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A note is a trace, a word, a drawing that in a gentle flash becomes part of the thinking process.  It is a flexible mental move generating space for the possible.

“Notetaking encompasses witnessing, drawing, writing, and a diagrammatic thinking; it is speculative, manifests a preliminary moment, a passage, and acts as a memory aid.”

Source for the above:  I found the quote, and that above (paraphrased) in a catalogue for architects, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Spring 2011, in reference to dOCUMENTA (13) EXHIBITION: June 9–Sept. 16, 2012.



Film With An Odd Name– MANDORLA

Review #1 of  MANDORLA

I learned to enjoy film critiques by completing a filmmaking master’s degree program.  Here is a review of a wonderful film refreshing and peculiar for its out-of-the-mainstream flavor.  A friend in my favorite international organization, L’Alliance Francaise (de Memphis), asked me to review it:  MANDORLA (2016, Roberto Miller, Writer/Dir. and Liz Holdship, Producer ).  “Mandorla” is a word in the dictionary.  In a nutshell, it is “almond;” all kidding aside, a mandorla is “a pointed oval shape used in medieval Christian art as an aureole to surround a sacred figure (see vesica piscis);” in painting, sculpture, and other, it is an almond-shaped area of light, usually surrounding the resurrected Christ or the Virgin at the Assumption.  One way of describing the film is to say it deals with the definition of vesica piscis— a pointed shape formed by the intersection of the circumference of one circle with the center of another circle with an equal radius.  The two circles would be Ernesto’s ordinary reality and his imaginative reality.  The phrase vesica piscis is not Italian, as is “mandorla,” but rather Latin:  bladder = vesica fish = piscis (from the resemblance in shape).  To read the sample of the use of the word mandorla is to understand that the eponymous film deals with the soul’s longing for wholeness and full expression.  The power comes to a person following the light, in a religious way of thinking.

Here is a dictionary sample from use in a periodical:  “During a recent struggle with a misdiagnosis of terminal illness . . . she took off her vesica piscis of rayos and bade me pass through her fiery corona, burning away my terror and grief time and again.”

The film perhaps, and definitely this excerpt from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book about La Madre Grande, richly bring to mind the Blessed Mother Mary as the utmost feminine power who leaves no one stranded, bringing the “aerial viewpoint” for seeing the greater soul-picture in everything around us.  Pinkola Estes believes Holy Mary to be a force of Nature inlaid with the profound creativity of sheltering, showing, and other attributes of mothering.

MANDORLA’s creative team told their story with a feminine-empowerment approach, casting a beautiful woman of long dark hair in a yellow field, a spirit in the protagonist’s imagination.  A second powerful lady met him on a bridge in Lyon, France by serendipity, a stroke of perfect good luck in Ernesto’s time of need.  She was a member of the everyday, ordinary reality.  The stunning beauty in the sunny field was from the glowing circle of dreams, the circle intersecting the protagonist’s normal circle from time to time.  Ernesto bravely struggled for change.


REVIEW #2:  Guest reviewer Jim Eubanks writes about the film MANDORLA by first choosing a Fairyland concept for the out-of-the-ordinary imaginative place that Ernesto takes himself to, Ernesto being seduced there by his soul’s longing to live creatively.  Does he have a choice?  Visions have power.  I have not thought much about “Faery,” the word for the enchanted realm of fairies, although once I directed middle-school students putting on Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein we meet the mischievous sprite Puck. Because I have an inkling for gardening, I kind of like gnomes, defined as legendary creatures resembling tiny old men, living in the depths of the earth.  Jim’s way of reviewing the fresh, possibly ahead of its time, and memorable film MANDORLA [2016, producer Liz Holdship, writer/director Roberto Miller] took a different turn from my approach.  In fact, my perception does not follow Jim’s last line.  I believe Ernesto did indeed abandon his office job for self-regulated work in an imaginative realm.  Can he still pay the mortgage?  He was brave to connect with fearsome shadows.  He embraced dreams reaching out to him.  Jim Eubanks tells much about the unusual places to which brave Ernesto allowed himself to travel on . . .

A Perilous Quest, a review of the film MANDORLA by Jim Eubanks

In the old faery lore, it was at the borders that faerie enchantment was found— the border between light and dark, life and death, land and water, evening and day, field and forest. There is a small gap there, which most people do not see, and which is a place of magic. But that magic can be deadly. An encounter with the faeries or their enchantment can lead to inspiration, or madness. It was much like our modern stories of alien abductions. Some people who have been abducted (whatever the reality of it is) describe great joy; most are left feeling desperate and with a feeling of cosmic loneliness.

Ernesto, the main character of MANDORLA finds himself at the border of his outer world of high-stakes commercial advertising and his inner world of artistic spiritual vision. There is a gap at that border, a gap between being a successful practical person and being a person who acts on his inner spiritual vision. Ernesto becomes aware of this gap, this place between two different vibrations, and is drawn into a place of perilous magic.

It is the faerie encounter; it is the Grail Quest, in modern terms. This quest can lead to madness, despair, ensorcellement (ed. under a spell), ruination— after all, only one knight found the Grail, and even then at great cost. But the knights had no other choice than to find the Grail in order to heal the king.

This well-done, entrancing film tells the story of Ernesto’s quest. This is not something someone made up— it is based on actual events, many of which are quite intense. The last scene, in which Ernesto, in medieval garb, walks across a field of golden grain to see a splendorous castle on a lake in the distance is very beautiful, and seems to me to sum up the theme of the movie:  Ernesto might like the convenience of computers and jet flights to Lyon, but he still wants his world to have enchantment, romance and even magic, and he does not think that one excludes the other.

