Thursday, August 19, 2004

I am here. I now live in NYC. Flew into LaGuardia yesterday around 3:30 pm. Lucy dropped me off and it was heartbreaking. That all I can say. Heartbreaking. I don't mean to underplay the emotional aspect of it but I don't think I've quite processed it yet. At LGA, I picked up my bag and my luggage claim ticket wasn't checked. Welcome to NYC. Into a cab driven by a man who spoke into a dangling cellphone mike; his voice/language was melodious, and so was the language/voice of the woman on the other end. I spent a few minutes imagining that the other voice is his wife, and he's so smitten with her that he must spend every minute of the day talking to her. In reality, it's probably his lawyer trying to get his out of a pedophilia charge. But, hell, the whole conversation possessed a mellifluous tone so what do I care, right?

The entire contents of my old apartment were/was here when I climbed the four flights to my new place: the movers had come earlier that afternoon, at least a week before their estimated delivery time so Jason had to oversee the whole move. He's a good, contentious fellow so I knew he'd make sure all was correct; however, I hate shunting that kind of stuff off on other people. It couldn't be helped by the eager drawing table-wrecking, picture glass-breaking, chest of drawer-denting movers at MiniMoves. Upon arriving, I got the bookcases in the proper position in the proper room; boxes were shifted and organized, the bedframe was snapped together, and the mattress and box spring tossed upon it. Then Alex arrived and he and Jason sipped some bourbon and had a few squares while I showered.

The doorbell rang and--as we were expecting Alex's wife and her sister--we sent Alex down. Luckily, it turned out to be the UPS guy with the box of extra crap I had sent myself from Chicago so Alex was stuck with carrying that back up four flights of stairs. Ah, that was terrific.

After Katie and Julie arrived--and after we had a few more cocktails--we made our way over to El Boqueron. Heather was there, sipping a glass of white wine, and after some chit chat we began a meal of epic proportions. Dozens of plates of tapas, four pitches of sangria, two entrees--a seafood combo in green sauce and filet mignon--consumed by six upright jackals. Jason has taken me to El Boqueron every single time I've hit the city and each meal is exponentially better than the last. In fact, each course keeps getting better than the previous's like you're climbing to the moon on food at this place.

Up early this morning and began the unpacking and organization of the boxes of books which constituted the majority of my good moved. I culled the hell out of the books--casting off probably 50 pounds of various paperbacks--but I couldn't lose any of the art books. Any reading book I have I can most likely find again at the library or by sifting through used books online; but the art books tend to be one of a kind thing, catalogs from various exhibitions that soon go out of print when the show closes. I can't get rid of them. So they're unpack and ordered, as are the CDs. Also, the clothes unboxed, shelved and hanged.

Jason took me out for a quick walking tour of the neighborhood, pointing out butcher shops, dollar stores, fish markets, laundries, fruit stands, bodegas, etc.; damn, it's fine having a tour guide who's lived in the neighborhood for seven or eight years. This mode of shopping will take some getting used to, certainly. Living only two blocks from a Trader Joe's spoiled me I've got actually hustle up some food. Though, I guess I walked a fair spot most days for my daily needs.

After the walking tour, we stopped in the Bistro 311 for some unbelievably good and mind-meltingly cheap lunch. I got a spicy seafood soup with a seaweed salad...both profoundly delicious...and that was less than $10 total. In fact, the most expensive thing we ordered was the dessert, a banana crepe with vanilla ice cream for $5. Unbelievable.

Jason left for work and I finally plowed through the remained of the boxes and then walked out to the aforementioned stores and got some groceries.

I should probably talk about Tuesday, my last night in Chicago. It was spend with Leah, Marlene and Baby. I can fairly say they were the core of my family in Chicago. Leah invited us over to the SuperLoft for a round of drinks and appetizers before Marlene and Baby and I split off for a meal at Wishbone. (Leah and FK were going to see Diana Krall at the Auditorium.) We sat of the roof and talked and watched a lightning storm roll in from the south, and the storm was preceded by, oddly, a plague of potato bugs; they were crawling all over our shirt, getting snagged in our hair. (I am sure that's not the right name for them--potato bugs--but that's what my mom called them when I was a kid; however, I secretly categorized them as green ladybugs since they're about the same size, though more streamline, and display black lines instead of dots.) Inside, the tomato and mozzarella was server, the tomatoes courtesy of one of the painters working on the SuperLoft. As we milled about, I could see a huge fire burning directly north of us somewhere in the city; I found out later that it was a fire to a house in Lincoln Park, on Wilton, which shut down the Brown/Red lines for a few hours. Anyway, Lucy was our waitress and we were a bit stuffed from Leah's appetizers, so we ordered light (if that's possible at Wishbone) and downed everything with a few glasses of champagne. Afterward, was an slightly emotional goodbye with Marlene and Baby in front of the building. Marlene was the heart of Chicago for me, the one person who defined love and hospitality and comfort.

