Friday, August 26, 2016

Traveling in Chicago - The Chicago Cultural Center

One of the little known but great things about Chicago is the abundance of art and culture that’s free and accessible to the public. We took advantage at one of those places by seeing two art exhibits at the Chicago Cultural Center Completed in 1897, the building served as the main branch of the Chicago Public Library until 1991. You can enter the building on either 78 East Washington or 78 East Randolph St or through its Pedway entrance.

There are many free concerts, art exhibits, and other cultural events at the Chicago Cultural Center and the building itself is beautiful and well worth a visit. Free tours of the Cultural Center are given Wednesday through Saturday at 1:15PM. 

Free lunch time concerts are given year round on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:15. I’ve attended several of them where I’d see many people coming from work to enjoy the concerts on their lunch hours.

Since we had been in the Cultural Center many times before, we went to see the art exhibits before going to Millennial Park. Most of the art exhibits are there for a few months. Unfortunately, the exhibit the works of Carlos Rolon/Dzine closed on July 31st. The exhibit Under the Pleasure Dome by Phyllis Bramson is there until August 28th. Ms. Bramson’s fertile imagination is something to see. She synthesized the ideas and images of Asian art, Freudian concepts, and her own imagination into very colorful paintings, collages, and other artifacts. Her works are quite unique.

Carlos Rolon/Dzine is also a very imaginative artist. From Puerto Rico, he draws on his origins in his work. He has created flower arrangements, sculpture, and murals in addition to paintings. His work is also unique and worth seeing. Look for it in other museums and galleries.

The Chicago Cultural Center is open every day. Check the website for hours. You’ll be happy that you stopped by.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Traveling in Chicago- The Swedish American Museum

America is a country of immigrants. Sometimes it’s good to remember the immigration story of a group that came a few generations ago before all the current strife. It's easy to do that in Chicago, a city of museums, many of which are ethnic ones. Before going on a trip to Scandinavia, we thought we’d get ourselves ready by taking a trip to the Swedish American Museum It was well worth the trip. This museum tells the story of Swedish immigration to America, but in a sense, it’s the story of all immigration to America.
Located at 5211 North Clark Street, The Swedish American Museum is located in the heart of Andersonville, the neighborhood that used to be a focal point of the Swedish-American community in Chicago the majority of whom emigrated in the late 1800’s. Although the Swedish community is now dispersed throughout the Chicago area, this neighborhood still has several Swedish restaurants, cafes, and stores.
on the corner of an Andersonville street near the museum

We started our visit to the museum by going to the third floor to see The Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. This exhibit is great for children between the ages of four and nine. It has several interactive areas complete with costumes the children can wear while they pretend to be Swedish immigrants to Chicago. The museum also has  a simulation of a Swedish cottage and a farm as well and areas where children are invited to draw pictures. One part of the exhibit we enjoyed was an exchange of letters between Chicago middle school students and students from a middle school in a small Swedish town. I was so impressed with the English written by the Swedish students that I asked the museum guides if the students had written the letters in English themselves or had them translated. I was assured that the students had written the letters in English.

On the second floor of the museum is the main exhibit for adults. The visitor is directed to the entrance where the exhibit starts. It shows all the steps that Swedish people had to take before emigrating from there. The rest of the exhibit highlights some of the community’s history after it came to Chicago as well as pointing out some prominent Chicagoans of Swedish descent.

diorama of a Swedish man leaving for America

example of Swedish cabinetry

Swedish handicrafts

During the summer, the Swedish American Museum offers walking tours of Andersonville on the last Thursday of each month. We’ll have to do that sometime soon as well.

If you want to add to your museum experience, have dinner afterwards at Tre Kronor, our favorite Swedish restaurant located at 3258 W. Foster, just a few minutes' drive from the Museum. It will definitely complete the experience.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

When Muslim and Jewish Women Meet - Finding Common Ground

I have always felt that if people can meet across national, ethnic and religious lines, the barriers can be broken one dialogue at a time. So I was happy to introduce my daughter, an Orthodox Jew, to a friend who’s a Muslim.

