Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicago and Florida

So... the long-overdue post about my trip home... the reunion.. the funeral.. and yes, the haircut..

Soon as I got off the plane I met one of my best friends from high school, Heather, and her boyfriend Todd.  Their flight from California got in around the same time so they graciously carted me around with them that afternoon before dropping me off at the Beckers' house where I stayed.

First, Heather wanted to drive by her old house in River Forest.  As always the new owners weren't home.  But this is where I spent many happy hours as a teenager...

This gives you an idea of what the residential streets in River Forest look like..

Later that evening, another best friend, Tashi, and my old friend Rich met me at a bar called the Irish Times in Brookfield.  It was pretty dead for a Thursday night so we changed venues to Molly Malone's in Forest Park, where we met Heather and Todd.  Here's Tashi, me and Heather reunited... it's funny, we three didn't hang out together that much in high school, but we should have.  It was usually me and Tash, or me and Heather, but Tashi and Heather are of like minds.  Too bad people grow up and move away.  I think heaven will be a place and time where all your favorite people are together.

And yeah, there's the haircut.  I like it, it's a lot easier for jits, and since my hair is curly, I don't really have to mess with it.

I am fortunate to call my high school ex-boyfriend's mom a good friend.  Chad Becker and I dated for about two months, give or take, right before my mom was diagnosed with cancer and then passed away... but I pretty much adopted his  family and I'm so lucky that Andrea, his mom, is so generous with her love and affection.  All their kids are grown up and away so I'm sure it was a little funny to have me staying in their daughter Blythe's room and coming and going with my high school pals.  The Beckers don't look any older and it was almost eerie how easily I slipped back into the old roles.  Their house doesn't look any different either.

Friday morning I got up bright and early and hoofed it around Oak Park, checking out the architecture and people-watching.

Aside from the Victorians, most everything is Prairie style, Frank Lloyd Wrighty, four-squarey.  Even the apartment houses are deliciously Prairie-ish.

I meandered through the streets where I used to walk during lunch and after school, stopping for a slice of coffeecake at the Red Hen Bakery and then enjoying a book and gorgeous weather in Scoville Park.  I remember when I was a sophomore I came to this park and rolled like a log down this hill, and played touch football with Chris Fortuna and Kevin Wyrag.  Neither of whom attended the reunion!

This is from inside the park, looking towards some of the shops and restaurants we frequented back then.

The sunshine was heavenly, the air balmy and comfortable, and the trees just starting to turn.

More architectural detail, this from a church on Lake Street...


After a nice lunch with Tashi, her two kids, and her mom, I hit the el (the elevated train) and visited the Art Institute.

One of the guys I train with and a good friend is also an art student so I definitely paid attention to more and different kinds of art on this trip.  And I normally don't take pictures of the art that I liked, but it seemed like the right thing to do this trip.  I took pictures of the placard next to each piece, too.

Some I just know by heart.. like this is a classic by Georgia O'Keefe.

OMG the light in this picture...

After I wiped the drool off my chin, I headed back into Oak Park to get ready for the official pre-party, at O'Sullivan's.  There, I met up with Tashi again, as well as Deno and Allison Andrews (both my classmates!)

Our table: Frances and Ben (Ben was my absolute best friend in HS, and he met and married his wife in undergrad at U of Chicago), Adriana, Chuck, Tashi, Heather, and Joe.

Heather, Chris, Tashi and Bubba (aka James Heyward Murray IV.)

Me and some more girls... can't remember her name, Liz and Elly.
Tashi and Bubba.

Me and Ben.
Joe wanted it.  Did you see how he was dressed?  lol...

The next morning I bounced out of the house full of energy.  I started taking pictures as soon as I hit the sidewalk!  Here's a very typical four-square house.
Very Prairie.

My high school. :)  Alma mater of Hemingway among others!

The main entrance.  (Most everything looks just the same!)

We first gathered in the student activity center for an alumni tour.

