Last week, since Rand was busy with his conference (or “conference” as I used to put it before we were married, and I liked to kid that he had a secret family in some other city), I was able to wander up and down Magnificent Mile on my own. Determined not to sit in my warm, cozy, ridiculous large hotel room at the Hilton Chicago (at one time in its history called the “Conrad Hilton”), I walked four frozen blocks down to the Art Institute, only to find that it wouldn’t open for another half hour. In that time, I took a few pictures.
Then I stood outside the doors for a while, waiting for the museum to open. A large group of senior citizens was also waiting, and I began to wonder what kind of a demographic I fell into – who are the people who stand in the snow waiting for museums to open? Apparently, I am one, and a gentleman from France named Alain was another.
I love meeting new people, and I’m getting to the point in my travels where I have an easy time talking to strangers. This was doubly true in Chicago, where locals serve a heaping scoop of mid-west hospitality to travelers (we encountered only one rude person during our trip – some girl on the bus who I was ready to drop-kick back to Jersey where I assume she came from*). Still, there are times when I am clearly out of my element. For example, when men of my father’s generation begin to talk to me with any degree of interest, I start to get rather nervous, especially if my husband is not around. I’m sure these men are benign and probably aren’t trying to pick me up (right?). I just never know what to say to them.
So I stumble on my words, and I giggle nervously.
In other words, it seems like I am flirting.
I am sure you don’t need any help imaging how problematic this sort of thing is. And so when Alain, who, again, I’m sure was a friendly and harmless gentleman, started talking to me, I got very uncomfortable. And started giggling like a moron. Sigh. His introduced me to his wife, who was somewhat friendly and looked at me warily – at that point my mortification tripled, because I was fairly sure she thought I was trying to pick up her husband.
How, exactly, I get into these situations I do not know.
Alain told me I needed to email him immediately, because he wanted me to come visit him (them?) in the south of France. And while I’ve never been to France (except for that time we drove through it when I five), I had absolutely no intention of emailing this man or visiting him. Still, I politely took his card, talked to him for a little while longer, tried to keep my giggling under check, and tried not to take off like a horse out of the starting gate when the Art Institute’s doors opened.
While the exterior is substantially less impressive by day, the institute itself is pretty terrific. They’ve just added a new modern wing, which is beautiful:
I really enjoyed some of the special exhibits. Plus, I managed to evade Alain and his wife.
The next day, despite absolute crap weather, I headed to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, to which admission is free. You know how I feel about free admission (I will deal with anything if it’s free). The MoCP had a pretty interesting exhibit featuring contemporary Chinese photography. And it was nice and warm inside.
I spent the rest of the day walking around and shopping and exploring the city, which was being pelted with snow from above.
It was soooo cold … How cold was it, you ask? This cold:
So, naturally, we were relieved to head back to Seattle where, I kid you not, the temperature was exactly one degree colder than it had been in Chicago. Oh, heavenly father, you are such a prankster. All in all, a cold, but lovely, couple of days.
*I figured the rude girl was from Jersey because of her accent. Not because I think everyone who’s rude belongs in Jersey. Even though that’s kind of true.