Wadsworth Wetlands

September 21, 2012

A little late due to Comcast router problems which held us up for a week.


Expo Chicago thrust the city back on to the serious international art map. Suave, sophisticated and easy to negotiate with dashing interior design and the subtle lighting it was mercifully free of gimmick and garbage that masqueraded as art in ArtChicago et.al. Tony Karman dodged trendy landmines and created a gorgeous global event. Evocative representational art exceeded the decorative wall covering of most abstraction.

The large scale photography breathtaking and loved Brian Bess’ use of video HD monitors behind wall mounted, framed pictures. The sketchy catalogue gives little idea of the scope of the talent. Chicago artists like Ellen Lanyon and Paschke seemed surprisingly provincial, too much “affect” if you know what we mean.  And though Douglas Dawson is our favorite gallery in the city, the18th and 19th century sculpture and artifacts a tad incongruous, as in this precious Japanese hare.


We made on our annual pilgrimage to Walworth, Wisconsin riding the back roads from to Union to Marengo, Huntley, lovely downtown Harvard, Illinois, crossing the state line to Sandy’s Upscale Consignment Shop which ain’t so upscale anymore. Gather the Lake Geneva ladies not unloading their wares much anymore. Along the way we observed the devastation of the hot summer in mile after mile after sad mile of scorched unpicked corn.

Trump is one of the great comical characters of all time like Shakespeare’s Falstaff or Tilleulenspiegel and whatever folkish character his Swedish forbears had. His inflated, imperial style evident in the extreme hotel/ tower which has the monumental intimidating scale of  Berlin or Dusseldorf between the wars.

Susan,Ed and Hazel

Tres Seizieme Arrondissment. Susan and Fred Gohl’s apartment was designed by John Regas and believe us the Duchesses of Windsor or Devonshire would feel right at home here with its haute European style. A late summer soiree included Ann Gerber, Barrington horse people,(remember Flying Dutchman Farm?)  Mamie Walton, Cynthia Olsen, Father Ken Velo, Cookie Cohen, Lynda Silverman listening to Cole on the Steinway and enjoying the views from one of the endless number of balconies.

The Paul McGrath Memorial at Riccardo’s brought back memories to many from the Jane Byrne era when Paul was chief of staff and Noreen McBride the decorum chief. A wild and woolly time with Jose’s very stiff drinks and free leftover lasagna verde consumed in view of the sepulchrous Ivan Abright painting of Mrs. Bloch. If you lasted long enough you could boogie to Clarence Peterson’s clarinet or argue with Don Rose about capitalism. Today 437 Restaurant on this hallowed space is homogenized, pasterurized, denatured, declawed like everything else in 2012.

Yon and Cheri

When did the world become a copy of the world we know? When did it become inauthentic? Well, friends, it’s called commercialism, raiding the past to sell something we don’t really need or probably even want.

The Astor Street al fresco street pahty was a faintest reflection of others, with numbers significantly down and one noting who was not there rather than who was. No Hermans and Malkins, no Leslie and Bill and no sightings of any aldermen. We always however enjoy saying bi annual howdee do to George Weeks, John Valentine, Bill Daley,  and those circling the bounteous table of Heather Johnston, this year’s host also Kimberly Gleeson.

We did spy Shia Kapos interviewing Police Chief Garry McCarthy surrounded by les flics and looking dour. We still don’t fully comprehend why every morning we read of murders and shootings galore in Chicago. Surely something can be done though there’d be the usual caterwauling about police state and such.

Chief McCarthy and Ms.Kapos

The Newberry’s 125th  Anniversary exhibition is worth a look even if you cannot actually read books or see the maps in the dark rooms; we can plop things down on Mars but cannot invent a light that will not damage paper? If you squinted and looked hard enough you could read the Dill Pickle Club’s “Night in Bohemia” program booklet, which took place on October 16, 1916 with Chicago’s “radical elite” including Darrow and Sandberg attending. (Do we have any more of these? Doubt it). Or the 1588 map of the USA which ends right on the Florida /Georgia border or the 1692 French contract for beaver pelts from Michilimachinac. If you have any historically important documents give them to the Newberry for posterity.

How to ruin a Farmer’s Market. Allow some street person to stand on the corner of Division and State with the largest imaginable boom box amped up to loudest count and massacre the classical music station while the too- polite vegetable eaters gamely endure it and the local shrugs as says it’s just fine because he’s got a permit.

