Bright lights, long shadows, and mementos

Memento:  something that serves to warn or remind; also: a souvenir.


When I looked up memento on Merriam Webster, I wasn’t expecting the word “warning” to be a part of the definition. But given the reason I looked it up, it’s actually apt to include warning in my thoughts. Then I looked up memento mori, thinking of the movie Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) and the story Memento Mori (Jonathan Nolan, published 2001). “A reminder of mortality.” Yikes. Even more appropriate. I followed up with memento vivere (a popular tattoo according to the internet): in Latin, remember that you must live; a reminder of life, a reminder of the pleasure of living.

memento poster3 Ryan


Christpher and Jonathan Nolan
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan came up with the story and proposed it to Christopher as an idea for a script. Jonathan’s original story was published after the movie was released.


I read a line in a book I just started, Setting Free the Kites by Alex George (2017):

But such a bright light casts long, dark shadows.

George’s narrator is speaking of his friend Nathan, but it made me think of a dear friend of my own.


Late last year, a friend of mine took her own life.  She was a bubbly, enthusiastic, cheerful person. So many of us were stunned that her bright light hid such dark shadows. Pain, despair. She was always helpful to everyone else, but left her own needs secret from us.

She befriended me and my dog Einstein when we were new in the neighborhood and feeling friendless. She and her Friday dog invited us on walks and playdates. We both joined a neighborhood book club. We went out together to concerts and restaurants. I didn’t see her regularly or often, but when I did, I always felt comfortable (hard for an introvert) and had a good time. She had the most amazing smile and dimples. Laughter came easily. She really was a bright light.

Just last weekend her family held an estate sale at her house down the street from me. I briefly thought of going in and picking up some memento of my friend. I couldn’t do it. I drove past on my way to work and kept going. Partly, it seemed ghoulish, going to a sale at her house and going through her things to buy something. I decided I’d prefer to remember her one of the times we went out together, for tacos at Xolo and then a Damien Rice concert at the Fox Theater on April 23, 2015.



I had bought 2 tickets, hoping I’d find someone to go with me. Trying to be a “glass half full” kind of person and hoping for the best, I posted that I had an extra ticket. She was the first to respond. She wasn’t sure she knew who Damien Rice was, but it wasn’t just about a free ticket. She wanted to do something with me; it felt genuine. We met at Xolo, had a great meal and caught up. At the Fox, I had splurged on not terrible tickets. We goofed around taking photos of the giant Hindu-deity figures that flank the stage.

We chatted with the people in the seats on either side of us. We were mesmerized by Markéta Irglová, who opened for Damien and also sang backup on a few of his songs. She recognized a few of Damien’s songs. It was a great night.

Markéta Irglová


Life got busy for both of us. We didn’t see each other often. She changed jobs, worked a lot of extra hours. I changed jobs twice. My schedule shifted to weekends and evenings. We liked each other’s Facebook posts. She was always the first to respond when dog Einstein posted on his Facebook page (he can be quite witty). At some point, she wasn’t responding any more. I didn’t give it a lot of thought.

Another mutual friend messaged me, asking if I’d heard the news. She was gone. I went to the service, cried with her friends and family, wished I’d noticed something was wrong. We all asked what we could have done. Maybe that’s the memento I carry forward–an awareness of suicide prevention and the ending of the silence around suicide. As well as the notions of memento mori and memento vivere: remembering our own mortality and embracing life.

end the silence


My mother passed away in 2009. I have several mementos of her, but one of my favorites and maybe one of the silliest to an outsider is her beloved cookbook, Noted Cookery: Favorite Recipes from Friends of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (1969).

Noted Cookery

It’s hard to explain how much this cookbook meant to my mother and the sentimental value it possesses for me and my siblings. We still cook some of her flagged recipes from it, as they are old family favorites and standards at family gatherings. They aren’t vegan, so I don’t indulge anymore, but I still have fond memories of helping mom make the Broccoli Puff or the Hello Dolly bars (aka 7-layer magic bars).


