There is Joy in Mudville!

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game/ For I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same.”  Eddie Vedder about the Chicago Cubs


Well, my reading tribe, the Chicago Cubs just won the World Series — there is a landslide of joy in Mudville!!!   Well done, Cubs!  You’ve made Chicago and all of your fans proud.

This isn’t news to you Americans, and it may grab you  international readers with all of the excitement that  the  news of Snookers Finals grab most of us.  But if you knew the underdog story, and the absolute loyalty of this underdog’s fan base, you’d come around.

One of my early blog posts (when only my parents read) was about Wrigley Field: Wrigley Field, Chicago–100 Years Old Today.  That was two years ago, when The Billy Goat Curse still had it’s grip on the Cubs.  It was a powerful curse, too.  But it was broken spectacularly, and in no small measure by true love and utter belief from Cubs fans.  They never lost faith, they never lost hope.  The Friendly Confines will make that sort of fan out of you.

It’s been a week in need of some joy here in America, and the Cubs could hardly have planned a more uplifting win:  after 108 years of championship drought, 71 years of a billy goat curse, decades of being the butt of jokes, a full 7 games of World Series, and a final game of near certain win turned into a nail-biter of extra innings and torrential rain and rain delays, this is the stuff of operatic crescendo, of Hollywood movies,  of tears of joy and dancing in the streets.

The Cubs have always shown good sportsmanship, and now no one can question their showmanship– I’d trade a hundred other consistently good enough teams for this jewel.  *Love-Joy-Cubs*

Eddie Vedder’s song “All the Way” captures the spirit of the Cubs, the classic Wrigley Field, and all those loyal Cubs fans.



Art in the Autumn #1 – Picasso: A Horse is a Horse


Of course.  Of course?

Well, actually, not necessarily.

Take, for example, “The Picasso” in Daley Plaza in Chicago.  It is untitled– which is the first tricky thing about it.  No hints to tell you what it is.  I walked by it for years, always assuming it was a horse.  I’m sure I’ve heard plenty of Chicagoans refer to it as “the horse,”  which looked about right to me.  (The long muzzle, the powerful haunches, the glamorous mane– it all fits.)  But on our recent visit to Chicago, my daughter said, “It’s a baboon.”  That’s all, no debate.  Clearly, it’s a baboon.  Duh.  And, guess what?  I totally see that too.  (How could I not have seen that before?)

However  . . .

it turns out that if you view it from the side as you come around it, instead of straight on . . .


Sculptor’s model.

it’s a woman’s profile.  In fact, at just the right angle, you really see the woman and her cheekbone lines from the front– especially if you look at the sculptor’s model in the Art Institute of Chicago.  The hair, the shoulders, the cheekbones, it’s all there.

Although that model could still be an especially fetching baboon.  Hard to say.

Picasso designed this mammoth statue for the city of Chicago– it’s 50 feet tall and weighs 163 tons.  At that size, whether or not you understand it, you will find yourself looking at it.

dsc_0689But wait– there’s more.  Because it’s a huge piece of art in a huge public space, you will find yourself as part of a community that interacts with it.  People navigate by it, eat lunch by it, stage movie scenes around it (remember the Blues Brothers?), and allow their children to play on it.

Can you do that?  Play on a Picasso?  Is that cool?  Some onlookers clearly think not, but others seem to believe this was Picasso’s intent all along– let the children run and slide on it!

Me?  In my head, it will always be a horse, but Picasso loved bending the lines of life.  I think he’d be thrilled that we are perplexed.  “Keep your eyes squinting at it, your mind chewing over it, your children running up and down on it,” this is what I think he’d say.

Picasso at Home, by Rene Burri
Picasso at Home, by Rene Burri

After all, he’s the guy who said, “Everything you can imagine is real,” and “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

So Chicago has its untitled Picasso,  a gift given freely by the generous  artist– a little nonsense standing at the navel of a great city, daring its inhabitants to guess its riddle.  Pablo Picasso knew exactly what he was doing. . .because even if we don’t get it, we still get it.

