Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cafe Iberico

Just a quick entry to tell you about the off-the-charts deliciousness that was my dinner this evening.

Heather and I had planned on eating at Graham Elliot, but we didn't call ahead and so discovered once we got there that they were closed for a private function. Not to worry. We'll eat there another time, and being with Heather (who in all honesty should probably be the person writing this blog because she's the one who knows about all these places) means that we had several more options on the table in a jiffy.
Odd juxtaposition I must share with you right this moment. The nearest restaurant--as in, in the building next door--to Graham Elliot is a Subway. That does strange things to your head, that vision.

We ended up going with Cafe Iberico. As Heather listed the reasons she was suggesting it: tapas, good sangria, cheap, full of Spanish expatriates, my "Yes! Yes! Yes!" got louder and louder. It sounded perfect. (The restaurant, not my shouting.)

And it was very, very close to that.

We got a half-pitcher of sangria--the real kind, with brandy, not this stupid wannabe stuff that's basically wine and sugar--a basket of awesome bread and four tapas plates (two hot, two cold) for a little over $40. Total. Which means that for the amount of awesome food we stuffed into ourselves, we paid a skosh over $20 each. It came quickly, and it was wonderful.

I have to say that ordering was a trial simply because there were so many tasty looking things on the menu and we had to limit ourselves to four. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that I will be going back, and can therefore try lots of new stuff each time I go.

And I recommend YOU go. Because it's fabulous. Friendly staff, incredible food, tasty sangria (though mine may be better) and great prices. What's not to like?

Monday, November 9, 2009

SOFA Chicago

Yesterday, Heather and I trundled through the 70 degree weather (what a gorgeous couple of days for the city, yeah?) to Navy Pier, where we spent the next three or four hours wandering through the Chicago arm of the International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art, or SOFA.

We were dazzled.

The exposition filled up the entire Festival Hall at Navy Pier, and it took us almost two hours to get through half. We did the second half much more quickly because the two of us were very close to mental overload, and so didn't stop and gawp at everything, but instead cruised through and only gawped at the stuff we really liked.

SOFA is extraordinary. For $15, we got to look at thousands of works, from glass to ceramic to wood, to guitars, to beaded, sewn and quilted objects. All of which were for sale, though I'm pretty sure Every. Single. Thing. on display was well out of our price ranges. The cheapest price tag I saw was $485, and that was for a piece of jewelry. This is world-class art, and is priced accordingly. Of course, that didn't stop either of us from filling our imaginary homes with it. In fact, though I don't recall the piece exactly, I know there was one lovely wall sculpture that Heather and I both marveled at (it may have been in glass) that, in Heather's words, "You would have to design a house around." It was that gorgeous.

On of the exciting things about SOFA for me was the fact that I got to see so many amazing and different styles of art in so many materials. What incredible, gasp-inducing work is being created out there in the world.(There was also, I have to admit, some powerfully skeevy work at SOFA. I mean, some really creepy stuff. Really creepy. I'm not sure who buys some of those things, but I wouldn't want them in my bedroom or living room or office. I'm getting chills just thinking about a couple of the pieces again.)

Highlights of the show for me included:

Tim Tate - Oh. My. God. TIM TATE. I love his work. I had no idea he would have stuff at SOFA, but he did, and it was even better live than it is on his website. I so badly want a Tim Tate piece. So. Badly. Specifically, Artist's Attic, which was actually at SOFA. Want. Desperately.

That's it over to the left, there. He has an entire series of reliquaries. The most recent have small video screens in them, playing images that have something to do with the theme of the piece. Photo via Source)

Binh Pho - Speaking of desperate wanting, Binh Pho has become one of my new artists to adore. I don't think I'd ever seen anything of his before yesterday, but his works were displayed in several of the gallery spaces, and they're so unique and stunning that I realized they were all by one tremendously talented, amazingly patient person. His pieces are so delicate, I just wanted to pick one up and cup it in my hands, to cradle and protect and care for it.

Though now that I think of it, I must have seen something of his at the Prichard Gallery in Moscow. They had an exhibit of wood turning art several years ago, and I'm sure something of his must have been included.

The piece to the right is "Broken Dream," and it's a beautiful example of the delicacy and power of his work. I couldn't find any images of stuff I saw yesterday on his website, but that's where I found this photo. (Image Source)

Chris Antemann (porcelain sculpture) & Kendrick Moholt (photography) - Chris Antemann makes porcelain sculptures that are froofy enough to have come from Louis XIV's reign. They're human figuines with gilded, frilly, floral details. They're lovely. (Image Source)

They're also depictions of various sexual activities, which you don't realize when you first look at them, but do upon additional examination. Though maybe not, since a piece which included two fetchingly dressed women holding whips and riding crops, caressing a saddled but otherwise naked man on all fours on the bed, caused the 70-ish woman I was standing next to to say "Isn't that cute! It's called Afternoon Ride." I almost choked on my own tongue I was trying so hard to not laugh out loud.

Moholt's lovely photographs were included in the gallery, showing details of the work.

Emily Brock's glass scenes. Every single detail. Perfect. From all sides. In glass. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find any online images of the stuff we saw yesterday. She also doesn't have a website. A pity. I would have linked to her.)

Christian Faur's astonishing crayon assemblages. They're like pointilism. Only 3-D. With the tips of handcast crayons.

Geoffrey Gorman's found object animals. They look so alive, like they could move at any time.

There was also live glass blowing happening on a stage, and there is a lecture series on Friday and Saturday of the event. Clearly I will have to get a multi-day pass next year and savor the whole thing more fully. It's like the Flower and Garden Show, you shouldn't try to see it all in one day. It's headache inducing to try to do the entire show in four to six hours. Just too much information and stimulation and you come out all vibraty, with a muddle of images in your head.

Plan ahead: The 2010 International Exposition of Sculpture Object and Functional Art hits Chicago November 5-7.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


This is not so much a place as an event. For the past five years, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, known to the participants as NaNoWriMo. My first two years, I was highly successful, clocking 72,000 words in 2005 and 51K in 2006. 2007 and 2008 were not as good to me, I made it to 15K in my third go, but only 5500 words last year. I was busy teaching and acting and everything else, what can I say? I slept when I would have been writing.

The common denominator for all those years was my location. I was on the Palouse, where a core of about ten people in the Moscow/Pullman areas got together once a week or so to write. They're nice people, but I didn't really have much in common with them, and the write-ins were often at times or locations I couldn't make, so I did most of my writing on my own, at home, in my office or at a local coffee shop. I wasn't even planning on participating in NaNo this year, but decided to sign up to encourage and support a friend.

Because I was no longer on the Palouse, I changed my home region to Chicago. And what a difference that has made.

ChiWriMo is one of the top ten groups in the world participating in NaNoWriMo. In terms of numbers, we are the 9th largest city. And it's tremendously active. There were at least 100 people at the kickoff party on November 1, which was held at the 44th Ward Dinner Party (they reserved the entire restaurant). There are anywhere from two to four write-ins per day, scheduled for locations all over the city, check out the calendar on their homepage (linked above).

Because I'm new to the city, and trying to make a community for myself, I decided to attend several events, including the statewide write-in on Saturday, and I'm so happy I have. Not only have I made tremendous strides on my wordcount, I've met some lovely people and discovered some new places to eat.

ChiWriMo has three really hardworking Municipal Liasons who run the entire thing, and I've met two of them (probably also the third, but I really don't know for sure). They're making some great choices in terms of creating a fun, competetive, supportive atmosphere for NaNo, and I'm pleased enough to be a part of it that I might actually finish this year, though since I currently don't have anything else going on, perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise.

