So Fred, how was your flight? Can we agree that the less there is to say on this matter, the better off things have been? We’re dealing here with the hoped-for absence of negatives, as in, no news is good news. No, our flight was not delayed for ten hours, making us camp out at the airport. No, we didn’t miss it altogether because of the long lines going through Security. No, the plane to Chicago was not re-routed to Newfoundland. No, our luggage was not misplaced, mishandled, nor misdirected. No, they did not forget our kosher meals. No, we did not suffer any ill effects from consuming said kosher meals.
We – and that includes Scottie, the Evangelical we had met at Ben-Gurion – arrived in one piece at O’Hare Airport at the crack of dawn after twelve hours in the sky. Barbara texted Tina that we had arrived, prompting a flurry of back-and-forth’s, the upshot being that, on our way out of the terminal, we espied a young woman holding a sign: CASDEN, Barbara.
That’s never happened before to us; it’s always other people who are going to be picked up in a limo and driven to their destination, leaving the rest of us plebs to fend for ourselves. But sooner or later it gets to be your turn to be treated like royalty. Our luggage was placed in the trunk of an over-sized car, and we were whisked away to our destination, the Lurye residence on N. LaSalle St. in Old Town, a fancy-shmancy residence in one of the fancy-shmancy sections of Chicago, a mixture of stately old residences and modern high-rise apartment buildings, some as many as fifty stories.
Alex and Anya’s house had been put up sometime in the 1890’s. Then, like many other similar buildings, it had been turned into multiple apartments, one on each floor. Finally, some enterprising sort bought the building (and the matching one next door), gutted it, hired an architect, and turned it back into a single-family dwelling. At the back of the building, where the garage is now, was the carriage house, and on top of the garage, which had been the servants’ quarters, was now a guest suite where we would be staying.
It was still early in the morning when we arrived, but Anya was waiting for us, bright and chipper. How big is this place; it keeps going back. How many flights up the stairs do I need to shlepp our suitcases? Wait; there’s an elevator down the hall… We could and would stay awhile, probably more comfortably than on the couch in Tina and David’s living room. Not only would we have more privacy, much of the time we would be there alone, as The Luryes would be bouncing back and forth between Chicago and their lakefront property in Michigan. Settle in and relax; that’s the ticket.
Sometimes you get lucky…
According to Tina’s doctor, she could rejoin the world on Friday, wearing a mask. (That was assuming that no one else in the family tested positive.) That gave us a ‘free day’ on Thursday to wander about the city to our hearts’ content. I’m not sure what we would have done or where we would have gone, except someone (I think it was Anya) said one word that brought joy to my heart (and Barbara’s too), and that word was CEZANNE. By dumb luck, we had arrived in Chicago in time to see a large exhibit of his work at the Art Institute.
For many years, I’ve nurtured this fantasy: having the time and the money to travel all over the world for one purpose: to go to museums and galleries wherever and whenever something important was on display. I’d have a private secretary, who would announce, ‘There will be a Chardin exhibit at the Louvre starting next Feb. I’ve arranged your flight, your stay at the Hotel Magnifique, your kosher food, and your tickets to the exhibition – if that meets with your approval.’ Doesn’t happen, the same way that there’s never anyone waiting for us at an airport with a limo. But wait; that did just happen! And now, there it was, my fantasy coming true, just an Uber ride away. (“This exhibition is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States in more than 25 years and the first exhibition on Cezanne organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in more than 70 years.”) Better get there quick; I may not be around the next time.
Bright and early on Thurs. morning, our Uber driver dropped us off in front of the Art Institute. We asked the official-looking person standing on the top of the steps where the entrance was. ‘Are you members?’ he replied. If so, we could walk right in; if not, we’d have to wait until 11AM for the doors to open. All right, we’d walk around the park for half an hour. There must have been a lot of people doing something similar, or who knew to the minute when they had to arrive, because at 11AM on the dot when the doors opened to the public, there were lots of people ahead of us on line to buy tickets.
I handed my credit card to the efficient-looking young man behind the booth. Two, please; seniors. ‘Are you planning to see the Cezanne exhibit?’ he asked. There are moments when it pays to control one’s snarkiest impulses, as in: No, we came all this way just came to admire the Belle Epoque architecture. Instead, I politely nodded in assent and accepted the increased charge for admission. Only later did we realize that the efficient-looking young man had charged us the higher amount that younger people have to pay. What we won’t do for Cezanne.
I have a lot of experience going through museums – first when they, like many other amenities, were free and attracted a modest crowd, and then later when they began charging ever-increasing fees to attract as many people as they could cram into a gallery. There is an art to going through a crowded BLOCKBUSTER exhibition and coming out in one piece. It’s basically go with the flow. Sidle your way to the least crowded spot and worm your way around until you get to see everything. And once you get to where you want to be, don’t feel pressured to move on. (If I had the resources, I’d make a YouTube video demonstrating my technique.)
Several hours later, we had paid proper attention to each of the eighty oil paintings and the forty watercolors on display. You could spend your whole life in museums and not see that many works by an artist considered by his contemporaries as ‘the greatest of us all.’ And to think, we didn’t even know that the show existed until the day before. Sometimes you get lucky.
There was a lot more to see in the museum, but we needed a break. We walked around the business area near the museum, winding up at a Dunkin’ Donuts. Look, they serve cold-brew coffee! (Everyone has joined the bandwagon these days.) Yuck! Send off an email to Brandon: So far, Power Coffeeworks has nothing to fear from the competition.
There was one more exhibit Barbara wanted to see. More than fifty years ago, on a previous visit to Chicago, she had wandered into a display of miniature rooms, replicas of real spaces reduced to shoe box size. To this day, she remembered that fascinating display. Now that she was back in the Windy City, she had to – had to – check it out again. (This beloved exhibit was still there.) By the time we got to it, we had looked at some 20th century Japanese prints and a room full of photographs. I was too weary to look at anything else, so I parked myself on a bench and let Barbara take as much time as she needed to inspect the sixty-eight miniatures without me breathing down her neck. (One of the things I’ve learned not to do in forty-three years of marriage.) And then back outside, where another Uber was waiting for us, taking us up Lake Shore Drive with its tall buildings, back to Old Town. The question remained: would we finally get to see Tina and the others on Friday? That’s part 3, coming up soon.