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Mia: Botticelli, Period Rooms and Van Gogh’s fingerprint with three generations
December 7, 2022, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

Grandma, Kate and I took a multigenerational trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts today to see the Botticelli and Renaissance Florence exhibit and more. It was fascinating to see how Sandro Botticelli reached back to classical Greek and Roman statues for inspiration he adapted to a humanistic approach more characteristic of his era in the last 1400s. It’s as if Botticelli breathed a color gust of life into the statues.

I was able to capture a picture of a statue in the foreground with Botticelli’s Pallas and the Centaur in the background. You can see the similarities in the silhouette of the statue and centaur. There’s a slouch that identical. The maiden in the painting is clearly in charge; always a plus in my mind.

There’s a balance of reverence and playfulness in the art. Sometimes that comes out in the action (he Banquet of Queen Vashti) and sometimes that comes out in the personalities and expressions in the faces of the models (Adoration of the Child with Angels). The personalities take a real turn when we look at Adoration of the Magi, which features Botticelli himself on the far right.

A boon to knowing people at the Mia, my friend Kevin was there and clued me into the fact that there was a painting where Mary steps on an angel. It took a minute for me to find – but definitely worth it. I’m not entirely sure what the meaning is. Maybe it’s a baby-like cherub archangel – maybe she’s just overwrought with too much of a good thing. But I’ll be spending time in the next few days wondering. Sign of good art.

Period Rooms

On the way out we couldn’t resist a quick stop in a few of the period rooms. My personal favorite is the Grand Salon, a 7-minute immersive piece where you can watch and hear the room go from day to night in the room.

Van Gogh’s Fingerprint

Kate knew about the discovery of Vincent Van Gogh’s fingerprint accidentally left on Mia’s Olive Trees. You can see where it must be below. It’s near the top right edge of the sun. Unfortunately the frame around the picture shades that area but that won’t stop us from pretending to see it.

Midwestern Thanksgiving: Family, food, art and gratitude
November 26, 2022, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Wisconsin

Yup, going to the Chicago cousins is a long-standing tradition in family. Now, this was the first year that none of the St Paul cousins made it but the St Paul grandparents, auntie and uncle did. We have a great time.

I started with my parents heading out through Milwaukee. We stopped at the Milwaukee Art Museum to see our favorite Tony Oursler (the talking head video) also Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and others. We love the Oursler without any back story but even more with it. He has recorded himself answering questions from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI); a tool used to gauge mental health.

Thanksgiving day we had a beautiful meal cooked by Katie, who had made Thanksgiving dinner for maybe 20 years and Billy who went to the Culinary Institute of American in NY. It was delicious. Billy’s addition was duck. I’ve had duck before. Sometimes it’s OK; sometimes not. But with Billy’s prep it was amazing. The whole meal was gorgeous. And a nice addition of cranberry cocktails prepared by Sean.

Black Friday Katie, our mom and I spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Chicago and consignment shopping in Evanston. The MCA had an exhibit on the Art in Caribbean Diaspora.  including fascinating videos of movement methodical, haphazard, independent, interconnect, so interesting to think about the difference in the voyage. Movement happens regardless and aside from the brick dominoes, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen but there is movement and it seems to be forward.


Then we had an amzing meal at D & J Bistro; it’s a little bit of a drive but worth it. We had all of the fancy food – mussels, steak tartare, carpaccio and some fancy drinks. And now we’re never going to eat again. It’s nice to be in a family where everyone genuinely enjoys a meal together. Like any other holiday table these days there are a lot of no-go topics and I get to hear more about sports ball that usual but also we laughed a lot. And for that we are thankful!

Final Day for Mom in Montreal: bittersweet and snowy
November 16, 2022, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Montreal

Turns out I was around for the first serious snowstorm in Montreal. It was heavy and wet, perfect for building a snowman and beautiful. And now I’m sitting in the airport, one of my least favorite places but it was absolutely worth it to see where Lily is living and meet her friends and roommates. I am so excited for her. Things seem to be clicking for her. We polished off her “get settled” to-do list by getting a mirror, sheets and all of that good stuff. We found a job she thought was worth pursuing so that’s great.