I had breakfast with Leah and Lucy. Lucy was in good form, charming and funny and beautiful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Okay...Saturday the 14th was brilliant, sunny but cool with no humidity. Dropped in at Zg Gallery to pick up a check for the three drawings they sold. Then a brisk walk along Chicago until a bus came which whisked me to the Blue Line at Milwaukee; I ran down two stairs at a time to catch a train that was just pulling into the station. Train over to Marlene's for a ride to King Bobby's Beach Birthday Party at Montrose Harbor.

Marlene filled a cooler with cooked hotdogs and then filled the cooler with boiling water so the dogs would stay hot until we ate; they were room temperature by the time the enbunned them and decorated them at the beach. (I went back for a second dog and it was cold. But I still ate it because, dammit, one dog is never enough.) Several hours of silliness follow, fueled by the drinking a good deal of sangria. Bobby and his cousin, Elliot, tried to capture sea gulls; then so did Ed a few hours later. By the end of the afternoon, I was drunk, sunburned, and everyone was feeding the remaining picnic food to the gulls. Then Baby gave me a ride home to the cavernous loft. Jennymack came over a few hours later for a final visit.

Sunday, Lucy called me at 8 am. She was set in hummingbird mode: she'd heard back from a prof at the school to which she's applying for grad...and the--the art dept--doesn't place much importance on GREs. And Lucy had been killing herself over studying, the dread of doing poorly on the tests, etc. So, of course, we had to shop. I loafed about on Michigan Avenue just soaking in faces and body-types while she picked through the sales racks. Carmel was over to watch the sunset, then ferry me up to the old place on Ravenswood to pick up me old tv, which I benevolently donated to her.

Monday: Hectic. Up early to work on some branding/identity design stuff for Leah. Then I had to run out for my last coffee with Lisa; heartbreaking because she is really one of my favorite people I've met in Chicago. Just fucking bright and funny and good. Monday night it was dinner with Lucy at Grizzly's: she ostrich burger, me catfish sandwich. Then a final drinking at the Ten Cat where I ran into Ed, his girlfriend Jessica, and other alternative friends.

Man, I just don't feel comfortable with this journal thing yet. I don't write this, normally, and I certainly don't talk like this. I feel like I'm spending too much time just making rote lists of what I did without infusing them with any of the specific memories or excitements of the particular events. Huh

So that's it. Out of the apartment now...haven't spend a night there in over a week. A week ago Saturday, back in Indianapolis to visit mom and drop T off; the a quick flight home to Chicago and down to the Loop to stay with Leah and FK in their fabulous, gigantic loft. The "whoa" I let drop when I first saw this place far outperforms any monosyllable ever uttered by Keanu Reeves. Gorgeous place, high ceilings with swings depending from them.

(Leah and FK live right across from where Oprah films her show. So that means I'm currently living right across the street from where Oprah films her show. It's funny: she comes out every morning at six a.m. and eats an entire honey-baked ham for the gathered crowd. She doesn't say a word, doesn't even acknowledge the fans with a single glance or nearly imperceptible nod...she just walks out, consumes the gristly, glistening meat with mighty, jaw-cracking gulps and goes right back in the building. It's magic.)

Anyway, the trip to Indianapolis was the usual unexciting visit. I love my mom, and love spending time with her--more so since her husband died back in April--but the town just wipes me out. There are two things to do in Indy: watch tv and go to Half-Priced Books. I fill the rest of the time by climbing into mom's maroon Buick drive and motoring through old neighborhoods that once had some emotional/sentimental significance to me during the first 24 year I lived in that quaint berg. But it evokes...nothing. Deadness. I guess I keep hoping that it will evoke something, lead to some kind of revelation about life. But...nothing.

T made the transition to Indianapolis quite nicely; she (T) will spend the remainder of her days in carpeted, meticulously vacuumed luxury, spoiled rotten by mom. It was hard to break off that relationship, far harder than it's been to break things off with actual, erect-walking people. I just finished reading Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and the whole last 20 pages of the book concerned the death of a dog shared by the main characters. Devastating and not exactly what I wanted to read a week after ditching my 13 year old dog after 12 years of companionship.

Wednesday, I flew back and packed up the remainder of my clothes in to a medium sized suitcase; Lucy gave me a ride down to Leah and FK's. Thursday up early and caught the Northwestern Line to Woodstock, IL to visit the newly purchased studio of an old teacher from college, Bobby Joe. Man, it's a fucking haul to get out there...1 1/2 hours but riding the train is so hypnotic and plus I managed to finish Knut Hamsun's Pan. I just wouldn't want to make that commute more than once every seven years.

