Dame Daphne Sheldrick

 

August 15, 2012

 

Wild Thyme 1798

The Congo is the poorest country in the world but has a symphony orchestra that ebulliently plays Beethoven and Carl Orff. So inspiring!  Kinshasa the capital has ten million souls– when is Africa going to wake up and practice aggressive population control? Kenya is the neediest with the world’s highest birthrate.  There are not enough resources to sustain the population explosion that threatens to undermine the continent more than any other natural disaster. Melinda Gates is listening we know.

Did you happen to catch NBC’s segment where Chelsea Clinton visited Nairobi and Daphne Sheldrick’s baby elephant refuge? Their mothers had been slaughtered by poachers for ivory. There is no one doing better work to preserve what remains of wildlife in Africa than this naturalist. Here is a note we received last year; it is reprinted here because it shows how difficult it is to be a part of this cause. We have volunteered all over the world to help save The Big Five but as you can see it is complicated. Spread the word and the funds if you can.

Dear Lucia,

Thank you for your Email which was waiting on my desk when I returned from Tsavo a day or two ago.  Regretfully, I don’t have any Mid West contacts that I could pass on to you, but take heart, it took several years for my Agent to secure a Publisher for my (much abbreviated) autobiography, due out next year.   It is kind of you to offer to help the cause, but really the only thing that one can do is to spread the word and encourage folk to support our Orphans’ Project by fostering an elephant on line.   We are not permitted to accept hands on help, even if offered voluntarily, due to Kenya’s burgeoning population and mass unemployment, but also due to safety concerns involving dangerous wildlife when walking with the elephants out in the bush.

 Best wishes.  

 Dame Daphne Sheldrick

 

Cycling on Kinzie

Meanwhile closer to home, in the event you have ever wondered why  writers/journalists/wordsmiths of any stripe are such critics of the status quo, whatever that status might be,  it is that they take the mandate of the Fourth Estate seriously though now it is sadly equated with Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell two massive rogue waves.

Those studying to be writers or journalists are taught in college to be the conscience of the times, objective, fair and dispassionate which is of course impossible to ask any man to be. They seem contrary because they often do not have a stake in the system so are able say things other wallets and vested interests cannot.  At least ideally.

Writers are often best when they have a personal experience to relate as in Evelyn Waugh dragging himself off the Abyssinia or Graham Greene wherever he was. Or Paul Theroux grumbling his way across the globe, so much more entertaining than that irritating chipper commentary from Bill Bryson.

This year we lost Christopher Hitchens, Alexander Cockburn, Gore Vidal, Robert Hughes all major misanthropes now in the Pantheon of Sourballs. In Chicago there is no longer much of that tradition left. John Kass has always tried to be the new Royko but never has had the wit or the comedic gift so his attacks on the mayors or Italians always come off flat and basically insulting. He bashes the politically correct stereotypical targets.

The Young Pythons

Writing about the expat writers from the UK in American exile, Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes, “Fleet Street refugees supply an antidote to U.S. journalism and its cult of suffocating respectability.” And you wonder why we have to resort to the internet to read anything worth reading?

Waters were stirred a bit here when Fleet Streeter Harold Evans tried to launch a newspaper Chicago Evening News, but when the major investors wanted control over content he bolted and married Tina Brown who falls over the bad taste edge. She brilliantly rescued Vanity Fair then flopped.  Did you see the latest cover of Newsweek? Desperate for sales, it’s in a major time warp with that supine asparagus eating fellatio (yawn) cover. Tina — sex doesn’t sell as much as it used to since it’s all over the bloody place.

Can you believe the obits about Helen Gurley Brown posing her as an advanced social thinker? Come On! Cosmopolitan has always been a deeply stupid magazine with women reduced to the role of Panting Male-Pleasers.  Hell with that noise

At the East Bank Club

Maybe we’re in the wrong! One sees the prosperity of hookers and kept women and wonder if all those books and education were to blame for our relative penury.

Hear Hear Chicago Big Two! You could afford to use more brain power and not assume the reader is a jamoke (as we used to say in the 42nd Ward.)  Perhaps you share the point of view of former president Clinton who, when asked why he used the tired metaphor “build a bridge between old and new”, responded, “Hey Junk Works!” There is a definite disconnect between political reporting and low brow cultural offerings.

The Guardian, a bright newspaper though not as bright as it was in the past, with its smart, critically aware theatre, film, art and book reviews, is claiming Britain’s Age of Decline is Officially Over because of the Olympics. Doubt it darlings.

The closing ceremony was all neon and noise and even Prince Harry looked bored. Eric Idle was downright embarrassing and the overblown tribute to John Lennon’s meek ditty Imagine. Ya gotta hand it to the Pythons however – they all tried to cash in on the Oxford undergrad drama success that the divine David Attenborough produced.  Palin tried some batty travelogues, Cleese became a broom salesman or something and funniest madcap Eric went into the movies, sort of.   Favorite line from the series…in a thick Cockney accent :“Whatcha doin luv?” “Just putting lard on the cat’s boils.”

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

Note from a friend, a professor, “The other day at my book sale, a

young, 25 year old guy was inspecting a photo book about JFK and asked

about others in the photos. He did not recognize the names of Bobby or

Eunice or Sarge. And he is a Ph.D. student. I explained and told

stories about seeing them at the demo convention in Chicago, visiting

with them and LBJ. He didn’t recognize that name either….so it goes.”

 

The Duc de Saint-Simon is the cattiest writer ever, a typical courtier toady who harbors resentment of his boss, in this case Louis XIVth. His description of Mme de Maintenon is especially delicious, reminding us of Princess Diana’s contrary personality (read Patrick Jephson much the best of the biographers)….thus “She was easily and excessively infatuated and just as easily lost interest and became disgusted and both usually without cause or reason.” Then again in a few more years she will be forgotten like LBJ or Bobby.

Made a special trip into the Loop to visit the new Target in Carson’s in a sort of memento mori mood.  The original Carson’s which opened on State Street in 1899 was a chain store too but the clothing and furniture still solid and once even stylish and today well it’s as if everything were bottom line, reduced to the lowest common denominator.  What does that tell you about the change in society? Less money to go around…and we still encourage illegal immigration!

Town and Country features an excerpt from Ashley Prentice Norton’s first novel. She is of course the daughter of Abra Wilkin and Jon Anderson, the brilliant journalist and friend from the past. The Rockefeller name still has pull in a time when there is a dearth of the upper class. T&C is on the case!

Did you know that those who went down on the Titanic were bourgeois businessmen and were frowned upon by the aristocrats in England and Europe? Consult the weighty academic tome The Decline and Fall of the English Aristocracy by David Cannadine.

Wildlife Pioneers

James Joyce helped many Jews escape from Austria and Germany during the war.  The good side of all this critical thinking/writing/ and so on is just that — there is frequently an uptick in humanity.

 Marginalia

Never trust a TV food review! Yes, tried one of the hamburger places recommended. Lockdown – a hunk of ground beef served amidst ear splitting heavy metal noise. Once you get into the ‘hoods you’re in Alternative Land where young mothers bring infants into bars, wear tattoos and short shorts and –most horrifying– revealing halter tops when they’re enceinte. Shudder. We are old enough to remember when mothers wore flowered dresses and nylons.

Hash on State next to PJ’s. Though the location has The Curse of past failures we were optimistic about the chain’s latest effort. The food is Cracker Barrel -fattening and the Margaritas weak to extinction but it seems to be flourishing since breakfast is perhaps the last pleasure allowed in 2012.

We hear that NONE of the people in Illinois State government actually pay their gas bills’  apparently they wait for their gas to be turned off, then negotiate a payment plan, but cannily time it so it gets to a point where it becomes illegal for Peoples Gas to turn it off. Just what we hear mind you.

Please — someone enlighten us. What is the allure of fashion? As in the World of Fashion? We loathe shopping and cannot imagine how other women like to spend their time engaged in that irritating activity then dress up and parade in front of other women and the occasional disgruntled husband.  There has to be a subtext here. No doubt we’re the oddball once being voted The Worst Dressed Journalist in Chicago by Skyline. We’ve been laughing ever since.

 

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Golfing in Gaylord

 

August 1, 2012

 

Treetops

Treetops in Gaylord

The relentless heat propelled us 350 miles north to Gaylord, Michigan, 20 degrees cooler, into absolutely beautiful countryside. Accompanied by The Golfer we quickly discovered that golf courses are among the most stunning landscaped settings in the civilized world. Disregarding those sandy depressions called bunkers there we were amidst rolling moraines, undulating greens, wide expanses of bright green fairways, blue spruce, purple Scots thistles, wildflowers and wild turkeys.