We offered her some coffee or tea that she declined. She had just had something to drink after exhausting herself searching for a comfortable pair of shoes. Quickly the discussion turned to something that can unite all women – the difficulty women have finding comfortable shoes. Especially if one’s foot is wide or narrow as opposed to average, finding a comfortable pair of walking shoes that actually fit properly can entail an expedition to numerous shoe stores, often in vain.

My friend wanted a pair of comfortable shoes for her pilgrimage to Mecca. My daughter walks to and from religious services every week on Shabbat (Sabbath). If there is any area of common ground, it's definitely the ordeal it is to find the right shoes for the purpose of walking on this Earth.

When I went shoe shopping myself, I thought of them as I wore out every shoe salesperson in the store. After trying on about 40 pairs of shoes, I finally found a pair settling on something not perfect but comfortable.

My husband waited for me in the front of the store looking extremely bored. This is something I didn’t think would ever happen to us. When he planned to retire, I told him it was fine with me on the condition that he would never ask to go shopping with me. As an anti-shopper, he has always been very happy to comply with that condition but that day we were in the process of doing several different errands. Why did I think for a second that shoe shopping would be a quick stop? I should have known better.

“What do you think?” my husband asked. “Why aren’t women’s shoes more lasting?”

The answer was obvious. Most designers of women’s shoes are either sadists or misogynists or both. What man would walk a mile in these moccasins?


Do these shoes befit any religious pilgrimage? I wouldn’t even wear them to walk around the supermarket.

 When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination for President, they shattered the glass ceiling. "When there's no ceiling, the sky's the limit," she said in her acceptance speech.

Thank heavens, we American women have finally achieved that milestone albeit after at least 20 other countries around the world. Now that we have, maybe we can focus on the ground again and the shoes women are forced to wear to walk on it. If we’re going to walk beside our men instead of lagging far behind them, we’re going to need more comfortable shoes to do it in. After all, how are we supposed to hold up Half the Sky in shoes like these?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Another Look At String Theory - Revisiting Ways to Extend Assistance to People

 There are many ways to say it. “Give someone a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he has food for the rest of his life.”

“Not a handout but a leg up.”

Being vertically challenged – I’m 5’ tall- I’ve had a problem for a while. I have overhead fans with lights attached to them in several rooms in my apartment and if they weren’t on when I turned the switch, I had a few choices: I could stand on a chair and reach for the string wobbling as I got to it. I could do without the light. If my husband was home, I could ask him to turn the lights or the fan on or off for me. Not being able to do something as simple as turning the light on or off both infuriated me and reminded me of what disabled people experience sometimes on an hourly basis. Either do without or be dependent. Often there are simple devices that can solve the problem. Microwaves with the controls in Braille, voice-activated computers, and telephone connections for the hearing impaired are a few that come to mind. 

Finally, we decided to solve my problem. We bought extensions for the chains on the overhead fans and lights. Now I can turn them on or off all by myself. Wow! The feeling of independence feels so liberating that I find myself turning lights on and off just because I can. Why didn’t I think of that before?

In a way, this is a metaphor for the issues that I depicted in my book Breaking the Fall. In the book, Sherry, a Chicago therapist, works with people who face problems for which they seek her help. Often systemic problems in our society place obstacles to their healing. These people seek help so that they can live their lives as independently as possible. Sherry has to help her clients unravel their problems and find the solutions and understandings that will help them overcome the obstacles that they face. Many of the obstacles are ones that society places in their path and that threaten their lives and sometimes their very survival. Will Sherry be able to help them or will her own problems engulf her? That’s for the reader to discover by reading Breaking the Fall. It can be bought as a paperback on Amazon or read on a Kindle or a Nook.

All people are searching for is the string to pull that can unravel the problems. Usually it’s more complicated than a single string but being able to unravel any part of a problem helps and sometimes leads to solving another piece of it.

In the meantime, I’m going to turn out the light when I leave this room. It feels so good to be able to do it all by myself.