Anyway, if you participate in NaNo, and you're in Chicagoland, you should definitely see what ChiWriMo has to offer. They're awesome.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

Last night, I participated in what has to be a Chicago tradition/mainstay/happening/I can't find the word. Anyway, it's an event that happens regularly here. I was in the audience for the Halloween edition of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

Heather, you see, is a Chicago 10 for the podcast Too Beautiful to Live. So when host Luke Burbank tweeted about having four tickets for the show, she offered to take a couple of them off his hands. And then she offered to take me. We got to thank him in person after the show. He was sweet and friendly and gracious.

I am so glad I went. Thanks to being comped, we were considered VIP's. And the VIPs got ushered in after everybody else, to our seats in the FRONT ROW.* Plus, we were placed directly in front of one of the audience mics. So you can hear the two of us chortling and guffawing all through the program. And it was guffaw-worthy. Peter Sagal is hilarious, Carl Kasell is slyly witty and the panel was Luke, Amy Dickinson and Julia Sweeney. I laughed harder last night than I have laughed in a long, long time. Maybe that's why I woke up in such a great mood today.

(I'm assuming it will be cut in the broadcast for length and possibly also its "you kind of had to be there" status, but the bit that slayed us both was Luke's rant about bears and Reader's Digest's "Drama in Real Life" feature, especially when Amy and Julia both jumped on the riff with him. I, too, recall being horrified by that particular series of stories as an impressionable child.)

If you're remotely acquainted with the show, I highly recommend attending a taping. Though I must tell you, it isn't exactly free. The Chicago Public Radio store sells tickets to various tapings for $21.99. Which makes me even more appreciative of the wonderful (free!) time I had yesterday evening.

*Here I want to take a moment to commend Don Hall, the WBEZ Events Coordinator. An Audience Services/Events Coordinating kind of gig is really tough, and he did a fantastic job. He was funny and warm and charming and knows how to take care of an audience and VIPs. Things happened really efficiently, but also really comfortably. And he clearly wants to make it a great experience for everyone. We watched him move some teens in attendance to the center of the front row when the people slated for those seats didn't show up. That's just awesome.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art on Track

Yesterday, my friend Heather and I went to a traveling* art exhibit, Art on Track. This was the second year for the exhibit, and when I say traveling, I want to make it clear that I mean traveling. As in, we went places while in the exhibit. Just around the Loop, mind you, but I think we ended up making the circuit three times total.

This year's exhibit was free, though I understand you had to pay to enter last year. And by free I mean that there was a $10 suggested donation (oops. I had $4 on me, so that's what they got), and a sponsor, Fiji Water, who made the whole thing accessible for more people.

Here's how it works: You enter the L at the "Art on Track" marked stairs at Adams and Wabash. The lovely people at the exhibit table give you a program, a magazine and a stylish bracelet. Then they let you in the gate. You don't have to pay to get on the system. Then you stand on the platform and wait for the train. We weren't sure how we would know which train it was, but it ended up being easy. It was the train with all of the indicators set to "Not in Service."

I remarked to Heather that it might be kind of fun being the engineer on this train, and it did seem like he was having a good time. The "Doors Closing" chime wasn't operating, so HE was doing it for us. It was really relaxed and fun.

There are eight total stops on the Loop itself, but the Art on Track train only stops at every other one. Since there are eight cars total in the exhibit, you go around the Loop (at least) twice to see everything. We ended up going around three times because we hung out for more than one stop in a couple of the cars to be sure we got the full experience.

It was so much fun to be on that train, to see the art and then to scurry out and to another car at the stops. There was a really festive air among the attendees, and people on the various platforms were curious about the giggling, grinning people who would simply get off one car to rush to the next.

We also got our share of idiots, though. Heather and I boarded the car you see above, where everything was wrapped in bubble wrap. As the train was waiting at the platform, another woman got on. The conductor walked through at that moment, and she stopped him to ask whether this particular train went to Midway. No joke. He said, "No. This is a chartered train for the Art on Track exhibit. It only does a ciruit of the Loop. You need to take the Orange Line to Midway." "So it doesn't go to Midway Airport?" she asked again.

I got the sense that the entire crowd in the car wanted to yell "NO!" at her. I mean, not only did every indicator on the exterior of the train say, "Not in Service," with white on black lettering, as opposed to white on orange declaring "Midway Airport," they announced over the PA at every stop that it was the Art on Track train, AND she stepped onto a car full of bubble wrap. Yet even when the conductor told her no, she still didn't believe him. Honestly. How stupid can some people be?

The bubble wrap car itself was awesome, by the way. I'm only sorry we didn't go earlier (the train ran 11am-8pm, we got on about 4pm), so that we could have experienced the floor before dozens of feet popped all the bubbles.

The train was a mix of galleries and installations. I have to say, I preferred the installations, they were just more provoking and fun and had been created to play with the whole idea of the exhibit and participation. That's my favorite kind of art anyway.

The installation pictured to the right was called, "Meat Meet Train," and was filled with fabric forms that looked like hung meat in a locker, along with banners and slings in reddish-toned fabrics. Also, all over the car in various places were stickers with "Chance Encounters" personal ads printed on them, all of them having to do with the L system. We stayed on that car for more than one stop, to be sure we read all of the stickers.

The installation pictured below was a train car filled with money bags. They were all sizes and shapes, made from all kinds of different materials, with dollar signs stamped, painted, drawn and sewn on. According to the kids who were a part of it (and I can call them kids, none of them were over 20), each bag held mostly junk--recycled paper, garbage bags, newspaper, etc.--but also a single valuable item. Which is a lovely metaphor for the lives these trains carry around. How much of my own life, for instance, is about junk, stuff I don't need to lug about with me, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, and what does it contain that is of real worth?

So kudos to them for coming up with such a great idea and figuring out how to implement it. Because it was awesome. The moneybags pictured below are less than a tenth of the entire installation, by the way. It was HUGE.

There were also two installations I didn't photograph, just because it felt weird. I hate posting pictures of people I don't know on the blog. It feels like an invasion of privacy, which is also why I didn't pursue a career as a videographer, though I could have. I hate sticking cameras in people's faces. So Heather is in one pic and the back of a random person is in another, and in the two installations where things were more open, I didn't take any pictures at all. But I'd like to try to describe them here.

At one point, we stepped onto a car that was fairly empty. It may even have come right after the car full of the money bags or it may have come after the Meet Meat Train. I don't recall. I know that it felt spacious and clean after whichever full car we'd just come from. Anyway, the installation was really simple. There was a curtain of red netting across the center of the train, dividing it into halves. You could pass through if you chose, and you could also see what was at the other end of the car. All of the advertising signage had been removed and replaced with two words--bright red letters, all caps--which were also affixed to the windows so people outside could read them. Depending on which side of the net you stood on, you were labelled either "US," or "THEM." And that was it.

I love art that makes you think.

The other installation was a car that only Heather and I ended up on, along with one of the artists, who explained in a bit of a hurry, what his car was all about. I wish that hadn't been the very last car we visited, or that we'd been on it for more than one stop, because I would have liked to hear more about it.

Three artists, who call themselves the NFA Project, noted the worry they see on everyone's faces right now, as we deal with the pressures and scariness of the economy and financial insecurity/instability. They wanted to address that. So they made 50 lifejackets out of blue plastic tarp stuffed with newspaper, and they painted silver waves of anxiety on each. They paid 10 cents apiece for the buckles on the vests. Everything else was found. Each seat on the car had a life vest, the idea being to provide a sense of comfort to each person who came onto the car. It was heartwarming and wonderful. I actually felt comforted by the time we got off, though, as I said, I would have liked to have stayed on that car through maybe one more stop, just to chat with the artist and learn a bit more about the installation.

As it was, though, I'm very glad that was the last car we rode on. It was the perfect set of images to take away with me.

