Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay

By Chuck & Claire

Driving from Chicago to Cleveland, we drove through Ann Arbor. I (Chuck) had always wanted to see the campus of the University of Michigan.Two reasons: First, my stepfather was a lithographer and the company he worked for did the football programs for Stanford University. The Wolverines were one of the annual opponents of the Indians--now The Cardinal. Second, As an undergraduate in college, I had a Philosophy professor from India who got his Ph.D. from UM; but, he always referred to it as "that hell hole," presumably, that was due to the weather. I was curious and this is what we say--more than pleasant during our very brief tour of the campus.

It is a giant campus, spread over many, many blocks--if not miles--by the time you account for the athletic facilities.  It has a student body exceeding 42,000 and is regarded as one of the top 20 universities in the world.

We had a Ben & Jerry's, to celebrate finding a nearby parking spot and then walked about the campus.  The buildings are impressive, but not themed on a particular style.  I was surprised to note that they have several museums scattered about the core campus.  But, we had miles to go before we slept, and moved right along to Cleveland.

I have to say that seeing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was possibly the best museum experience of my life.  We opened the doors in the morning and stayed until the closing announcement. We vowed not to waste time eating until we left.  We had only one day to experience this and discussed how to approach it over the last few days.  We determined that we should separate, joining for the U2 3D movie and then parting until the end. It worked well; but, we did encounter each other a couple of time--the place was not that big, nor was it, thankfully, crowded.

I quickly determined that I did not care about the "stuff" in the exhibit halls.  I wanted to see the videos and hear the music.  I have always loved music, but in an informal, "I know what I like when I hear it" sort of way.  I could never tell you what year a piece was from, almost never knew the lyrics, and rarely knew the names or faces of people in a musical group.  So, today was a genuine educational experience.  In particular, I learned much about who migrated among which groups.  I also was reminded of many names I had forgotten over the years--Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker, Little Willie John, and more.

But mostly, I enjoyed the feeling of remembering people, lyrics and tunes, the desire to tap my foot, to dance again. I loved feeling an almost constant smile on my face as I recalled melodies and performers--and even people from my past that I associate with these.  I enjoyed the feeling of unity engendered by much of the music and many of the performers--and this extends far beyond the Peace and Love days of the late 60's.  I almost cried for some of the music--not sure of the reason.  Could have been the content of love, the sweetness of youth, the loss of innocence, the reminder of my mortality--or all of the above.  Doesn't matter.  In short, I heartily recommend this lovely bit of nostalgia. 

The one complaint was over the way some of the juke boxes were set up.  One kind would quit playing music when you returned to the top level of the selection tree.  Another kind forced you to select music by decade and then, several layers down, only allowed you to play numbers with a speaker icon next to them. There were precious few of these.  I finally quit in frustration--and in the growing realization that I was running out of time.

View from our hotel window. That is the R&R Hall of Fame on the left and Lake Erie in the background. 

Sculpture in the Park around the corner from the hotel, on the way to the Hall.

View up 9th Street in downtown Cleveland as we look back during our walk to the R&R Hall of Fame.

The Cleveland Browns football stadium.

Proof of payment and heirloom to be passed on to my children, thence to their children, continuing 'til the ending of the world.

Designed by I.M. Pei, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is on the shores of Lake Erie and is only a holler away from the Cleveland Browns' football stadium.  "It is a composition of bold geometric forms and dynamic cantilevered spaces that are anchored by a 162-foot tower.  The tower supports a dual-triangular-shaped glass “tent" that extends (at its base) onto a 65,000 square-foot plaza, providing a dramatic main entry facade...The building houses more than 55,000 square-feet of exhibition space."

The front of the R&R Hall of Fame building has a sculpture garden of guitars. 

This is Johnny Cash's touring bus. In 1991, he traveled on it with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings during the Highwayman Tour.

By Claire

We didn't eat, barely took bathroom breaks, and researched in advance; in short, we wanted to fit as much as we could into the 7-1/2 hours available to us.  We had originally planned on 2 days; but I woke up with a red, swollen and painful eyelid on Thursday (4 days ago).  I kept an eye on it (no pun intended) and finally decided on Saturday (of all days!) to see a doctor.  This meant finding an urgent care or emergency room.  Our hotel directed us to St. Vincent Charity Hospital, a mile away.  We found it easily, and there were only 2 people ahead of me.  But, it still took a total of 3-1/2 hours to get it all done, including picking up an antibiotic prescription.  By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was after 3 pm.  I was really bummed, but that's the way it is sometimes. I have an infection and it will eventually clear up.  I'm glad I had it checked out.  The good news is, the hospital billed Kaiser!

