Mar 31, 2013

Easter light

I may be a nerdy languophile, but on this Easter morning I was wondering why today is called Easter. English and German seem to be the anomaly here, as most European languages use a name derived from the Hebrew pesach (the Jewish holiday of passover, commemorating that the 10th plague passed over the homes of the Jewish people enslaved in ancient Egypt), such as 'pasen' in Dutch.

So it's not because the wise men came from the East - that's another holiday. Apparently 'Easter' is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn. Not sure if Eostre and East have the same origin, but it seems to make sense to name a dawn goddess after the east, rather than something like Norstre, Weostre, or Sudostre. Although less biblical in origin, GABROEN could certainly see some logic behind the name Easter as we woke up to a stunning sunrise over the San Francisco Bay. Good morning, Miss Eostre. We're happy to see you.

Cool collective

What do you get when you put together a vibrafone player from Albany NY, a bassist from New Zealand, pianist from Venezuela, trombonist from Philly, two saxophonists from Puerto Rico, a Tel Aviv trumpetist and a drummer from. ? Well, GABROEN found out Saturday night that that makes a pretty cool collective. The SF Jazz Collective that is, and they played a four night home game at the brand new, beautiful small scale SF Jazz Center. Since the Collective started in 2004, they pay tribute annually to a jazz master. This year it was Chick Corea, and each member of the Collective created his own rendition of a Corea song. Highlights of the evening: the venue, "Home is" by the Tel Aviv trompettist and "Space circus" by the tenor saxophonist. Lowlights of the night: drink service took longer than the intermission time, and someone in front of us setting off a ferocious hydrogen sulfide stinker. Despite these, a great evening. They used this night for recording their 2013 live album. - can't wait for it to come out.........

Mar 30, 2013

San Fran smitten

GABROEN is spending Easter weekend in San Francisco, at the new Potrero Hill patch of our friends Joanne and Jeff. They moved in just a mere 2 weeks ago, but had a nice guest bedroom ready for us. On Saturday we walked our callosities off from the neat farmer's market at the Ferry Building, up and down Telegraph Hill, up and down Nob Hill, and up and down a couple of other hills.
Twelve thousand steps, or 7 miles later, we ended at Hayes' Valley for well-deserved lunch and ice cream. The Smitten ice cream was a new concept, sold out of a refurbished shipping container and made to order right on the spot using liquid nitrogen. They have 4 ice making machines named Kelvin, so can make 4 different flavors each day. We ended up choosing pure chocolate, blood orange and mint-chocolate chip. And surprisingly, the mint was awesomely minty and fresh. Pretty cool stuff, that smitten ice cream.

Mar 27, 2013

More beacons

I'll just continue blogging about Spring signals, in case there are some weather gods that happen to follow GABROEN. Although temperatures are still far from balmy, the red robins and red-winged blackbirds have returned from the South and most Canadian geese have left for the North. And since 2 weeks, the finches are tsjirping, the blackbirds are gurgling, the starlings are copying. So at least it sounds different from hardcore Winter. We're supposed to get up to 50 Fahrenheit on Saturday, but back down to the 30s on Monday. A little different from the same time last year (see posts from that time by clicking Macro Spring or More craziness)

GABROEN figured, if Spring doesn't come naturally, we just go ahead and buy it. As in buying a bunch of tulips from Holland at our local Trader Joe's, or daffodils from who knows where at our local supermarket. Color splash!

Mar 26, 2013

Beacon of hope

Although dark snow clouds still are accumulating over Lake Michigan, today was the last day for this winter season's parking ordinance for snow removal at our front door. Also, today the sun worked her magic and wiggled her rays through the dark cloud cover. Look how warm and radiant the late afternoon light is, as a beacon of hope. Hope that winter is over, finito, gone, finished, done for the year. If someone would be so kind to notify the weather gods as well, we should be good to go.