The destination was Treetops Golf Resort,  3,500 acres of five championship courses, and 81 holes to anguish over, a golfer’s paradise. The word had spread. On this gorgeous weekend there were hundreds and hundreds of men (spotted two women) on the courses, in the clubhouses, in the bars and eateries on the site, so many in fact that one caused to remark it was like a golf factory.

Much has to do with the reputation of the proprietor Rick Smith who has a mammoth reputation as a golf instructor. He is the architect of three of the courses including The Signature we played with the greens all going downhill on the front nine and uphill on the back. Though the elevation of the terrain is only 1,300 feet it is cannily designed to seem far steeper. In the winter Treetops becomes a ski resort northern Michigan being right in the snow belt.

Restaurant in Gaylord

No doubt we have been spoiled by the word resort, recalling the American Club in Kohler or Eagle Ridge in Galena so the spare rather tired Inn and Lodge at Treetops were a real disappointment. A smart hotel chain would swoop this property up with the Fazio and Jones and Par 3 courses and create a destination resort. As it is the hotel/motel is a men’s club for golfers who want to pop a few beers and catch a few winks before the next round.

Speaking of tired, well there’s dear old Gaylord.  We remember it as a posh, vibrant little village 30 years ago before the wholesale desertion of small towns and the appearance of Best Buy, addiction counselors and psychics. It still retains some Alpine Village motifs from the 50s with Tyrolean style buildings such as the Sugar Bowl, circa 1919, now a Greek restaurant. We were assured the best place in town was Bennethum’s Northern Inn, a lot of cedar and fatty chain fare with hefty wine and beer prices.

Signature Course

We longed for more sophisticated places like Petoskey (no, not Traverse City). By the by, Tribune writer J.B. Noel claims that Petoskey hasn’t changed much since Hemingway went there as a child. Yoicks.  Hem would turn over in his grave to see that the fresh green wilderness has become a sea of malls and condos. In the summer the entire Lake Michigan coast is a rumble of tourists roaming the streets looking for their next meal. They say Wisconsin the fattest state but hard to imagine fatter women anywhere than in Michigan. Actually amazing. Why does rural America breed potato ladies? The guys look OK.

Steppenwolf ‘s Three Sisters

What were they thinking? Chekov’s Three Sisters, the current production at Steppenwolf, is another one of those impossible conceits that show a desire to be different at all costs. Lionized playwright Tracy Letts rewrote the language of the 19th century Russian master of ponderous phrases and philosophical musings for characters who blurt “Life sucks”, “I’m pissed off” and …you get the idea. OK fine we get it but why dress them in 19th century costume and direct them with ritualized melodramatic gestures and phrasing? It doesn’t connect with the audience who tried to make sense of it. Some just fell asleep.

Steppenwolf Intermission

It is the reverse mode, but ultimately the same attempt at newness as Branagh’s Shakespearean flics that retain the Bard’s language and place his characters in anachronistic settings such as Coriolanus in Croatia or Hamlet in 21st century New Yawk. Spare us!

For Art’s Sake

We see the LA Museum of Contemporary Art will be using freelance curators after the Jeffrey Deitch Debacle. Whatever the case do try and remember that most contemporary art is not about heightening experience but creating portable collectibles, like new gold. Of course manufacturing big reputations is essential in all this process. For the 99% who don’t amass portable collectible objects it’s pretty much bollocks though to be fair  it does give tourists something to do after lunch and shopping.

So much collecting is like peasants hording potatoes in the 30 Year’s War. A hedge against disaster which is on everyone’s mind these days.

There still however plenty of room for modest proposals and unpretentious art to enhance our lives and the spaces we inhabit. This is where the colorful, impasto rich paintings of Tom O’Gormancome in. His current show Dublin

Oscar Tatosian and Brian White

Tenement drew a large crowd at Kiki’s  including Oscar Tatosian, Brian White, Cynthia Olsen, John Buck (remember the great star of 80s real estate?), Tom Gorman, Bob O’Neill et. al.

Cancer Charities

The Lynn Sage Cancer Cancer Research Foundation threw its third annual Summer Soiree at Roka Akor on Clark on a blistering hot night so no wonder most of the young ladies worse minimal couture . Proceeds went to Northwestern’s Lurie Cancer Center and the crowd was overflowing. It was however such a relief to escape the wilting sushi  to the superb Naha across the street.  Hear there is a French restaurant from the group set to open grace a Dieu – there is currently no good Gallic fare in Chicago.

Entre nous we are always a tad insulted by some PR staff who treat the media like gate crashers. We really don’t need those free pink designer cocktail, dears. We actually are interested in covering important charities.

We see the Sun Times is media sponsor for some American Cancer Society and Service Club events. There used to be a dividing line between charities and media but not anymore apparently. Oh well, times and ethics change.

Lynn Sage Foundation Board

Then there is the sudden shutdown of Y-Me breast cancer organization which prompted a call by Sen. Ira Silverstein for the state’s attorney general to investigate the charity. “Given the size of the organization, the number of people involved and the importance of their work, I think there should be some accountability,” he said. He was among the more than 20,000 people who participated in the May 13th walk which did not do as well as in previous years. Some said it was a public reaction to the Susan Komen brouhaha.

Books

We hope you are reading Caitlin Rodwell’s field journal from Namibia at scientistatwork/nytimes for updates about Paula the outcast elephant mother and her baby Bruce. It is actually amazing there is any wildlife left in Africa considering the poaching and the destruction of the environment.  At the annual Newberry book sale we bought Wildflower by Mark Seal, about conservationist and filmmaker extraordinaire Joan Root who was murdered in Kenya/Tanzania as were other Western ecologists Dian Fossey, Joy Adamson, and George Adamson. Little hope for our eles so it seems.

Sooooooo comical to witness the pushing and shoving of book-seeking  bargain hunters in full crazy mode at this annual sale. We also bought the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint Simon, the Rise and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannadine, some old Kenya settler memoirs and a book about the English Lake District.

Getting and Spending we lay waste our powers.

Wordsworth knew the score. The current administration is the biggest spender in world history with federal outlay 25.2% of our GNP. The trillion dollar stimulus package – well we suppose it got us some fresh tarmac and plants on the North Avenue exit from Lake Shore Drive, but really!!!! Stanford’s John Taylor rightly notes that the short term stimulus package and temporary tax rebates (and what about that preposterous cash for clunkers nonsense?) caused much of our economic misery with short-term Band Aids.

Bundler update: See Kevin Conlon is at it again; there’s the  Cubs’ Laura Ricketts, a host of LGBT bundlers  including Andrew Tobias and Fred Eychaner, Les Coney,  Charles Lewis, Penny Pritzker who has bundled somewhere between 200 and 500 thousand pas beaucoup. Desiree Rogers is taking a pass on bundling but is helping others bundle. According to Money mag we’re the top for numbers of millionaires (40% of global total) followed by Japan,China, GB and Germany. About 20%  have inherited their wealth here. So there.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Local News

Next time you’re on Montrose which could be the cutest street in Chicago pop into Nick Spencer’s Jolly Posh for some Heinz Beans and other British foodstuffs. Then go on a few block west to Alapash Home at 1944 West for Marco Chavarry’s circular terrariums. We frequent Elena at KE Salon which outperforms the downtown hair joints hands down – the ones that charge you an extra $45 to clip two hairs and another $45 to dry it after laying down $100 for a couple of blond streaks.

What happened to the Carleton Club in the Ritz? We were to go to lunch there last week with Marie Tyler only to find it was moved in to a back room off the café in the lobby. We did order lunch in the café presided over by the divine Pierre but we miss the greenery, the foliage and multileveled design of the space which today suffers from the inexplicable hotel redesign mania of  the past few years where everything became beige and stripped to essentials.

Trattoria Trullo on Lincoln Square is a fine place for Puglian cuisine with its light touch. The eggplant dishes are like clouds not the leaden parm fare we’re used to. Also love the old photos of Bari, the Adriatic farmers and the land where so many of our ancestors here originated. Bella.

See Stella Foster is about to leave the media spotlight. When we departed Spotlight those years ago the change from being loudly pursued to total silence was instantaneous.  In fact the very next day we were turned away from the opening of Planet Hollywood by the very person who had thrown us a grand party for Spotlight.

Gail and Jonathon at Parrish benefit

Thanks to Lincoln Park for protecting the black crowned night heron, and endangered species in Illinois. Walkers gladly forgo a few hundred yards of fenced in path for our feathered friends.

The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton held a swell summer soiree for the new museum, which looks like an elongated Long Island barn. But no one throws a party like the East Enders south of the highway.

 

 

 

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Maryland, Monticello

 

July 10, 2010

Blue RIdge Mountains

Apologies for the delay in posting but travelling east in the summer inferno of 2012 was enervating to say the least. The single most unforgettable image of the excursion was the alarming 115 on the car’s temperature gauge en route from D.C. to Richmond, Virginia. Sans blague.

