Every 105 minutes, I saw the Navy Pier Ferris wheel dissolve.
Every boat ride back and forth on the river on Sunday, every time we went by and I was on my mic telling tourists about the reversal of the river and how the locks work, there was a little less of it.
The wheel was being dismantled section by section, pie piece by pie piece, like a 150-foot Pac-Man that just had a ghost monster catch up.
For those who gasp and worry at the loss of the wheel, don’t worry. They’re building a bigger one in time for the pier’s 100th anniversary next year.
I don’t have as strong feelings on the wheel as many. I remember going up in it once with a woman I was dating, but the memory seems to flip back and forth between which woman it was.
It was… cold, I think?
Navy Pier’s been everything from a jail for WWI draft dodgers to the current tourist carnival and home of public radio, Shakespeare theater and stained glass museum. It’s been a naval training base and a college campus and a run-down ‘70s strip of rank and nothing.
The Tribune over the summer referred to the current incarnation as a “garish tourist trap.” I like that.
The same article called the Ferris wheel, part of a 1995 updo of the pier, an “icon.” I don’t care as much for that.
I’m sure a lot of lovely people have lovely memories of first or last kisses on the wheel. I’m sure some sensible, fine adults have a secret smile for childhood memories of what I consider a tacky monstrosity.
(For the record, my favorite place in Chicago when I was a kid was retro-themed gimmick diner Ed Debevic’s, so… no judgment.)
Sometimes, I see things that don’t exist. I picture a city with the Sun-Times building where the Trump hotel is, with the Cabrini-Green projects instead of a field and encroaching chain stores. Even a non-native like me can form an attachment to a place’s visual identity.
Someone out there will only be able to see that Ferris wheel when they picture Navy Pier. Someone else won’t be able to picture it without whatever comes next.
The ghosts caught up and Pac-Man’s dissolving. Game over.