Wednesday -Mental soundtrack ---> Rites of Spring -Unusually high number of comments on my Pan Am bag. I blame that new Christina Ricci thing. -Suddenly remembering exactly where I left my camera battery charger on top of the toaster oven at home. -Spending the flight plotting travel for 2012. -Midwestern friendliness. -Dinner at The Publican: tomato panzanella with cucumber, arugula, white anchovies + octopus with cranberry beans + fried smelt with squash, radishes, arugula, olives + Italian plum and almond tart with salted caramel gelato. -Drinks at The Aviary: Bee's Knees (honey, lemon, gin) + Ginger (shiso, Peychaud's, vodka) + Cold Chocolate (Ecuadorian chocolate, Fernet, bourbon). The teeny tiny bites of potato and crab were pretty amazing too.
Thursday -Mental soundtrack ---> Big Boi -Morning art at the Museum of Contemporary Art: Eiko & Koma, Mark Bradford, Jean Tinguely, Dan Gunn, Joseph Cornell. -Brand new shoes from the brand new Topshop. -Very nice socks from Jack Spade. -Lunch at Hot Doug's: the veggie Joe Strummer dog with everything + a Dr. Brown's ginger ale. -Strolling and shopping in Wicker Park with the requisite stops at Reckless Records and Quimby's (on their 20th birthday!). -Dinner at Big Star Taqueria: chips and guac + 1 fish taco + 1 corn smut taco + 1 potent margarita. -Evening art at the Art Institute: Piet Zwart, Otto Dix, Soviet TASS propaganda posters, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Ana Mendieta. -Millennium Park by night. -Coconut custard bao from Wow Bao for the walk home.
Friday -Mental soundtrack ---> The War on Drugs -Up before dawn to drive to Holland, MI. -Lunch at Oak Crest with Uncle Dave and Grandma, including her 97th birthday cake for dessert. -Quality hang time with Aunt Tedda and cousins Kristy, Tim, Sean. -Back to Chicago in time for sunset. -Dinner at Gino's East: cheese and spinach deep dish + a pitcher of Sam Adams Oktoberfest.
Saturday -Mental soundtrack ---> The Streets -Morning stop at Intelligentsia. -First-ever game at Wrigley Field with 39,000+ enthusiastic Cubs fans, who on this day actually got to see their team win. Against the Astros, but still. There was much rejoicing. -The rummage-sale-on-crack environs of Architectural Artifacts. I wanted the set of carousel lions very very badly. -Music, books, great local art and jewelry at Transistor. -A ginger gimlet at The Matchbox. -Dinner at The Purple Pig: roasted corn, mushrooms, fried rosemary + olive-oil-poached tuna with Greek lima beans + fried eggplant parmesan balls + tomato, garlic, sea salt smear + scallop spiedini with chickpea aioli + a ricotta and chocolate chip filled brioche + a glass of Jumilla.
Sunday -Mental soundtrack ---> Mount Kimbie -A morning boat cruise filled with many beautiful buildings courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. -Brunch at Lula Cafe: steelhead salmon cakes with heirloom tomato and green bean salad, summer corn vinaigrette, lovage, a 60 minute egg, hollandaise + a killer Bloody Mary complete with oyster. -Dodging raindrops to get back to the airport. -So desperate to ignore the alternately mushy and bickering newly-engaged couple seated next to me on my flight I buried myself in Joyce Carol Oates's Sourland for the duration. For the record I hate Joyce Carol Oates. -Arriving home to 70-degree weather. In Oakland. At night.
