Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Culture of Summer-- Chicago Style!

This summer I decided to take in a few of the cultural offerings in Chicago. While New York City is my favorite American city for culture and diversity, Chicago does have a vast offering of its own. Here are a few of the museums I visited recently:

The Chicago History Museum—Not at all what I expected! I just knew this would be a sugar coated “kum ba yah” presentation of all that is good and wonderful in Chicago. What I did find, was a very comprehensive, candid view of Chicago’s history. The good, the bad and the ugly. The audio guide, narrated by Antoine McKay of Chicago’s legendary comedy theatre Second City, was especially entertaining. There were displays on the great fire. President Lincoln’s bed. The racial riots. The jazz and blues. Sports. The diverse (yet segregated) neighborhoods. And so much more!

Afterwards, I had a new appreciation for Chicago and its struggles. There was even homage paid to the prosperous African American businesses of yesteryear. It was conveniently overlooked however, what happened to those businesses and what really caused the deterioration of so many neighborhoods. Umm hmmm.

Overall, The Chicago History Museum is a must see! Normal Admission is $14. This Museum is free on Mondays.

Museum of Contemporary Art—I was initially drawn to this museum by an advertisement aboard a CTA train which featured a statue of Michael Jackson and Bubbles (The Jeff Koonz exhibit-now thru Sept. 21). Brash, daring, creative, tacky, brilliant, questionable- Koonz’s art definitely will affect you. Intricate paintings, unique sculptures and even sexually explicit photography highlight this special exhibit.
The museum also features in its standing collection a variety of contemporary masterpieces.

Discount retailer Target sponsors Thursdays at the museum and admission is free Concert at Millennium Park—Summer offers a series of musical concerts, not to be missed. While the music styles vary, it is great to take the opportunity to expose yourself to something different. Best of all, the concerts are free. You can picnic on the lawn, make friends and enjoy a simple evening.

Chicago Botanic Garden—Acre upon acre of garden mastery. The Chicago Botanic Garden is a place where you can let your mind and body relax and release all of life’s stresses! The 385-acre Garden features 23 display gardens and three native habitats, uniquely situated on nine islands surrounded by lakes. The Botanic Garden is perfect for nature walks, cycling, journaling or researching the plethora of plant species. In addition, there are many special activities such as yoga classes, live concerts, holistic cooking and wine tastings regularly available.
Free admission (there is fee to park, though the gardens are accessible via public transportation.

The Art Institute of Chicago—Housing one of the country’s largest and most breathtaking are collections, Chicago’s Art Institute is a sight not to be missed!
Currently on display, the special exhibit, Benin—Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria (no photography allowed). This exhibit gives a glimpse into the royal sculptures and regalia from the West African Kingdom of Benin. The economic prosperity of trade with the Portuguese, as well as the British invasion, is all explained as you view the 220 works on display. If you were educated in the United States, you probably didn’t hear much about Kings and Queens in Africa unless you took it upon yourself to learn the true history of the continents many cultures. All too often we only see images of Africa being poverty stricken and full of AIDS victims; far from our western view of ‘civilized’. America’s history books often gloss over The Middle Passage as if Africans were brought to this country on an ocean liner with Julie the Cruise Director. Let us ALL learn some truth! If you are not familiar with this continent’s history, then the Benin exhibit is an excellent place to begin.

The Art Institute’s regular collection is as massive as it is impressive. Art from around the world is prominently featured. American, Asian, Indian, European, African, textiles, architecture, photography, ancient, modern…you name it…you can find it here! It takes multiple visits to actually tour and spend quality time studying all of the works here. So be prepared to expand your mind and appreciate your neighbor. You will likely learn something about yourself as well!

Regular admission is $12. An audio guide is available for $6 (free for visually or hearing impaired guests). The Museum is Free on Thursdays and Fridays from 5pm-9pm

DuSable Museum of African American History
Located in Chicago’s Hyde Park (home to Obama, Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson among others) the DuSable is known for its extensive collection of African American contributions to US history. From prominent names like Fredrick Douglas, MLK, and Malcolm X to lesser known soldiers in the Vietnam War, the museum presents a comprehensive perspective into the remarkable and often overlooked achievements of America’s brightest and bravest citizens.

