Editor’s Note: Chicago, The Post
I have an aversion to photography employed as a memory aid. Photography is always artistic, but staged, clearly affected photographs seem to me more appropriate than the ubiquitous candid shots people take home by the hundreds, maybe thousands from their vacations.
All of this is to say that I forgot my camera at my lovely friend’s house before taking the train into Chicago, meaning I have no confirmed evidence of being there. None in my own possession, of course.
Portentous preludes aside–and we thank them for their modest contributions–I can say I had a harried, enlightening, rejuvenating weekend. Of the several friends who accompanied me into the city, one had never seen the “sights” before. So we started with the postcard locations. Millennium Park and the Cloud Gate. LaSalle Street and its banks and Board of Trade. The Rookery–requisite Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. It’s been too long since I’ve seen them, but I doubt I would have appreciated them so much had I not been sharing the odd novelty of the experience with friends.
I could say at this point that “people are more important than places.” I can see the shades of truth in that statement. People can brighten up dark places, make bright ones better. When I think back to my former Chicagoland life, however, I’m more likely to think of places than the people in them. I have many memories of empty places, wide streets rimmed with puddles and teeming with traffic. Faceless crowds, I suppose. A church that looked like an office building or a bank. Long car rides to palatial malls. I never looked out the window much in those days; if you asked me how to get to my house from the store ten minutes away I would remember reading fantasy novels in the backseat but not the way. I’d have to shrug and look it up on the Internet.
Most of the time we spent downtown was spent in two places: The Art Institute of Chicago and Portillo’s. The contrast between the two should be apparent, so I won’t dwell on that. The Art Institute is an art museum, and it looks and feels like it. Art museums are hushed and sacred spaces, and being in one can drive you batty if you’re not careful. Luckily, art that intrudes into your experience and makes wry comment on the space it occupies is plentiful. Minimalist floor sculptures from Carl Andre and playful found object art can only carry you so far, though. That’s why I was delighted to find a video exhibit called “focus” presenting short films by Hito Steyerl, including one that presented biographical stories of security guards who worked there. It became uncomfortable to note that, almost to a one, the employees at the museum were black and the patrons white. The video exploited this and managed a fine balance between wit and serious comment that I wish more contemporary art could find. I’m perfectly fine approaching a work of art with nothing but contempt for me, but I would prefer something I can laugh with as well.
Portillo’s is a restaurant/food emporium where you can indulge in various self-destructive meals. I had a chocolate shake with pieces of cake in it. It was delicious, and I felt no compunction about it. Of course not. Probably more pleasurable than the food was the classic jazz flooding the whole place. Were I a dancer, I would have strutted my mediocre stuff. I wish restaurants that played good music would post what they’re playing somewhere. I would appreciate it, even if my wallet would not.
After a brief period of respite and regrouping back at home base, we returned to the city to take in the Neo-Futurists. As I’m no theatre critic, I can only point out that I enjoyed the show and would recommend that anyone in the city take in their free-wheeling stage antics. Just be prepared to grab your neighbour’s bottom and then give them a long, long stare (or hope that that piece is phased out before you arrive). Such is the price of art, I’m afraid.
The next day was relatively uneventful. We woke late and forgot to go ice skating. I was fine with that, since I haven’t been skating for half a decade and would like to avoid unnecessary blistering on my sensitive ankles. Bloody, bandaged ankles aren’t a pretty sight no matter what city they’re in. The day concluded with a viewing and what British people in films call “spirited debate” of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. A review may be forthcoming eventually. Once that was concluded, however, we indulged ourselves once more in the delights of Chicago food, this time deep dish pizza and cookies covered in chocolate and ice cream. Please don’t use your imaginations too much; it could leave you hungrier than you ought to be.
Bookending the main event were a pair of three-hour drives to and from the city. While I’m sworn to secrecy as to the contents of the conversations had in that gold-painted van, I can say they were stimulating and a mite offensive to my introversion. Nonetheless, being packed into a van with six other people, too much luggage and a leering rabbit is bound to leave an impression, generating some wonderful conversations.
Sorry for the brevity and choppiness of this post. I’m afraid the constraints of a real school term are about to come down on me once again, and I must spend the rest of the evening reestablishing my psychic connection with Alexius. January is almost ended, and we can be happy for that. I’m already missing Chicago, but far less than I am used to, and I can be thankful for that.
Additional links of interest:
Cards Against Humanity–Please play this with your most jaded friends.