interesting and useful … — David Gibson (dbpg@*.net)MMM
CHICAGO, A visit to
Icono Clast and Girlfriend
We changed 'planes in Denver for an uneventful trip
to get to the BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota, hotel
with time enough to go to a nearby mall to dance a bit.
MMMWe had some
trouble finding a place to go. A query to a very muscular and handsome bald-atop
but pony-tail'd man resulted in her gaily skipping along, hand cupped in
his arm, as he led us to a place where he told the gatekeepers “They're with
me” showed us the venue's various rooms and at a bar told the tender to “Put
them on my tab” before disappearing. We have no idea who he was nor why he
lavished such great courtesy and generosity upon us. We were a cheap date,
though, she having a juice and I a non-alcoholic beer.
MMMWe were in
Bloomington to attend a gathering of her family, the result of a wedding,
that proved to be quite pleasant. Even though we were near MINNEAPOLIS for two nights, we never got to see any of the town. I was quite
disappointed but in a position where I had to go along with the situation
presented without complaint so I did. It wasn't hard. Everyone was very
nice and everything was quite pleasant.
Sunday morning we hit The Road from Bloomington
through WISCONSIN in a comfortable
back seat facing CHICAGO.
MMMIt's a different
world back there. Oh, there are rolling hills but they're quite small.
They're just large enough to keep ‘expansive’ out of view descriptions
but not large enough to have much character. Hither and yon were silos,
barns, cows, houses, horses, corn, and unidentified,
possibly sugar beet, crops. For most of the more than 400 miles we saw nothing
but ribbons of first-class asphalt and veils of tiny little small trees just
big enough to keep their secrets.
The front seat passenger was one of her sisters,
the driver the sister's husband. They proved to be extremely gracious
and generous hosts to their home town of Chicago even though they live
in RIVERSIDE, a Frederich Law Ohlmstead-designed
sub-urb of 8900 people that's really a park with lovely, highly varied
and interesting, houses imposed upon it. The horizontal plane is like a
cartoon: no straight lines. It is said that even some long-time residents
get lost in there.
MMMA knock on
the door was from a petitioner soliciting signatures to keep the gas-
powered street lights. Everyone signed it.
dinner was at a Bohemian restaurant. It was very inexpensive. Because
the food was unknown to us San Franciscans, we found it, uhhh, interesting.
Our first day started with an architectural
tour from the NAVY PIER on the Chicago River.
We chose the lower deck to escape the Sun's rays but not the heat and
humidity. Although there were many well-placed speakers, most of what
we heard sounded mumbled, mangled, and muddled. Much of what came through
ungarbled I had to “translate” to the beautiful and elegant Brazilian
woman seated next to us.
MMMAt the end of
the tour I was furious because we had basically just had a boat ride for
which I had absolutely no use. We learned next to nothing, deriving so little
benefit from the trip that my rage caused me to send her to complain to
someone. He proved to be the tour guide who cheerfully said “Oh, I turned
the volume down” and that really set me off. She dragged me away before the
cops did. [“Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?” she asked. “Yeah. So. What's
yer point?”] A proper business would have offered to take us on the next tour
or offer a refund. It is not a proper business.
over to the MAGNIFICENT MILE of Michigan
Avenue for an afternoon stroll. The first thing that caught my eye was an
adult toy store that I knew from catalogues. That was fun.
in to see the lobbies of several buildings including the Chicago Tribune
and Wrigleys. At the WATER TOWER was an exhibit of photographs of Chicagoans including Studs
Terkel, Hugh Hefner, and Sally Rand. We really
MMMWe knew about
Chicago's Deep Dish Pizza and had been told to also have a hot dog. There
were no vendors on Michigan Avenue but a transit worker directed us "two
blocks". It was a walk-in place, not a stand, but the hot dog we had was delicious.
On return to the Avenue, we thanked the transit worker and told him where
we'd gone. He was delighted, enthusiastic handshakes and backpats all around.
MMMWe came across
a barber-shop attired Chicago Jazz quartette playing on the wide sidewalk.
When we stopped to listen, the leader announced “courtesy of the City of
Chicago”, took a step toward us and broadly gestured as he said “Dancing's
allowed”. “HehHeh” chuckled I into her ear. “He knoweth not to whom he spake.”
As they con- cluded the number they were playing, I dramatically removed
the light jacket I was wearing and threw it aside a plant and equally dramatically
directed her to remove her jacket and purse. The timing was good. I requested
“a shuffle beat around 120” that did not cause a blink. They chose the Prima
chart of Just a Gigolo and, when they saw we could hit the
breaks, threw in a few extras. It was as good a dance as the circumstances
allowed. We didn't draw an audience but the quartette was very appreciative
of us as were we of them.
MMMTrying to do
our hosts a favor by taking a bus to get close to home, we followed the
directions of a local cop. Well, the directions were wrong, we learned
after a 90- minute bus ride, but we got to see a bit of Chicago's CHINATOWN and pass through a couple of Chi- nese and Mexican neighborhoods.
a lovely in-home affair.
The next day was absolutely thrilling for it
was spent at the ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO. We saw little more than the Expressionists and Surrealists
but Wow! I doubt that I've ever seen so many Monets in one place.
There was Sunday on Grande Jette by Seurat, Van Gogh's
beautiful self portrait and his astounding bedroom scene as well as several
other works. Degas was represented by the largest of his statuettes
I've ever seen and a couple of paintings, too. Several paintings by Gaugin,
of whom I'm not a fan, but one painting that I really liked. Of course there
were Picassos and Dalís (aren't there always?).
And many, many others each of whom you would recognize. I was surprised that I'd previously seen so many of the paintings
but, then, they do travel.