We drove from Chicago to Baltimore, cutting the trip in half at Morgantown, West Virginia whose forlorn Lakeview Golf Resort had no soap in the room, scarce grass on the greens, and very drunk patrons in the Legends Tiki Bar. The lone waitress was also looped and spilled balsamic on our white shorts. The next day the high rolling country of Western Maryland, with hills up to 3,000 feet, and the Crepe Myrtle’s perpetual fuchsia, made for a stunning ride –the first of many in this part of the country.

 

Antietam

Maryland

Cumberland, Maryland, named for the county in the English Lake District where the first settlers originated,(there’s also a Westmorland County) was the second largest city in the state at the turn of the 20th century and now has 22,000 souls in the middle of nowhere. Hard Times are here amidst  the pre- WWI civic buildings now with boarded up antique shops or coffee houses with bluegrass concert posters (all current) and aging hippies serving Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee at four bucks a pop.

The mid Atlantic states seem like one vast American history theme park with an emphasis on Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields and monuments.  Twenty years ago we fought Disney’s efforts to build an artificial history theme park at Manassas but it appears local authorities have done it themselves by designating every downtown or  battlefield historic landmarks.

Chainsaw Art

Antietam National Battlefield saw the bloodiest battle of the Civil War where McClellan and Longstreet condemned to death 23,000 men  running head first into one another with muskets blasting; the confrontation which commenced at little Dunker Church, still standing, gave the Union the upper hand in the Civil War much to the chagrin of visitors in long beards  and overalls – and their motorcycle mates. Melancholy acre after melancholy acre of wooden fences over acres and acres of rolling field — all this memento mori not our cuppa. Besides has history ever taught any country a preventive lesson? Ha!

Baltimore! The beginning of the south. Our boat tour of the Inner Harbor revealed the best waterfront renovation we’ve ever seen and that includes Boston’s. A busy working seaport with trawlers unloading a million tons of raw cane sugar to Domino’s and Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner when the English bombarded the fort in 1814. Then there are the new Ritz Carlton condos and other fancy residential developments close by the retired destroyers and oil tankers. Can’t imagine what……oh well. And yes, before Ellis Island Baltimore was the point of entry for immigrants since the end of the 17th century, our’s included.

Inner Harbor

We headed straight for crab shacks in years past on Chesapeake hols. No more. Alas, local crab fishing in season only a memory with the terribly polluted waters of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the largest estuary in North America which covers six states. Crabs are now imported from Texas and Louisiana because pollution from farms, waste water facilities, power plants is killing the bay. The beautiful Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s on the eastern shore of the state was non committal about the source of the crab cakes so we drove to Tighlman Island which is another social and cultural world completely from the manicured neighbor across the wee bridge.

New York

Viand on Madison

Amtrak cancelled the Baltimore-New York train at the last minute so hopped a bus which rolled through the New Jersey industrial wasteland and stalled in the smoke filled Lincoln Tunnel. Flash of remembrance why we left the crowded East coast. The Fitzpatrick Hotel at Grand Central did have soap and sober tourists and was celtically delightful, a touch of ye old Europe with screaming soccer fans in the Wheel tapper bar.An Irish lass reminded us we should be thankful for the 100 degree/100% humidity compared with the great rainy skies of old Eire and the prospect of ruined crops this year. Something to think about. It is after all summer in the States.

Class of Nineteen Sixty

We boarded the LIRR to Rockville Center to see classmates had not seen in 50 years. Yup half a century. They looked happy and prosperous and within minutes we were back in St. Albans, Queens talking about the nuns at St. Pascal’s. New Yorkers are wry and sophisticated and instantly recognizable anywhere. Something to do with the worldly attitude and candor.

Early Sunday morning we walked from 44th to say hello to the Met on 86th. By then it was too hot to even walk up the long steps so went two blocks farther to say another hello to 1040 Fifth Avenue, once the home of Jacqueline Kennedy. All the blather about the comedy shtick writer Nora Ephron as the quintessential New Yorker…. not our New York.  It was always Jackie.

Ten Forty Fifth

Why Bloomberg, the best mayor in America, from his aeries on the Upper East, Southampton or Wellington, Florida permits tacky, dirty street fairs is beyond us. And in front of the Waldorf! Perhaps like us all he figures summer is just for the visiting hicks whose young have a penchant for falling asleep on the sidewalks.

The Central Park Zoo still there with the same old seals and extravagantly long queues since you seems to need a ticket for anything and everything in 2012 which has four times the population of 1960.  The world has changed no matter where you go it the same. No tickie. No shirtie.

 

Monticello

Monticello

Sigh! Alas! Fifteen years ago we drove up the 760 foot hill on a cool autumnal day to see Monticello atop the Piedmont Hills in Charlottesville, Virginia. After a pint or two at the Michie Tavern where Jefferson’s guests stayed farther down the hill we strolled into the Palladian house and moseyed around the plantation, marveling at the gardens , learning about horticulture, dismayed by the slave’s quarters. Using imagination we entered the spirit of the 18th century, intoxicating, and vowed to return one day to the home of the kindred spirit who could not live without books or wine.

Terrace farming Monticello

That day came this week but all was different. Very different indeed. We had to wait our turn in the hot crowds which at ten minute intervals were shuttled up to the house where children herded us into roped confines until our 9.20 slot opened. We always always loathed guided tours and balked then learned you could not even see the bloody house without the guided tour so we paid the 24 bucks and joined 25 annoyed strangers in our time slot time to see the tiny rooms (yes, Monticello is very small–and for a family of 14!)  for four minutes per room of infantile commentary about Jefferson’s favorite ice cream, commodes etc. Besides all the thousands and thousands continuously stomping on 200 year old floor boards is a preservationist’s nightmare.

There is now a Visitor’s Center, an Education Center with “interactive” exhibits, a theatre, a welcome pavilion, a museum, an information kiosk, a discovery room, a shop – all geared for grammar school or middle school children. On the same trip to Monticello those fifteen or twenty years ago we saw also visited Mount Vernon, Washington’s much grander estate, and had same ghastly experience a year or two ago with the same plethora of educational claptrap in our bafflingly child -centered society.

Powhatan Interior

Jamestown and Williamsburg

In any event we had never visited the first English settlement (given that Roanoke Island disappeared several years before) in America, Jamestown where in May of 1607 104 men and boys disembarked on the James River inlet and declared the land of the Powhatan Indians a colony of King James. What a mellow beautiful sight it must have been after four months on a wooden ship the Susan Constant with miniscule quarters in cavernous depths. What unthinkable courage they must have had – or maybe they were just escaping religious persecution and indentured slavery.

Jamestown

Hard not to hear the cliché “hallowed ground” reverberate on land that was settled years before Plymouth and the Mayflower in 1620. Virginia, named for the Virgin Queen, is where America really begins. An early morning drive down Old Colonial Road is the best approach to the national park with its 50 states memorial and the Powhatan Village replica await after you’ve run through the mandatory brand new educational exhibition building.

Thence to Williamsburg which from 1699 to 1780 was the seat of English power in the colonies. It was too scorching to walk the whole  Historic Area so we missed the Governor’s Palace three looooong blocks away from the parking lot but the 18th century buildings were perfectly restored and now house shoppes like Talbot’s or Williams Sonoma and other all the recognizable brands. Dinner at the Shield’s Tavern was however rather wonderful — beef in ale, meat pasties .pork shank and crab-like cakes with mace eaten in cool dark rooms with only candlelight. Now that’s the idea!!

In Virginia

At least we could still drive unfettered and uneducated through the mountains, Nothing much can ruin Nature and we blessed whatever Roosevelt was responsible for the 100 miles of the Shenandoah National Park’s scenic drive where the Blue Ridge Mountains rise to 3600 feet and really are blue. These are the hills that Jefferson saw from Monticello and regretted there was no body of water in the view.

Front Royal at the northern end of the park has a Stonewall Jackson Restaurant if you can believe it with the Confederate quote “If this Valley is lost, Virginia is lost”. This is backwoods Maryland a big theater in the Civil War and it may not be Mississippi but it is still the South, no doubt about it.

Outside the hospitality of Baltimore friends we were forced to stay in lodgings— avoid the Comfort Inn,  the even worse Clarion;  for the identical cost if not cheaper the Courtyard by Marriott or the Crowne Plaza far far better. The Hiltons are always booked solid so cannot comment. From Hagerstown we headed back north, a grueling 12 hour drive on the Penn Turnpike (the Ho Chi Minh Trail) and Ohio Turnpike, death defying driving on narrow lanes always under construction.

