Good places for being

2 12 2007

Today is a balmy, lightless day in Chicago and Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Yesterday the rain froze our umbrellas wide open and left a slab of ice like lard across the intersections. Today plan “b” was somewhere on a moon of life as it might be.

It was the great opening of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in their new Krueck and Sexton building across from Grant Park and the Lake. This is a building for all things Jewish and it’s made like a glacier of glass. Polar bears could play on its facade of heaved up sheets of glass at angles to each other and the sun. Inside there’s a library, an archive, classrooms and a theatre, children’s art studios and a kosher cafe. It is a place of present and future of glass and light and nature coming inside and the smell of baking a-roming from floor to floor. It is a place of searching, asking, reading, watching, chatting and discoursing where the past is present as if to say why not now and other nows as well.

Red Moon Theatre creature-people were all over the Spertus building today. This is the day humans can see them, they live just behind the air we breathe and their lives are beautiful but not so easy in many ways but they might say the same of ours.

Yesterday plan “b” visited another new Chicago building, the new Pacific Garden Mission. The good people of this town wanted it out of sight, this centennial refuge of the down and out and moved it from State Street to west of the railroad tracks. Their new building is by Stanley Tigerman, an architect not plan “b’s” cup of tea at all but goodness didn’t he do a lovely job for the new mission.

Pacific Garden finally has a real garden, a good sized green house where they plan to grow fruit and vegetables for dinner. The dining hall is like a restaurant for 600 people and leftovers go to the compost piles in the greenhouse. The roofs are green, There’s a theatre, classrooms and dormitories where men, women, children can stay as long as they choose, that’s what our guide said. For every dose of bible they can swallow they have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Solar panels on the roof heat their showers and they can have a safe, clean sleep.

HAPPINESS HOTEL (hat tip to Kermit)
Someone or something (an optical company?) leaves a juicy check at the mission every month to buy eye glasses for everyone who needs them. There’s a dispensary with a nurse on staff and doctors that visit. The Pacific Garden Mission is like its own little kingdom. It’s allowed to continue to exist in Chicago as long as the building is hidden at the end of a snarl of dead ends on the west side. The people inside it are allowed to continue to exist as long as they are good sports and shout their prayers. Bon appetit! Hallelujah! If it came to it plan “b” would sure do it.

Two glorious oases in Chicago this dreary, warm Sunday. One of them is gorgeous and glittering, the first thing you see when you blow into town. The other is secretly wonderful for a few hundred souls who have secretly survived.




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