A Visit to the Windy City

Y’all may remember that I’m a big fan of the writing of the late Father Andrew Greeley.  One of the things I love about his books is the way he brought to life the city of Chicago and its environs.  His stories couldn’t take place anywhere but there.  So I was excited to get the chance to finally visit the city last month.
The purpose of our visit was twofold:  to attend a wedding, and to visit our middle son, who interned at Kirkland and Ellis this summer.  We had a great time, and I took lots of pictures.
We drove up on a Tuesday.  It’s approximately an eight hour drive, and I’d seen most of it before, until the point at which you turn off to head to Notre Dame.   Aside from the various downtowns we drove through, this was the most interesting sight to me:
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I find these wind farms supremely creepy.  Is that weird?  They weren’t moving when we drove by, and they looked like some kind of alien being that might suddenly decide to go conquer the United States or something.  I also find large expanses of flatness unsettling.  Coming from hilly East Tennessee, I am not used to being able to see so far!
Our accommodations were on the outskirts of Chicago and they were adequate–meaning there was free breakfast and wifi.  Which was enough, as we spent very little time there.  Our first evening we met all the wedding folk in Greek Town for dinner.  Teddy joined us there, which was the highlight of the evening for me, and the three of us ordered a family style meal so we got to try lots of interesting Greek dishes.
Wednesday morning John and I ventured downtown to the Field Museum, near Soldier Field.  If you visit Chicago, don’t miss this museum.  It is amazing.  But don’t park where they tell you to! It’s $40, and there are cheaper options available if you do a little research.
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Seriously, y’all, plan a full day in this museum.  We were there for about five hours and it wasn’t enough.  Not only do they have permanent exhibit, but you can pay extra to attend one or all of several temporary exhibits, and all of them were excellent.
The big thing that everyone knows about this museum (or at least what they know if William is their child) is that it has the largest, best preserved, most complete T-Rex skeleton, and her name is Sue.  She was as impressive as you would imagine.
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The bottom two pictures are of Sue’s ACTUAL head. The one on the skeleton is a reproduction, because it’s too heavy to mount that way.
The first “special” exhibit we entered was about Vikings.  I loved this exhibit and learned a lot of things I did not know before.  For example, “viking” originally referred to going on an expedition, which many people did at some time in their lives.  They did not call themselves Vikings, nor did anyone else at that time.
The exhibit focused on the peaceful daily lives of the people, and revealed them to be quite different from their popular portrayal.  Here are some shots of my favorite artifacts:
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The skull of an actual “Viking.”  To see this, and wonder about this man, to know that he had thoughts, feelings, experiences, and family–just like us but so long ago–made me feel almost reverent as I looked through the rest of the displays.
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Men, warriors or not, were often buried with weapons.
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Above is a nice example of a Thor’s Hammer.
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The above are artifacts from the Christian era, including a Thor’s Hammer emblazoned with crosses.  I found it very interesting to learn how the Vikings combined Christianity with their original beliefs.
Next we headed to the Mammoth exhibit.   We learned about all kinds of prehistoric elephants, like this one:
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Saw a very well-preserved baby mammoth:
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Experienced the size of the largest mammoths:
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Met one of the mammoth’s contemporaries, this ginormous bear:
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(I don’t know that person; I included her for scale.)
And, of course, we learned facts about the range and types of mammoths and when and why they became extinct.
Next we saw a 3-D movie that was primarily about the discovery of all the mummies in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.  Then it was on to the Egyptian exhibit.
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This is Bastet and the picture above her is a shrine in her honor.  In addition to grand temples there were many such small shrines to lesser gods.
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This was one of many mummies on display.  Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable looking at mummies, kind of like I am being disrespectful of the dead?
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And that’s a pharaoh; I don’t remember which one.
Here’s something new I learned:  While I’m sure you’ve heard of pharaohs burying all kinds of gold and food and other things that they wanted to bring along with them to the afterlife, eventually it became customary for the less wealthy, who could not afford this, to bury replicas of the things they wanted.  It was believed that it the afterlife the models would transform into real goods!
Here are some highlights from the next special exhibit, on China:
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By the time we finished with this exhibit, we were close to running out of time.  We took a quick trip through the Evolving Planet section, including an incredible collection of dinosaur skeletons.  Many “skeletons” you will find in museums are replicas.  At the Field Museum, a high percentage–I think 95%–are genuine, and if they are not, they are clearly marked as such.
I wish we had had more time to look at the many other displays in this incredible place.  We are already making plans to go back and take the kids.
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When I was a little girl and we first got cable television, one of the first and best stations was WGN in Chicago.  I remember the news segments would always be talking about the wind blowing off some lake or other. 🙂 So we decided to go on a short walk to find this lake.  Turns out it’s kind of hard to miss, y’all:
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We sat down next to it and enjoyed the view while we tried to figure out what we were doing for dinner.  I will spare you the comedy of errors which followed, but we finally ended up meeting Teddy for a late dinner here:
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We ate outside and it was very pleasant.  Unfortunately I developed a migraine and didn’t enjoy myself very much.
Luckily, I was better the next day, when the plan was to go downtown and eat lunch with Teddy, see his office, and do a little exploring before time to leave for the wedding.
Here are some shots of Teddy’s building:
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We ate lunch at Chicago Cut, a renowned steakhouse that’s right there in the building.  Then Teddy went back to work and we went walking (and taking many pictures!):
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I wanted to see Holy Name Cathedral, which was less than a mile away.  I was expecting the ornateness typical of such an edifice and was surprised–and I admit dismayed–to find that the original stained glass had been removed and the interior stripped and modernized somewhere around the time of Vatican II.  I would love to see pictures of what it used to look like.
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We made a quick trip to Teddy’s office to see where he spent his summer.  Here’s his view:
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The big event–the wedding–was next.  Weddings are always a good time, and it was especially fun having Teddy along with us.  It was a late, late evening as John always likes to stay to the very end, and then we still had to drive Teddy home which was basically in the opposite direction of our hotel!
The big plan for the next day was lunch in Chinatown and then a little sightseeing.
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John and I had already decided that going up in the Sears Tower (well, that’s not what they call it these days, but that’s what it is!) was a priority.  So that’s where we headed after our late lunch.
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You’ve probably heard about how you can walk out into a little glass cubicle and stand on glass 108 stories above Chicago.  We did not do that. 😉
Here’s what we DID see:
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And here’s one last picture that proves we were really there:
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That’s the end of my pictures, but not quite the end of the story.  From here we went to meet Teddy so we could see where he lived this summer.  We walked to a neighborhood pizzeria, and after dinner went back and saw his house, and helped him pack a little bit since he was relocating the next day for his final week in Chicago because his sublet was up.
We drove back to Knoxville the following day.  There are so many places to visit and so little time, but I think we will be back to Chicago.
A Visit to the Windy City

