Lake Erie sunset

Lake Erie sunset

Monday, September 20, 2021

Private Lives

Last week I returned to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see a special exhibition entitled "Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900".  The "Nabis" (the name comes from the Hebrew word for "prophet") were a post-Impressionist group of painters in late 19th century Paris.  Their artwork, inspired by Gaughin, emphasized suggestion, emotion and sensation rather than literal depiction.  Many of their paintings were intimate portrayals of the artists' home life and family.  This exhibit, which closed last week, brought together over 150 paintings, drawings and prints from numerous museums and private collections.  It focused on four artists of the Nabi brotherhood... Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Felix Vaillotton, and Edouard Vuillard.  (I have to admit that the only one of the four that I had ever heard of was Bonnard.)

Although it was an interesting exhibition, I cannot say that any of the artists are favorites of mine, and it was not the most memorable show that I have seen at the museum.

Here is a small sample of the paintings that were on display...

"The Lamp" by Pierre Bonnard

from the Flint Institute of Art

"Boy Eating Cherries" by Pierre Bonnard

from the National Gallery of Ireland

"Woman in a Striped Dress" by Edouard Vuillard

from the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

"Woman Sweeping" by Edouard Vuillard

from the Cleveland Museum of Art

"Portrait of the Artist's Wife" by Felix Vallotton 

from a private collection

"The Lie" by Felix Vallotton

from the Baltimore Museum of Art

"The Mender at the Window" by Maurice Denis

from the Petit Palais, Paris

"Marthe and Maurice" by Maurice Denis

from a private collection

Friday, September 17, 2021

Butterfly Island

Last year I wrote about Wendy Park, the newest addition to the Cleveland Metroparks System.  It is located on Whiskey Island, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, just across from downtown Cleveland.  It is a pocket of nature amidst the industrialized Port of Cleveland.  Every September monarch butterflies, after crossing Lake Erie from Ontario, Canada, stop here to rest on their way to their winter home in the mountains of Mexico.  

Last Sunday afternoon, I joined my high school friends, Duffy, Gayle and Heather in a little excursion to Wendy Park.  I was a bit difficult to take good pictures of the butterflies in the shady, wooded area of the park, but they were there...


While we were there an enormous ore boat passed nearby, slowly making its way up the narrow channel.

One of the numerous lift bridges was raised to allowed the ore boat to pass under.  After the ship passed, the bridge lowered so that the waiting traffic could cross.

The Metroparks recently built a pedestrian / bicycle bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks and connects Wendy Park with other paths in the Cuyahoga Valley.

From the park you can see the skyline of downtown Cleveland on the other side of the river.

The Goodtime III is a sightseeing ship that takes passengers on cruises up the Cuyahoga River and along the shore of Lake Erie.  The cruises on this boat and its earlier versions have been a Cleveland attraction for decades.  I can remember that when I was in elementary school we took a field trip on the original Goodtime.

We ended our visit to Wendy Park by walking out along the 1000 foot pier to the old Coast Guard Station.  It was built in 1940 in art deco style and is on the Register of Historic Places.  When a new station was built on the other side of the river in 1976, this structure was abandoned.  Now that the property is owned by the Metroparks, the old station is being renovated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The New School

I graduated from Berea High School, which in 2013 merged with the other high school in the district, to become Berea - Midpark High School.  I wrote last year, that the old building was demolished and that a new school, which cost eighty million dollars (!!!), was constructed behind the location of the old one.

Last weekend as a part of our high school reunion, we were given a tour of the brand-new Berea - Midpark High School.

As we entered through the front door we came to one of the student lunch areas.  There is not a single cafeteria, but several eating areas.  That way the entire student body has lunch at the same time. 

On the wall of that lunch room is a sandstone decoration that was saved from the demolition of the portion of the building that was built in 1928.

The orchestra room

One of our classmates, a music major, sat down at the piano and played our old "alma mater".  Some of us (including myself) remembered the lyrics and sang along.