It started out gray and chilly as we walked the few blocks to the magnificent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Can I just mention that my face hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much?  The big exhibit at the moment is the Grateful Dead, The Long Strange Trip.

Photography is not allowed inside but I decided to risk it for this shot through the fantastic glass pyramid by I.M. Pei.  Earlier it had poured rain--what a great place to be on a day like that!  Later though, the sun was shining brightly so I couldn't resist the photo.

We started with Mystery Train, a 12 minute introductory film about the beginnings of Rock & Roll.  It was completely engaging and we were already moving to the music and getting in the mood.  From there we split up--it's really a solo experience, but great fun to share and talk afterwards.  I wandered towards the Elvis exhibit, checked out the usual outfits with capes and made my way over to a huge video screen where I sat down to watch.  Before I knew it I was seized with emotion--almost hysterical laughter and welling tears.  There is just something about Elvis.  They melded together clip after clip of Elvis movies, he with the technicolor orange pancake makeup and jet black hair, kissing girl after girl in hilarious scenes with either fireworks going off, wagons collapsing or something blowing up.  This morphed into various videos of his later "come back" shows where his face was beginning to look puffy.  But, he was amazing and I was riveted.  After awhile I decided I had seen so much of Elvis over the years, including a memorable trip to Graceland 20 years ago, that I needed to keep to my schedule.

I quickly strolled through a photography exhibit, noting Sting with The Police, looking very young.  From there I ventured into Legends of Rock and Roll featuring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, U2, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, the Who, the Supremes and others. I was touched by the art work of Jimi Hendrix from when he was in elementary school; what talent!  Loved some of David Bowie's outfits and his hairdos!  Did you know that he doesn't really have two different colored eyes?  One eye is slightly dilated which makes it look that way.  The Supremes' dresses were tiny!  I cracked up at Michael Jackson's glove, displayed in a glass jar, just like Gallileo's finger. Suddenly I ran into Chuck and we realized it was almost time for our ticketed U2 in 3D experience in a theatre on the 4th level.  Yes, there are many levels--7 to be exact.

The 85 minute U2 film was fantastic and the 3D really worked.  There were moments when I really thought I was at a concert and wanted to tell the people in front to sit down.  Then I realized it was all on screen.  What a blast! 

We split up again and I went to the American Bandstand film in another small theatre.  Talk about nostalgia!  I almost never missed that show at 4 pm every weekday after school.  Dick Clark just never seemed to age, only his hairstyle changed with the times.  Could John Travolta really have been that young?  And skinny?  How about the Bee Gees?  So much hair! 

Next I made my way up to Level 3 and the Induction Ceremony Highlights, shown on 3 television screens.  Those were fun.  I loved it when Mick Jagger, dressed in a tux, commented that they were all there on their best behavior to reward their bad behavior.  Walking into another theatre, they were showing clips of each artist or group that had been inducted, year by year.  Remember Brenda Lee?  How about Jackie Wilson doing the splits then coming up slowly and kind of dancing around from his knees, still singing, then leaping up from this position and jumping into a dance routine?  This was shown on three large screens in a medium sized theater and went from 1986 to 2012.  Again, I was rocking out with the music.

While all this was going on, I did manage to notice other people, but only in a peripheral way.  It just wasn't that crowded and I felt like I was part of a community.  The age range was interesting.  Families with kids, parents proudly educating their children about their heroes, couples in their twenties and every other combination.  I even sat behind a threesome of elderly ladies with white hair, one wearing a Chanel style jacket.  I didn't take the time to see if she was wearing pearls.

Walking out of the Inductees Film, I decided to look at all their the signatures.  Found my favorite.

LL - Lower Level really has the largest number of exhibits in one area, so I headed back that way.  By now I was getting hungry so I stealthily ate a granola bar in the shadows with my eye out for a guard (no food or drinks are allowed) while I checked out Janis Joplin's Porsche.  So cool, and to think she just drove it around and parked it on the street.  People got to know it and would leave notes for her under the wiper.  As you can see, I was becoming less and less worried about being caught with my camera.  I was discreet.