Book Review: Patience of a Saint

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It might seem a bit odd to review a book that was published almost 30 years ago and that I’ve read many times before.  But having recently re-read Patience of a Saint by Father Andrew Greeley, who died in 2013, I wanted to talk about him and his writing.
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In 1987 I wouldn’t have been able to understand or appreciate Father Greeley’s work.  I’d read about him, of course–what Catholic hasn’t been horrified at the idea of a priest writing “racy novels” with actual sex scenes? (Such very mild and tasteful scenes, by the way.)  I’m sure at the time, without having read any of his books, I disapproved.  I’m sure I thought that a priest ought to have better things to do than write sexy novels.  I’m sure I assumed it was notoriety the man was after.
Of course, Father Greeley, a sociologist as well as a priest, was doing other things too.  In addition to his priestly duties, he was cranking out scores of non-fiction books in his field.  But he considered his novels a ministry too, something that is obvious to me when I read them now.  In his own words: “I wouldn’t say the world is my parish, but my readers are my parish. And especially the readers that write to me. They’re my parish.”
Anyone who reads Father Greeley will see that he loves Chicago, the Irish, and the Church.  That doesn’t mean he won’t point out what he thinks their flaws are!  And I don’t always agree with his perception of the Church’s flaws–I’m no authority on Chicago or the Irish!  But always the love is there, and his conviction of the truth of the Church and of the power of the love of God to transform people’s lives.
Red Kane, a somewhat dissipated Chicago journalist, is a perfunctory Catholic when Patience of a Saint begins.  A conversion experience comparable to St. Paul’s on the Road to Damascus propels him reluctantly into a reformation of his life which simultaneously delights and threatens his friends and family.  He comes to realize that “if one party in a relationship undergoes a transformation, then the other party in that relationship must be transformed too,” and that this is scary for those around him who have grown comfortable with the roles they were used to playing.
In a climax that is foreshadowed throughout the novel, Red’s family decides he has had a nervous breakdown and they send for the men in the white coats.  In the end, in what to me was a particularly moving passage, Red asks himself where he can go for help.  “The answer was still obvious.  The only institution in the world that could help him now was the Roman Catholic Church–the real Catholic Church.  Send in the first team.”
I’ve read many–not all, by a long shot–of Father Greeley’s novels.  He’s a good writer, not a great one.  He does have what to me is crucial–the ability to anchor his novels firmly in a particular place and time.   Chicago and its environs are intrinsic to his books.  His characterization is terrific, his dialogue not so much, although to me in Patience of a Saint it rings most true.  But most important is that his books are deeply Catholic, even the “sexy parts.”  It’s a misunderstanding of and a disservice to Church teaching to claim that Catholicism believes sex is bad, or base, or dirty.  Greeley’s novels elevate sexual love within marriage almost to a sacramental level–the ultimate act of self-giving that reflects God’s love for us.
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