The current special exhibit, Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era, is extended through August 30. Its amazing and infuriating how these men and women contributed to the war and their stories never heard…until now. What struck me most about the exhibit is that it humanized the war. We often see the soldiers lifting the flag at Iwo Jima, but we never see the thousands of others whose efforts made that moment possible. This exhibit shows many of those heroic individuals. No guns. No bombs. No tanks. This display is not about violence, but the soldiers behind one of the worst debacles in our country’s history. (Instead of learning from our past, we are doomed to repeat it as Iraq is likely to displace Vietnam in the history books as our biggest blunder).

The DuSable also hosts an African Arts Festival each year. I had the opportunity to attend this year. You can find pics in the photo slide show here.

Admission to the DuSable is $3. The Museum is free on Sundays.

Millennium Park-- Summer plays hosts to many free concerts in the park. Pack a picnic basket, bring your lawn chairs and chill! Did I mention the concerts are free? A wonderful way to relax on a date, with friends or even solo.

Partake of some culture. Live a little! Far too many of us spend our time dismissing things that are not part of our regular routine. Time to change it up! Sports, museums, culture, there are plenty of options! Stop claiming that you are bored or broke…if you say it, you believe it, and it manifests.

Your home may or may not have a collection of museums on the caliber of Chicago, but are you truly appreciating what you do have? Hmmmmm. Attached are pics from Chicago’s museums. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

US Airforce Displays Military Gems at Dayton Airshow

I had the opportunity to attend the Dayton (Ohio) Airshow this weekend where the U.S. Air Force displayed many of its aircraft/tankers.

Here are a few of the aircraft featured. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bite of Seattle....Pac Northwest Gets Its 'Grub' on

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend "Bite of Seattle," an annual food, wine and entertainment festival at Seattle Center near downtown Seattle. After my experience at last year's Taste of Chicago (a formerly classy now turned ghetto not-at-all-fabulous event) I figured I'd steer away from such gatherings. In Seattle however, I was pleasantly surprised. There was plenty great food and music representing America's multi-cultural makeup.

There was a very visible, heavy police presence at the festival. Apparently at another recent festival in the city there was a shooting. Bite of Seattle was the first major event since then. While I certainly noticed the police, their presence was not overbearing. I felt completely safe.

Contrary to popular belief, the sun does shine occasionally on Seattle and this day's weather was perfect! While heavily attended, there was still plenty of room to maneuver without feeling claustrophobic. People were civilized, imagine that! Even the children were well behaved. I was utterly shocked at how well they played together and even obeyed their parents. I had to slap myself...could this actually be? You know all too often little Becky or bad ass Leroy are running the show, defying any parental authority. I can't count the times I've been ready to put my foot off in someones....well you know. So I say this to make note that all is not lost! When we come together in public for the purpose of food and enjoyment and we actually bring along our home training, it makes for a stellar occasion!

Seattle is such a beautiful place! This festival is definitely worth the time and trouble. Here are a few pics. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

4th of July in Olympic country- Lake Placid, NY

I had an opportunity to spend Independence Day weekend in beautiful Lake Placid, NY, the twice home of the Winter Olympics. While the area is known for its wintertime festivities, there is plenty to do during the warm weather months. Not terribly expensive, though not cheap, this vacation destination is affordable and ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. My only note, is that the dining is not consistent, so make sure you know where you are going. I found to be either stellar or inbetween. lol. Make sure to get recommendations before exploring food options.

The people in the area are very friendly and helpful. To my suprise the toursit population was quite diverse.

The annual Lake Placid Horse show, the Olypmic Ski Jump, and even bobsleding are a few of the highlights.

I had the opportunity to meet CNN anchor Lou Dobbs who was a complete joy. Its always nice to meet someone who admire and respect...especially when that person is pleasant.

Here are a "few" pis. Enjoy!