“If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse…  
but surely you will see the wildness!”  Pablo Picasso




Chicago: Bean There . . .

Done that?  You can’t say that about a town like Chicago, can you?  You’re never really done with it– too much to see, to do, to take in.  Always changing, always jumping.  Nope, “been there” maybe, but “done that” doesn’t cut it.

And now for the pun:

This is the Chicago Bean.


It’s fondly called the Bean,  but really it’s  Cloud Gate by artist Anish Kapoor.    Dating to 2006, this sculpture stands in Millennium Park and is a crowd pleaser!  It is visually stunning, but it’s also entertaining.  The polished surface reflects the cityscape in a fabulous fish-eye way.

And if that’s not interesting enough for all of us self-absorbed earthlings, it reflects us!   You can dance, goof around, and posture, and you are reflected in the bean.  You can even take a picture of yourself taking a picture of yourself.

More interesting, though, is the way it reflects the larger movements of the people, the community around it.  We were in Chicago this past weekend while a weekend long Jazz Fest was going on in Millennium Park, and the music and the constant movement provided a fascinating “urban dance” in the polished surface of the Bean.   The people were a constant swirl, while the buildings stood static . . . but not so static.

The Bean buildings vs the real buildings. One set swings with the jazz, the other stands tall and serious.
The Bean buildings vs the real buildings. One set swings with the jazz, the other stands tall and serious.

Under the spell of the Bean and the jazz,  the buildings looked like they were swaying with the music too.   And why not– a sunny day in the park in Chicago will do that for you.


Our trip to Chicago was a spur of the moment thing– missing our travels and bracing for a possible hurricane in Florida, we decided to book a flight to Chicago and get the heck out of Dodge.  A little impulsive; a lot fun.

Chicago is a fantastic city.  I lived there for about two and a half years in the early/mid 90’s, and I hadn’t been back since, so I was really excited about this trip.

Had I forgotten my way around the city in the intervening decades?  A bit. . . but maps and cabbies solved that problem.  And, besides, a weekend trip to Chicago only leaves you time for the essentials:  strolls along the River Walk, a visit to the Art Institute, and shows at The Second City.  (And, as an added perk for us, a Jazz Fest.)

I’ll probably post more on Chicago in the weeks ahead, but here are some photos to whet your appetite.

First, a collage of city scapes:


Second . . . city.  The stage at Second City (proving grounds for John Belushi,  Gilda Radnor, Steve Carrel, Tina Fey, Steven Colbert, Dan Aykroyd, Peter Boyle, Chris Farley, John Candy, Mike Myers . . . would it be easier to list comedians who didn’t get there start here?)

The improv stage at Second City–the first show we took in.

More tidbits on Chicago in the weeks ahead.  For now, so long, and all that jazz. . .



Making the Best of the Wurst


Recently, another blogger I follow took note of the Germans’ penchant for pork.  Took issue with it, really.  And, while I think taking aim at another cultures’ tastebuds is a thorny undertaking at best, I do feel a little sympathy for other people who are swine-averse in Germany.  There’s no easy way to steer clear of  the pig when in the Palatinate.

And I should know.  I am not a sausage eater.  I don’t mind the aroma, the spice, the bite of garlic or pepper–those are all fabulous…seductive, even.

Not sure I like the idea of sausage, but sausage is not really one of those things anyone should think too closely about, so that’s not the problem.

I’m just allergic to pork.  So I avoid it.  No biggie.  Up to this point in my life, there have always been lots of options.  In the South, I go to BBQ joints and order shredded chicken or beef.  I take a pass on bologna, and I feel no great loss.   However,  in the land of beer and brats, you find yourself adrift on a sea of sausage… absolutely schwimming in schwine.

