If You Feel Just Like a Tourist in The City You Were Born in (Then It’s Time to Go)

Title courtesy of Ben Gibbard. (Also the grammar bugs me… don’t end with a preposition. Should be “if you feel just like a tourist in the city in which you were born”… somehow that doesn’t roll quite so trippingly off the tongue.)

This weekend, my dad and I are having a staycation in the city of Chicago. I wasn’t actually born in Chicago, to be fair, and I don’t actually feel like a tourist, but sadly it is time to go.

Yesterday night, to kick off my staycation, I went to my friend Claudia’s production of Urinetown. Well, it was a lot of people’s production, but Claudia had a huge role as one of the main characters. The show was really enjoyable, especially considering the fact that all the actors were high school students or incoming college freshmen.

Today, I went to the incredibly nice East Bank Club, which is a really nice place for a workout, (really really nice- their shampoo smells like what I aspire to smell like), and then planned out the rest of our weekend. (Also, a note… I’ve never gone to the East Bank Club and not run into someone from Latin, my high school. It’s a weirdly Latin heavy place.)

The first thing we ended up doing was serendipitous. Just recently I was recommended to visit the Chicago Cultural Center (the old Chicago public library), and we did, and it was beautiful. The whole place was decorated by Tiffany, who lined the domes in the building with sparkling glass and jewels. They were setting up for a wedding in one of the domes, and I have to admit it looked like a good idea, because it was just such an impressive location.IMG_1916

The second thing we did was visit the Art Institute of Chicago. The walk there was pretty, because there were airplane contrails- the Air and Water show is this weekend.

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Note also the American flag just hanging there. I guess my time in Belfast made me more sensitive to flags and nationalism in general, though let’s be real, I was already pretty fascinated by American nationalism.

Here’s where I start acting like a tourist, because I took a photo of one of the lions outside the Art Institute:

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Pretty imposing, isn’t he?

We didn’t have long until the museum closed, so we headed straight to the impressionists. The French impressionists make me feel really happy, unlike many other painters. I don’t know what it is about them. Below are a few examples.

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For those of you that didn’t recognize it, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat. This actually isn’t one of my favorites but I took a photo of it dutifully as a tourist. I’ll photoshop out the other hand taking a photo of it when I get the chance, but I think it meaningfully demonstrates something about these really popular paintings… how photographed they are, that looking at them is interrupted by people photographing them, that even photographing them is interrupted by people photographing them. I don’t know.

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One of Monet’s later works. Stack of Wheat… part of a series. I thought his earlier stuff was kind of harsh… something about the brushstrokes seemed harsh. But all the waterlilies and stacks of wheat weren’t harsh. This stack of wheat is kind of harsh because it’s in that harsh winter morning sunlight, but I think Monet perfectly captures the sunlight. With the way the stack of wheat pops out at me, I feel like I am in the scene, admiring it. It felt like a winter morning.

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One of my favorite paintings that I saw today period. The Pallisades, by George W. Bellows. Obviously not a French impressionist. This is a painting of New York. I love especially the texture of the cloud (and everything else), the way the dock falls into the water in its color, the attention to detail with the lamppost. The color is incredible as well. I love the harshness of winter light in paintings, and this is another great example. The way the trees interact with the clouds is to die for.

We rushed off to look at modern American art as well as pre-twentieth-century American art. Both were fine and enjoyable, but not as fun as the French impressionists. I tear up when I look at some of their paintings- they were really onto something.

We went to dinner at Cafe Babareeba, a Chicago classic which serves tapas, and then off to my second theatre experience of the week: Brilliant Adventures, at the Streep Theatre. Oddly enough, one of my friends from high school who had been at Urinetown because she knew several cast members (including Claudia) was an intern for Streep Theatre, so I saw her again. Life’s pretty funny that way. She might go to college in Boston, so maybe I’ll have another friend there. If there’s anything I’ve found in life, it’s that one can never have too many friends. (That’s patently false. I have several foundational beliefs, and none of them involve gaining an exorbitant amount of friends. It would be nice to have her in Boston regardless.)

Anyway, Brilliant Adventures was one of the most messed-up but awesome plays I’ve ever seen. The acting was superb. The main characters each had really fleshed out personalities, physicalities, the works, and the relationships between the characters felt real. Even though it was science-fiction (there’s a time machine!) the play never felt unbelievable.

Science-fiction doesn’t mean happy, however. Most of the play I spent longing for the characters to understand each other, and for things to turn out for the best, but some really awful things happened. Onstage. Believably. I think the writers had a difficult time wrapping up the show and dealing with the paradoxical nature of time-travel, because the ending was probably the weakest part of the show, but overall it was an incredibly poignant experience. If you’re in Chicago, see Brilliant Adventures. It’s really a play about family. It’s on for the next two weeks. You won’t regret it.

Maybe when I go to MIT I’ll understand time travel and quantum physics and special relativity better and I’ll be able to actually explain stuff to my dad. For now, I settled for a lot of “I’ve heard” and “I think it would be negligible” talking to him.

11 days left till school. Terror.

EDIT: Clearly I need some MIT education, because apparently the things in the photo are smoke trails, not contrails. Whoops. #aspertheusual…Iknownothing

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