Frank (ljtourist) wrote,

Gargantuan Trip Report V

part the fifth - Chicago

Got to my sister Elizabeth's condo around 3. I hadn't been there since last Ides, when it was still under construction, and it's come a long way since then. It's huge! Must be 1500 sq ft. of luxury space. Granite countertops, crown molding, huge full-body shower and a whirlpool tub. She also has a psycho kitty called River who was fun to play with.

We went to Subway for a snack, and drove around the different parts of the city. I wanted to do a little shopping, and my sister suggested the street of Armitage. It was too cold for her, though, so we only stopped at LUSH. Yeah.... I only bought two little pieces of soap, and it came out of my vacation budget, so it was fine. While we were there, I was explaining all of the different products to my sister, and one of the SAs asked if I worked for LUSH. Haha! No, just a big fan. Although I did consider working part-time at the store in Bellevue just for the 50% employee discount. But only briefly.

Anyway, she decided that an indoor retail experience was called for, so we headed to some fancy 8-story mall. Before that, though, she suggested a detour for a drink at the John Hancock building. On the way up, I decided I wanted a sidecar, and that turned out to be the signature drink at the bar! It was fantastic, too: one of the best I've had. My sister couldn't have timed it better, either. We got there just at twilight, so the sky was a striking soft purple backdrop to all of the downtown buildings and the long fields of light from the regular grids of houses in the city outskirts. The view was breathtaking.

The mall was interesting. There was this one store that carried bath and body products from a number of retailers (kinda like Sephora, but not). I tried a few products, but none of them thrilled me. We did browse through Sephora, and I bought a few things at Teavana (so I wouldn't have to make a trip to Bellevue when I got back home).

The two of us drove back to the condo to pick up her hopefully-soon-to-be-fiance Dave, and headed out for a late dinner at Wildfire (a Chicago-area steakhouse chain that my sister is obsessed with). Appetizer was french onion soup all around; it was very good, but mine is better. Theirs had a good balance, not too salty or greasy, but my bread was soggy, there wasn't enough onion, and I'm not a fan of Swiss cheese. The filet mignon was outstanding: a very large cut and done properly rare. Desert was a warm apple-caramel tart a la mode split 3 ways. Mmmmmm.

None of us were much in the mood to do anything after that feast, so I just took a nice long whirlpool bath with my LUSH soaps (my sister wouldn't let me take a whirlpool bubble bath).

Day 5 - Tue 3/21

Despite getting to bed early last night, I still got a late start today (woke @ 10am). Elizabeth wanted to take me to a place called Hot Chocolate for brunch, but they were closed. Second choice was another restaurant called Silver Cloud; they were closed too. We settled on a small coffee shop on Damen, which was just fine by me. I had an egg&bacon croissant, a latte, and a small piece of poppy-seed cake.

The next stop was the Field Museum . On the way, my sister complained about the remade Soldier Field. I guess the Space Needle has affected my aesthetics, because I really liked the spaceship-lands-on-the-colosseum motif. The museum itself was shockingly expensive ($15 parking, plus admission, plus many exhibits were extra), but really worth it! The evolution exhibit was *phenomenal*: a great down-to-earth explanation of the science and facts that even kids could understand and enjoy. There were lots of fossils to see and touch, and the recreation of a prehistoric forest was just stunning. Highly recommended.

The main attraction was the Pompeii exhibit (now closed). I'd heard the oft-repeated story that it erupted so fast that the villagers were just killed and preserved doing their daily routine. I'd never really understood how a volcano could act that quickly. Well, it turns out it didn't. First, it was the middle of the night, and second, there was some warning, but not enough to escape (particularly given how the eruption made the sea rough and unnavigable). Also, it wasn't the lava or heat that killed people, it was the toxic gasses from the plume which suddenly collapsed, which explains how it happened so fast. There were many, many artifacts, and the presentation was very well done. It didn't shy away from adult issues (such as the fact that prostitutes existed, and people wore phalluses as fertility charms), but handled them in a sane, tasteful way. Again, thumbs way up.

I wanted to see the Pacific cultures exhibits, which were cool. There was a reproduction of a Maori Meeting House, and a number of religious items, as well as a glimpse of modern life. They also had a small Holocaust exhibit, which was moving. Finally, we took a look at the skull of "Sue" (the best T-Rex skeleton in the world), which is on the upper level. The main-floor reconstruction has a replica skull, since the original is too heavy to mount there.

