Details make patterns. Choices make habits. Imagining makes art. Believing makes seeing.
It’s been a while since I went out to wander and photograph just for the sake of wandering and photographing. It felt good: stretching my legs, stretching my imagination and shaking off this long strange summer. This was the weekend at Open House Chicago 2016.
Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets. The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it. Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.
Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral. Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.
Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.
Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, in the morning shadow of the Hancock. And in this church, at long last we get to go upstairs to the balcony…and there’s a pipe organ, gentle at first and then lighting up the guests with a loud pounce.
The 5th place was an art house in an old mansion. Giant windows, rimmed in dark wood. Pocket doors and white marble fireplaces in every room. Studios for rent and live models seven days a week. An open studio on the 3rd floor smelled of oil paint as I rounded the final set of stairs up. The old floors were for dancing when this was a home and this level housed a ballroom. Now the wood floors showed wear from drops of paint as artists made their art. At this moment, they were sans model, but they worked as if she were still there. An imaginary model. Cross breezes fluffed papers from the transom windows along the floor where the band used to sit.
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles, and a working mail chute for the 14-story building. This building and the one across the street, on the north side of Monroe at Michigan stand like sentinels, equal sized gate posts, greeting traffic entering Chicago on what used to be the main thoroughfare.
The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple. The highest place of worship above street level. Twenty two floors via elevator, then A through E floors via a cozy elevator, then 31 steps up to this tiny little Sky Chapel. Stained glass windows line the room and limit views of the sky and the surrounding city. The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.
Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago. Old brick street marker at the Southeast corner of Wilson and Rockwell, Chicago.
Old brick street marker at the Northeast corner of Wilson and Rockwell.
Old brick street marker at the northeast corner of Rockwell and Eastwood.
Old brick street marker at the Southeast corner of Eastwood and Rockwell, Chicago.
Old brick street marker at the Southwest corner of Eastwood and Rockwell.
Old brick street marker at the Southwest corner of Wilson and Rockwell.
Old brick street marker at the Northwest Corner of Wilson and Rockwell.
Southwest corner of Wilson and Rockwell.
Old brick marker at the Southwest Corner of Windsor and Rockwell.
Old brick street marker at the Northwest Corner of Windsor and Rockwell.
Fifteen brick structures mark the entrance to the streets of this 100+ year-old neighborhood near the river. These sentinels stand in pairs, trios or quartets along Rockwell between Montrose and the el tracks at Rockwell. Some have planters on top, others a concrete ball resembling a bed knob. They mark the streets of Ravenswood Gardens, a community planned in 1909 by William Harmon. Photographed on film with a Seagull and a Rolleicord. Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago
At this year’s Open House Chicago, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, I went to see the interiors of buildings not normally open to the public. And what struck me most were the rich details…the ornate little extras, little treats for the eyes built in to the old spaces.
Whatever happened to those days of craftsmanship? When those little flourishes mattered? Now it seems that buildings are mundane. Character has disappeared in favor of efficiency, productivity, mass production and bottom lines.
Sailing Lake Michigan on the tall ship, The HMS Bounty – August 2010
Lately, we’ve been a little obsessed with tall ships–the beauty of the sails and the awe of the masts’ heights. So, we booked passage on a tall ship as it made it’s way to Chicago for the Tall Ships Parade and festival. Our ship was the HMS Bounty. The Bounty was built in the 60s for “Mutiny on the Bounty”. It also had a part in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”.
Getting to the HMS Bounty
Our journey began on Sunday, August 22, 2010. We loaded up the backpacks and took the el into the loop, walking over to Union Station. We had tickets on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Express to Milwaukee. The Bounty was currently in Port Washington, WI and we were to meet her there.
We had to stop first to see the Great Hall at Union Station, famous to us from the scene in the Untouchables where Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia get Capone’s accountant and save the baby in the carriage during the shoot out. Such a Great Hall it is too. I wish the days of train travel were still just as cool as that Hall reminds us.
$22 one way/each. And packed to the gills on this Sunday afternoon. The ride was only an hour and a half, past the rail yards and the loop, into the suburbs, and with just a glimpse of the midwestern prairie before reentering Milwaukee’s suburbs.
Next step was to find transportation to Port Washington. Bryan negotiated $50 for a cab to take us there…only about 30 miles north. Arrived at the quaint little town on a crisp, sunny day around 3:30 in the afternoon. Stopped for a drink and a bite at a pub sitting just above the little festival. And there they were…the masts of the Tall Ships sticking up above everything else in the harbor.
