Archive for January, 2014
So today I’m doing a different sort of post than I normally do. A while back, travel expert, Kendra Thornton, asked me to collaborate with her on a post about the things we both love best about our hometowns. I didn’t have to think too long about agreeing, as I love both Portland, Oregon and Chicago Illinois.
Portland: Places to See and Things to Do:
Now I’m not a hipster. And I’m not a lumberjack. And I am not a twenty-something (although I wish I still was in my twenties) vintage-wearing, vegan-eating, bike-riding Oregonian. If you are looking for a place to get a tattoo, or pierce any part of your body, other than your ears, I cannot help you. I do not care, one way or another, about mustaches, beer, or plaid shirts. There isn’t a single terrarium in my home, goats do not mow my lawn, nor do I know how to make any homemade fruit liquors (although I do make my own chocolate in the winter, and I do like to pickle things, and make jams).
As you can see from the above line, I am a food lover. And Portland has a wonderful food scene. There’s St. Honore Boulangerie for authentic French pastries, Barista serving local Coava Coffee, Tasty n Alder for delicious breakfast, Papa Haydn for wonderful lunches and scrumptious desserts, Nuvrei for the best macarons outside of Paris, Alma for the craziest chocolate cravings, and for dinner you can’t go wrong with Meriwether or Ava Gene’s.
There Powell’s for books, Cielo Home for antiques, Oblation for everything letterpress. There’s House of Lolo for gorgeous clothes, Gilt for amazing one-of-a-kind jewelry, and Eden the most exquisite vintage store that could possibly exist, and I don’t even like vintage. Eden carries everything from my favorite French perfume (Serge Lutens Fleurs d’oranger) to beautiful silk scarves, to velvet smoking jackets, to beaded wedding gowns.
And not too far from all of this eating and shopping is the emerald, mist-shrouded Washington Park. With acres upon acres of wooded hiking and bike trails, a zoo, an international rose test garden, a Japanese garden, an arboretum, a forestry museum, a children’s museum, tennis courts, an archery range, and some of the most beautiful homes in all of Portland, one can spend a good weekend just exploring it.
As for accommodations while in Portland, if I were a hipster I’d tell you to stay at the Ace Hotel. Since I’m not, I recommend either The Nines or Hotel Monaco. Both have fabulous decor, attentive staff, and are in the center of town.
Here are some photos of my beautiful hometown. Enjoy!
Friends, this will be my last post for a while. I’m working on a project which will keep me busy for quite some time. I already miss you all. Have a wonderful 2014!
Now on to Kendra Thornton’s piece about Chicago.
Chicago: Places to See and Things to Do
The world is a great place in which to visit. At times, I like to travel to countries and cities by myself as I am on business. At other times, I love to go to a specific place with my husband and our children. As a native of Chicago, this city is my favorite place to be. There are some things to see and places to visit when in town.
1. Shopping with Luxury and Culture
Luxury shopping definitely has enthusiasts and there are places that people will find what they are looking for in terms of luxurious brands and styles. Two places to visit include Bucktown and Wicker Park. Stores to visit at both places include Intermix and Nanette Lepore. Culture is big in both of these places as it has local boutiques in which to visit.
2. The Park of the New Century
One of the most popular attractions in the city is Millennium Park. At one point in time, the area, which is now the park, used to be a piece of wasteland. Through the working of former mayor Richard Daley, construction began on creating a park for the heart of the city. The new park was schedule to open for the next millennium, which was back in 2000. Millennium Park has a number of architectural works, sculptures, art and much more for people to enjoy. In addition to this, there are plenty of tours, programs and activities for everyone in the family to enjoy.
3. Investigating Infrastructure
Wherever one is in the city, it is quite easy to look around and be in awe of the infrastructure that is all around. It does not matter if one is on the north side or the south side of the city. It does not matter if one is looking at bridges going across the river or walking in downtown or in a neighborhood. There is uniqueness, but beauty is everywhere. When viewing the city, be sure to select a hotel that is close to where the wonder and the excitement are.
4. Falling for RL
With winter now here, I like to frequent a special restaurant in the city, which serves delicious food and is in the center of downtown. The place is RL, although some know it was the Ralph Lauren restaurant. It is located on Michigan Avenue North and is next to the famous Polo store. In fact, this Polo store is the largest one on earth. A favorite dish for me to have is a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. It is perfect during the fall months.
These places and things to do in Chicago are just the tip of the iceberg compared to the possibilities that there are. Chicago is the thriving community that has much to offer. Take time and visit there this year.
The snow whirls thick snowflakes over the houses, and the bare trees resemble silver pins in a downy cushion. The icy gusts of wind that rattled the shuttered windows throughout the night, have since died down. It is late morning. The heavens touch the shingled rooftops, bloated and heavy. It is the week of the worst snowstorm the city has seen for years. The snow spills and spills on buildings and houses and streets and people and sheds and gardens. From inside the house, the entire world appears to be suspended in a snow globe: a white bubble of silence.
