Monday, July 21, 2003

Unbought stuffed blogs.

More storms last night. One, two, three in a row. As usual, one lightning strike sounded like it was just over our heads, dashing 'mid the large trees overhead. I was certain something large would come crashing down onto the roof. In the morning, I checked, and the only thing that had moved in the night was the recycling bin, which had fallen over, spilling its cargo of metal, plastic and a little glass.

The weatherpeople say this is the wettest July on record in northern Illinois. Certainly the grass has been responding. So have the mosquitoes. We missed giving you West Nile last year, but we'll do our best this time around. Actually, that's something I don't worry about very much; I still know the real enemy of long life and happiness, and it isn't a mosquito-borne disease, not in North America, not yet; it's still that timed-honored way to die before your time in the USA, driving a car. Yet drive I must.

My company has lately started giving us part of Friday afternoons in the summer off. (Huzzah!) So last Friday I took the opportunity to ride the rails to Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb immediately west of Chicago, producer of two famous sons: Frank Lloyd Wright and Earnest Hemingway. As a dashing young architect, Wright left town with a client's wife; and as soon as he'd grown up, Hemingway left town, too. Still, Oak Park claims the two, in the form of museums and civic propaganda.

Comments on Wright, another time. But it's enough to say that as interesting as his buildings can be, I've long thought that the answer to "Why was Frank Lloyd Wright a genius?" is "Because everybody says so!" Something like Charlie Chaplin in that way.

Last December, I had had part of an afternoon free, and had gone to the Hemingway Museum, but hadn't had the time to see his birthplace down the street. I kept the part of the ticket that would allow me in, and decided to use it on Friday. It was a fine stroll from the El up Oak Park Ave. to the house; a gorgeous and not too hot summer afternoon.

The house, built in 1890, is a Queen Anne very typical of the period. "Nothing architecturally significant," the guide said. "But Hemingway was born here." Can't compete in that way with the FLW, I suppose. Still, I thought it was a fine-looking house, nicely restored in most places, and except for my more advanced notions of central heating, I wouldn't mind living in one like it.

The furniture was period, very little actually belonging to the Hemingways. After all, they didn't realize they had to prepare the dwelling to become a museum in 100 years. In fact, Earnest himself only passed through. He was still in short pants when the family moved to a larger house a few blocks away. All in all, a nicely done display of how the haute bourgeoisie lived ca. 1900. Whatever Papa Hemingway's later pretensions, he was a kid from the suburbs.


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