CHICAGO – I'd trace my love of tall buildings to growing up in New York, but I doubt one has anything to do with the other.
My childhood visits to the observation decks at the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center were fun, but the crowds at ESB and places like Chicago's Willis Tower and Hancock Center are proof that I'm in no way unique in my love at looking at the world from high above.
It's been a couple decades since I scaled (well, rode the elevator up) what was then called the Sears Tower. Back then, the 108-story building was still the world's tallest at 1,451 feet. Since 2009, the soaring black tower designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, has been called the Willis Tower.
The modernist building, completed in 1973, lost its title as the world's tallest 11 years earlier when the Petronas Twin Towers were erected in Kuala Lumpur. It is, however, still the tallest in the U.S. and, I assume, the entire North American continent, and seventh tallest in the world.
This weekend, I returned to ride the super-fast elevator up to the Skydeck once again. (Tip: invest in the Fast Pass, so you can skip the long lines.) In large part I went back so that I could test my mettle by stepping out onto the Ledge: one of three plexiglass boxes that jut out the west side of the building. Even the floor is transparent.
Whenever I have to climb a ladder to change a light bulb high above the garage door or clean leaves out of the gutters, I think of myself as being afraid of heights – though for my urban spelunking stories I have climbed circular staircases and old wooden ladders surrounded by nothingness, straight up into high, dark places – and I figured stepping out on to the Ledge would help me face this fear, sorta.
After waiting in a bit of a line, I stepped out and though I wasn't frightened, I did feel a little unsteady, almost like I might lose my balance due to the "lack" of a floor.
Looking down was unreal. Sure, it's far, but just like looking out the big panels of glass that line the entire Skydeck, there's a feeling that it's not really ... real. After all, the people look like ants and the vehicles like Matchbox cars.
I'd be super proud of myself for "taking the plunge" – so to speak – if it weren't for the fact that all around me tots toddled out like it was nothing, giggling the whole time.
I could NEVER do that!! My fear of heights is so strong that I couldn't even take the elevator to the Polaris restaurant at the top of the Hyatt downtown. Even from the inside, I couldn't handle the glass elevator and seeing, my God, all those floors going up and how high up we were (I'm sorry, but glass elevators are just WRONG!!!). The waitstaff there let me and my friend use the service elevator instead. So my hat is off to you, my friend, for accomplishing this feat. I however, will pass on it.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Perhaps no Milwaukee historical landmark has suffered more indignity than the replica of the early home of founder Solomon Juneau. After being sealed to the public for decades, we got a peek inside.
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Back in spring, I posted some photo outtakes from my wanderings around town and you seemed to enjoy them. So, here are five more from the archive.
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Though the exhibition was a small one, Milwaukee photographer Kevin Miyazaki's "Perimeter" show at the Haggerty Museum was one of the highlights of the local arts scene in 2013. Now, the project is showcased in a hardcover book -- officially launched with an event on Wednesday, Sept. 17 -- and we caught up with Miyazaki to ask him about the inspiration for and the perspiration of creating this unmatched exploration of Lake Michigan and its diverse users.
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Decades after the break-up of The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere is still performing. We caught up with him before he arrives in Milwaukee this week for a gig at the Northern Lights Theater.
Published Sept. 15, 2014
There are few events more exciting for me than Doors Open Milwaukee, which takes place this coming weekend, Sept. 20-21, as dozens of locations around town as venues of all kinds swing open their doors to let Milwaukeeans see inside. There are churches, schools, office buildings, historic sites and much more.Here are six you won't want to miss!
Published Sept. 13, 2014
Like you, we love the Klement's Racing Sausages. But, the other day, while gazing down at the figures on a T-shirt celebrating 20 years of sal-seech, I wondered if a few of them couldn't use a bit of a makeover and if the time is ripe for a sixth member of the meat-grinder gang.
Published Sept. 10, 2014
Once upon a time, The Modjeska Theater, 1134 W. Mitchell St., was a neighborhood movie palace, the big daddy of Mitchell Street, the second busiest thoroughfare in Milwaukee after Wisconsin Avenue. Now, after four dormant years, and decades after it ended its run as a movie house, Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corporation is cleaning it up, with an eye toward re-opening in spring with a mix of movies, concerts and other live performances.
Published Sept. 9, 2014
I love finding bits of Milwaukee history and now more than ever they're easy to find online.
Published Sept. 8, 2014
Madison's non-partisan Forward Institute released a report Monday that looked at education funding across the state of Wisconsin and found that over the past decade increasing poverty, deep education cuts, voucher expansion, the economic recession and growing rates of bilingual and special needs enrollment have led to a system that fuels funding and opportunity gaps among Wisconsin students and communities.
Published Sept. 7, 2014
A few weeks ago, I looked at missed opportunities, ugly spaces and other problem spots east of the river. This time, I go west.