Julie’s Birthday Day in Chicago

Liz’s mom Julie had a birthday a few days ago, and one of her wishes was to spend a day in Chicago. So Liz and I met up with Julie and Bob early Saturday morning, with a whole host of activities on the docket. First up – a plant sale at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

The GPS suffered a lot of damage from the massive hail storm several months back… and as a result, they had a lot of plants they couldn’t shelter/care for, with the onset of winter. So instead of simply destroying them all, they had a plant sale open to the general public.

The sale was set to begin at 9AM, but we were a little late in arriving. I want to say we showed up closer to 9:45 or 10AM. By the time we got in line, there were a good number of folks in front of us and we were near the back.

While we were waiting, it was fun watching people walking out with their purchases.

Several folks came out with wheelbarrows of stuff.

Seriously, this was not an uncommon site.

Just past the main gate, we spotted a large bulldozer filled with leaves/cuttings.

Yet another patron, walking out with some hefty purchases.

Two guys, relocating what looks to be a very large palm tree.

Much like the lines at amusement parks, once we passed underneath the main gate, we realized there was a great deal more waiting before we arrived at the actual entry.

Julie, looking longingly through the gate at all the plants inside. I want to say at this point, we and another 30 minute of waiting before we got inside.

Looking in at people, scrambling to find plants.

Another guy, hauling a very large plant to his car.

While Liz and Julie were very interested in looking around and finding pants, Bob and I were mostly along for the ride. Once we found ourselves inside the “sale area,” we suddenly realized we were just standing around getting in people’s way.

A small selection of plants.

Liz and Julie, looking over some plants.

At the checkout line, paying for a few plants, some cacti and a cotton plant.

On our way out, we picked up some Cannas cuttings.

From a note nearby:

These free cannas bulbs originated form displays the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District planted to bring summer tropic interest to the streets and parks of Chicago. These tropical plants would not survive outdoors over the winter, and have been removed, giving us the chance to redistribute the bulbs for you to plant next summer. Thanks for being a part of the “recycling of bulbs” and extending the life of these plants.

// Edit: Here’s an interesting tidbit. Looking back, the GPC made over $17,500 during their two-day sale. Awesome!

After we loaded up the car with our purchases, we headed downtown to The Gage for a late morning brunch. After that, we strolled along the lake and headed towards Shedd Aquarium.

As we neared the aquarium, we spotted several people near the water with scuba gear and a large crane.

Our best guess was that a few boats capsized, due to some unusually strong winds from a few days ago.

Outside the John G. Shedd Aquarium. We weren’t expecting lines, but Saturday turned out to be a pretty popular day. Despite us being a good distance from the door, we got inside within maybe 25 minutes or so.

Inside, we were fortunate to catch one of the feeding sessions in the main tank. It’s always amazing to see a person in there, swimming alongside sharks.

I couldn’t get a good photo of this guy, but I’m amazed such a creature exists. Never did figure out what this guy was called.

There was a large (very large) moray eel, sitting near the window. This thing was HUGE! And to top it off, the diver swam by and petted the thing on its head.

I’m sure moray eels aren’t overly aggressive by nature, but the very look of them makes me think they’re always ready to bite off fingers. Yeesh.

Nearby, a few workers came out to do a live demonstration with an owl. See the small cup on the woman’s right hip? It’s full of treats frozen mice parts.

Near the Abbott Oceanarium, I happened to spot Bob hanging out near a window. On looking up, I saw a guy and a girl standing and talking to one another. The guy had set up a camera on a nearby ledge, and they were going to take a photo of one another.

I had a hunch, but wasn’t fast enough in pulling out my camera. Next thing I knew, the guy was on his knees and the girl’s hands were at her mouth. There were a few other people nearby who also witnessed this, and a small murmur overtook the area.

It was a very cool moment to witness – this random couple, and this guy getting on one knee proposing marriage.

The photo (above) is mere moments after the proposal, with the girl checking out her ring.

The happy couple, recently engaged. I’m not sure if they could see inside the aquarium or not, but it was an incredible thing to be a part of. I couldn’t help smiling at all the other folks inside, who were watching the events unfold.

I wish I knew who these folks were. These aren’t the greatest photos in the world (I was pretty far away, and behind a lot of glass), but would be interested in sending pics these to them.

Watching dolphins swim about. L to R it’s Bob, Julie and Liz.

A random shot of a mini parking lot.

Walking outside, I spotted this random note on a table. What I’m trying to figure out is how this person had time to go inside, compose and print up a note, and then return here to tape it. Was it written by a Shedd employee to other staff members? And if so, wouldn’t an email have been better?

Ah well. Unanswered questions are par for the course when you come across found notes, and never get closure.

Walking through an outdoor area, the tent made me think of weddings and celebrations. I hung back to get a photo, and Liz can be seen waving to me from a distance.

Perhaps it was due to the marriage proposal I saw earlier, but at this moment I was overcome with a great feeling of happiness. I felt lucky to have met Liz, lucky that we got married, lucky to have met and become part of her family.

We hopped a cab and headed back downtown. On our way, we spotted the very boat we had seen, suspended from a crane a few hours earlier. It’s strange, but there was an odd feeling of completion in seeing this – kind of like the soft closing of a book.

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