The cookbook, one of those fundraiser efforts of recipes submitted by various community members, was a Christmas gift to my mother from her sister Isabelle and her family in 1970, part of the reason for its importance to Mom.

Noted Cookery signed


As kids, we were fascinated by the list of contributors, some of whom we had heard of and I still don’t know what their connection to the Dallas Symphony was (but it doesn’t really matter; they generously contributed). Mrs. Bob Hope (Bob Hope’s Favorite Lemon Pie) and Danny Kaye (Chicken with Peppers) were notable among them. Later, I saw names that I had come to recognize: actress Loretta Young (Bride’s Delight), opera great Leontyne Price (Crabmeat Imperial), Mrs. Lyndon Johnson (Pedernales Chili), Mrs. Ross H. Perot (Crabmeat Aspic Salad and Mocha-Nut Tortoni), Mrs. Ronald Reagan (Sweet Potatoes Supreme and Orange Sparkle Cookies), Mrs. Richard Nixon (Apricot Nut Bread), violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin (Birchermuesli), actress Greer Garson (English Trifle).


Don’t discount that lemon pie. Bob Hope lived to be 100, and Dolores Hope to 102. And Danny Kaye is said to have loved to cook and to have been quite a good one. Food writer Ruth Reichl, in a piece she wrote after Kaye’s death in 1987:

“It may be the sense of timing he developed as a comedian, or the balance he learned in music. It may be the generosity of somebody who gave so much of his time to charity. Or the sheer gusto of the baseball lover (you should have heard his discourse on hot dogs). Or maybe it was the much-vaunted hand-eye coordination that made his cooking so incredible. But there was something more.

Danny Kaye didn’t cook like a star. He didn’t coddle you with caviar or smother you in truffles. He had no interest in complicated concoctions or exotic ingredients. His taste was absolutely true, and he was the least-pretentious cook I’ve ever encountered. The meals he made were little symphonies–balanced, perfectly timed, totally rounded.”

danny cooking


Some of the recipes in Noted Cookery horrified us. Hot Citrus Fruit Salad? No thanks! Same to the equally horrific Hot Pineapple Salad on the same page. Blech.

Hot Citrus Fruit Salad
Make and consume at your own risk.


Others we loved, partly for the names. Johnny Bozzini, You Asked For It. Remember, it was 1970 and these recipes ddidn’t seem quite as odd as they do to at least me now. Lots of canned soups and weird things in jars.


The cookbook was lost in a house fire in 1987. Mom managed to save the page with her beloved sister’s inscription, but the rest of the cookbook was a charred lump. She put the remnant in a plastic bag and made the recipes she loved best from memory. Years later, around 2004, I was volunteering at a library fundraising book sale. I always look at the cookbooks for hidden gems. There it was, sitting on the shelf, easily recognizable to me with its ochre yellow cover. For fifty cents. I grabbed it, feeling the sense of excitement I might have felt finding a rare first edition of Catcher in the Rye. I managed not to spill the proverbial beans on my weekly phone call with mom, awaiting the look on her face at the surprise when I gave her the book. My next visit, I presented the book. I don’t remember if she cried. More than likely she did. We cry easily in my family; tears of happiness as well as tears of sorrow. We sat down and perused the old recipes. A trip down memory lane. She put bookmarks in at the old favorites, even though she knew the recipes by heart.

When she passed away a few years later, we were going through her things. Somehow that cookbook had taken on an even greater significance for me after having reunited her with it. It’s a memento of her and our earlier family life that I treasure. It sits with my other cookbooks, rarely used but often fondly brought out just to look and remember.

Not so long ago, my sister Ellen texted me that she was making one of the old favorites from what we call the Dallas cookbook: Chicken Tortilla Casserole. Back in 1970, tortilla chips were an exotic thing in Atlanta, so Mom made the recipe with Fritos instead. I’m trying to figure out a way I can veganize this recipe just for fun.

Not one, but two cans of soup.