STAYING POWER VERSUS “FLASH IN THE PAN”: Which New People and Stuff Are Which?

Coca Cola “Coke” Has Staying Power

“Staying power” means being in the older sector of society, and if persons have it, can mean they behave in a curmudgeonly fashion, which is cool.  At the older, wiser ages of sixty, seventy, eighty or so, a non-freaky balanced-thinking person can see what the problems are in society that are holding back advancement.  Growing, changing, flexing, embracing the new are traits of advancing.  It is ironic that sometimes new trends hold us back.  They are usually those that can be termed “flashes in the pan.”  One example might be texting while driving.  While this is seductively empowering for multi-taskers, the tendency to do this leads to wrecks.  Time will tell if driverless cars have staying power.

Each individual caller fends for himself/herself nowadays when using a rest stop.

Other screen devices may have changed the brains of children craving the empowerment of playing warring games on the computer or TV.  Does it change the way their eyes see what’s around them, too?  Another example could be handwriting.  Although definitely not a flash in the pan, handwriting is not being taught much in school any more.



Cursive writing used to be third-grade curriculum.  Nowadays, some people trying to communicate cannot produce an attractively legible note or letter any more, being out of practice from keyboarding.  This missing form of politeness is one of the new things that stands out to us older, wiser types.  Who doesn’t feel good when receiving a thank-you note, handwritten, for doing something nice?  Who doesn’t like the feeling of opening the mailbox and finding something personal?  A note is a work of art because the author chose the paper and pen, the thoughts, and even which postage stamp.  Add a clever seal for a final touch?  Stick on a custom-made return address label?  In the book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, author Anne Trubek states that handwriting is lauded as something that embodies positive personal qualities such as rigor over facile information processing, and individual emotion over impersonal mechanization.

Handwriting Exhibiting Fluidity and Skill

Also, she misses typing, as do I– I was so fast at it– the hard shove of the carriage return and the satisfying flick of the completed page out of the platen, Trubek writes.

Not all things new have staying power.  Like our cell phones, the computer does, for writing.  So much editing can be so easily done by a writer using the computer.  The cell phone and the computer have staying power, but how about cursive writing skill?  Can society keep valuing the forming of lovely connected marks, the fluid forward-going ellipses of cursive writing?

To repeat, the older person can often discern which people new in serving a role, or which processes/best practices will stay around versus those that soon are done for, simply a flash in the pan.  Staying power can mean “sustainable,” a well-worn word.  It brings to mind another word, “ecology,” new in the 1950s, a word that may have been coined by Rachel Carson in her famous nonfiction book SILENT SPRING.  She was the author who blew the whistle on DDT pesticide’s killing off birds .

A Darling Sleeping Baby In Spotless White Bib, whose parents will change several thousand diapers for her.



Even though plastics awareness has taken hold in the public consciousness, which is the concept that too much non-biodegradable material is bad for earth, we know that plastic items are handy and you don’t have to wash them.  Consider diapers.  From the earliest of ancient time, babies have needed diapers.  Can you imagine any parent refusing the perfectly designed and engineered Pampers, Huggies, and other paper + plastic diapers?  No, you can’t, but oddly enough, plastics, sustainable in concept, being an inventive solution with staying power in the public eye, are “non-sustainable” trash items that planet earth cannot forever provide the graveyard.

Rolls of paper towels in every kitchen are certain to stay, have the power to stay, used for blotting washed vegetables and wiping anything on any surface.  And speaking of kitchens, the iron skillet has sustained itself to good cooks.  Meats brown up in them; an iron skillet even seeming to add flavor.  An iron skillet is not just a flash in the pan; it is a cook’s old friend, perfect for braising, going straight into the oven from the cooktop.

Consider vinyl recordings.  The first grooved musical platters to be heard from the effect of a stylus in the groove of that spinning black vinyl have never disappeared for good.  Records diminished in popularity, but they have staying power, even though technology advanced to audiotape and CDs.  Those new products got popular, but vinyl record collectors held steady.  Vinyl has proven to have staying power.

Athletic competition is a fruitful area of interest when considering staying power versus the flash in the pan, both in terms of individual performers and the event as the structure for performance.  Fans who follow horse racing on television each May have heard commentary that the Triple Crown, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Horse Races, are the most popular events of all, through and through, events with staying power.

The Preakness Horse Race, Second of The Triple Crown

Close To The Finish:  The Preakness Horse Race



Consider a bouquet. Through long, long times ago and still today, presenting a bouquet has signified “You Are Successful!” whether in a stage performance, celebrating a birthday or anniversary, a get-well-quick gift, or declaration of love or appreciation.  Beautiful flowers wrapped together for passing from one hand to another have proven to have staying power.

Bouquets ensure that the beauty of nature is present for the marker event. A tiny bouquet of just a few stems is fine.

















New meanings of words, and word pairings ease communications efforts.  A current example is the popular phrase “going forward,” used in ways such as this:  “What with New York and Brooklyn’s underground train-signaling system needing an upgrade of so many billions of dollars, ‘going forward,’ what is the city to do?”  Moreover, “sayings,” even if very old, help us expedite communication.  This author is completely enamored with sayings.  If they are epigrammatic, I love them all the more.  I do not surprise myself by my choice of subject matter for this post on my six-year-old blog.

I wonder, will there be any other images that could be worked in here, into this post?  Portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Interest And Controversy Over Such Modernistic Style Continues 27 Years After His Death

Having Begun As A Graffiti Artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Body Of Work Created Fame And Fortune.  He lived 27 years, dying about 30 years ago, just after his friend Andy Warhol’s passing.  A Basquiat painting sold for over one-hundred million dollars in 2017.