Heather, relaxing in the special Hemingway room, reserved for special English classes.

The special room where Green and Latin are taught.  (Yes, my high school was bad ass... they also teach Mandarin, Italian, Russian..)

The student television station..

Ironically one of the girls in my class is still at Oak Park-- as a teacher... Ms. Katie O'Keefe :)

The art department is amazing too.  Here's some of their projects... excuse the glare on the glass.

After tooling around the school, we traipsed through the Farmer's Market across the street.  Famous for a reason!  Here's the bluegrass band..

Heather all glamorous...

Tashi, Heather and I kept a lunchtime tradition intact by visiting Tasty Dog (albeit in a new location across the street from its former digs) and having a burger and fries.  Man, the same guys are still working there.  Scary.

Then we had to shop for something Heather wanted to wear to the reunion, which carried us far enough out of Oak Park that I didn't feel too guilty to ask Tashi if we could run by my old house, out in Westchester. 

Mind you, my mother passed away in April of my senior year in high school.  I have never in twenty years forgotten that she has passed away... until the day of my 20th reunion, when I thought instinctively "I should call Mom and tell her the blah-di-blah store is torn down now."  And then I mentally recoiled-- what the HELL is wrong with me that I didn't remember my mom is dead?!  Don't bother telling me I'm irrational, I already know.  I felt awful regardless of how innocent a thought it was.  It was incredibly bittersweet-- well, just sad, not bitter, and a little sweet... so I guess it was sadsweet-- to go by my old house.

Here's the maple trees I planted from SEEDS when I was around 8 years old.  They're marching down the parkway next to the house, at least 3 stories tall, looking fabulous if I say so myself.

And here's my house... a little two bedroom, one bath Georgian... with a finished basement.  My mom had the garage built, and lots of other stuff was different back then... but it's still the house I grew up in from age 8 to 18.

No one was home when I knocked so I took this picture of the back yard... the gazebo is gone, as is the wooden privacy fence, the peach trees, the Kwanzan cherry, the apple trees, the grape arbor, and so on, and so on...
BUT!  BUT!  Check this out.  My mom sewed these curtains to cover the basement windows.  I couldn't believe they're still hanging in the windows.  I am a sappy sentimental girl, because seeing my mom's curtains made me cry.

The view down my street, standing in front of my house (which is to the right.)

And this is the creek barely 2 blocks from my house... I used to play near it in the summers, and ice skated on it in really cold winters... wearing the skates my mom wore when SHE was a little girl... amazing...

Having cried over everything I could cry about, we headed back to Oak Park for some Peterson's Ice Cream and then the Frank Lloyd Wright tour.  First some houses near Peterson's.

Peterson's is a venerable institution, with an authentic pressed tin ceiling, crystal chandeliers, and delicious treats for your tongue.

Then we just walked up two blocks and back down, on the way to the FLW studio and home.  Can I say again how FREAKING AMAZING the architecture all over Oak Park and River Forest is?????  My head was hanging out. 

This is the Moore-Dugal residence, an actual FLW home.  GORGEOUS.

Then I don't know if this is FLW but it's beautiful.

This IS FLW.

Here's a beautiful FLW...

And here is FLW's home and studio.

And then later in River Forest I saw this house and thought the wooden roof was so cooooool....

After our tour, I went home to the Beckers' and took a little nap.. showered and changed for the reunion, held in Healy's.  Out front they parked the reunion car, driven by two mascot Huskies... welll, they look more like Schnauzers to me, but no one asked...

Me n Heather..

John Rafter, one of the guys who made my life in physics just a little more bearable (except for the brutality with which he played the hand slap game...)

Oh, and Dan Wendt... he sat behind me in Spanish.  Another super smart hot guy.  What was I thinking in high school? Well, I wasn't ever brave enough.

And my buddy Jody Starks :)

These girls were cutting up in the photo booth :)

Heather and Jason Rosado.