Mar 24, 2013


it becomes very obvious from the "Picasso and Chicago" exhibit at the Art Institute (see yesterday's post Pablo Chicago) that Picasso was inspired by bulls. Whether as a symbol of Spain is his political anti-Franco sketches, as a mythical minotaur with a muscular male body with bull's head and tail just a little too high on his lower back, or as a powerful and passionate beast that overcomes the female matador in his genius pencil drawings, the bull is present throughout his life's work.
The bull also descended on the Art Institute. Next to many minotaurs and bulls in sketches, drawings, book illustrations and paintings, this was the first time GABROEN saw the famous series of eleven bull drawings. These eleven evolve from a realistic spanish beast through cubism and abstraction to a mere few lines, drawn without hesitation.

I was lucky to be accompanied at the exhibit and in life by a Taurus. I am not big on astrology, so am not really familiar with the traits the stars attribute to her. Obviously, by picturing a bull, I can come up with some on my own, just like Picasso did when he drew the impressive animal without hesitating: passionate, headstrong, beautiful.

Yep, sounds like my Taura. Here she is, descending from the Art Institute.

Mar 23, 2013

Pablo Chicago

The Chicago Art Institute has a large exhibit about Picasso this spring, to celebrate the centennial of the Armor show, the first time works of Pablo were on display in the United States. Pablo never visited Chicago, but GABROEN found out today that there is a special bond between the city and the artist. Both the Art Institute and local collectors have built up quite an oeuvre of Picasso's work, and Chicago embraced his modern style when establishing itself as a modern art&architecture city.

Today, another brisk but sunny Spring day, GABROEN checked out the "Picasso and Chicago" exhibit. It was very crowded, but we got in early enough to not have to stand in line to enter the exhibit rooms in the huge Art Institute. Many works were on display that we had never seen elsewhere, and there were hundreds of drawings, paintings, prints and ceramics. This guy was immensely prolific (see also the earlier post on visiting the Picasso Museum in Barcelona last April - click Pablo y Gabroen in El Born), and the exhibit spanned from 1901 to 1967.

He stated that "a picture is the sum of its destructions", and he must have meant that in both figurative and literal sense. Now that we have more sophisticated ways to analyze paintings and drawings, we continue to learn novel things about his work, including that he painted over paintings. The curators suggest that he intentionally covered up a painting of a vase of flowers with a woman's bust, or a woman and child with an old guitar player, but it sounded a little far-fetched and art historian mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps he just didn't like the first painting, or he was running low on canvases. In one case it was clearly a matter of not liking the original: in his famous Woman with child on the beach, he had initially added a man. He shortened the piece by cutting off half the man, and repainting the other half. No one knew, until he donated the cut off half.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, do check out the exhibit. It is definitely worth the visit, although a little messy and disorganized. And while you're at it, enjoy lunch at the museum's Terzo Piano restaurant. As the name implies, it's on the third (and top) floor, and has windows all around to soak up some Spring sunshine as well as excellent downtown views. A pleasant Saturday indeed.

Mar 21, 2013

Double U as in utterly unreliable

I guess the Friday geese were not so trustworthy after all, so perhaps they flew in a double U formation as to say 'utterly unreliable' in forecasting that spring is about to spring on us. Or i have missed them turning their formation in reverse and fly southbound like a big M. Either way, we got hit by another cold spell, and it is a bloody cold one with wind chills around 0 Fahrenheit or -17 Celsius. At least the sun is out, so it looks nice from the comfort of a heated home.

Our Mexican hairless Ruba is wearing two hooded sweaters and a jacket, but for obvious reasons her almost 16 year old bum still is exposed to the frigid winds when we take her out. Nonetheless, she refuses to use the potty pad we got her in the spare bathroom. She will sit on the pad, but with a look on her face like "all these years you made me do my thing outside, and now you come up with this fake grass thing? Forget it". Well, have it your way, Missy. She is incredibly quick for her age, running back inside to park her bum in the sun. Life's not so bad, just the 45 seconds she's out there three times a day.

