Captives of the Pride

Captives of the Pride

Located in the sliver of Lakeview bounded by Sheridan, Diversey, Belmont, and the Inner Drive, our neighborhood is paralyzed annually by the Pride Parade.

If we don’t go out of town, we must choose between staying in all day, or going out all day, because once you leave the neighborhood in a car, bus, or cab, it’s hard to return.  One year we drove somewhere in our car and tried to get back, only to be stopped by the police and told that the roads were still closed for cleaning, even though by then it was at least 6:30.  The roads that remain open during the parade are choked with traffic, so that it’s impossible to get anywhere anyway.

By noon, the air was filled with the sounds of helicopters, honking horns, emergency sirens, distant drums.  We headed for the only refuge we could think of, setting out on foot to visit the zoo.

Zoo goers on a dappled path, © 2013 Celia Her City

Zoo going, © 2013 Celia Her City

About a quarter-mile to the south, it was a haven of peace.  The weather was cool, and we very much enjoyed looking at the exotic animals.  The aardvark, in particular, spoke to me.

Aardvark in hiding, © 2013 Celia Her City

It was a good way to fill the afternoon until the return of peace.

Click on images to enlarge.

They lived with their dead

A reminder of one lost (funerary sculpture on the grounds of Chesterwood, Stockbridge MA), © 2013 Celia Her City

Several historic homes we visited in New England offered reminders of the omnipresence of death in earlier times.

In one house, a large marble bust of a young man stood in the corner of the living room, the likeness of a son, age 19, who had gone upstairs after dinner and died.  The same family had lost a 26-year-old daughter to colitis, sitting up with her in her bedroom in the final weeks of her life.

Loss and the possibility of loss dogged the everyday, making people perhaps more comfortable with death than we.  On the grounds of the home of the sculptor Daniel Chester French, I encountered this funerary sculpture of a boy, with an arched path leading up to a bench for meditation nearby.  I can imagine the husband and wife sitting on this bench, recalling their dead child, and pondering God’s nature and human love.

A bench for contemplating the quick and the dead, © 2013 Celia Her City

Each summer contemporary sculpture is installed in the park, and this summer a modern sculpture resembling a pregnant woman has been placed in between the bench and the boy.

Travel endows

Staircase in the Buttrick Mansion (now the Old North Bridge Visitors' Center), Concord, MA © 2013 Celia Her City

Our vacation house in Michigan contains a dangerously irregular set of stairs, which I fantasize about having rebuilt one day.  My brother tells me that only smart craftsmen can build good stairs because of the complex calculations involved.

This staircase, which I saw during my trip, inspires, not only by being beautiful and well-proportioned, but because its technique is plain to see.  Every stair is a box, stacked in a modular fashion, producing stairs of uniform height and depth.  The underside of the staircase is fully exposed, but the detailed molding on the boxes makes that agreeable, accentuating the underlying geometry.  Even the corner landing is marked off this way.  Meanwhile, the curving bottom stairs and curves in the handrail keep the risk of visual monotony at bay.

Detail of stair handrail at the Buttrick Mansion (Concord, MA), © 2013 Celia Her City

This house, which belonged to a family named Buttrick, was built in Concord in 1911.  Components of the stairs were no doubt made by machine, especially these fancy spindles, which add an element of fun.  The alternation of the three different patterns is visually engaging—I ended up staring at them for a fairly long time!

I come home from trips like this full of ideas.  I love seeing how other people lived, the ways they came up with to do everyday things.  Out in front of this house were the foundations of the tiny homes of their ancestors, which had stood there some 300+ years ago.

Pre-revolutionary foundations (Buttrick property in Concord MA) © 2013 Celia Her City

Small foundations, © 2013 Celia Her City

Massachusetts magic: the Stanley Cup

Keepers of the cup

At the end of our first day in the Berkshires, we turned on Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, just in time to see our home team’s last-minute comeback over the Bruins to clinch the trophy.  “You can put it to rest,” I kept saying to the set while Chicago trailed. “It’ll all be over if you can just get a goal.”  Suddenly it was, as the Hawks surprised everyone by scoring two.

The Bruins, their fans, the announcers fell quiet.  The jubilant Hawks lifted the gleaming Cup high.  We whooped with delight, naughty as children, conscious of being in Bruins’ territory.

The Bushel ‘n Peck

The Bushel ‘n Peck

This morning, the wedding over, my family left Concord, where we’d been staying.  Some of us headed to the airport, others out to Worcester for a final visit with my sister.  She took us to a locally famous deli, the Bushel ‘n Peck, where we bought sandwiches and said our good-byes.  My parents and younger sister’s family were headed back to Pennsylvania.  My husband and I were headed for the Berkshires, to kill a day or two before flying back to Chicago via Albany.

The deli was crowded, though its appearance was modest, on the verge of dumpy.  There were nine in our party. Counter staff took our orders abstractedly, without writing down a thing.  Customers came and went.  Sandwiches began appearing, were as quickly claimed.  Despite our efforts to convey to the cashier what we’d ordered, it never came right, and I’m pretty sure we ended up underpaying.  But we got the food, and it was yummy.

'The bomb' at Elsa's Bushel 'n Peck, © 2013 Celia Her City

‘The bomb.’  A delicious wrap made with prosciutto, seafood salad, and cheese.

I had a seafood wrap called ‘The bomb.’  As sandwiches go, it was a beauty.

The bomb was misnamed, because it went down easy.  It was filled with fresh seafood salad, prosciutto ham, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and mild cheese.  Everything about it was perfect—perfectly prepared and assembled, tightly wrapped, and every ingredient noticeably cold—a quality I look for when eating in a deli.

Elsa's Bushel 'n Peck: A memento, © 2013 Celia Her City

Photograph of Teddy Kennedy and Edward McCormack, Jr. with local businessmen; a handwritten note conveys the shock of JFK’s assassination.

On our way out, we noticed some vintage photographs on the walls.  We were deep in Kennedy territory.  This one memorialized the assassination of JFK.  A young Teddy Kennedy shakes hands with local businessmen, their sentiments telegraphed in a handwritten ‘Why?’  Meanwhile, Kennedy’s onetime rival, Edward McCormack, Jr, the nephew of a powerful speaker of the US House, stands by.  A poster of Audrey Hepburn in the background caught my eye.  Back then, too, she was idolized. . . . By now, of course, everyone in the picture has gone to their graves.

Our June bride

The wedding, © 2013 Celia Her City

Today our niece was married in a beautiful open-air ceremony.

The day was hot, and the stylist persuaded CC at the last moment to have her hair put up, its thick coils enhancing the dignity of an already impressively radiant bride.

Seeing her so transformed into maturity and entering gracefully into this important commitment marked a wonderful moment in our family life.  To recall the day of her baptism and compare that new being to this was to appreciate anew the marvelous nature of her journey.  I admire my sister for having raised two such personable and accomplished girls.

The bridal couple chose the historic Fruitlands farm, in Harvard, Massachusetts, for the setting.  This was once a utopian community, where in the 1840s Transcendentalists like Bronson Alcott (Louisa May’s father) sought to achieve an ideal and harmonious style of living.  Choosing a spectacular tract of land, high on a hill with expansive views, there they farmed and planted orchards.

Today, in a tent pitched on that very site, we celebrated the beginning of a new and hopeful enterprise.  May the future of this young couple be studded with felicity and joy!

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