Nighthawks

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942

We spent the day at the Chicago Art Institute. It was a bit rainy, but no ma. We ate breakfast in the hotel and it was less than two blocks to the museum. We’ve been to this art museum before, but it’s so fine that visiting it again was sublime.

Hopper’s painting is a family favorite and although he set it in NYC, it wears well here in Chicago too. We walked the night-hawk life ourselves tonight. Normally, i.e. yesterday, we’ve been back in our room by sundown. You can’t really count Monday, because the train was so late, we never could have been in-house before sunset. There is danger here after dark.

Murder, assault and robbery abound. Read the news. Listen to our President. He knows. I know that he has been here. He left one of his towers down the street. Risking all, we stepped out for the night. Our destination, Art on the Mart. We are staying inside the Loop, which is not the same as being in-the-loop, but we walked outside the Loop, which is not the same as being out-of-the-loop.

The Mart is Chicago’s furniture market. It’s the country’s second largest building, by floorspace, second only to the Pentagon. All that floorspace creates quite the façade, when crammed into two blocks, especially fronting on the Chicago River. We viewed the light show from across the river, above the projectors.

Art on the Mart

Key West Curb Art

Key West Curb Art

I want a tree like this, a tree with a face. When we were in Key West, we tended to eschew Duval Street and favored the back streets instead. It seemed like every home, every building had character. Was a character. I guess that’s what you get, when you live at both the end of the world and in paradise. Key West seems like a throwback, to an earlier time. It really isn’t, but it feels that way. 

We are almost ready for the painters/plasters, a father and son team. Except for last minute items the rooms to be renovated are stripped of adornment. They echo now, what with the walls being bare. I have great expectations for what they will look like when done. The muscle soreness that I induced earlier this week, with a monumental day of moving, has begun to fade. I look forward to a completely repainted main floor. After thirty plus years, the place will look as nice again as the day we bought it.

Footed Salver

Footed Salver

The term “salver” is derived from the custom of presenting food and drink to a servant who would ensure it was safe from treachery by tasting it. By the 1600s, a salver or serving platter, was a common part of tableware. This salver is far from common, however. It is made of gold and decorated with intricate patterns hand-chiseled by a masterful artisan. Two marks on the back of the platter, though difficult to read, establish the plate’s origin in the New World and indicate Spain’s quinto tax had been paid.

This particular treasure from the sunken Spanish treasure galleon Atocha, may not be the most politic of images to share in a post about a luncheon with former colleagues, but it does speak to some trepidation that I had about attending. As it turned out, it was all for naught. No one showed and I was seated at a big table. Fortunately, the place never filled. After half-an-hour I ordered lunch for myself. It did feel odd sitting alone at such a big table. Eventually, a familiar face arrived. Ken told me that this week’s lunch had been cancelled and he was there only, because he needed his car serviced nearby. He ordered too and we had a nice quiet lunch together. He took my email and promised to forward it to the guy that organizes these things, so that next time I can get the word too. 

Beautiful

Beautiful Playbill

We saw Beautiful – The Carole King Musical last night at the Fox. We had seen this show before, when we were in London, but it was good to see it again. This musical tells the story of her songwriting career from her high school debut to her appearance at Carnegie Hall, after the release of Tapestry. I prepped for the evening’s show by listening to the soundtrack, which I had on steady rotation, while I was also preparing for next week’s plaster/paint extravaganza. I did catch the noon local NPR show that interviewed Paul Blake, the Beautiful producer. Blake had been the Muny impresario for decades and on opening night, he would introduce each week’s show. I had hoped that he would do the same for the Saint Louis debut of Beautiful, but it was not to be. After the show we did see John, my former colleague and mentor. He told me about a regular luncheon of retired Boeing engineers that I now plan to attend. You can look for me there, sitting at the old guy’s table.

Robocalls

NYC telephone totem from Life Underground, Tom Otterness, 2001

This is the first Monday after daylight savings time has returned. We were awoken by a call from Kelly, asking Anne, if she wanted to work this afternoon. The job offer was for the Early Childhood Center (ECC), which the Kelly robot always pronounces as Eek! We refer to it as plague central. Why Kelly felt obliged to call so early on what is arguably one of the hardest morning to get up on, is a mystery. A normal person would have waited for a more decent hour before calling, but in this personification, Kelly was just another heartless automaton.

I also suffer from robocalls, but their root cause is even more mysterious. I have a suspicion though. Just before I was inundated, I signed up for the rewards program at Schuncks, where I use my cell number as an identifier to get a 2% discount. It could just be coincidence, because I’ve used said number for other things too. Caller ID shows that most of these robocalls originate locally, in neighboring Ladue. It does seem somewhat incongruous that hoity-toity La-dee-do hosts a call center, but if even tonier Frontenac can house a trailer park, then why not a phone bank in Ladue? Or, the spammers could just be spoofing me.

I’ve railed against this epidemic before and recently I did something about it. Our provider, AT&T offers an app called, Call Protect. It is supposed to block these unwanted calls. I downloaded it over the weekend, making today, its first real trial. So far, I am underwhelmed. It has not blocked a single call. It does offer an easier way to individually block spam calls and supposedly will give an accounting of its success, but that still remains to be seen. The app was free, but can be upgraded for four buck a month. I am reluctant to pay for three reasons. I haven’t seen any benefits yet, I already pay AT&T way too much already and I am adverse to giving money to a business that is arguably part of the problem.

It smacks too much of ransomware. Neither do I hold out much hope with my manually blocking of numbers. There are some 6,400,000,000 possible legit phone numbers in the US alone. This number is way too conservative though, because many of these robocalls have illegitimate numbers or no number at all, think blocked numbers. Hey, maybe the Donald is trying to reach me?

Fueling my rage, John Oliver has just harped on this subject too. His trenchant satire is guaranteed to at least bring a smile to your seething. He stuck it to HBO’s “business daddy,” AT&T, mocked Susan Collins for a contrived spoofing stunt, but saved his most venomous enmity for FCC commissioner and “goober,” Ajit Pai. His closing stunt was to unleash an avalanche of robocalls upon Pai and his fellow commissioners via a giant button-pushing fake finger. It was a futile and stupid gesture that left the audience roaring. 

Art in Bloom

While Anne was at school, I walked to the art museum and attended their Art in Bloom show. In this show, florists arrange their bouquets to mimic artworks in the museum’s permanent collection. Pictured is Bob Hauck’s arrangement that is based on the sculpture Titan. Using black calla lilies, he won best in show. The following is the museum’s synopsis of the underlying Lüpertz sculpture: 

A monumental bronze figure stands with feet firmly planted, one arm raised while the other extends straight ahead. Markus Lüpertz modeled the pose of Titan after an ancient Greek sculpture of the god Zeus who is preparing to throw a lightning bolt. According to Greek mythology, Zeus led the Olympians to victory over the Titans, older deities, in a ten-year battle for control of the world. In contrast to the balanced proportions and smooth surface of the original sculpture, this work has roughly formed features and a craggy texture that expresses the brute strength of the Titans. Lüpertz painted a leg and arm green, creating the appearance of an ancient patina that reinforces his references to classical art and mythology.

This opening was crowded, what with the presence of the florists. Anne called while I was viewing all this. I had forgotten that she was only working a half day. She ended up getting a walk in too, on her way home from school.