Mar 15, 2013

Double V

This morning I saw a flock of Canadian geese, not in their typical V formation, but in a W. Which reminded me: if the letter 'W' looks like two Vs, why the heck is it called a double U? Anyway, more important than the shape of their flock formation was the actual direction it was headed. They were flying northbound. NORTHBOUND! Back to Canada, back to Spring!

I have much more confidence in the forecasting powers of the obnoxious geese than the local weathermen and -women, so seeing the double V up in the sky made my Friday. Maybe the shape of the flock formation was important after all. I bet (or like to think) the geese were flying in that formation as to say:

W for Well, it's about time.

or :

W for Wowee, spring is around the corner!


W for We just read Forbes' listing of most miserable cities to flock to.

Or perhaps it was just a matter of two Captains Goose in one flock, and both wanted to be up front. I don't blame them - as they say: if you're in the lead you see where you're going; if you're not in the lead, you only see a$#holes.

Regardless, I trust this flock's forecast that spring is coming. Even when the weatherhumans are saying it will snow again tonight and Monday.

Mar 6, 2013

Number 9

I'm not sure if you heard, but Lake County Illinois made it to number 9 on the Forbes 2013 'Most Miserable Cities to Live'. Despite being one of the richest counties in the US, the reasons quoted by Forbes are the plummeting housing prices, high property tax, long commuting times and lousy weather. Somewhat ironically, I learned about this at an offsite meeting for my work on Friday, when we were discussing why we're having a hard time recruiting talent to our company. 

Somewhat more ironically, coming home from Friday's offsite meeting, I found the local newspaper 'The North Shore Weekend' in the mail, which had an aerial picture of the area on its cover page with the headline 'Best Reasons to Live on the North Shore'.

The aerial picture indeed is appealing - a wooded area along the lakefront, on a nice bright summer day, with Chicago's skyline glistening in the distance. No lousy weather, no traffic jams, no foreclosed homes. The best reasons quoted are the three C's: the North Shore towns abound with culture, community and charm. Granted, only the Northern half of the North Shore is in Lake County, but I guess this paper has a different publisher than Forbes Magazine. Even more so, the southern half of the North Shore shares its county with the city of Chicago, which made it to number 4 on Forbes' list for mainly the very same reasons Lake County made it to the 9th spot. Next to Chicago's ranking, the greater Chicago metropolitan area actually turned out to be a 2013 hotspot for Forbes misery: Rockford IL at #3, Lake County to Chicago's north at #9, Milwaukee WI at #14 and Gary IN at the southside at #19.

The North Shore Weekend does list the least and most expensive house currently on the market in the area: Highland Park tops the list with a 21 million dollar mansion - not sure if that price has plummeted as well, but we do know that the property tax for a prospective buyer will be more than the income of an average household.


So what's going on here? How come a national magazine's opinion is so different from a local one's? It's probably a matter of perspective, or mere opinion, but it still is interesting that Forbes decided to

  1. add a suburban county to its list of most miserable cities, and 
  2. rank that rich suburb as more miserable than places like Gary IN and Youngstown OH, generally seen as pretty rundown, or the most impoverished city of all: Camden NJ. 

It's also interesting to chat with the locals around here; when they ask where our accent is from, the next question almost always is "so why did you end up here?" Our answer? "Work", which ironically does not start with a C.


Mar 5, 2013

Rocky Saturn

Although Chicago is known for pretty harsh winters, Illinois comes in at a modest 36th place on the list of US states with deepest snow cover ever recorded: 41 inches measured in 1900 and 1979. In comparison, the deepest snow cover in the US was exactly 11 times the Illinois record: a whopping 451 inches measured on the western slopes of California's Sierra Nevada.

This year, Chicago actually set a record with 335 days without measurable snow on the ground, shattering the previous record of 280 days. It started snowing very late in the season, but winter storm Rocky that blanketed parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas a week ago arrived in our area last Tuesday. It steadily snowed for almost 24 hours, and we got about 10 inches on the ground. It started as heavy wet snow, also dubbed "heart-attack" snow because of unintended consequences for people underestimating the weight of shoveling this stuff. It did create interesting sculptures though, with the snow sticking like plaster.