Another touching exhibit to me was the Everly Brothers.  I just loved their little custom made tap shoes that their mother bought them with shoe ration cards during WWII.  They were so little.

This was one of the best days of all.  It may be at the top of my list by the time this trip is over.  I thought it would be Taliesin or Yellowstone, but I was so thoroughly involved in this museum.  I don't think I have ever spent this much time in a museum wishing for more.

One good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain.  ~ Bob Marley

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Last Day in Chicago

By Chuck

Today was our last day in Chicago. We decided to play it light and easy--one real destination and then home again. At the last minute this morning, Claire decided we could try the hotel restaurant: This saved us time and money--we could eat before we caught the Double Decker bus to the Field Museum of Natural History, rather than try Wildberry Pancakes and Café in the middle of our route. Turns out that trying to keep fruit and yogurt fresh by means of the hotel ice machine and an ice bucket just doesn't work out too well.

Aaron, our Chicago guide, providing us with a free harmonica blues concert. We found out a good Blues joint is only 2 blocks away from our Best Western Hotel; but, by evening we are generally more than ready to call it quits.

 Another beautiful Chicago building.

The Flamingo by Alexander Calder

The only scene from the movie musical, Chicago, that was filmed here.

Finally, the actual Marshal Field building, known for the clocks on its corners.

We hated to admit it, but we liked the Trump Tower.

This is the Jeweler's Building. It had elevators that would allow the armored cars carrying their diamonds to deliver them to their floor, a security precaution. Hah! Apparently, no one told them that Al Capone controlled the fancy speakeasy at the top during the Prohibition years.

By this time, we had developed very sore necks over the past several days from all the craning to see the tops of skyscrapers. Thank goodness, we are done for a while.

Soldiers Field has had two lives. Once it was a Classical stadium with Roman columns and housed 100,000 fans; it was thought to be too large for the Chicago Bears and was redesigned and modernized and now holds about 65,000.

This is the outside of the Field Museum. It is about a city block in size and houses wonderful collections on almost everything.  We got the comprehensive ticket for Seniors that allowed us to see the general collection, a movie and two special exhibitions.

The first exhibit we saw was Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannasaurus Rex ever found. She is 40.5' long, has a skeletal weight of 3,922 pounds and is quite impressive. Her head is so heavy that they have to use a lighter substitute in the display, to support the weight.  We opted to see the 3D movie about her and thought it was very well done, combining CGI and documentary styles.

The special exhibit, Extreme Mammals, was quite interesting.  It showed a variety of animals, living and extinct that were unusual: the biggest, smallest, and most amazing mammals of all time.  We were able to inspect oversized claws, massive fangs, extraordinary snouts, amazing horns, and other traits that make these mammals truly remarkable.

This was an interesting graphic display comparing the size of Africa to that of several major countries.  So, it is larger than the U.S., India, Argentina, Europe and China combined!

3D Movie fan preparing for battle

The Field Museum from the Upper Floor, looking back toward our entrance.  We were quite pleased with the openness of the entire museum. It was also, happily, lacking in crowds--In fact, when we arrived at 10:30am, we thought we had come on a day when it was closed! Fortunately, we were mistaken.

Aerial View of the Principality of Monaco from the series Lilypad, A Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees. This floating amphibian city, half aquatic and half terrestrial, is a solution for refugees displaced by the rising waters created by climate change.

We loved our day here and spent 5 hours!  What a treat to live in this city and have constant access to the Art Institute and the Field Museum.
Observations and Recollections

The name "Chicago" is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa, translated as "wild onion" or "wild garlic"; in other words, it was a smelly swamp where people hunted, but no one wanted to live.  Everything west of Michigan Street is on land fill made possible by the horrific Chicago Fire of 1871;  Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Ahern published the story that the fire started when a cow kicked over a lantern while a woman was milking it. Though the woman was not named in the original report, Mrs. O'Leary was soon identified, since her barn had been the source. Various illustrations and caricatures soon circulated, depicting Mrs. O'Leary with the cow. The story took the population's imagination and is still widely circulated.  Ahern admitted in 1893 that he had made the story up because he thought it would make colorful copy.  Anti-Irish attitudes at the time encouraged stories scapegoating the O'Leary family. It was claimed that the supposed accident happened because she was drunk, or that she hid the evidence to avoid being blamed. Neighbours later claimed to have seen shards from the broken lamp, but none of these stories could be verified.  She was ostrasized, her life ruined, and it is said she died of a broken heart.

