Back home

just in time to do laundry, get a blood test, visit the doctor and get ready for another trip: New York in about 2 weeks. But…let me finish the last trip. After the wedding we picked up Charna who was returning from Peru (I am amazed at how international my family has become), then Robin and Steve dropped me off at Betty's and took Charna and the car to the south side of the city: no more parking problems. Betty and I went to dinner with her son and daughter-in-law to celebrate her birthday. Here is a picture of Betty and me at dinner.

On Sunday we went to the Art Institute to see another show about Louis Sullivan. This seems to be his year. This show had some of his wonderful drawing and mostly photographs of demolished buildings. Fortunately, several excellent architectural photographers concentrated on Sullivan's work before the buildings were destroyed.

Here is a last picture of the city; it was that silver tube that caught my eye.

And a few pictures of the lake from Betty's window.

Looking at Navy Pier and all the boats

As the sun sets shadows of the buildings appear on the water.

North Avenue beach and sunshine on the water.


And the doctor doesn't need to see me until December, but the blood tests go on and on.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

I’m sitting in a lovely hotel room just outside of Chicago–a rare experience for me–and enjoying doing nothing. Robin and Steve arrived earlier. I gave them the car and they went shopping. Tonight is Jerry’s wedding; I’m resting, regrouping and enjoying the free wi-fi with two days to tell about.  

I got a parking space at 9:30 Wednesday evening; undoubtedly the luckiest day of all. First a long lunch with my cousin Phyllis, shopping with no purchases to show for it, dinner with Karen and Kathryn. All told a satisfying day.  Found out the North Shore Hotel in Evanston is still a retirement facility. If I ever decide to come back here, that’s the place. Everything in downtown Evanston and much of Northwestern is accessible on foot and there is train service to downtown Chicago.

Thursday, Betty and I went to Skokie to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. They told us it would take one or two hours to go through; we were there four or five hours. It’s a heart wrenching experience.  Original films and oral histories are used to tell the stories of the people whose lives were so drastically affected by Hitler and his war against the Jews. 

I am always amazed at how pervasive anti-semitism is, and how easily it is blamed for anything someone doesn't like.  Louis Sullivan, not a Jew but with a Jewish partner, whose work was too "different" for the establishment and establishment architects, was accused of creating Jewishness (whatever that means), according to this statement in the exhibit I saw on Tuesday. (Chicago's first architect) John van Osdel says "it's architecture run crazy. It's an experiment in Jewishness like we have never seen before."


Back to the city

Back at Sandy’s in Arlington; filled with swirling, unstructured thoughts, about bookmaking, about my friends, about the week, and about me. I feel so much better when I have people around me and lots of challenges. All week I was much younger than my 76 years. My hip still aches and sometimes I have trouble walking, but I was happy and nothing bothered me. 

Being teacher for the week was a great pleasure and I was sorry to see it end. We left Anita’s about 11 am and drove south on the scenic route, sailing past the ice cream store but stopping at The Flying Pig, a combined garden center and gallery of outsider art, great things to look at and charming ladies running the it. What a great place!




Sunday morning, the sun shone briefly on too much heat and humidity for 8 am, then thunder and lightning filled the sky. After the storm was over, I drove over to Carol, not far away. Family day, or, at least, family afternoon. Carol invited some of my cousins for lunch. It’s a kind of family reunion each year when I come back here, but each year our numbers grow smaller. This year’s theme seems to be a recounting of all the people we’ve lost. Many of my friends in Chicago were older and long gone. It made it easier for me to leave Chicago thirteen years ago. Did I mention, this is nostalgia trip time? 

In Chicago with good friend Betty and feeling very lucky. Found a parking space a block away at 6:05 Sunday night. From 6 pm a permit is required for parking. Could I get to Betty’s, get the permit and get back to the car before the cops came? Decided I couldn’t give up the space, so I really scurried. The cop was there when we returned, busy with someone else. Very lucky. Found two parking spaces Monday night. Didn’t like the first one. Very, very lucky. 

We went out to Rockford to see a Japanese garden. Do you think I’m obsessed? Rockford is about 2 hours away; I’ve only been there once before, many years ago, before the Japanese garden was built, and long before I cared about Japanese gardens. The garden was lovely; worth the drive, but somehow American Japanese gardens are never as satisfying as Japanese Japanese gardens. It has something to do with the trees.