Kingsmill in Virginia

Shocking headlines all over the country about Chicago’s violent crimes rise of 38% in one year.  When asked where we’re from we say Illinois never mentioning Chicago which unleashes commentary, still today, about Al Capone, crime, murder. Some things never change. Washington Post’s George Wills comments that the Merchandise Mart looks like a gigantic architectural Stonehenge and laments Rahm’s “roughneck reputation and stevedore’s profanity”. Christ – why doesn’t he just stop swearing? His ideas and actions fine, especially the 7 billion infrastructure privatization so why let style get in the way?

A propose of which this is our blog and we’re allowed a wee rant, no? American productivity was  great from 1973-2009 but median wages didn’t come close to matching the gains and today America today is a slow growth entitlement society. FDR style handouts do not address the problem of dynamic growth essential for our economy. Pathetic. If anything it impedes progress. OK that’s it.

Back to travel wrap up, one is getting the decided feeling that there really is no real travel anymore in  homogeneous America—maybe not in the whole world for that matter. Travel is simply the much needed psychological necessity of moving about in a static world…not so much what you’re seeing but the fact you’re seeing it and far from home. It is refreshing but addictive as a drug – as soon as you get home you want to move again. And yes, there’s a Birkenstock shoe store, a thousand bucks a night hotel and 12 flights a week to Easter Island. No wonder we  have to go to Mars.

 

 

 

 

 

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ls8

June 15, 2012

 

Hyatt Lobby

NeoCon was sparsely attended and the programs were dullsville. When sales people are talking to other sales people and not customers you know that NeoCon has lost the audience it once enjoyed. Apparently the Mart has increased the costs for exhibitors hence the empty spaces.

Printer’s Row Book Fair saw noticeably higher prices this year. Two years ago bought first edition of Out of Africa for a few dollars and now the same book is $100. We made a fortuitous stop by the Gerald Rilling bookstall, replete with Africana and Brian Garfield’s book about yet another fraudulent author this one Colonel Meinertzhagen who fabricated journals and diaries (in 1906) from East Africa.

Gerald RIlling and his new book

Oprah is promoting a new book Wild by one Cheryl Strayed that upon reading seems curious and curiouser. It tells the tale of the author’s eleven-hundred-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—ALONE. She was “reeling from catastrophe” (who isn’t?), and was healed by the odyssey.  Genre Inspiratiana!

Lurie Children's Hospital

We went over early last Saturday to see the move into the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital. Did anyone read any national press coverage about this important event? We didn’t. National press concentrates on all the violence and murders here and reinforces the stereotype of a dangerous city. Which in fact it appears to be these days.

Crain’s reports that health care costs in the Chicago area are higher than most of the nation’s. With more leverage against health insurance companies, big hospitals can demand higher reimbursement rates from insurers, which in turn help drive up premiums. “It is a big threat,” says Robert Town, professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania. “As hospital markets become more consolidated, hospitals gain bargaining power . . . and prices tend to go up.” Oh dear!

Old Town Art Fair

An international architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca was employed for the Lurie project which always leads one to ask why? We have some of the best architects in the world right here who understand the local environment. Not a big fan of the massive angular building which looks like a corporate headquarters.  Much prefer Perkins and Will’s suave, graceful Rush Hospital though they are being sued for unnecessary cost overruns to the tune of eight million.

Lydia at the Shanghai

Cannot look at Legrange’s Elysian (AKA Waldorf) silhouette without seeing the Mansard Roof as Shriner’s Fez, thanks to Blair Kamin’s wit. Tried to like it but the scale is utterly wrong. Always did feel it rather odd that the grand bourgeois style of dix-neufieme FRANCE popped up all over Chicago in the past ten years.

Everyone is a Francophile of the Heart here though no one seems to know the language or the back roads of Languedoc or the Massif Central.

A bluebird told us the Richter in the Hyatt cost a cool $5.5 million dollars. No wonder he’s mass producing them these days.

Saturday Celebration at Aqua

Good Grief—we see the new Reader is using the inexpressibly vulgar expression “Kicking ass since 1971” right under the logo. Mike Miner doing the PC thing by attacking the Tribune.

New book Barack Obama by David Maraniss tells of his calculated decision to be half white in a black world instead of half black in a white world. Better social advantage to forge an identity from that vantage point. This cautious calculating controlled nature has been a hallmark of the administration.

Fighting Breast Cancer

Is it just us or do others also feel that actors and actresses and the entertainment complex have too much power in politics. Recall Barbra Streisand and her “special relationship” with Virginia Clinton? So comically Brooklyn.  What gives hoofers the right to wield such authority? Do they think they’ll get an even bigger piece of the pie or is their hubris so strong that they just want power?  George Clooney swanning around like a senator is cringe-worthy. The Revenge of Democracy.

What does he know about hardship? Why listen to him any more than to the mega rich bundlers and their “social consciences? Listen rather to the brilliant economists like Professor Robert Barro from Harvard and the Hoover Institute at Stanford who know that the current administration’s short term safety net programs like food stamps and “green energy “ have been ineffective for the past three years. The real need if for long term reforms to the tax structure and policies focusing on individual incentives to work, produce and invest.

NOMI roof

The Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula is the ne plus ultra of an outdoor eaterie.  Décor very 30s Hollywood Shanghai red and black laquerie, with.lunch offerings modest in price. Very sparsely populated (unlike Nomi rooftop) with  tall, elegant Chinese waiters padding around; thoroughly clean of the tables of boisterous women having lunch in overcrowded hot rooms like RL’s which is so headache-making.

Outdoors at the Lux and Tavern always a parade of the usual gals with those F-Me Heels strolling back and forth, before the table-packs of beefy males

Alderman Joe Moore briefly succeeded in getting foie gras banned in Chicago which decision was then was overturned by the City Council whose members are hardly the foie gras and caviar type so we can only assume they caved in to pressure from restaurant associations and Fancy Schmancy Chefs. Now California soon to remove this disgusting comestible from plates – you know it’s extreme animal torture. We note that Cyrano’s on Wells has a full menu of numerous goose liver items.

Calder Cleaning

Alexandra Stanley covering the Diamond Jubilee for the New York Times correctly noted that American TeeVee reporters were like giddy teenager girls on a sugar high at the mall. Sure the Royals relieved they don’t have to be “accessible” for the colonials and the working class for awhile – did you notice a few shots of Kate looking irritated, a nice break from that perpetual grin that Queen Mary would have loathed and that Anne eschews.

Rev. John P. Smyth who made Maryville Academy what it once was, a place that turned no child away (now a pale shadow of its former self—such a shame)  is one of the truly remarkable men you’ll ever meet. On June 9th 500 friends congregated at Gibson’s in Rosemont to celebrate his Golden Jubilee. Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff had inspiring opening remarks as did the Bear’s Pat McCaskey.

Didya luv the revelation (or maybe not such a revelation) that that dictator Assad from Syria paid the American PR firm Brown Lloyd Whatever five thousand a month to get his wife into Vogue. You know journalists and publishers and promotional types really need to do some due diligence before they bow before the buck. Ya listening Anna? We always knew you could buy your way into society (whatever shreds remain) via print.

If the press not a watch dog who is? Wake up.

Shanghai Terrace

Spent another Julius Meinl breakfast idly counting the ad pages in the Big Two glossy social magazines, both of which have over 75 full pages, another 20 or so of half or quarter and well within the profit ad/copy ration range of profitability. We always used the 2/3rds ads, 1/3 copy rule when we edited newspapers. Glad they’re making it in this economy though please no more Celebrities in Our Town!. Emily Blunt looked lobotomized in that photo shoot and that other one Britanny or Bettany…….oh never mind!

Divine Alexander Payne is being celebrated at the Gene Siskel for his brilliant films with their insights into social class nuances in About Schmidt and Descendants alluring, two of our favorite films in recent years. You can keep Wes Anderson.

Dump Your Ivory. Last July in Philadelphia, US Fish and Wildlife officers made their biggest ivory seizure ever of approximately 1 ton of ivory; in August, a China-bound shipment from Tanzania was seized in Malaysia with 664 elephant tusks; China is one of the largest consumers of wildlife products.  In Chinese, “ivory” literally means “elephant tooth.” A recent study found that 70% of Chinese consumers did not know that elephants were killed for ivory and some thought elephants lose tusks like people lose teeth.

 

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June 1

 

June 1, 2012

Julius Meinl's on Montrose

Have you registered with www.GuideStar.org yet? It’s free and you can get nonprofit IRS 990 returns as a matter of public record. Great rainy afternoon activity to check out the bottom line of grantors and grantees – revenue received, expended, admin costs, benefit costs and where your ticket price goes.

U.S. senators are investigating charges that the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has spent little of the tens of millions of dollars it has raised on programs to help veterans,  and paid $60-million to a direct-marketing firm for candy, hand-sanitizers.