Here’s an to end this post with some definitions of the term “sayings,” sayings such as “a flash in the pan,” and then here’s a list of sayings I can think of that are cool.  For my fellow word lovers and sentence writers out there in the blogosphere, and for every custodian of the English language, I say catch yourself using these sayings, and then think of little children who would benefit from an interpretation of the saying.  Especially enjoy the list if you help toddlers who would otherwise have no clue about the meaning.  Here is the string of synonyms for “sayings”:  Sayings are “epigrams,” “adages,” “maxims,” “aphorisms,” “proverbs,” “euphemisms,” “idioms,” “cliches,” “mottos,” “witticisms,” “quips,” or “old saws.”  And here are some good ones:

  1. flash in the pan: the person getting the attention cannot sustain the role
  2. fly by the seat of your pants: no approach is seen, so invent what to do
  3. God willing and the creek don’t rise: a response to an invitation that is “yes” but provides a loophole
  4. no time like the present: when opportunity presents itself, perhaps it should be taken!
  5. throw in the towel: you are beaten; the other person or situation against you has won
  6. pedaling through sauerkraut: someone who is having a tough time going in a happy flow (sauerkraut being a shredded mess of wet, fermented cabbage, it would be tricky)
  7. even monkeys fall from trees: said to comfort someone who couldn’t believe she had an accident or other negative surprise
  8. water under the bridge: don’t keep something on your mind– let it go! that thing has flowed away
  9. kill two birds with one stone: the “bird” is a task or responsibility; a smart worker doubles the accomplishment with one effort
  10. thumb in your back: someone’s thumb pushing encourages you to put your shoulders back and keep going
  11. tie a string around your finger: see it and remember; “Now, what was it I was supposed to remember?”
  12. there is no free lunch: alas, when you thought you were being given a nourishing thing for free, you ended up paying something after all
  13. eyes in the back of your head: someone in authority has a skill of transperception and sees that no misbehavior goes unnoticed
  14. keep your eyes peeled: a request for assistance in being on the lookout for something
  15. open a can of worms: detail a subject that causes tiresome communication, disinterest, or disagreement
  16. fill the bill: something or someone that is just right, what was hoped for
  17. third time’s charm: heralding that someone got or would get the desired result by keeping on after two tries
  18. a New York minute: the unknown time that something may take that usually only takes a minute or two


A Balanced Education

A balanced education for future leaders, one in the middle between Classicism and Romanticism, could be a protection for our country’s future.  Writing this thought to my two little grandchildren in a small Chronicle Books item purchased for me, probably from Paper Source, a cool stationery store, I am making my letter a blog post.  The name of the slim writerly item is “Letters To My Grandchild:  Write Now.  Read Later.  Treasure Forever:  A Paper Time Capsule.”

In choosing an entry titled “My brightest hope for the future is . . .,” I realized anew that I have a fear for the future. My fear is the threat to Democracy that Donald Trump represents.  My little grandchildren do not have a hint of a clue about politics.  It is way beyond them that the language used by this particular political candidate disregards the tradition of restraint in public discourse.  Language is significant to knowing what motivates a person.  This is the letter I wrote to my grandchildren:

My Darlings,

You fill me with hope for our world.  At my older age as a senior, I’m witnessing something unimaginable in American politics:  the antics and bluster of a presidential candidate who seems to be unfit for holding the most powerful political job in the world.  In fact, he apparently has a thinking and language disorder preventing the high function of extended thought for problem solving, perhaps the major requirement of a national president.  That skill is the capability, the gift, the aptitude providing entree into the established cadre, those leaders esteemed for patient reasoning.  God help us if this nominee stays in the race and should wrangle a victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton.  The braggart’s name, the bully, is Donald J. Trump.

When I think of our country’s future, America, our “new” world created out of Europe, the “old” world, I believe that children like you, children receiving a balanced education, children who are recipients of deep care from parents and an abundance of love from people of integrity, that you will continue our country’s heritage of Democracy.  “Democracy” means each person has dignity and is worthy of respect.

As you prepare to take on responsibilities of adulthood, may you understand both Classical and Romantic approaches to living.  “Classical” means going by tradition: standing for established standards and things of lasting significance.  It is important to understand restraint, refinement, and formality.  “Romantic” means idealized, and expressive of love, which is imaginative and may be impractical.  Both approaches are in our human nature.  It is important to also understand your ideals and hold to them.

In closing, my two bright lights of my life, I will help you understand more about the world for as long as I live, so that you may shine as brightly as you may to light up the world.

Your loving Grandmama



In a one-horse open sleigh, whoever is riding in it feels like it’s skating across snowy terrain.  Who wouldn’t feel happy doing that?  Forward you would move and hear the clip-clop of hooves muted to a mere crunch.

Let's Go! Sleigh Ride

Through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh . . .

The crunch crunch crunch of steps on snow . . . the traditions of Christmas holiday . . . do these ease the worries of winter?  Worries adults have.  Worries are not part of little kids’ thinking.  I’ve seen a five-year-old girl in Nashville whooping “Forward” as she zipped across the snowy downhill on a saucer toboggan for a quarter of a mile. What rare fun!

Open Sleigh and Reindeer

Icons of Winter

In Brooklyn, children had deeper snow for tobogganing.  Adults, bundled, hooded, and gloved, went walking.

If not from here originally, deep snow excites!