If you are feeling hungry and inspired to cook, you too can have this gem of a cookcook. I just found it listed on eBay for $5.95. Better idea, think back to a cherished memory and a memento that you can treasure the way I treasure the nostalgic memory of a family, safe and happy, laughing and enjoying a meal together, or the memory of a dear friend who made me feel special.

Memento vivere.  Remember to live.

memento vivere

So Far Away (I love you, Carole King)

Not so long ago, I went with my buddy Debra to watch the recent film of Carole King performing her groundbreaking Tapestry album at Hyde Park in London in 2016.

movie flyer

Tapestry (1971) was on repeat play on the turntable in my sisters’ room when we were growing up. I have strong and fond memories of the music.


Debra, inviting me to go, remarked that I seemed like the type who would love Carole King. She was right.

The Hyde Park concert was amazing enough to watch as a film. It must have been magical to be there. First of all, Hyde Park in London. I’ve never been but it looks lovely in photos.

hyde park photo
Hyde Park, London

A huge and congenial crowd is in attendance, singing along with Carole and clearly connecting to her music, whether as a remembrance of a time past or as younger, newer listeners struck by the emotion and angst of the songs.

Tapestry itself is such a classic, every song a gem (except maybe Smackwater Jack, but I loved it when I was 10 and I still like to sing along with it). This is the list of songs on Tapestry:

  • I Feel the Earth Move
  • So Far Away
  • It’s Too Late
  • Home Again
  • Beautiful
  • Way Over Yonder
  • You’ve Got a Friend
  • Where You Lead
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow
  • Smackwater Jack
  • Tapestry
  • Natural Woman

You’ve heard them all. I’ve sung them all. It’s a legendary work of art. But what I’ve noticed a month after seeing the film is that the one song that won’t leave me is So Far Away.


There’s so much about this song that keeps it on my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and prone to nostalgia. The lyrics themselves provoke a sense of loneliness, time slipping away, a need for connection and love and friendship.

so far away


I’ve been thinking of the notion of far away. It can be distance, it can be time, it can be a mental state. My sisters and my brothers are distance away–3,000 miles give or take. That’s far. Too far. My mother is time away; when I say time I mean earlier days and memories, not a discrete amount of time that can be traversed. She died in August, 2009. But I dream of her frequently and miss her every day. And then someone can be sitting right next to you and be far away, lost in thought, in another world, with you but not with you. I am sometimes that person who is far away, dreamy and distant.

lyric graphic

I wake up with So Far Away playing in my head. I will be listening to my audiobook of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and up will pop So Far Away. That is fitting in its way. If you know Anna’s story, she was ostracized by friends and family and the larger society, not allowed to see her beloved son. She was right there, but made to seem far away, even to herself. Spoiler alert–Anna’s story doesn’t end well. We need family, friends, connection.


“One more song about moving along the highway can’t say much of anything that’s new.” So true. And it’s predominantly men who sing those moving on down the highway songs. The Allman Brothers and Ramblin’ Man as well as Midnight Rider. The Grateful Dead and Truckin’.  Ricky Nelson and Travelin’ Man. (And what’s with the dropped letter g, by the way?) Steve Miller took it to the skies with Jet Airliner. Steppenwolf and Born to be Wild. Pretty much anything from Bruce Springsteen’s album Nebraska (which I love).



Was it a coincidence that about 95% of the audience in the movie theater the night we went was female, of a certain age, and we all sang along? But it was So Far Away that had me wiping a tear from my eye. I can think of one other song that has this effect on me–James Taylor’s Shower the People (1976).


Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 5.15.01 PM


Letting the people that you love know that you love them–it seems so simple yet it can be so difficult. It’s the subject of many a novel, play, movie. We carry such inner turmoil around showing love. Yet we crave love ourselves. James Taylor is a guy that gets it.

Again, not a coincidence that James Taylor and Carole King have a history going back more than 40 years, including him performing backing vocals on Tapestry. In addition to his own songs, he’s performed (and made famous) many of King’s songs, such as You’ve Got a Friend.