I just have random pictures of Lily and her new environment, including a post from her zinefest happening this weekend.

Day 4.5: Barbies and sculptures of Montreal
November 16, 2022, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Montreal

After being so productive during the day, Lily and I relaxed at night. We went to the Barbie Expo, which is in a downtown mall. It is apparently the largest collection of Barbie dolls in the world. To borrow from my favorite podcast, I’m a feminist, but I love Barbie. Yes, it encouraged us all to strive for unrealistic body standards. But also Barbie had her own townhouse, a boat and camper. She had lots of jobs in a world when lots of jobs weren’t open to women. She always felt fierce and independent when I was a kid. (To be fair, my sister had the Barbie Malibu doll and I had PJ, which was Barbie’s little sister or so I was told.)

Also, did you know a woman invented her? Yup, Ruth Handler. OK, enough explanation. The exhibit was fun. There are 1000 Barbies from different eras and styles. (I found a doll that resembles each of my daughters.)

We also walked through the Montreal Sculpture Garden, which is really just some statues around the Musee des Beaux-Arts Montreal. Actually it was nice to just walk around. This was clearly a swankier area than we’d been hanging much of the week. It reminded me of the Miracle Mile in Chicago. We did see a fairly amazing mural of Leonard Cohen. Then we had a nice meal at the closest restaurant we could find. Because sometimes on family vacation people get hungry and tired and cold and we just need a pep talk about the next super exciting stage of life – Montreal!

Day 4.0: Walking the streets of Montreal with the perfect chair
November 15, 2022, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Montreal

Ostensibly my job was to help Lily get set up in Montreal. She is doing an amazing job on her own – as earlier reported she set up a secondhand bike, government paperwork and tabling the zinefest this weekend. Today we did things where a mom can be helpful – like a walk a chair too big for one person from the seller to Lily’s new place. You never really know a city until you move a move a bright orange chair through the streets.

We set out to Hochelaga, a part of town that has a Village des Valeurs (Value Village) and Fripe-Prix Renaissance (Good Will). We took the Metro. Folks who know will know how much I love an underground. The Montreal Metro is like The Tube or NYC Subway but I love them all. We entered in the middle of a cloudy downtown and emerged in a sunny residential part of town. Think more Midway than Kenwood for my Twin City friends. What we did learn is that folks in residential Montreal are not as quick or as fluent to answer in English. They all had better English than my dusty French but once my French helped.

The area looked like part of North Dublin, which may be helpful to only some readers. But it means it has an old-world charm but with upgrades that were maybe DIY. There are also new elements but new like 1974. And there are lots of quick food places – not McDonalds but pizza or sandwiches.

Lily got a basket for her bike and a table. My usefulness was ordering the Uber home and helping to carry a gorgeous chair that Lily got online from a neighbor. Thankfully just a few blocks away. That gave me a chance to really check out and photograph her new place. It’s lovely with a kitchen, dining room and beautiful back garden. The local is amazing. She really is exactly where you’d want to be at age 24.

Now we’re gearing up for more fun. We’ve earned it!

Day Three: Church, State and food in Montreal
November 15, 2022, 12:44 am
Filed under: Canada, Montreal

Day three really starts on day two where I last left off. Lily and I had a gorgeous meal at Majestique, an oyster bar on Saint Laurent. We didn’t have oysters; we did have delicious smoked mackerel and fries. The place was toasty warm on a cold night. There was a guy at the bar that looked like the lost brother of Russel Brand and Father John Misty and I liked the beer. What’s not to like? We talked about all of Lily’s plans. She was so nervous about getting into a zinefest this weekend. (Spoiler alert: she got in.) It was the fun chat you travel to another country to have. Lily is nervous but excited and the whole world is open to her!