Hey if you have to hire a “consulting” firm to write your mission statement or figure out where to spend the money you should close your doors. We worked for a local charity that hired mega bucks consultants to create meaningless proposals.

Trio's Joan Cusack, Jill Cahr, Sue Naiden

The Trio Animal Foundation event at Double Doors was a great success. Stalwarts include Joan Cusack who is often in her shop Judy Maxwell at 1151 N. State. It is really a changing diorama of objects around a theme, with the objects for sale. Charming.

Do yourself a spiritual favor and log on to www.Laikipia.org to learn about the efforts to preserve large mammals, black rhino and elephants in this magical district of Kenya.  Laikipia has no government designated protected areas and there is no plan to ensure this extraordinary wildlife asset can be maintained in the face of human population growth. Filmmaker Elizabeth Lagercrantz sent us a copy of her film about the Laikipia Wildlife Forum show at Cannes.

Mental illness is as biological as cancer or heart disease and there is no excuse for abandoning a spouse and bolting off with a starlet. Robert Kennedy Junior blamed the booze for his late wife’s problems but he helped create the behavior. Come on. We know that!  Kennedy Men the worst! Remember when Teddy left Joan in the parking lot at the Palmer House when he was campaigning here for President?

 Spare Time

 We were so looking forward to the film Gerhard Richter Painting at the Gene Siskel movie theater showing him in the act of creation, squeegee-ing paint onto giant canvas but alas it was sold out before opening so we amused our disappointed selves by reviewing all the usual donor names on the wall. So many intimations of immortality.

Despite The Siskel and its neighbor The Goodman, the Loop is still a desert at night except for the after work drinks crowd at Petterino’s where we spotted Robert Falls going in to dinner and viewed a thousand handsome 30- something young men at the ultimate bar.

Petterino's

For the smart crowd of writers and reporters from the Big Two it used to be Riccardo’s after work; all became ex-pats when it closed, victims of diaspora like the regulars at Elaine’s.

Rarely go the Hollywood movies but a cold day drove us to the Century to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with its cascade of unbelievable story lines and the lamentable  depiction of seniors as washed up about- to- croak sad sacks. Enjoyed it anyway and Judy Dench and Maggie Smith reminded us to get a facelift; the English don’t fret about teeth and wrinkles the way Americans do.

Linc Thelen’s exhibition of paintings on Fulton runs through June 18th and is a must see. He reinterprets Delacroix with same scale, distills the images into circular whirling forms that capture the tumult of the French Revolution or the shipwreck of the Medusa.

While you’re on Fulton stop in at Christopher Fredericks’  Organic Looms.  Rugs from Tibet and Nepal.

Giacomo Ferrucci and Christopher Frederick at Linc's Exhibition

On a recent trip to New York Jonathon Wells saw the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA and shared a look at the catalogue of the retro – the secret of her Untitled photographs is mystery, sinister,  unspoken truth behind the facades of clowns or society women.

Choses Litteraire

Sun Times editor Jim Kirk – what was he thinking with that awful Daily Splash so old hat, about 10 years too late. We’re already drowning in celebrity chitchat and besides we have so very few in Chicago to go around.  The “Big Name” columnists earn $1,000 bucks for about 300 words and include very over-exposed Giuliana Rancic, Jenny McCarthy, an underwear model, the mayor, assorted ball players,  Denise Richards.  Some have made two lists in a month!!!! In the TCW Top 70 Brand list are Rocky Wirtz, Bill Kurtis, the Ricketts, a Pritzker.

As you already know Wrapparound LLC the parent company of the Sun Times has bought the Reader who’s alternative attitude has been waning anyway. Au revoir.

Madeleine and Doc SIlva at the Barry's

Kurtis and Jacobson resemble Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Bill leading the way and Walter following when the prompter gets fuzzy.

 Jeffrey Gettleman from Chicago received a well-deserved Pulitzer this year for his incomparable reporting from Africa in the NYTimes. We never miss reading his columns, not should you if you want first-hand account of what is happening on that continent. This is the kind of reporting Chicago papers should be publishing.

ChiMag is however getting a little edgy again as in olden days, with the catty piece about Oprah (Vanity Fair also has one–God leave her alone) and an equally snarky article about the City Club’s Jay Doherty and the suit brought by PR person Kathy Posner. You wonder what is really underneath all this rancor and anger. What’s the real story here ?

Do you love it when the claws of Ann Gerber pop out occasionally (and not nearly often enough) in Skyline? She wrote that Beyonce Knowles “looked like a big tuna caught in a crazed fisherman’s net.”

Hidden Cars during NATO

Reminds us of Cindy Adams always so much spicier than Liz Smith who has used the Old Texas twang to best effect all these many years in the Big Apple.

Paul Fussell died last week. We knew him well at Rutgers and yes, he was as caustic as they come, but he broke the shackles of Academia with brilliant entertaining books such as British Literary Traveling Between the Wars  or BAD: The Dumbing of America in which he lamented we are living at a time “teeming with raucously overvalued emptiness and trash.”

And that was 1991 before the ultimate trash TV like the most recent offering Mrs. Eastwood. Gruesome and embarrassing. Feel so sorry for Clint whom we’d always hoped had found a classy wife not a loud mouthed char.

 

Vet's Memorial HIghland Park

Apizza and Ashopping

Bella Luna on Dearborn is a very neighborhood old fashioned pizza place, but if you’re going to sit outside go to Orso’s on Wells. We enjoyed the pepperoni and sausage with Joe Streeto on a gorgeous afternoon under the viney bowers out in the back yard.

The new Malnati’s on State …well the deep dish was undercooked and soggy. As you know the best pizza in the city is Pizano’s (gotta be the ovens) though we love the first pizza place in America– Lombardo’s in the Village. And Sally’s in New Haven!!!!

The Randolph Street Market should either stop advertising or close down altogether. Like misleading people luring them to kill half a day for nothing. You couldn’t make us buy a thing so tatty are the offerings.

View from Canal

Hotel occupancy rates in New York are 90 % and in Chicago under 80% according to Denihan Hospitality Group. Hey that’s better than South Beach which is in the 70s. We would travel far more as would most normal people if hotel rates weren’t so absurdly high. Tourism would soar here with a new approach to lodging.

We popped into Hermes for a few of those pocket squares and felt under surveillance in the cool empty store so we decided to buy them elsewhere.

And So Forth

 Nutty actress Charlize Theron cheering at ringside at the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Vegas where martial arts fighter Junior Dos Santos beat up Frank Mir in a bloody battle. These events like all boxing should be banned. No rich man ever entered the ring!

Bitchiest man of all time had to be Cecil Beaton. On Wallis: “Her back was coarse and her arms were heavy….she was rowdy and raucous.” Or calling Kate Hepburn a piece of decaying matter.

NATO  –  you’d have thought Chicago was preparing for World War II. During the first day we went to the Harold Washington Library and were very amused to see all the street people sitting at computers. Reminded one of Edinburgh during the Festival when they ship the homeless by bus to northern Scotland.

Too bad pedestrians!

The Memorial Day get together at Steve and Ellen Barry’s revealed the best balcony views in the city.  And in downtown Highland Park we spotted the Veterans Memorial, one of the few new monuments since doughboys and Union soldiers on pedestals.

From the Daily Telegraph obit of David Patrick Metcalfe the godson of the Duke of Windsor (who left him a pair of cufflinks in his will):

“One evening in 1982 Metcalfe brought together the blue-blooded directors of Sotheby Parke Bernet — including the Earl of Westmoreland and Angus Ogilvy, husband of Princess Alexandra — with a selection of Michigan high-rollers willing and able to rescue the teetering auction house from falling into the clutches of an aggressive and unwanted takeover. That night three billionaires — Alfred Taubman, Henry Ford II and Max Fisher — agreed to buy Sotheby’s, with Metcalfe proving himself the perfect society-business matchmaker.”

Happy Birthday, Donny!

 

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May 15th

 

May 15, 2012

On the eve of NATO summit grist for the protestor mill.

Astor and Banks

Here we are looking down on Jamie Dimon’s previous home on Astor and Banks. He always threw a huge Halloween Party and festooned the windows with so many lights for assorted holidays that neighbors had to complain. Anyway now we have to listen to the pros and cons of the regulation debate ad nauseam because of that 2 billion cash loss blunder. The good news is that it only affects Morgan Stanley stockholders who OK’d the CEO’s 23 MILLION a year paycheck. Something obscene about this.

Regulation pros say that institutions playing a key role in the financial system have absolutely no business investing in hedges and derivatives when backed by taxpayer guarantee. On the Meet the Press Dimon stated the other point of view:  “Hey, everybody makes mistakes — sure, we lost $2 billion, but we’ve still got billions more, and we’ll figure out this one ourselves without the need for any further regulations, thank you.”  The pending Volcker Rule, a federal proposal under review which makes it illegal for banks to take positions in securities for their own gain will get tougher.

