The ordinary hotel

An ordinary hotel (Second-floor view of the pool of the Best Western Plus at Historic Concord)

More restful than the most luxurious spa are the ordinary hotels of some Massachusetts towns.  Many sit on large tracts of land, with mature trees and perennial beds, lawns mown with the precision devoted to baseball fields.

A morning stint by the pool might include the songs of real birds or a turtle-sighting.  Precisely because the hotel’s interior contains little of interest, it is relaxing to inhabit.  There is little stimulation, little to provoke thought, setting the mind at ease.

The hotel is a silent community, where the density that might produce bustle or camaraderie neutralizes and separates.  Repetition tranquilizes and subdues.  Occasionally a guest will appear on one of the lawn chairs or balconies, to gaze out at the still and empty scene.

A rest here of a night or two will drive a body off, in quest of clamor.

Red maple on grounds of ordinary hotel, © 2013 Celia Her City

Hotel grounds, Concord, © 2013 Celia Her City

Returning to earth

Returning to earth

When it comes to flying, the return to earth is what I like best.

Then, the fretfulness I’ve struggled to subdue during my flight is buried in curiosity.  An eagerness to be reunited with my planet takes over.  As a detailed view of human life crystallizes, feelings of gratitude, relief, and wonder prevail.

I love seeing the earth from this godlike perspective.  Far from making me feel all-powerful, seeing the earth from a plane is atomizing: I feel tiny and powerless, but in a true way.  My appreciation for the land and all that humans have created on it intensifies.  All their works are marvelous to perceive.  From the air, evils are harder to see, and what order we’ve built up over time looks pure and lovely.


Today, the waters that define Boston were peaceful under a bright summer haze.  Workers had already left their work.  Making the best of a beautiful Friday afternoon, they were already sailing their boats or hurrying out of town for a getaway.

From on high, the boats were like small herds of flimsy origami.  Up close, their substance appeared, cruising along the Charles and other waterways.

Over the centuries, painters have painted many scenes like these: the escape from the confines of land to the radiant openness of skies and seas.


Taxiing along past a placid seascape: Boston, hello.

Conditions at O’Hare

Conditions at O’Hare

We are at O'Hare waiting to board a plane to Boston for our niece's wedding.

We are at O’Hare waiting to board a plane to Boston for our niece’s wedding.

Even when we were in the cab, we could see the storm moving in.  By the time we reached the gate, a dramatic cloud was overhead.

Even when we were in the cab heading to the airport, we could see the storm moving in. By the time we reached the gate, a dramatic cloud was overhead.

The heavens opened.  Departures were halted.

The heavens opened. Departures were halted.

It really came down.  There was plenty of thunder and lightning.

It really came down. There was plenty of thunder and lightning.

I would rather be bored and on the ground than in the air at such times.  I was once in a plane that was hit by lightning.  Not fun.

I would rather be bored and on the ground than in the air at such times. I was once in a plane that was hit by lightning. Not fun.

The rain is tapering off, but I imagine we'll be here for at least another hour.

The rain is tapering off, but I imagine we’ll be here for at least another hour.  Fortunately, there is a Berghoff Cafe right near our gate.

An old el station

The old el platform (Chicago), © 2013 Celia Her City

In the Loop, there are several “L” stations that haven’t been thoroughly modernized: the station at La Salle and Van Buren is one; this one at Randolph and Wabash is another.

The steel bones of the stations are the same as when they were built around 1900.  The old wooden benches and the shape of the shed roofs are much the same, too.  Some of the stations have old wooden swinging doors, their edges rounded under the paint by impatient hands pushing them for a century, chipped by the brush of parasols and satchels, wheelie bags and bikes.

I like these stations, with their peeling paint, the patina of age.  The push is on to make Chicago more like other places, to get rid of its peculiarities, its antiquities; but what is a city but a peculiar mix of old and new things?  It would be dreadful if everything worn or simply old were to be extirpated.  Like a woman who has visited her plastic surgeon too many times. . . .

One weekend in June

One weekend in June

I decided to accept the invitation of a fellow blogger to post an entry about our weekend.  It resulted in a post much longer than usual, but it was fun to do.   I hope you find it interesting to read.

Father's day bouquet, © 2013 Celia Her City


There were flowers to arrange for Father’s Day.  My husband, who loves flowers, had picked out these.  It’s good they were cheery, because . . . .

Rain soaked scene, © 2013 Celia Her City

the weather that morning was wet and gloomy.


