy a sprawling ranch where he lived with his wife of 57 years and raised three sons, Jody, David and Peter. Today, a small portion of the original McCrea Ranch in the Santa Rosa valley is left, including the main house McCrea had built and remaining outbuildings, such as the bunkhouse, chicken coop and milk house.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Yesterday, foundation docents and park staff showed the grounds. There’s a road leading up to the house, with a large kitchen and original appliances—including the elevated refrigerator to accommodate McCrea’s height—master bedroom, reading or sun room, Mrs. McCrea’s writing room, living room and the boys’ rooms above the garage. It’s a stone’s throw from the avocado-shaped swimming pool and the trees and vegetation Mr. and Mrs. McCrea planted. The 1,400-square foot visitor’s center has photographs and films on McCrea and his family in movies and at the ranch. Being there, it’s easy to imagine Joel McCrea riding horses and milking cows (he did both). After he died in 1990, Frances moved into the bunkhouse. Mrs. McCrea never lived in the main house again.

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McCrea Ranch Main Home. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

The house he’d had designed and built is filled with fireplaces, books—Frances McCrea was an avid reader and Joel McCrea, whose forefather signed the Declaration of Independence, was a serious student of American history—and portraits of Lincoln and Washington. This is a modest, family home, which is not open to the public. So, while the property meets the foundation’s goal to conserve the region’s history and lifestyle, and South Pasadena native McCrea is the embodiment of the healthy, tanned, good-looking, hardworking outdoorsman with which one associates Southern California, the rustic ranch evokes the man and his chosen values. It is here that the movie star lived, worked and enjoyed privacy. The place exudes McCrea’s unique ability to shuttle between relaxed, easygoing charm and hard-driving loyalty to one’s personal code.

Donors attending last night’s Cowboy Cookout—including Western artists and intellectuals such as Eric Heisner, William Wellman, Jr., whose father directed McCrea in The Great Man’s Lady and Buffalo Bill, and Bruce Boxleitner (Contagion, Tron, CBS’s Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Gods and Generals, ABC’s How the West Was Won)—joined Wyatt McCrea in toasting McCrea Ranch as a place worth preserving as it once was. So do I, especially to study, experience and honor McCrea Ranch as home and land where Joel McCrea cashed in on what he’d earned—as an example of where a man once lived the honest, productive life he’d portrayed in the movies.

The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

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The Sower (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

During a recent visit to the Sunshine state, I discovered the former home of Albin Polasek (1879 – 1965) one of America’s fore­most 20th century sculp­tors. The home is located on a small lake in central Florida in a town called Winter Park. The modest waterfront home, adjacent chapel and property have been turned into a museum and gardens showcasing his remarkable work.

Polasek (pronounced by the tour guide as Pull-ah-chek), a Czech-born immigrant to America who adopted the representational art method of sculpture, cre­ated “fig­u­ra­tive works of sound com­po­si­tion based upon the true struc­ture of nature”, according to the museum, which explains on its Web site that

His goal was to show the essen­tial unity of head or fig­ure and the beauty of ‘move­ment,’ the flow of one mass into another. He felt that move­ment made the dif­fer­ence between a work exud­ing life and some­thing inan­i­mate.

The museum is set far enough back from the busy avenue to provide a placid atmosphere for a leisurely visit. The $5 admission includes a general video introduction to Polasek’s ideas, life and work and a tour through much of the home and chapel, which he had built for his private religious purposes. Though he was Catholic—he followed his brother, who was a priest, to America—it’s clear from his work that his views do not align with Catholic Church doctrine.

For example, I was informed that Polasek sculpted one of his most famous works, Victorious Christ, which depicts a strong and exalted Jesus Christ on the cross, because Polasek did not approve of depictions of pain and suffering (the original is in a cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska). Though much of Polasek’s over 400 works are religious, many include essentially secular or distinctly non-Catholic themes, such as his Man Carving His Own Destiny (another version appearing elsewhere on the grounds as Evolution). Polasek sculpted and carved in stone, bronze, plaster and wood. He painted, too.

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Eternal Moment (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Born in 1879 in Moravia (now Czech Repub­lic), Albin Polasek appren­ticed as a wood­carver in Vienna before immi­grat­ing to the United States in 1901 at the age of 22, according to the museum. After work­ing as a wood­carver, he began for­mal art train­ing at the Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­emy of the Fine Arts in Philadel­phia, where he learned clas­si­cal sculpt­ing tech­niques and first cre­ated Man Carv­ing His Own Des­tiny (1907) and Eter­nal Moment (1909). Polasek became an Amer­i­can citizen in 1909.