On board the HMS Bounty:
We boarded, met some of the crew and got the introduction to life on board the Bounty. The crew works 2 shifts per day…broken into 4 hour increments. 12-4, 4-8 and 8-12. AM or PM, doesn’t matter, you work 12a-4a and again noon-4pm. We got the 8-12 shifts, though not required to do them seeing as how we’d paid $125/night per person and brought our own bedding to be aboard.
The captain began prepping for departure in the morning on Monday, 8/23. He started by quizzing the crew on “how would we sail out of here…no motor?” We were docked between 2 other ships and the wind was light, but in the wrong direction vs what we needed. Lots of debate and discussion about the location of the anchor, the direction of the sails, and the ruddering to avoid the dock, the other ships and squeezing through the breakers.
Anchor up and sails down around noon as we pulled out of the harbor. The crew climbed the ropes and unfurled the sails from high above deck. “Ease Out and Haul Away!” “Two. Six. Two. Six.” “Don’t give any back.”
Miles and miles of rope, reaching up to the sails and wrapped around pegs on deck. There’s a special way to coil the ropes so that they are “belayed”–neatly stowed, but ready to go. I heard terms like mizen, bosun (the boatswain, responsible for the rigging), mainsail (said man-sail). I watched people tie-off knots and climb like monkeys up the rigging and then stand like tight-rope artists on a rope while folding and unfolding sails.
And holy cow…what a gorgeous sight when those buttery yellow sails came down and caught the wind! The sheer height of them stretching into the blue sky and catching the sun behind them so that only rays peered around. They covered the ship in shade. Life got quiet once we sailed. Work began on tarring the ropes and finishing a yard.
I sat in the sun–staring up at the sails and snapping away. Bryan got harnessed up and climbed the ropes into the crow’s nest. A long peaceful day of sailing–quiet, breezey, and a warming sun.
Golden Hour was about the best ever. The golden orange on the wooden deck floors, the passing colors over the parchment and butter sails. The moon rising in a baby blue sky. A Maxfield Parrish sky as the green sailing lights were lit beneath the sails. The white of the sails against the darkening blue sky as the crew climbed up to lower the royals for the night. Magic. Just magic.
That evening, we took a juice with our flask of rum and had a nip. And slept like babies with the gentle rocking of the boat, with the rum and the day of sun easing us to sleep.
I should mention Dina and the galley. This woman cooks 3 meals a day in a galley where everything moves. She made bacon, waffles, eggs, roast pork, etc. over the 2 days we were there. Delicious food. Everyone washes their own plates. Those on duty pass the line and someone else washes for them. Coffee is always available.
I awoke before dawn. Dark and cold on deck. Red, safety lights lighting the galley and the navigation shed on deck. It was a cloudy morning, trying to spit some rain. Fortunately for us, it never mustered the strength and the day turned into another sunny, cooler day.
Today, we watched as the crew hung the yard on the stern mast. A process that took over an hour, with 3 crew members up in the rigging.
As we entered the Chicago area around 1:30, we could see Evanston, and then the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago. The crew was getting excited…some of them had never been to a city this size before.
Arrival in Chicago and the Tall Ship Parade:
Small boats approached us–“Welcome!” they’d shout and snap some pictures of the giant Bounty. As we entered the Chicago area proper, more tall ships arrived too…as did more small sailing boats and motor boats and coast guard and police and fire boats. Everyone who had a boat appeared to be in the area between 2-5p as the tall ships arrived. We tooled around waiting for all the tall ships to arrive so we could line up for the 4 p.m. Parade into Navy Pier.
A gilligan boat brought 3 “media” guys to the Bounty to do stories. They had trouble getting close enough to climb up and over. But finally made it. One guy came with a 1960 National Geographic and asked about the original nail from the original Bounty that was supposed to be on ship somewhere. Jesse calmly and without drama told the guy that the nail was in the scrapyard. Broke his heart, that did.
It was crazy crowded in the water. The Coast Guard and Police boats had megaphones and kept announcing “PLEASE STAY 100 YARDS AWAY FROM THE TALL SHIPS”. Still, some sailboats passed dangerously close–perhaps not realizing that we could not turn or stop quickly enough to avoid hitting them if something happened. It’s amazing how many boats were around us–and how many of them I snapped taking pictures of us.
Around 4, we began lining up. Our Bounty was the finale, behind the Flagship Niagra. We sailed into the breakers and past a crowded Navy Pier. Ships firing whatever “cannons” they had on board in a salute to Chicago. And the Chicago Fire Department boat giving us a water cannon salute as we turned and headed back out of the breakers to drop sails. Really proud moments…the city looked beautiful, the ships were amazing and seeing this all from the deck of the best ship of them all was too much!