James has his own Highway Song; it seems to be a male rite of passage. Women want to seek out and befriend, men want to get moving along/away.


When I was younger, my ex-husband’s response to strife was to suggest we move. During our 20+ years of marriage, we lived in too many apartments and houses to count in several different towns, including Ashland, Oregon; Ankara, Turkey; Chico, Vacaville, Winters, Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield, and Napa in California. I think what he really wanted was to move on without me. Now, with Bob, we’ve lived in this same house for the 13 years we’ve been together. It’s a nice feeling to be at home! Yes, he travels, but I always know he’ll be back, and be happy to be back. He’s never so far away that I can’t reach him.

Come visit us sometime; it would be so fine to see your face at our door. As long as you aren’t allergic to dogs and cats. They help make this place home, too.



When a Danish Modern Minimalist tries to live with a Whimsical Collector (and they are the same person)

For Christmas, Bob gave me a book titled Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford.


The note attached said something like “it will all be okay”. I’ve been stressed out by what I perceive to be chaos and mess in our home. I have always prided myself on being a neat freak, with a tidy home and everything in its place. Apparently I have Benjamin Franklin to thank (or curse) for the saying.


As you may know if you ever read this blog, I not only work full time, but I am working on my Ph.D. full time as well. It’s hard to keep everything in its place when you have deadlines and timeclocks. And some of the things I try to keep in their places are alive: right now my extra bathroom is home to a beautiful momma cat and her 4 lively babies. I foster for the East Bay SPCA, plus we share our home with 3 resident rescue cats and Einstein, the ridiculously cute terrier saved from doggy death row.

Foster family Rosarita and her 4 little beans, Fava, Garbanzo, Lima and Lentil.
Einstein; just look at that messy face and try not to fall in love.


Trying to get everyone to sit still for a family Christmas photo proved impossible.


It’s hard to have a houseful of animal companions and not have a certain amount of mess and chaos. Is it a coincidence that one of my other gifts from Bob was the movie The Secret Life of Pets?


I adore Danish Modern furniture and home design. I see the clean wood lines and open spaces and think, “That’s where I want to be.” In my minimalist daydreams, I picture kitchens of big empty countertops and gleaming stainless steel.


And living spaces like Don Draper’s apartment on Mad Men or the Jetson’s sky pad.

Don Draper’s New York apartment on Mad Men.


If asked, I would say the kitchen I drool after is the set for the Eric Ripert show Avec Eric. It doesn’t hurt that Chef Ripert is drop-dead gorgeous, but that’s beside the point.


This picture of a minimalist home makes me swoon.

Think of all the reading and writing I could do in this clean, quiet space.
And the tidy meals we would eat in the dining area.

I think I’d sleep so well in this bedroom, but then I think “where are the dogs and cats?”


My favorite television character of all time is Mr. Monk, played by Tony Shaloub. I identified completely with his dislike of dirt and chaos. Other viewers might think he’s an exaggeration, but I can tell you he’s not.


But in reality, I don’t live this clean, ordered life, as much as I’d like to, or think I’d like to. And if I did move into one of these fabulous spaces, I’d probably start assembling one of my little collections of things and cluttering up the space, and bringing home all of the stray dogs and cats in the neighborhood, and loading the kitchen counters up with gadgets and appliances.

I think of the kitchens that look like they have produced not just good food but good times and family togetherness.

This looks like a kitchen where memories are made.
Julia Child’s kitchen. She lived a good life.

In my own experience, just recently one of the best times I’ve had was cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Bev in her tiny San Francisco apartment kitchen. The crowd of 12 (15? I lost count) of us sat with our plates on her bed and floor and had a blast.


When I finally got my dream trip to Paris a few years ago, the kitchen in our apartment was eclectic country French something-or-other, and it was wonderful. (Note to my vegan friends: I wasn’t vegan yet then so please excuse the cheeses and butter and fish.)

When we went to Oslo a year later, our tiny cabin had a tiny kitchen and even though it was designed for someone 7′ tall, I loved putting together meals there.


