Yep, I'm back. And boy, were y'all chatty while I was away. I'm tickled.
As planned, my sister Susan flew back to Chicago with me after we visited our parents at their new house in Kokomo. Any visit with her will be too short for me, but we did make the most of the time allotted.
A few highlights:
Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte was a motif of our childhood and it hangs, by happy chance, at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Susan had never seen it in person. Now she has.
Considering that I introduced it to her via reproductions (including one I painted on my bedroom wall in Hawaii) and Sunday in the Park with George, it felt poetically just that I should be there when she came face-to-face with it at last.
Funny to think that when she first saw it she wasn't much older than the little girl in white at the center of the painting. Now, she's old enough to be the woman with the pet monkey.
We also went to Lincoln Park Zoo. When I was a kid, I had a fantasy about living close enough to a zoo that I could go any time I wanted to. And now I do, and I do.
The self-satisfied meercat at left is one of a little troupe (herd? litter? caucus?) that lives in the African Safari exhibit.
Most of the animals will go out of their way to run off, roll over or pee just when you get the perfect shot set up. Not the meercats. Little camera hogs, every one of them. They'll climb up on a log or a rock, give you an over-the-shoulder sweetheart pose and hold it while you adjust the camera.
I wish all my human models were so cooperative.
The trumpeter swans who live in the pond had hatched out a brood since my last visit. We came upon the nest and were struck dumb by the sight. One of the parents was swimming about while the other kept an eye on the kiddies.
Truth be told, swan babies are pretty homely. Hans Christian Andersen didn't tell the half of it.
But it was touching to see them shuffling short distances on the bank, flapping their fuzzy gray wings and (no doubt) suffering dreadful agonies of self-loathing that will require years of therapy to sort through.
What surprised me most was the proximity of the nest to the public footpath. Didn't seem to bother the birds.
Buzz was of the party and managed to stuff his 6-foot frame into the gigantic, hollow clutch of chicken eggs in the main barn of the farm at the zoo.
The eggs are meant to attract children aged 5-10 years, but never mind.
In my experience, one can invariably count on Buzz to provide a bizarre photo opportunity, whatever the setting.
I think he should use this shot in his online profile, with the caption "Castor Seeks Pollux."
Next to the zoo is the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and we paid a brief call because the temperature in the place had to be at least 90 degrees, with the sort of humidity that must be very welcome when you're a frog or a palm tree.
Before the beads of sweat became too pronounced, Buzz took this shot of Susan and me. I'm rather rumpled and gray, but I like it anyway, so thank you, Buzz sweetie.
On Saturday night we went down to Old Town and took in a performance of Red Scare, the latest review at The Second City.
TSC is celebrating its 45th year, which blows my mind. 45 years is a long time for a theater company to stick around, especially in the United States.
This is Susan before the performance, with the famous stage in the distance. I wasn't sure how much she'd like the show. If her laughter was any indication, I made the right choice.
I live near Lake Michigan, and on previous visits (at Thanksgiving) the weather conditions haven't exactly been conducive to a stroll, so this time we walked over to the harbor and looked at the boats.
This is the first time C and Susan have had a chance to spend much time together, so I was delighted (but not surprised) that they got on well.
Then we went home and watched, at C's recommendation, Napoleon Dynamite and giggled madly. (I never saw that sort of movie before I met C. It's nice when the person you fall for is able to open new doors for you.)
All the walking and looking was terrific, as was the eating and eating and eating, but of course nothing could quite match the thrill I felt at the sight of this:
Susan, having just knitted her first row ever. She followed it with several more, at which point I showed her how to bind off and we agreed she had just made a perfectly respectable wrist band or Barbie shawl.
Alas, I only had time to teach her the slingshot cast-on, the knit stitch (continental), and a basic bind-off.
Marilyn will be pleased to know I also taught her to say, "Shut up, I'm counting."
I packed her off to Maine with the needles, a ball of leftover yarn, a yarn needle for finishing and a new copy of Stitch 'n' Bitch. (Yeah, I know. But I think it's a very fine teach-yourself book for a beginner with no nearby mentor or support network and I'm not afraid to say so. If she sticks with it, she'll get Maggie Righetti and St. Elizabeth Zimmerman and all the others.)
(Does this make me a yarn pusher?)
I won't be heartsick if she doesn't keep up with it, but I sure hope she does. Between her first row and her final row there was a decided increase in speed and agility, and I swear she got that look in her eye. You know the one I mean.
Just wait until she learns to purl.