Real day three we were all business; well, one of us was. We headed out to get Lily the paperwork she needed to move forward with jobs and stuff. Turns out that sort of thing can take a long time. (Second spoiler alert: she did it!) So, I went walking around town. It was chilly and I was traversing area that we visited yesterday so suddenly stopping into churches seemed very appealing. I was St Patrick’s Basilica, Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde and Notre Dame. Each was so different.

St Patrick’s Basilica was most like the European churches – or even like grander versions of churches I’ve attended in Minnesota. It’s ornate but warm. The weird thing was the altar to what looked like the shroud of Turin.

Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde was majestic but stark. It felt more modern in a lot of ways. They had a message that called out the possible offense some of their art might incur in regards to the representation of indigenous people. (Years ago I did a tour of the MN State Capitol with Jim Bear Jacobs talking about the art, which details a lot of tropes that serve to put down indigenous people.) The main altar was gorgeous. But also it felt cold.

Notre Dame was very church-sexy and it was the only one that charged a fee ($15). The dark colors and lighting was beautiful. The statues behind the main altar were like frozen stage scenes. There was somehow a movement to them. Turns out they have a light show in the church six nights a week. That seems brand appropriate after my 20 minute visit.

I also saw some amazing art and history. I love the juxtaposition of old (cite memoire) and new. There are areas around Rue Saint Laurent that seem pretty bohemian and there are areas closer to the river that seem very upper crust. And then there are areas that are very industrial or feel like regular downtown centers of business. And of courses the Olympics!

Lily gave me the call when she had success and we celebrated with a much-needed early dinner in Chinatown. Nothing better than noodle soup on a chilly day going down. On the way home we say some amazing street art. And now we’re hanging out waiting for her secondhand bike to arrive. (Third spoiler: new bike shown below!) One by one she is getting through her “new to town” to-do list!

Day Two: New Life in Montreal the walkable city
November 14, 2022, 12:53 am
Filed under: Montreal

It’s Lily’s first full day in Montreal since the move after a very fun night. So, I spent the morning walking up and down Rue Saint Laurent checking out the murals by myself. They are amazing. Luckily, Lily lives very near the boulevard and I’m staying near it too. It’s a great area, lots of restaurants and shops and people. The vibe is very European. I’ll add most of the pictures at the bottom of the post but add a few favorites directly below.

I also checked out Parc Jeanne-Mance. It’s a nice park. You can see downtown, which is also fairly close to Lily’s new place and Mount Royal, which is a gorgeous mountain with a cross on top that lights up at night. But it was fun for me to see a different terrain in the city.

Once Lily woke up we had brunch and started walking around the city more. Our goal was to find a used bike but that’s a little aspirational on a Sunday. So we just ambled. We headed indirectly to the St Lawrence River by way of Chinatown and traversed the historic quarter, which skirts the downtown area. We saw Notre-Dame Basilica, Marche Bonsecours and from a great distance we saw the Biosphere of Montreal. It is a Geodesic Dome pavilion designed by Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 World’s Fair, apparently it’s 20 stories tall. I’m hoping we might see it closer in the next few days.

We also saw a couple of great, modern sculptures. Les Tourists features four different types of tourists. There was something I really liked about it. Then there was Les Chuchoteuses aka The Gossipers by Rose-Aimée Bélanger. Just look at the facial expressions – perfect!

One funny thing that caught our attention was a photo of an eye with a flier nearby that invited people to contact the artist if they wanted to model to have their eyes photographed open or closed.

On the way home we came upon a surprise concert at Places des Arts by Shauit. Clearly we were on the tail end of a daylong series of free community art activities. It’s an idea that I just love! All in all I’ve walked 10 miles today. Lily is resting up so we can gear up for a night of adventure, presumably a less adventurous night than last night!

More murals:

Day One: Lily moves to Montreal – the arrival
November 13, 2022, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Montreal

Lily is moving to Montreal. I’m so excited for her and a little sad for me except I now know it’s only a two-hour flight and the folks with Air Canada are the nicest. I was super honored when Lily asked me to help her move. I know part of my role was to help carry luggage. In the picture below you can see everything we had; my bag is the white book bag in front.