The auditorium is very impressive.

One of the two gymnasiums in the building

As shiny, new and "state-of-the-art" as the school is, I can say as a retired teacher, that I would not want to teach there.

The doorways on the classrooms are like garage doors that open up on the hallway, so that students can work at "cooperative learning centers" in the hall.  I don't know what the students at Berea - Midpark High School are like, but I can tell you that where I taught my classes would have been constantly disrupted by noise in the hall!

We did not have a chance to see many classrooms, but from what I saw they looked very sterile.  When I taught my classroom was decorated to the "Nth" degree.  When you walked into my room, there was no doubt that you were in a Spanish room.  I did not see any bulletin boards in the rooms; nothing for the teachers to personalize their space.

I was also flabbergasted that the school does not have a library!  "Students do their research on the internet," we were told.  Oh great!  This dinosaur is glad that I am no longer in the classroom.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Fifty One Years

My high school graduating class, the Class of 1970 of Berea High School, was supposed to have their 50th reunion last summer.  Of course that was cancelled due to the pandemic.  Plans were made to hold the reunion at year later this September.  When the arrangements were made for our delayed reunion, we had reason for optimism... people were being vaccinated, and cases were dramatically declining.  Now COVID is surging once again.  Although the situation is not as bad in Ohio as it is in some states, we still have an average of over 6500 new cases each day here.  I was rather hesitant to be in an enclosed space with over 150 people who had come from all parts of the country.  Even fully vaccinated people are advised to wear masks indoors. 

The afternoon of the reunion, I was invited to a small outdoor gathering hosted by one of my classmates.  We had a good time reminiscing about high school.  After a couple of hours of conviviality we headed over to the party center.

Here is our small group at the entrance to the event...

You have already met a couple of my classmates here on the blog.  Second from the right is Duffy who splits his time between Puerto Rico and Florida.  Now that he is retired he is considering spending more of his time here in Ohio, away from the humidity of Miami.  Third from the right is Gayle, who still lives in her childhood home... in fact her house is within walking distance from mine.

To the right is Heather, who made the trip from Virginia, and who was also very concerned about the large indoor gathering. 

To the left is Brian, who flew in from Colorado, and third from the left is Dale, the host of our earlier get together.

I, of course, am the one second to the left.  I am holding our yearbook, the 1970 edition of "The Berean".  

As we entered the party center, Heather and I put on our N-95 masks.  It was rather discouraging to see that we were among the very few wearing a mask.  I did not remove mine even to eat.  (From what others told me, however, I did not miss much by not partaking of the catered dinner.)  I was thinking that our small gathering earlier in the day was much more fun than the big event.

Then, after dinner when people were mingling, I spotted someone whose presence made the whole thing worthwhile.  My best friend from high school was there.  We had not seen each other for decades, and we would not have recognized each other if not for our name tags.  Back in the day, we were both a couple of nerds. (I don't know if the word "nerd" even existed back then.)  He was a science nerd and I was a history nerd.  We talked a long time, and exchanged addresses and phone numbers.  He has lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, since graduating from the University of Michigan.  

After a long conversation with him, I left the reunion feeling glad that I had attended.


Friday, September 10, 2021

Going Home


Waiting... and waiting... at the gate at Mexico City International Airport

Yesterday I made the journey home from Mexico City to Cleveland, Ohio with a connection in Chicago.  My flight was due to leave at 8:10 A.M.  When going through the usual safety checks before takeoff an electrical problem was discovered, and our departure was delayed while attempts were made to resolve the issue.  The pilot, who I must commend for his professional and personable manner, came out of the cabin numerous to keep the passengers posted on the progress.  He even talked individually with people who expressed concerns.  He told us that he would not fly the plane unless he was completely satisfied that the aircraft was safe.  The passengers actually applauded him a couple of times after his updates.  