I really enjoyed the experience. It was a great afternoon of art, and a tremendously fun way to both present and see it. I was a bit sorry to not see any live music or performance based art of any kind in the exhibit. I feel that's lacking. I wonder whether it would be possible to do something workable. I should talk to one of my newest acquaintances about what we could do in a CTA car that would be live performance in the spirit of the exhibit. He's working on a Ph.D in Living Art at Kings College, Belfast. It might be something right up his alley, and it might also be something someone here would consider working on. Hmmmm...

*As I said to Dave over the phone the night before, "You can't do this in Moscow." The main reason being that Moscow barely has public transit at all, let alone a light rail system. Though their ArtWalk every June is sort of like this project in reverse.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Northerly Island Park

This was going to be a post about the Shedd Aquarium, the largest indoor aquarium in the world, but it turned out that the free general admission days published by the library were not free general admission days according to the Shedd. The woman at the ticket counter sounded like she had been explaining that to a lot of people this week. But since we were on the Museum Campus anyway, Heather steered me gently over to Northerly Island Park.

View Larger Map

Northerly Island Park's history is fascinating. It's neither natural nor an island, rather, it's a peninsula made from fill. Not surprising, really, since Lake Michigan isn't known for its powers of erosion. Though it does have a tide. Lake Michigan is big enough to feel a teeny lunar pull, that's where the waves come from, but it's not big enough for the waves and tides to have much effect on the shoreline. It does explain the existence of beach, however.

From what Heather told me, and from what I gleaned via several internet searches*, Northerly Island was once the home of a small, busy private airport, Miegs Field. You can see the name still exists on the map above. In 2003, Mayor Daley realized his dream of returning Northerly Island to its originally intended purpose as a park per the Burnham Plan by sending demolition crews out to the field in the middle of the night, where they bulldozed two large X's in the runway. The action was taken without warning to anyone, including the FAA. Sixteen small planes were stranded, and various aviation organizations were up in arms. One of the pilots' unions called for a boycott of Chicago by all conferences and exhibitions.

(Here is where I point out that the Miegs Field lease on the land expired in 1996. There is of course much more to the story than that. Various people should have been notified, permits should have been obtained, etc. It was underhanded dealing, and many of the Mayor's arguments about the necessity of closing the field were shaky and/or incorrect. In the end, Mayor Daley, in Heather's words, clearly opted for the Forgiveness Option rather than the Permission Option.)

Ultimately, the planes were allowed to use the taxiway to leave the island, the city paid a $33,000 fine and returned around $1 million in airport development funds that were misappropriated for the closure and demolition of Miegs Field.

The fieldhouse (once the Miegs Field terminal) is now the home of guides who give park tours and answer questions on the history of Northerly Island Park. It's open 9-5 on weekdays.

Wandering along the asphalt paths among the flowers on a clear October day, you'd never know this small piece of land was once the center of such a huge controversy.

These lovely ladies are part of a trio called the Daphne Garden, created by sculptor Dessa Kirk. They are PERFECT in this space, dancing with the sky and the wind and the lake. I bet they're equally gorgeous during a winter storm, though I will probably not venture out to verify that assumption.

We also did make it to the Adler Planetarium, but only the exterior. Heather wanted to show me the free telescopes on the balcony, but I really only had eyes for the skyline. What a beautiful city.

*The results of my research are a perfect example of why one must use care when relying on the internet as a source. It took me FOREVER to find a report on the events that wasn't by someone with an axe to grind. The first few pages of my google search turned up nothing but accounts by various unhappy entities. Be sure you pay attention to who you're reading, kids.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OOOOH! Travelling Art

Chicago Art on Track is happening October 10 from 11am-8pm. You board at Adams and Wabash. The CTA fare is waived for this particular train, but they do suggest a $10 donation.

Who's going with me?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Birthday Viands

One of the reasons I didn't post much last week was that Dave was in town. For my birthday. I was busy having a life instead of reporting on it. But now he's gone and I can resume my exhausting schedule of surfing the internet and writing about things.

And one of my favorite things to write about (and explore!) is food. So let's cut right to the chase and talk about what I ate on my birthday.

The morning started out right with a brunch date with my friend Heather. Heather is like a walking encyclopedia of the amazing places to eat in this town. Plus, she's always interested in trying new things. Which is what we did on my birthday. We decided to try Rick Bayless' new place, Xoco. Um. I don't really know what so say about this experience except that it was so good that I want to go back there and eat ALL THE TIME.

The menu is based on Mexican street food, full of tortas, churros and the like. The tortas come baked or fried, and they are perfect. I had the Cubana, and the beauty of eating someplace run by people who like food was evident right away. I have a dairy allergy, and they not only kept the cheese and cilantro crema out of my sandwich, they marked it dairy allergy in the ordering system, just to be sure the kitchen was clear on it. Even without all the melty, cheesy yumminess, that torta was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever.

I also had chocolate with my meal. That's one of Xoco's specialties. They grind Mexican chocolate beans right there and cook them up into these amazing hot drinks... I had the Almondrillo or the Almondrado (I am blanking on the name and it's not listed on the website) which is made with almond milk instead of regular dairy. It was so rich that I had to sip it. One taste filled my entire mouth with a deep chocolate flavor, and it took me a good thirty minutes to get through one small cup. With the torta, it was an indescribable flavor combination. Good, but better than good. So much better than good. Way, way beyond good, tasty, delicious, and any other words you can think of for really, really good food.

They don't do takeout yet, but I understand that day is coming. I'm not sure how my pants size will withstand the draw of takeout Xoco.

So that was the food I started my day with.

I finished my day with a birthday dinner at Uncommon Ground on Devon. Again, magical, amazing food. I can't even tell you what I had because it was all specials. The salad was topped with fried artichoke bits and had an artichoke something dressing-type thing moated with some other really good dressing-type thing, two different types of cherry tomatoes and some other really tasty stuff. On my first bite, several different things happened in my mouth at once. Almost to the point where I couldn't focus on anything else because of the flavors. Lovely.

My entree was the salmon--Columbia River wild-caught salmon--with a corn and veggie mixture, sitting on top of a potato and sauteed onion patty. I told Dave at one point that I couldn't decide what to take a bite of next, though it really didn't matter because it was all so wonderful. I practically licked the plate clean.

And then, because it was my birthday, I got dessert. A chocolate stout cake with a chocolate gelato and some kind of flavored whipped cream. All served separately on a long plate. (One of my cousins used to take charge at family Thanksgiving meals and be sure that no foods were touching on the plates of us youngsters. She would have been pleased by this plate.)

I know I mentioned above that I have a dairy allergy. Eating dairy makes my glands swell and can trigger asthma attacks. But I didn't know this until I was in my early 30's and sometimes I just say "To hell with it." Which is what I did so I could have that dessert. I didn't eat all of the whipped cream, but I did eat all of the gelato. What was amazing was how much better they all tasted when combined than they did as separate entities. I almost licked that plate clean as well.

One of the best parts of the evening, though--I mean, aside from the food, which was hard to top--was our server, Whitney. If all of the staff at Uncommon Ground on Devon are as fabulous as she was, you can't possibly have a bad dining experience there. She was friendly, funny, cheerful and knowledgeable. And she promised to not sing when Dave mentioned that it was my birthday. For that alone, she has my undying thanks. If there's one thing I hate about dining out on my birthday, it's being sung at by a group of servers.

So that's the food I ate to celebrate my luck in surviving another year. Great good fortune indeed, if I was able to live long enough to eat at both Uncommon Ground and Xoco all in one day.

Things you need to know: Xoco is at 449 North Clark Street, though you enter on Illinois. Uncommon Ground on Devon is at 1401 W Devon Ave. Check their websites for hours.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Running Away to the Circus

The Midnight Circus, that is.

My friend Chris called me yesterday to invite me to attend a performance by one of his very favorite ensembles in Chicago. "If you don't absolutely adore them, I will be very sad," he said.

Not a problem, Chris, I do adore them. I could not have enjoyed myself more.