As Chicago grew, in the 1800's, it became necessary to plan for sewage disposal. After the first attempt, raising much of central Chicago to a new grade, the untreated sewage and industrial waste now flowed into the Chicago River, then into Lake Michigan, polluting the primary source of fresh water for the city. The city then responded by tunneling two miles (3 km) out into Lake Michigan to newly built water cribs. Finally, in 1900, the problem of sewage contamination was largely resolved when the city reversed the flow of the Chicago River so that it flowed away from Lake Michigan, rather than into it. This project began with the construction and improvement of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and was completed with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that connects to the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi River. So, the Chicago sewage problem has apparently been shipped down the river to another community.

Although weather is severe here, the appellation, "Windy City" is apparently not from the weather. Rather, New Yorkers applied it to the words of politicians and other worthies who extolled the virtues of Chicago while competing for the right to host the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893-4.  Speaking of weather, we have been delighted by our good fortune in having marvelous weather our entire stay.

Millennium Park was privately financed and expected to cost $150 million in 2000. It was finally finished in 2004 at a cost of $450 million. But, it is a great park.
The famous "Corn Cob" buildings (aka Marina City) were the site of a scene in Steve McQueen's movie, The Hunter, where during a car chase in the garage of the building, his character pushes a bad guy's car over the railing and into the Chicago River. There have been reports that people once had a Frisbee tossing competition between the two buildings.

The historical Route 66 began at the Chicago Art Institute. Virtually all railroads once ran through Chicago. According to our guide, "You have a better chance of getting away with murder in Chicago than with being governor and not being convicted of corruption.  "Six Illinois governors have been charged with crimes during or after their governorships; four were convicted."

The Marx brothers grew up on the South Side of Chicago and lived there until they moved out onto a farm to avoid the draft in World War I.

We have been repeatedly impressed by the friendliness of people in Chicago: People would stop and ask if we needed directions, if we stared at our map too long. Cars--other than taxi cabs--rarely honked. Hotel personnel would smile and ask, sincerely, if they could help. Our hotel was $167 a night, including the only free downtown hotel parking in Chicago--we felt smug when our guide mentioned a "bargain" hotel for $250 a night with tiny rooms and horrible beds.  Our room is quite large, and we love the location--we can walk (and walk) to any central location.

Total tab for five days and nights in Chicago: $1324. This is just under $266 per day. I shudder to think what it must run folks who travel less austerely than we do.

We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.  ~ Carson McCullers

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Art Walk in Chicago

By Claire

We're tired.  We've been going strong since Sunday and we'd love to slow down; but there is so much to see!  Our day began with a search for a UPS store.  My wonderful walking shoes had started squeaking so I did an online chat with Zappos, my favorite shoe store, and they emailed me a free shipping label and sent another pair to our hotel here in Chicago, all at no cost to me.  I received the new shoes, but needed to return the flawed pair.  With all our technology--iPhones, iPad and laptop, it's pretty easy to find things using the GPS maps.  I located a UPS store near Millennium Park, our first stop of the day.  However, nothing is ever really that simple, is it?  We walked several blocks, following the little blue bubble on the iPhone--which showed our location on the e-map.  We couldn't find any sign of a UPS store.  We finally walked into a CVS Pharmacy and they pointed across the street--not the street that is listed, but the cross street.  Turns out UPS was located inside a hotel and used its address; but the access was on a different street.  We were glad to get that chore taken care of. 

We walked over to the park to see the fountains.  I just marvel at all the wonderful things to see in this great city.  This is one of the Crown Fountains, where children can splash in the shallow water between giant faces projected on video screens. Her face moved, she smiled and then spit out water.

We've been planning a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago and wanted to get there early--to avoid crowds.  As it turns out, there just aren't any crowds this time of year.  We had American Gothic to ourselves.  I never knew that the man and woman posing for the artist, Grant Wood, were a dentist and the artist's sister.  It was an immediate sensation and has been parodied hundreds of times.

The Modern Wing was fantastic.  The light and air was really wonderful. The museum is a huge place; so even though we tried to have a plan, we kept retracing our steps.  I think we asked for help at least 6 times.  It's not an easy place to navigate.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Jeanne Gang architectural exhibit. She's the woman who designed the Aqua Building with the wave design and used a GPS to determine the proper alignment of the waves.  This is a close up of a section of the building.

