Archive for July, 2011
On the first day of my first job out of college, a co-worker approached me and said matter-of-factly, “You’re the only person here close to my age. Let’s go to lunch.” We did, and quickly became fast friends. You’d be surprised how much a small-town Midwestern girl and a Jewish Hofstra grad could actually have in common.
Rosanne was with me when I met the CE, and I introduced her to her future husband, Keevan. I went to her wedding in Chicago and she came to mine in California. She had children. I had children. And so we headed back to Chicago for another wedding this month: that of Rosanne’s and Keevan’s daughter, Jaina,and her long-time love, Costa.
Since the bride’s family is Jewish and the groom’s family is Greek, the festivities were steeped in both traditions. The rehearsal dinner was held – where else – at a restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown, and after dinner tables were pushed aside for dancing. At the wedding ceremony, Greek crowns were held over the pair’s heads as they stood beneath the traditional Jewish wedding canopy. There was so much love in that room!
Turns out there aren’t that many people you can really count on in this world, but Keevan and Rosanne are at the top of the list. I still owe Keevan for the pair of boots he bought me when in 1977 I showed up in Chicago weeping, poverty-stricken and underclothed during a February blizzard. He picked me up at the train station, took me shopping, fed me, and then put up with my sniveling (as did my patient, long-suffering college roommate, Anne) for the next few months until the CE mercifully took me off their hands. THAT is friendship!
Rosanne is a gifted writer and one of the only people who can craft a holiday letter each year that everyone actually looks forward to receiving. She possesses an unwavering combination of kindness and brutal honesty wrapped up in a killer sense of humor, and you will actually enjoy it when she makes fun of you. In fact, I owe my marriage to her gift of gab. When we ducked into a Georgetown pub one night to escape a cloudburst on our way home from dinner, it was Rosanne who noticed the tall, handsome guy standing next to her who had also taken refuge from the storm. She sized him up, noted that in a sea of Washington, D.C. three-piece-suiters he was wearing sneakers, and quipped “What part of California are you from?” And that is how I met the future Chicken Emperor and love of my life.
Any time I spend with Rosanne and Keevan is treasured time, and whether it has been six months or six years between visits, we all pick up exactly where we left off. And being with them at Jaina and Costa’s wedding was, well, icing on the cake. Such a special time with such very special people at a very special wedding. Mazel tov!
Yes, it’s the Second City but it is not, I repeat, NOT, fly-over country. I will always heart New York, but Chicago is definitely my kind of town. We spent last weekend there and loved every minute. My top ten:
10. How about ‘dem Cubs
Proof positive that it’s not nice to insult someone’s goat, the Cubbies have not won a World Series since 1945, when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was ejected from a game due to his cloven-hoofed companion’s pungent odor. Sianis pronounced a curse upon the team and they’ve come up empty-handed ever since.
In case you think no one remembers, I met a local friend for lunch last Saturday, and before the napkins were even unfolded she told me her favorite Cubs joke:
Q: What did Jesus say to the Cubs last time he was on Earth?
A: “Don’t do anything til I get back.”
Still, there’s no place like Wrigley Field with its ivy-covered walls, hoagies, brats, brews and die-hard fans. It’s a win-win, regardless of the score.
9. The Bean
Officially called “Cloud Gate” the Millennium Park sculpture by British artist Anish Kapoor has been unofficially and affectionately dubbed “The Bean” by the steady stream of visitors who pose for photos and gaze at its “omphalos” (that’s Greek for navel). They keep it clean by wiping it down twice daily with a Windex-like solution. Made of welded stainless steel plates, The Bean is projected to last 1,000 years, so you’ve got plenty of time to see it.
I haven’t seen “lightning bugs”since I was a kid, but as we walked back to our hotel from dinner one evening at dusk, the shrubs and parking strips came alive with a crepuscular display courtesy of the humble Coleoptera. These winged beetles were simply putting the moves on for one another in a none-too-subtle pick-up maneuver, but to us humans, it’s a magical performance. I’ve never seen them in Los Angeles or in Manhattan, so Chicago wins the light-show prize in my book.