The Midnight Circus is a tremendous group of circus artists with a talent pool so deep that as Chris said, you could see a performance of their every single day and never see the same show twice. They could change up acts and members and still put on a great show. For example, today's performance included a juggler. At the end of his act, the rest of the ensemble formed about three-quarters of a circle around him and juggled with him, exchanging clubs with him all the way around the circuit and back. And they never dropped a club. It was gorgeous.

There are also some amazing contortionists and aerialists, and they invite new artists in to work with them all the time. The Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team joined them today, just as an example of the high-energy work this troupe produces when they play with other artists. One of the clowns got right in there and played with the group, as they did double dutch with an additional single jumprope.

But the Midnight Circus isn't just people swinging from fabric and dancing on tightropes and doing flying somersaults over each other and playing "Tears of a Clown" on the saxophone while balancing on a ladder (I kid you not, it was awesome). They have heart.

There is a little member of the ensemble. I'd guess he's about four. An articulate four, he made an announcement that was clear as a bell. He's dressed in a much smaller version of the ringmaster's outfit, except he has a bowler instead of a top hat. In fact, he appears to be a much smaller version of the ringmaster, like, maybe, his son. And this child participates in some of the clown routines.

He's obviously rehearsed, he works very hard, and he's got about the level of finesse and polish you'd expect from a four year-old. So he's a little kid and not a "professional quality" performer. Yet. But his family is teaching him the ropes. He clearly understands stage behavior and focus and communication. He's learning the craft of clown and enjoying himself HUGELY. And they bring kids from the audience on stage to participate in his routines too. In simple things, fun things, and it brings a sweetness to a show that would otherwise be lots of "Bam! Pow! Awesome!" Which is perfectly fine, but there's something wonderful about seeing a baby clown work. And seeing his parents love him so much they include him in an enterprise that brings them great joy.

There was a second (very) young performer in the show we saw today as well. The male aerialist's little sister. She was maybe six or seven, and she started out with a little bit of contortion and some acrobatics and then moved on to her main focus, the trapeze. Watching her brother work with her--it was her routine, but he was there to spot her and to support her and to encourage her, and she was so happy to be working with him... Chris and I both got all sniffly because it was so beautiful and loving.

And then there are the dogs. Lola, who has been with the ensemble for a while, and the "recently rescued" Junebug, who was debuting this weekend, I believe. For a dog not trained to the work from puppyhood, she did very well. I don't know how she managed to do all of her tricks, in fact, her tail was whipping around so happily that it was wagging her and should have thrown her off balance. She was joy embodied, despite being surrounded by a crowd of cheering strangers.

All of this says to me that there's a lot of love in this ensemble. It seems to reach out and encompass anyone who comes within their circle. Including organizations like the Chicago Parks Department. Today's shows were benefits to help pay for a playground for Chase Park. The Circus unmistakably see themselves as members of the Chicago community. They support other local artists (witness the Chicago Boyz, with whom one of the Midnight Circus ensemble members has apparently done some training, he was handling the ropes on one end of the double dutch), and they give back to the community when they can. Plus, they bring performers in from other places, like Sweden and Australia and London and Kazakhstan and Russia.

So the love is reason enough to attend a Midnight Circus production. But you also get to see work by artists who are continuing to expand their skill sets. As I mentioned, all of the ensemble members juggle, one of the clowns joined the jumprope, and Chris--who labels himself a Midnight Circus groupie--said he'd never seen the ladder trick before. Good artists are always stretching themselves, and these people apparently do that. Plus, the show is just fun.

If you get a chance to see the Midnight Circus perform, I highly recommend it. Chris says they participate in Chicagoween (they're listed on the website), so that may be your next opportunity. A Midnight Circus performance has energy, thrills, beauty, intelligence and heart. That's a night (or an afternoon) of good theatre, right there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Field Trip

(Honestly, I couldn't help myself. And I'm sure no one has ever made that joke before.)

Yesterday I visited the Field Museum of Natural History. It's a HUGE building crammed with fascinating stuff. And I say that about the bits they have out for you to see. Given what I know about museums, I'm sure there's even more behind the scenes.

For those of you who are interested in such things--and I don't know how you could not find something to interest you at the Field--basic admission to is free on the second Monday of every month, thanks to a generous donation by Target. The free second Mondays program is a great way to get acquainted with the Field, but I know I'll have to go back and probably pay. Which is fine, because I spent about five hours inside and didn't see even a quarter of the stuff they have on display.

This is one of the first things I saw as I approached the musem. I took a picture of the entire building, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as the place looks when you're walking up to it. Anyway, this brontosaurus(?) model is hanging out on the terrace on the west end of the museum. I have no idea whether or how one gets to it, but finding out can be a project for another day.

I love it. I think it looks like a watch dinosaur. I want one of those in my yard.

Below is the facade of the museum. Shortly after I took it, a very nice woman asked me to take her picture on the steps and offered to take mine in exchange. I opted to not use that picture. I look like a walrus in it. Anyway, you'll never, ever guess what the big draw, pay additional exhibit is at the Field right now. There's a teency little clue in the photo, but I bet you won't find it.

Still can't figure it out? I'll give you a hint. It's related to a very popular international holiday that happens to be this coming Sunday. And if that doesn't give you enough of a clue, maybe the fellers hanging out in the next picture will.

I'd just like to take this moment to say that museums have certainly changed over the years. The Field actually offers a fantastic opportunity to see that in action. I could compare the newer exhibits with the older ones, since it doesn't look like they re-vamp already existing displays. When I visited museums as a kid, with one notable exception, they never had the kind of fun, interactive, interesting, creative take on their collections and exhibits that museums seem to now. I LOVE that there are pirates rappelling from the ceiling. I. Love. It.

And I love the fascinating juxtapositions you get when you mix pirates with natural history. Here's Sue. With pirates. Isn't she gorgeous?

A couple of thoughts about Sue, while we're admiring her. She's amazing, I think. And the museum had three different docents standing there, sharing information about her. I'm not surprised, she's a big draw, and a pretty significant treasure.

But she's smaller than I expected. I don't know, I had the idea of a T-Rex all built up in my mind. I was thinking she'd take up two thirds of the main hall. I was thinking she'd tower over me by twice as much as she did.

I think poor Sue suffered from what I refer to as my Stonehenge Syndrome. I call it that because my visit to Stonehenge in 1988 was the first time I experienced the phenomenon. It was one of the out-of-town trips my exchange group took when I was studying in London. As we drove up to it on the bus, almost every student in my group said the same thing. "That's it? I--I don't know. I thought it would be, you know, bigger."

Part of that response could be due to the largeness of the area that is Salisbury Plain, and part due to the fact that Stonehenge had been built up in our minds as this imposing, mysterious place. And it is fabulous and awe-inspiring. But it's also only about half as tall as we were all expecting it to be, thanks to the various films and photographs we'd seen earlier in our lives.

So my response to Sue was a bit like that. The main hall of the Field is VAST. It's HUGE. Sue is a bit dwarfed by the space she resides in. She also suffers by comparison to the dinosaurs in films like Jurassic Park. And, she's been built up as such a fearsome predator that she just didn't seem as big as she by rights ought to be.

Still, though, she's pretty incredible.

This, by the way, is not her head. I know that it's attached to her body, and it looks for all the world like her head, but it's not. Sue's skull weighs about 600lbs., and is thus too heavy to attach to her skeleton. So there's a replica on the body, and her actual head is in a glass case on the second floor. Which is kind of cool, because it's at eye level and you get a better idea of how big it actually is.

There's a whole bunch of interactive stuff up there with the head, but I was tired and hungry by the time I found it, and sped through that part of the museum. I'll be back, multiple times, I'm sure, so there's really no rush. I can't see it all in one visit, so I'm making sure that I really enjoy myself with what I do see.

