Sunday, September 10, 2006

machines and skylines

Oftentimes their skin is pasty from being indoors all day and they wear dorky clothes.
The world of machinists, as described by one of the lot, at the International Machine Tool Show in Chicago this weekend.
Hey, that’s not a dorky bunch! These guys are in yellow and blue shirts and they move around blue lights!

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Gone are the days where metal milling machines required a muscled arm. Everything around me is computerized.

Ed, who convinced me to go to the Show with him, has designed and put into production the smallest cheapest CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine on the market – for the hobbyist, or the miller with a threadbare pocket. Ed likes cheap things.

I like the free candies they have in bowls to entice you to look at their machines.
What kind of candies?
Oh, you know, Hershey’s Krackle or milk chocolate Kisses.

Just like guys to not go all out on the candy. I mean, is a Hershey’s kiss going to get you to look over and buy a machine for hundreds of thousands?

This is an international expo and some countries still believe in grabbing the (male) audience by the seat of their pants.

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And the French! Theirs is a full-scale show, with cups of beer (they're pandering to American machinists), if you stick around for a minute.

But really, the fascination is all in the machines.

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honey, I'll be home soon...

We walk past countless displays. Ed pretends to be blasé about stuff. He parades in his denim shorts and ancient t-shirt, his face wearing an “I’ve seen it all before” look. But the sales reps know one of their own. He gets approached, cajoled, coaxed and I get the benevolent smile, like I’m some kind of tag-along.

The machines are of course impressive. But showing me their capabilities is like impressing a kid with Belgian chocolate when Skittles will do the trick as well. The thing mills metal. Wow. It does so with the precision to the millionth thousand or something. Wow. Etc.

We end the day at Frontera Grill (see post below) and drive out way beyond the airport to stay overnight at a roadside inn. Remember, we’re dealing with frugal guy who can’t understand why anyone would spend the money on a big city hotel. You could buy a whole new camera for a night’s lodging there – he tells me. I have no answer other than -- you can.

The next day we backtrack down to the Museum of Science of Industry. I used to live by the Museum. For six years it was within spittin’ distance of my front door and yet I rarely went there. You could say that I am more of a paintings than a diesel engines kind of person. Still, they are showing a film on the Tour de France… Besides, this trip is meant to put Ed at peace with urban life. Ed dislikes cities almost as much as I like them. Best to take him to places that have the Burlington Zephyr on display.

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We take Lake Shore Drive back downtown. It is wet and navy gray outside. The acqua tone of Lake Michigan seems strangely out of place.

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We can go malling now if you like. Ed tells me. I don’t hate machines. I do hate malls. Still, I aim to please. Besides, I need the perfect black shoe that will move seamlessly between work and dirt roads. Says something about the demands of my day.

If you buy your coffee here and also pick up three candy bars, we can save $10 at the mall parking lot.
The man is frugal to the core.