Sunday, November 2, 2008
Halloween with PuppetBike and eating with Obama
We're into November already, and it's warm enough to sit outdoors comfortably at Bonjour in just a t-shirt. This may be the last opportunity of the year, so I marked the occasion by getting a chocolate espresso tart decorated with music notes as a treat for later.
I was going to celebrate Halloween by going straight home from work and vacuuming, then reading in bed—such are Friday nights for the reclusive introvert—but PuppetBike (and artist/inventor Jason Trusty) saved me from myself with an invitation to a party at the Peter Jones Gallery.
After dinner at the convenient Lloyd's Chicago, J. and I headed to the Brown Line at Washington and Wells. There, we ran into "Jesus"—a dreadlocked man dressed in fleecy robes with fashionably tattered jeans showing. He was with a normally dressed young woman, following her and talking seemingly nonstop at her. It was going to be an interesting evening.
As we were walking from Montrose to the gallery, J. stopped as he saw a middle-aged man emerging from a car and asked if he'd taught high school in the south suburbs—he resembled one of J.'s teachers. The answer was no. As we moved on, I pointed out that a teacher who looked like that man 30–35 years ago would be in his 70s or 80s now. The thought took J. aback momentarily—in his impulsive way, he hadn't thought of that. Who but me would? In my mind, my teachers, most of whom I liked, are frozen in time in the prime of life, in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Some of the older ones have passed away, and it's difficult for me to picture even the younger ones as retired. How much the world and education have changed since then!
We ran into this couple a short time after we'd arrived. The man who was not J.'s teacher was dressed in a one-piece, sparkly red turkey costume, but he said the head was too hot to wear. The neck protruded from below his abdomen, with the head hanging limply. He must have picked up a subtle cue from my glance, because he said, "Hmmm, I guess it does look a little questionable." Later we saw that he'd fastened the head to his chest with a small binder clip. In the meantime, his wife was dressed as a flapper, although he told her plan was to change into a chef's uniform. I pictured her running him down while wielding a meat cleaver . . .
Homemade costumes can be the most creative, but the one I liked best was off the rack: a pantsuit that made the young woman look like a boa constrictor. To complete the effect, she carried a realistic toy snake over her shoulder and arm.
Alan Emerson Hicks' "Time Machine" was under wraps for a show in the spring, and the front part of the gallery had been taken over by women's art. Some of it was very good, and interestingly I can't say that I would have guessed the theme was women's art. The subjects were more varied than I would have expected, although not broad in scope. I found a pinhole tintype especially intriguing.
Several people introduced themselves. but rarely can I remember names. In general, the crowd was older than I expected and very friendly.
PuppetBike, which had been entertaining at a park earlier in the day, appeared at about 9:15 p.m.—for a moment I thought it was going to run me down. J. had to be up by 6:00 a.m. on Saturday for work and wanted to catch the 11:05 p.m. train, so at around 9:50 I had to drag him and his camera away, successfully only after the third or fourth attempt.
While waiting for the bus, I noticed a lot of adults in costumes. Seeing them combined with the early exit and the ongoing issues I face daily made me wish I had enjoyed life more when I was younger—too many restrictions and too little energy now.
Yesterday J. came over for a pre-sunset walk at Osaka Garden and dinner at Medici on 57th, where their t-shirts proclaim, "Obama eats here." The important questions are: What does he eat? When? And does he leave good tips? Am I the only person in Kenwood-Hyde Park who has never encountered Obama?
Medici is in a different building than it was when I was in college, and it has changed in other ways, too. Sunday brunch was introduced, and the menu has been expanded beyond burgers, pizza, and drinks like himbeersaft. Last night, something struck me as subtly different, and it took a few minutes before I pinpointed it—the silverware was wrapped in maroon (more or less) cloth napkins, with no paper napkins in sight. I drew J.'s attention to this detail and said, "That's because Obama eats here."
Throughout dinner, we admired the door into the kitchen, which is suspended from a vertical beam. On one side of the door is open space (not quite enough to comfortably fit through), and on the other are condiment shelves attached to the beam. If the open space doesn't provide enough visibility of comings and goings to avoid accidents, there's a cutout in the door. As busboys and servers dumped off glass after glass, cup after cup, plate after plate for a young man at the sink to rinse and stack for dish washing, I pictured him someday going insane and screaming, "NO! NO MORE OF YOUR GLASSES! I'M DONE! I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT OR THEM ANYMORE!"
After dinner, I visited the facilities and was surprised to pass through a door that hadn't been there before. I was more surprised when it opened onto a room with a sink and three doors leading off it, like in one of those "Choose the door with the tiger behind it and you die" scenarios from a 1960s spy series. Two were labeled "GIRLS," one "BOYS." The old narrow, graffiti-covered stalls are history.
I entered the nearest "GIRLS," which was surprisingly clean. It also had a sink with an automatic faucet. When I came out, I noticed that the room I had been in was also labeled for disabled access. I told J. that the restrooms had been upgraded because "Obama eats here," although I did admit that ADA compliance was probably more of a factor.
Before Medici we had stopped at a TV screen in the window at Urban Search and lusted after huge area homes with hardwood floors, fireplaces, and, in some cases, medieval-style exteriors, mostly in the high six figures and on into seven figures. Next lifetime . . . afterward, we nipped into two more Medici ventures—University Market and the bakery. Does Obama shop there, too? I wonder. If so, I recommend the chocolate croissants—which, alas, were sold out.
And so on to the Flamingo for tea and a jackpot version of Antiques Roadshow. Imagine buying a chair that "looks old" at a garage sale and finding out it's a Chippendale worth $1,500–$2,000 at auction. J. doesn't understand how the sellers of such items don't know their value. I told him my theory—that when people are in a hurry to move or clean up, they look at such things as "that old rickety chair that you can't even sit on comfortably" and say, "Let's get rid of the old thing." The appraiser was beside himself with the excitement of such an extraordinary—and recent—find.
An older woman brought a lovely painting of Lake Louise that, if I remember right, she'd bought for $5 while on vacation. I can't recall the exact appraised value, but I think it was more than $50,000 or $60,000. And to think she'd bought it mainly as a pretty souvenir.
Isn't this the stuff of every junk collector's dreams? Remember that the next time you are thinking of getting rid of an old chair or painting . . . it could be a down payment on one of those Urban Search mansions.