The boys in my family think this is fabulous, and I won’t contradict them.  But it does make for some awkward moments for me.  I feel funny always asking what’s in a dish that I don’t recognize–it feels a little high maintenance.  And, since my German is very rudimentary, I often don’t understand the answers I get back.  So there’s a lot of just steering clear–taking the widest path around anything that might possibly contain pork., weisswurst, weisswurst

Which knocks out a lot of things in Germany.  (I thought my Ritter chocolate bar smelled slightly bacony the other day…but I ate it anyway, and I’m still standing.)

So here’s the plan:   Germany may be a swine-fest 24/7, but it’s also a chocolate and pastry and spatzle fest, so I will not suffer (although my waistline might).   My household will savor all that Germany has to offer by the age old “Jack Spratt technique.”  What I won’t eat (pork), my husband will relish; what he will only nibble around the edges (pastries), I will greedily gobble.  You’ll recognize us if you sit nearby at a restaurant:  we’ll be the people who’ve licked our platter clean.

Guten appetit!


A little sampler of facts about German Wurst:

*A wurst is a German or Austrian sausage–it is not necessarily made of pork, although pork is the most frequent ingredient.

*Wurst is sold both raw and cooked; it can be sold as a sausage or as cold cuts.

*If you happen to be near New Braunfels, Texas, you can go to the Wurstfest in November.  It bills itself as “the best 10 days in sausage history”–the best of the wurst.  Or the wurst at its best.  And then, later, you can confuse people by saying, “I was once in Texas and had the best wurst.”   ?!    The Pocanos also advertise a Wurst fest, complete with Polka Bands, Bavarian dancing, Lederhosen, and hotdog races.   The wurst at its worst best wurst …whatever.   Chicago also has a three day Wurst fest.  (This begs for a windy city joke, but I’m trying to be mature.)

*Bad Durkheimer, Germany (in the Pfalz, which is part of the Rhineland-Palatinate and close to where I live) has a Wurstmarkt wine and wurst festival in September.  Part of the national Oktoberfest fervor, but with wine. (And, I’m told, the wine is served in half-liter sized glasses, like beer.  Ouch.)  The Durkheimer Wurstfest is famous for being the biggest winefest in Germany.    It bills itself as a nearly 600 year old festival.  (The flyer should read “the best 570 years in sausage history”–that would show Texas!)  

Bad Durkheimer
Bad Durkheimer


*Apparently, there are over 1,500 types of wurst available in Germany. It can be found on a German table at any time of day or night.  It is the subject of festival and poetry.  (Well, if Robert Burns can write a poem about Haggis, then sausage is certainly fair game!)    

* Holzhausen, Germany boasts the Deutsches Bratwurstmuseum–yes, a wurst museum– which houses documents that can date the beginning of wurst  from the year 1404.   So there you go; plan your pilgrimage now. 


**If this is the wurst post ever, I apologize.  Consider the subject.

Wrigley Field, Chicago–100 years old today

I promised to regale you with tales of travels abroad, but I’m still stateside and this is an important digression…

Consider this:

  • Today is Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday
  • Wrigley falls within the realm of my travels.  We lived in Chicago ’92-94 and had an apartment with a view of Wrigley Field. (Granted, you had to look over the transient hotel across the street, and all of the fire engines regularly gathered there when the tenants threw flaming mattresses out the windows.  But if you could pull your eyes away from that spectacle, Wrigley Field stood proud in the distance.)
  • There’s nothing better than a Cubs game,  a chili dog,  and a 7th inning stretch with Harry Carray and company singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
  • And who cares if the Cubs aren’t known for winning?  They’re known for the billy goat curse–that’s far more interesting. (Don’t know it?  Look it up–it involves a tavern owner and his smelly billy goat being expelled from the park in the 30’s or 40’s.  The owner, subsequently, cursed Wrigley Field.  Silly?  The team hasn’t gone to the world series since the 40’s.  I’m just sayin’.  A goat curse is way cooler than a winning streak.)

So today I’m celebrating America’s best:  Cubs baseball, chili dogs, and maybe I’ll even serve up a little apple pie.  God Bless America!

Check out this amusing article on CBS: