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Chicago

After Madison, Sylvia and I spent a couple of days in Chicago, which is not a town I know well. Hadn’t been there for years.

We stayed a hotel near the Millennium Park. Some nice stuff there, like a pair of large cell-phone-like sculptures showing short video/portraits of Chicagoans. Damp night, reflections on the pavement.

The really striking sculpture in the park is a large chromium bean. On the top, it’s like a reflecting mirror, but if you go under it, you get these weird multiple reflection regresses..

It’s such an interesting work..in that the complications aren’t from physical elaborations upon the form of the sculpture, which is fairly simple in itself The complications come from the physical world’s interactions with the sculpture. I was thinking the glossy upper surface is like the smiling face a person might present to the world.

And the warped, teeming underside is like the private parts of a person’s mind.

Our hotel building was eighty-stories high, but the hotel section of the structure only went up about twenty floors. It’s the smaller building in the middle here, the Radisson Blu.

Another big sight site for us was the Chicago Art Institute, one of the big museums of the U.S., up there with the Met in NYC and the National Gallery in DC. This work is kind of amusing, it’s by Sam Gilliam, known for his poured color-stripe paintings…and at some point in his career he was like, Why bother stretching them? The canvas looks fine if I just toss it into a corner.

It’s kind of dumb to take photos of paintings as nowadays you can find the higher-quality images of the paintings on the museums’ websites. But I still do it sometimes anyway. Love the ringmaster in this Toulouse-Lautrec.

And this garish gas-lit woman in a Toulouse-Lautrec nightclub, her name is May Milton, she was English, and said to be scandalous and doughy. She was dancer Jean Avril’s close friend.

Like the Met, the Art Institute has old stuff as well. Loved these bronze griffins. Over and over in museums, I’ll see something that’s centuries old, and it’s so “modernistic” looking, and I’m reminded how time-independent art is. We imagine we’re making progress and unearthing new tricks, and it’s all been done before.

An interesting temporary show on a Brazilian woman artist called Tarsina. This is one of her most famous works, called “Anthrophagy,” as in “eating humans,” a sort of playful name she had for her art movement, taking off on the notion that Europeans might view South Americans as primitive cannibals, but also taking into account that, as an artist in a less developed country, she and her peers were in some sense “eating” the art of the Europeans and repurposing it for their own style.

Abstract composition of planes and drawing bits. I have a weakness for these kinds of photos, playing with the viewfinder’s space and then, later, playing with the crop tool.

Did you ever realize that ROOF is (almost) FLOOR spelled backwards? Funny how the artist brings this home with a typographic mural, and the one later that doesn’t match is covered here by the man.

By the way, SPELLED spelled backwards is DELLEPS (that’s pointless old Mad Magazine joke).

Chi has a “North River” area, north of the Chicago River, which runs into enormous Lake Michigan, and Michigan Avenue there gets into a kind of NYC Fifth Ave upscale shopping strip, they call it Miracle Mile, I think. Anyway, at the big Uniqlo store I noticed that they actually had a certain famous cellular automaton running in the light-pattern murals, it’s the “Heat” or “Rug” rule.

So horrible, so ghastly, to see a giant Trump hotel in a new city. It’s the frikkin’ second or third tallest building in town. Like a hideous recurrent nightmare to keep seeing that name and hearing about that person. I still feel like we twigged off into a dreadful minor time fork in November, 2016. The world hasn’t felt stable or fully real since then. Like we’re living in an episode of Twilight Zone. Waiting for the alarm to ring and the bad dream to end.

On the much better side, we went to the amazing Kingston Mines blues club in Lincoln Park and saw the Mike Wheeler band and a blues lady called Dimitria Taylor. Wonderful shows, funky place.

Oh, and something else to recommend: a restaurant in the Loop area called The Dearborn. Very mellow, kind of like a relaxed Balthazar of NYC, wonderful food. Such a good place we ate there two nights in a row.

Nice view of the other skyscrapers from our hotel room, via a mirror. Mirrors are gateways into the fourth dimension, right. But it would be risky to pass through and then be hundreds of feet in the air.

