My Own kWh

More wind today. Enough so that the blue recycle bin, which usually rests inert on the deck, took a new position against the back yard fence in the morning.

ComEd sent me another of its non-bill mailings recently, to tell me how I stand vis-à-vis “efficient neighbors” and “average neighbors,” for the period December 22 to January 25. Efficient and average in terms of electricity usage, that is, not (say) snow removal or vacuum cleaning of interior carpets.

We used 560 kWh over that period, and thus 1 percent for more electricity than efficient neighbors. Guess that’s good. A smidgen less coal burned somewhere, a few fewer atoms split. “Efficient neighbors are the 20% who use the least amount of electricity” among 100 houses in a one-mile radius or so, according to the utility.

In the fine print, the letter says, “This program is funded by ComEd customers in compliance with Illinois law.” Hm. Not an unfunded mandate as far as ComEd is concerned, then. The company gets to charge its customers to tell them how efficient they are. That would be OK if I got a discount for efficiency, a few tenths of a cent per kWh, say, but I don’t think that’s in the offing unless I’m an industrial user.

The Spurlock Museum

Just before bugging out of town on Sunday afternoon, I stopped at the Spurlock Museum on the UIUC campus. I was surprised to find it open. As opposed to the Krannert Art Museum, the focus of the Spurlock — in full the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum — is ethnographic. I didn’t want to spend a long time, so I only wandered through the first-floor galleries, one dedicated to the ancient Mediterranean, the other to North and South American Indians.

The Mediterranean room offered reproductions of ancient statues and a wide mix of smaller artifacts. It’s always good to run across Augustus, though maybe he should be painted in bright colors.
Augustus, Spurlock MuseumIt’s a plaster cast of a first-century Roman marble that’s in the Vatican Museum, which itself was a copy of a Roman bronze original, ca. 20 BC, which was lost to time.

Next, Artemis.
Artemis, Spurlock MuseumAgain a plastic cast of a marble Roman copy, ca. 2nd century AD that’s now in the Louvre. Unlike Augustus, she’s wearing sandals. The original Greek bronze, ca. 350 BC by Praxiteles, is also no more.

The Doryphoros.

Spear carrier, Spurlock Museum

That is, the spear carrier. No fig leaf for this fellow. No spear, either, though he could pick one up at any time. The original bronze, ca. 450 BC, is lost (of course, sigh). A 1st century AD marble copy is in the National Museum in Naples.

Now for a different aesthetic.

Diablada costume, Spurlock MuseumAccording to the museum, this Diablada costume was acquired by Isabel Scarborough in Cochabamba, Bolivia; the mask, whip and matracas were acquired by Cynthia LeCount Samane in Oruro, Bolivia, in both cases in the late 2000s.

A drum from Andean Ecuador in the 1970s.

Andean Drum, Spurlock Museum

Canelos Quichua Miniature Pottery Festival Group, by Marta Vargas Dugua, Puyo, Ecuador (2008).
South American figures, Spurlock MuseumUpstairs are exhibits about East Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, ancient Mesopotamia, and ancient Egypt. Guess I’ll have to drop by again.

UIUC Walkabout, January ’17

The first time I took a walk through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, when visiting with Lilly not quite a year ago, we didn’t have much of a plan. On Sunday, I took another walk around UIUC, studying a campus map beforehand. Not exactly a plan, but at least informed guesswork about an interesting route.

I parked on 6th St. next to the College of Business and near a side street named after sculptor Lorado Taft, a distinguished early alumnus, and headed out from there on foot. I saw more evidence of Taft’s connection to the university elsewhere, though not the well-known “Alma Mater” sculpture (this time).

Nearby was the Architecture Building. Four panels are embedded in the walls of the building, on conspicuous display. Here’s one, featuring Michele Sanmicheli.

Architecture Building panel UIUC“The Architecture building, also known as Architecture and Kindred Subjects, was designed in the Georgian Revival style by Charles A. Platt in 1926-1927,” writes Muriel Scheinman in Explore C-U. “Platt, who also designed ten other buildings on campus including the University Library, David Kinley Hall, and Mumford Hall, embedded four panels with medallion portraits of famous architects on the Architecture building. Michelangelo Buonarroti and Michele San Michele are displayed on the west gates, and Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones are on the east gates. Frank G. Menconi, an architectural sculptor based in New York, designed the panels.”