While in Rome on an arts fellowship, his Sower (pictured above and below) earned critical praise and he returned to America and established a stu­dio in New York City until, in 1916, at the age of 37, Polasek was asked to head the Sculp­ture Depart­ment at the Art Insti­tute of Chicago, where he remained for nearly 30 years.

The museum bio says that Albin Polasek retired to Win­ter Park, Florida, in Jan­u­ary 1950, at the age of 70, design­ing the home and hav­ing it built on Lake Osce­ola. It is there that he had a stroke, which left him partly paralyzed, and married his close friend and for­mer stu­dent Ruth Sher­wood, the first mar­riage for both. Polasek was 71 and Sher­wood was 61. When she died 18 months later, he married a second time to a woman named Emily who is credited with encouraging his work.

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Vic­tory of Moral Law (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Despite his condition, Polasek was able to work with his right hand – my tour guide told me that an assis­tant would help and added that, at one point, someone who’d worked on Mount Rushmore aided in the creation of at least one work – and Polasek com­pleted 18 major works, includ­ing the anti-Communist Vic­tory of Moral Law (1957) as a response to the Hun­gar­ian uprising against the Soviet Union. The serpent slithering around the world of the sculpture (pictured here) represents Communism.

Polasek had the chapel built on the property because, I was told, he did not like to attend church services and he sought solitude and serenity in prayer. A priest occasionally though not often came to the Polasek chapel for a mass. The chapel is the last part of the tour before the gardens, where guests are welcome to continue self-guided along the lakefront path and examine works such as Eternal Moment and others. The docent was courteous and knowledgeable, though not scholarly.

After the  tour, I circled the gardens, took my time and came back into the house on the other side. The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens are a modest property, located close to the Winter Park Public Library, Rollins College and the Alfond Hotel, which is owned and operated by the college. I ended my visit in the gift shop, having toured the house, where Polasek worked, the chapel, where Polasek’s Catholic Stations of the Cross are on display, and the gardens. The Sower and Man Carving His Own Destiny are located in the front of the house. I was first to arrive for the tour and last to leave. The whole visit took a couple of hours. I think most people stayed for an hour, maybe a bit longer.

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The Sower (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

Of course, Victory of Moral Law and Man Carving His Own Destiny are thematically appealing to me and their execution in various forms (Polasek kept creating and improving) is something to behold. Everything he made, even a statue of Woodrow Wilson he was commissioned to create and woodcarvings for an epic nativity scene he made as a boy in Europe, expresses something meaningful. The male and female nudes are beautiful. A child’s face depicts pure joy. The Sower, from a story in the Bible, sows seeds of good will throughout the world. All of these and the sum total of the experience made the trip to the Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens very nourishing.

But learning more about the artist, who is buried beside his first wife with his own 12th Sta­tion of the Cross (c. 1939) in Winter Park’s cemetery, is an unexpected highlight.

Polasek left Europe for America, settled in the Midwest, carved in wood, changed his mind, went to school, learned, sculpted, earned awards and fellowship in Rome, returned to Chicago, led the Art Institute’s sculpture department for 30 years, moved south to a town founded by a Chicago businessman, survived a stroke, continued to make sculpture and married for the first time at the age of 71, marrying once more when he’d lost the one he’d loved. He appeared to have lived in pursuit of happiness and I think it shows in his best work. Crucially, he understood what the freedom to create means to the creator; he did not take liberty for granted.

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Man Carving His Own Destiny (photo by Scott Holleran, may not be reproduced without permission)

As Albin Polasek wrote:

I am like a piece of rock which has been bro­ken off of the Carpathian Moun­tains in the heart of Czecho­slo­va­kia. Later this crude stone was trans­ported to the Land of the Free: the United States of Amer­ica. This block of stone was myself. Through the oppor­tu­ni­ties that this coun­try gave me, I started to carve out my des­tiny…”

Travel: The Boulders in Arizona

Mine was another southwestern Christmas at The Boulders in Arizona. As one of two of the nation’s best Phoenix metropolitan area resorts (the other is the Arizona Biltmore), The Boulders offers a unique resort experience which is what I wanted. With tennis, golf, trails, swimming and fitness programs on a sprawling property that straddles Scottsdale and a small Western town called Carefree, The Boulders, owned and operated by the Hilton-owned Waldorf-Astoria brand, is best for healthy restoration and athletic activity.