Sunday in Butler

When I say to Renee, "How would you like to go to…" she says yes before I tell her the destination. She loves driving anywhere and sometimes get very excited about the most mundane occasions. Today we took a trip to the Maridon Museum in Butler PA. It's about an hour from Pittsburgh and mostly was easy driving. The museum has a lot of high class, very expensive ivory and jade carvings, largely 20th C. stuff. I enjoyed seeing it, but it wasn't what I had hoped for.

Butler is an interesting looking town. We spent a little time looking around. Here is the tower of the Court House.


Detail on the front of the building:


Beautiful Lutheran Church across the street:


Robin and Charna with Darcy in her favorite position: looking for belly rubs.


We did a lot of dog walking over the weekend. Renee and I both needed the exercise.


Exercise can be dangerous

I'm not really an obsessive personality, but once in a while something will get to me. I think of these things as waking nightmares. When I lived in New Jersey and worked in upstate New York I constantly worried about being hit by a truck as I crossed the George Washington Bridge twice each day. After 9/11 when my Chicago friends asked me if I was worried about a terrorist attack I realized I was much more concerned about those trucks. Over the years I've had a number of these concerns, most of which never materialized.

When I lived in Chicago my concern was about the possibility of getting stuck in Cabrini-Green, one of those notorious housing projects unwisely built very close to the most desirable areas of the city. On New Years Day, 1985, I went to visit a friend, mistakenly sailed past the North Avenue exit of the highway, and foolishly got off at Division Street, putting me right in wrong place. I was driving a VW something; I don't remember the model, and it had an electrical problem that the dealer hadn't been able to find. Needless to say, as I got to the stop sign in the middle of the area, the car stalled. Two men came over and tried to help me–actually, one tried to help–I wasn't sure about the other. The car wouldn't start, they pushed it to the curb, I gave them whatever money I had (about $25) and left as quickly as possible. I also got rid of that car as quickly as possible.

My most recent waking nightmare is about falling: either on my face or breaking something important like a hip. Friday morning, after finishing my tutoring gig at the library, I decided I would take the bus to the Strip if it came before my usual bus. I got there, had a fish sandwich at Benkowitz, went to the Society for Contemporary Craft to see the current exhibit and continued walking to downtown Pittsburgh. It's not very far, about a mile and a half. I got to Penn Station and decided to take the bus on the East Busway, giving me about another half mile walk on the other end to get home.

The area had been newly fixed up. There was a park-like place in front of the building and the walkway leading to the bus stop was newly paved with red brick. I never saw that the pavement was uneven: my foot hit and I went flying, landing on my knees forehead and nose. My glasses cut into my forehead, my nose was broken and I've never seen so much blood except on television.

I laid there for a moment unable to move, decided I'd better do something or I'd be soaked in blood. A man passing by came over to help me. He was wonderful. I'm sure he must have had some EMT training. He helped me sit up then moved me to a shady spot. He picked up the book and jacket I was carrying and helped me take my bag off my shoulder; picked up my hearing aid, which came off when I took the bag off, and found the case for it in my purse; each time showing me and telling me exactly what he was doing. I realized how vulnerable I was and how very fortunate that he had stopped to help me. I wish I knew who he was. I'd like him to know how much I appreciate him.

Someone else called for help. The police showed up, my good samaritan left, the paramedics came. Everyone was great. The paramedics cleaned most of the blood off my arms: I looked like I had been bathing in it. They took me to the ER at Shadyside Hospital (my choice) where I was cleaned up, CT scanned, (fractured my nose), the cut was glued (not a good place for stitches) and Steve and Charna came and took me home. I look terrible–like one of those Kabuki masks you can see here, but I feel OK, even went out for dinner with the kids on Friday night. So, don't worry Carol.

Back in Pittsburgh, thinking about Door County

Five hundred and three miles from Carol's house to Robin's house. It took me about nine hours this time; there was a big delay in Chicago where they hadn't finished nightly work on the highway, and I made more stops than usual. The trip was otherwise uneventful with another audio book: Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China, by Phillip P. Pan, which I didn't finish. It's much longer than the first one and I listened to NPR for the first two hours I was on the road.

My visit to Door County was wonderful, easily the most satisfying four days I've had in years. Anita was the perfect hostess; the environment was beautiful–a great house near the waves on Lake Michigan singing to us; old friends making good conversation and a spacious studio where we could work and talk and listen to music; no cell phones and only occasional internet access. We came together to make artist's books, or it's a good excuse, anyway.

