Thursday, December 30, 2010
O Taste and See
League of Imaginary Friends--
Harriet the Spy, Mr and Mrs Unfocused, Lemming, Permanent Qui Vive, Mr and Mrs Non-Necromancy
As Denise Levertov says in her poem--talking back to Wordworth--the world was not with us enough, so my small-town family set out on an expedition to the big city over our holiday break. We went to Chicago. Our group consisted of my family, my brother's family, and my parents--ten people, the youngest 10 and the oldest 81.
Our first scheduled delight was lunch and champagne under the enormously instrument-laden Christmas tree at the Walnut Room in Macy's, where a fairy princess came by and waved her wand over the head of each kid (including my 17-year-old), saying that she could grant their "New Year's wishes."
Next we met the League of Imaginary Friends in a sushi bar right in the hotel where we stayed, the Fairmont. It was an extraordinary delight to meet each of them in person, but somehow also a bit anti-climactic. I feel like I know these people; I talk to them almost every day; seeing them in the flesh really doesn't add that much. But it is much more fun to have real drinks together than virtual ones. We had to leave after a couple of hours and as we went up in the elevator, Eleanor turned to me and said "You know, I could see them too."
That evening we went to see White Christmas, which is delightfully schmaltzy and features a song my father sang almost every sunny day throughout my entire childhood, Blue Skies.
The next day we went to see the modern wing of the Art Institute, which hadn't been open the last time we were in Chicago. We sometimes display a moderately irreverent attitude towards modern art and I personally laughed so loud at a comment Eleanor made about a Dali painting that a woman in the gallery hissed "shhh!" at me, which made us scurry off with our noses in the air whispering a line from the movie Love Actually: "it's not funny, actually, it's art."
We went to tea at the Drake, in honor of my parents' 53rd wedding anniversary. It was elegant and fun, as having afternoon tea at a nice hotel always is, and one of the best moments was when the tea was drawing to a close and my ten-year-old niece came up to her sister saying "I brought you something from the bathroom" (it turned out to be a paper towel with a dragon on it).
That evening we went to see Wicked, which was fine spectacle. As my theater-director father said, it's all done with lighting. All of us had seen it before and had been eager to repeat the experience--Eleanor observed that she liked it better this time because she hadn't read the book so recently, and we all agreed.
The next morning we went to see the Chicago History Museum, partly because it had been particularly recommended to us by Lass and partly because we'd all read The Devil in the White City and wanted to see some of the 1893 World's Fair exhibits. We lingered over the White City diorama for a while, placing where the Wooded Isle must have been and where the Ferris Wheel, and then we went back to the hotel and looked out the window at the Field Museum, and after that we took taxis down to the Museum of Science and Industry and walked around inside the dome looking up at the lighted Christmas Tree and thinking a little about the building's 1893 origin.
The ten of us had a farewell dinner at Morton's of Chicago in a private dining room, which was really fun although the food was absurdly expensive. We were living the high life. This is kind of how I felt about the whole holiday:
The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination's tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry and plucking
After all these delights, we had to pack our things and return home, where we will live the small-town life for a long while.
My mother says we eat black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's as a relief from the rich holiday food and to remind us of our southern roots. I've met Americans with Scandinavian roots who eat herring, and Americans with German roots who eat sauerkraut for the same reason. What do you eat for good luck in the New Year?