And now for the Pirates!

Yes, I did indeed fork out the $8 admission fee to visit the exhibit. I hadn't been planning to, but when I saw the pirates rappelling from the ceiling like this fearsome fellow, I had to see it. I'm glad I did.

I took no photographs inside the Pirates! exhibit. You're not supposed to. Nor food nor drink nor photography be allowed, and I'm generally pretty cool about following the rules when they seem to make sense. In this case, I figured it was a contractual thing with the entity in charge of the exhibit (it travels). Plus, as an actor, I'm pretty touchy about people taking/using my image without my consent, so I was willing to abide by their request about photos.

The Pirates! exhibit is pretty cool. It follows the history of the pirate Sam Bellamy and his final ship the Whydah through their lives to their horrible end at the bottom of the sea after running onto a sandbar during a hurricane. It has lots of really interesting information, though I felt like there were some important bits missing. Bits that were significant parts of the storytelling. Like how/where Bellamy came across the Whydah, what happened in their encounter and how he eventually won her. That may have been at a station I missed, but I covered that room pretty thoroughly, and we went from a history of the slave trade, how the Whydah was built and her early route and the cannons and other weaponry found aboard to "Bellamy followed her for three days at sea before he finally caught her."

Wait, what?

The same thing happened near the end. I'm still not sure how long he had the ship before it sank.

However, there were some awesome artifacts in this exhibit. The ship's bell. The remaining remains of the eight year-old pirate John(?) King. The treasure. That bit was probably the singlemost awesome part of my entire trip to the Field Museum. They had the actual treasure, the only actual pirate treasure ever brought up from the bottom of the ocean. In a big glass case you can walk around. AND, a small interactive station where you can touch it. Those of you who know me know how tactile I am. There's nothing like being able to actually get my hands on history. I was all over that stuff. I would argue that was the very best moment of the trip for me.

One anecdote from the exhibit and then we can move on to the other bits I saw yesterday. There's a section that deals with how important certain occupations were in the pirate world, they needed carpenters and armorers, for instance, and would frequently force those people to sign the ship's articles and join the crew. (Other pirates joined freely, it was, all things considered, a fairly democratic enterprise.) Anyway, among those pressed into service as it were were musicians. Because pirates liked their leisure time activities. Including theatre. And drinking.

The story goes that there was a play taking place on board the Whydah. The Royal Pirate. A group of crew members walked into the performance just as the protagonist was sentenced to death. They'd been imbibing, and were unaware that a play was going on. So they leapt to their comrade's defense, lobbing grenades and attacking the assemblage. In the melee, they broke the actor's leg, cut off the playwright's arm and killed a member of the audience.

It must have been a tremendously realistic production.

The Pirates! exhibit is full of interesting facts, fun interactions and great visuals. There is awesome music tailored to each section, there are some great videos. It's so full that I hit my "Can't. Take. In. Any. More. Information." point before reaching the end of it. Though petting pirate treasure snapped me back out of my trance. Briefly.

I think it took me almost two hours to go through. Though that may not surprise anybody who's gone to a museum with me. One of my life's goals is to know everything, so I tend to read all the placards and look at stuff intently for long periods of time and generally dawdle so I can soak it all in before moving on.

Anyway, contrast all of this modern, interactive, exciting approach to history with the way museums used to do it, and you can definitely tell that things have changed dramatically in the past 15-20 years. Fascinatingly enough, you can make that very comparison in the Field Museum itself.

These are masks from the various Northwest tribes. I wandered through this exhibit because I was feeling a bit homesick for the PNW, and the native artwork always grounds me. Don't ask me why, I do not know. I only know that while the big stone statues at the International Museum of Surgical Science creeped me out, the towering totem poles from the Coastal Tribes made me feel all safe and at home.

(Interesting side note here: Not only is there a really big Pacific Northwest tribal collection on display at the Field, but the Shedd Aquarium, right next door has revamped their largest exhibit to mimic the Pacific Northwest coast. So when I feel homesick, I can go to either and get my fix. I wonder if the display at the Shedd is as cold as the Oregon and Washington coasts are.)

Anyhow, compare the above photo with the music, videos, sets and interactive stations of the Pirates! exhibit and you'll see what I mean about how things have changed as far as how museums display their collections. It's even more obvious if you go through the Plains and Southern Tribes section, though the Platte Earth House is a modern and notable exception.

I just realized how very, VERY long this entry has become. I wound my way through one other section of the Field yesterday in the five hours I spent there, Ancient Americas. But I have a whole bunch to say about that, so I think I'll save it for another time. Maybe even tomorrow.

I'm going to wrap up by saying that the Field Museum of Natural History is well worth the time and money you spend to go there. There's way more than anyone can see in a single visit. I made it through three exhibits, and there are easily four times that many in the building.

Things you should also know: The museum is open 9am-5pm daily except Dec. 25. There are several price packages available, depending on which special exhibits you wish to see, and special prices for Chicago residents every. single. day. So you don't have to wait until Second Monday to get a discounted admission. But Second Mondays are free.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gold Coast Adventures

This is the Charnley-Persky House, at 1365 N. Astor in the Gold Coast. Can I just say that the air in that part of town feels like money? I've decided I want to live there. AND, I want to learn how to put on the air of entitlement that emanated from a woman who walked her dog past us while we were waiting.

Heather and I decided to tour the Charnley-Persky house this past Wednesday for a number of reasons. 1) She wanted to see it. 2) Once I knew it existed, I wanted to see it too. 3) It's right around the corner and a bit from the International Museum of Surgical Science, which I wanted to visit to see their anatomical illustration exhibit. 4) It's free on Wednesdays.

That's right, on Wednesdays at noon, the first fifteen people get a free tour of the house by a Society of Architectural Historians-trained docent. Be sure to get there early, because they really do ONLY let fifteen people in. And make sure you keep your place in line. You don't want to get pushed out by a couple of entitled rude people like some of our fellow waiters-in-line did. We both got there around 11:30--after agreeing to arrive no later than 11am--and were third and fifth in line. (I was a teeny bit later than Heather.) Depending on the time of year, you shouldn't have to get there much earlier than that.

There's lots more information on the website, so I'll just tell you that the Charnley-Persky House is architecturally important because it signaled the rise of modern architecture from the frou-frou so enjoyed by the Victorians. There are much better pictures than the ones I took here. I suspect this photographer was neither rushed nor trying to shoot around fourteen other people in the house's cramped interior. And it is cramped. Especially since the light well, while beautiful and innovative, takes up a large chunk of the useable space in the house's interior. Right in the middle of all three floors.

The house is also significant because Frank Lloyd Wright worked as a draftsman on it, and Louis Sullivan was the designer. It's one of the only remaining buildings that was a result of their collaboration.

You can definitely see the beginnings of the Prairie School in the kind of detailing and the lines of the building both inside and out. It was an interesting tour, though Heather and I both agreed that at 45 minutes it was about fifteen minutes too long, and that we were glad we took the free tour. (There are also longer tours that include a visit to the Albert F Madlener Residence at various times on Saturdays--check the website--$10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors.)

These beauties are on Schiller, just around the corner from the Charnley-Persky House, and I insisted on snapping a picture. Because they are lovely and I wouldn't mind squatting in one. I suspect they're a bit beyond my price range, however. But aren't they GORGEOUS? And all individual.

Then it was on to the International Museum of Surgical Science*. I HAD to get a picture of the sculpture outside. The sick person looks like he has no bones, and the surgeon's face suggests he will heal the sick man, though he's a bit grumpy about the imposition.

I was a bit annoyed to discover that the museum had a $10 entrance fee, as that seemed a bit excessive. HOWEVER. That fee covers all four floors of the museum and it took us two hours to go through it. The education (and entertainment) we derived from the visit was definitely worth $5 an hour.