More than two hours had passed when the pilot told us that a needed part was not available, and that we would have to get off the plane.  They were able to get another aircraft for us at the same concourse, just a couple gates away.  It was even the same model of aircraft so we could simply board and take the same seat assignments we had before.  We finally took off about three hours late.  Although there were obviously many passengers who missed their connecting flights, the situation was handled in the best way possible.  And in this era in which we so often read of passengers behaving atrociously, it was nice to see the patience, reasonableness, and appreciation for the crew that was demonstrated.  

After boarding the second plane, we finally departed Mexico City.

For me, the delay was only a minor inconvenience.  I had a layover of more than five hours in Chicago, so my itinerary was not disrupted.  In fact, it cut my layover down to a more reasonable length of time.

My early evening flight from Chicago to Cleveland left on time, and arrived twenty minutes early.  It's just a quick hop... the flight is less than an hour in length.

 A view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan after taking off from 
O'Hare International Airport.

We approached Cleveland from the north, just in time to see a lovely sunset over Lake Erie.

So now I am back home in Ohio... for a while at least.  I return to Mexico in a little over a month.  In the meantime, I still have a number of posts to write about my latest visit south of the border.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

An Eventful Day

You may have noticed that yesterday I did not write anything on the blog.  I was preoccupied with other issues.  On Monday morning Alejandro took me to a nearby lab to take the COVID "quick test" that is required three days before my return flight home.  The result was negative.  However that same evening I developed a low grade fever and some other symptoms.  I didn't feel terrible, but I just did not feel right either.  I was very tired and lethargic.  In spite of the negative test, I thought sure that I had contracted COVID.  The quick test is not extremely accurate.  

Yesterday morning Alejandro took me to the lab again, and this time I had the 99% accurate PCR test.  I didn't think that there would be enough time before my departure to get the results, but they said in the lab that I would be notified via email by that evening.  Naturally, I spent the whole day fretting.  If I were positive I would have to delay my return to Ohio and quarantine myself here in Mexico.  My biggest worry was that I might have given the virus to Alejandro and his family.  I spent the whole day in a funk, frequently taking my temperature (the fever had almost gone away) and counting the hours until I would receive the results.

That afternoon we had another torrential rain.  The rainy season this summer has seen much more precipitation than usual, and in the last week we have had several very heavy downpours.  Driving in the city is difficult as many streets are flooded.  Some districts in the metropolitan area have seen heavy flooding.  The several hours of monsoon-like rain did not help my mood any.

Finally, shortly before 7:00 P.M. my results finally arrived.  I nervously opened the email.  The result of the test was... NEGATIVE!  What a sense of relief! 

By that time Alejandro's family was preparing the light evening supper.  I went to join them and give them the good news.  Then before we could eat, the earthquake siren went off.  We all went outside and stood on the street.  Fortunately, the heavy rain had stopped, but it was still sprinkling.  For at least a full minute we could feel a strong, wave-like motion in the ground beneath our feet. It was the strongest quake that I have experienced.  Little Ezra was in his mother's arms and crying.  The electricity went out, then came on for a moment, and then went out again.  Finally when it was over we went inside and ate our supper by the light of an emergency lamp.  The lights came on again shortly before we were ready to go to bed.

The quake was centered near Acapulco in the Mexican state of Guerrero and had a magnitude of 7.0.  There was no major damage reported here, although there was a fire in one of Mexico City's tallest skyscrapers.  We have been unable to ascertain if it was a result of the quake.  One fatality was reported in Guerrero.  In Acapulco there were aftershocks all through the night and continuing this morning.  We couldn't feel them here in Mexico City, but in Acapulco there were people who spent the night sleeping outside.

Here is a video that was sent to Alejandro.  You can get a sense of the fear that people feel when there is an earthquake here, and, given the tragic quakes that they have experienced, with good reason.