Layered Up Warmly Enough For A Walk In A 26-Inch Snowfall of Brooklyn

Winter affects people in quite different ways.  Have you known older folks who pretty much stay indoors between January and April?  In Memphis years ago, we had next-door neighbors like that.  As soon as spring had sprung, out came our neighbors for easy conversing on the patio, borrowing a typewriter, or sharing a wave or a chat at the mailboxes.  If we had been smokers, we could have had a cigarette with them.  A friend who moved to Memphis from Florida a couple of years ago set her mind to enjoying winter this year, and she decided to separate Christmas decor, laden with red and green, from winter decor.  The way she presented this change in perspective was to create “winter table landscapes” all through the house and invite friends and colleagues to learn how she became a certified table landscaper.  One side of the dining table was done up in dark blue, the other in pale turquoise.  Scarves decked the backs of chairs.  Mercury-glass pine trees deserved the highest praise for eye candy.

Beautiful Blue Landscaping, Formal On One Side Of Table, Casual On Other

Beautiful Blues And Silver Selected For A January Table Landscape

Winter 2015-2016 is with us.  What do you think of the winter scene, below, in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn?  Would you like to stay indoors, or would you prefer to bundle up, put on boots, warm socks, water-resistant gloves, cover your head, grab a Kleenex, and take a nice walk down the street.  Would you step into any snowbanks?

Take a walk down the street?

Snowbanks Alongside A Park Slope Street In Brooklyn












Interest And Controversy Over Such Modernistic Style Continues 27 Years After His Death

Having Begun As A Graffiti Artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Body Of Work Created Fame And Fortune Over About Eight Years. Critics And Ordinary People Study His Rousing Style Of Semiotics. Twenty-seven Years After His Death The Works Invigorate And Galvanize.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, born in 1960, had a life of 27 years in Brooklyn and Manhattan, although he exhibited in galleries of France, Italy, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Germany, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, beginning around 1980. In the Brooklyn Museum, my feelings became deeply aroused as I walked through the “Unknown Notebooks Exhibit.” The notebook exhibition idea captured me, I being a journal keeper these many years.

Fluent in Spanish and English, Jean-Michel Basquiat Possessed Language Aptitute and a Playful Appreciation of Words

Fluent In Spanish And English, Jean-Michel Basquiat Possessed Language Aptitude And A Playful Appreciation Of Words. Early On As A Graffiti Artist, He Would Write Words Backwards: Ex. “Rat” Meant “Tar” Calling To Mind Blackness.

The day before, I viewed one large yellow Basquiat painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the newly completed building being quite a work of art in itself, the old uptown building having gone to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I would not have developed my lasting feelings for Basquiat by viewing the strange yellow painting streaked and messy, paint drips and words cast about the unframed canvas on the wall of the Whitney.

A Video Of An Interview With Jean-Michel Basquiat Captivated Brooklyn Museum Goers.

The difference in my engagement with Jean-Michel Basquiat came with  watching a video of him being interviewed, he so unusual and cool. I also found a streamed docu-drama starring Jeffrey Wright  to watch at home.

I understand how strong a preference for certain paper and writing implements can be. A writer needs the perfect jotter to scratch the pen against. I was smitten with the realization that his aptitude for and love of language kept him buying hundreds of small, lined notebooks. They were named by the brand Marble.

One Of So Many Nottebooks The Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat Chose

One Of So Many Notebooks The Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat Chose, All Marble Notebooks.

Definitions of the word “marble” may not have escaped Basquiat’s notice (or, the jotters were cheap): 1) to mottle and streak with colors and veins in imitation of marble stone; 2) (slang) a healthy mental state: lucidness, mind, reason, sanity, sense, wit, as in “to lose your marbles” = to go mad, take leave of your senses, and (Australian) “to pass in one’s marble” = to die. Jean-Michel Basquiat wrote in all caps all the time. I came home with a few 14-page 5 X 7 blank notebooks displaying one of his exuberant, wild-eyed males, from the painting Dustheads, 1982, on the front cover, and began practicing writing fast in all caps. The back cover is black with an icon that became associated with the artist– a small, three-pointed crown.

Jean-Michel Basquait As Pictured In Brooklyn Museum Video

Jean-Michel Basquait As Pictured In The Brooklyn Museum Video. In Casual Attire Here, He Was Known For Wearing Armani Suits, Always Keeping Dreadlocks.

Basquiat Loved The Simple Crown Because He Settled On Certain Heroes, and Gave Them This Crown

The Basquiat Crown Became His Icon, Even Though Other Artists Used A Crown.

Commentary On Basquiat's Iconic Simple Crown

Commentary On Basquiat’s Iconic Simple Crown

The video of Jean-Michel Basquiat revealed to me a startlingly handsome, young and fresh-seeming man, creative, who had the aplomb to keep silent if a question came that he did not like, a skill I admire. I particularly have come to enjoy the title of that video after studying the artist’s early life. The name of the piece is RADIANT CHILD. Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up with good mothering from Matilde of Puerto Rico, beautiful wife of Gerald, of Haiti, who broadened his brilliance and upper-middle-class privileges in several ways: a child’s membership in the Brooklyn Museum, a Gray’s Anatomy for understanding the body, and literature for understanding culture. Andy Warhol met Matilde and painted her portrait in 1986, 40 X 40 inches.

In the streamed documentary, I particularly liked the response the Basquiat character gave to the aggressive interviewer who said, “Someone has termed you the ‘picaninny of the art world.'” To which Basquiat replied, “Who was that? No. The phrase was the ‘Eddie Murphy of the art world.'” It is interesting to note that the comedian Murphy was born in 1961, one year after Basquait, and also was born in Brooklyn and lived early life there. The character cast as Madonna, close friend, came across too tame in looks.

