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Down On The Farm

Gotta tell you a little bit more about Lilly’s farm –after all it was the first one I ever got to visit in the US. As you can see in the picture, it’s a very beautiful and quiet place. While in former times Lilly and Orin used to keep cows, pigs and chicken, now that they are in their seventies, they stick to growing corn and soy beans. Which allows some now obsolete structures on the otherwise very proper premises to decay in a very picturesque way.

I had been hoping I’d get a chance to help Lilly and Orin with some farm work, but it turned out that this time of year (early July) there wasn’t anything to do – the corn just grows by itself (or it doesn’t, with the draught that had already started back then and has probably had a terrible effect since then). Anyway, that situation gave me a lot of time for taking silly pictures and taking Tracey’s kids for a ride on the four-wheeler.


More Tales From The Windy City

So far I have talked about art and baseball in Chicago, now it’s time for a few words on its architecture, which of course is amazing. While Tish got some rest at our charming hotel in Oak Park (home of Ernest Hemingway), I did a self-guided tour of the architectural highlights of The Loop, as they call their downtown. Most of all I enjoyed seeing the older highrises, like the art deco style Carbide & Carbon Building from 1929 (see picture above), but of course I also had to take the elevator ride up to the skydeck of the Sears Tower – after all it’s still the highest building in the western hemisphere. Technically it’s not the Sears Tower anymore, though. Some stupid company bought the name rights in 2009 (but I won’t do them the favor of mentioning their name). It was fun to look down on 412 meters of nothing between me and the ground.

And then there’s “The Bean” (or “Cloud Gate”, as it is officially called). There seems to a law that every tourist visiting Chicago has to take a picture of his own reflection on the seemless steel exterior of this sculpture by Anish Kapoor. And who are we to disobey the law?

Another thing you can do with The Bean is taking pictures for a quinceañera in front of it:

Finally: the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Does it look familiar to you, even though you have never been to Chicago? That’s probably because you, just like me, watched a lot of episodes of the TV series „Married with Children“ („Eine schrecklich nette Familie“). Check out the first shot of the title sequence!

(Written in Hamburg, Germany, August 4, 2012)

Go Cubs Go!

To most Europeans, baseball is an eternal mystery. We don’t understand the rules, we don’t know any of the teams nor players, and we have a hard time understanding where the fun in watching that sport lies. I tried to get into it a little more during our trip, but didn’t get very far, mostly because I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to do the tedious work of explaing those complicated rules to a complete novice („Just look it up on Wikipedia!“) .

So we were not very well prepared when we finally got a chance to watch a live game in Chicago. Unfortunately it didn’t take place at the old stadium Wrigley Field, but instead at the rather sterile U. S. Cellular Stadium. The good part was that we got to see a local derby (or crosstown rivalry, as I think they call it in Amercia), a game between the two Chicago teams, the White Sox and the Cubs. From what I read about this rivalry, the Cubs are the underdogs that are losing most of the time, which of course made me think of “my” local soccer team in Hamburg, the FC St. Pauli, who hardly ever wins a game against the other Hamburg team, the HSV (we did though in 2011, and Tish and I were there!).

So with our sympathies slightly on the Cubs side, it was cool to see them gain one of their rare victories against the White Sox (and note: at the Sox’ stadium, which once again reminded me of that glorious day in 2011). On the other hand, the final score of 2:1 tells you that with only three runs this wasn’t one the most exciting games in baseball history. And as for the crosstown rivalry, it seems that baseball lovers are much more relaxed and less fanatical about this kind of thing than German soccer fans. I leave it up to you to decide whether that’s good or bad.


A visit to the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the phantastic Art Institute of Chicago gave me the opportunity of a close-up encounter with one of my favorite paintings.

In the meantime Tish studied the details of another classic American work of art:


Many years ago the band Television Personalities released a song called “Lichtenstein Painting” that I have always loved:

Behind The Falls

Although Niagara Falls is in the state of New York and thus technically in the Northeast, taking off from NYC that day felt like finally getting out of the four week Northeastern limbo that we had been in.

What can I tell you about the falls themselves that is not too obvious (yes, they are gorgeous and fascinating)? Maybe this: Starting out on the US side of the falls, then walking over to the Canadian side (my first visit to Canada, by the way) seemed like the right thing to do, since that way the excitement rises throughout the tour. The only bad thing is that once you go back to your car, you can’t help but feel sorry for the US side …

As for the title of this blog: If you ever visit the falls, don’t pay 15 $ for the tour that takes you behind them. All you get to see is this:

На Брайтон Бич

Due to my deep affection with everything Russian, I had been wanting to go to the New York neighborhood Brighton Beach, also known as Little Odessa, for a long time. So on our second visit to “the City”, as they say in New Jersey, we decided to go on a long drive through Brooklyn and find out, how Russian the place really is.

Well, I can tell you that it’s very Russian: For a few blocks on Brighton Beach Avenue, you will find nothing but Russian stores, Russian restaurants and Russian speaking people. So that was already a great experience for me. What turned our afternoon at Brighton Beach into one of the highlights of our trip, was the fact that Brighton Beach, as the name suggests, is on the seaside, and that we picked a perfect summer day for our visit. And so we got to have a Russian dinner, all with borscht, pelmeni and of course a carafe of vodka, on a lively boardwalk, overlooking a sunny, beautiful beach.

From Brighton Beach, it’s only a short walk to Coney Island Beach, so we got to see that legendary part of New York as well. The amusement park near the beach certainly isn’t what it used to be in former times, but it was still interesting to check out.

I was glad to find the Coney Island Steeplechase that the Velvet Underground once sang about:

(Written in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 24, 2012)

The Swan Rescue

A beautiful afternoon at a little beach on Martha’s Vineyard. Lazily watching the ocean, we suddenly spotted four little birds in the water (who we thought were baby ducks, but who turned out to be swans). They were swimming parallel to the beach, and when a little jetty (Mole) closed the way for them, they went ashore, trying to make their way through the sandy desert that the beach must have seemed like to them.

After a few meters, the little orphans (there was no mother bird to be seen) seemed to be exhausted and completely clueless as to where to turn, so they just gave up and sat down on the beach. That was quite a heartbreaking sight, especially since Tish and I had no idea how we could help them. Even worse, one of the four, that seemed to be weaker than the others, had been left behind and fallen in a gap between the rocks of the jetty.

Luckily the only other people on the beach happened to be real experts on bird rescue. When we pointed their attention to the little swans, they immediately called somebody from a nature preserve society, then carefully put the birds in a bucket (with Tish picking up number four from his trap in the rocks) and drove them to a bird rescue place nearby. We don’t know what happened to them after that, but I’m sure that they were taken care of well in that place and that they managed to survive.

(Written in Coulterville, CA, July 22, 2012)