Visiting the Windy City the second time by Amtrak is a lot easier the second time than the first. I knew that wherever I exited the station at street level, if I turned right or left and kept the station on only my right or left side, walking around the block, eventually I’d see the familiar CVS Pharmacy across the street at one of four corners I knew I would encounter, and that was the corner where I would wait for Peter. The night before, I had explained in a brief phone call that I had shaved off my mustache, but I had kept the rest of the manicured full beard. It was conceivable that without that advisory, he would have driven by that guy with the brown leather jacket that looked like the one I wore last year when I visited . . . and the same guitar . . . and the same dress slacks . . . and not stopped because I was missing a vital element above my upper lip. Happily for MOI, he recognized me. The time was about 10:40. The rain was light.
One of the first subject to come up after stowing the luggage and instrument in the trunk was lunch. Peter assumed I had eaten on the train. He wasn’t hungry and he didn’t expect to be hungry for a while. It was 10:40 in the morning and I hadn’t touched food since 7 last night. I wasn’t famished-hungry, but my body was telling me it was time for more. Even so, I can miss a few meals, and not have to buy new pants. Besides, I had not come for the cuisine, I had come to see the city. Soon we were barreling down a major avenue in the direction of a silent auction fundraiser at a visual arts gallery/studio which had been a beautiful large home in ages past in a healthy-looking neighborhood in the general vicinity of University of Chicago. We arrived about 11:10 when they were taping yellow silent auction forms to a wonderful variety of creations already placed. More was on the way. Peter knew Laura, the director of the event, had taken a course at this house. The arts organization that had rented it for years had lost their lease, and the auction would raise funds to help the move to a new location if they could find a new location. I felt I was visiting a funeral home before the “guest of honor” was wheeled in and the chairs had been arranged. The event — the silent auction — would begin at 1 pm, but we were welcome to look around, even go upstairs. There was a lot to see: within and from within. Former fireplaces were focal points in every room on the ground floor. I would have loved to have seen the large portrait that must have hung above the piano room pictured here. What was his/her name? Occupation? What had happened to the painting? It’s obvious in the picture that one honkin’-big painting had presided over that room possibly in the early 40s but not likely much later.
We strolled past the piano room into the room where the wine would be shared. Everything was very much “in process.” I believe the hanging fabric was an artistic creation, but I didn’t get close enough to tell for sure.
I paused to take this picture before we drifted up the stairway to the second floor . . .
In addition to the gift shop at that level were rooms which had been studios, maybe living quarters for artists. I could imagine being inspired by the natural light and perhaps sitting for a portrait in the room pictured left.
The view from a window in the “gift shop” revealed a Unitarian church just down the street we would soon walk by it on the way to building that might have served as home to King Arthur.
On the way back to the stairs, I noticed the Soft Room with the door slightly opened. It was a fascinating concept. The “no shoes” warning was an excellent touch. If we had visited on a sunny morning with a little more time, I would have taken off my shoes and gone inside.
Peter told me about the place we were walking to, but I didn’t have my digital tape recorder, and I wasn’t taking notes. It was much more than a meeting hall on the University of Chicago campus. The few pictures I took inside will say only what they can say . . .
This was the central gathering area. Forward here took us to a lecture hall if I remember right. To the right was a hall to other rooms and to the left was a stairway going up.
View from a landing halfway up to the second floor shows a tastefully garlanded hand railing. I imagined this space in the 30s before plastic event registration tables and folding chairs contributed a touch of garage sale ambiance to the otherwise Harvard-esque tableau. It was time to go.
The Smart Museum of Art, also on campus was next. It was the highlight of the day. I could have spent two hours here solo with a camera, pen and paper for taking notes. The incredibly spacious lobby — big as Texas — featured a coffee shop with baked snacks, table and chairs. I seldom eat when I can avoid eating, so I had coffee, and it was excellent.
This is the view of the lobby. A welcoming greeter is behind the desk on the right, refreshments behind him and tales and chairs in the center area. The large mural is a black & white composite photograph from Czechoslovakia (if I recall correctly) created on a fabric hanging that came together from four separate pieces, each about as big as Vermont. The photo above shows natural color photograph. The mural is very interesting; lots going on For the fun of it I created a colorless rendition from my original.
This is the ‘grey scale edition.
By fully saturating the picture with my computer’s photo software, I “hyper-colorised it.
I gave the same treatment to a closeup of one of my favorite parts of the wonderful mural. The following photos are shared for the most part with no information about the art. I was floored, knocked out, by the variety and quality of what was displayed . . .
Here, my friend and generous host Peter reads about the table and chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was approaching 2:15: time for lunch.
Here’s the view of the opposite side of the enclosed yard as we departed for the excellent walk back to the car. There were people on the sidewalks walking places. No one got in the way. Faces were focused forward . . .
a closer view
Peter recommended a place called Steak & Egger. I was in no mood for breakfast, but I was game for anything but a filet of sole with the name Floursheim embossed into it.
Located in a former very high traffic location during the industrial age, the territory around was still busy after becoming home to many newcomers of Mexican and Spanish origin. Even so, the menu was in English. It reminded me of a Steak & Shake with a long counter overlooking the major part of the cooking area and surrounded by a wide “U” of tables and chairs. There was a lot of convivial patter and chatter, smiles everywhere and surprisingly busy for mid-afternoon. I was absolutely delighted with Peter’s taste in restaurants! After a delicious fried chicken special with mashed potatoes, string beans and a nice dinner salad. The owner kindly wrapped the thigh and breast I had not eaten in aluminum foil. I intended to savor the leftover for dinner after I returned to Springfield. I honestly and truly recommend Steak & Egger to all friends and amigos y amigas visiting Chicago with time to find it. Peter took my picture outside before we headed for his condo about 4:15. You see here a satisfied man!
After unpacking at Peter’s and Byung’s I sat in on some Ph.D candidate students’ informal gathering with Professor Byung whom they addressed by her unmarried last name — Professor Soo, I believe. They were all deep into paperwork and final projects. most planning to graduate next year. The field was school administration. The friendly repartee between professor and students was as between colleagues focused on great mutual affection and respect and shared goals. After the conference, the students departed and friends began arriving for the Christmas party where I had been invited to play and sing.
It was a most terrific Christmas party!
Live long . . . . . and proper.
Next time on “Return to Chi’ (or) I Didn’t Even Change Shorts” our hero and his exceedingly kind host Peter visit Lincoln Park, the Chicago History Museum and during the long day’s journey into night, I listen to a marriage come apart as my seat mate argues with his wife about their coming separation on his cell phone. Stay tuned.
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