In front of Marc Chagall's America Windows

Another view of the amazing Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Music Pavillion.

We also wanted to see Chicago neighborhoods, so we dragged ourselves onto the hop-on, hop-off trolly for a thrill ride through the west side (not!).  For part of the trip we were the only ones on board.  One time the driver/guide didn't seem to notice that the light had turned green--he simply sat there, stupefied and silent.  He finally took off as the light turned yellow.  I can't imagine a more trying job.  It's not like he gets a lot of feedback, or response from his audience, and he has to do it over and over again all day--day after day. 

This is another design by the German architect, Bertrand Goldberg, who did the corn cobb buildings.  I find it interesting but I don't like it.  The windows are too small and there are no balconies.  There are no square angles in nature so he didn't believe buildings should have them either.

We drove through the south side to get to China Town, Greek Town and Little Italy, all apparently on the west side. I'm glad we saw the area and glad we weren't walking; but there was nothing of interest that warranted getting out and then having to wait for the next bus to arrive.  

Once we were back at our starting point, Millennium Park, we decided to grab some lunch.  We wanted to try another chain we've seen around here, The Corner Bakery.  They were very much like Panera Bread, with the usual soup, salad and/or sandwich combo.  I ordered a really fantastic spinach salad--with strawberries, cranberries, grapes, oranges and goat cheese--and a cup of vegetarian three lentil soup.  Chuck had a bowl of chili--no picture necessary.

Next up, The rookery and the library.  Along the way we came to the colorful corner. All four corners were painted by art students, each in a different color.

This is the Rookery.  Designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root in 1888, this was one of Chicago's (and the World's) first commercial skyscrapers. In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to renovate the interior of this building.  It was more about trend than any real need to upgrade the building or its amenities.  He removed much of the iron and terra cotta detailing on the central staircase, balconies, and walls, and replaced it with strong geometric patterns.  He encased the iron columns in white marble that were gilded with the Arabic motif found at the entrance.  He added bronze chandeliers with prismatic glass.

Another architect,  William Drummond, brought in an Art Deco aesthetic in 1931 and divided the two-story entrance lobby into separate floors.  Following Wright's example, he covered any exposed surface with marble, gilded and incised with stylistic bird motifs.  He added a staircase that started at the second floor and protruded into the central light court.  It's quite spectacular and well worth seeing.  

This shows how the iron columns were encased in marble.

Did I mention we were tired?  Somehow, because everything we wanted to see was only a few blocks apart, we were determined to get to each one.  The library was a nice surprise.  We made our way up to the 9th floor where the skylight lit up the area.

 This is the 9th floor where a few people were at tables working.

The Chicago library has a book project similar to Davis and many other cities.  This is a good one--we loved this book.

Now at Grant Park, which runs into Millennium Park we found Spear Man, one of two sculptures.  He does not actually hold a spear; this is an anti-war statement.

Lake Michigan, next to Grant Park. They have beautiful sandy beaches around the lake.

This is Buckingham Fountain, built in 1927. It is one of the largest fountains in the world, was inspired by the Latona Fountain at Versailles, and is meant to allegorically represent Lake Michigan.

Frank Gehry designed the BP Bridge, which resembles a serpent winding its way around and across the park--another amazing piece of art and sculpture that has a purpose.  Many of the features in Millennium Park have corporate names because the entire park was privately financed.

We were lucky to be able to listen to a music rehearsal for a performance later tonight.  The sound was great.  This is a free performance by Celtic Connections presents TransAtlantic Sessions; but, we were too tired to even consider staying on for several hours til the start of the concert.

Our final stop of the day, before we dropped to our knees and begged for mercy, was the Chicago Cultural Center.  This is the largest Tiffany Dome in the world.

This chandelier is also by Tiffany.

We made the wise decision to walk back to our hotel rather than endure the lame jokes and endless ride back to our stop.  Have I mentioned that I think it was a BAD idea to go with this bus thing?  We're back at our hotel now, resting up for our last day, tomorrow, when we will catch the bus one last time to our final destination.  I'm not sure how many miles we walked today; but it felt like at least 10.  Luckily, my new shoes were up to the task.  I have to admit, walking is my favorite way to see the world and the best way to really immerse yourself in a city.

Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
'Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied.

~ W. H. Davies (author of Autobiography of a Supertramp and the poem, Leisure)