That Toddlin’ Town (Part 4 of 4)

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town
Chicago, Chicago I will show you around – I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down.
˜Fred Fisher (1922)

Day 5 of the Chicago trip was a Sunday, and Sunday means dim sum. A few days earlier Rambling Mom texted me and asked whether The Zone wanted to meet The Minivan Lane in Chinatown for dim sum. Absolutely! I see Rambling Mom nearly every year at the August96 Moms annual reunion, but the families had never met each other. Armed with our trusty RTA passes, we took the Red Line south to Chinatown. We wandered through some of the stores, including a wonderful tea shop, Ten Ren. We bought some pineapple buns at a Chinese bakery. Wild Thing and Moose found cute sling/wallets embroidered with Chicago’s skyline for their souvenirs of the city; two for $7.00 at an outdoor market. I actually remembered my film camera that day and snapped a few photos. Here’s a shot of all my men in front of Chinatown’s dragon gate.

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The moms had plenty to chat about, but the men said little. Rambling Mom’s Spouse told us a bit about his family’s preferred places in Chinatown. WineGuy told everyone about our various adventures around town. Wizard tried to engage Chip in a conversation about Harry Potter or chess, but Chip didn’t say a word. I guess he was too shy. Moose and Rambling Mom’s Princess kept everyone entertained their chatter. Dim sum was only fair, but the company was great. We said our goodbyes, and The Minivan Lane headed back to the suburbs.

We had the whole day before us with no plans. It was too hot for the White Sox game, so we opted for a looooong train ride instead. We took the Red Line to the end, then the Purple Line to the end, and then we were in Wilmette. We strolled two leafy blocks through this quiet suburb and arrived at the Baha’i Temple. [Remember, we saw the Baha’i Temple from the Hancock Observatory.] One of only seven Baha’i Temples in the world, the U.S. temple is the only one in the Western Hemisphere. The building is made of white marble carved to look like lace. The auditorium is a nine-sided structure facing Lake Michigan; its dome rises 135 feet. The Temple and grounds were serene and beautiful.

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We did not stay long because, although it is peaceful, the Baha’i’s religious message was confusing for the younger children. We do teach our children to be respectful and tolerant of other beliefs, but we are trying to firmly imbue them with Judaism before explaining other faiths. Bye-bye Bahai’s and hello train. We headed back to the hotel for a swim in the indoor pool. Dinner that night was at another Chicago institution, Al’s #1 Italian Beef. Basically, the appeal was marinated roast beef on an Italian bun. The food was fair.

The following day was our last in Chi-town. We saved the Art Institute of Chicago for a Monday, when it would be less crowded. While Wizard did his damnedest to moan and groan and make every single one of us miserable, I did my damndest to show Wild Thing one of the greatest collections in the United States. Thanks to a marvelous Pre-K teacher, who created a phenomenal introductory art program, WT really learned to identify art. He has known and loved works by Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, and Monet. I was so moved to share such wonderful paintings with him. Wizard’s bad attitude forced us to rush through three hundred years of masterpieces, but we took our time with the Impressionists. I slowly led WT into the big gallery and quietly asked him to look at this painting on the wall:

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“Van Gogh!” he cried.

“Yes,” I replied, “go take a closer look.”

“Can I really go look at it? Up close?”

“Yes, as long as you don’t touch it.”

WT gently put his hands in his pockets and gingerly walked over to Vincent. They looked at each other for a very long time. “Mom, come here!”

I walked over to WT and his new friend. “What can you tell me about this painting ?”

“The brushstrokes, Mom, the brushstrokes. They make him look so alive.”

We slowly perused one Impressionist masterpiece after another, comparing Monet’s various studies of Argenteuil, marveling at the geometric precision of Caillebotte’s “Paris Street: Rainy Day”, reveling in Renoir’s lush figures. Then Wild Thing saw it: Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884”.

“MOM! The dot painting. It’s the big dot painting!” My little art lover found the biggest and best painting in the room. We walked over to look closely at Seurat’s magnum opus. WT could not get over the millions of little tiny dots, which made him dizzy up close. He ran to the middle of the gallery to look at “La Grande Jatte” from afar. WT came back to me and pondered, “How did the artist do that? How did he figure out the dots?” I did my best to explain to him that Seurat planned that painting with mathematical precision and used specific colors next to each other to highlight them.

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Wild Thing was mesmerized. I was so proud of him and so happy to have at least one of my children share my mother’s and my passion for fine art. Wizard and Moose’s moods were deteriorating fast, so we flew past “American Gothic,” the Picassos, the Cubists, and the Surrealists. Wizard willingly stopped to look at a Chagall, but only because it contained Hebrew letters, which he tried to read. We missed so much of the Art Institute that I promised Wild Thing that I would take him back to Chicago and we would tour the museum again, just the two of us. WT is ready to go tomorrow.

WineGuy and I were thoroughly disgusted with Wizard and Moose’s behavior at the museum that we herded everyone back to the hotel. We had a quick lunch in the room and then took a bus down to the Navy Pier. You never saw such long faces or heard such complaining as when we told them they would not be going on the Ferris Wheel or any other rides at the Pier. We strolled along and enjoyed our last views of the Windy City. We wandered into the exhibit hall and found the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, a (free!) permanent exhibit of 150 stained glass windows, including several by Louis Comfort Tiffany. It was quite a find. Our trip was almost at an end. Our final meal was at Pizzeria Due, the sister of Pizzeria Uno. We met Niece A and her husband, EG, there for dinner. They are newly married, living, working and having a great time in Chicago. Due’s pizza was really mediocre compared with Lou Malnati’s. [Uno’s just opened here, and it was mediocre as well.] After dinner, we strolled back to the hotel and put the kids to bed. Our friend, Lisa N., came to the hotel for a nearly all-night chat.

We packed up the bags and shlepped back out to Midway the next morning. Caught our flights back to Florida and made it home safely. Large, family travel is done for a while, thank goodness.

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2 thoughts on “That Toddlin’ Town (Part 4 of 4)

  1. I want to go back with you and WT!! I am almost finished reading the book I bought there on the Impressionist and Post Impressionist collection. Now I dying to get back there yet again. I was so flipping exhausted myself when we were there that I did not appreciate things as much. I love that WT ‘got’ the Van Gogh and was as mesmerized by the Seurat as I was. It was so fun reading this whole Chicago tale since I was there right before you and could picture so much (or look at my own pictures of the same places). I am so sorry that your camera was lost 😦

  2. The temple is beautiful.

    It occurs to me that in the years we lived there, we never visited the Art Institute. I think a trip to Chicago is in order just for that.

    How nice that WT enjoys art so much! 🙂

    I’ve found that Uno’s pizza isn’t nearly as good now that they’ve branched out into the world as a big franchise.

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