Wednesday -mental soundtrack --> High Castle -good thing I gave myself those extra 20 minutes that came in handy when I put my car keys through Carol and Dan's mail slot without actually first getting my bags out of my locked trunk...sorry for waking you up at 4 in the morning, friends! -running into John Benson on my flight -the Tuscan Room at the Wicker Park Inn -white port cocktail with fresh berries + cheddar biscuits with sea salt and honey butter + cheddar melt on pumpernickel with honey syrup + warm Colombian chocolate ganache and muscavado sugar meringue tart stuffed with chocolate soufflé accompanied by salted caramel ice cream and housemade pretzels at Hot Chocolate -a Newcastle and laughing so hard I almost choked at Second City during their searing collection of mostly-political sketches America: All Better! -noise, glorious noise from Mincemeat or Tenspeed and others at the Mopery, an awesome warehouse space hidden behind one very nondescript door
Thursday -mental soundtrack --> Marissa Nadler -scale-model uber-geekitude at the Architecture Foundation with their Chicago Model City exhibition -oh my hell, the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute: Renzo Piano-designed, an entire room full of Gerhard Richter as if they knew I was coming, another brilliantly juxtaposing Eva Hesse and Richard Serra, a beautiful short film about Uganda by Zarina Bhimji in the media gallery...and then elsewhere in the museum: rooms full of Cy Twombly, all scribbles and splashes of color, and of Japanese screens, all peacefulness and beauty -roasted woodland mushrooms sandwich with watercress, radicchio, pecorino, truffle aioli on filone at the Gage -Claes Oldenburg's typically quirky Batcolumn, literally a giant baseball bat constructed of steel latticework stood on end like a skyscraper -Melanie Schiff's compelling photographs of modern graffiti-strewn landscapes at Kavi Gupta -Robyn O'Neil's amazingly detailed graphite drawings of waves and stormy skies at Tony Wight -Philip von Zweck's clever little paintings at ThreeWalls -Luis Gispert's wonderfully over-the-top manipulated photos at Rhona Hoffman -Thomas Schmidt's skin-like surfaces of sculpted porcelain and printed acetates at Dubhe Carreño -honey-drizzled sweets and mint tea at Sultan's Market -oh Wicker Park Buffalo Exchange how I love thee -cheese, black bean, sweet plantain empanadas + Costa Rican veggie sandwich + oatmeal shake at Irazu -the secret lives and dreams of Welshmen have never been so poetically rendered as in Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, especially as performed by Caffeine Theatre
Friday -mental soundtrack --> Woods -a day in Holland, Michigan, to celebrate my Grandma's 95th birthday -yes, my brother Brent and I really drove all the way there and back in a yellow Pontiac sports car complete with spoiler and Tennessee plates -a lovely luncheon with the family... and feeling grateful for the two vegetarian dishes on the menu -quick jaunt to Ottawa Beach to see Lake Michigan and walk out on the jetty -more family time (and more food) at Aunt Tedda's -back to Chicago just as the sun had set -chai plum and nigori sake cocktail + raw vegetable maki + seared tofu bulgogi + mushroom and brown rice sliders + grilled asparagus with spicy miso mustard + Brussels sprouts in fermented black bean sauce at Mana -a Żywiec and an Elephant 6 collective bliss-out courtesy of Circulatory System at the Chopin Theatre
Saturday -mental soundtrack --> Panda Bear -turn-of-the-century architectural treasures on Astor Street, including the Charnley-Persky House partially designed by a very young Frank Lloyd Wright -Margherita flatbread pizza with a view of the Museum of Contemporary Art sculpture garden at Puck's at the MCA -elsewhere at the MCA: paintings by Gerhard Richter and Martin Kippenberger and Clare Rojas and Chris Johanson, sculptures by Alexander Calder (including one very cool cat), photographs by Melanie Schiff and Adam Ekberg and Hiroshi Sugimoto -gin and lavender honey cocktail + watermelon lemonade amuse-bouche + watermelon and tomato gazpacho + housemade noodles with cremini mushrooms, preserved lemon, and goat cheese + warm bread salad with artichoke hearts and carrots in tomato sauce with paprika + honey-apple tart with cinnamon twist and creme fraiche ice cream at Green Zebra -had I known headliner Ida Maria had canceled due to illness I might not have headed all the way over to the Metro just to see Ladyhawke do her '80s synth-pop thing, but she was still freakin' adorable
Sunday -mental soundtrack --> Jens Lekman -peach buttermilk-granola pancakes at Milk & Honey -one last ride on the El, one last glimpse of the lake -beers back on my own couch
Take a very white slaked lime (calcia sfiorata); pulverise it, and put it in a little tub for the space of eight days, changing the water every day, and mixing the lime and water well together, in order that it might throw off all unctuous properties (grassezza). Then make it into little cakes, put them on the roof of the house in the sun, and the older these cakes are, the whiter they become. To do it quickly and well, when the cakes are dry, grind them on your slab with water, make them into cakes and dry them again. Do this twice and you will see what a perfect white it becomes. Grind these cakes well, with water. It is good for working in fresco. Without it you can do nothing: you cannot paint flesh, or make tints of other colours, which you need in fresco on walls; and it never needs tempera.