Cactus at the Boulders photo by Scott HolleranSpread over acres of desert with the resort lodge, individual casitas, walking trails, three heated pools and hot tubs, golf course and clubhouse, tennis courts and adjacent shopping village – not to mention the privately owned Boulders houses on the property – the main attraction are the big boulders scattered across the land where they’ve been for millions and millions of years. As if there’s not enough to do on site, and life is slow in Arizona, nearby horseback riding, hiking, shopping and tours are also available. But I recommend staying and walking around, which I did as often as possible. Early morning and sundown are blissful times of day. Late nights under the stars are also inviting. Casita and villa rates range between $200 and $1,200 per night.

For all the luxury, there’s a do it yourself quality to the resort, which takes getting used to. I’ve stayed here before – including a stay during Christmastime – and I’ve been back several times since. It is easy to get lost, especially at night. The place is understated in every way, designed to blend in with the harsh desert landscape. Lighting is minimal at best. There are no streetlights. This is why the stars come out at nightfall. Don’t get caught on the paved paths at night or you’ll risk getting lost. The Boulders is physically huge and service is relatively laissez-faire, which is part of the relaxed, Western ranch style approach to hospitality.

Casita at the Boulders photo by Scott HolleranCasitas are individually configured and appointed. Mine was priced on the low end and equipped with a wood-burning fireplace, bench seating, two chairs, a reading lamp, balcony, Keurig coffee maker, iHome alarm clock and docking station, vanity, walk-in closet, wet bar, bathrobes and TV. Besides walking as the primary mode of transportation, everyone including staff uses golf carts to get around, even local Boulders residents, and I stayed on the property at a private home for most of the visit. From the residences, there’s a 5-minute drive over to the lodge if a walk’s not on the agenda. The lodge has two dining facilities with vaunted ceilings, a gift shop with essentials and proprietary merchandise, a bar and a lobby lounge with wood-burning fireplaces. Fires burn indoors and outdoors at the resort’s discretion unless the government’s dictating air quality. An evening performance by a folk singer with a cowboy hat served as Christmas entertainment. Light snacks and sandwiches are available in the lobby bar. There’s no front desk as such. Two desks serve as check-in centers. A concierge and a couple of computers for guest use are a few steps up behind the fireplace.

Lodge poolside at the Boulders photo by Scott HolleranStep outside the lobby for a heated pool and poolside, fire pits, hot tub, poolhouse and a short trail up to the vista point where most of the property and surrounding environs can be seen. A spa operates separately, so does a golf clubhouse restaurant and pro shop and everyone on staff constantly reminds resident guests and visitors that the resort is separate, too. The a la carte feel is mildly disruptive when trying to relax, read and have a drink or meet for business in the lounge as I did. But once settled in and welcomed, the staff generally adjusts and serves good food, drink and hospitality. There are exceptions, of course. No one seems acquainted with Hilton’s rewards program and how it works. Some are consumed by stating rules of the club, lodge or resort at the expense of a warm welcome. Meals vary in quality but most were excellent.

Besides branding conflicts, figuring out how to navigate the resort and one nasty episode in the lobby with a drunken guest, the Christmas visit was perfectly charming. I swam, hiked, strolled, dined, read, wrote and conducted business in person, by phone and Internet without problems. Besides The Boulders, a small, largely vacant commercial property called El Pedregal is located down the path. El Pedregal is also Hilton-owned. The plaza contains a couple of decent places, too. The Spotted Donkey cantina at El Pedregal has a bar with sports on TV, where I had a hamburger and glass of wine while watching the game, and there’s a Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream cones. I also discovered a delightful family-owned restaurant called Brugo’s Pizza Company at happy hour. The place has delicious desserts, pizza and wine and the owner and staff are the best in town. The views from Brugo’s are amazing.

Waterfall at the Boulders photo by Scott HolleranAgain, being among the boulders at The Boulders is the real treat. So, a manic, cram-it-in vacation approach won’t do the resort or your visit justice. If you go, plan ahead and have recharge and backup for GPS and cell phones because you’ll probably get lost on foot, by cart and by car. If you golf, golf. Walk around. Enjoy the desert sights, sounds and smells. Breathe it in and feel good. Roll with whatever crosses your path – woodpeckers, roadrunners, coyotes, deer, snakes, spiders, jackrabbits, lizards, mountain lions – I’ve seen them all at The Boulders, which was first recommended to me decades ago by my friend Sharlee. She was right and it gets better as few places do. It’s not immune from cultural contamination and there’s always room to go up or down in quality – Hilton’s recently had the biggest hotel initial public offering in history – but for stillness, sunshine and moonshine and reenergizing amid desert surroundings with attentive staff and exquisite accommodations, head for The Boulders.

