Soccer Bites (Cont.)

The pathetic tale of Luis Suarez, the star Uruguayan player who bit an Italian opponent during a World Cup game, continues to unfold.

After a FIFA disciplinary panel decided that Suarez could not play in any additional World Cup games and would be suspended for four months and nine Uruguay matches, the press learned that Suarez — unbelievably — had made a submission to FIFA in which he flatly denied the bite.  Instead, Suarez claimed, he had lost his balance, fallen into the Italian player, and felt his face make contact.  Given the undisputable video evidence, FIFA rejected that claim, and also noted in issuing its suspension decision that Suarez not only had denied any wrongdoing but “at no moment showed regret or remorse of any type.”

So, guess what?  Now Suarez has finally admitted the bite, apologized on Twitter, and promised that his biting days are behind him.  Gee, what convenient timing!  Having first stonewalled, and then seen that his ludicrous denial was only having the effect of enhancing his punishment, Suarez now recognizes the error of his ways.

In a gracious gesture, the Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini, has accepted the apology and said that he hopes FIFA reduces Suarez’s suspension.  Chiellini’s behavior has been a lot classier than Suarez’s grudging admission.  When the inevitable campaign to reduce Suarez’s suspension begins, I hope FIFA responds:  “Hey, Luis.  Bite me!”

Soccer Bites

Frank Lloyd Wright

The Frederick C. Robie House

The Frederick C. Robie House

If Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, then Chicago must be the Town of Frank Lloyd Wright.  His studio was in one of the Chicago suburbs, and homes he designed are found throughout the area.  In Richard’s Hyde Park neighborhood alone, a casual stroll takes you past two homes created by the famous architect:  the Isidore Heller house, built in 1897, and the celebrated Robie House, which opened in 1910.

On Saturday we took a tour of the Robie House, which many consider to be the pinnacle of Wright’s Prairie-Style Design.  As his work progressed, Wright’s home designs took on an increasingly geometric approach, and the Robie House certainly reflects that trend, with long horizontal exterior lines and crisp angles.  The interior rooms also are geometric and open, with large windows that open out onto second-story balconies that circle the front part of the structure.  The inside of the house feels very open and airy.

I don’t know a lot about Wright’s work, but I was struck by his elegant solutions to some basic home design issues.  He wanted to ensure privacy of the Robie family, so he decided to put the principal living areas on the second floor, where the Robies could look out the many windows but passersby on the ground below, blocked by the bulk of the exterior balconies, could not see in.  He also used wooden screens and beautiful decorative windows to partially shield occupants of rooms from view.  Wright also disliked open radiators and wiring, so he placed the heating and lighting elements behind attractive wooden structures.  His attention to detail included designing special light fixtures, built-in drawers and cabinets to decrease the need for bulky furniture, and a unique dining room table.

The Heller house, which we saw only from the outside, presages Wright’s developing style and is viewed as a key transitional point in his career.  It is marked by some beautiful ornamental work on the exterior but also reflects Wright’s love of geometric design.  According to the sign out front, it is for sale.  Imagine owning a Frank Lloyd Wright house!

Before our tour of the Robie house we watched a short video about Wright and the history of the house.  One point that was made was that Wright believed that America should develop and capture its own style, rather than borrowing the turreted, gothic designs of Europe.  His Prairie Style homes, with their characteristic geometric appearance, and his interest in designing not only structures but also windows, furniture, and light fixtures flowed from that deep belief.  The result is beautiful — but it failed to have the lasting impact that Wright hoped for.  In our subdivision you’ll find many Georgian homes but not many that borrow Wright’s lines or theories.  It’s too bad, but we should all still admire his effort, the sweep of his vision, and his interest in America staking out its own approach.

The Isidore Heller house.

The Isidore Heller house.

The Chicago Skyway Blows

The only bad thing about our short trip to Chicago this weekend was our use of the Chicago Skyway.  Coming or going, it blows.  I thought the inaccurately named Dan Ryan “Expressway” was bad — so bad that if I were Dan Ryan, I’d ask that my name be removed from that sorry, always-under-repair stretch of Chicago roadway — but I would take the Dan Ryan 10 times out of 10 against the Chicago Skyway.