There is so much interesting and horrifying stuff in the museum that I can't really begin to describe or catalogue it for you. It's very usefully arranged by either category or country. There was the apothocary diorama on the first floor (AWESOME). The Hall of Immortals on the second floor. (Great big statues of important figures in medicine, including the guy who figured out that maybe maternal mortality rates were connected to students dissecting dead bodies and then going straight into the delivery rooms where they would put their hands in laboring women without washing. Important people like that.) Rooms displaying certain countries' contributions to medicine and things like the nursing room, the x-ray room and the pain management rooms on the third and fourth floors. (Note to the curators: You might want to provide translations of the placards in all of the rooms, not just the rooms about South/Central America and Spain.)

There was way too much to take in, but some of the high(low?)lights include: an assortment of amputation instruments including a breast amputation fork (I don't want to know); an iron lung; a collection of gall, kidney, bladder and uterine stones that were actually kind of cool looking, as in they might make nice jewelry cool looking; numerous large, creepy busts and statues (and some large, occasionally distressing murals); a discussion of how keeping surgical instruments in pretty silk and velvet cases led to sepsis and yet people didn't figure that out for the longest time; and ancient Roman speculums for vaginal examinations (um, NO THANK YOU). As Heather said, it was an "awesome combination of fascinating and horrible."

We finally got to the anatomical illustration exhibit I wanted to see, all the way up on the fourth floor, and I was, frankly, underwhelmed. It was mostly computer-driven, and I'd been hoping for hand-drawn illustrations, which I love and find soothing. Plus, I'd pretty much filled up with information and images by the time we got through the entire rest of the museum, and to pique my interest at that point would have required something extraordinary.

Which we found in the very next room.

Pareidolia by Vesna Jovanovic

This was art. Amazing, incredible, anatomical art including a self-portrait (Timekeeper, 2007) involving body scans, gears, wings and tentacles that is breathtaking in its beauty, meaning and self-revelation. That exhibit may have been worth $10 all by itself, even though there were only twelve images. At less than $1 per image, that's cheap for the delight you'll find there. (And if you go on Tuesdays, admission to the museum is free.)

One other interesting tidbit about the museum. It is an almost exact replica of Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, because the original owner adored Marie Antionette and her father had the house built for her as a wedding present. It's not an exact replica because it's a story taller, but otherwise it's supposed to be pretty close. Which is astonishing because I thought Le Petit Trianon would have been more cottage-like, if you get my meaning. I mean, wasn't that where Marie Antionette went to play shepherdess? And this building isn't remotely like a cottage, not in size, scale or shape. Though, as Heather pointed out, it would indeed look like a cottage when compared with, say, Versailles.

Anyway, if you get off on medical stuff, and take a kind of perverse joy in the slightly gross (like we do), this is a museum you should visit. There's a lot of really great information here. We both learned a ton, though I'd like to unlearn some of it now, please.

Here's the important information: The International Museum of Surgical Science is at 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive. Admission $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, free on Tuesdays. Check the website for hours because they appear to be seasonal.

*(I'm only following the printed material when I write it this way. The museum is specifically designated International Museum of Surgical Science on every single piece of paper I saw. And also on the website.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Quick Note About Brunch

8:35am Saturday Phone rings.

Becca: You awake?
Sally: Yes.
Becca: Can you drive me to Costco? I'll buy you breakfast.
Sally: Yes.
Becca: Okay. So get in your car and come right now.
Sally: Let me brush my teeth and put in my contacts.
Becca: Okay.

Breakfast? Was at Over Easy on Damen. Go. Now. It doesn't seem to matter what you order. It's all good. All of it.

I had the Salsiccia Breakfast Sandwich and Becca had the Dark Cherry Peach Cobbler French Toast which are both weekly specials and which we reluctantly shared with each other because, DAMN. TASTY. She says that when she and her husband go, they usually order one sandwich and one sweet breakfast thing and then split them both, so that everybody gets as much goodness as possible.

The service was fantastic, my water glass and coffee cup never got below half full, and everybody was really cheerful.

Best moment. A small person, probably two or three, wandered back to the wooden eggs on the wall, and then, when asked to by his father, told the eggs good-bye. "Bye, eggs!" he said, at least twice.

Seriously. Go. Now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I'm trying really hard to not just write about food, but I suspect that's going to be a primary focus of this blog. Because, DUDE, the food in this city is amazing. I remarked to a couple of people yesterday that I cannot believe how lucky I am. I live in a city where I don't ever have to eat at the same place twice, unless I want to. Considering where I came from, that realization is liberating.

BUT. I'm not going to write just about food in this entry. Even though I am eating some incredible pastry thing from one of the bakeries on Clark St. in Rogers Park. It will be difficult, but I plan to be strong.

The plan for today was to write about the Chicago Jazz Festival, which I attended with friends on Friday evening. But I didn't listen to the music much (SHAME on me!), for which two factors are primarily responsible:

1) I went with friends who are such interesting people that we mostly ate and chatted and used the music as a really nice background.

2) The music didn't move me as much as I expected it to. Which is shocking, considering we're talking about jazz.

The Trio was playing when we got there, and I really, really, really don't like free jazz, much as I try to. It simply leaves me cold. So talking was less painful for me than trying to focus on what the artists were doing.

Then Madeline Peyroux was up. And while I liked her sound, I'm not particularly into female vocalists. In any genre. There are a few I like, Peyroux is well on her way to becoming one, but for the most part, I just don't enjoy hearing female voices sing. I'm not even sure that's something I can train myself out of. It's a fairly visceral response. So once again, talking was the preferable option.

So that by the time the people I was excited about seeing--the Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quintet--hit the stage, I was fully in conversation mode. Plus, I was talking about the show I'm working on, which is always going to be more interesting to me than anything else going on in my vicinity except food and perhaps naked people, and it was too chilly for the latter last night.

I intended to provide photographs from the evening, because I took my camera and everything, only I forgot to take pictures until it was too dark for the little digital point and shoot to handle. Which made me sad, because the full moon rising on one side of Grant Park and the gorgeous lit skyline on the other side were well worth photographing in the clear air we had Friday night.

But I will say this. The fact that Chicago has a free three-day outdoor jazz festival--playing on three stages at once, mind you--blows me away. It's a beautiful thing. How lucky are we to live here?

Now, about the food. What? You didn't think I was going to be able to refrain, did you? Not a chance, when these pastries are so good.

These wonderful things are from Panaderia Ayutla on N. Clark St. Oh. My. God. I set out to find the best pastries in the neighborhood, and even though this is the first bakery I've hit, they are already a strong contender. Because the pastries are amazing. And, this plateful was LESS THAN TWO DOLLARS. I now have visions of throwing a BYOB--bring your own breakfast--potluck brunch and making this my contribution. Because. So. Good.

Pastry. It's what's for dinner.

So there you are. Jazz and food. And friends. Really, what more does a person need to be happy?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Andersonville: Round One

A bonus post! To make up for being so late with Sunday's.

After yet another day of doing lots with very little to show for it at the end, I hopped back on the 22 Clark bus and headed down to Andersonville to meet my friend Heather. We've decided, you see, that as long as I don't have a job and she has Wednesdays off, we should make them date days. It's a great opportunity for us to spend some time together and to explore the city at the same time. Tonight, she had a rehearsal, and she spent the day recovering from her move, so we met up in Andersonville for a brief walking tour and dinner.

Andersonville has Swedish origins which bubble to the surface with places like the Swedish bakery and the Swedish American Museum. But it's also a fabulous little area for shops, restaurants and overall coolness. I had noticed it on the bus when we rode through on Saturday and knew I wanted to venture there eventually. I hadn't realized eventually would come so soon.

