Flannery Correspondence

May 26, 2011

Trip to Chicago, Part 3

Friday, May 20th

We sleep in until 9:30 AM. I guess we needed the rest. Dress, teeth, shower. By 10 AM we miss the free cold cereal breakfast. We visit the grocery store across the street and pick up some fresh bread, fruit and a sandwich. I have a bag of carrots. We take the train into the city and walk to the library to scout it out as a future resource — a pit stop to sit and catch our breath.

From there we take the long way to the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) — weaving through the nearby Grant Park, watch Segway tourists find their balance, tip our hats to Abraham Lincoln, but miss the Buckingham Fountain by oversight.  The entrance to the AIC is flanked with two great, green lions that do not mirror each other.  For one thing, the tail on one curls up; the tail on the other goes down.

Inside we check our heavy bags at the coat check.  (We’re still lugging anything valuable with us, including three books.)  Trouble is, they inspect your bag and forbid anything perishable.  Remember how much food we bought this morning at the grocery store?  We carry it with us in Christa’s purse at the coat check girl’s unofficial suggestion.  The ticket takers do not inspect purses.

We cross over every square foot of this museum and see every painting, sculpture and relief except a few of the blotchy paint-splatter modern art displays.  We’re not art smart but we know what we like:  Medieval paintings especially, except some of the monotonous religious ones.  Brian likes the surrealists (original Salvador Dali‘s and Yves Tanguy‘s here).  Christa likes some of Picasso’s more legible stuff like The Old Guitarist.  We both likes American Gothic even though some of its surrounding modern art was weird.  Many old illuminated books at the Early Renaissance France exhibit.

It is a big museum.  At near collapse, we limp to the next train station according to the map, miss it (the blue line is a subway, not an “L”), take the wrong train, find it at last, and travel to the Red Canary.

Walking into the Red Canary feels like walking into an old movie when women wore dresses and men wore hats.  Everything is black and white and red.  Not like White Stripes but more like a black and white film updated with dark, maroon red hints so you can see where the ghosts of mobsters belong.  The restaurant/bar/lounge is larger than the website indicates.

Everything about its interior is impeccably designed.  A long, curved glass window lets you view into the kitchen as you walk down the hall towards the restrooms.  A matching long, curved mirror paces it on the other side.  There is seating in the main room, at the bar and in an adjoining lounge room.  Upstairs is another lounge and a wide balcony with many more tables and room for parties.  Out back, where we sit, is a beautiful patio crawling with aesthetic ivy and old trees.  The food is wonderful.

If this sounds like a commercial, it is.  We enjoyed the Red Canary as a hidden treasure.  A close friend recommended it.  Her brother runs it and he was generous enough to give us a quick tour.  If I were you, I’d go to Chicago just to eat there.  If you are a student of design, you can find nothing better.

Full and delighted, we leave the Canary and find our room turned over with new sheets (no cigarette burns, stains or bleach holes) and new towels — two! instead of one.  Friday nights are a bad time for this hotel.  We didn’t bring ear plugs with us.  The party lasts until dawn:  Someone has music playing, someone is carrying a broken TV around and strange smells come through our shower grate, through the washcloth.  The wildest voices we hear are from the people who work there.

(Next: A pier, a high-speed police chase, some towers and “home”.)

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