Back to Lorado Taft. One of his monumental works is the Fountain of Time in Chicago. He had planned a similarly monumental work nearby called the Fountain of Creation, but the project was never realized.

He did complete four figures intended for the Fountain of Creation, however, and now they stand in front of the UIUC main library and behind the Foellinger Auditorium. I wandered by and saw them all. Here’s one of two near the library’s entrance, “A Daughter of Pyrrah.”
A Daughter of Pyrrah, Lorado Taft, UICU“Pyrrha” is how it’s spelled in my go-to reference on the subject, Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology: A Dictionary (Michael Grant and John Hazel, 1979) and other places. She was part of the husband-and-wife team who survived a worldwide flood and then helped re-create mankind by tossing rocks over their shoulders, which then became people.

Pyrrha had natural-born daughters as well as rock-created ones. It isn’t clear which one Taft was thinking of, at least from reading the plaque.

Here’s the other.
A Daughter of Pyrrha, Lorado Taft, UICUWhatever else, they seem to be in some kind of distress. A collegiate title might be, “I’m not ready for my exam!” A more topical title could be, “The inauguration’s coming soon!”

Not far away, behind the Foellinger Auditorium, are two sons of Duecalion, whom Taft called “Eucalion.” He was the husband in the flood myth.
A Son of Duecalion, Lorado Taft, UICUIf anything, the sons look even more distressed than the daughters.
A Son of Duecalion, Lorado Taft, UIUC

“After a weekend bender” might be a good title for that one.

“Around 1917, [Taft] proposed to the city a pair of huge fountains, one at each end of a strip of public park known as the Midway Plaisance on the Chicago’s South Side,” explains Chicago Outdoor Sculptures. “On the western edge, the Fountain of Time and at the eastern edge would stand the Fountain of Creation. Although the Fountain of Time was completed, The Fountain of Creation was never completed… Taft planned 38 monumental figures and figure groups for the Fountain of Creation. But only four were carved in stone.”

Nearby is the UIUC Observatory. It wasn’t open for inspection, but I liked the outside.

UIUC Observatory Jan. 2017“The University of Illinois Observatory was constructed in 1896,” the university says. “…Though none of the astronomical instruments are being used for professional research today, the observatory still contains a 12” Brashear refractor. The observatory played a key role in the development of astronomy, as it was home to a key innovation in the area of astronomical photometry. The facility has been directed by such noted scientists as Joel Stebbins and Robert H. Baker.”

Looping back, I took in the view from the steps of the Foellinger Auditorium, which is nice even in winter. It encompasses the Illini Union. You wouldn’t know it to look at the building, but part of the financing for its construction came from the WPA.
There’s a bowling alley in there somewhere, among other things. I’ll have to take a closer look inside sometime. Likewise with the Foellinger Auditorium, which was closed on Sunday afternoon.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

RIP, Gene Cernan. That leaves six of 12 moonwalkers.

I took Lilly and a friend of hers back to UIUC yesterday. It was a good day for popping down to Champaign/Urbana, at least as good as you’re going to get in January, with overcast skies but no ice or snow or much wind, and temps a bit above freezing.

After I dropped them off, I did a little walkabout of my own before returning home. I soon found myself all by myself, at least among the living, at Mt. Hope Cemetery. The cemetery, founded in 1856, is older than the university, and these days is a long stretch of land south of the school, totaling 52 acres between Florida and Pennsylvania avenues.

It’s fairly flat, but then again, this is Illinois.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

There’s a nice variety of stones and some mature trees, though not quite the arboretum I’ve encountered in other places.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

Many of the stones date from the 19th century. That is, people whose lives came and went entirely during that century, though there were also a good many early 20th-century burials. I also saw some newer stones as well, such as this curious one.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

That’s a style I’d never seen before: the grave marker as bench.

Mt. Hope sports some interesting funerary art, including some stone styles you see in a number of places, such as this Woodman’s monument.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

A few larger monuments, like the obelisk below, dot the landscape, but mostly the stones are more modest. There’s a modern-ish looking building that serves as a mausoleum, but not many of the freestanding family mausoleums you find in other older cemeteries.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

“Prior to Mt. Hope, locals were buried in the Old Urbana Cemetery (now Leal Park), the Old Jewish Cemetery, or on family farmland,” writes Laura Miller in Explore C-U. “Jesse Burt, a local farmer, recognized that the growing community of Urbana needed a larger and more organized burial ground with scenic walks more in keeping with the park-like cemeteries then popular and contributed land for this purpose…

“Many families moved their ancestors’ graves from the old burial grounds to Mt. Hope. The drives through the cemetery were named after trees. Once, numerous footpaths weaved through the cemetery making it a popular place for walks and picnics; however, this space has been reclaimed over the years for burial lots. After it opened, it became the primary cemetery for burials until 1907, when Woodlawn and Roselawn Cemeteries began operation.”