Tomorrow I return home to Ohio, so today will be a busy day packing my bags and getting ready.  I still have quite a few posts to write about my stay here, so come back for more on my month in Mexico City. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Billionaire's Museum (Part One)

I realized that there is a major Mexico City art museum which has not been mentioned on this blog.  I visited it a couple years before I started writing the blog, and I have not been back there because I did not care for it that much.  It is the Soumaya Museum which houses the art collection of Mexico's richest man, billionaire Carlos Slim.  Last week I decided to go back there to see whether or not my opinion has changed.  It hasn't.

I took a taxi to the museum which is located in an area of the ritzy Polanco neighborhood that was largely developed by Slim himself.  The modern building was designed by Slim's son-in-law, and is covered with aluminum tiles (which were manufactured at Slim's aluminum factory).

The interior consists of the lobby plus six floors which are connected by stairs and a winding ramp.  Most visitors take the elevator to the top and then continue downward.

On the steps is something which is indicative of the level of taste in this museum... a bronze copy of Michelangelo's "Pietá".  Numerous critics have asked why one would want to display a BRONZE copy of a world famous sculpture which was done in pristine, white marble.

I went to the top floor of the museum which is a sculpture gallery.  It has the world's largest collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside of France.  The majority of the works are casts of the originals.  That in itself is not a sin... many museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, display casts of original sculptures.  The sin is the way in which those works are displayed...

The works by Rodin and other sculptors are all presented crammed together in an incoherent hodge-podge.  One critic described the sculpture gallery as a very clean warehouse.

"The Three Shades", a 1989 casting of a 1901 work of Rodin

"Colossal Head of Pierre de Wissant",
a 1974 casting of a 1889 work by Rodin

"Bust of Victor Hugo", 1883,
an original plaster sculpture by Rodin

"The Wrestlers",
a copy of an ancient Greek work by an anonymous 19th century 
Italian sculptor

Heading down the ramp to the next level there was a special exhibit called "20 Centuries of Art in Mexico".  This was probably the best part of the museum, although this too was a messy and uneven conglomeration of everything from a few pieces of pre-Hispanic art to Mexican coins and currency to kitschy paintings that were used as calendar art.

There was a collection of landscapes of the Mexican countryside, but most of those were done by obscure European painters visiting Mexico.  There were a few pieces by my favorite Mexican landscape painter, José María Velasco. 

This painting by Velasco, "The Valley of Mexico from the Hill of St. Isabel" hangs in Mexico City's National Museum of Art.  Either this is a copy that the artist did, or it was borrowed for the exhibit from the National Museum... and the curator did not bother to give credit.  It makes me wonder how many the works in this exhibit are from Carlos Slim's collection.

There are some works of religious art by important painters of the colonial era, such as  "The Vision of St. Teresa of Avila" by Cristóbal de Villalpando.

The date for the painting is given as anywhere between 1649 and 1714, in other words, anytime during Villapando's adult lifetime.  Again, it seems like sloppy curating to me.

Some of Mexico's major 20th century artists are represented.

Gerardo Murillo, better known by his pseudonym of Dr. Atl, painted this large canvas simply entitled "Landscape".

The trio of famous Mexican muralists, José Clemente Orozco, David Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera are all represented.

"Landscape with Three Women and Maguey" by Orozco 

A study for a mural painted by Siqueiros for the Rectory of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Sketch for the lost Diego Rivera mural, "Nightmare of War, Dream of Peace"

The mural has an interesting history.  It was one of Rivera's last works, done in 1952 during the Korean War.  It was commissioned by the Mexican government for an exhibition in Paris, but his completed work was rejected because of its anti-American, pro-Communist theme. No one knows for sure what happened to the 40 foot long mural.  Some say that Rivera gave it to Mao Zedong, but that it was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.  Others say that it is hidden away somewhere in Moscow or in Poland.  

In the sketch, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong are portrayed as benevolent seekers of peace.

Across from the Communist dictators, Uncle Sam, John Bull and Marianne (the symbol of France) scowl with disdain.

Meanwhile, Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo, collects signatures for a peace petition.

We will continue down the ramp to the other galleries in the next post.