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Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago: A Birthday Intermission

Diet Root Beer!

A restaurant proudly serving its own house brand of diet root beer? My kind of place.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours walking and walking and stopping and gazing and contemplating and walking and walking and walking. Halfway through those hours we had to pause the art patronage and go feed ourselves.

Plan A for lunch had been Terzo Piano, a fine-dining restaurant conveniently within the Art Institute itself. The cuisine sounded fascinating and the prices were well within what we’d budgeted. But we hit a snag. After I made online reservations through OpenTable, the confirmation notice came back with fine print I’d overlooked on their site and hadn’t thought to seek out: Terzo Piano enforces a “smart casual” dress code. Neither of us had heard that phrase before.

I wager it’s common parlance among the upper class. Some quick, increasingly distressing Googling confirmed my “business casual” comfort level is a few rungs below “smart casual” and isn’t haughty enough to qualify. At the same time, “smart casual” doesn’t have to mean tuxedos or prom dresses. Several sites provided long lists of clothing articles within the “smart casual” scope. Neither of us owned any of them. I got the general impression it’s ambiguous velvet-rope code for anything worn by fashion bloggers, doctorate holders, chic magazine designers, and other citizens in loftier American castes than ours. The snazzy couture of trendsetters who can afford to shop at Magnificent Mile clothiers, sleek tastemakers who don’t feel right leaving the house until their mirror confirms they’re fit to be extras on The CW, or wannabe social media influencers who run up five-digit credit-card debt to emulate all of the above.

If we wanted into their restaurant, we’d have to spend more on new wardrobes than on lunch itself.

This is not who we are, as dozens of our past jazz-hands convention photo-ops have testified. “Business casual” comes easily to me. “Yacht owner in repose” is not among my character skins.

I canceled the reservation and found us a Plan B. If nothing else, our pre-rejection gave us an excuse to see more of downtown Chicago. Yet again.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 6: Very Contemporary

Woman III!

Roy Lichtenstein. Woman III, 1982. Lichtenstein has fascinated me since high school Many comics fans deride him for his comic-book art swipes as if he were a plagiarist aspiring to launch his own line of romance titles. Kinda misses the point of Pop Art.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, heads tilted, curiosities aroused, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

Finished with the old standards of the early-20th-century Americana, we moved on to the second-floor galleries under the broad umbrella title “Contemporary Art”. Among the movements and styles encompassed were abstract expressionism, postminimal sculpture, photomontage, Chicago Imagists, and one of my personal favorites, Pop Art. Some were Chicago natives; some were big names you’re likely to recognize without Googling. A significant portion of their collection were gifted from two donors a few years ago. So much of it was a surprising delight to behold in person.

We went a bit enthusiastic with our cameras in this section. For the sake of time and space conservation, I’ve limited myself to one painting per artist in this entry. If demand or mood dictate, additional outtake collections are possible and entirely likely.

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Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and a Biscuit Burger Brunch

Shrimp & Grits!

Anne’s breakfast got more Facebook Likes and therefore gets to go first. Cajun-spiced sautéed shrimp atop grits with white cheddar and whatever “sauce Américaine” is.

Every so often when we’re not overindulging in weekend events or buried in adult chores, my wife Anne and I like to spend a Saturday morning driving to some other part of Indianapolis or central Indiana and finding breakfast at someplace that serves dishes more varied than scrambled eggs or McMuffins. We do this often enough that I could mine them for smaller MCC entries, but the thought never occurs to me. That changes right now, at least for tonight.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 5: Ye Olde Tyme America

Lincoln statue!

Daniel Chester French, Abraham Lincoln, 1912. French has previously graced our travels with Beneficence in Muncie, IN; the Wendell Phillips memorial in Boston’s Public Garden; and a roadside attraction called the Lincoln Memorial in DC.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, curiosities aroused, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

The exhibit hall one level below “Modern American Art” is labeled “American Art Before 1900”. It’s not entirely accurate, as we saw works that clearly disregarded the numerical boundaries (including a few of the Sargent paintings). The groupings did work in terms of like-minded sensibilities, which is my way of saying the “Modern” section engaged me more than the other, lower floor did. A few pieces caught our eyes — Anne’s more than mine, to an extent.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 4: Two Americans Abroad

On a Balcony!

Before folks spent six hours a day scrolling through their social media feeds, they had morning newspapers to bore or disgust them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, memories of past images awakened, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

As we walked along the many halls and galleries, Anne spotted two names in particular she’d encountered before. Among the many books she’s read by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough was one called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which explored the uncommon subject of the wave of 19th-century personalities with family ties to the relatively new country of America, who later spent a significant part of their lives in Europe, and who not only saw their lives changed, but who also brought those changes back home with them.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 3: Georgia on Her Mind

Blue and Green Music!

Blue and Green Music, 1921. An early attempt, capturing the qualities of sound in pure visuals.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, imaginations stimulated, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

The museum had an above-average selection of works by Georgia O’Keeffe, logical given her status as a past student. With her unique modernist vision typically comprising stylized nature in bold contrasts, O’Keeffe holds the distinction of being the only artist with a print adorning the walls of our house (Red Hills and Pedernal. 1936). Anne picked it up on one of our past road trips, and seems to gravitate to her works whenever we run across them in our travels.

Between the two of us, we didn’t set out to capture all their O’Keeffe, but we ended up with enough to give her an entry of her own, presented in chronological order for value-added trivia fun.

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