Monday, October 31, 2016

Quick trip -- Minneapolis & Chicago

I believe I mentioned that I was going to fly out to Minneapolis and thence to Chicago.  (I was one of very few people not there to take in some of the World Series atmosphere, since my trip had been booked several weeks back.  Anyway, it is just as well, since 1) I had already booked my hotel rooms and didn't get blindsided by a big increase in the going rate and 2) I didn't leave Chicago as heart-broken as most fans.  It would have been nice had they won at least one game while I was in Chicago, but I don't feel all choked up over it.)  Given how much I did in just a few days, I think I will write a quick overview in this post, then I will have separate posts for the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Walker Art Center, the Norman Lewis exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, and perhaps a bit of a review of two plays I saw while in Chicago.  That's a lot of posts, but I'll see how quickly I can get them in.

I left Thurs. right after work.  I normally try to fly out of Billy Bishop Airport, but Porter doesn't serve Minneapolis.  Hopefully it will some day, especially if they get pre-clearance at Billy Bishop.  So I caught the UP Express.  It is a nice ride, though it is now taking 25 minutes, not 20.  Also, a lot of people have started taking this service as part of their regular commute.  The train was standing room only until the Weston stop at which point the train pretty much emptied out.  That was a big surprise to me, though with Presto, the ride from Union to Weston only costs $5.00, so that is something we will probably investigate a bit in the future.

Anyway, the trip to Minneapolis was fairly routine.  I stayed out at a hotel near the Mall of America, and indeed the flight crew on my flight all stayed at the same hotel and we took the shuttle over.  I heard them discussing some of their flights to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  While it is fairly common for pilots to have direct or indirect military experience, it seems more rare (in my view) for a flight attendant to also have made those flights to Afghanistan.

I had been reading Muriel Spark's Symposium on the flight and finished it up that evening.  I didn't like it at all.  I believe I mentioned already that I am just not on the same wavelength as her.  I was not particularly enamoured of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and I didn't like A Far Cry from Kensington, since I felt the main character was snobbish and quite judgemental.  There are three more books by Spark that I probably "ought" to read (Memento Mori, The Girls of Slender Means and The Mandelbaum Gate) and a few others that I would probably read if I actually liked her writing, including The Public Image and Loitering with Intent.  At this point, it is unlikely that I will read anything more by her, but I do retain the right to change my mind.  Anyway, I left the book at the breakfast buffet at the hotel.

I managed to get to the Mall of America transit center just before 9, and I got an all-day transit pass for $4.  Not a bad deal.  Anyway, I would never have been able to figure out my itinerary without Google maps, which allows you to make these odd transit connections that most natives wouldn't know about.  I made it to the Minneapolis Institute of Art just before 10, which was when it opened.  I was reading The Federalist Papers and finding them fairly hard going, and this raised some interest at the front desk (Hamilton is on most people's minds this year due to the Broadway show).  I should manage to get through the book by the election, however, and I'll probably put at least some of my thoughts down at that time. 

I'll go into much more detail about the MIA in a separate post, but I was sort of intrigued by this large Chihuly piece they had hanging over the entrance.  It's looking like I will take the kids to the Chihuly exhibit at the ROM this weekend, though things are still a bit up in the air (sort of like this piece, ha ha).

I wandered through the collection for just under 3 hours, and I believe I managed to get to all the individual galleries.  I will note here that I did manage to see the Beckmann triptych Blindman's Bluff, so I can verify that I have now seen 8 of 9 in person, and I'll just have to get to Munich one of these days to complete the set...

I just managed to catch the bus to my next destination, the Walker Art Center.  Or rather the bus took me halfway there -- to Nicollet and 15th St.  I ended up eating at the Nicollet Grill, which was quite good.  I would go again if I was in the neighborhood.  I then walked along 15th St. through a park and finally crossed a bridge to get to the Walker Art Center.  