Bobby Joe: good guy. I can't say he had much of an impact on me, artistically speaking, but he had a real gift from exposing his students to all kinds of literature, music, movies, etc. But he did it in a way that wasn't preachy or snobbish or anything like that. He turned me onto the Henry Miller's Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy, Knut Hamsun (see above), the eels, Rotari sparkling wine...and, hell, I don't know. Plenty of other things I'm sure. So, certainly, his impact as an instructor is there in term of developing an aesthetic.

Anyway, Bobby and his wife, Fran, have purchased a former seafood wholesaling warehouse, a big yellow barn-looking thing just a few blocks off the main square in Woodstock. The whole bottom floor will be converted into his studio; the upper floors--former offices--are now their living quarters. It's got a good sized parking lot as's precisely the kind of space he's been looking for since I first sat in his class in 1996. I couldn't be happier for him.

Bobby had invited a fellow wino, Jimmy, and we all sat down for a few hours of drinking wine, bullshitting, and eating: lamb chops with potatoes and green beans. We managed to down three bottles of wine and I was nicely flying when I staggered back to the train depot to catch the 5:30 back to the city. From the Ogilvie Station, I staggered over to Wishbone to have a martini visit Lucy.

Friday: back to the old apartment to clean out a few remaining things and then down to Millenium Park to examine Cloud Gate, the new piece of public art by Anish Kapoor. It's also known--probably for the rest of it's existence--as the Bean, owing to it's kidney bean shape. I have to say it's an excellent piece of public art. Huge, with a beautiful, polished mirrored surface that reflects not only the skyline but all of the people flocking around it--think of a giant ovoid drop of frozen mercury. I stood there and slowly circled it during about a ten minute period and I couldn't believe the intense scrutiny it was getting from the tourists. They loved it, flocked to it, rubbed it, took pictures of their reflections in it. Most public art is either ignored, sat upon, or deface by the public but Cloud Gate is simply stunning and impossible to ignore. (I wonder how long it will take to the scratchiti "artists" to tag it. Man, I love chubby little line-bearded fuckers that confuse vandalism for art.)

I also took a squint at the other big piece of public art, the video fountains. Meh. I don't know the proper name to the piece, nor the name of the artist (he's Spanish I think), but the work...again, meh. It's consists of two huge rectangular monoliths set at either end of a large, stone square. A thin sheet of water cascades down the each face of the monolith. Set into the monoliths (behind glass blocks I'm guessing) are huge video monitors: the two side of the monoliths that face each show giant, smiling faces. Occasionally, these projected faces puff up their cheeks and a jet of water shoots out from their "mouths" on to the kids playing below. The faces--in a brilliant blow for multiculturalism--are white, yellow, black, brown, old, young, male, female, etc. Wow. It's essentially a water park--admittedly a well designed and very popular one--but public art? Man, that's jumping across the art fence at it's lowest point...

Then to the Art Institute to the the Seurat show. Wow, was that boring. Holy crap. I think La Grand Jatte is an excellent painting...but it's on display every single day at the Art Institute and it's not enough around which to base an entire show. A Seurat retrospective, yes, but one Seurat painting? No. It was just a weak, watery show which they tried to amp up with some video presentations about color theory, the stages in which Seurat completes the work over the course of several years, and one video that just essentially zoomed on various parts of the painting so you could see how these areas went from a visually knitted study to a patchwork of random dots. (Remember the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when they go to the Institute? Cameron (Alan Ruck) just stares into the face of the little girl who is staring out of the picture plane, and the camera keeps zooming in and zooming in? They recreate that shot exactly. So you know it's a bad exhibition when they're pinching directly from John Hughes.) To make it worse, they had to trot out the obligatory roomful of Renoirs and Monets. Jesus, I get sick of that crap. I LIKE the Impressionist but the Art Institute has been cramming a yearly Impressionist show down the public's collective throat since the hit it big with Monet in 1995. I understand these show are cash cows for Institute; but I also feel they've got a moral responsibility--as perhaps the largest and most influential cultural institution in the city--to challenge the public and to introduce them to more than art from 1850-1906. Christ, when I think of all of the brilliant shows that have passed through NYC, Boston, LA--Beckmann, Pollack, Picasso/Matisse, you name it--when I think of all that we've missed, it chokes me. I'll give them props (as the kids say) for bringing in Gerhard Richter in 2002 (?), and the Ivan Albright show in 1996...but that does very little to unbalance the Renoir, Degas, Manet and the Sea (another stinker), and the Impressionist Decorative Arts exhibition. I mean, are you fucking kidding me?