She is living in a house share. We met her roommates briefly; they seem very nice. Her room is on the small side but high ceilings, comes with some furniture and eminently affordable. Lily is able to move here because she graduated from University of Winnipeg so she is eligible for a work permit in Canada. She chose Montreal because she has some friends here. (More on that soon.) Her plan is to learn French. In fact, she can get paid $200 a week to learn French full time. Not bad when your rent is $200. Once she’s established she can get a job. She also wants a radio show and to get involved in the zine community.

We met up with some of her friend Charlie. They seem like a lot of fun but also seem to really care about Lily. Community was forming immediately! Charlie’s friend (Alex) was involved in community art and working on something big with political underpinnings in rural Quebec, which sounded amazing.

We found ourselves at a dance club that reminded me of quirky dance places in Spain. Super fun but slightly off-brand. Like drinking Dight Rite instead of Diet Coke but not in a bad way. We also checked out a few bars that we more my speed.

We arrived after dark but I can already see the city is very European. Apartments built close to the sidewalks and more duplexes and triplexes than apartment blocks, at least where we are. The murals are awesome. I’ll include a few but I’m sure I’ll do a whole post on them later.

Road Trip Day Seven: Montana to North Dakota and prairie dogs
September 25, 2022, 2:54 am
Filed under: Montana, North Dakota

We left Missoula bright and early at 6am. So I got to see the sunrise, which doesn’t happen often and that meant we got some serious miles in so we’re down to six hours of driving tomorrow. We did make a few stops.

First stop was Prairie Dog Town in Greycliff MT. It is a super easy break from I90. It was a – minute break stretching our legs and catching serious wind and worth every minute. Plus I’ve never seen a prairie dog. Cute from a distance rodenty up close.

We stopped for a quick jump up a bunch of stairs at Pompey’s Pillar just outside of Billings Montana. Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) has signed the giant rock or pillar on this site. The site is close to the highway but does include a lot of steps – the structure is 120 feet high in the middle of a field. It’s cool to think of the signature being preserved. Clark named the structure after Sacagawea’s son. Incredible too to see a rendition of the canoes they used to travel (carved into Yellowstone trees). I can’t begin to imagine taking one of those into a river or having to be in sync with the number of people they probably had in the canoe.

This site is close to the site of Little Big Horn (aka Custer’s Las Stand). It’s hard to know where the lines between exploration and colonization begin, end and blur. Historically, this was part of the Louisiana Purchase but made part of the Crow Indian Reservation in the 1800s. It’s no longer part of the reservation but Crow tribal members have first right to homestead the land.

We ended up at Bismark for the night. It’s the capitol of North Dakota. SO far have only seen it at night but seems pretty hopping.

Road Trip Day 6: Washington, Idaho, Montana – Aine is launched at Evergreen!
September 24, 2022, 3:06 am
Filed under: Idaho, Montana, Washington DC

Good news – after a fantastic breakfast at Hash in Olympia, we left Aine happy and ready at the Evergreen College campus. She was ready for us to leave and I can’t wait to hear how much she likes school once she gets started. So far, it’s just orientation and meeting folks. Sounds like meeting folks is going well.

Now we are trying to get home (1700 miles) in three days- and remember only one of will be driving and it’s not me. Dad (aka grandpa) continues to rock it. We’ve made it through the serious mountains of Washington and Idaho. And we managed to catch a few sights as we floored it.

We checked out Wild Horses Monument aka Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies in Quincy WA. Created by Chewelah sculptor David Govedare. We checked it out from a distance; next time we might march up for a closer look.

I wanted to stop to see something in Idaho so we stopped to see the Sunshine Miner Memorial in Kellogg. It honors the 91 victims of the Sunshine Miner disaster of 1972. Apparently there were 178 people working; 85 made it out safely and two were found alive seven days later. There was a big fire and spread quickly given in the mine. Very sad. The memorial is touching with mini gravestones for each lost miner and a 13 foot statute of a miner with a light shining from his helmet.

We have landed in Missoula MT with a hope of getting closer to home tomorrow!

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