Jean-Michel Basquiat gave a modern touch to the world of art, as did Keith Haring. A quote by Cathleen McGuigan from the Robert Farris Thompson essay “Activating Heaven: The Incantatory Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” from the 1985 exhibition catalog, Mary Boone Gallery of New York, sums up the Basquiat established career: “The extent of Basquiat’s success would no doubt be impossible for an artist of lesser gifts. Not only does he possess a bold sense of color and composition, but, in his best paintings, unlike many of his contemporaries, he maintains a fine balance between seemingly contradictory forces: control and spontaneity, menace and wit . . . . Still, the nature and rapidity of his climb is unimaginable in another era.”

In closing, valuing the imagination so much, I value the uninhibited rule-breaking canon of art, huge and tiny pieces, that he imagined, drew, and painted, images others could not see otherwise. Quotes on imagination abound: Hieronymus Bosch, Flemish painter, said, “Poor is the mind that always uses the ideas of others and invents none of its own.” George Santayana, Spanish-born American philosopher, said, “I have imagination, and nothing that is real is alien to me.” The life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a life that some describe as creative genius for depiction of difficult messages and signs for American culture, passed through his life too soon. A radiance from the young man, gone these 27 years, continues to enlighten and assist. He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

TALIESIN: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Shining Brow” (Welsh) in Wisconsin

Taliesin, built by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his homeland of Spring Green, Wisconsin, near Madison, shone from the brow of the landscape, something like a crown. For him, Taliesin was imbued with hope and a homecoming freedom to the man’s soul. In this peaceful rural setting, we on tour understood more about architecture’s paradigm shift from Box to Prairie School visiting the genius architect’s “Shining Brow,” a structure put into the landscape, a home of many levels built from native sandstone, built into, not on, a beloved hill in the ancestral valley.  Frank Lloyd Wright (FLLW) built a house to increase the happiness of nature in one of his favorite places as a boy. In this home was hope for a life of unconventionality. Under influence of his mother, Anna Lloyd Wright, he came to build in the place where his grandparents had emigrated from Wales seventy years earlier.

We toured the grounds and structures on a warm June day in 2015, we dozen together. We were an intergenerational group, many with cameras, restricted to outside shooting. After four hours of touring, the human warmth of the 600-acre estate built from the work of its own valley’s laborers was palpable. So was its architect’s truth, and the developing American history of the first half of the twentieth century. Taliesin is indeed a treasured place in the world.


Taliesin was to be a combination of stone and wood, just as they met in the aspect of the hills around about. Its color like the flat stretches of sand in the river.

Taliesin was to be a combination of stone and wood, just as they met in the aspect of the hills around about. Its color like the flat stretches of sand in the river. “The whole was low, wide, and snug, a broad shelter seeking fellowship with its surroundings,” said Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s intellectual power, natural charisma, his being self-taught in skills of farming and building, not trained to pursue a certain sweep of established practices . . .   these traits enabled the unique twists in the built structure combined with nature’s beauty, precepts that his mentor Louis Sullivan promulgated.

Readers of this post, what follows are tour notes scratched down in a four by five thin booklet, I standing and listening with gratitude to finally be where I was. Narration was by Brian, a three-decades-experienced describer of the architecture and points of personal interest of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 600 acres and the inhabitants.

Note #1  Out of the shuttlebus, we viewed the architecture design school, a sandstone building termed Hillside School. The structure once had a gymnasium, now a theatre, and wore the date 1903. The only such cornerstone adorns this building:

Frank Lloyd Wright, being Welsh, preserved a strange-spelling language by using the initials FLLW, as seen on this unique stone. Later cornerstones became red tiles. just a few. tiles

Frank Lloyd Wright, being Welsh, preserved a strange-spelling language by using the initials FLLW, as seen on this unique stone. Later cornerstones were red tiles, just twenty-one in all. They meant “FLLW approved.”

Can you imagine how thrilled members of this group felt entering the first building of the grandest Taliesin tour? Our narrator described the structure as a co-ed boarding school named Hillside Home School. It was said to have once accommodated 150 learners. Standing in the Assembly Room, we learned that FLLW’s grandfather saw to it that a phrase from the poem “Gray’s Elegy” was inscribed on the stone wall. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard” is said to be the supreme example of eighteenth-century graveyard poetic expressions, i.e. a somber and thoughtful view of life.  I include the stanza carved into the stone wall: Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! These words bear evidence to FLLW’s Welsh heritage. Born in him was a sensitivity for the beauties and grandeur of nature. This poem, say critics, heralds lowly folk, which matches a strong take-away message of this tour–  FLLW built Taliesin with the labor of farming folk of Spring Green. He got the quarrying, stone masonry, carpentry, electrician work, and more done by members of the community, some of whose laborers possessed similar skills as did FLLW, practical skills of the farm. Of course, his enormous talent encompassed design, drawing, music, construction of  homes, fireplaces, and furniture.

HILLSIDE, built for architecture students when FLLW was about 35 (b. 1867), with influence from Welsh grandparents. Inside on a stone wall, grandfather inscribed a stanza of "Gray's Elegy" and grandmother, on a wooden beam, a verse from Isaiah of the Old Testament.

HILLSIDE, built for students when FLLW was about 35 (b. 1867), with influence from Welsh grandparents and his mother. Inside on a stone wall, grandfather inscribed a stanza of “Gray’s Elegy” and grandmother, on a wooden beam, a verse from Isaiah 40 of the Old Testament.

Today this building houses work stations for architectural students seeking a master’s degree. Their place for drafting was referred to as the “Abstract Forest” for its dense collection of heavy structural V-shaped braces. The space was a forerunner to the Johnson Wax Building that FLLW designed.

