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A Visit to Chicago in 1986

In April 1986, I was in my sophomore year of undergrad at The University of Michigan. My roomate Jim and I took a weekend road trip to visit my brother in Chicago. We stopped at some iconic places including the Museum of Science and Industry and the Sears Tower.

The Musuem of Science and Industry
In the museum, they had machines that make an injection molded figure. We got one of Abraham Lincoln, and "ABE!" was an iconic member of our room after that, until the plastic wore out (maybe the following year). We had a variety of pictures with and of him.

The Sears Tower
First off, yes, The Sears Tower was the original name of what is currently called the (What-you-talking-about) Willis Tower? We took pictures at the bottom and top of the tower.

Pop quiz: What do you do when you're at the top of the tower? Hint: Remember this was long before the era of cell phones so you couldn't send a text message or a picture or anything like that. I had to wait till we got back to Ann Arbor to get the film developed (usually took stores 2-3 days).

Answer: You call someone and say, "Guess where I am!" Caller-ID also didn't exist, so the person you called first had to figure out who they were and then where they were. How did you call them? With a pay phone. How did you pay for them? With coins! No bills, no credit cards. Why were there pay phones at the top of the Sears Tower? So people can make calls and say "Guess where I am!"

Wild times!

Context: Comic books and the mid-80s
Another thing to note is that this was during one of the most defining times for comic books in the last 50+ years. The mainstream was experiencing a revitalization from relatively new writers and artists. The Watchmen written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, The Dark Knight Returns written and drawn by Frank Miller were coming out each month. John Bryne was writing and drawing various titles. DC and Marvel had subsidiary companies like Epic and Vertigo (whoops, Vertigo didn't exist until 1993) so they could have more "mature" stories and themes (i.e., problems that couldn't all be solved just by punching). And Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Marv Wolfman and pencilled by Gerge PĂ©rez, which impacted all of DC comics (until they slowly back-slid and undid the changes) that was a year-long story that touched every character, was also coming out each month.

There was no need to reinterpret the past and say "if only we knew...". We knew it was fucking amazing what was coming out every month!

A key element in Crisis on Infinite Earths was that parallel worlds, history, contradictions, and more were literally being wiped away into the whiteness of a blank comic book page by a wall of antimatter. The sort of thing reminiscent of what happens when someone is backlit in a picture and the background is completely blown out. Jim took a picture, nicely in focus, with the effect that we both wanted. Remember, it was film. One shot. We didn't know if it worked until I got the pictures developed and printed a week later. I'm including this here because it's too long to put in a caption. But all that background is the motivation for a simple blown-out shot.

And yes, of course we were geeks. There is absolutely nothing here that would in any way suggest otherwise.

Finishing the roll
And finally, when we were back in Ann Arbor, I had a few shots left to finish the roll of film so I took some pictures of people in the dorm. I'm only including one here.

Displaying all 8 pictures

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Jim calling home, telling his family he was on top of the Sears Tower.

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Jim in front of...I forget which building that was.

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My nieces Lisa and Robyn (around 5½ and 1½), enjoying the...(more)

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The computer languages are amusing but the key is that Jim was holding ABE!

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Frank holding ABE! in front of some "modern"-ish computer technology...(more)

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Jim with ABE! in front of what was 20 year old computer technology at the time.

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Frank wistfully looks out the window at the top of the Tower as a wall of...(more)

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"And the funny thing is..." Keith waited back at the South Quad dorms...(more)




This page last modified Jul 23, 2019.
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