12 June 2011

How could I ever choose?

With the camera in hand late today I went for a long -- and sweaty -- walk.  The dogs, who smartly declined the invitation to go with me, became my subjects while I cooled down back home in the air-conditioning.  They are my favorite subjects.

It had crossed my mind to use one of those photographs as my image of the day.  But, I couldn't choose.  Both dogs possess charming characteristics.  I couldn't bear to play favorites.

So, the image of the day on Flickr is a grainy shot of a sunset which I had viewed from the 13th green at our local golf course during the walk.  It'll just have to do.

Here -- getting equal time -- are Whitby and Belle!

Whenever she gets the chance, Belle "takes" my end of the
sofa.  Then, she watches to see if I've noticed.  This image was
taken from the chair to which I'd been relegated.

Whitby and I had been playing with Foxy,
partially visible in the left portion of this image.
Whitby would toss Foxy on the floor, I'd put
Foxy back on the pillow and then we'd do it
again.  Whitby tired of the game, but kept his
eyes firmly fixed on me.

02 June 2011

O'Hare redeemed

It had to happen one day ...

Tal and I will have been married 21 years just past midway through next month.  And, in at least half a dozen attempts over the years we have never had a good experience flying into, out of or through Chicago's O'Hare Airport.  Any number of things has kept us aloft, grounded, delayed.  Thunderstorms nearing the southern end of Lake Michigan.  Ground delay in Atlanta.  Overweight aircraft (requiring removal of passengers and finding their luggage in the hold).

Today our frustrating and humorous track record changed. 

After another early morning (to which Tal awoke without yesterday's fever) and fabulous Embassy Suites breakfast we were aboard our coach at the main entrance to the hotel at 8:30.  O'Hare was first on the schedule, followed by Midway. 

But, wait.  The luggage which had been picked up from our rooms at 6:30 hadn't been brought downstairs yet.  I had a bad feeling ...  Did part of me want the day to be a snarl-filled trial?  Is the O'Hara "badge" we've worn for all these years something I didn't actually want to give up?  I wonder.

Anyway, despite the initial delay, we ended up at the US Airways counter ahead of schedule, obtained boarding passes and handed over our suitcases, breezed -- unshod -- through security and were seated at our gate for the 12:10 flight before 10:00.  Then, wonder of wonders, the flight boarded on time and, since all passengers were accounted for, we were airborne early.  Once in Charlotte the shuttle to remote parking was where and when we were told to expect it.  We found the car -- covered with 17 days of grit -- and were home before 7:00.

In short, the we could not have asked for a smoother day of travel.  Tomorrow we'll fetch Whitby and Belle from All God's Creatures, start the washer to churning, tackle the grass and plow through the mail.  For the moment, however, I'm going to be content with the end of our long-antagonistic relationship with O'Hare.

01 June 2011

River and lake

At the end of our full day in Chicago I scarcely know where to start.  I am tired enough simply to fall into bed, but that won't do much to organize my thoughts.  First on my mind is Tal whose flirtation with a cough and cold morphed into a near collapse at mid-day.  Helping him hold it together and getting him home is my priority now.

The day started normally enough.  We were in the lobby at 6:30 for breakfast, greeted by a beaming Shirley (originally from Mississippi) who introduced us to the marvels of what the Embassy Suites offers for the day's first meal.  My made-to-order bacon/cheese omelet was prepared along with three others, all with different combinations of ingredients, by a cheerful and unflustered chef.  She was going to carry on like that until 10:00.  I was awed at the time and I am enormously impressed after the fact.

The day's schedule included an architectural boat tour, followed by lunch and a presentation at the Art Institute of Chicago, an afternoon to roam and a farewell dinner aboard the Spirit of Chicago.  When first thing Tal agreed to a walk across Columbus Drive to a pharmacy for a cold remedy before we boarded the coach for the drive to the Navy Pier, I was pleased and relieved.  He'd resisted taking anything for days.

The boat tour was great.  Our guide reminded me slightly of Reverend Jim, the character on the 1970s television show, Taxi.  Full of information, funny, a little spaced out.  From our position in a small flat boat on the Chicago River (and its South Branch) the buildings all around and above us -- old and new -- were overwhelming.  The situation gave the term "craning one's neck" a more literal meaning than I'd experienced before.  My photographs don't do justice to the city's architectural wonders.  Chicago is yet another city I would like to visit again.

Trump International Hotel and Tower (center), Wrigley Building (light facade right of center) with North Shore Drive bridge (foreground)
Tribune Tower, completed in 1925
A view of buildings on the Chicago River's South Branch.  The Sears/Willis Tower is in the center with the Civic Opera House directly in front of it.

From the Navy Pier at the end of the architectural tour we went immediately to the Art Institute where, after a snafu with my backpack (long and strange story), we had a delightful and delicious lunch in the Garden Cafe, an establishment featuring sustainable, local and seasonable ingredients. It was as we were walking to the rendez-vous point to meet our Art Institute guide for the presentation that Tal told me how really terrible he felt. We parted from the group for a very slow stroll with several breather stops -- about a mile -- back to the hotel. No, he didn't need a taxi. Once there, Tal fell into a deep sleep with me sitting by the bed. No, he didn't need a doctor.

On our walk back to the hotel we crossed
Columbus Drive on the BP Pedestrian
Bridge, a girder footbridge with stainless
steel parapets.
Looking up at Aqua, a building whose balconies call to mind the limestone outcroppings along Lake Michigan.

Late in the afternoon at Tal's insistence I went with the group for the farewell dinner on Lake Michigan.  It wasn't the same without him, but my table companions were wonderful, the food was good, the wait staff provided energetic song and dance routines.   All that and watching night fall and the fireworks which followed made for a memorable experience.
POSTSCRIPT:  Over the past new days I have more than hinted at missing the Grande Mariner.  Every hour of every day!  Well, from my point of view tonight truly brought our overland adventure to a fitting conclusion.  Who, pray tell, built the Spirit of ChicagoBlount Boats of Warren RI.  The task masters of the sea.  The Grande Mariner it wasn't, but how fitting and what a satisfaction.