Our tour moved in this building to include having a seat in the theatre of 120 chairs. Both a curtain like no other and a favorite quote by Walt Whitman burnished this most interesting space:   Wisdom . . . something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul. The colorful stage curtain, made of cotton, canvas, and string, was designed by FLLW but put aside for many years. The name of the curtain was “View of the Valley in Abstract, Late Summer.” Mrs. Wright, Olgiavanna, Yugoslavian last wife, eventually recruited interns to sew his design and hang the curtain as a surprise. When FLLW analyzed what the students had produced, he arranged for a few changes, such as more gold cloth and more vertical bands of black. Apparently the many blocks of green cloth pleased him. The theatre welcomes patrons for performances by the Bach Dynamite Dancing Society and also hosts the Unity Chapel Concert Series.

Note #2  There are three Taliesins– I, II, III because of two fires. The first fire was lit by a deranged gardener who had been terminated. Seven people died in the fire. The first Taliesin stood five years. The second fire, lit by lightening, devastated the eleven-years-standing Taliesin II. Again, as in the first fire, the merciless winds, FLLW exclaimed, carried the flames to a dozen places burning up the living space but not the office, place of creative genius. Local lore has it that it seemed God was dissatisfied with the architect’s character and personal life, but not his work. In rebuilding after each fire, the Courtyard  increased. The Carriage House, where horses could be watered and cared for, was moved further back. Taliesin III has 3,700 feet of courtyards, after five decades of development. FLLW stated that Taliesin would never be completed, and freely took risks to change elements. Changes were welcomed if they were governed by the concept of “Implicit Diagonality.” Our narrator said that a new term is needed, a simpler term.

In the brochure about the tour, one can read that red was FLLW’s favorite color. He wrote of stones turned red, dyed by fire and reused. He said a richness had been added. The chosen red is a Cherokee red, the color of ironstone, as trims the house and is shown in the barns for Guernsey cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. Only Guernseys were put on the estate. Being tan or brown, they colored the landscape harmoniously without dotting it, as would black and white animals.

Red was said to be Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite color. The red on the barn today is brighter than the Cherokee red, or Ironstone seen on the house.

Red was said to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite color. The red on the barns today is brighter than the Cherokee red, or Ironstone seen on the house.

Note #3  Inside the Architect’s Residence we saw the table upon which FLLW drew the famous Fallingwater Home built in Pittsburgh. The drawings were produced in three hours, just before the buyer arrived to seal the deal that had been arranged on the telephone. According to Brian the narrator, this true story evidences that the design was completely finished in the mind of the genius architect. All that remained was the “downloading” onto paper once the opportunity for the sale presented itself.

Taliesin contains seventeen fireplaces. FLLW called them strong, quiet, rectangular rock-masses from the outside, bespeaking comfort within. Some burn vertical logs, something unusual and beautiful. So much work to cut logs, then carry them in and light fires– this  was a factor in the decision to establish Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, where interns and others in service could winter, returning to Taliesin Main during warmer seasons in Wisconsin.

Taliesin houses seven concert grand pianos of Bechstein brand. FLLW’s father was a piano teacher, and young Frank received so much music. All his architectural creations were like music to him. Our narrator placed much emphasis on the musical turn of mind FLLW possessed. In the short heyday of the estate when noted architects and literati gathered, some of them also musicians, the piano, violin, and cello sang of Bach, Beethoven, and Handel. A delightful piece of plywood furniture, never seen before by this tourist, had a purpose– it positioned four seated players facing in, their wooden music stands built in. The structure was a circle. Our narrator stated that one, the last one, was built for Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady, and that she eventually donated it to one of the Smithsonian Museums.

Many large Asian statues and many wall-hangings, notably a Japanese masterpiece by Tan Yeng from the late 1400s, adorned the living space. A quote from a book purchased in the gift shop after the tour (Taliesin, edited and photographed by Yukio Futagawa, 2002, Tokyo) addresses the curiosity about the many statues:  “If the eye rested on some ornament it could be sure of worthy entertainment. Hovering over these messengers to Taliesin from other civilizations and thousands of years ago, must have been spirits of peace and good-will? Their figures seemed to shed fraternal sense of kinship from their places in the stone or from the broad ledges where they rested. For the story of Taliesin, after all, is old:  old as the human spirit. These ancient figures were traces of that spirit, left behind in the human procession as Time went on, and they now come forward to find rest and feel at home. So it seemed as you looked at them. But they were only the story within the story:  ancient comment on the New.”

Note #4  It seems to tour-goers to be true that Mr. Wright likely enjoyed life at Taliesin III with his young wife Olgivanna Lazovich Hinzenburg, of Montenegro and Yugoslavia, pupil of the philosopher Gurdjieff. We imagine they spent their days in the harmonious and subtle shelter that was the third edition of Taliesin with their daughter Iovanna. A surprise is born! A late change comes– 1953! FLLW acquires steel trusses that were part of a freight vessel on Lake Michigan. A highly unusual long jut is built into the house exterior off a living-room balcony. A steel truss, a lengthy I beam girder, it is supported in the middle by a stone pylon and named the Bird Walk; it was the wife’s idea. This disturbing walkway would in no way be thought of as an abomination because of the “form follows function” genre of architecture. Its reason for being? It was the site for seeing as birds in the treetops see, a lesson in perspective. FLLW stated of his beloved Taliesin that it would never be finished and that it had no inharmonious discrepancy. A nature-loving couple, happy at home, a workshop home, a home with a school wherein architects learn from the master to take risks, this is the unique Taliesin.

