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You’ve got to be kidding

imagesToday I noticed that my dental floss has an expiration date stamped on the package.  I mean, really – if a Twinkie can last thirty years, why can’t my floss last two?

All Things Are Temporary

And vacations must come to an end.  Today is our last day in Chicago (unless we decide to chuck it all and stay here).

After a bitterly cold Wednesday (even the local weather forecaster termed it “unseasonably cold”), today it’s seventy-five degrees.  Unbelievable.  I had to go to the Post Office and buy boxes to ship all our sweaters and jackets home, as we couldn’t bear to wear them and there was no room in the suitcases.

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show - not much has changed

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show – not much has changed

The highlight of today was visiting the Chicago Flower Show, held annually since 1847 (although I suppose they might have skipped a few war years).


The utility company had a witty exhibit of a garden with little windows in the ground showing you what might be lying under yours and therefore why you should call 811 before digging.  Over where the water pipes were shown, the garden had a fountain squirting up, over where gas pipes were shown, the garden had a burning fire pit, and so forth.  Cute.

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

CVH loves birds, and there was a garden that showcased bird-themed sculptures by Chicago artists.


The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences had a garden promoting using urban spaces (rooftops, etc) for growing food so that more food could be locally sourced.


I enjoyed the butterfly garden where you could feed butterflies.  Once they saw my red shirt, they flocked to me (I guess they thought I could be a flower).  One landed on the side of my neck and I cried out “Oh no!  The vampire butterfly!”  CVH rolls her eyes.  I had trouble leaving the netted area because they really liked my red shirt.

water garden

I also found the water garden entrancing.


CVH loves tulips.


Of course, there was the “Home and Garden Marketplace” where we spent too much money.

We had lunch in the Navy Pier food court.  I was able to finally get me a Chicago Dog.  I also had the Peanut Butter Milk Shake at the DMK Burger Bar.  You are not going to find the nutritional information posted for that.

A Wrinkle in Time

The edition I read

The edition I read

This evening we went to a staging of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  (I wanted to see American Idiot, but got outvoted by CVH.) You read the book when you were a kid.  You are thinking that it would be hard to put on the stage.  You are right.  But for $20 a seat, the performance was a very, very good value.

The actors were much better than I was expecting at a venue that was at the next-to-last-train stop.  The kid who played the genius little brother, Charles Wallace, had even had a small part in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, and you don’t get even a small role in a Spike Lee film without some serious chops, which this kid surely had.

It was small on the outside.

It was small on the outside.

Before the show, we ate at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant that was so good we thought we were back in Houston.  I went back after the show to get a dessert, but although his sign said open, he wouldn’t make me one, so don’t wait too late to put your order in.

It was small on the inside.

It was small on the inside.

But you had a full view of the kitchen; Peter Freeborn would approve.

But you had a full view of the kitchen; Peter Freeborn would approve.


Windy City Café Pancake Burger

windycityAround the corner from the Intuit Gallery is the Windy City Café.  I had one of their house specials, the Pancake Burger: a burger served with a fried egg between two pancakes.  It works much better than it sounds, and keeps you going (you either spend a fortune on taxis or you walk a lot in Chicago, and I did not spend a fortune on taxis).


Bees are in Trouble

I saw this from a CTA bus:  “Bees need lawyers too”.

If true, we are all in big trouble.


Year of Darger

T310 PL 97-52After filling up my swag bag at the vendor area, I headed uptown to the Intuit Gallery of Outsider Art.  They have proclaimed 2017 as their “Year of Darger”, the 125th birth anniversary of Henry Darger.  (You may know Henry from Natalie Merchant’s song about him on her Motherland album.)  Henry lived in Chicago nearly all his life, and did all his work there.  Most of his work, to the chagrin of the Chicago art community I am sure, is at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.  I had seen some of the collection there and was looking forward to the display at Intuit.  The exhibition did not disappoint.  There were many iconic illustrations from In The Realms of the Unreal, and a recreation of Henry’s one-bedroom apartment with many of his actual belongings.  Not to be missed by any Darger fan.

Robot Cat

This morning CVH and I went down to the vendor area of the convention.  As with most convention vendor areas, they had all kinds of stuff, but the most fascinating was the robot cat.  It’s not creepy at all, but rather a pretty nice cat.

