BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for the 'US Midwest' Category

« Home

To Thy Happy Children of the Future Those of the Past Send Greetings

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Jeremy and I were visiting the US Midwest recently, and one of our stops was Champaign-Urbana, Illinois–home of the University of Illinois, where I was in graduate school.  At the entrance to the school is one of my favorite statues, Alma Mater by Lorado Taft [The link is wikipedia].  It was a commission from the Class of 1927 (? I think) and the inscription on the base is the title of this post.  It strikes me that this inscription is the hope of what education is really all about.  The first picture on the Wikipedia link is the statue. [And here’s a picture that Jeremy took:]

Alma Mater

I went mostly to visit friends from my school days.  But, not surprisingly, they had lives that they were busy leading.  They provided a guide to art at the Univerisity of Illinois.  Jeremy and I worked our way around the campus, seeking out pictures and sculptures located in out-of-the-way corners of the campus.

I think our favorite discovery was a picture in the reception area of the President’s Office: We the People: The Land-Grant College Act Heritage, painted by Billy Morrow Jackson in 1987.  [The link is the page from the art guide, with a black & white version of the painting.]  The color image is much more interesting.  I’ll try to add one, if I can.

We ended our art tour of the campus at the Krannert Art Museum, the main art museum on campus.  There were a number of high points–there were some of the prints from the Carceri d’Inventiones [Imaginary Prisons–or Prisons of the Imagination, as you translate] by Piranesi.  These prints played an interesting part in the series Inspired by Bach from Yo-Yo Ma.  In the series, he worked with artists in different disciplines to create realizations of the Bach cello suites in their medium.  Some of them are much better than others, but they’re all interesting [and available on DVD].  In one of them, some acoustic engineers manipulate the sound from Yo-Yo Ma to place him sonically into these environments created visually by Piranesi.

Another amazing piece was another sculpture by Lorado Taft.  It’s called, I think, Les Aveugles [the Blind–with a Flickr link].  It’s based on a Nineteenth Century one-act play by Maeterlinck, describing a group of blind people that were marooned on an island.  At some moment, they realize that a baby born to the group can see, and that encapsulates hope for the future.  The sculpture captures the moment when an older woman is holding the baby up to the sun–and it’s clear both that the baby can see and that the rest of the group cannot.  In many ways, the group reminds me of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais–a large sculptural group, each an individual, united by their situation.

It was wonderful to discover a new side to a place that I spent such a long time, and that I have so many good memories of. 

An Expedition to the Midwest (I)

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Jeremy and I spend about two weeks in the Midwest.  The main purpose was our annual trip to the convention of the  IAGSDC [the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs], held this year in Cleveland.  Jeremy and I met at the convention in Portland ten years ago, so this is an easy way for me to remember our anniversary.  About one thousand people usually show up, and we have a great time dancing–and visiting.  At this point, I probably spend more time visiting with friends than I do actually dancing.

Though, as one of these friends says, these are friendships that are “a mile wide and an inch deep”.  We see each other once a year, and in between usually don’t keep in touch.  That’s not to say that it isn’t a real pleasure to run into folk.  Partly, there is also the problem of being slightly distracted by yet another person walking by that I want to say hi to.  And, somehow, I seem to feel that if I don’t take some time right now, I won’t have another chance.

There’s always a big banquet, and that’s where Jeremy and I met, so I’m glad to reminisce.  At the conventions that I went to before Portland, seating at the banquet was always a scramble–the doors were kept closed during the set-up, then at a certain moment, everyone was admitted, and people wandered around trying to figure out where to sit, and with whom.  It was a zoo–and I wasn’t a huge fan–to say the least.  So, when I arrived at Portland, I found that the organizers had put up a map of the hall, and allowed people to make “advance reservations” at half the tables.  I said to myself, what a great idea–and I signed up for one of the tables as the first of twelve.  Shortly thereafter, a friend came along and signed up, thinking–I’ll sit here.  Then his ex signed up, with his “entourage”–so the table was full.  So Jeremy was a “friend of a friend of a friend”.  We were sitting too far from each other for easy conversation; but at desert, people tend to table-hop to visit other friends, and we took the opportunity to get acquainted.  Our connection took off from there.

But back to the present.  We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in the City Square district–not too far from Civic Center.  I think that we were both surprised at how much life there was in the evening–there were quite a few clubs with live music.

One thing that we had to get used to was the fact that midwestern portions at restaurants are, shall we say, generous.  In fact, one evening three of us went out and shared what was “officially” a dinner for two–it was plenty for all three of us.

There are a number of hotels clustered around a shopping mall that includes a “food court”.  Astoundingly, the food was both good and cheap.  And fresh–there were a number of establishments that prepared food to order.

But I most wanted to mention an amazing water feature.  In a long oval, there were between ten and twenty jets.  Each one generated an absolutely smooth column of water that arced back into the pool–almost a parabola of plexiglass.  There was also a sound system playing various selections, some classical, some country, some pop.  And, in an unpredicatable but seemingly choreographed way, a jet would suddenly stop, and the column of water seemed to leap from the jet into the pool.  It was a truly remarkable visual effect.  Jeremy and I made a point of visiting most days–besides, it was on the way to coffee.

Since we were “in the neighborhood” we also stopped in Bloomington, Indiana and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  More about them next time.  On top of everything else, it got Jeremy to two new states–Ohio and Indiana.

On marine aquaria

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
When I was a youth, I had a fresh-water aquarium.  It was a certain amount of trouble, but not too much.  The fish were attractive, and some of them managed to reproduce, which was a pleasant surprise.  The main reason ... [Continue reading this entry]

A quick apology

Monday, July 21st, 2008
To my regular reader--if any--I'm sorry that I let you down.  Partly, I was away, and I found it remarkably difficult to blog from out of town.  At this point, since I don't have a laptop of my own to ... [Continue reading this entry]