According to Taoist belief, some things are useful because they are empty: a bucket, a sack, a glass . . .

Navy Pier.

Being empty gives Navy Pier a purpose: Where else can you walk directly into the lake for a mile and quietly enjoy a great view of the skyline? Where else could the 36th Annual Chicago American Indian Center Powwow have been held?

Not convinced? Wander through the shops and attractions that opened this year at nearby North Pier Terminal and you’ll get the point. If the developers had been Taoists, they wouldn’t have given us:

Baja Beach Club: Enough gimmickry to make Ed Debevic’s seem sedate. Here a Brian Boitano clone tries a figure-eight while delivering your burger. The music pulsates, but that’s not half as bad as the sound of billiard balls smacking together in the adjacent pool hall.

Dick’s: Do we really need another restaurant where the wait staff is deliberately rude?

Shell Cellar: It’s 1950s Miami, but where else are you going to find a decent conch lamp these days?

Call of the Sea: And where else can you shop for the difficult duck-decoy collector in the family?

Take 1 Video Productions: It lets you put yourself next to Bruce Springsteen in your own home video and it creates employment for people with video degrees.

Turin: An entire store devoted to spandex bikewear. And in case you’re infatuated with the Brian Boitano waiter upstairs, you can buy your own roller skates here.

Video game rooms: Always empty. Didn’t these go out when Nintendo took over?

Light Wave: Hologram art. If this is the wave of the future, we’d better turn back now!

Majestic Design: Marble bed frames, marble dressers, marble dining-room tables. Who can carry this stuff up three flights of stairs?

City Golf Chicago: Two indoor 18-hole miniature golf courses. I never realized green came in such a lurid shade.

Navy Pier needs major restoration to save it from dropping into the lake; it does not need commercial development like this. I suppose we should be thankful for North Pier. Maybe it’s gone glitzy so Navy Pier won’t have to.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jon Randolph.