T/Blues: 07/11/2012

October 23, 2012

Cheat a bit today… agree to meet “pen pal” Marci at Art Museum (“Show me the Monet”), but decide to continue exploring “The Pearl” along the way.

Am astounded at how dramatically these (mostly) old, red brick buildings have been rehabilitated. (That they are not “decorated” by graffiti is another surprise.)

Discover Tanner Springs Park, which, at first, has a “run-down” look about it. Turns out, it’s been granted “Native” status, and plantings are being allowed to “do their thing”. Partially surrounded by tall residential buildings, kids, book-readers, joggers, etc. seem to mingle easily.

Not far away, Jamison Square has “splash fountains” (which young kids seem to LOVE). Wonder briefly whether, in my second childhood, am not eligible to relieve sweat accumulated on this warm, muggy day.

Figure it’s time to do another scientific study of Voodoo Donuts, and, as their line is more manageable, begin reading their “Wall of Shame”… customers who’ve “autographed” this wall as they wait. A docent-led walking tour comes by, and their leader suggests the “pink” of the Voodoo sign goes back to a “Pepto-Bismol” pastry they once made. She continues on about a “Nyquil” version, but my skepticism is in high gear.

Decide on a burrito luncheon, a a young Hispanic couple selling out of a trailer, for five bucks, provide one roughly the size of Connecticut which must have decimated King Ranch’s herd. Head for waterfront, and share waterside bench with two young women (1: “get Congess to be effective”; 2: “stop companies from outsourcing”), until our attention is diverted by “Hydro-Man” (guy has a James Bond rig on his back which allows him to “hover” 40 feet above river.

Marci is right on time, so we wander Portland’s “refreshed” art museum. (Hate to be picky, but seems to be awfully spread out). Practice my gaucherie with a comment about PAM being a “regional” museum, and am quickly set back on the straight and narrow. (They have made a great decision to choose “quality” works).

Afterward, we pause to refresh at a nearby coffee house and learn Marci knows EVERYONE in Portland.

Walk back along waterfront, and catch a glimpse of some children splashing in  sunsetting shadow at a

PORTLAND/OR  NW Hostel

Mex/Thai/Greek vendors; CT-sized burrito which decimate King Ranch, from young couple here 4 months); Waterfront (girl1: “get effective”; girl2 “stop outsourcings”; “Hydro Man” – James Bond contraption using water to hover – maybe walking on water deserves photo); OR Maritime Museum (“Portlandia”); Postal Bldg (“OR” mural); “Salmon” Bldg; Farmer’s Market; Portland Art Museum (Marci; Monet; Richter; “Roses & Statue); Coffee House (Marci’s friends); Waterfront; kids in fountain under Burnside Bridge


T/Blues: 08/24-25/2012

October 23, 2012

Pretty much drive straight through to Northbrook/IL, to settle in with cousin Marge and her husband Bruce. (Being with each of my cousins is a wonderful exercise in nostalgia, laughter, puns and joyousness. We CAN be serious, but rarely TOO serious).

Feel a certain anxiety about our 60th high school class reunion. Many of these people have known each other for a lifetime, and, having come “late to the party” (that is, in Junior year) am unsure about being an “interloper”.

As it turns out, Friday night’s party offers sheer delight… it is much less whom we WERE, than whom we have become… and, we’ve become a remarkably diverse group of people united by wonderful (albeit what some imagine to be “old-fashioned”) cultural values.

Many of us are retired, have multi-generational families, travel and have passionate interests. Thus, conversation comes quickly and easily, flitting from nostalgic remembrances of our shared youth, to individuals sharing what contemporary issues touch us most deeply.

Next day, our “picnic” is well attended, we manage “discretionary” drinking (not always one of our goals when younger), challenge our cardiologists by overeating, reflect sadly on those whose absence we regret, and express hopes for our future.


T/Blues: 10/14-15/2012

October 18, 2012

(NOTE: yeah, not “in sequence”, but wanted to capture this while it is fresh in mind… also, some photos are from an earlier visit. For more photos, check out “pages” 2012/10/14 – Washington/DC: The Mall and 2012/10/14 – Washington/DC: ML King)

Our nation’s capitol, hot and muggy in Summer offers natural air-conditioning in Autumn (no wisecracks about politician-generated hot air, please). Overhead, gray clouds provide cool (and sometimes, overmoistened) air, and even blue, sunny skies are comfortable. Perfect walking weather.