In the 1890s, veterans and their supporters erected one of the larger monuments in Mt. Hope. “Dedicated,” it says, “to the memory of the defenders of our flag, 1861-1865.”
Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/UrbanaNot long after, the GAR put up a cannon next to the statue.
Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/UrbanaAll in all, a fine graveyard to visit, even when you need a coat. I’ll have to take a look in springtime.

The Surviving Kankakee Gazebo

One more thing about Kankakee: there’s only one surviving gazebo of the two that David Letterman gave the city. Of course I had to see that.

Kankakee Dave Letterman Gazebo, Cobb Park

It’s in Cobb Park, near the Kankakee River. Not the most impressive of structures, even among gazebos (this one’s better). It’s like something someone would buy at a DIY store and put in his back yard.

But that’s not so important. A sign inside the gazebo says, “this is one of the world famous [sic] gazebos as seen on the Late Show with Dave Letterman. Presented to Kankakee on air in 1999, in a spoof to nickname the city: “Home of the Twin Gazebos.” In 2015, the City of Kankakee returned their [sic] gazebo on air to Dave Letterman in the form of a rocking chair.”

Needed an editor, that sign. It meant that the city, at the suggestion of Kankakee high school students, tore down one of the two gazebos and used some of the wood to build a rocking chair for Letterman (to remind him of his retirement?). The other one still stands, or at least it did as of October 1, 2016, when I got out of my car — Yuriko wasn’t interested, and waited in the car — and crossed Cobb Park to see it. More detail is in the Chicago Tribune.

I vaguely remember Letterman making fun of Kankakee (“puts the ill in Illinois” and “puts the annoy in Illinois”) after the city ranked last in some places-to-live article. Giving the city a couple of gazebos was a Lettermanesque extension of the gag, I guess. Also, it doesn’t hurt that “gazebo” is simply a fun word to say.

The B. Harley Bradley House

I wondered recently, when did I first hear about the small Illinois city — or maybe the large Illinois town — of Kankakee? (Pop. 27,000 or so.) Not a very urgent question, since there’s usually no reason to remember when you first heard of most places — and no way you can remember. With a few exceptions in my case, such as Stevens Point, Wis., which I never heard of till Mu Alpha Theta held its national meeting there in 1978, which I attended.

Even so, I’ll bet I heard of Kankakee because it was in the lyrics of “The City of New Orleans” in the early ’70s, so artfully written by Steve Goodman, so memorably sung by Arlo Guthrie. “Kankakee” makes a clever rhyme with “odyssey.”

All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passing trains that have no names
And freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobile.

A lot of people could probably say that’s where they heard about Kankakee. Even some Germans. Years ago, my friend Rich played a German-language version of the song for me. Apparently it too was popular. In our time, those lyrics are easy to look up.

Auf seiner Odyssee nach Süden passiert der Zug Kankakee,
rollt an Häusern, Farmen und Feldern vorbei,
passiert andere namenlosen Züge,
Abstellplätze voller alter farbiger Männer
und verrostete Autofriedhöfe.

More recently, the Bradley House in Kankakee came to our attention. In full, the B. Harley Bradley House, vintage 1900.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseIt doesn’t take too much looking to see that Frank Lloyd Wright did the house. One of the first ones — the docent claimed the first one, others claim differently — done in his distinctive Prairie School. I can’t comment authoritatively which was first, and I don’t really care, but even so the house was interesting enough for a day trip.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseThe house, and the one next to it — the Warren Hickox House (behind it in the pic above), another Wright design that’s still a private residence — are in the the western edge of the town’s Riverview Historic District. The neighborhood features large old houses in various states of repair, but no others like these two.

The Bradley House is also close to the Kankakee River.
Kankakee RiverDuring the tour, I asked the docent whether flooding had ever been an issue — as it has with the Farnsworth House — but apparently the Kankakee isn’t as testy as the Fox River, at least at that place.