I knew that it was under construction, but this was way more torn up then I expected and the sculpture garden was completely closed off.  I think the last time I was here (I believe 1997!) there was some construction going on in the sculpture garden, but this was a whole new level of disruption.


I enjoyed the visit to the Walker, though I wish they had more older material on display as part of their 75 Years retrospective, but I'll write more on that soon.

I managed to catch a bus downtown and still had a bit over an hour to look around.  I actually had to stop at the library for a while to recharge my phone, since it had been completely run down, due to all the photos I took.  I managed to get a few more decent shots of the downtown and the near-deserted Nicollet Mall, then I caught the Blue Line out to the airport.  Even though I know unemployment is relatively low in Minneapolis, the downtown felt a bit more forlorn (or perhaps just poorer) than on my last visit, but maybe I was also a bit put out at how much my routes were disrupted by construction.  I was reasonably impressed with the Blue Line and thought that the ridership seemed fairly healthy.

I got to the airport in plenty of time, but the flights to Chicago were all messed up because a plane had caught fire on one of the runways at O'Hare and NTSB was still investigating!  I guess we finally got airborne around 10 pm, which wasn't so much later than my scheduled flight, but it still felt I was at the airport for far too long around far too many cranky people. 

Fortunately, I was staying at the O'Hare Hilton so I didn't have to go anywhere once we finally arrived.  I was even able to sleep in a bit.

Saturday, I hit the Cultural Center first.  I enjoyed the Norman Lewis exhibit, though to be honest, I don't think I'd recommend traveling much more than 150 miles to see it.  It makes more sense just to pick up the catalog.  I then headed up to the Water Tower on the Mag Mile and had just about 45 minutes at the MCA before Life Sucks started at Lookingglass Theatre.  I liked this a lot, to the point where I might even catch it if it plays Toronto.  Anyway, I would recommend it to people who love theatre and have at least a passing familiarity with Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.  I think it runs two more weeks, and I'll write more about it soon.  I still had some time to kill, and I stopped by LUMA (the Loyola Art Museum) but the exhibit (on Spanish colonial art) didn't do anything for me, so I didn't go in.

So I went north to check out Rogers Park.  Actually I just managed to squeeze on the train, which was full of soon-to-be-disappointed Cubs fans.  Mercifully, the train was almost empty after Addison.

It was kind of interesting checking out how the neighborhood had changed.  Generally, I am kind of depressed when I am in downtown Chicago, but Rogers Park looked better than it did when I lived there.  If it weren't for the fact that the Red Line has slowed down to the point that it takes an hour or so to go from Howard to the Loop, Rogers Park seems like a fairly convivial neighborhood now.  I didn't remember this bookstore near Sheridan and Pratt, though it might actually have been located on Clark back when I lived in Chicago.  Anyway, I took a look around and restrained myself to only buy one book (my backpack was already quite full).

I had dinner and still had some time to kill, so I went into the Heartland Cafe and drank some tea (maybe the single most impressive thing about the weekend is that I didn't slip up and order any soda at restaurants or even on the plane).  At 7, I wandered over to the theatre to see Shinn's Dying City.  I think the actors really did a fine job, but I do have a few issues with the play.  It was still worth seeing, and I felt a bit glad that I helped fill out the audience just a bit, since their box office has been suffering with the Cubs in the World Series.  (I recall one play years and years ago was cancelled when the Bulls were in the Finals and no one was doing anything aside from watching them.)  This was the final weekend, but they said that the previous week they had done reasonable business.

I then turned around and took the El all the way to Midway and then took a hotel shuttle. I managed to get there around 11.  Fortunately, the flight back was fairly uneventful (and wasn't delayed at all).  I still had time to get to the library and buy the groceries and still help out a bit with the kids' homework.  Now I just need to get some rest, since Toronto does Halloween on the actual night and not on the nearest weekend.  Fortunately, the forecast is for a dry evening tomorrow.

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