In researching what we might do there, I discovered that Andersonville has a website, which is not only where I discovered their farmers' market is on Wednesday evenings, but also that they've organized a civic effort to support all of the lovely little businesses in the area. Andersonville 20/20 is a community-based initiative in which residents are challenged to spend $20 a week in a local business. That's all. But if everyone who lives there does that, the whole area wins. According to the website, they've already brought $120K into the community that wasn't there before. Or at least not spent there before. That's the way to keep a neighborhood alive.

And thanks to the Andersonville website, I've also got a handy list of activities and locales I want to explore further.

Our first stop (once I got off the bus) was at the farmers' market. It's small, just one block, but they had some fantastic looking produce and some jam that was to die for. I didn't get any, but if they're there the next time I go, I definitely will. Chocolate raspberry, if you can even imagine, and that was only one of several. Heather tried the lemon blueberry and said it was yummy too.

I did, however, get some berries, having fore-armed myself with plastic tubs for carrying easily squished produce home with me. And they worked perfectly. Three pints of berries (rasp-, black- and blue-) fit easily into two large Glad disposable containers and made it home Just Fine. They're in the fridge now, waiting for their time tomorrow morning when they will become a crisp. Mmmm...

Speaking of food, dinner was at La Cocina de Frida, where I discovered the joys of cinnamon in sangria (who KNEW it could be so good?) and had tilapia on their gorgeous patio. It reminded me of the rooftop garden of the hotel I stayed in on my last night in Cabo back in 2002, when I went there to work on a sea turtle recovery program (one currently battening down the hatches in the face of Hurricane Jimena). Lush and green and alive, with falling water, it is the patio I dreamed of during the long years in Moscow where no such place exists.

And then we wandered back out onto the street and eventually ended up right next door at A Taste of Heaven for dessert. Where I had the raspberry brownie. Oh. My. God. So. Good. Also, too much for one person to eat in one sitting, I should not have, but I did. I also had coffee because it was Free Coffee Wednesday, which is a major selling point if ever I've heard one, even though the baked goods should bring you in all by themselves.

The Andersonville community has a really hip vibe to it which was even more charming on the street than it appeared to be from the bus. I'll be back to wander Andersonville again when I have a bit more time. Certainly I'll be back for the Farmers' Market. But I'll also come back just to explore Andersonville.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two Worlds: Green City Market & Blackstone Branch Library

Originally this post was going to be solely about the Green City Market. I started writing it Saturday morning, on the Clark 22 bus as I rode towards Lincoln Park. But then my phone rang. My friend Rebecca wanted to know if I was busy that afternoon because she and her husband and mother were going to be traveling to Hyde Park to see some recently restored murals in a library there. I thought it sounded interesting, so I said yes. And then I went back to writing.

Green City Market
This seemed like a good place to begin my forays into my new life here. I mean, a girl needs to eat and all.

The Green City Market is, as the website says, Chicago's only year-round farmers' market. It's held every Saturday (7am -1pm in summer, 8am-1pm in winter) in Lincoln Park. In the summertime, the market is outdoors near the South Pond between N. Clark & Stockton Drive. In the winter, it's held in the South Gallery of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

This market is one of the top ten farmers' markets in the country, so you can imagine how excited I was about going. I was expecting to be impressed. Turns out it's not that different from Moscow's farmers' market, which surprised me. There's certainly more food available than in Moscow, and you can get elk, lamb, beef and pork there, as well as milk. I had some wonderful apple cider donuts fresh out of the fryer, but other than that, the diversity of the clientele and the lack of social awareness booths, it was pretty much like Moscow's market, right down to the live music. Just bigger.

The bus trip took an hour, and I had to carry back anything I bought, so I was fairly circumspect with the purchasing. I got an eggplant, some green bell peppers, some garlic and some onions. The soup I made yesterday and the spaghetti sauce I made this evening both have the Green City Market to thank for their existence.

In fact, I would have to say that the bus trip was the best part of the entire morning. I opted to go by bus rather than by train because I wanted to see more of the city. I need know how Chicago is put together, and the bus gave me a really great sense of what goes where, simply by traveling down Clark St. from Rogers Park to Lincoln Park and back again.

I do plan to visit the Green City Market again this Saturday, and I'm going to be better prepared. There were lots of berries that I couldn't buy because I had no way to transport them safely, but thanks to a suggestion from my mom, I'll be stuffing my backpack with tupperware wannabees to haul all those berries home. There are crisps to be made and fruits to be frozen for winter smoothies.

The Blackstone Murals
Chicago's first branch library, the Blackstone Memorial Branch Library in Hyde Park, opened in 1904. Its fortunes have fluctuated over the century plus since then. When it was built, the marble foyer, mahogany furniture and the Oliver Dennett Grover murals all attested to its importance to the culture. The original cost of the building was $250,000. Renovations and updates within the last 10-15 years have cost around $800,000. But there are some things that require that kind of monetary care, and a library this beautiful is one of them.

Don't you think every library should be lit this way?

That's my friend Rebecca and her husband, by the way. I don't know who the guy in red is.

You can already tell from the exterior, I think, that this library is going to be something special. And you know that for sure when you walk into the entry dome and look up.

The murals were restored just recently. In fact, there was a presentation on the process last night at the library. If I hadn't had stupid technical issues getting these images off my phone, you would have had advance notice about it. Sorry. Next time I'm taking a real camera. Anyway, bear in mind that these are indeed phone pictures while looking at them. And consider heading to the library to look at the murals in person. They're well worth it.





Everyone we spoke with on staff was very helpful. The head librarian even let us look at a scrapbook of the library's history. It's a beautiful place, a once upon a time temple to the importance of reading. Thank goodness someone thought it was worth preserving. And judging from how busy it was while we were there, half an hour before closing on a Saturday, the neighborhood thinks it's worth using.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

About the Sunday Posting Situation

When I decided to post here on Sundays, those were free days. The Sunday post presupposed I would have time on Sundays TO post. I just didn't have time today. I DO, however have lots of things to write about and hopefully some pretty pictures. The plan is to post tomorrow about the stuff I didn't get the time to write about today.

Eventually (when I'm completely unpacked), my Sundays will free up drastically. Next week should be a good bet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm Hee-eere

We moved us and the cats in on Monday and the furniture arrived on Thursday. I've been unpacking ever since. And now I'm resting on the couch in my bower of a living room on the North Side.

Since I've been busy doing moving-related things, I haven't really had much time to do any exploring. I almost didn't post today. But then I thought, "You HAVE to post on your first Sunday in town. You HAVE to." So here I am.

Today is not a day for unpacking. Today is a day for getting out and tasting the delights of the city. First up, a matinee of Six Degrees of Separation at Eclipse (my friend Rebecca is in it, so I got comped in) followed by a beer with said Rebecca and then a trip over to Navy Pier to see the Water Fools show at Chicago Shakes with another friend, Chris. Quite a full program for someone who hasn't even been here a week.

And to make sure I can do all that I want to do, I did some poking around on-line and got myself a handy little seven-day CTA pass. Unlimited CTA usage for seven days. By which time, I'm hoping my CTA Chicago-Plus card will have arrived in the mail.

I'm so glad I discovered the 7-day pass. I was really hating having to look up $2.25 for each leg of a trip. This thing will easily pay for itself this week.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Sorry. I should have posted this before last Sunday, but was too busy to get to it. I was in Denver last weekend for a wedding, and will be in Boise this weekend for a few days with my family. This will most likely be the last time I see most of them until after The Big Move.

Anyway, I probably won't have internet access, so I won't be posting on Sunday.

HOWEVER. Once I get back, it's hit the apartment hunt hard and then head to Chicago for five days of apartment hunting and community building. So I'll have lots to write about next weekend and the weekend after.

If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Art Institute

I'm winding down from the semester and cleaning and organizing and meeting some deadlines this week, so nothing new here. Unless you want to read my blatherings on my strange reluctance to buy a plane ticket.

