Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back to Toronto

I am back from a week-long trip to the States, where I retrieved the family in Chicago.  I spent 3 and a half very packed days in Chicago, then we travelled to Greensboro, NC to visit my family.  What a contrast!  We pretty much hung out and enjoyed the country lifestyle for 2 and a half days, then flew home yesterday.

I'll just give a brief outline of the activities I got up to in Chicago, but will go into more detail in a couple of follow-up posts.  I was perhaps halfway done with Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury on Friday and decided it would be best to bring it along and finish it up on the trip, rather than leaving it for a whole week.  Between waiting for my flight at Billy Bishop, the flight to Chicago and then the ride downtown on the Orange Line, I was down to the last 25 pages, so I finished it in the hotel and then went to bed.

I read The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye on my various CTA trips on Saturday.  It's a curious book, essentially Kafka's The Castle transplanted to Africa (and indeed Laye did seem to be aware of Kafka).  It even has two dancer/acrobats who take the place of the two bumbling assistants!  In general, my experience on the CTA this trip was very poor (almost always having to wait over 10 minutes for the subway) and it added to my general impression that Chicago (aside from its art scene) is in a slow, terminal decline.  On the other hand, I ended up with a lot of time reading on the train...

I went first to the MCA and checked out the Takashi Murakami exhibit The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg.


It is basically like wandering around inside a Gorillaz video.  It was cool though.  It runs through the end of September.  I took a lot of photos, and I'll post more tonight or tomorrow.  Because I am an AGO member, I always get in for free.

There was an installation going into the major exhibits of the past 50 years, since this is the MCA's 50th anniversary.  I still remember when it was sort of a scrappy, small gallery a few blocks south of its current location.  I'll try to write a bit more about my thoughts on the MCA shortly.  I did like the Amanda Williams exhibit, which was very much centered around gold.

Amanda Williams, Tuxes Next to the Precedent, I'm Present, 2011-12

Then I went over to LUMA (the Loyola Art Museum).  All summer and early fall, the museum is free, so that was nice.  There is an exhibit on Joan of Arc and a very interesting (but quite depressing) exhibit of photos by Jeffrey Wolin of a housing project known as Pigeon Hill in Indiana.  In this case, the subjects' stories are written onto the photos, much like outsider artist Howard Finster (the guy that did the Talking Heads Little Creatures LP cover)

After that, I walked south.  I stumbled across the new American Writers' Museum, but didn't feel like paying the cover.  I then picked up a ticket for School for Lies at Artistic House (for Sunday) and dropped in at the Chicago Cultural Center, though there was basically nothing on display.  Had I know how the rest of the weekend would unfold, I probably should have just continued on to MOCP at Columbia.

In any event, I went down to my mother-in-law's for a reunion and barbecue.  It took quite a while for people to turn up, and I actually left a bit early.  As it happened there was music at Millennium Park (though it wasn't as interesting as the following week when they were going to be doing Beethoven's Symphony 9 -- drat), but Benny Golson was playing at the Jazz Showcase.  Since the hotel was fairly close, I walked over and managed to get a seat towards the back.  It was a fun show, though Benny's embouchure seems to be slipping.  He actually sounded better on the one up-tempo piece they played (Coltrane's Mr. P.C.), but generally he wanted to tell stories about his own standards.  I'd say he talked at least 60% of the set and they only played 3 classic Golson tunes: "Horizon Ahead," "Whisper Not" and "I Remember Clifford."  It was still worth seeing one of the last living jazz masters (especially as Sonny Rollins seems to have completely retired).

Sunday I went and saw The School of Lies, which is a reworking of Moliere's The Misanthrope.  I thought I had seen this before, but I must have seen a different play previously, as the plot sort of starts out similarly but goes in a completely different direction.  In any case, it was a lot of fun, and it makes me more likely to go see his adaptation of Corneille's The Liar in early 2018, even though I have not been terribly impressed by the Village Players.

I came back to the hotel (where the family was resting) and we went and got dinner (pizza -- naturally).  Sunday was a bit of a low-key day.  I did a bit of writing, but can't recall too much else I got up to.

Monday, I had to get up quite early to meet a former colleague for coffee before work (8 am!).  I had enough time to stop in at another office where I had worked while in Chicago, then met the kids on the steps of the Art Institute.  We spent a bit over 2 hours inside, then came south to the hotel where we had lunch.  We then set off for the Adler Planetarium.  It was a relatively short visit, though it was neat that they were giving away eclipse glasses.  We won't be able to see too much in Toronto (maybe 50%), but perhaps the kids will give it a go.  When I was 9 or so, Michigan had a complete eclipse, and I saw it through one of those cardboard box viewers.  I just wish the Adler wasn't quite so far from everything.  We got back to the hotel at 4:30.  If we had even another 15 minutes, I would have tried to make it to MOCP, but it just would have been cutting it too close. 

Tuesday we set off for Midway.  I finished another book on the trip (Akiyuki Nosaka's The Pornographers, mostly known because it inspired Imamura's film of the same name).  We didn't have too much trouble getting to Greensboro, though the ride to my father's house seemed to take forever.  In general, it takes a very long time to get anywhere from their house, and we did cut a few trips just to avoid going too many places by car (as my daughter generally gets car sick easily).  We did go into Greensboro proper once and saw the Woolworth's that was the setting of one of the first sit-ins, though we didn't actually go in.

Basically, we kind of lazed around in the heat and just chatted about life.  I was reunited with a bunch of packages I had shipped to the States (some things simply cannot be bought in Canada or not without absurd shipping charges).  However, none of our laptops had CD drives, so I ended up waiting until today to actually listen to any of the music.  I guess a few more days of deferred gratification didn't really matter.

I almost forgot that my dad had an entire box of my old things from storage.  This wasn't exactly welcome news.  The box was largely filled with old notebooks from my undergrad years, but also things like the program from my high school graduation and some other missing theatre programs from 1987-89!  I managed to get it all down to about two inches of paper, but this was one more thing that I had to bring back to Toronto.

We were able to pack everything into the carry-on bags, but mine was very heavy due to several books I picked up (even after shedding a couple of books along the way).  Interestingly, Delta warned me that there was a major rain storm about to hit NYC (we were transferring through LaGuardia).  The on-line alternative options were ridiculous, so I stayed on hold for close to 45 minutes but finally talked to an agent who very helpfully switched our connection to Detroit.  We actually ended up getting in an hour earlier than our original flight (and who knows if we would have made it at all that evening, as several flights were being delayed and cancelled).  Best of all, when we got into Detroit, we only had to walk a few gates down to our connecting flight (as opposed to Tuesday when we were on opposite sides of the airport).

Getting through Pearson was a drag as always, but the UP Express was smooth and then the cab ride home was short.  I did a bit of unpacking and then later in the evening I got back to the quilt.  I am down to the last 2+ rows to stitch together (and all the pieces cut out!) and then the whole thing needs to be stitched length-wise plus a border added.  I should be done by mid September or even earlier. 

Overall, we are more or less back to normal, and in fact, I now have to run off to get groceries.  I am certainly glad I have a couple of days off before I have to go back to work.  Thus, it was wise to cut things a bit short, even though the kids wanted another day or two in North Carolina.

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