I have no scientific proof, but I’ve never heard anyone dispute the fact that people in the Midwest are just nicer than anywhere else. Maybe they’ve been worn down by those harsh winters and have no energy left to scold you for breathing, but during our Windy City sojourn, people smiled and said hello without being the least bit creepy. Another bonus: Midwesterners aren’t as worried about their carbon footprint: they enjoy a good meal here and there, so you’ll feel like the thin one in the crowd.
6. Speaking of food, we had one of the Best.Meals.Ever on the Near North Side at PerennialVirant on N. Lincoln Avenue. Their motto is “Eat what you can, can what you can’t”, which is a cryptic way of explaining that they make down-home Midwestern ingredients sing. I have a firm rule about not eating bread these days, but it was not possible to pass up their multi-grain slices of farm bread served with butter so fresh I thought I heard a moo coming from the kitchen.
5. Water, Water Everywhere
Lake Michigan. The Chicago River. They are the jewels that set off the Chicago skyline. Never mind that winter “lake effect” that operates like a snow-making machine for those poor folks who catch its drift (haha – not so funny in February, is it?) over in Indiana. Lake Michigan is looking fine and she knows it. If you go in March, you can catch the Chicago River dyed green for St. Pat’s Day. Because this is Chicago, and they know how to have a good time!
We arrived just in time for her unveiling, to the predictable wolf-whistles and catcalls. The critics roundly dismissed Seward Johnson’s icon of the iconic MM with comments of “some like it not” and “not in our front yard”, but maybe they’re just jealous because she’s drawing attention away from The Bean. Come to think of it, they hated The Bean when it first sprouted, too. I predict they’ll miss her when she’s gone: in Spring, 2012 she goes out like a candle in the wind.
3. Tribune Tower
I could go on and on about Chicago architecture. There were the stalwarts like Daniel Burnham, who oversaw the design of Chicago’s 1893 World Fair and then for kicks came up with the Chicago Plan that gave us the Magnificent Mile. (By the way, in his spare time, he designed the famed Flatiron Building in NYC, too.) Then there was crabby Louis Sullivan, who wasn’t content with being called “the father of skyscrapers” and insisted on dissing Burnham every chance he got. Oh, and there was that upstart Frank Lloyd Wright…like everything else about Chicago, its architecture is vivid, hard-working and there’s always a story.
As you view the Tribune Tower, don’t spend all your time looking up, because there are lots of little surprises embedded into the building at eye level. A number of exotic artifacts were collected by Tribune correspondents and added to the building’s relief, including a stone from Egypt’s GizaPyramid.
2. The Peninsula Chicago
We all have our weaknesses (okay, maybe I have more than the rest of you) and one of mine is a deep and abiding affection for fine hotels. Yes, I know it’s just a room for a night or two, but there’s something about marble baths and fine linens that speaks to my soul. And nowhere does it speak more sweetly than at The Peninsula Chicago.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Travel+Leisure just named it as one of the World’s Best Hotels for 2011.
And as if they needed to make it any more perfect, The Peninsula offers a fabled Chocolate Bar in the lobby dining room on Fridays and Saturdays from 8-11 pm. We did not partake, but we looked at it, which probably caused me to gain five pounds on the spot.
1. The Chagall Windows
As a lover of the finer things in life, I can attest that among the very finest are the Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago. I remember them (correctly or incorrectly) as having been in a stairwell before and must admit I preferred that lofty location, but even a less-than-perfect reset cannot detract from these transcendent panels representing the whole gambit of cultural arts: music, painting, literature, architecture, poetry and dance.
The beloved windows were under wraps for five years during the construction of the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing. It was worth the wait. The building is beautifully dovetailed into the Millennium Park walkway and is filled with breathtaking treasures. One of my favorite old friends there is the second version of Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom”, painted in 1888 during his turbulent stay in Arles, France.