My whimsical side has always loved the idea of living like the characters in one of my favorite childhood books, The Borrowers. I could fashion furniture out of thimbles and spools of thread and matchboxes and make my own whimsical clothes (a la Stevie Nicks) from scraps and wisps of fabrics.

The Borrowers, illustration by Emilia Dziubak.
Stevie Nicks

I love the idea of Hobbit Houses and tiny houses and Steampunk houses.


Every time I visit the Berkeley store Castle in the Air, I think I want to live there, with its puppet theaters and doll houses and troll villages.


So which is it, less is more or more is more?

less is more.png

In fashion, I admire Coco Chanel and her classic looks.



But I also want to be Stevie Nicks twirling around in my scarves and skirts.


Mae West said:


But should I take her as a role model? I bet she had a good time and didn’t worry about chaos.

The late fashion designer L’Wren Scott, whose work I only just discovered but find to be quite lovely, said:


Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 5.31.12 PM.png

I am confused! But that’s okay. 2017 is going to be the year that I embrace disorder and chaos. Tim Harford says it’s okay and will make me more creative and resilient.

messy back cover.JPG


After all, Einstein (the other one) was a pretty smart guy and he embraced chaos. So here I go, and I plan to enjoy the ride!


Peace and hugs.

I’m not bad at mindfulness, I just have my own approach

I’ve tried several times over the years to get myself into mindfulness and meditation through classes and workshops, and I always felt like a failure.

My best experience was last year through the Kaiser Behavioral Health department in Oakland. The class, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, is an 8-week program and includes a day-long silent retreat. What, a day of silence? How is that possible? Could I stand it? Would I go nuts? It was actually pretty awesome! Our instructor was a lovely gentleman named Charlie Johnson, and just the sound of his voice leading us through our practices soothed my nerves. Being in the old Julia Morgan building that used to be the ominously named The King’s Daughters Home for Incurables on Broadway in Oakland lent a certain je ne sais quoi.

The King’s Daughters Home for Incurables, now part of Kaiser in Oakland.

But I don’t practice at home. At least not deliberately. I’ve found that I achieve mindfulness in my own ways, not from sitting quietly with my eyes closed. When I do that, I end up with a dog in my face, a cat on my head, and a fit of the giggles.

This is about yoga, but you get the idea.



Now that I am in my post-retirement second career (I love saying that) working at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation I am not nearly as stressed out as I used to be. And part of the reason is oddly enough, given my yoga and meditation animal interference references, because I work with animals. Animals reduce my stress. Since I’ve been fostering cats and kittens, I find myself at the end of every day just sitting on the floor in the room with the fosters, usually in my pajamas, letting kittens crawl all over me. It’s the best!

The key to total relaxation.

I often think of our kitchen as my happy place, cooking as a way to decompress. It’s a form of mindfulness for me. I found out that there is a term for it: culinary therapy. According to one article in Psychology Today:

“Now culinary therapy is the treatment du jour at a growing number of mental health clinics and therapists’ offices. It’s being used as part of the treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.”

Even the Wall Street Journal is on board:

“Many cooks know what a sanctuary the kitchen can be.

Now, some health-care clinics and counselors are using cooking or baking as therapy tools for people suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental-health problems.”


Sure, this is how I look in the kitchen.
Hell’s Kitten, that’s me. Look out Gordon Ramsay!
It’s magic!
Even if I need a stepstool, like in Norway, it’s something I love to do.

This got me thinking about other things that are forms of mindfulness for me. Reading, definitely. Not the “oh my god I have to read this for school NOW” kind of reading, but curled up with a good book and being immersed in a story reading.

Yes please!
I understand what Salinger was getting at here.

I love my coloring books and sketch pads and various craft and sewing projects (see The Do It Yourself Museum ©, maybe someday brought to you by the Hallmark Channel ™). Maybe the reason I never finish any of them is that I enjoy the process more than the finishing.