We’re all gathered together in my dad’s childhood home, the mud brick house with walls three feet thick and double windows. We are all together – my dad and his six siblings, their spouses, the children – all gathered around the open gleaming casket of my grandmother. She is oblivious to us, her eyes shut, her hands folded on the white silk of her blouse, the blouse she had commissioned from the seamstress for just this purpose: her death, her burial.
We are not alone. There are people everywhere, in this room, in the next, in the hallway. They have come to pay their respects. They come in their Sunday best, with polished shoes, and starched collars.
Manners aren’t forgotten in a time such as this, no matter the weather. They sit and stand and cry and say a word of kindness. They lightly kiss the offered hand of the women, with a quiet: “I kiss your hand madam.” They embrace the men, and kiss them on the cheek. Their voices are hushed, their eyes downcast.
They come with homemade bread and chicken soup and pork sausage. They clear the tiled front steps and shovel the pathway from the courtyard gate to the front door. They chop wood, stack it, and feed the orange mouth of the fireplace. The air is stale with their smell: with the smell of sweat and garlic and sausage.
Grandmother’s sons howl outside the door like little children. They slobber into each other’s necks. Why did their mother have to die? What will they do without her? Who will they run to with their problems – for a word of advice, acceptance, their favorite mutton stew?
In the beginning of it all, when the doctor gathered all six of them and their sister, in the cold blue and white tiled hospital hallway, when he told them to take their mother home, that there was nothing he could do, they seemed prepared. They had the front room cleaned out from top to bottom, dusted the heavy furniture, cleaned the emerald green brocade window drapes, beat the rugs. They ordered the most expensive coffin, packed the pantry with pickled green tomatoes and cucumbers, and called the minister to come and anoint her head for the transition.
They butchered a hog and threw a party, invited family from near and far. Grandmother said her goodbyes unhurried, in a civilized manner, amidst tears and smiles and cakes. Her children sat with her and waited, moistened her parched lips, held her trembling hand, fed her tiny spoonfuls of soup, and positioned her frail body.
But something must have happened to them when she crossed the threshold from the known to the unknown world. Because something in them is out of whack.
They walk in circles and press white-tipped fingers into their temples. They hold on to each other. Their eyes are wild. Their hair stands on end. They moan and rock on the balls of their feet. They are unashamed in their sorrow. They are not the fathers we remember. Their pain scares us. They scare us. They do not see us anymore. They do not see their wives or their friends. They only see each other. They only see their dear mother.
When the adults leave to relieve their cramped legs and bursting bladders, when their stomachs rumble for the world to hear, begging to be fed, the children sneak into the room. We make our way to the coffin, peer into our grandmother’s face. We dare each other to touch her, we move the lips to see if they really are held together by a pin, we imagine we see her eyelids quiver, we giggle nervously that we are so daring near the presence of Death. We run out into the hallway terrified when a loud knocking comes from where her feet should be, and collapse into tears of relief when one of our older cousins admits that he hid under the table to scare us. We get our ears pulled by one of the aunts for our lack of disrespect, get sent into the kitchen to wash the dishes and clear the tables.
Outside the window the falling snow blurs the edges of the acacias across the street. The crows and the ravens begin to croak. The room slowly empties. The fire in the tiled fireplace has died. The crying has stopped. The inevitable moment is here. The horse-drawn glass hearse has arrived. It is time to line up for the funeral march. The minister sends everyone out of the room. This is the uncles’ final moment alone with their mother. They shut the door after themselves. Shut everyone else out.
My sister and cousins and I glue our ears to the cold panel of the door. We hear muffled voices and then, much later, the tap-tapping of the lid being nailed down.
Our mothers seize our arms and pull us away. They bundle us in layers of wool and feathers and send us outside.
Helping fingers point us to where we should go.
Our breaths are smoke in the frozen air, our noses and lips turned to marble. We touch them with gloved hands from time to time, to make sure they are still there. The snow settling on our eyelashes prompts us to imagine ourselves as old people.
We hunch our backs and lean on imaginary canes. We get a fit of giggles and feel guilty for them. So we imagine ourselves old and dying, dead already, and we are serious again.
Family, friends, neighbors, and what seems to be the entire city, are packed on the narrow cobblestoned street, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to accompany grandmother’s soulless body to its hole in the frozen ground.
“It took all night to dig the hole.” The whisper passes through the crowd. The whisper tickles our ears but makes no sense. We haven’t met Death before. We don’t know he likes to take the bodies with him into the ground.
After the coffin is secured inside the hearse, after the uncles remember to take their places next to their wives, after the wives account for the children, after a moment of silence, we march through the icy streets, led by a brass band.