We motored around while the sails were furled, and then we entered the breakers again as the sun was going down, and made our way over to our dock on the North side of Navy Pier. I heard the Navy Pier dock crew ask over the radio if we needed a guiding boat to dock. The Bounty captain politely declined. As did Niagra. We motored past the lighthouse as the light turned it pink.
Again, people welcomed us and clapped from the dock. The crew threw ropes over so the little navy kids could catch them and tie us off. The docking process took maybe 20-30 minutes as we eased into the space and tied off. Bryan exited quickly…he was already nearly 2 hours late for work. I left about 30 minutes later. I turned in the near dark to take one last photo of the Bounty resting at dock.
POSTSCRIPT 10/30/12: She sails no more. Strike the Bell slowly….
On 25 October 2012, to avoid Hurricane Sandy, the Bounty left New London, Connecticut, heading for St. Petersburg, Florida. “A ship is safer at sea,” wrote Captain Robin Walbridge. Initially the Bounty was going on an easterly course to avoid Hurricane Sandy. Later, the ship would turn towards the category II hurricane, which was not turning towards land as had been expected. According to crew, The Bounty was motor sailing—using engines and sails. “We were moving as fast as I’ve ever seen the boat move under power,” said shipmate Faunt. “We worked those engines hard.” Waves grew to 20 feet, wind was gusting at 70 mph and it took two people to hold the wheel.
The initial request for Coast Guard assistance was sent in an email by the captain to the vessel’s organization. At about 8:45 p.m. EDT on 10/28, the organization relayed the request to the Coast Guard about Bounty’s situation. The ship was taking on water, had lost electrical power due to water flooding the starboard generator, and the crew was preparing to abandon ship. Some of the 16 people on board had been injured from being thrown about by the crashing waves.
The C-130 rescue plane had equipment outages on its rescue flight, including its anti-icing system and its weather radar, and because of the turbulence caused by the Hurricane, the crew was sick. Because of the poor visibility conditions, the pilots conducted the search at approximately 500 feet in an attempt to locate the vessel visually. Shortly after midnight on 29 October, the Bounty was discovered. “I see a giant pirate ship in the middle of a hurricane.”
Bounty was listing at about a 45 degree angle on its starboard side. The plane dropped life-rafts but had to leave the vessel and crew on their own in rough seas and 58 mph winds because they ran low on fuel. It would be more than an hour until the first Jayhawk helicopter arrived to begin the dangerous rescue attempt around dawn. The storm had washed the captain and two crew overboard—one of the latter had made it to a life-raft, but the other two were missing. Claudene Christian, one of the two missing crew members and who claimed to be related to HMS Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, was found by the Coast Guard. She was unresponsive, and later pronounced dead at a hospital. The other missing crew member was long-time captain, Robin Walbridge.
A formal investigation into the sinking concluded that Captain Walbridge’s decision to sail the ship into the path of Hurricane Sandy was the cause, a “reckless decision”. The ship had persistent problems with leakage, “bondo Bounty” some would say. But the ship was considered to be “in the best shape of her life” in October 2012. Walbridge had tempted fate before. In each instance, some combination of bravado, skill, and luck had returned the ship home safely.
Jordan, Israel, and Palestine = September 28 – October 18, 2008
The Holy Land. The Land of Milk and
Honey. Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Bethlehem, Petra, Mt. Nebo, The Promised Land, and the Dead Sea. Religious stories, history, and politics all in one tightly-wound place.
Chicago to Amman, Sunday, September 28, 2008
We began talking about this trip a year ago. Despite that, the details came together rather late. The day of our departure, I was still making arrangements. I didn’t even begin packing until a few hours before we left for the airport.
We were nervous about this trip. The “Holy Land” brought to mind images of stone throwing, skeletons of blasted buses, and bleeding, crying people stumbling from bombed-out buildings. Add to that the fact that our economy was crashing–everyday there was news of another bank failing, another dismal Dow day, another company laying off thousands of workers. Plus this was one of those trips we call a “working vacation”: a location requiring mental and physical exertion…a very different culture, hiking, climbing, and two languages each with their own alphabets and reading right-to-left.
We packed light in two new backpacks–4 pairs of pants, 8 shirts, a rain jacket, a fleece, the Blackberry now enabled as a phone–to keep in touch with calls and with a new app called Twitter…”just in case”, 2 cameras, a video camera and lots of memory cards. I even left the film camera behind…a first for me! Our packs *together* weighed only 22 kg.