Speaking of regulation frenzy many are relieved Sarkozy out and hope Merkel will be next; their punishing austerity measures were gigantic flops.

Passing through the lugubrious subterranean Illinois Center en route to the dentist  stopped at the Hyatt and happened upon a brochure from recent SEC Reporting Specialist Workshop held there. Don’t fall afoul of those who study Advanced Reporting such as Form 10-K in Depth, Sox 404-the ICFR evaluation process, Accounting for Derivatives and Hedging Activities. They mean business.

EXHIBITIONS

Bernard Berenson believed that the main criterion for judging a work of is that it must be life-enhancing. Do you really find Roy Lichtenstein’s huge pixilated cartoons of comic books life – enhancing? Ahem. In any event they are large and cover the walls in familiar images in bright 1-2-3 primary colors we love so much in a post-literate society. Prepare yourself for local ooohing, aaaaaahing and pontificating about Pop Art which was originally a Warholian joke.

We hear the Prada/Schiaparelli Impossible Conversation exhibit at the Met is a real stunner. Both designers were as much merchandisers and marketers as clothing designers and both had the right connections from day one and knew how to exploit them. Love Schiap’s sleek elegant dresses from another era but you can keep the nerdy convent girl Prada outfits. They look so Milanese.

Beyonce Knowles, “the most beautiful woman in the world” (who’s world is that?) a stoned rapper Rihanna and crazzzeeee Cameron Diaz got to wear “formals” at the Met’s Costume Institute Gala which used to be a tad swank in the Barbarians at the Gate/Henry and Josee Kravis era. Amazed Anna Wintour didn’t beg off with 1918 influenza that night. Worse than the louche crew at the White House Correspondents dinner.

Now at the Newberry

No it ain’t flashy but you simply must toddle over to the Newberry to see The American West, an exhibit of books, maps, artifacts of U.S.IANA that are breath of fresh air from the time when America was new. The collector Everett Graff and Wright Howes, the antiquarian book dealer from Chicago, were great friends and collaborators; this collection includes gems like Prince Maximilian of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America 1843-44 or Meriwether’s 1814 history or maps and …well just go see it in the Dunlap Library on the ground floor. And no charge.

Alex Shoumatoff – not only is he an animal conservationist reporting on the Agony and Ivory of elephant slaughter in Africa (poaching must carry a HUGE price, a huge fine and mandatory jail sentences) but he is also a rank sentimentalist about the end of civilization. In Positively 44th Street in Vanity Fair he laments the dumbing down of popular taste, television’s displacement of reading, the vanishing of the blue blood haunts on the street of the Algonquin and the Harvard Club et.al.

Bad Form!!!!

Maybe WASP civility and erudition was always a myth but it was a charming myth based on clubby Porcellian and Bones insider mind set. Did you notice some people never get over going to Harvard or Yale? (far less so in genteel Princeton).

 

BLOKESVILLE

Peregrine Cavendish the 12th Duke of Devonshire has a new BBC series on his Derbyshire domicile Chatsworth; estate taxes nearly destroyed it decades ago so they had to resort of commercial ventures, not quite Disney but distasteful to many. Still all in all better than losing these great homes.

The Duke proclaims the aristocracy is dead and would be pleased to renounce the silly title when and if they eliminate lifetime peerages. They unelected remnants of aristocratic life have zero power in Parliament but they are distracting all with all their arrogant slouching.

The flic Iron Lady chose to concentrate on Dame Margaret Thatcher’s dementia not her formidable accomplishments. How morbid. We love sickness today because the fear factor always sells. Used to be sex. Now it’s disease. Shame on the Weinsteins. Besides the lady is still alive. Streep was luminous and convincing as always but she could not rescue the abysmal script.

TRENDY FREUD

On the subject of flics, Dangerous Method not a totally bad effort to illuminate the relationship between Freud and Jung though Kiera Knightly’s spastic movements got in the way of believability.

Freud is a hot ticket today when no one is really reading him anymore. And Jung’s Shadow World is so irrelevant when everyone trying to get a job and survive. Freud must be seen in context of the 19th century bourgeois physical and emotional abuse of children in the effort to make them conform to middle class norms. There were many casualties along the way and Freud tried to help the victims.

As we are sure you agree striking a child is not only pusillanimous but an offense unthinkable in primitive societies. Sweden as usual leads the way. You go to the slammer if you hit a child. Period.

Freud's Last Session

Sigmund Freud is in London  having just escaped Vienna; he is dying of cancer after a lifetime of thousands of cigars, and he starts to think about God. It’s Freud’s Last Session at the Mercury and the thoroughly wonderful actor Mike Nussbaum is the atheist doctor who hates music and loves ancient artifacts.

Nice conceit –the imaginary meeting with the young C.S.Lewis (grandfather of Daniel Day and author of Chronicles of Narnia and  assorted Christiana) and the talk for an hour and a half about the divine. Congrats to Mercury for an elegant restrained production but, well, the play itself was too much for our powers of concentration. We zoned out after 20 minutes of the lectures and felt like a college kid trying to sneak out of class. Haha. Recalled the phrase of critic Christopher Isherwood on Frank Galati’s The March at Steppenwolf : “a hazy scrim of words.”

SCIENTOLOGY WATCH

Well at least Freud and Jung were doctors and real pros. See that news reader Great van Susteren is a scientologist as are the other entertainers Travolta and Cruise and heaven knows how many more “celebs”. Recognized as a religion only in the USA it has its roots in lovely downtown Camden, New Jersey, believes in reincarnation, not just from a previous life on earth but from other PLANETS, and espouses trauma therapy (relive your past an clear up all the neuroses–Good Luck).

Remember Cruise attacking Brooke Shields and her attempt to deal with post partum depression?

OTHER STRANGE THINGS

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and her decorator and “evening friend” Bryan Huffman have emerged into the unwanted spotlight thanks to dopey fool John Edwards. According to Frank Langella’s autobio Dropped Names (and the vampire actor should know) she had an aversion to exposure and a “brand of modesty only great wealth can engender.” Speak about swooooooony love da rich writing. Hey Frankie get real pal. Beware Social Climbers….they are dangerous

Ms. Mellon gave Johnny Boy 7 million since 2004 while Mistress Rielle Hunter was dating novelist about town (it just takes ONE book –ask Erica Jong!) Jay McInerney and appearing in a couple of D movies always with an eye on the main chance. Perhaps she’s not as stupid a she looks

WOMEN RANT

Love Hillary’s Who Cares or So What attitude about hair, hats and heels. Do you think Maureen Dowd would wear a “fascinator?” Kate Middleton’s gotta get off the fashion wagon or she will become as ridiculous as Diana.

Jack and Soozie Welch tell us women who are “in the economy” have to over deliver and amp up their performance. How sexist. We were never fooled – now men want us to do all the laborious tedious work like being bankers, lawyers or doctors.

Teen in the 50s

This is what a 15 year old looked like in the 50s. No Miley Cyrus look here.

ETCETERA

 Stud’s 100th birthday , may he rest in pace. We were lunch buddies at the old Arts Club on Ontario and martini mates at the House of Hunan. He was a thoroughly good fellow with a sincere love of mankind, circa 1942, and it was always his  show for a willing and loving audience.

Old News but interesting. One reads that David Axelrod got a great deal on his a Michigan Avenue condo for 1.7 million and in the same building Maria Pappas some same unit for 2.8 to go into a trust.

Upper Crust

Upper Crust on Grand a new shop with floury friends galore.

Try the meatloaf before the theatre at Cullen’s on Southport. Frank McCourt was there years ago when Angela’s Ashes was just published and Estelle Shanley threw a book party. When we reminded him in New York he had become such a huge literary draw that it was impossible to approach him.

Laredo's

Verizon charges you for text messages they send you.

Nice travel articles in CS magazine by one Heidi Mitchell about her 12 day tip trips to Burma, China and other far afield places. Must have cost a pretty penny and hard to imagine came out of pocket so to speak. We recently made a survey of travel magazines and 50% permit press comps and the other half do not.

Cullen's

The Mexican chain from Dallas, Laredo on State has the standard fare in a large cold loftish space that is so popular these days. Only Rick Bayless can elevate this beans and guac cuisine into something special however.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lucia’s Symposium 5

 

May 1, 2012

In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner declared that the American frontier was closed forever; well, today the whole bloody globe seems closed. Over 550 souls have scaled Everest and now there are high altitude choppers to help as they blog their way to the top – oh Hilary and Tenzing where art thou?

Ad Age reports that Penn State has retained Edelman PR for one year at a monthly fee of $208.000 — that’s the right numbers of zeroes. The University of Illinois has paid Jascula Terman $40,000 to provide guidance to the now fired president on what to say to the media during a weeklong consultation. Are they crazy?