Another wonderful class I took at Kaiser, in Vallejo (I lived in Napa at the time), was one called Phobease, taught by Dr. Fear, aka Dr. Howard Liebgold (see Falling in love with frogs). He describes cortical shifting as a way to alleviate anxiety. A great example is singing while driving; I hate driving but singing while driving keeps me calmer. As long as I get to choose the music.  And I keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road.


If you are interested, check out his book Freedom from Fear: Overcoming Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic.


Book blurb:

“In Freedom from Fear, Dr. Howard Liebgold, M.D., a psychiatrist who overcame a claustrophobic condition that lasted 31 years, reveals the techniques that he has used to help thousands of patients to conquer their fears. In the course of just a few weeks, everyone suffering from acute phobias will learn simple but powerful methods for the cure of their symptoms and how to stop panic attacks. Finally, even the most anxiety-ridden will learn the strategies and coping mechanisms to gently and safely overcome devastating, constricting fears or obsessive compulsive behaviors. By following this ten-week, step-by-step program, readers will learn to: – Understand the nature of phobias- Design a personalized strategy to conquer their fears- Understand and practice non-avoidance- Develop a mutual support system- Follow sound nutrition and exercise practices- Master relaxation techniques- Freedom from Fear is the first book on phobias written by a physician who suffered and recovered from crippling phobias.”

Now I have to go cook up something (I also like cooking while listening to audiobooks, combining two of my go-to therapies). But first I have to go to the store. And if someone can figure out mindfulness through grocery shopping, let me know!





The Alameda Point Antiques Faire, aka “The Flea”

On the first Sunday of every month, rain or shine, crowds make their way to the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, or as we fondly call it, “The Flea.” This is not your junky flea market; this is huge, with lots of stuff, ranging from the, yes, junky, to high end antiques. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning, and I count it as exercise. And there are food trucks; who doesn’t love a food truck? If you have time afterward, the town of Alameda is fun to explore, too.


The Alameda Point Antiques Faire, at the sign of the clock.

The entrance fee goes down as the morning goes on; early birds pay more! Your strategy will depend on several things: e.g., how badly do you need coffee and do you want to start at the way far back in the low rent district or start at the front in the high rent district?

There are several coffee purveyors; I usually decide by which has the shorter line.
low rent district 2
In the low rent district, the vendors don’t mess much with fancy displays and there tends to be empty real estate.
low rent district 1
It may be the low rent district, but you can still find some good things!
high rent district
The stalls closer to the entrance, i.e. the high rent district, go to a little more trouble but also charge more.

The food options vary; on this January day there weren’t quite as many trucks to choose from, but you can get “state fair food on a stick”, falafel, pizza, Chinese food, Indian food, Greek food, baked goods, and of course, kettle corn (it’s everywhere).


One of my favorite activities is looking for the “art” (note the quotation marks).


Then there are the specific categories of art, such as clown art. The stuff of my bad dreams.

clown classic
The classic clown portrait.
clown classic unsold
Surprisingly, it didn’t sell. Maybe next month.

Weird sculptural things also make an appearance.


Daryl Hall as Mrs. Santa?

If you have any interest in old family photos and other people’s ancestors, there are always lots of stacks and frames of interesting, usually stern people’s faces. It does make me sad that they end up at the flea market though.


Interesting yard art opportunities abound. Someone purchased both of these and was wheeling them out. I title it The Bear Thinks About Eating The Thinker.

bear eats thinker


For the bookworm, there are children’s book, books that don’t really seem old enough to be at the “antiques faire”, and cookbooks, to name a few.


For the clothes mavens, there are plenty of “vintage” clothing vendors. Birkenstocks are vintage now?


Unfortunately, there is a lot of fur among the clothing items. My animal activist side gets riled up. Maybe I can get my activist friends out protesting with me some Sunday.

animal 3
It’s not fashion, it’s violence! Don’t buy fur!!!

I will allow the purchasing of a tiara or two, however. You can’t have too many of those.


One of my very favorite categories–cat lady (or cat guy) merchandise!

cat hair spray
The vendor informed me that this cat was made to cover a can of hair spray.
Susie kitten
I really was tempted to buy this.
Kitty Wampus
Kitty Wampus proved irresistable; I did buy it.