Instead, I'd like to direct you to my friend Heather's blog, where she waxes rhapsodic about the newest changes at the Chicago Art Institute. Be sure to read her comment there as well. It's even more detailed than her post about why the Art Institute is such a fabulous place.

I got to trundle through it with Heather and Chris (a fellow alum) when I was in Chicago last July. It was lovely and they were very VERY patient with me and my slow pace and my tears (art makes me emotional) and my gawking. If you want my impressions from that morning's visit, you can click on the link in this paragraph.

I still can't believe I'll be in the same city soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Three and a Half Months

(This post was published last Tuesday on Sallyacious. It's also appropriate here, I think. Besides, I was busy this week with the show. And now I'm getting back to the rest of my life. A non-recycled post next Sunday, I promise.)

I spent a recent afternoon looking at apartments. CHICAGO apartments. Online. (Damn, the world has changed significantly since I first struck out on my own.) I justified it by telling myself that we needed to be sure that the amount we were calculating for housing would work. It's an amount we can afford even if I don't have an income right away*.

So far I have discovered an online apartment rating system and a really useful online rental site. And on that site I located 83 apartment buildings I would be willing to live in. The entire process was made much faster by two things:

1) Three cats, which narrows the field significantly right away, and

2) The discovery that even looking at a building that is more than four stories high as a possible living space makes me hyperventilate. Seriously. My blood pressure increase, my breathing speeds up, my heart starts pounding in my chest, I get all tense and start making little squeaky noises. Any ideas at how many neighborhoods that sort of thing cuts out? Lots.

I mentioned this to our ASM last night during rehearsal and she said, "Well, couldn't you live on the second or third floor of a tall building? And then she got to witness firsthand my reaction to the idea of living in a high rise. "No," she said. "Obviously not."

Dave thinks I'm being silly, but since I'm going to have to live there at least four months longer than he will (a December 2009 graduation date is now assured, by the way), I get to be as silly as I like over these things. My silly wins.

Anyway, I was getting all excited about the apartment hunt, as opposed to overwhelmed like I had been. At least now I won't be jumping into it cold. And then I thought, “You need to slow down, Sal. You've got quite a while to wait.” Which is when I decided to actually figure out how much time I have left in this horrible place.

Three and a half months.

That's it. My time in Moscow finally--finally--has an expiration date. And now I'm scared and excited and worried and jubilant and exhausted and overwhelmed and grinning like a fiend. Because I'm not going to spend the rest of my life here. I have a new place to be, and soon I'll have a home there.

* Please, please, Chicago Community College System, see me for the shining star I am and hire me. Though I suppose that means I need to apply, doesn't it. Lazy cow.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


If you're a regular reader of Sallyacious you know that I'm now committed to staying in Moscow through the eighth of August. Which is fine, because I'm playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. But it means my move schedule is shifting a bit now.

So. Now it looks like I'll be in Chicago to hunt for a home sometime in the first two weeks of June. And moving for good sometime in the middle of August. Since I'd like Dave to make the trip with me if he can, probably over a weekend. Arriving on the 16 or 17, most likely.

And that's where we are. At least things are becoming more definite. Even if the busy is creeping back into my schedule again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Getting Ahead of Myself

Yesterday, as I sat in Dave's office, waiting for the eldest and most stubborn geriatric cat who suddenly needs someone right there with her, touching her while she eats, I took a look at possible moving routes. Yes, I know we won't be going anywhere until late July/early August. I know this. But wasn't doing anything else while sitting there with the demanding, pushy oldladypants while she dined, so I decided to look into just exactly what traveling will take.

According to Googlemaps, we can do it in one day and not quite four hours. I'm guessing that means if we were to get in the car and not get out for anything until we reached Chicago. Um, no.

Also interesting is the three or four miles of difference depending on whether we go through Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin on the way or Wyoming and South Dakota instead. Seriously. Only about three miles. But the northern route may be prettier. Montana is certainly nicer than Wyoming. I don't know about North Dakota, but I suspect Wisconsin is prettier than South Dakota.

Anyway, I think we can do it in three days, staying overnight in Billings and Minneapolis. That's nine hours of driving on Day One, twelve hours on Day Two, and not quite seven hours on Day Three, which seems like the day we'll most want to have time for other things. Like unpacking the car/moving van and getting the Girls comfortable in their new digs. And maybe just flopping onto the floor and gasping a bit while vowing to never, ever drive anywhere for more than twenty minutes with cats in the car ever, ever again.

Now I can look into pet-friendly hotel options in those two cities. (And maybe also Chicago? It's entirely possible that we won't want to move in until the next day, but we'll see.)

As I said in the title to this post, I'm getting ahead of myself. In my defense, however, I'm happy to know that I have one potential moving issue at least partly figured out. Though I still don't know HOW we're going to manage getting everybody there in one piece.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

April 24 is Shakespeare's birthday. Mayor Daley has declared it Talk Like Shakespeare Day.

This is so the right city for me to live in.

(Thanks to Heather for the head's up.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Job

Last week was insane. This week looks to be perhaps slightly less so, and the school year is winding down. Which is why I'm now looking to brush up the resume, the CV, the teaching philosophy and the cover letter skills. Also to get the references in order. Because it's time to start that hunt.

I'm looking at some adjunct teaching opportunities in the community college system and also a couple of other education-related leads. But I'm unfamiliar enough with the city that I don't know what school is where, and also what OTHER schools are in Chicago that I would want to check the job listings for. So I'd love to hear any suggestions about that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Marking Time

I don't really have anything much to say about the move right now. Aside from the fact that I need to start working on resumes and CVs and cover letters and pestering the people I know about job possibilites. (People like the CEO's and academics I know. Surely someone needs a secretary or adjunct faculty.) So mostly, this post--and the next few that follow it--is my way of making sure Chicagosity stays active in our heads until I have real things to post about.

Where I seem to be now is in that No Man's Land between knowing and doing. And because my schedule is the way it is right now, it's mostly just about the knowing. (Like after you've heard you've been accepted into the university of your dreams, but you still have to graduate from high school before you can get started in college.) Some doing can happen, but until the weather changes and seems serious about it, I'm not boxing up my winter gear. And until my schedule calms down a bit, I'm not even thinking about packing up my office (either office--home or school). Which means probably another two or three weeks of marking time and treading water move-wise before I can actually start making things happen in a more concrete way.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


So now I know. I'll be moving to Chicago sometime in mid-late July. This means I need to find a place to live. A place on the North side. A place that's safe. That preferably has wood floors. And allows pets. Because three cats will be coming with me. The wood floors thing is a want, not a need, but the rest is fairly non-negotiable.

I'll be visiting the city in June to find a living space (and maybe a job), but if anybody has any suggestions based on location, neighborhoods that are better than others, good landlords or living spaces, I'm up for pretty much anything.

I can't even begin to express how happy I am to finally know something for sure.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Still Waiting to Hear

There are so many factors that will determine when I go to Chicago. Whether or not I'm cast in the upcoming summer season at our local rep theatre. Dave's summer situation. Dave's fall situation. Money. Jobs. All of that stuff.

I'll admit, I'm a bit scared about this move. We have a houseful of furniture and tchochkes, plus a garage, a garden shed, an entire storage unit, two offices, three geriatric cats and two lives that are currently on different schedules. I don't know how we're going to do it all.

My plan, such as it is, is to pack things up gradually. Things we know we won't need for a while. Like all of those stacks of books in the basement. Like winter clothing (if it ever stops being winter here). Like gardening tools, since I know I won't have a garden this summer no matter where I'm living. I either won't have the time (here) or the garden (Chicago). Still, it's a daunting enterprise, and I'm not looking forward to it.

What I am looking forward to is my life two or so years from now, when everything is unpacked (including my heart) and we are settled into our new city, our new community, our new life.