We went down to the park and a bunch of skating-school kids were putting on a show. The coach gives me a fish-eye look, old man taking photos of her charges.

I’ve never understood how they can skate backwards. My mind always seizes up, trying to imagine how I’d do it.

Wandered into an old office building lobby in the Loop buildings, that is, the area inside a loop of the elevated train’s track, a few blocks in from the lake.

We made it down to the old Chess Records building/office/studio, a two-story house on South Michigan Ave. Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Walter and even the Rolling Stones recorded there. A shrine.

A guy named Keith gave us a tour, he’s part of the family of the early bluesman Willie Dixon, also a Chess musician. Willie got the deed to the house from Chess in lieu of back money they owed him. Keith posed with me at the spot where Keith of the Stones stood when they reordered their EP 5×5 in that studio. I noticed that one of the walls in the studio were parallel to each other…for a better sound.

They had a case of Bo Diddley memorabilia. Bo’s album Bo Diddley was the first album I ever bought in my life. His song “Crackin’ Up” was my favorite, and later the Stones covered it too. I remember being 13 or 14 and listening to “Crackin’ Up” with its sweet-sour plangent guitar notes, and Bo’s warm voice, me standing in front of my parent’s full-length mirror looking at myself, dancing a little, thinking, maybe yes, maybe someday I can be cool.

They had a case of Muddy Waters stuff too, also some photos of Muddy. Here he is with his girlfriend KD.

It was raining when we got out of Chess, and we went back into the Chicago Art Institute for lunch. Noticed this really odd ancient Greek sculpture of a hand sticking out of a guy’s mouth. I think the idea is that an actor was holding a big mask of a satyr and sticking his hand through, maybe just to make it weird. Actors…

I picked up on this Symbolist painting by the Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin, called In the Sea.. 1883. I thought a lot about what’s going on here. A sea god and four women are singing. I think they’re lounging on a reef, like seals. That dark thing behind the guy might be his tail, or maybe it’s a rock. Note that the mermaid woman’s exposed tail branches in two, which is much handier for orgies. Are the women all mermaids, or are some of them just visitors—or even abductees? Two pointy-eared mermen have joined the party, and one is holding a triton shell. Reminds me a little of the painter Franz Stück also. Kind of like science-fiction painting, but not according to any familiar themes.

Amazing views from the air, always. Too much to even process.

When we got home, my neighbors were cutting down a bunch of small eucalyptus trees in their yard. If you get a big euc with a single trunk, it’s kind of nice. I like how they sway in stormy wind, like kelp, but it can be unsettling.

To keep our trip-feeling going, Sylvia and I hit the San Jose Opera, it had been maybe eight years since we went there, and they’ve gotten better. Good scenery, and good singers who handled their acting well.

And then it was up to SF to share Thanksgiving with Rudy Jr. I always like to get a shot or two of the buildings in the city, kind of visually abstract.

Kids crawled around under the tables during the meal. There were a bunch of us there, a real pilgrims and natives scene.

Someone toots a festive trumpet note into the night. And then Rudy set off a bunch of fireworks. He still had a stash from going to Wyoming last year.

Thank you for the dusk.

Sylvia and I took the grandkids to a beach we’d never been too, Thornton Beach, down at the south end of the long SF City Beach.

It’s a long way down to the water, but so beautiful and green, at least these days with a bit of rain under our belts.

Rudy’s garage has a mobile of those old orange records, a sales angle, peppier than black vinyl.

And a week or two later we got together with my dear old friend Nathaniel Hellerstein, having one of those odometer-roll-over birthdays. He put on a cape and a floppy hat and found a cool old cane from his father Earl. The Duke of Earth. Nathaniel, like me, got a Ph.D. in mathematical logic.

2 Responses to “Chicago”

  1. Tom Fool Says:

    Once again, thank you Rudy, for sharing your life with us. You go to fascinating places and do extraordinary things and then share the experience with us. I have ten comments for every photo but it would get tiresome to have to read so I’ll just say again, thanks!

    Your life is it’s own book.

  2. Ken Sherman Says:

    Thanks Rudy. Your blogs are a kindness.


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