I am also fascinated by the extremely expensive French road and building signs. I can’t guarantee they are genuine; “faux French” is a thing.

french 4
This one will set you back $265.

Here are a few of the fun things I saw on this January visit:


beam me up scottie
Beam me up, Scotty! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Fargo snowglobe
Who wouldn’t want a Fargo snow globe, complete with bloody snow?
kiss ducks
A complete set of Kiss rubber ducks!
Bob said he wouldn’t object if I bought a troll doll as long as it wasn’t bigger than my head. This one was close, but at $65, I don’t think so!

Transportation theme:


stop light
Fraternity house furnishing?
joe and bowl
A successful purchase; Tibetan bowl for Joe the music teacher.
misty not impressed
Misty is not impressed with my purchases.

Maybe Misty will have a chance to be impressed next month. And maybe I’ll see you at The Flea!


Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…Chicago, part 2, the Art Institute

Warning: this is going to be a long post! But it will mostly be photos. If a picture paints a thousand words and you are at an art museum…

Founded in 1879 as both a museum and a school for the fine arts, the Art Institite of Chicago’s permanent home was built in 1893 at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street as a joint effort with the City of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exhibition. The collection of the Art Institute of Chicago encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and contains more than 260,000 works of art. The museum holds works of art ranging from early Japanese prints to modern American art. It is principally known for one of the United States’ finest collection of paintings produced in Western culture. It is the second largest museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The AIC in 1893.
The AIC in 1893.

AIC map

The AIC in 2015.
The AIC in 2015.

That building still serves as the entryway, flanked by the bronze lions sculpted by Edward Kemeys. commissioned as a gift from Mrs. Henry Field (Florence Lathrop Field).  While their official designations are the North Lion and the South Lion, Kemeys referred to them as On the Prowl (North) and Stands in Attitude of Defiance (South). Since all I knew about Chicago before this visit was from the John Hughes movies of the 1980s, I, of course, first saw them in the iconic AIC visit scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

On the Prowl (North)
On the Prowl (North)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)


Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC
Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC

Despite my mission of taking a Ferris photo in front of the impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Suerat, I did allow myself to enjoy an exhibit on Chicago architectural history outside of the Impressionist Galleries.

overview overview 2 flw adler sullivan flw detail label

And then my Ferris Bueller moment, finally!

Ferris clip 1
Cameron with the Seurat
my moment
Me with the Seurat

I am not the only one who bases museum visits on pop cultural references; the museum has a handout on how to do the Ferris Bueller tour of the museum!

tour 1 tour 2

My second mission was to visit the Thorne miniature rooms, which I know from the beautiful book that was a gift from Robert Ward after he visited the miniature rooms and knew it was a collection that I would love. From the AIC website: “The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.”

The rooms are very difficult to get good pictures of as they are behind glazing (understably; I would be able to resist touching!). An overview of the gallery:

overview 2 panel 1 panel 2

Here are just a few of my favorites; I apologize for the poor quality of the images.

English bedchamber
English bedchamber
A selfie in front of an English linrary
A selfie in front of an English library
French Modern (1930s)
French Modern (1930s)
New Mexico kitchen
New Mexico kitchen
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Modern circa 1940
California Modern circa 1940

Traversing the museum, you go through the art and cultures of the world.

China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500

rome 2 rome 2 panel

Some of the “Greatest Hits” at the AIC:

The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

I was particularly drawn to a selection of works by one of my favorite painters, Georgia O’Keeffe, in the Paul and Gabriella Rosenbaum Gallery, a gallery dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.  O’Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1905.

Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Cow's Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Black Cross, New Mexico,1929
Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929

And now, for a few things that I call Weird and Creepy for lack of a better description.

Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD
Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD

architectural creepy kid

Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930

And the final category, which I call Things I Like.

Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840

I was thinking Mary of Burgundy seemed like a kick-ass kind of gal, but then I read on the label that this sculpture depicts her in the moment before her tragic and fatal fall.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circe 1870
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circa 1870
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015

And, of course, we exit through the gift shop! Yes, money was spent.

shop 1 shop 2

That concludes our whirlwind tour of the Art Institute of Chicago. Still to come: The Chicago Cultural Center, the Palmer House, and more!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Podcasts

I often listen to audiobooks (thanks to SimplyAudiobooks) in the car on my commute. One of my most recent pleasant surprises was Juliet in August, by Dianne Warren, read by Cassandra Campbell. I’m a Kent Haruf fan; I love his straightforward prose and moving portrayals of intertwining lives in small town Colorado. This had a similar feel, but set in Saskatchewan, with rich, overlapping stories and a real sense of the difficulties of everyday life.


But I am between books right now, and am on a streak of podcast listening while I look for my next engrossing book to listen to. I revisited a particular favorite this morning, The Dead Authors Podcast. It’s a hilarious live podcast with host time-traveling H.G. Wells (Paul F. Thompkins) in conversation with a variety of writers brought back from the past in his time machine. It is connected with 826 National, a non-profit that includes the tutoring centers such as 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Even when I am not familiar with the writers, I have a good time. The most recent was with Lucy Maud Montgomery (Ryan Beil), author of the Anne of Green Gables books. Spoiler alert–she really hated Anne and wanted to kill her off.


This got me thinking about some of my other favorite podcasts. Of course, I’ve gone through listening fads. For a while I didn’t listen to anything but Animal Radio; then it was KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman. But I’ve moved on from those.


Now my must listen list includes:

  1. Pop Culture Happy Hour, hosted by Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson and a rotating list of guest hosts, is the podcast from Monkey See, NPR’s blog for pop culture news and analysis. Not only is it entertaining, but I feel less like I live under a rock when I listen. I’ve gotten great book, movie and music tips.pchhblogrect1_wide-aa67d67ddbb99453ba1ea08023212b2611652e39-s400-c85
  2. Futility Closet: “an idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements” hosted by Greg and Sharon Ross, “is a collection of entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible.” And the lateral thinking puzzles are addictive.
  3. Mystery Show, where Starlee Kine solves mysteries. Listen to case #3: Belt Buckle.mystery_logo_small
  4. This American Life, the classic that I probably don’t need to describe, with host Ira Glass.
  5. Radiolab, another NPR standby, “where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”
  6. Ask Me Another, also from NPR (yes, I’m an NPR kinda gal), probably the funniest quiz show, like being at a pub quiz with really fun people. Hosted by Ophira Eisenberg; I’m especially fond of house musician Jonathan  Coulton and the musical quizzes.  askmeanother_sq-ed74d1b32e360a54992e327bf3620365f7d80df7-s400-c85
  7. America’s Test Kitchen, with host Christopher Kimball. I sometimes fast forward through the meat cookery since I’m transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, but I still love to listen to the why’s behind the answers to cooking questions.
  8. Go Vegan Radio is a new one for me so I can’t speak intelligently to its content, but it has been on the air for 13 years and bills itself as “the radio show about everything – food, health, environment, peace, politics, social justice – and broadcasts the solutions to all the problems about which other talk shows merely complain – war, violence, disease, world hunger, poverty, climate change, deforestation, resource depletion, water shortage, energy crises, habitat destruction, animal suffering.” Sounds like me!  safe_image
  9. Main Street Vegan: I first heard Victoria Moran speak at the 2015 Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley. I was utterly charmed by her and want to be her! She’s written many books and is an incredible speaker. If you ever have a chance to go to one of her talks, do yourself and favor and go!MainStreetVegan-600x200
  10. Welcome to Night Vale, maybe an acquired taste. I’ve heard it described as Garrison Keillor meets Stephen King. Apt description. I went with a friend to one of their live shows when they were in Oakland and I enjoyed it almost more than the podcast. I have to be in the right mood for this one! download

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I can’t keep up even with these. Now, any recommendations for my next audiobook?