The house has had a long string of owners over the last century-plus. Within living memory, for instance, it was a well-known local restaurant, The Yesteryear. For a considerable time in the early to mid-20th century, a wealthy man named Joseph H. Dodson owned the place. He was a bird lover and used the house’s stable, which is now the gift shop, as a bird house factory. It seems that Dodson bird houses were quite an item at one time.

Then there’s the sad story of Stephen B. Small. Another wealthy Kankakee resident, he acquired the property in the mid-80s and set about to restore it. That came to a halt in 1987 when he was kidnapped and buried in a box whose air tube wasn’t large enough to supply him enough air, and so he died (both kidnappers are still in the jug).

More recently, through various twists and turns, the house came to be owned by a nonprofit that’s aiming to pay down its mortgage. Our little part in that was paying for the tour, along with buying a postcard an a refrigerator magnet.

I did not, however, want to pay $5 to take interior pictures, which wouldn’t have turned out all that well anyway. The interior restoration, completed only in 2010, restored the place to its 1901 appearance. A nice bit of work: long halls, spacious rooms (except for the servants’ quarters), wooden floors, art glass in the windows, and the kind of alcoves and recesses and the like you associate with Wright, though few low ceilings. Guess this was before, as The Genius, he could insist on ceilings fit only for short people.

Kankakee Walkabout

For no charge, the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau will send you a 24-page booklet (six forms of four pages each) called “Historic Churches of the Kankakee Area Self-Guided Walking and Driving Tour.” It’s a high-quality, full-color bit of work, with some text, a few maps and a lot of interior and exterior pictures of Kankakee-area churches, such as Asbury United Methodist, Wildwood Church of the Nazarene, First Presbyterian, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and others.

There’s also a few interesting historical tidbits about some of the buildings. This is my favorite, about St. Paul’s: “Divine intervention spared the stained glass windows during two great hail storms in 1932 and 1982.”

The churches weren’t the only reason we went to Kankakee on Saturday, braving intermittent rain, but as long as we were going to be in the area, I wanted a look. Ideally, a look inside a few of the churches, including divinely protected stained glass, but I suspected that would be impossible. We went to four of them, all in walking distance of the Kankakee County Courthouse, and none were open.

I understand the reasons. Things would go missing if they didn’t lock up most of the time. Still, it was irritating. We did get a look at the outsides, some of which are impressive enough, such as Ashbury United Methodist, which dates from 1868.

Ashbury United Methodist, Kankakee 2016I liked the bell tower of First Presbyterian, vintage 1855. According to the booklet, its 2000-lb. bell is rung by hand on Sundays.
First Presbyterian Church of Kankakee 2016Churches weren’t the only buildings of note. This is the Kankakee County Courthouse, standing on this site since 1912.
Kankakee County Courthouse 2016The architect who designed it, Zachary Taylor Davis, ought to be better known in Chicago, considering that he also did the original Comiskey Park (gone) and the still-beloved and still-standing Wrigley Field. It should also be remembered that lunch-counter baron Charlie Weeghman commissioned that ball park for his team, the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.

The courthouse statute, dated 1887. As you’d expect, “In memory of the soldiers of Kankakee County who fought for the Union.”
Kankakee County Courthouse statue 2016One more Kankakee County structure, just south of the courthouse: the brutalist county “detention center.”
Kankakee County jailThe jail, that is. Detention is what you get in school. Otherwise it’s just official euphemism.

Royal Oak Orchard, 2004 (and ’05)

About 12 years ago, I wrote, “I will, however, write about a place that needed less detailed notes: the Royal Oak Orchard, near Harvard, Illinois, where I took the whole family a week ago Saturday. It’s a U-Pick-Em orchard, the sort of place that one never thinks to go without small children…. Besides the rows of apple trees open to all pickers, there was a fruit shop, restaurant, souvenir shop, shack shop, playground, petting zoo, rings for campfires, a hayride, and a teepee inscribed with Bible verses.”

I took a favorite As-We-Were picture at the orchard that day, September 18, 2004.
orchard1Don’t know who the fellow in the green shirt was. Just standing around, probably. It makes me wonder how many images, scattered around in all sorts of places, I’ve accidentally gotten myself into.

To continue: “It was a fine day for picking, sunny and warm, and we had a pleasant drive into the exurbs. The orchard is about five miles east of Harvard, a town hard against the Illinois-Wisconsin line. I’d estimated that it would take an hour to get there; Yuriko thought it would be two hours; it worked out to be an hour and a half, true to the spirit of compromise in a marriage.”