Flowers arranged, I did some chores, including picture-hanging.  We’ve been living in this apartment for seven years, and I have yet to get all of our artwork hung.  I’ve been chipping away at it off and on for years, and now have just a few pieces to go.

Two birds living within trees entwined

As I got out my stepladder and picture-hanging supplies, I thought about how my own father has always known how to do everything, and how many practical skills both my parents taught me.   I am grateful, because the work of my hands makes our home more cozy.


Meanwhile, I was texting with my girlfriend Margie.  She and her husband were coming into town and we were all going out that night to celebrate her birthday.  She had asked me to pick the restaurant; I had picked Mon Ami Gabi.  Now we were figuring out what to wear.

Parking deck view, from on Walton, Chicago © Celia Her City

After my chores and a few phone calls, I scooted out for some last-minute shopping.  I hit Bloomingdale’s, hoping to buy a little something for my friend, and paused in the parking deck to look at the view.  I have happy memories of looking out on this scene at night with my husband when we were first dating.  (From here it’s a short distance to the triangular district on Rush that we call ‘The Party,’ which is a major social scene, on summer nights especially.)

Gift wrap I, © 2013 Celia Her City

Shopping concluded, I reached home about 5.  I wrapped my friend’s gift, wrote a few cards, and got ready to go out.  We met our friends at seven and had a great time.

Entrance to Mon Ami Gabi, at the Belden-Stratford, Chicago © 2013 Celia Her City

✫     ✫     ✫     ✫     ✫


Luckily my husband sleeps late, because I had a present or two to wrap, and I wanted my gifts to be a surprise.

Father's Day present, © 2013 Celia Her City

My husband has one child, a grown son, who hasn’t been happy with us since his father and I married.  It’s sad, because my husband was and is an excellent father.  We celebrate that wholeheartedly on Father’s Day.

My own father was very much in my thoughts, too.  Emergency surgery after a mild stroke last year left him with impaired speech; his cognition, too, has been declining.  I called him on the phone to wish him happy Father’s Day, and came away with a few tears in my eyes.

My husband is an ardent cook and was happy with his gifts, which included a new roasting pan, Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue Bible, and a bottle of Chipotle Molasses BBQ sauce by the same guy.

A major item on our agenda that day was to roast a slab of BBQ ribs in the oven, which is the only way we can approach barbecue in our dwelling.  We had never figured out how to do it well, so our first task was to settle on a recipe and strategy.  We decided to cook the ribs low and slow, use a rub from an Elle Decor recipe, and get them started at about 3:30.

The scene at the beach, Father's Day, Chicago © 2013 Celia Her City

In the meantime, we drove the short distance north to the park around Montrose Harbor for a walk.  My husband had never really seen the beach side of the park, so we headed up that way and then walked around in a loop from north to south, following the contours of the promontory.  Click images below to enlarge.

The beachside is a real people parade, with thousands trekking singly and in groups across the sandy expanse, which  stretches out away from the city eastwardly.  Out toward the tip, you leave behind the crowds, encountering a naturalized dune, more dog-walkers, and people bound for the jetty.  After that you come to the Magic Hedge bird sanctuary (click on the link for a detailed tour of the Hedge), which has reverted back to an overgrown prairie.

Past the hedge, you come once more to a festive lakefront scene.  The terraced breakwater near Montrose Harbor has a nice lawn perfect for picnicking and offering spectacular views of downtown.  We made the whole loop, enjoying the scene and marveling at the complexity of some family outings.


Back home, we mixed up the dry rub for the ribs and slathered it on.


After almost 4 hours at a low heat, we goosed it up to finish the surface, and, finally, put the barbecue sauce on.

Plated rib dinner, © 2013 Celia Her City

At a little after 8, we sat down to a terrific meal—a delectable tribute to a wonderful guy.  We were at peace and happy to have enjoyed such a marvelous day.

Montrose Avenue Beach

Montrose Avenue Beach

Celia loves going to the everyman beach between Montrose and Foster.  This is where the landscape opens up and buildings recede, taking a back seat to the expansive beauty of the lake and sky.

Thousands of people flocked to the beach and surrounding park yesterday to fish, picnic, sun, play beach volleyball, test the waters; meet up with friends.  Devotees come with plenty of baggage: tents, cardboard boxes laden with food, massive coolers that only the most strapping men can lift.

Ladies following the Islamic code lay on the ground with their husbands, eyes wary, covered with cloth from head to toe.  Not so many yards off, nonchalant teen girls did their best to imitate Kerri Walsh, in skimpy bikinis whacking the volleyball.

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