The Royal Jordanian flight left Chicago around 9 p.m. on Saturday night from the International Terminal. The area before security bustled with activity–bars, restaurants and shopping. On the other side of security, it was eerily quiet and empty. We bought big bottles of water for the ride and walked the long hallways. A man knelt quietly in a corner performing his prayers towards Mecca. A woman with everything but her face covered walked with a little girl dressed in a short frilly pink dress and a miniature head scarf.
About 10 TSA agents were on duty at the gate–scrutinizing each and every passenger. No pleasantries, no smiles, just a hard stare at your face, your baggage, your every move–some people were motioned over for a carry-on bag search. It took a long time to board the plane. And it was full. Overhead bins stuffed to the max, many seats filled with moms holding children in their laps.
We pulled away from the gate around 9:30 p.m. and drove slowly to the runway. The old plane took its time picking up speed and lifting off…and then took a scary amount of time to elevate. It would be 12 hours before we landed in Amman.
The plane was old–small, shared screens showed a few movies, exercise videos, and the occasional flight map to tell everyone where we were. The flight map always started with a diagram of the location of Mecca’s Kaaba in relation to the plane. We were served dinner shortly after take-off. And we settled into seats 8A & 8B with our neck pillows, water, and things to read. Lap children were laid out to sleep across their parents on the seat-back tray tables. Because it was Ramadan and we had only had a few hours of night, Ramadan fasters were offered another meal just before we passed into daylight again. The flight attendants asked in both Arabic and English, “Are you going to fast?”
The night and day flight passed slowly. Reading. Sore eyes. Headache. Getting up to stand for a bit. Dozing. Saw bits of the 3 movies: the new Indiana Jones, Leatherheads and a Jackie Chan movie. And finally, we began the descent. I opened the window shade to see white houses in the red brown earth of Israel and Jordan.
We landed around 5 p.m. in Amman. Paid our 10 JD (1 Jordanian Dinar is ~$1.40 U.S.) to get our Visas, waited an eternity for our bags and finally–headed out to meet our ride.
“Why Iceland?” was the question we heard most. There was something about the isolation, the hardiness and raw beauty of the place that intrigued us. Glaciers, massive waterfalls, volcanos, fjords and green grass. Would we see the Northern Lights?
And then a return to Ireland–Carol’s 7th trip to beloved Eire. Green grass, fresh air, mist, music (ceol agus craic), and that special something that is in the nooks and crannies of Dublin. Slainte!
Chicago to Reykjavik and Hurricane Floyd!
We awoke on the morning of our long awaited journey…to find that Hurricane Floyd was pummeling it’s way up the East coast. We were scheduled to fly from Chicago to Baltimore on Southwest and then to Iceland.
But Floyd was expected to hit full gale in Baltimore about the time our flight was to land there. The Chicago to Baltimore flight was cancelled, and we expected the IcelandAir flight to Reykjavik from Baltimore to be in the same situation (though they told us they couldn’t confirm cancellation until after 2pm–which meant we couldn’t swap departure cities until the first flight canceled.) Since we were booked in one-nighters all the way around Iceland, missing the planned date of arrival was like yanking the table cloth off of a fully-dressed table.
I spent the morning on the phone with United, American, Southwest, and IcelandAir trying to re-route us through Minneapolis. After a tense 3 hours of being on hold with nerve-racking music, watching the Weather Channel (also nerve-wracking music), hoping that Floyd would just up and blow away, throwing last minute things in the suitcase, chewing my nails, and speaking with over three dozen people across 6 airlines, I ultimately used air miles and spent another $500 on airfare…and got it worked out. Now, we’d leave the U.S. on IcelandAir via Minneapolis. The connection to Minneapolis on American would leave Chicago in just 2 hours!
Holy Cow! I’ve been on the phone all morning–still needed a shower and to do the final packing. It was an intense hour…passport, undies, socks, film, camera, tops & bottoms, toothbrush…Hug the dogs, turn out the lights.
We made it with little time to spare. Barely time to get to the gate.
Landing in Minneapolis, Bryan comments “We’re gonna make it after all” in that sing-songy voice of the Mary Tyler Moore show…Immediately lifting the day’s stress…we’re going to ICELAND!
Minneapolis to Reykjavik
The IcelandAir ticket is confirmed and we board for the 5 hour 40 minute flight to Iceland. And there’s a 5 hour time difference.
I noted in my journal that the sky was “Maxfield Parrish blues”, with tons of stars and crisp light. Thin clouds below us, water below that. Sunlight on the fringe of the horizon.