Now that Roosevelt University has constructed a $123,000,000 building on Wabash, where is it going to find students with fee increases pending? College tuition has gotten out of hand in our democracy.

Pat Boone

Speaking of higher education we attended the graduation ceremony of the 2012 class of Adrian College. in southwestern Michigan. The town of Adrian, 21,000 population, was founded in 1826 by one Addison Comstock whose wife named it after Hadrian her favorite Roman emperor.

Around 300 graduates received degrees each to deafening roars, hoo hahs, hooting, shrieks, horns, whistles and every conceivable amount of noise makers by friends and family. Ahem. Alors. Mon Dieu!

The Beautiful Botanic

The girl grads, or many of them, donned red, pink, gold or jet black stilettos, made ever more perilously high by added platforms. (We wore penny loafers under our black gown). Very Venetian Renaissance puttanesca. Attracting a male still seen as the ticket to success since spikes suggest vulnerability and symbolic submission.

Deemed an honorary doctor of humane letters by the college the commencement speaker was none other than old white bucks himself ancient crooner, face-lifted Tea Partier Pat Boone. After a very few words of encouragement for the grads of this 150 year old school (which he said was in Indiana) he quickly reverted to a resume of his illustrious career and his special relationship with God.

We learned he was as popular as Elvis; could have made a movie with Marilyn Monroe but refused because it was about an illicit affair; owned the Oakland Oaks (who dey?); had the FIRST network television series; is a faithful husband of 58 years, with four daughters and thousands of grandchildren.

Funny but we recall a couple of books about his physical abuse of his daughters well into their late teenage years. En tout cas, the Obedience Freak gave a longggggggggggggg Holy Roller gospel speech about his love of Jesus. Rather an insult to anyone not a fundamentalist Christian, Church of Christ member or alum of Pepperdine, that weird college in Malibu.

Downtown Nappanee

Best thing about living in the Midwest: the drive back along Route 12 , the old Chicago Road from Detroit to Chicago, 40 miles to Quincy, all huge granaries dotting the flat horizon, a reminder of America’s rural roots. Granaries, Guns and God. Lenawee County has 1,600 farms more than any other county in Michigan and the largest acreage and yield in the state of wheat, corn, soybeans. We saw plenty of well tended livestock and sheep galore on the flat green landscape. Farmers are concerned with the upcoming Farm Bill.

The towns, from main streets to frame houses, were sadly derelict with boarded up storefronts, antique shop after antique shop with rusted farm equipment on the lawn. But a definite must visit charm if you want to see America of a hundred years ago.

Driving back through Indiana we stopped by Nappanee which was pretty devoid of Amish (saw just one horse and buggy there) but had plenty of relics of the Age of Optimism, the early 20th century when the stone banks were erected. Tomb like eerie silence and empty spotless streets on a Monday morning.

Amish kids playing ball

Since it was 40 miles to Shipshewana where we should have gone in the first place we settled for the Amish community of Renstown a couple of miles away. Women mowing lawns with those old manual monsters, men riding bikes in the rain with black stocking caps, bicycles and more bicycles, another lone horse and buggy.

The one local eaterie The Snack Den had a few seats in the back of a store with sweet cherry pie and very odd chili served by an unsmiling (no smiles around here) chunky lass in a prayer cap and long dress and no nonsense wait- your- turn ways. Worth a trip to stock up on preserves, pickles, breads and local cheese for a fraction of the cost as our farmer’s markets.

Amish Acres a historic landmarked farm complex was closed and we felt for a brief moment like the Griswolds at Wally World. Then got one better sight: Amish children playing softball outside of a one room schoolhouse. The girls in colorful ankle length skirts, trying to scoot around in them under the stern gaze of an elder.

Catch!

The Amish taboos are: divorce, intermarriage, gays (called homosexuals). It is patriarchal,(yoicks!) manual -labor loving, obsessed with obedience like our “doctor of humane letters” and practice wholesale shunning if you do the Wrong Thing …. a dire reminder of how harsh life was in White God Fearing Man’s America. No wonder no one smiles. Today there are 150,000 Amish mainly in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Having that rubbernecking lunch or dinner at now Oprah-less RL may have cost you more than you realize. The Illinois Attorney General’s office announced that customers at RL may have had their credit, debit or ATM information stolen. “There were a group of rogue employees who conspired to steal consumers’ bank and credit card information,” said the Attorney General’s office.

Now that Facebook has taken over Instagram brace yourself for a plethora of clichéd vintage look photographs. Hey we thought there was an anti-trust law in this country.

The Snack Den

On Jim Kinney’s Facebook page we note that he celebrated with “His Royal Highness The Prince Edward” (right here in the Windy City), Her Majesty’s 86th birthday. Edward was unaccompanied by his wife Sophie who attends parties in New York and Palm Beach with him. Remember: when she was taped offering royal beezneees to a fake Sheik and she was more than candid about the “old dear”, the Queen and others in the Firm. The Mail cried out: “Her indiscretion will provide ammunition for those who support the eradication of the ‘fringe’ Royals.”

Apparently not so after the success of middle class Kate, afeared of making a single false step. She is just insecure enough to be good at her job but looks alarmingly anorexic topped off with that massive head of hair. She’ll never be a roaring mouse like her late wild mother-in-law.

Saw the absurd film based on Neil Botham’s book on Diana’s death….never to be solved any more than the JFK assassination. Her story is most interesting as the psychology of a frustrated narcissist who pursued revenge, the pathology of which belongs in clinical psych books.

Local columnists here remind us time and time again of the single Chicago Royal Moment when in the 1970s Princess Margaret Rose commented that the “Irish are Pigs”. The English Speaking Union apparently chose to ignore her tart comment though most probably have more Irish than English blood in their veins.

Our family escaped the persecution of William of Orange in 1694 and fled to America so it strikes us as risible that others still tug a forelock and swoon with excitement when an HRH around. Perhaps it is because as Virginia Woolf noted that “their lives are writ inordinately large”….even today when they are just tourist attracting puppets.

April in Paris!

Nothing is more beautiful than the Chicago Botanic Gardens in early spring. We were lucky to have had a fresh, cool, sunnyish day to revisit the English and Japanese gardens, to see all the continuing renovations on the land, and the annual Antiques & Garden Fair. Best sight: the Anne Loucks Gallery, well worth a trip to Glencoe.

April in Paris. Here’s a jolly photo of banker extraordinaire Gail Freeman, now living in New York, and travel mate Jonathon Wells at the Ritz in Paris on Easter Sunday. They popped over the Channel from London for a few days.

Greening on Astor

We hear that the construction related defects that plague Elm Tower 1155 N.Dearborn have resulted in litigation between JDL Development and the Condo Board. Which is why we have happily rented forever and intend to do so until the last rent check of life.

King Juan Carlos of Spain recently apologized for killing an elephant on yet another innane “safari “—this one in Botswana. African leaders must put a stop to this slaughter now. Set the king back 58 thou for one ele, may he rest in peace.

A propos of this sad subject, have you read Hemingway’s Boat about the erstwhile safari buff’s macho madness as in shooting sharks with Tommy (machine) guns in Bimini? Well today you couldn’t do that since 90% of the masters of the deep are gone forever old Sport.

Gina at Bakersfield Opening

There’s a vast new restaurant Bakersfield in Westmont, named for yes, that California town. Contemporary fresh fare that needs a bit more attention since the Oak Brook crowd demanding sophisticates. Zocalo in River North — the usual Mexican food but the mole bland, the service slow, the place deafeningly loud and the margaritas good though believe there was table not kosher salt on the rim.

Trees as tax credits : Astor Street from Banks to Goethe was shut down for a couple of days with towering cranes and scores of trucks and gardeners from the Lake Bluff company that brought lorry loads of large trees to the tippy top of 1301 Astor one of the residences of the Neil Bluhm’s.

Receive constant reports of Mayor Rahm sightings in the men’s locker room at the East Bank Club. He is a focused, unsmiling and diligent worker outer who avoids eye contact with other perspirers.

From the Land of Tiny Pleasures. Water Tower – preteen girls in packs, junky shops catering to them, pretzel stores and………where will it all end? The best thing is the Mezzanine and the redone food court – salad bar buffet extensive and alluring though of course we never relish partaking. Shudder.

Renstown

Rich Cohen on Kick Ass Ditka’s Runaway Beach Club “resort” in Orlando side splittingly funny review in The Atlantic – no beach, no club, no restaurant, set in a strip mall, with cleaning ladies and desk staff wearing #89 jerseys, and no sign of Da Coach.