Walking Away From Taliesin The Home

With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

Reflections of a Group Tour of Memphis’s NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

IMG_5379MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., Strategizing With The President

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to MLKJr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

Thanks to friend Meg for her suggestion to write this post.  Meg is one of about a dozen of us UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER folks who toured the world-renown, one-of-a-kind museum, THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.  What follows is  a brief sketch of our experience.  For readers in far-away places who may not be familiar with Memphis, Tennessee history, we are the place in which the gifted and unrelenting  leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought bravely, risking his life time after time to gain equal rights under the law for all races, was assassinated.  In about 1968, Martin led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  He won that fight when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law an assurance that no potential voter could be hindered from registering.  This was a breakthrough, long-overdue, for Blacks who indeed registered and voted out of office White oppressor officials of Selma, and against Alabama Governor George Wallace, who maintained that the status quo was the way folks preferred things to be.  Martin fought further for the dignity of being human and the equality of all people under the Constitution of the United States.  Sadly, his work was divisive, disruptive; James Earl Ray assassinated Martin in Memphis April 4, 1968.  Martin stepped out onto the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel and took a bullet that detonated inside him.  Martin and entourage at the Lorraine were lodging at Mulberry and Huling Streets, perhaps the only hotel admitting Blacks at that time.  The Lorraine is now the site of the world-renown museum, having received millions of dollars from local corporations, after languishing for many years.

The Lorraine Motel is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

The Lorraine Motel of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exuberant.  He was an older African American whose passionate storytelling pulled us into the fray, starting with life-size models of chained slaves brought to the Americas to increase wealth of plantation owners and continuing to the centuries-later burned-out Greyhound Freedom Riders bus.  After touring the room with exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement gaining footing, a footing that was a nonviolent strategy rooted in Mahatma Gandhi’s success in gaining India’s independence from England, we visitors had our attention drawn to Malcolm X, a leader planting the seed of Black entrepreneurial necessity, turning from White institutions, a “Black Power” strategy that did not embrace nonviolence.

Malcolm X Embraced A Different Approach From MLKJr.

Malcolm X Embraced a Different Approach Toward Advancing Blacks That Countered the Nonviolent Peaceful Demonstrations Led By Martin Luther King, Jr.

 The walls of the museum presented us with the rise of and demand for Black arts and literature, termed “Black Is Beautiful.”  This visual art was so engaging that it was easy for me to fall behind the tour group.  Thus I had both a group and a single experience.  The advantages of group touring are obvious: one gains so many details from the storyteller and energy for extensive exhibits requiring hours. Going singly would have the advantage of focusing on a particular slice of the history of African-Americans, from the beginning of slavery in 1691 through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the present.

In Selma, Alabama, Applicants Attempting To Register To Vote Were Humiliated.

Young Protestors Coming Of Age To Vote




Coretta Scott King, Widow  of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

Coretta Scott King, Widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.



Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime.  We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint).  They told me things I wondered about:  getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript.  The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business.  Authors submit to guidelines precisely.  Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)!  In addition, a good tip came:  a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.

McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk.  In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively).  For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes.  He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father.  He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session.  The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange  was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace.  It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand.  What do you think . . .  Is it true?  Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”


Three Nights In City of “Big Shoulders,” The Windy City

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

Chicago is the second largest city in the country, if you speak from history and don’t mention that johnny-come-lately western megametropolis that has outgrown the City of Big Shoulders. Travel to the great city of Chicago has prompted me to write. Hubby and I spent three nights there vacationing in late June. For a vacation highlight, after Millennium Park and The Art Institute, we chose the AIA-designed Architectural Boat Tour down the Chicago River, having first, early in the morning of our boat tour, doing our spin mini-workout in the hotel’s fitness center two levels down. Dear readers, come with us now, in present tense, as we are perked, motivated, and ready for the rave-reviewed Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, boarding at noon.

The Chicago “First Lady,” a member of the river’s finest fleet, is our safe, US Coast Guard-inspected vessel. We have a knowledgeable volunteer architect with a good personality and a nice summer fedora as our narrator. I am at the ready with my ballpoint to snag on paper any unfamiliar architectural terms I hear. “Cladding” and “pediment” I know, but I jot down “dark recessed spandrels,” and “chair effect.” I was also off and running to the bar and back. Thus I am very busy, sipping iced raspberry-flavored gin lemonade, listening to the brilliant narrator, and spotting the first buildings depicted on the excellent brochure received with ticket purchase. The narrator, introduced by the ship captain, varied his presentation slightly from the brochure’s pictures of skyscrapers rendered in six major delineations of architectural styles. The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are one of the most respected volunteer groups in the world, receiving hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  Our guide seemed to be interested in Beaux Arts period, not listed, as are these: 1) Early Warehouse of 1910, 2) Historic Revival, taking hold by 1925 with the Chicago Tribune Building as the amazing example, 3) Art Deco of the next two decades, (may overlap with the Beaux Arts category), and 4) Mid 20th Century Modern, under the indelible influence of Mies van der Rohe who believed “less is more.” Noteworthy eye-catching twin towers of this era are Marina City, a multiuse complex.  It has semicircular residential balconies above high-rise parking, and was completed in 1967 by Bertrand Goldberg. Continuing the genres depicted on the brochure: 5) Post-Modern of the 1980s, whose architects believed “less is a bore,” and 6) Contemporary, as evidenced by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang’s Aqua at Lakeshore East Building completed in 2009. That same year, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill built the Trump Hotel and Tower of over 90 stories.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of "Historic Revival" architectural style.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of “Historic Revival” architectural style.

Entrance to Tribune Building

Entrance to Tribune Building

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

I could not possibly write all of the many anecdotes that amused us as we cruised down the Chicago River for 90 minutes, but I will mention a favorite building of mine that was next door to our Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel: The Aon, third tallest skyscraper in the city, first constructed with Italian Carrera marble cladding for about $120 million. During the first year or so, to the building’s insurers’ regret, it was realized that the marble could not withstand the Chicago winters, and it was removed. The second cladding was done with North Carolina white granite for about $80 million.

I also liked the skyscraper built next to Chicago’s tallest. The tallest is the former Sears Tower, renamed Willis Tower, at a height of 1,451 feet, built by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. The pretty pink building with blue glass, next to the Willis, was described as wearing a tiara. She is affectionately referred to as “Pink Lady.”

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To Chicago's Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To, Chicago’s Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Lastly, 333 West Wacker Drive, a 1983 debut in Chicago of Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, represents “contextualism,” and is a favorite of the area said our narrator. It presents a curved, shimmering, green-tinted façade flowing in harmony with the river’s hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river's hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river’s hue.

Skyscrapers evoke emotions. As I walked past a favorite, the third tallest, the perfectly pristine minimalist Aon Building on the way to explore the Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago, The Gage Restaurant, and Potbellies for lunch, my widening eyes scanned the thousand plus feet of the clean, narrowed rectangle’s creamy surface. The overall effect is one of immaculate grooming and unsurpassed excellence of “punctum,” a word for the artist’s way to penetrate an image.

Chicago, I love you, and yes, I would move to live in you, if I am not too old to change from a smaller Southern city to the “second” greatest American city (Chicagoans do not like becoming third after Los Angeles that outgrew them). Chicago, you grew from an onion- and garlicky-smelling swamp the Native Americans lived close to but apart from to a grand urban place. Chicago, you became the meat-packing and mail-order giant of the New World. You launched the muckraking novels of Upton Sinclair with your industries needing reform. Montgomery Ward, the retailer, started the first catalog in 1872 to benefit farmers needing supplies. He coined the phrase “money back guarantee.” Chicago, your river, Chicago River, had to be reversed to overcome its toxicity spoiling the drinking water from Lake Michigan decades back. Current Mayor Ram Emmanuel, in his fifties, announced that in his lifetime, the river will be free of pollution. Our guide told us that the mayor belongs to the most elite fitness club in the world, the East Bank Club, Barack Obama’s club. He said the club was built, in times past, to turn its back on the river, so toxic the river was. Times have changed, and the structures across the river from East Bank Club now face the river, no longer toxic but somewhat polluted. The culture of Chicago embraces and appreciates the continuing potentiality of the Chicago River. Developers, taking their cues from San Antonio, Texas, have begun their own River Walk for tourists. Each new construction is required by ordinance to include a walk-by design. This is an inspiring city. Chicagoans know how to change, problem-solve, think up good, democratic for-the-people plans and complete them. Chicago, you are a complete, huge, vibrant, attractive urban community.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) ( offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) ( offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed  with wave-like balconies

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed with wave-like balconies




A Chicago Getaway being a road trip, I decided to pack my computer in hopes of getting the typing done while I was documenting Chicago travel with my husband. Here is how the writing/typing went:  Today is Day 3 of the Getaway, and I am watching hubby sleep. He deserves a long morning sleep, not just because he loves to stay up late, but on this particular day because he rescued me from a seriously inconvenient potentiality. Here is the story; it will renew your faith in public goodness:

I left my beige, lightweight-polyester fanny pack on a resting bench in Tenza Piano Park outside The Art Institute of Chicago. I had the fanny pack to be able to carry only essentials– driver’s license for ID, a credit card and cash, a lipstick, a Kleenex, and a ballpoint. The fanny pack wasn’t perfect, and I had to hold a small camera, so I bought a perfect lightweight tote for over the shoulder and deposited the fanny pack into it. Exhausted from a full day of viewing, three hours before lunch, then another three hours after, we exited the Art Institute. I lay down and used the fanny pack for a pillow. Still tired, needing a cool drink of water and also planning for a gin and tonic for revival before dinner, I got up and walked toward hubby to depart the area. I was a definite Grumpy Cat until we did find a cool bottle of water for sale from a vendor. Then we sat for a while watching young acrobats show off in a groomed public-art area dotted with metal statues. The statues were wonderfully engaging in that, of all the dozen or more, their demeanor was depressed. Most individuals entering the area felt the engagement, went to them, put an arm around them, or sat on their laps. One person rested his hand on the statue’s thigh seated next to him. I also felt drawn to the standing statue close to where we were sitting, and so I stood beside one, mimicking his posture.


A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

After that pleasant rest, we walked on our “last” legs toward our dinner destination, agreeing that a drink in an ancient and accepted hotel, Hotel Congress, would be where we would order the gin and tonics, which we did begin to enjoy. Thus, about an hour had passed since departing Tenza Piano Gardens, and I dug into my lightweight carrybag bought at the museum, and immediately realized the silly undersized fanny pack had gone missing! My second realization was that the contents, my life essentials, of the missing fanny pack were now available to whichever “finders-keepers” type had picked it up from the bench! Note: Here is one reason why a girl needs a bloke—he immediately set out to the careless spot, never thinking twice about our fatigue level. In just a short time, he called to say, “I’ve got it! You are a lucky girl!” Lucky indeed I was, and totally surprised. This was a grand shared moment. Good ol’ Chicago people of public life. No needy thief had selected my silly tan headrest left on the bench in the garden! Chicago, I think I love you.