Tuesday, July 03, 2007

One and One is Two, Six and Two is Eight

So... even though I've been dropping comments across my blogroll like a regular Tom Miller over here, I disappear from the interwebs for a week and nobody notices. Ah well, "what is the sound of one hand clapping a tree that fell in a forest" and such.

Anyway, I recently spent the better part of a week in the Chicago area, visiting relatives. I didn't get much time to do touristy stuff, so there's not much to tell, unless you want to hear about a bunch of people's medical problems. Still, despite my lack of a fancy day-by-day travelogue chock-full of interesting stories like Hillbilly Mom managed to provide from her vacation digging holes in the ground, there were a few things of note that occurred.

When I had heard enough about everyone's goiters and bursitis, I took the train into the city to look around. It was my first ride on a commuter train, so while not nearly as glamorous as my previous rides, such as the cogwheel train up Pike's Peak, it still made the day into something of an adventure. Being that I was on my first trip to the Windy City, I stuck with the places you're "supposed to see." Or at least, that was my intention. What actually happened was that I started off at the Art Institute museum, and spent the entire day there filling up my culture bar.

I should start out explaining for those of you who haven't had the opportunity to make the trip that the museum is immense. It covers so many styles of art, from traditional painting and sculpture, to pottery, ancient weapons, and ancient coins. There's even a couple of rooms of period furniture, including an impressive amount of pieces from Frank Lloyd Wright.

So, no, this is not a typical museum that has a handful of "showcase" paintings, and fills the rest of the place with stuff that only art dorks care about. No, virtually every room in that place has a painting or sculpture that's famous - by which, I mean famous to those of us who didn't waste our formative years listening to R.E.M. and thinking that their godawful haircut made them "deep." Every room has works that you can find in any art book read by the general public. Many rooms had two or three such pieces.

My favorite room by far was the one with American Gothic, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and Nighthawks. Unfortunately, Nighthawks is on tour this year so I didn't get to see it in person, thus my favorite room was also my biggest disappointment. They also have an amazing collection of Whistler pieces - probably the largest in the world - and I came away being much more impressed with his work than before. His style really doesn't lend itself well to the glossy-paged "arty" books that would really show off someone else's work... like Monet f'rinstance.

They also had a large collection of Georgia O'Keefe's work. She actually studied at the Institute for a time, and over the years donated not only a number of her own pieces but also works given to her by her artist friends. As much as I could try to get excited about that... if you've seen one painting that's a metaphor for someone's vagina, you've pretty much seen them all.

Anyway as I said, I spent the entire day at the museum - I'm not kidding. I arrived less then 20 minutes after they opened and was practically ushered out the door as they closed. So, speaking of Monet, with half an hour left before the museum was due to close, I realized I hadn't seen *any* of the European art yet. I had spent so much time looking through all their American and Asian pieces that time had just slipped away. What I also hadn't done is see Sunday at La Grand Jette, which is required viewing for anyone who enjoys fine cinema such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

So I'm questing for this painting, with the short amount of time I have looming large in my mind. My feet are killing me, because I've walked at least six miles through the museum by this point, and as I'm wandering among scores of priceless impressionist paintings, I stumble into a room filled with Monet and Matisse pieces. Had I come to this part of the museum at the beginning of the day, I could have spent an hour sitting in this room studying each one... but I was so tired all I could conjure up was "Oh... here's some Monets. That's nice."

Even as tired as I was, when I rounded the next corner I was confronted with Seurat's masterpiece Grand Jette. My Lord is it ever HUGE! I mean, you see it in books, and all they want to talk about is about pointillism and the importance of the movement, and technical whatnot... but they leave out the fact that this painting fills the bloody wall. It's easily eight feet tall, and just as wide... and it's covered with tens of thousands of little dots. Imagine the painstaking work and ambition it takes to even want to paint that, much less actually doing it.

So yeah, I had my Cameron Frye moment. It was well worth the wait.

Crossing the street right in front of the Museum I saw a guy with a Hammistan U. cap on. We chatted for a bit at waiting at the crosswalk about the Hamhocks and stuff. It was an interesting little bonus that even a thousand miles away from home, there's still "regular" people. Kind of a universality of mankind, circle of life sort of thing, you know? Maybe not... as I said, I was tired.

So that was my day in Chi-Town. Afterwards, rather than drop $40 a plate at a restaurant in The Loop that I would be too tired to really enjoy, I caught the train back and grabbed a burger in town. How fortunate I was, because the place I stopped at, Schoop's, was outstanding. Killer cheese fries, and Green River at the soda fountain... it was heaven.

If you've never had it (and if you're not from the Chicagoland area or the 1930s, you probably haven't) Green River is a bit difficult to describe. The best I can do is tell you that it's like lemon-lime Kool-Aid... only in soda form. Therefore, to someone stricken with "Lime Disease" like myself, this was like a smile from God put into a cup... with free refills. Lime disease, by the way, has nothing to do with tick bites or any of the like, it's simply my lameassed joke about my appetite for limes and anything lime-flavored. I love the hell outta lime-type food. I eat enough limes, I'm pretty sure I could qualify for British citizenship.

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Blogger Mark said...

Welcome back. Stew, and Happy Fourth!

11:11 AM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

Goiter? Now THERE's something I know about.

Too bad you didn't get the Risky Business train ride. I suppose the Ferris Bueller museum visit will have to suffice.

3:54 PM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Stewed Hamm said...

I waited so that I could go on a weekday to beat the crowds. Good thing too, since during the weekend the Gay Pride parade was held... not exactly how I'd picture a Ferris moment, ifyouknowwhatimeanandithinkthatyoudo.

4:55 PM, July 04, 2007  

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