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The Mall – Washington Monument

How wonderful ANY day which begins with dawn’s early light silhouetting tall Washington Monument’s simple design,

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The Mall – Lincoln Memorial

and, across a long, reflecting, pool, Lincoln Memorial’s gut-wrenching “Gettysburg Address” and, considering the magnitude of our current political divide,  make an almost contemporary political assessment in a form of his second inaugural address. Both suggest moments when an experiment in “democracy” had yet to prove its mettle.

The Mall – Vietnam Veterans Memorial

How touched is a heart to watch crowds trace names on the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; or observe gray-haired, old men, bearing their “personal” insignia, search for a comrade’s name.

The Mall – a spectral vision of our Korean War Veterans Memorial

Close by, as crowds mill about, another old man describes why military figures at the Korean Veterans Memorial are deployed across a wide area.

A college-aged bicyclist leads two visitors to District of Columbia’s World War I memorial: a temple vaguely imitative of the Jefferson Memorial visible across the Tidal Pool. Crowds wander and photograph World War II fountains.

Tidal Pool – Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

A relatively new Martin Luther King, Junior Memorial brings ambivalence: an image of the man bears scant resemblance to a figure we knew well half a century ago. More positively, “fractured” tall rocks can readily be imagined as a “mountaintop” awaiting cohesion… and a wall of quotations offers a reminder of have far we’ve traveled and how much distance continues to lie ahead.

Tidal Pool – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Further along, a jaunty Franklin Delano Roosevelt counterpoints a sculpture of Depression “bread lines”.

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Tidal Pool – Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Finally, an exquisitely located, classical Greek inspired temple holds an over-sized Thomas Jefferson: surrounded with fragments of political judgment, while below, artifacts place him fully within the context of his time.
(Men and women of good faith may disagree how much respect any [or, even, all] these icons deserve, but, to pretend that their lives have not been important “threads” in a tapestry of our nation’s history would indeed be folly.)

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Holocaust Museum

The following day, hesitantly head over to DC’s Holocaust Museum. Sit on a bench outside, and a 60-ish woman comes over as a few drops of rain fall. She mentions having considered an umbrella at her hotel, and launches quickly into a question about whether I’m waiting for the museum to open.

Share my concerns (Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam was very painful emotional experience), and, with her New York City accent, am not completely surprised when she mentions having visited this museum multiple times. (DON’T tell her of captured German films watched during the 1950s while stationed in Heidelberg… films of such inhumane brutality that to be reminded of them is a threat).

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Bureau of Engraving & Printing – the “money factory”

She mentions next door’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour, so go check out how our money is created. Their “money factory: tour is short, but quite informative (we get to see an unusual event: a paper jam crumbles enough bills to buy a house).

Afterward, return and enter Holocaust Museum. Exhibits start on a top floor and work their way down. Countenance the rise of Nazi-ism, but, one floor down, concentration camp photos set my stomach reeling and head for an exit.

Am unsure from where the thought emerged, but suddenly wonder why “The Bitch of Buchenwald” is absent from these displays. A query at their Information Desk routes me up to their Research Department, where, indeed, her sordid exploits are deemed too gross to include. Am not sure what it is about their response, but suddenly find all self-control gone, and a tall, young man comes out from behind their counter and puts his arms around me until my sobbing subsides.

Ironically, within an hour, standing joyous inches from three VerMeers in our National Gallery of Arts, reflect that Holland can offer me such a spectrum of emotional responses.


T/Blues: 09/01-02/2012

October 3, 2012

As Hurricane Isaac threatens to vigorously “wag its wet tail” into Chicagoland, like Huck Finn, decide to “light out” a bit early.

Irony, however, has a fateful gift for abounding, so by the time I-80/90 is reached, “King” Isaac reigns, RAINS, and reins in my speed. Gradually, Isaac’s torrential “starboard” side squalls and the incessant spray of overtaking trucks wears me to a frazzle, so, just past Hammond, Indiana turn off onto near-empty US-20. Turns out to be a good decision, as rain relents, and am back to driving through hamlets of modest residential areas, punctuated occasionally, by commercial strip malls.

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Toy Parade… how MANY small towns still sport toy stores?

Make an obligatory stop at La Porte/IN’s library after a short, tension-relieving nap, and as La Porte is dry enough to support a “walkabout”, go a-wandering. A few architecturally attractive churches, and a “main drag” (Lincolnway) which has an eclectic collection of small shops, and a magnificent old courthouse.

Switch over to awesome US-31 (only four lanes, a superwide divide and shoulders as broad as a football lineman), then onto US-12 and into Niles, Michigan. (Niles singular claim to fame MAY be a huge, tall Home Depot sign tucked in beside a cemetery). Alas, Niles’ local Wal-Mart resists those of us who use their parking lots as RV parks, so slip down to South Bend Indiana for a bit of nocturnal community.

