Apr 23, 2012

Gazillions of dandelions

Our front yard is Fort Sheridan's former parade ground, where the army used to have all kinds of ceremonies and rituals. You know, whatever an army does for ritual, with many flags, medals of honor, salute cannons and rifles, the whole shebang. As we witnessed once last year, the Fort Sheridan reserve base (which is just to the north and to the south of us) still uses the big green field occasionally for a ceremony, but nowadays the noise no longer comes from rifle firing. In stead, a cheap sound system was playing patriotic songs while an announcer in uniform (no doubt some officer rank) interjected with speeches like a bad wedding deejay.
The officers make much more noise during the army's other use of our front yard. Starting this month, we were pleasantly woken on Saturday or Sunday 7AM to soldiers shouting at what sure looks like untrained reservists; overweight men that pantingly struggle to finish jogging the 0.8 mile lap around the parade ground. The officers' shouting adds a nice touch of testosterone to the otherwise not very impressive display of U.S. military superpower. I must admit I feel as much protected having these bases in our neighborhood as with having a 20 lb hairless dog with only a couple of blunt teeth left.

Speaking of Ruba, she is a much more frequent visitor of the parade grounds, doing her daily rituals there. And so are many other dogs, but owners around here are pretty good in scooping. So the green field makes a very nice and spacious front yard for us, and the view from our second floor living room is nice and spacious as well. Since two weeks, the dandelions are blooming by the thousands, dotting the green with bright pops of yellow.

These tiny plants are not impressed by the other noisy frequent visitors, the army of Mexicans employed by the local landscaping companies, which all happen to be in Italian immigrant hands ('Aldo Monsetti cares for your trees', 'Mario Pasquali for all your green needs', you get the picture). All summer and fall long they will drive us crazy with their lawn mowers and leave blowers. Because of the size of the front lawn, they typically need to make an early mowing start, say 6AM. The dandelions just lay low so their blooms don't get chopped off, and soon our front yard will be a parade ground once again, this time as backdrop for a silent (!) parade of dandelion parachute seeds, gently floating on the cool winds from Lake Michigan. There will be gazillions, so we can sleep sound and certain that next spring we'll have another army of dandelions.

Apr 19, 2012


After our first time to the Chicago Theater in January for Lenny Kravitz and Raphael Saadiq (see the earlier post Are you gonna go my way?), we returned last week for another energy-filled performance. This time it was Rodrigo y Gabriela, the acoustic guitar wizard duo that started off as a trash metal band in Mexico, and moved to Ireland to play the local pub scene in search of recognition. You can't make this stuff up.........

They were accompanied by the Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A., who added a nice rumba twist to their incredibly fast-paced guitar riffs. In particular Gabriela Quintero was jamming like a mad girl on her rhythm guitar, tapping with one hand on the large wooden guitar case to create fast castagnette like rhythms, slamming it to create a deep underlying base, and still playing flamenco riffs. All at the same time! We have never seen someone becoming so much one with their instrument, and as possessed as she was.

In stark contrast, she seems a shy and giggly teenage girl when introducing the next song or the good cause they were supporting. Short in words, and far from mastering the English language, she summed it up nicely when saying about C.U.B.A.: "much cha cha cha, me too much bla bla bla". They played the roof off beautiful Chicago Theater.

Gabriella with an extra "l" was still recovering from a bad cold, but was one shiny bunch of happiness recalling her well-meant but unsuccessful teenager acoustic guitar lessons and seeing what greatness her namesake has achieved with the same instrument. 

If you have the chance to see them live - highly recommended! My only point of criticism about this duo is their lack of fantasy when naming their website "RODGAB.com". GABRIGO would have sounded so much nicer. Says GABROEN.

Apr 4, 2012

Home base

The last three months have been pretty packed with travel, both for work and pleasure. The holidays in Atlanta, a 4-day photo-shoot in the Tucson desert mid January (see the earlier post A marvelous day in the desert and a couple more), two trips for my work to Boston in February, a week sun soaking in Florida for my birthday, Gabriella's beading and book co-authoring trips in March - ten days to Tucson and 6 days to San Diego, and I just got back from another trip to Massachusetts. Travel is part fun, part torture, part exhausting, so it sure is good to be back home with your love.
GABROEN is not the type of 'wherever I lay my head is my home', but after more than a year in Chicago, it actually starts to show some homey symptoms. The city was interesting from the first visit, but living 40 miles north, Chicago to us unfortunately never really becomes more than that: an interesting, close-by city that we visit. And we remain visitors to Chicago.
A great city nevertheless.

Once you move out of your home country, 'home' becomes somewhat of a relative concept. For a place to become home, you need to have 'stuff'. Stuff you're attached to, such as your favorite chair to chill and play your iTunes library, your art work to hang on the walls, your pillow next to your love's pillow. Our first month in the US, with our goods still in transit across the Atlantic, we quickly realized that a house without your stuff is like a hotel. Next to stuff, you also need warmth. Literal warmth from a working furnace (and in the case of Chicago also good insulation to keep the arctic winds out), but also the warmth from people around you. That is where the northern suburbs take their time - they are not eagerly sharing warmth the first day you get here. In our case, it's taking more than a year now. But it is growing on us; our comfortable home base with all of our stuff is becoming a nucleus of heat in a lukewarm neighborhood. At least to me it is..........