Travel: The Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel is located on Chicago’s Gold Coast at the start of what’s known as Magnificent Mile. For years, I noticed it primarily and prominently as the landmark that proudly stood just off Lake Shore Drive as the road curves around Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach and one enters the city, with its towering skyscrapers from the John Hancock Building to what were once known as the Standard Oil Building and Sears Tower, from the north. The Italian Renaissance style building was a solid, sturdy presence that stood 13 stories high under tall, elegant calligraphy letters that simply announced: The Drake. Now I know (and only partially) what I never knew before I’d entered: The Drake is a grand hotel.

20130722-213110.jpgIt was envisioned by a self-taught, self-made architect named Ben Marshall (1874 – 1944) in the year 1917 and it opened on New Year’s Eve of 1920 – the March 1921 issue of The Economist promised readers that the structure would be “of unusual magnificence, [and that] nothing like it in appearance, arrangement or finishing had ever been attempted in this country…” – after being funded by the sons of an innovative hotel businessman named John Burroughs Drake, who’d been known for his ability. The Drake sons, John and Tracy, pictured in the frame at right, built flamboyant Ben Marshall’s hotel.

The Drake Hotel originally cost $10 million to build. There were 800 rooms served by 900 hotel employees (now there are over 500 rooms in the hotel, which is owned by Hilton Hotels). The design features the first three floors of ballrooms and other “public” spaces and the upper ten stories in the shape of a ‘H’ in a “piano nobile” application of 16th century Italian architecture. The result is described rightly by hotel historians as a balanced, formal composition of restrained detail influenced by palaces in Florence and Rome. Made of smooth limestone and overlooking the famous Chicago road, parks, beaches, buildings and lake, The Drake sits like a grand guard at the entrance of the entire city, affording a wide, generous view of the lake.

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Drake Bros. restaurant at the Drake Hotel. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

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Front desk at the Drake. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

During a recent stay at the nearby Westin Michigan Avenue for an arts and philosophy conference, I went for several daily walks along the streets and avenues and, one day, I decided to visit the Drake. I merely wanted to peek at the lobby and, expecting some dusty old palace, I was taken away. Entering on Walton Street, its official address named after the architect’s wife, Elizabeth Walton, I was surprised at its accessibility and lack of formality. There was no doorman. There was hardly anyone in the entrance at all. I found a dark and somewhat mysterious corridor to the left – more on that later – a dark bar to the right and some stairs straight ahead. I walked up and discovered the lobby, pictured here below, and much more to explore. There were more stairs, a bank of elevators – one of which I would later ride and find inside a cushioned place to sit – a front desk to the side (also pictured here) and, up the stairs to the left and around the Palm Court with the water fountain down another passageway, a restaurant simply called Drake Bros. The hour was a bit past breakfast, though it was also premature for lunch, so I wandered inside the dining room and found a table, seen above at left, overlooking the intersection of Michigan Avenue and East Lake Shore Drive and much more, so I settled in and ordered bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee. Everything was delicious. Service was excellent. The cost was reasonable. The view was typical Chicago: cloudy, gray and waves coming over the sand.

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Lobby at the Drake. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

The property has an amazing history. Host to Sinatra, Marilyn and Diana and dozens of movie stars, presidents and industrialists, the Drake continues to attract guests who seek the best and it’s easy to see why. Designed by an architect with no formal education, owned by a family that lost the hotel during the 1930s Depression (they got it back), it is a fascinating place to explore. After my meal, I ventured down another set of stairs and down a corridor to find a row of luxury boutiques and shops – see the display window below for a sense of the Drake’s attention to detail – from Chanel and fine jewelry to a bright red cafe (also pictured) and hotel gift shop. I didn’t have time to see the rooms or suites and one day I’d like to be a guest but I did come back after dinner with a friend for dessert and drinks for the free jazz performance, presented by Chicago’s Jazz Institute, in the Palm Court. Again, everything and particularly the waiter’s service was perfect. It’s rare to experience perfection and even rarer these days to find it where one might have reason to expect it most. I’m glad I finally went inside the Drake, which feels at once safe, rich and a little bit daring, too.

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Boutique window display at the Drake. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved.

 

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Exterior view from park in front of the Drake. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

 

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Cafe in the corridor at the Drake. © Copyright 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved.

 

Travel: John Hancock Tower

20130721-120931.jpgJohn Hancock Tower on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile in Chicago is a grand achievement. It moves with the wind. I’ve been up on top at the bar, observatory or restaurant many times and this summer’s visit—I was staying across the street at the Westin Michigan Avenue—was as exciting an experience as when I first visited the top of what was once Chicago’s tallest skyscraper shortly after it opened for business in 1970.