How to prepare black:
Procure a slab of porphyry which is hard and strong, porphyry is best of all. Take another stone, also of porphyry, flat beneath and raised above in the shape of a porringer, of such a form that the hand may be mistress of it and move and guide it at pleasure. Take some of the black porphyry, about the size of a walnut, and with the stone in your hand break the pigment into small pieces. Add clean water from a river, a fountain or a well, and grind it well as long as you please; but know that if you were to grind it for a year, so much blacker would be the colour. Take a flat piece of grained wood, scrape the stone and collect the colour. Another black is made of the young shoots of the vine, which are burnt and then thrown into water, and quenched and then ground. Another black is made of the shells of almonds, or of peach stones. Another black is made of the smoke of a linseed oil lamp, gathered on the bottom of a baking-dish: it does not require grinding, because it is already a very fine powder.
Adapted from The Book of Art, 1437 (Italy)
And with that I'm off to meet my brother in Chicago to spend a few days soaking up art and music, eating amazing food, and generally recalibrating my internal systems. We will also be renting a car and driving over to Holland, Michigan, on Friday to join the rest of our family in celebrating my Grandma's 95th birthday. I'll report back from the other side.
Was I really only gone five days? It seems like it was a lot longer than that. Soon I'll find my equilibrium again (and start working on my Thai in preparation for my Thanksgiving trip to Bangkok), but in the meantime I've uploaded a few pictures from Chicago (and Holland) to my Flickr photostream here. Please enjoy!
Wednesday: -mental soundtrack ---> Nick Cave -My love for the El never ceases. -Chicago: even more Obama-crazy than the Bay Area. Suited me just fine. -Wicker Park window shopping. -A very minor mix-up at the fabulous Wicker Park Inn landed me in my own suite complete with kitchen and fully-stocked fridge. Super-handy! -Cheddar melt on pumpernickel and shaved Granny Smith apple salad + Apple Ephemere ale + blackberry and blueberry crostata with sweet corn ice cream + wild berry mead at Hot Chocolate. -Low's unspeakably gorgeous music echoing through the rafters of the Epiphany Episcopal Church, courtesy of the Empty Bottle. Religious experience indeed.
Thursday: -mental soundtrack ---> Vampire Weekend -Sunrise over Lake Michigan. -The drive from Chicago to Holland, Michigan, where I spent many many childhood summers. -Cousin Kristy and sons Sean and Tim, Aunt Tedda, Grandma on her 94th birthday (perking right along!), Uncle Dave, Chuck the supercat. -Standing with my feet in Lake Michigan pretty much in exactly the same place I stood 30 years ago. -A Snickering Sailor at Captain Sundae. -Riding that sugar rush all the way back to Chicago. -Raw squash salad + yellow curry rice noodles + rice and mushroom slider + lemon tart + coconut water and lime sake cocktail at Mana Food Bar. -Epic psych-rock in Czech from Plastic People of the Universe at the Hideout. -Stumbling across 826 Chicago on the walk home.