Chicago Cats and Dogs

It dawned very cold today in Chicago; below freezing and the wind made it feel even colder.  I planned to spend the morning in the nice warm Field Museum.

Got on the bus to the museum district and sat behind a woman with a nose stud (I will never get used to those) and her young boy.  As we approached Roosevelt street, she turned around and asked me if I knew which street to take to the museum.

“Roosevelt,” I replied.

“Then we should get off here?”

“No, this bus will take you down Roosevelt and drop you off right in front of the museum.”

“Thank you.  This is all new to us.  We’re from Omaha.”

“That’s great,” I said.  Pointing at her young boy, I added, “I’ve been coming to the Field since I was his age and I still love it.” A few moments later, the gigantic Field Museum loomed into view.  She turned around again.

“Is that the museum?”

“Yes.  We will turn right and come up in front of it shortly.”

“Should I pull the cord?”

I nodded.

“This is all new to us,” she repeated.

We got off the bus when it stopped and she saw the sign that said “Soldier Field”.

“What is Soldier Field?”

“Well,” and I pointed, “that’s where they play ball.”  Pointing again in turn, “That’s the Adler Planetarium, that’s the…uh…building where they keep fish…Aquarium!” (Grandpa’s wandered away from the home again, I’m sure she thought.) “And this is the Field Museum.”

“Where do you want to go first?” she asked her boy, and I thought to myself “First? – she doesn’t know what she is getting herself into”, and the boy answered “Field!”.  I told him he would be smarter at the end of today than he is now, and wished them both a good time.

bastetI had a good time, too, just as I knew I would.  I went through the Ancient Egypt exhibit, seeing things I missed last time, like this impressive sculpture of the Cat Goddess Bastet.  Now, there’s a cat you could worship.

malvinaI was also pleased to see that Malvina Hoffman’s great bronze sculptures from the old “Races of Man” exhibit are being placed back on display.  I remember the “Hall of Man” when I was a little kid.  Now they are no longer presented as “racial types” (whatever that was supposed to be), but rather as busts and statutes of individuals and it works very well.  Especially since the Museum does not whitewash the history of the original exhibit.

 After seeing these and many, many other wonderful things, I was hungry.  I wanted a Chicago Dog.chicagodog

I rode the bus back downtown to where I thought I had seen a dog shop, but couldn’t find it.  I was freezing and hungry, so I went into the touristy Rudy’s.  Their Chicago Dog was fussy, not authentic, so I ordered their “Signature Burger” instead.  I asked for it medium.  It arrived, and I took a bite.  It was well done.  “Perhaps they had recently received a visit from an overzealous health inspector,” I thought.  But no, as I worked my way through the burger, it proceeded to medium well, medium, medium rare, and rare, averaging out to medium, after all.  Can’t recommend.  Try the Shake Shack around the corner.

Pizanos-Pizza-and-Pasta-Chicago-7After the conference, CVH wanted a Chicago Pizza.  At first, she didn’t want to fight the traffic north to Pizzeria Uno (or Due) or south to Lou Malnati’s, so she wanted to get a hotel pizza.  I talked her out of that.  I said I would go down to Lou Malnati’s and bring her back one if she didn’t want to leave the room.  She said that would take too long.  So I said I passed a pizza joint inside the loop, let’s give it a try.  I didn’t tell her that it had looked like a touristy joint and was in fact right next to, and related to, the disappointing place I had eaten lunch.  But it was the closest pizzeria.  Turns out that we had a delicious pizza and salad at Pizano’s.  Our waiter had only been working there a few days and was eager to please.


Southside with me

Five years ago, we visited Chicago and accidentally stumbled across the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  This is a small but absolutely fascinating collection of Middle and Near East antiquities.  We didn’t have enough time to thoroughly explore then, so I decided I was going to make up for that on this visit.

Old crosstown bus stop sign

Old crosstown bus stop sign

Initially, I was going to take the morning express bus down the scenic Lake Shore Drive to the university.  But because I was held up so long at the front desk trying to be sure they weren’t going to throw all our luggage out onto the curb (see yesterday’s blog entry), I missed the last bus.  So I decided to take the Red Line to the South side and ride the bus crosstown to the University.  The Fodor’s guidebook lists this way, but says “people unfamiliar with Chicago may wish to consider an alternate route”.   Geez.  It’s not that dangerous to ride a bus with black people in Chicago.  Yes, I was the only white person I saw for most of my forty-five minute trip.