It’s a building that rises high above one of the few surviving structures from the 19th century’s Great Chicago Fire, the city’s water tower, made of Joliet limestone and symbolizing a contrast that captures the best of Chicago’s spirit: strong, solid, sharp, hardworking, defiant. Also at ground level around the Hancock tower is another commercial building, Water Tower Place, which fits the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile model of unabashed capitalism. In fact, the skyscraper was built and owned by a big business: the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Like that enterprise, Michigan Avenue’s stores, companies and hotels are great, American symbols of freedom, capitalism, innovation, industry and wealth: Bloomingdales, Chicago Tribune Tower, Walgreens, The Drake Hotel and the tall, black, cross-beamed tower that represents big business and an American founding father at once. Never mind that the Hancock tower’s anchored by a generic Best Buy now in a city ruled by a Clinton-Obama crony in a city known more for nightly mayhem and murder—with this once-magnificent mile itself assaulted by roaming thugs—than for the freedom to create, assess for risk, insure, build and make money. Chicago, where Ayn Rand once lived on the city’s south side and was enthusiastically received by her largest audience in 1963 for a speech on America’s persecuted minority—big business—has been transformed into a thick, government-run cartel by Big Government types empowered by a former church and community activist who became president named Barack Obama.

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John Hancock Tower 2013. Photo by Scott Holleran (c) Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

The tower still stands. From the skyscraper’s Web site:

  • The distinctive, stacked x-cross bracing allows the building to sway only 5 to 8 inches in a 60-mph wind
  • Enough steel to manufacture 33,000 cars was used to make the frame and weighs 46,000 tons
  • The 2,500,000 pounds of aluminum could be used to create a skating rink covering all of Lake Michigan
  • The complete development took five million man-hours
  • 1,250 miles of wiring carries enough power to supply a city of  30,000 people

Construction started on May 5, 1965 and was completed on May 6, 1968. The architectural firm is Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the building is designed by architect and design partner Bruce Graham with Chief Structural Engineer Fazlur Kahn. The building contains 897,000 square feet of office space, 172,000 square feet of retail space, 17,371 square feet (on the 94th floor) for the observatory (admission costs $18; $12 for kids, children under 3 are admitted for free) and it comes with a 34,307 square-foot facility for broadcasting. There are 49 floors of residential condominiums. The John Hancock Building cost $100 million at the time of construction and took approximately 36 months to build.

The observatory is open from 9 am to 11 pm every day, 365 days a year (last ticket sold at 10:30 pm) and I recommend if you have time for only one that you head for the skyscraper’s bar, The Signature Lounge, instead to save money – drinks are expensive but you can sit, have a beverage or some food and enjoy the view of up to four states, lots of flat land and Lake Michigan for miles and miles. Ask for Virginia if she’s working; she’s the best skyscraper waitress in town as I recently discovered. There’s a fine dining restaurant, too, which I’ve patronized in the past and it was just OK. I prefer dining at the top of the Standard Oil Building (now named Aon Center) on Randolph but that’s another skyscraper. I have been to the top of the Sears Tower (now named Willis Tower) in the winter but it’s not my favorite building.

Hancock’s proximity to so many other area treasures—Lake Shore Drive, Oak Street Beach, The Drake Hotel, shops along Michigan Avenue, scads of businesses, companies, burger joints, Billy Goat Tavern, the Chicago River, Grand Luxe Cafe, Tribune Tower, Chicago River and its Marina Towers and Wacker Drive—make it an excellent choice for touring while visiting the Windy City.

Photo by Scott Holleran. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 20130 All rights reserved.

Photo by Scott Holleran. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013. All rights reserved.

I grew up in and near Chicago, taking residence at various homes on School Street, Eddy Street, on Chicago Avenue in Evanston and in Wilmette. I used to take the El—the Skokie Swift, the Evanston Express, every train on the city’s downtown and northward—to work near Old Orchard, the Apparel Center across from the Merchandise Mart, a building on Jackson near Sears Tower and I’ve danced on stage at Park West, the Vic, Cabaret Metro and Neo and nearly frozen my tail off waiting at all hours at every El platform hitting those useless heating buttons in years gone by. I wrote my first articles on assignment in Chicago. Went to my first sports games there, getting crushed on opening day at Wrigley Field and putting up with drunks in the bleachers and getting my wallet stolen at Comiskey Park when I went to see the White Sox. I’ve been lucky to have lived in Chicago and I still love it. The city I’ve loved is on its way out (same as the country) but intelligent, friendly, decent, hardworking people—and great buildings—do exist. They’re in Chicago to look up to. The more reason one has to look down, the more reason to seize the moment and look up. And, here, for now, is Chicago’s John Hancock Tower.