I try to make a “new friend” each time I visit an art museum and the one that caught my eye this visit was The Pardon by Gatson La Touche, a French post-Impressionist painter. La Touche was so spectacularly unsuccessful during his lifetime that he burned most of his paintings in 1891. C’est tellement dommage!
All in all, you gotta’ love Chicago. It’s not always refined, and it probably worries too much about not being Manhattan, but it has a roughneck charm all its own. There’s no place quite like it.
"HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders" - Carl Sandburg
This particular weekend, however, was dedicated, more than less, to the art of fine dining. It was impressive to see a trained military professional do battle with a knife and fork. I am here to tell you he took no prisoners!
I know, you’re thinking we did nothing but eat. That’s almost true. But we did manage to sneak in a trip to the San Diego Zoo, where instead we watched a young Giant Panda eat. That little guy – 23 months old, they told us, has grown rather portly on a diet of bamboo. Leads me to believe that vegetables must be caloric and we should strictly limit our choices to steak, lobster and chocolate desserts.
By Sunday morning, we worked up quite an appetite from the effort of eating at Cowboy Star on Saturday night, so we went to brunch at the Westgate Hotel for meal #3. Recommended!
After brunch, we caught the ferry over to Coronado Island. PG has fond memories of the Hotel Del Coronado, so we stopped there for a glass of iced tea, then headed back to the ferry because, of course, we didn’t want to be late for our dinner reservation.
Sunday night dinner (meal #4 ) was at Bertrand at Mister A’s. I don’t quite understand why the restaurant needs two names, but we were too busy enjoying the view to ask questions. Perched on the top floor of a bank building in downtown San Diego, the restaurant affords views of just about everything in the area, including the steady stream of airplanes landing at the San Diego airport. The food and service were as top-notch as the view.
Our midshipman had to be back on base by midnight Sunday, which brought our weekend – and the food binge – to a reluctant close. I would like to know if the Navy has a strategy for fighting the battle of the restaurant-induced bulge for those of us who are not 20 years old and in fighting trim. I could use a little help.
After his summer posting in San Diego and a little R & R back home in Florida, Nick will return for his junior year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. We hope to visit him there sometime soon and see how the East Coast restaurateurs measure up.
Best of luck and Godspeed to Nicholas and all the others dedicated to protecting our country!
Just a quick update on the chicks. They are a month old and SO BIG! I don’t get to handle them very much since Hope calls the shots and doesn’t like them to leave her side. Most of them are extremely wary of humans, but some of them can be persuaded to eat a meal worm out of my hand. Luna seems to be the friendliest and Pippa is fairly calm once she is caught, which is not easy. I managed to grab Lucy last night and brought her into the house for a visit, which quickly turned into a wild chicken chase – she flew off the countertop and ran all the way upstairs, downstairs and then back upstairs before the CE and I managed to corner and catch her.
Autumn started laying those confounded wind eggs again, which, after her bout with egg yolk peritonitis, is not a good sign. So we took her into the vet yesterday and she received a Lupron shot and a calcium shot.
After her doctor appointment, Autumn stopped by a local bookstore to hang out with the proprietor.
No word from Autumn on what she’s currently reading, but I suspect it may be something like “100 Ways to Hide from a Hawk”. That young Red-Tailed Hawk has become a permanent fixture overhead, so we can only let Hope and the chicks out of the pen when they are closely supervised. It’s not easy to be a chicken!
Stranger than fiction. A Utah family found this pair of conjoined baby robins:
Turns out it was not a genetic mutation. Somehow, a plastic thread lodged between the two nestlings after they hatched and as the skin and feathers of the two birds grew, they were literally woven together.
A veterinarian separated them – one is doing well, the other in critical condition. I hope both little ones can survive…
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
And sings the tune – without the words
And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson
Sorry all you Royalphiles, but the biggest news in southern California this month actually has nothing to do with Will and Kate’s west coast holiday. What is twisting the heads of Los Angelenos and their neighbors near and far is the anticipated closure of miles and miles of the I-405 freeway next weekend to demolish the Mulholland Bridge.
