Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back from Chicago!

I've returned from the Windy City, where I had the pleasure of hanging out with a good friend and a kind cousin.

I liked Chicago.  It was friendlier than I had expected, fairly easy to get around in on public transportation, and it has a energetic, going-places vibe that I loved.

I spent three days with my friend Elizabeth, who is getting her Ph.D. in Italian at the University of Chicago.  This meant that for the first time in my life, I lived with cats.  I'm starting to see why people might like pets  Not that I would ever get one.  But it's kind of fun to try and figure out what's going on in their heads and they are occasionally affectionate.

Anyway, the sights!

First we went to Navy Pier.  It probably has a fun and festive atmosphere in the summer which distracts you from the fact that you are enmeshed in a vacuous, money-sucking tourist trap.  There was, however, one cool things there: a free stained-glass museum which I thoroughly enjoyed.. 

The next day I tootled around campus.  I went to the Smart Museum (Free. Small. Modern Art.)  I liked the Frank Lloyd Wright stuff, which gave me an idea for a set of dinning room chairs.

It was really inspiring to be out of my usual groove.  I think I came up with two ideas for novels while I was there. 

I liked the University of Chicago architecture.  Here's a shot of old and new together, which neatly captures my impression of the place:

I prefer stuff with gargolyes to squashed UFOs, but the plastic dome had its merits.  (It's a library addition, in case you're curious).  The shot below is an archway leading into a courtyard.

I also checked out the Oriental Institute, where one can see the results of the untiring efforts of Egyptologist Dr. James Henry Breasted who may have been a model for Indiana Jones. (He even collected mummies on his honeymoon!)   This museum = one of my favorite little gems.  It’s free, kid-friendly and I could easily spend four hours there.  There’s a lot of stuff there that was brought back from the Middle East before the export of antiquities was halted.

The next day we hit two museums.  The Chicago History Museum had an exhibit on 50 years of Ebony Magazine's Fashion Fair which inspired me in multiple ways.  That was great fun.  

We also stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago.  I didn't realize it was so big and had so much great stuff!  It reminded me of the Louvre, which a big compliment. We saw the Picasso exhibit, and enjoyed some impressionists, including Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, the famous example of pointillism. 

I took this picture because seeing these Monets reminded me of the time Mom, Rachel, and I spent four delightful hours wandering around Monet's garden in Giverny, France. 
This photo was in honor of The Magician.  I wanted to bring this box back for him to keep his magic paraphernalia in:
I also visited my cousin Nick at Northwestern University where he has a fellowship for research in biomedical engineering.  He works with monkeys to develop implants that help us understand the connections between muscles and particular neurons in the brain.  The goal is to help paralyzed patients regain some control over their worlds.  If a paralyzed person could think and control a computer mouse or a robotic arm... that would change so much. 

Nick is super-smart and I'm really proud of him.  Here he is in his lab:

In order to study the brain-neurons-muscle connection they need to know where the monkey's want to move their arms and hands.  So they teach them to play simple video games.  Here's me trying (and failing!) to figure out one of the games:
We also walked along the lake and then sat by the river.  Here's me with Navy Pier behind me:
It was a really good trip.  And it was also good to come home to my sweet husband who missed me so much he cleaned house, ate anchovy paste, oiled my squeaky office chair, and re-lettered my computer keyboard.  (Yup--I have weird fingers, and the letters invariably wear off.)

Thanks to Elizabeth for hosting me and for Dr. Nick for showing me his lab! 


No comments:

Post a Comment