I wore my nametag but peeled the picture off.  Ben did not.

But at least I didn't bring a spouse who would have just sat and read.  Poor guy.

Heather, Tashi, Ben and I had to leave at 10:30 because I desperately wanted a slice of French silk pie from Baker's Square, which had long since left Oak Park and now closed at the unseasonably early hour of midnight!  So here we go on my adventure.

But it was a nice quick drive and fortunately I got my pie :)

We were back at the reunion by midnight.  Here's me and Tashi.

I tell you, many many people had had one or two too many!  Dan got very friendly.  He made even Tashi blush.

Who knows what he's doing to Chang here.

Tashi and Heather might recognize this picture and know what it stands for.  No one else will, don't bother guessing.  It has nothing to do with the funeral home.

Anyway, a good time was had by all, and at the crack of dawn the next day, Andrea Becker brought me to the airport and I was winging away to Florida for my Uncle Louis' funeral.  He passed away quietly sleeping in his chair at 93, leaving behind his widow Orie (they'd been married 51 years) and two sons, Jerry and Little Lou.

Here's me and my Oden cousins on the morning of the funeral-- David, me, Carolyn, Liz, and Jerry.

Much family drama was to be had.  Including over the final resting place for my uncle's ashes.  Here's the church's "memorial garden" where my aunt had him interred.

Some pictures in the church foyer.

My Aunt Orie and Uncle Louis on their wedding day... just adorable!

After the sadness of the day, Jerry, his wife Joanne, and I went to the Naples Fishing Pier to get a little happiness by osmosis.

Joanne and Jerry, listening to fishing tales from this Welsh dude.

Then we went driving through Port Royal, a richy-rich neighborhood... here's one of Steven Spielberg's houses.  It takes up the whole block from street corner to street corner.
And I just liked the unusual architecture of this one.

This would be considered a more classic cottage-y style though obviously bigger and renovated more than the older homes.  Very Key West in style.

After driving around, we went back to the country club where my dad and uncle belonged.  This is the palm tree planted in memory of my dad.

And this is the room where the gentlemen play gin rummy in the afternoon.  Many stories were told about my uncle's skill at cards.  And my dad's too, come to think of it. :)

We had a nice dinner out that evening with a family friend, Don Turner, and I called it a night pretty early.  Got up and went to the other coast the next morning to visit my mom's sister, my Aunt Pat, in Boca Raton.  She plied me with French toast and peaches and home made meatloaf sandwiches, and kept me full of family stories too.  It was a delightful visit.  But it continued the theme of missing people who are no longer with me.

So, all in all, a good trip, but a sad one.  And now I'm home.  I didn't train a stitch while I was gone, though I'm playing catchup now.

I miss my mom and dad and gramma and uncle. 


Lynngineer said...

The haircut is super cute. Love your trees (from little seedlings, aw). And, I wanna cry over your mom's drapes. Glad you had good friends around.
I forgot how seriously the Chicago-land area takes their architecture. Great pics.

A.D. McClish said...

I second Lynn's assessment of the new do! Really cute! :)

Also, you write beautifully. I got teary reading your post. It's funny, too, because my grandparents lived in Tarpon Springs and I spend many, many, many summer days there. Glad your trip was so beautiful.

Dev said...


Nice haircut. :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Wow what an amazing journey! Thank you so much for sharing it G.

slideyfoot said...

Brilliant stuff: that famous Seurat painting is without any doubt the number one reason I would go to Chicago.

I've seen his 'Bathers at Asnières' many times, given that I'm fortunate enough to be relatively near London's National Gallery, but I've only ever seen 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte' in jpg form. It would be very cool to see the real thing: coincidentally, a friend of mine who is a big Stephen Sondheim fan recommended 'Sunday in the Park with George' to me recently (I had a listen on Spotify, but I'm guessing it would be rather better seeing the show rather than just hearing it). ;)