The demolition is an ambitious component to scheduled improvements for the Sepulveda Pass, where one of the earliest commuters was Gaspar de Portola, commander of the first Spanish land exploration of California in 1769. Accompanied by a hundred mules and sixty-three fellow travelers, Portola marched down the Sepulveda Pass on a mission northward to find Monterey Bay.
The Sepulveda Pass looks a little different now than it did when Portola passed through. Even on a good day, the I-405 is hopelessly clogged, but the mind boggles at the horror of shutting down a stretch of road traveled by well over 300,000 cars on a daily basis. The famous intersection of the I-405 and I-101 freeways has been labeled the busiest in the United States, so it’s no exaggeration to refer to the upcoming July 16-17 closure as “Carmageddon”. (For all you trivia buffs, the title for busiest freeway in North America actually goes to Ontario Highway 401 in Canada, according to Wikipedia and other sources.)
While everyone in LA is trapped at home as Mulholland bridge goes bye-bye, they might want to relax with a copy of Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles, which, despite its turgid title, is a fascinating read.
As a transplant to California, I must have seen the exit for Mulholland Drive hundreds of times with no thought of the history behind its name, but true Angelenos know William Mulholland as the crusty Irish immigrant who prevailed in the fiercely-fought battle to build the Los Angeles acqueduct and bring (or steal, depending on how you look at it) Owens River Valley water to the burgeoning, thirsty community of Los Angeles in the early 1900′s.
Sadly, Mulholland’s legacy is also inextricably linked to the catastrophic 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam near present-day Santa Clarita. Hundreds of people were killed in the path of the horrific flash flood triggered by the crumbling dam. Bodies were washed through the torrent to wash up on beaches as far away as Oxnard and San Diego, and continued to be discovered as late as the 1970′s. Mulholland, a larger-than-life local hero, was held responsible for the tragedy and died a broken man.
When Gaspar trekked the Sepulveda Pass the residents were comprised mostly of scattered tribes of Indians. When William Mulholland arrived in Los Angeles in 1877, 9,000 souls resided in the City of Angels. At the time of Mulholland’s death, population had swelled to more a million and today, nearly four million people drink from the water Mulholland diverted from the Owens River Valley.
When the Mulholland Bridge was completed in 1960, it earned the desultory title of ”a bridge to nowhere” since, at the time, it was scarcely used. Things change, don’t they? Juan Gaspar Portola has come and gone and so has William Mulholland. Paradise has been duly paved, they put up a parking lot called the I-405 and now it’s time for a remodel. Stay far, far away on July 15-16!
“Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”
- Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi”
The CE and I were having lunch downtown the other day when three aging hippies singing “Imagine” and carrying a “War Is Not The Answer” banner walked past.
I wish I’d gotten a phone number because I would like to hire them to stage an hourly parade in the chicken yard. Why? Because when I let Hope and the chicks out of the pen for a walkabout in the chicken yard Saturday morning, we had an unannounced and unwelcome visitor. Hope saw it first and sounded the alarm – she let out a squawk, the chicks scattered for cover and I looked up to see a young red-tailed hawk perched on a branch overlooking the chicken yard.
I yelled and carried on while he gazed inscrutably at the crazy women flailing her arms at him. Twenty-or-so seconds into my anti-hawk dance he tired of the entertainment and flew off.
But he will be back. In fact, as I type this, I can hear the kirrrree-kirrreee-kirrreee call of a hawk circling our property.
I herded Hope and the chicks into the coop and commenced, yet again, to research the subject of hawks and chickens, hoping to find a magic bullet answer to the predatory problem.
Speaking of bullets, I learned, by the way, that it is illegal to kill a hawk – or a crow, for that matter. They are included in a very lengthy avian list(http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/RegulationsPolicies/mbta/mbtandx.html) protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Since we have crows and hawks on our property 365 days a year, I am a bit skeptical as to the migratory nature of these creatures, but it is the law of the land.