We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, Tuesday, after a pleasant drive. Some of the little towns up here are just lovely. I jokingly said I'd like to live up here and was almost laughed out of the car. The thing about being with old friends is that you can't kid them. They all know how much I need the big city. 

Kathy and Frank joined us for the great dinner Anita made. Afterward, we had a lively political discussion. I think we outnumbered the Republicans, but they seemed to make more noise. Fortunately, we did not discuss politics very often.

I have lots of photos and much more to tell. Tomorrow is another day.

Driving all day

It only took a little more than eight hours; now I'm in Chicago. The trip went very well. My book on tape, The Man Who Loved China, was fascinating and the time passed very quickly. Joseph Needham was an amazing man. I regret I never met him or paid any attention to his writing. Now I'd like to read all 18 volumes of his Science and Civilization in China. 

Dunhuang was one of the first places Needham visited in China and the book has a lot of information about the caves and the manuscripts found there. I went to Dunhuang in 1982 as part of my tour of China. I really knew nothing about it, just that it was on the silk road and sounded more exotic than the other tour choices I was given. In fact, I learned very little by going there. The information from this book was a great addition to my knowledge. 

When I finally cruised through downtown Chicago, the book completed, I was able to adequately admire the skyline and again notice all the new buildings I know nothing about. There was a time I felt I knew every bit of this city. Eleven years later I relearn it each time I arrive. 

On the road again

Tomorrow morning I'm into the car and away to Chicago. I'll be gone about 12 days, and I've got plans for every single day including after I arrive tomorrow night.

It's an eight hour drive. I have as company a book on tape about Joseph Needham, he of the eighteen volume Science and Civilization in China. I've been listening to the first two CDs as I drove around yesterday and today. I think this will be great company for my long trip.

In addition to all my friends and relatives I'll be getting my Japan Rail Pass, which I almost forgot. Making plans for both China and Japan has been challenging. I'm sure it would be better to make two trips, but I don't have that kind of money, or stamina for two long plane trips.

After six days in the city I'm going up to Door County with Raja and several other friends who all go back 30 years or more. Should be a great reunion.

Good friends, good art. What more could I want?

Got up early this morning, picked up my neighbor, Mary, and drove to Columbus, Ohio to meet with raja and friends at the art museum, have lunch, see a very special art show. Not the Monet, which you might think if you followed the art museum link, but the Aminah Robinson show, Along Water Street. I saw her work in a huge show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 and was very impressed. She combines, drawing, paint and fabric to tell wonderful stories. You can see some of her work here. I’ve been nagging raja to meet me at the show since I found out it would be at the museum. Columbus is halfway for each of us.

It was a lot of driving, but we had a good visit and I loved the show; well worth the trip. I found it a little hard to say goodbye, but maybe we’ll meet again soon, in Chicago. I’ll be going there next month.

Driving, snow and public transit

Much of the week I was focused on snow that came on Wednesday and is continuing in wetter forms today. I was supposed to go for Hanukah candle lighting and dinner on Wednesday night, and I watched the snow collecting on the driveway with some apprehension. My car is garaged under my apartment. I back out of the garage, pull forward and make a sharp right turn up a slope in the driveway, an ideal setting for getting stuck in the snow.

I have become something of an apprehensive driver in my old age. I keep telling myself I know how to drive in snow. I come from Chicago; I’ve been driving in snow for fifty-some years, one time as 18 inches of the stuff was falling. I never let a little thing like weather stop me, until now. I persuaded my landlord to come and shovel the slope in the driveway, (he is supposed to do it, part of the lease) and I got out. On Thursday, even though it was still snowing, I took the car up the driveway without giving it a second thought, and couldn’t figure out why I am being so fearful. Aging effect, I guess.

Learning to drive and getting my own car was very important to me. I always saw the car as liberation and drove fearlessly all over this country and in some other parts of the world. I don’t feel that way anymore. I would cheerfully give it up if we had better public transportation. And while I’m on the subject: why can’t we have high speed trains like they have in Japan. In fact, why can’t we have all kinds of great public transit like they have in other parts of the world.

The distance from Tokyo to Kyoto is about the same as the distance from Pittsburgh to New York. The Japanese train covers the distance in about two and a half hours, and gets you to the center of each city. On my last trip from New York I left the city about 5:30 pm and I did not get home until 12:30 am. That was flying, not driving. Why is it that the Japanese can have these wonderful services and we can’t?