MMMOne of my favorite
Surrealists is Yves Tanguy. The first of his paintings I ever saw,
Second Thoughts, was when a child. I'd since seen very
few of his works as they're spread all over the place. I think I saw one
in Paris, one in New York, and two in Washington. The Art Institute has
at least five including one large screen.
end of our time there, I reälized that we'd not seen Grant Wood's
American Gothic. While making a mad dash to see it, we
were stopped by works by Tamayo, Rivera, Edward
Hopper's Nighthawks, Giaccometti sculptures,
Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Chagall's
stained glass and other works. But we did get there.
A full and satisfying too-short trip — September
MMMDinner was a quite-good
ersatz Mexican buffet at a very pleasant golf club founded about 120 years
we borrowed one of the household cars to go to see the BUCKINGHAM
FOUNTAIN, a large one reminiscent of the Magic Fountain.
We arrived for the end of the show. Another started but was almost immediately
shut off because there were so few of us there. We had a pleasant 45-minute
wait for the day's last show. The speakers blared forth with America
The Beautiful (I think) followed by an outstanding Gershwin
medley to conclude with a rousing Stars and Stripes Forever.
It was very nice.
MMMWe ended the
day with a visit to the Drake Hotel's lovely lobby.
On the way to Frank Lloyd Wright's OAK
PARK home, we saw an open door at the CHENEY
HOUSE, a 1913 effort by Charles E. White, Jr.,
so I dropped in. People preparing for an event greeted me and let me wander
whither I chose in the lovely and historic home set in a formal garden.
The 1970 Survey of Historic Buildings in Oak Park described it as a “simplified rectilinear design of first rank
in architectural quality, significance, and originality”.
MMMThe tour of
the Frank Lloyd Wright home was excellent and very informative. Being in
Oak Park, where many of his earliest residential efforts can be seen, made
it quite special. MMMIn
addition to the in-house tour, one can take a talking wand to tour the
neighbor- hood seeing about a dozen Wright wrought works.
TEMPLE absolutely stunned me. We sat in the Temple
for quite a long while as I couldn't believe that it was completed in 1908,
seven years before the Panama- Pacific International Exposition, the last
great event of Century XIX.
MMMI sat there
squinting m'eyes and scrunching my body and trying ever-so-hard to bend
m'mind into seeing with 1908 eyes. I fidgeted in this row and that, high
and low, left and Wright. I can't imagine how that room, “among the most
important of Century XX”, looked to people born in the 1830s-1890s, sitting
in that room in 1908.
MMMTo the people
of Oak Park, I was told, it wasn't such a big deal as they lived among Wright's
works. Well, I just can't believe that. I mean, that was a time when public
buildings were Greek/Roman Revivals, Beaux Arts, and perhaps an Art Deco
brick or two. In San Francisco, we were building Victorians and Queen Anns
and Edwardians and our magnifi- cent Beaux Arts (Daniel Burnham)
Civic Center wasn't yet on a sketch pad. The fashions of men and women,
in 1908, were similar to what they'd been during the Civil War and weren't
to undergo a major change for at least another decade. Wright incorporated
nary a suggestion, that I could see, of anything that had come before in
Western architecture. I was just plain gaga, enthralled, thrilled, speechless,
incredulous. 1908! Shee-it! 1908! Damn! 1908! Whew! 1908!
[A sunny afternoon in VIENNA
I encountered a sidewalk sandwich board saying “Art Exhibit” with an arrow
indicating an opening in a fence. I went through and was immediately stunned
by a large black sculpture of an enormously breasted, powerfully-built
Black woman with her hands behind her back having just broken the chains
that bound her wrists. Thirty some-odd years later, I saw her at the Hirschhorn(sp).
On the grand stairway at the Art Institute of Chicago is a small torso
that looks identical in all but scale.
garden also had the first Giaccometti I ever saw, his Diogenes.
And there were stained glass windows by Chagall that were on their way
to Israel. MMM[I
don't, and didn't, know what that garden exhibit was all about but it sure
seems to have been an important one. It was indisputably memorable. I wish
I knew more about it. Anyone know how that might be done as I could determine
the approximate date?]
[When we returned to civilization, we paid a visit to
what was built as V.C.Morris Company's retail outlet on Maiden Lane, now
a commercial gallery. It precedes Manhattan's Guggenheim by a few years
but is clearly a predecessor. It was there that I saw a man pumping the
hand of a black-hatted other thanking him for saving his life. The thankee
was obviously puzzled by the thanker who went on to say that he was in the
Imperial Hotel when the 'quake hit.]MMM
The CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER is another glorious building with an interior similar to those
found at the Library of Congress and San Francisco's Main Post Office.
We just loved it. We were there to visit the MUSEUM OF BROADCAST
COMMUNICATIONS that might not be much fun for people
born after 1950 but was a trip down mem'ry lane for us, a revisit to the
days when families sat together listening to the sounds coming from an AM-only
console: music, news, sit-coms, comics, mysteries, dramas, etc. One can
open the door to Fibber McGee's closet and get the expected
result. One can enter Jack Benny's safe with an unexpected, but totally
MMMIt was fun
for us and we highly recommend it. Whether younger people will enjoy it
we cannot say but it does have general historical value as the early days
of television fea- tured the same programs and performers as the late days
of radio, many of them as well known today as they were sixty years ago.
FIELD has a lovely Louis Comfort Tiffany dome
that we hadn't known existed and were thrilled to see even though I wouldn't
call it one of his better works.
From there, I took the elevated train to the
airport. En route, I had the pleasure of an aerial view of many neighborhoods
and interesting structures.
MMMAt the airport,
I took the hotel's van to move in for the next few days of dancing and competitions
at the Mid-America Just Dance Swing Dance Championships. She went home
with her sister. They joined me for dinner and dancing at the hotel's bar
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