A hawk will readily attack a bird up to twice its size, so even Hope and Autumn are at risk. As I stated in the earlier post, a rooster is the best defense against a hawk, but I fear angry neighbors even more than the hawk, so, sadly, no roosters will be roosting in our coop.
Like the peaceable paraders downtown, I just wish everyone could get along. But changing hawk nature (or, for that matter, human nature) is not a likely outcome.
Thus, it looks like the chicks will be cooped up for the holiday, but hopefully the rest of you are happily celebrating your freedom. Happy 4th, and peace out!
Freedom has been ringing in our ears more than two hundred years and it seems that for some, the sweet music has been reduced to a ho hum. Fourth of July parades have been declared “Right Wing” by no less esteemed an institution than Harvard University, our elected officials are disrobing in alarming numbers (I solemnly swear that @Hopecutechick will not be tweeting photos of herself in her skivvies!) and public service seems to have been replaced by gobbling at the public trough.
Contrast that with the risks our Founding Fathers took to gain our independence: but for a few miraculous meteorological advantages here and there, the sacrifices of George Washington, John Adams and a host of other patriots, and a little self-serving help from the French in the nick of time, the signers of our Declaration of Independence would have been summarily hung and we might all be eating black pudding and pig trotters.
Just in case freedom isn’t ringing your bell this holiday weekend, you might turn your thoughts to three folks who would probably give anything right now to be in our sweet land of liberty. My thoughts and prayers today are with them.
PFC Bergdahl was captured on July 18, 2009. and is the only known U.S. soldier to be in captivity in Afghanistan. The circumstances of his capture raise the possibility that he was in the process of deserting his unit when he was taken. The next day, a Fox News military analyst suggested that Bergdahl was “no hero”. Nonetheless, he remains in captivity. The Taliban has issued a number of videos in which Bergdahl appears, most recently in May, 2011. For more information on PFC Bergdahl, go to http://supportbowebergdahl.blogspot.com/. How to help free him? The only suggestion I could find was a recommendation to write your Congressmen/women and Senators to advocate for his release.
Manal al Sherif encouraged Saudi women to defy the country’s unspoken ban that prohibits women from driving and was arrested behind the wheel in May. Her Facebook page entitled “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself” was removed and al-Sherif was detained by the Saudi government. According to news accounts, she was released on May 30, having signed an agreement that silenced her from making public statements. An insightful article on the subject can be found here: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Editorial-Board-Blog/2011/0606/Honk-if-you-support-Saudi-women-drivers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced her support for Saudi women on June 21st. There is an online petition calling for the State Department to condemn the arrests of Saudi women who drive at http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-the-state-department-to-condemn-the-detention-of-women-drivers. Another interesting resource for commentary on women in Saudi Arabia can be found here: http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/
Artist Ai Weiwei is just one of many who have been detained for speaking out against the Chinese government. Activists, Christians and children represent the broad spectrum of targets of human rights abuses that run rampant in China. Weiwei was released on June 22, saying that he “is forbidden to say too much to reporters.
This fact sheet from the Robert F. Kennedy Mermorial Center for Human Rights provides a sobering score sheet on abuses by the Chinese government: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sdc/hr_facts.html. How to help? Amnesty International is one option: http://www.amnesty.org/en
I am grateful this holiday weekend to live in a country where I can vote, own property and drive a car, unlike women in Saudi Arabia. I am grateful that I can speak out against my government without being tossed in jail. And I am very, very grateful to all the servicemen and women of the United States military, who risk their lives and their freedom so that I can enjoy my own…and not take it for granted.
A list of charities that support U.S. troops can be found at http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531
“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government outght to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” – John Adams
For all the yadda yadda yadda about weather in southern CA, some of us think the place should be characterized as sub-Arctic most of the time. Not this week! It is a glorious, warm, sunny day.
Autumn is almost done with her antibiotics and so busy enjoying her re-claimed life that I can hardly get her to stand still for a photo.
My stitches are out to prevent additional scarring, steri-strips are in place for the next few days and then we will see how well this monstrosity heals. In the meantime, I hope your summer day is as beautiful as ours!