Friday: -mental soundtrack ---> Tom Waits -Hardcore space nerd geekout at the Adler Planetarium's "Shoot for the Moon" exhibit which had the actual Gemini XII on display along with a ton of stuff from Jim Lovell's personal collection, including mission flight manuals, patches, letters and the Omega watch he wore in space. So freakin' awesome. -Chilling out at 12th Street Beach afterward on a lovely late summer/early fall day. -Eggs Florentine at Yolk. -A wander around Wrigleyville on a game day afternoon, admiring the architecture in general and especially the straight-out-of-London block of Alta Vista Terrace. -A pile of 45s from Reckless Records. -Puff pastry filled with mushrooms, seasonal vegetables and cream on a bed of lentils + rose water and pear cocktail + creme brulee + 2 glasses of complimentary dessert wine at Cafe Matou. -Beautiful Losers at the Gene Siskel Film Center with a great conversation with director Aaron Rose afterward. The film has its flaws, but overall I was tremendously inspired by it and got all weepy during the Margaret Kilgallen parts. I'm newly motivated to get one of her trees tattooed on my back, as well as some of her leaves on my wrist if the tree goes well. -Neil Hamburger telling the worst jokes in the world to hilarious effect and singing a few terrible country tunes for good measure at Schubas.
Saturday: -mental soundtrack ---> LCD Soundsystem -Getting all weak in the knees in the "Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Art and Photography of Paris" exhibit at the Art Institute. Brassaï and André Kertész too, oh my. Also spectacular: 500 years of cultural artifacts (most of them looted by the British) in "Benin: Royal Arts of a West African Kingdom", and turn-of-the-century architectural illustrations galore in "Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago". -Fish and chips + Bloody Mary at The Gage. -West Loop art crawl: *Silkscreens on copper by Cristina Iglesias and a model for an underground light spa by Josiah McElheny at Donald Young. *Conrad Freiburg's playful interactive installations (part Joseph Cornell, part Rube Goldberg) at Linda Warren. *Black history, alchemy and astronomy come together in Rashid Johnson's installations at moniquemeloche. *My favorite: The "Angles in America" show at Rhona Hoffman featuring geometry-inspired art from the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark (his Tree Dance is featured) and others. *Robert Colescott crosses Toulouse-Lautrec with the African-American experience in his paintings at G.R. N'Namdi. -Elderberry and grapefruit cocktail + five-course tasting menu at Green Zebra: carmelized onion (yes I ate it and didn't die from allergies) stuffed with wild rice, cheddar and mushrooms on mesclun salad + smoked tomato soup + grilled abalone mushroom with a cornbread madeleine and berries + homemade fettucine with mushrooms, acorn squash and brussel sprouts in a cider reduction + apple-stuffed beignets with a scoop of vanilla malt ice cream. -Political theater succeeds in being both topical and a surprisingly good time in TimeLine's production of Gore Vidal's 1968 play Weekend. -Oh how I love walking home through a warm night with a huge half-moon hanging low on the horizon.
Sunday: -mental soundtrack ---> Andrew Bird -Just this quote from the first page of Saša Stanišić's incredible How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, which was the book I carried with me this week and might well be my novel of the year this year:
On the morning of the day when he was to die in the evening, Grandpa Slavko made me a magic wand from a stick and said: there's magic in that hat and wand. If you wear the hat and wave the wand you'll be the most powerful magician in the non-aligned states. You'll be able to revolutionize all sorts of things, just as long as they're in line with Tito's ideas and the Statutes of the Communist League of Yugoslavia. I doubted the magic, but I never doubted my grandpa. The most valuable gift of all is invention, imagination is your greatest wealth. Remember that, Aleksandar, said Grandpa very gravely as he put the hat on my head, you remember that and imagine the world better than it is. He handed me the magic wand, and I doubted nothing anymore.
Winold Reiss, Harlem at Night, c.1924 (USA). I love this image, with its haphazardly leaning buildings and cool young things out for a night on the town. And of course that cat at the top really sells it for me too. Reiss was actually as white as white could be but throughout his life was committed to portraying in his art the broad range of ethnic diversity in America. You can see more of his work here, and I recommend checking it out for his gorgeous Art Deco pieces alone.
As for me, I'm off to Chicago to go live it up myself for a few days, and I'll have a full report when I get back. I'm also taking a day to drive over to Holland, Michigan, to see my grandmother on her 94th birthday. She's recovering from some recent heart trouble, so any extra good energy you have to spare for her would be very much appreciated.