Am disappointed as morning begins with overcast/drizzle, so pass on idea of photographing Notre Dame University’s golden dome.

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Cassopolis Maintenance Shop… homage to the ’50s

Small town Cassopolis, Michigan catches my attention with a series of trompe l’oeil images of a circa 1950s Chevrolet agency/garage imprinted onto the walls of a city maintenance building. Moseying around in search of a morning-starting bakery “fix”, am pleased to see a tall, middle-aged black man with his arms resting on the open driver-side window sill of a Caucasian man’s pick-up truck… both in animated discussion about an impending local election (maybe those long-ago marches DID have some value).

In Kalamazoo (yes, old-timers, only because of that World War II song “I’ve Got a Gal, in Kalamazoo,’zoo, ‘zoo”), tour their splendid Aviation Museum.

Stop briefly in Battle Creek, only to discover Kellogg hasn’t offered tours for years (so much for MY notes). With Post Creals less than a mile away though, there is a rich aroma associated with this tiny “company” town.

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Main St… a slice of old-time America

Note a convenient motel near Chelsea and am fascinated to find it the home of JiffyMix (admittedly, a product never USED). Their modest downtown enchants: perfect scale, quite clean, an interesting mix of pedestrians (middle-aged, middle-class tourists; a bevy of motorcyclists; a couple young hand-holding couples… almost expect Norman Rockwell and easel sited on some corner).


T/Blues: 08/31/2012

October 2, 2012

Take commuter train into Chicago: some looks familiar, much has changed. Overall, though, Chicago retains its vitality: its streets and sidewalks busy, its human energy palpable.

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Marina City… +

Wander up Wacker Drive, amazed at how many skyscrapers line Chicago River. Delighted to see kayakers and cruises taking advantage of a bright, warm, sunny day. Old Marina City remains; a new and architecturally imaginative Christian Science church sits cheek-by-jowl with a high-rise office building. United Airlines, Brittanica, and a host of lesser names vie with restaurants and hotels along both river shores.

Irv “Kup” Kupcinet statue

Another surprise as a black silhouette morphs into a statue of Irv Kupcinet, a great public relations writer for Chicago’s Sun-Times, lo, these long decades ago. (Kup was a “player” in my young life: in return for bon mots he would then put in the mouth of visiting “stars”, he granted my uncle and I, his season tickets to Chicago Bear games from 1947 through 1949).

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Chicago Theater: stage door

In a nostalgia moment, chase back into an alley to photograph Chicago Theater stage door: a reminder of when, as young teenagers, a school buddy and I would seek autographs from stars appearing in stage shows interspersed with first-run films. (Am saddened to see old State-Lake and Wood theaters gone; and Oriental Theater now a live venue). Along State Street, am a bit put off realizing Marshall Fields, and Carson, Pirie Scott have been corporately transfigured. (Although the absence of old Rialto burlesque venue just south of the “L” comes as no surprise)

Millennium Park: Crown Fountain

Segue over to re-baptized “Millennium Park” (hey, folks, this is GRANT Park, for my money) with its Frank Gehry outdoor band-shell, lovely pieces of sculpture scattered about, its whimsical Crown Fountain, but, most remarkably, Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” which captivates young and old. Step into what was once Chicago’s Main Library, which has new functions within old loveliness.

Millennium Park: “Cloud Gate”

Continue along Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile”: old London House jazz venue now a savings and loan; Fort Dearborn markers still incised into a sidewalk where Chicago River is bridged. Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower continue to dominate river’s north shore, and an array of chi-chi boutiques capture my eye (and pocketbooks of many others). Verify that iconic Water Tower has not disappeared, but notice Esquire Theater (site of my introduction to post-WW II Brit comedies) has been subsumed into a chain drugstore.

Find myself with mixed feelings: MY Chicago seems overwhelmed by a newer, admittedly more vibrant, but somehow less elegant and more crass excess and flamboyance.

It was ever thus.
(For more photos, check out “page” 2012/08/31 – Chicago/IL)


T/Blues: 08/26-30/2012

October 2, 2012

Manage a drizzly church picnic with extended families of Marge and Bruce. Their daughters, Maren and Wendy, have successfully shifted into mature, talented, interesting adults, whose children inspire vitality.

Then off for a few days with Wayne and Peg, out in their “wilderness” home, and manage to dine with their son Todd and his family.

All provide great emotional buoyancy.