Anyway, I arrived without incident at the campus of the University.  In addition to visiting the Oriental Institute, I also wanted to find Henry Moore’s sculpture “Nuclear Energy” which sits at the (approximate) location of the first controlled nuclear reaction (“Chicago Pile 1”).  Old pictures make it appear easy to find, sitting out by itself, but since its installation it has been hemmed in by other structures and if you don’t know where it is you’re probably not going to find it.


“Nuclear Energy”

I thought it effectively evoked the genie that was let out of the bottle here.

Tuesday afternoon, CVH and I took the Brown Line train way out to North Kedzie and Albany Park.  We found ourselves in a mostly immigrant neighborhood; it was almost like being back in Houston (although much colder).  There were Mexican stores,  Middle Eastern meat markets, Persian restaurants, a Lebanese bakery, Pakistani senior apartments, Korean restaurants, and who knows what else we didn’t get around to seeing.

Noon O Kabab - nice place, good food

Noon O Kabab – nice place, good food

Alas, the Phở shop was now defunct, and we ate at Noon O Kabab, which advertises with the tag line “Food with Persianality”.  Yeah, that’s pretty bad, but their way with food is much better than their way with English. We had Joujeh, Torshi, Kash-Ke-Bademjan, Aash, and Tadig, all washed down with a bottle of Almaza.  I can’t tell you what it all was, other than delicious.

Yes, it's good too.

Yes, it’s good too.

We stopped at La Plazita bakery.  Their sign says “Tenemos fresh deli sandwiches” – sounds fakey, but the desserts were genuine and made us feel like we were back at our old home in the Houston Heights.

Chicago Time

CVH needed to attend a professional conference this year, and decided on the American Society on Aging’s annual get-together in Chicago.  I decided to take the week off and tag along.

birdThe day started well before sunrise, like most days in Louisville (people do like getting up early in this town for some reason), and we were off to the airport.  While we waited on our plane, a little bird which had flown into the terminal was hopping about the seating area.  I tossed it some sunflower seeds from my trail mix, but it didn’t care for those.  CVH dumped some crumbs from her breakfast biscuit and it enjoyed those much more.

When it finally got time to get on our plane, I sat down in my seat and realized that I had left my coat back in the terminal.  I zipped back up the jetway to recover it before takeoff.  That caused quite a stir.

Luckily, this was not my train car.

Luckily, this was not my train car.

Due to thunderstorms over Illinois, it took the plane a while to get into O’Hare.  CVH took the bags with her to the hotel on the shuttle van; I, the train lover, took the Blue Line train downtown.  Unfortunately, I left the directions from the train stop to the hotel in my bag.  Fortunately, downtown Chicago is bordered on three sides by water, and on the remaining side by Chicago’s South Side, so you can’t go too far before realizing you need to change direction.

The convention was huge, and so it was held in the largest Hyatt in Chicago.  In fact, it’s the largest Hyatt in the world.  Yet, it had no pool, the room had no refrigerator or microwave, there were no washing machines (I am picky about washing my clothes).  It had a really tiny vanity, a room so dark you couldn’t see what was in your suitcase, and no fluffy robe, either.  So what were we paying their high room rate for?   To top it off, they got our reservation goofed up and tried to kick us out after one night.  I had one of those embarrassing discussions at the front desk: “Do you have a confirmation number?”

cta3I stepped outside and quickly discovered that I had forgot my gloves, so I went shopping.  I caught the #3 bus headed up the Magnificent Mile.  I sat next to a nice old man who reminisced about the days when you could get a three-course chinese lunch on State Street for $3.99.  He had been a wine and champagne salesman and said he sold one of the first contracts to Trader Joe’s when they were just starting.  He calculated that if he had been on commission he would have earned eleven million dollars on that sale, but then it was my stop to get off.

columbiaProbably due to the (relatively) mild winter, the Columbia store had all their hats and gloves half-price and I bought a nice fleece pair.

rtt.outsideThat evening, we decided to go to Manny’s (the best matzo ball soup in the universe) for dinner, and wouldn’t you know – they recently changed their hours, but not their website, and they no longer serve dinner on Mondays.  So we came back downtown and ate at Russian Tea Time.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff


Stuffed Cabbage

RTT has killer Russian food and drink.  We enjoyed the hearty bread (nearly a meal in itself), cabbage rolls, and beef stroganoff.