Lupper was around 4 at the "Corner Bakery" sandwich shop in the museum. I had a chicken panini, my sister's avocado from her huge salad, and a bit of pastry for desert. Tasty.

At that point, the plan was to drop me off at the Navy Pier so I could take lots of pictures at the Flower and Garden Show while my sister deal with her tenants' association meeting. Shortly after I got there, though, I realized the show was over as of Sunday. Oops. I had forgotten to charge my cell phone the night before, so I couldn't call my sister, and just decided to make the best of it. I did a tour of the Stained Glass Window Museum, took a few pictures outdoors (on Flickr in about, uh, a month or two given my previous track record), and briefly browsed the shops. A movie at the IMAX theater sounded good, but the only thing playing that late was "V for Vendetta", which I just wasn't in the mood for.

I remembered that there was a Chicago tourism guide back at the front desk, so I figured I could use that to find something else to occupy a few hours. Before I got that far, though, I met the obligatory wall'o'brochures, and saw one for the Museum of Contemporary Art. The building (and poster for the Warhol exhibit) had caught my eye the day before, so I checked the brochure, and not only are they open until 8pm on Tuesdays, but it's free! And! The 66 bus goes right from the Pier to the museum. Kismet!

The MCA (which really should be MoCA, and which I will forever pronounce as "mocha") was everything I hate about modern museums: awkwardly arranged spaces used inefficiently, many inexplicably closed sections, no sound dampening, no photography allowed, some spaces arranged such that there was only one path through them, a gift store that isn't open after the museum is... At least it had some very polite, helpful people, and a complimentary coat check. It also had a *lot* of very good art, which is, I suppose, what really matters.

They had a number of Calder's mobiles, which are some of my all-time favorite works. I think they work for me so much because they stimulate both sides of my brain ("tree" structures + physics for my left, and just raw color and form for my right). I'd love to own some of the small models of them, but even those are several hundred dollars each. Yikes!

Here's where I become an art critic. While I understand the Warhol stuff, and I get why it's such a big deal, I just don't like his work. Maybe it's because the pop icons he commoditized don't have the same emotional connection for me that they do other of his generation (not that I particularly revere today's culture icons), but it just doesn't resonate with me. One amusing point was the irony of having all of this pop-art treated in a "No photos! No touching! No standing too close! Stay back! MY PRECIOUSSSSS......" environment.

Beyond that, though, I also saw a lot of stuff that I liked, and a number of artists really stood out. First was a room-sized sculpture by Sarah Sze. WOW! A linear string framework on which hung cardboard cutouts of buildings, all radiating from a corner dense with everyday objects coerced into striking form. Just... brilliant. She apparently has a piece showing somewhere in Seattle that I have to hunt down. As well as, you know, everything else she's done ever. Next was a painting by Judy Ledgerwood, a monstrous field of dark mahogany red punctuated by pink and red vertically-smeared circles. My words simply cannot do justice to the evocative color palette. Then there was a painting by Donald Moffett, which "blurr[ed] the line between painting and sculpture". It was about a 3/4" thick layer of oil/aluminum paint on canvas, applied over a period of seven years(!), the top layer of which was covered in loops and whirls as if squirted out of a tube; it took the word "texture" to a whole new place that I liked very much. I finished my tour being entranced by one of Jenny Holzer's LED signs.

Annoyingly, though, the gift shop had *no* books on any of them! There was one book by Donald Moffett, but that's hardly the same thing. They did have a lot of cool stuff, though. The only souvenir I picked up for myself is a book called "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification". The title alone cracked me up, of course, but I really think it was that whole geek-meets-art that I liked particularly. It didn't quite live up to my hopes (the classification system is pretty haggard and untenable), but it's still hilarious, and I do like the art aspect.

After the museum closed, I took the L back to my sister's condo. I had a quick pizza for dinner, and we all relaxed by watching a bit of TV (HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD OF "BIG LOVE" BEFORE THIS?!?). Packed my stuff, and had another early night, as we had to get up very early for my flight back home to Seattle.

Day 6 - Wed 3/22

An uneventful drive to ORD, and a (surprise!) half-hour flight delay got me into SeaTac just after 11, so I was able to be at work around 1 to resume normal life.

All in all, a great, great trip. Thanks to everyone who helped make it that way.
Tags: food, life, travel

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