The Long Walk and MCC Update

SeanSean had a novel idea sometime back in January. He decided he wanted to walk the entire length of Clark Street, a mostly north/south street that cuts right through Chicago, starting at its northern border at Howard (7400 North) and ending at Cermak (2600 South) in Chinatown. He posited that May would be the ideal time, since the weather would be nice, but probably not so hot as to make the walk miserable. I signed on immediately and over the next few months, our friends John, Sabrina and Liz signed on as well.

Yesterday, we finally accomplished Sean’s walk. Sabrina, Sean and I met at the red line’s Howard stop at 8am and started our journey 15 minutes later. About a mile in, John joined us. Liz joined us at Addison. The five of us walked the bulk of the journey together, and I would say in high spirits, even though the afternoon turned out to be pretty warm and humid. Near the end, Liz and John peeled off, as they both had to take public transportation clear back up north. Sabrina, Sean and I walked the last mile to Cermak, crossing the finish line at exactly 1:57pm.

Between Sabrina and the two of us, we took about 200 pictures. You can backtrack to see the set by clicking on Sean’s picture above if you are curious. I also recommend reading Sean’s journal entry regarding the trip, which may just convince anyone that “urban hiking” is not only quite doable, but also fun and informative. All of us had a really good time and look forward to conquering our next Chicago street.

As it turns out, it’s lucky we did the walk yesterday. Today, heavy clouds have settled over the region and we’ve experienced a number of very intense rain showers. The upshot is that this provides me with an ideal day to stay in, work on all the Clark pictures and update my field journal, as promised Friday. So, let me pick up after leaving the Wacker building…

Counting OffspringAfter I left the Wacker building, I wandered over towards the MCC with hopes of staying an hour or two to watch the jailbirds. As I walked into the territory, I watched the sky for signs of Herc and Max. I hadn’t seen a thing until I rounded the corner of Clark and the western side of the MCC came fully into view. An adult sat on the edge of the west-facing niche two from the north.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about going up on the LaSalle/VanBuren ‘el platform to see if I could get a closer look at the nesting niche. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable place to sit for a few hours, I did get some pictures of Hercules going in and out, so it was worth it. Well, I don’t think I wrote about my next try at the ‘el platform.

A week or so later, I went back up, this time with my spotting scope and tripod. I stopped by the little help booth to tell the lady there what I was going to do, just in case she looked out and thought the situation looked weird enough to call the cops. She told me that I could go ahead and set up my scope and tripod, but would probably be kicked off the platform as soon as the first train conductor saw me. I was half expecting this, but politely asked why my scope and I would seem threatening to ‘el train conductors. She laughed and said that it wasn’t about threat, but money. Apparently, all sorts of outfits (even big-budget movies and television shows!) try to film the ‘el without permits, so the conductors are strongly encouraged to report any “filming sort of activity”.

In the long run, I decided not to set my scope up, figuring I might as well find a new viewing perch. I have, of sorts. A long staircase goes from the sidewalk to the ‘el platform on the south side of the tracks. It’s an exit-only for passengers and if I hang out of the side a bit and crane my neck up, I can get a pretty ok view of the nesting ledge. While it isn’t ideal, it’s the best I’ve got at present.

So, that’s where I went when I saw one of the adults hanging out on the nesting ledge. I had about ten minutes of viewing before I saw a van pull up, screech to a halt park right below me and flip its hazards on. Four people got out – a guy carrying a clip board, a girl carrying a bunch of papers, an older guy in a loud brown and yellow suit and a young guy with a very nice movie camera.

Clip-board hustled up the steps and looked east down the tracks as the rest of his group stood below. After a few minutes, he yelled, “Train! Ok. Set up the shot. Get ready.”

He ran back down the stairs past me as the train came down the track. As it did, Loud-suit started walking up the stairs talking into the camera as the cameraman followed. He squeezed past me as I tried to get my stuff out of the way and I heard him saying something about local sports fans and transportation.

After the train went by, the group went back down and Clipboard gave his assessment. The shot was good, but try again. He went up to the top of the stairs to scout for trains.

“Hey,” I yelled up at him, “Um, do you want me to get out of the way?”

“No. Stay there. You are fine. Just don’t look into the camera when we pass you.”

“Uh, ok. But, I can move, no problem.”

“No, stay there…HERE comes the TRAIN!”

As they started into the same filming sequence, the conductor pulled the train to a fast halt, just shy of the station. She leaned out her window and yelled down to ask the guys what they were doing. For the next few minutes, the conductor and the group had a loud argument. The word “permit” was tossed around as well as “we have permit”, “illegal” , “trespassing” and “cops”. Finally, the conductor pulled the train into the station after warning the group that she was going to have security come down and check the permits.

The moment she left, the camera crew sprinted halfway up the stairs, resumed where they’d left off and then sprinted back down. Loud-suit asked Clipboard if they did, indeed have a permit, to which Clipboard answered in the negative. Before security could show up, they’d gathered back into the van and sped off.

So. That’s why they won’t let me go up on the platform with my spotting scope.

"Pipe down, you kids!"I couldn’t help feel a bit peeved at the camera crew. I mean, hell, I’m a liberal, so I’m all for being able to film public spaces in a city anytime one pleases. But, because they and their ilk were too cheap to buy a permit, I was blocked from a good monitoring perch.

In all the commotion, I still managed to watch the nest awhile. I couldn’t see leg bands over the lip of the ledge, but both adults checked in while I was there. I recognized Hercules by her size and some markings on her breast. She stayed the longest, hopping into the nest to deliver food on one occasion and then just coming in for a nest check on another.

I can’t wait to see how many chicks there are this year!!

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~ by Steph on June 3, 2007.