Poster on Astor and Banks

Academics Enthralled by Occupy Wall Street notes the NYTimes apparently a growth industry for university types who love to talk about what others are actually DOING, while making cushy careers out of dissent in the Groves of Academe, an insular and remote reservation with little interaction outside the green walled gates.

 

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April 15, 2012

Someone please tell Trump Pere that it’s not 1930 and his son should not be shooting large prehistoric animals “on safari” in Africa. Only Troglodytes do it, like Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons whose blog could be the worst on the web.

The measure of a civilization is how it treats children, the needy, and animals. The best of the best is the Trio Animal Foundation that pays medical expenses of stray and homeless dogs and cats; check www.trioanimalfoundation.org for details of the May 19th fundraiser Rockin to the Rescue hosted by Alpana Singh; Joan Cusack is on the host committee.

On Michigan Avenue

Read Peter Nolan’s new book Campaign!, the story of the 1983 mayoral election, as in Harold Washington versus Bernie Epton. Peter was a news anchor at the time so we get his first hand portraits of the major dramatis personae in this sad chapter in the history of racism in Chicago politics from Jane Byrne to Richie Daley, the two Fast Eddies in the Council Wars (how soon we forget!), Bilandic – remember when local yokels made such a fuss about his wife Heather serving canard a l’orange to the Carters? Or Byrne’s calculated “move” to the Cabrini Green projects?

County Board Chairman George W. Dunne was always pro- Washington and was as fine a politician as we ever encountered; now that’s a biography that should be written.

Finally watched Mad Men with all its anachronisms: never heard the word “bitchin” in the 60s when we worked in advertising at Van Nostrand, but every day, or almost every day, we went to lunch at 1 0’clock at the Princeton Inn for martinis and mushrooms on toast and returned to the office around 3 or 4 to turn off the lights at the desk. All that stopped when a colleague fell down the stairs and broke a leg. Yes everyone smoked Winstons and got woozy and flirted with the waiters but it was fun and perhaps should revisit the custom in the Joyless Pol Cor World of 2012 of yoga and diuretics.

Silence - No Problem

What the hell happened to the Cultural Center AKA Preston Bradley Hall? Always a refuge from the elements with a nod to literacy, (if a bit unkempt,) it is now Alphaville, devoid of life and vitality, sterilized by the administration.

Went on annual visit to the Art Institute, ($18 entrance fee) such dix neufieme optimism, grand scale, such a pursuit of beauty, whatever that meant. Another world in a time capsule, though all the bored school children scooting around and kissing teenagers never fail to distract. God — give them a special day of the month to themselves.

What would the AIC have been today without the late James Wood’s steady guidance and cautious administration not to mention his graciousness to the press (we loved him) those years after the Shestack Fiasco and sword crossing with Leigh Block. Cuno didn’t stay very long and bolted to the Getty in California last year.

Oh Dear!

The old Post-Impressionist favorites still glow but the Modern Wing needs to be reconsidered, as in this “offering” by Mike Kelley. Who approved this? They have a lot to answer for, though the Brancusi or two suave and inoffensive and the Richters great. The museum shop needs a facelift.

Journalistic Ethics Time: we inquire periodically about travel writing for magazines and newspapers. There is a grey ambiguous area that is centered around the old conundrum Objectivity and Conflict of Interest. New York Times Travel section, Travel & Leisure and all Conde Nast publications unequivocally state that they do not accept press trips, and have a “no freebie” policy –i.e. nothing gratis from food to drinks to air tickets to hotel rooms for writers both staff and free lancers.

The acceptance of gratuities is seen to bias the reporting. This would apply to restaurant reviewing too on a different scale, but there you are. Maybe the time has come to stop the cant and just say magazines are about advertising pure and simple and content just an added feature, a sideline so to speak. Do Chicago glossies have this no-freebie policy? Just asking!

What do you think of the Kingdom of the Rich Fantasy wherein poor writers (as we have usually been) who live modestly imagine they are in the Room at the Top because they write about those who are? Is it because as Taki said the secret is out and it is more fun to be rich than poor, so we pretend? Well, there is no more genuinely exclusive group or class as there was in the pre war years. The 1980s finally killed them off and made money the sole defining principle of “class” with all those no-culture hedge fund crooks, ball players and entertainers.

Cindy Sherman

Here’s the look of the self-styled society lady from the brilliant Cindy Sherman exhibition at MoMA. More 1990s than the hot mamma look of today.

Salman Rushdie is becoming the Richard Meier of the lit world, ubiquitous lover of living the social life and getting press. Like Hemingway.

Colin Clark, who’s diaries about his liaison with Marilyn Monroe were the basis for the absurd movie, was the son of Kenneth Clark, Lord Clark of Saltwood (or Civilization) whom he approached to allow the crazed actress (who probably thought Raphael or Leonardo were old boyfriends) to view the Royal Collection. You must read Another Part of the Wood, a captivating memoir of K’s early life in Scotland and beyond.

Che Guevara’s last name was Lynch and his father was from Eire; he said his son had the blood of Irish rebels in his veins. Motorcycle Diaries a dreary biopic of the revolutionary’s early days though Oliver Stone’s JFK a far more important film than acknowledged at the time. Speaking of conspiracy, Jonathon Wells informs us from London that there is a movie about Diana’s death funded by the dogged Fayeds.

Another World

D’ya luv actors who get paid too much to pretend they’re someone else then do a Jane Fonda and have major statements about politics, world affairs, everything, as in De Niro’s offensive remarks about (Caucasian) first ladies or Ben Affleck’s new found passion for The Congo? Very Comical.

We would review more theatre which we love except that even the cheapest matinee ticket is $45. The much lauded “dinner theatre” Lookingglass production of Cascabel, an old idea, was too costly had we even wanted to witness the grab bag, hedge your bets entertainment extravaganza. We look forward to the very smart Freud’s Last Session at the very smart Mercury.

Angels in America is at the Court. We are invited to see it in Kathmandu where it is being produced and directed by One World Theater’s Deborah Merola, our college roommate in Madison.

At the Graham

With Chris Newman, former editor of Chicago Magazine and the person responsible for many a literary career before the mag succumbed to Second City provincial boosterism (local media and that irritating Our Town’s So and So and Our Town’s blab bla, –tres Omaha!) went to the Stanley Tigerman exhibition at the Graham Foundation’s austere Madelener House. Every floor festooned with drawings of his architecture and crafts and though he is a fine architect, as in the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, we could do without the imaginative flights into literature, crafts, design, and so on.

Now that Paige Rense, who had her favorites, is gone from AD will Margaret Russell give more space to Chicago architects and designers?

Bravo to Robert Feder who had the chutzpah to mock the perpetually genial, perpetually smiling (said he wanted to shake Allison Rosati) Channel 5 news team for schmoozing with Blago during The Long Goodbye. And to The Reader for its fearless reporting issues others don’t touch like the article about Columbia College and Prez Warwick Carter’s distinctly bad form performance in telling a student to Shut Up in a meeting.

JDM and New Harmony

Are you involved with the Save Prentice preservation debate? Should Bertrand Goldberg’s New Brutalist concrete structure be razed? We tend to agree with the Prince of Wales that more often than not the products of that concrete-heavy style of architecture are like “monstrous carbuncles on the face of an old and beloved friend.”

Well what about Ann Romney’s hanging around the house and choosing not to be shackled to a desk all day staring at a blue screen while pursuing a CAREER, always a massive headache? It pays to remember Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, from 1970, arguing that women do not realize how much men hate them; we rarely have a chance in business unless a father or husband shepherd the way. Men Who Hate Women is the original, Swedish title of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

A visit to John David Mooney’s environmental sculpture studio on Kinzie is always stimulating. He showed us his plans to take the utopian town of New Harmony, Indiana off the grid and harvest energy from the sun. We need more visionaries like John who is a player on the international art scene.

Sabatino's

Maria Lampros and Olga Geocaris are chairing the April 29th fundraiser to benefit the Friends of University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Pediatrics with author Sherrill Bodine. The cocktail reception is being hosted by Gabrielle Herberstein at152 W. Huron St. Chicago. RSVP to Mv1101@aol.com Friends was founded just three years ago to support of Children’s Hospital at UIC. Helen Applegate is chair of the 46 member council. For information: 947-615-7107

Vittle Notes: Sabatino’s on Irving Park Rd. a red sauce restaurant from mid 20th century, loved the ambiance, large glasses of rosso and everything parm; Delightful Pastries on North Wells, a Polish bakery, so precious, so good; Publican’s sandwicherie heavy on the bread but best soup in the city; Third Coast on Dearborn always good fare—they are also in Flagstaff now; Airport Captive Audience – you can’t bring decent sized bottle of water through security so they hit you up $5 later, then provide no WiFi; Good Eats’ host Ted Brunson should forego the bad taste double entendre.

 

 

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