At Expo

Pleasant  surprise to find an idyll in Vernon Hills Illinois namely Opa Estatoria – you know dolmades and mousakka on the banks of a river. Do go, a restaurant is after all 80 percent ambiance. Celebrating a seventh decade on planet earth we dined at Mon Ami Gabi  where so many tables were jammed onto the patio outdoors we could actually hear strangers chewing.  The food French such a relief from ubiquitous Italian which is basically so peasanty.

At a First Thursday lunch at the Peninsula we met witty Doreen Rogers board member of the Juvenile Protection Association which helps at risk vulnerable school children through counseling and therapy. Love Shanghai but the waitstaff too solicitous buzzing around with questions and the continuous filling of water glasses.

Schneider Family

En route to Kenosha Country Club (OK so it’s not Greenwich CT) over Labor Day the motorway passed by the endless Wadsworth Wetlands Preserve in Lake County. Before restoration work began in 1983, the land had been drained for farmland, mined for sand and gravel and then abandoned and most of the original wetlands  destroyed. Today, prairies have been restored, and the wetlands are again functioning to provide flood control and improve water quality. Worth a visit.

Errant Thoughts

When did the “Mother” universally become the childishly familiar “Mom”? The first lady calls herself Mom- in- Chief  recalling that ghastly character four years ago calling herself Soccer Mom.

We also loathe the word “amazing” which has replaced “awesome” in everyone’s increasingly limited vocabulary. And the ubiquitous “arguably” when you don’t have the conviction of what you are saying.  It either is or it isn’t. Wait a minute — when did “way” become a substitute for “very”?  To say something is way this or that is to….well never mind.

Canoe Birch, Harvard

You’ve got to read Nell Casey’s article in T&C, Me, A Love Story about those who’s egos are bigger than their talent as in that overbearing Huffington woman, (Mother would say she has “too many genes”)  or artist Julian Schnabel or the Loonies Gaga and Lohan.  BTW lucky Texan Dr.Phil. had a hilarious exchange with Dina Lohan who appeared to be a tad medicated and made fun of his shoes and tie. That’s good TV.

Now that the above glossy had the article on the Chicago Rockefeller, ChiMag quickens up the pace and ordains that her novel a Number One Must Read. Decidedly NOT the way to establish a literary reputation.

We spent what seems like a lifetime hating the National Review but today we must admit we like the prose and attitude, the sophisticated writing of an actual educated adult. As in “John Lennon’s juvenile paean to debonair nihilism, recently featured at the closing ceremonies of the XXX Olympiad,,,” .or Helen Gurley Brown’s many facelifts that ultimately left her “mummified.”

Who, one wonders, is the intended audience for the SunTimes SPLASH feature? So low brow it has everyone raising their’s in disbelief. The news is something someone doesn’t want published but in this case no one would care it is so blandly innocuous.

Books and Blokes

Goodbye East End Summer

It’s Time the British royals rethink their ridiculous anachronistic Pax Britannica ceremonies. The poor souls in the Firm will never get a rest no matter how many lawsuits are out there. The time is right now to put in place the Scandinavian model of “monarchy” (even the word is bizarre).

The Journals of novelist Anthony Powell (has anyone actually ever read Dance to the Music of Time?) are surprisingly replete with many I knew or met such as Rosamund (real name “Peggy”) Bernier at the old and much missed Arts Club when she lectured on Proust for two hours, never drawing a breath.

Powell wonderfully catty — Nancy Mitford a self conscious bore, Waugh a relentless and shameless social climber like so poor people were and are, Debo the current Duchess of Devonshire much the nicest of the lot. She is still extant and recently collected some essays into a new anthology All in One Basket. She said she buys her clothing at agricultural shows though no doubt lets out the seams of the old Mainbocher for special occasions. Love it when the aristos try to be democratic.


A propos of which we just saw the usual preposterous Hollywood drivel The Duchess ( of the same Devonshire clan) set in 18th century and completely ruined by the spastic untalented Kiera Knightly who was only ever good as a Cockney teenager in Bend it Like Beckham.

 Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an exotic memoir of living with a dysfunctional , often drunk (English) mother in Africa in the 70s. Charming though we still recommend Elspeth Huxley’s books for a take on the earlier period which has an abiding allure for us.




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