The snow shovelers could finally put their toys to good use - they were starting to look out of place, driving around uselessly for 3 months with their huge snow ploughs mounted on their trucks and SUVs.

Meteorologically, spring kicked in on Friday. But today we were hit by Saturn (who comes up with these names for winter storm systems anyway?), and we have another 8 inches on top of the 6 or so inch left from Rocky last week. Saturn again brought late-season heart-attack snow, and put our hopes for warmer weather in the fridge for now. On the flip side, the North Shore turned magically white, and the snow plowers are happily reinstating their position, perhaps not as King Winter, but at least as Princes of Spring.

Mar 2, 2013

Birthday weekend

Monday was my official birthday, and my mom reminds me every year that 2:10pm local time is my official birthhour. So I set my alarm for 7:10am Chicago time, to ring in the new year. It turned out to be a continuation of the celebration, as my sweet love decided to turn the whole weekend into a Friday night through Monday new year's eve party. What better way to start off the weekend than coming home on Friday to a decorated house, to a lovely and exotic home-cooked dinner, and a first present waiting to be unwrapped: a beautifully decorated tagine (a terracotta pot with cone-shaped lid, traditionally from Northern Africa to cook stews using very little water). The evening was topped off with festive cupcakes and sipping tawny port at our local wine bar; while snow flurries continue to whiten and brighten up the world outside, this weekend is promising to be good!

Saturday we took the first of a series of dance lessons, both ballroom and latin. We had done one beginner's class a couple of years ago in Atlanta, but have not continued since. So our skills were a bit rusty, to say the least, not to mention my Dutch hips, which do not have the genetic disposition to collaborate with moves that flow so easily out of my dance partner. Not only is she blessed with Caribbean curves, she has the latin vibe to back these up with some serious swing. Luckily we did not only practice salsa and rumba, but also the waltz and tango, which seem a little more amenable to my gene pool. But most importantly, GABROEN had a lot of fun, our newfound teacher was very nice, and we signed up for continued education.......
To continue the celebration, Saturday dinner was at Chicago's much loved AVEC restaurant.

AVEC is a communal style restaurant, where all dishes are meant to be shared. The youngsters sitting next to us took that to the next level with communal use of social media. They were texting and posting to shared friends' Facebook timelines, so they could see one another's digital scribbles. They did have conversations, like "Oh, that's funny. I love what you like wrote on her wall. I'm gonna like that now." Boy, that does make you feel like 41, going on to 42. The food was a beautiful mix of warm mediterranean flavors with comforting spices, the wine a robust complement, and the company was lovely. 

Sunday turned out to be one of these nice bright and brisk winter days, perfect for a walk along Lake Michigan. The shoreline was all frozen up, with the floating ice making eery sounds. 

Speaking of eery sounds: more gifts were given - vinyl records to stack up my very recently started collection. GABROEN bought a nice stereo and turntable in November, and is rediscovering the warmth of vinyl and the comfort of jazz records. Gabriella discovered a local record store with owner Steve who loves to let you try things and help you find new stuff. This time Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Oscar Peterson and Glover Washington Jr.  We're certainly discovering new stuff. Some of it is a little too experimental, or a little too eery, but Steve is fine with exchanging anything you want.

Sunday dinner was with NanC and Jerry, who had consulted Steve as well for more vinyl gifts: Lee Ritenour, Sadao Watanabe, and the biggest surprise: Gino Vannelli. Not as camp as I expected, although I don't think the open shirt and exposed bush has any acoustic value.

And all of this was still hours before Monday, 7:10am. Too bad I don't have an alarm where you can customize the sound, because then I could have Gino ring in my birthday. Instead, we will wake up to a somewhat metallic imitation of waves, not unlike the sound of Lake Michigan.