Lilly was into the spirit of apple-picking.
orchard2“We got down to the business of picking apples, yellow ones and red ones and colors in between, with variety names that I don’t recall (guess I could use some notes). Regardless of their names, they were all tasty apples. Many of them were low enough for Lilly to reach, and even Ann sampled a number of different ones, though actual picking was a little beyond her.”

I had a fine time myself.

orchard3We’d picked apples the year before at a place I don’t remember so well, and the next year we went back to Royal Oak Orchard, but got rained on, and bought a bag instead of picking them.

No such problem in 2004: “Afterwards we repaired to the picnic area to eat lunch. A sign prohibited outside food, that is, picnic lunches such as the one we brought, but we ignored this. Pop Christian music played unobtrusively, but distinctly, from a speaker near the snack shop. Curious, but purveying apples and spreading the Gospel doesn’t seem mutually exclusive.”

We haven’t picked any U-Pick-Em apples since. Just one of those things you never quite get around to again, and then everyone’s lost interest.

Buses on I-57

Cool over the weekend, at least for August, so actually fairly pleasant. Last week I started noticing peewee football players practicing in the park. Summer’s dwindling.

Last Thursday I needed to be back home by early evening after driving to Champaign, so I didn’t spend quite as much time looking around there as I wanted. For instance, very near campus is the Mount Hope Cemetery, which was a burying ground before Illinois established any kind of higher education in the area. I drove by it, but didn’t stop. This time.

On the way back, I noticed two buses of interest. Here’s the Mark Kirk campaign bus.

Mark Kirk bus 2016Kirk is in a tight race against Tammy Duckworth to retain his U.S. Senate seat. That’s the important race in Illinois this year, since the next race for governor won’t be for two years, and there’s no doubt that the state will vote for Clinton for president. I checked, and the Kirk campaign bus had been in Champaign that day.

At the rest stop north of Kankakee, I took note of a parked bus, the likes of which I’d seen only a few months ago.

Another Megabus. Been a long time since I’ve ridden an intercity bus, but maybe I will again sometime, just to see how Megabus compares with the Greyhounds I used to take sometimes.

Lilly Goes to College

Lilly’s now a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. From now on, August 18, 2016 will be the day she went to college. My own such day, August 25, 1979, is a little hazy, since it was long enough ago that I flew Braniff to Nashville get there.

A little more recently, on August 18, 2003, I wrote, “More importantly this morning, I dropped by Lilly’s soon-to-be elementary school to register her for kindergarten. A brick edifice probably built at about the same time as the neighborhood in mid- to late-1960s, the school had that elementary school feel to it, as if it were too small for you, an adult, even though you had no trouble walking in the door.”

UIUC isn’t that far away. I drove her down in the early morning and came back in the late afternoon, covering about 350 miles all together. It was a hot day in Champaign — her dorm is on the Champaign side of campus — for moving stuff into rooms.
UIUCSaw some odd things going in, such as four 36-bottle cases of drinking water, and some decadent items no dorm room should have, such as a large-screen TV. But on the whole, the process went smoothly.

This is her dorm.

UIUCIt has that 1960s vibe, not in any countercultural sense, but in that it looks like it was built then. So it was, in about 1960.

Here’s a detail I like, on top of the roof.

UICUI told Lilly the speaker was to wake up the dorm at 5 a.m. for morning exercises on the parade ground and a few minutes of revering Fearless Leader. She’s heard ideas like that all her life.

It occurred to me that going away to school isn’t quite what it used to be, besides big TVs. There seem to be fewer surprises now, for one thing. Lilly had already met her roommate, another girl from the Chicago suburbs. When I got to my room, I opened the door and there was another lad in the room — I didn’t even know his name before I met him. Maybe I could have asked beforehand by mail, but it never would have occurred to me to do that.

There’s also more connectivity these days. It’s easy for these students to connect to their past, either family or friends. Less so in 1979. I can’t remember how often I called home. Once a month? I wrote a letter or two a month as well, and I’m certain some (most) kids didn’t even do that. But I told Lilly there was no need for constant updates. This is no time to start helicoptering.

Lilly in her room. Note the walls of the room are cinderblock.

Lilly I was glad to see that. A mark of austerity. That’s the way a dorm should be.