IMG_2373For the uninitiated, the Chicago Skyway and the Dan Ryan Expressway are the two ways to get to Chicago from northern Indiana.  The Dan Ryan is a freeway, the Chicago Skyway is a toll road.  You’d think that would mean that the Skyway would be a better driving experience — better road, faster, and so forth.  That makes sense . . . but it would be wrong.  In fact, the road conditions from Chicago to the I-65 turnoff just east of Gary are miserable.  And, because you have to go through three separate toll stops, it’s clearly slower even than the orange barrel-filled Dan Ryan Expressway — to say nothing of costing almost $8.  What does the money go for?  Beats me!  My shock absorbers would say it’s certainly not used for road repair.

It’s also obviously not used for toll booth employees or upkeep.  Today we were infuriated because only two of six toll booths at the final turnoff were taking cash or credit card.  Three lanes were reserved for E-ZPass — which is irritating in its own right — and one was closed for unknown reasons.  Of course, there were long lines in the two cash/credit lanes, which were made all the worse by the fact that rather than a toll booth employee, we had to pay a machine, and the machine didn’t tell you how much you owed.  It was scrambled, and the screen showed nothing but gibberish, like this:  ###%^**##.  So, what to pay?  Not surprisingly, it took us forever to get past the toll booth.  It was like some satanic trick:  just as we were celebrating escaping the Chicago Skyway once and for all, a final bit of ineptitude trapped us in toll booth hell.  What idiot allowed this to happen?

If Chicago wants to improve its image, the Skyway would be a good place to start.

The President’s Old Neighborhood

20140629-071208-25928653.jpg
Richard’s apartment in Hyde Park is right across the street from President Obama’s old house. The President’s street is blocked off with barricades, and a Secret Service SUV sits at the narrow entrance. You can’t really see anything, but it’s an attraction nevertheless. During our visit to Richard’s apartment yesterday, At least two tour buses and one group on foot stopped by.

The President seems to be helping the local economy in other ways. As the photo above indicates, one enterprising dry cleaner has staked his claim to presidential commerce, and who are we to dispute it? The colonial strip of America is famous for claims that “George Washington slept here” — perhaps the south side of Chicago will some day be known for claims that “Barack Obama banked here.”

A Failing Grade In Sweaty White Guy 101

Today I wore a purple cotton golf shirt on our walk around Hyde Park. That was a mistake. In fact, Richard described it as failing to learn lessons I should have learned in Sweaty White Guy 101 — namely, wear an undershirt.

That’s20140628-152031-55231399.jpg probably true, but I’m not sure an undershirt would have made a significant difference under the circumstances. Today was one of those soupy, ultra-humid days where the air feels like electrically charged steam and thunderstorms roll through every hour or so. I could wear five t-shirts and I’d still be embarrassingly wilted and sweat-stained after walking only a few blocks.

At least Kish and Richard were able to do some Rorschach free-association analysis on the sweat patterns on my shirt.  And I would yargue that I didn’t completely flunk Sweaty White Guy 101 — I at least brought some extra shirts.

The QC And The U Of C Stroll

20140628-073843-27523551.jpg
This weekend on our brief visit to Chicago we’re staying at the Quadrangle Club on the University of Chicago campus.

Kish20140628-075026-28226642.jpg picked the QC because its close to Richard’s new Chicago apartment in Hyde Park — and because it’s got a lot more charm than some of hotel options nearby. It’s in a brick building with wide stone staircases and has a restaurant and bar, meeting rooms, and lodging on the third floor. We knew we’d found a good place and were in for a classy experience when we got to our room and found brass room numbers on a wooden door and a personal card in olde English script in a slot on the front of the door saying “Welcome M/M Webner.”

 

The proximity of the QC to the U of C campus gave us a welcome excuse to stroll the grounds of one of America’s preeminent universities. Most of older academic institutions in the United States are physically gorgeous, and the University of Chicago is no exception. The older part of campus is filled with graceful gothic buildings and wide shade trees, and the grounds are landscaped with colorful and well-tended flower beds. And then you come across a more whimsical structure, like the purple-themed Max Palevsky Residential Commons complex, which looks like it was designed by Willy Wonka. It makes a walking tour of U of C a fun bit of exercise.

20140628-080102-28862192.jpg