Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating Creativity

We spent our New Year's Eve weekend in the big city, looking forward to some good meals, some entertainment and even some shopping.  And all of that was accomplished.  From the minute we got there, however, for some reason I started viewing everything through a "creative" lens, from restaurants to shows to shops to art and merchandise. 

And there was a lot of creativity being exhibited.  How many different ways?  Well, let me try to enumerate:

  • Menu selections at several restaurants
  • The restaurants themselves
  • Art Galleries
  • Unusual shops
  • A performance at a theater
  • A film
  • A street musician
We had lunch/brunch at a restaurant called Perennial Virant one day, which featured a small menu of unusual takes on breakfast items.  Unusual herbs and cheeses filled their egg creations and their sausages.  They try to be very organic, and it shows.  The food was quite good; the atmosphere across from Lincoln Park in Chicago was also quite nice.  

We also had meals at several other restaurants, including the New Orleans-inspired Heaven on Seven, chef Jimmy Bannos' main restaurant.  The decor takes you right to the Big Easy, and the food, consisting of Jimmy's takes on New Orleans classic dishes like etoufee, jambalaya, po-boys and barbecued shrimp, keeps you there.  Though I didn't imbibe, they also feature a selection of New Orleans beers like Abita and Dixie, and of course, their own version of the Hurricane.

One restaurant that really interested me was Foodlife at the Water Tower Place.  It is a "Lettuce Entertain You" restaurant which is really a whole bunch of lunch counters.  They give you a swipe card as you enter and you go around to the various stations, selecting the items you want.  I picked Chinese at the Big Bowl station.  Next to it was a stir-fry station.  There was an American "comfort food" station, a Mexican taco station, a salad station, a pizza station, a pasta get the idea.  You have previously been seated at a table, and after you're done, you present your swipe cards to the cashier on your way out, and he/she scans them and gives you your bill. It struck me as a very creative and enjoyable way to provide you with your meal.

There were two gorgeous galleries in the Bloomingdale's Building on Michigan Avenue.  One featured a lot of glass sculpture priced way above my rank, but the pieces were beautiful.  A second featured paintings by several artists, including Dr. Seuss, and also featured some original Renoirs, Rembrandts, Chagalls, and Picassos.  Obviously also this was way out of my price range.  But it celebrated creativity throughout the centuries, and put current creative efforts in proximity to those of the famous and masters. 

A store at Water Tower Place is called Churrascuro, and it features the works of many local artists and artisans.  I remarked to my wife that some of the works seemed so simple (yet attractive and fun), that anyone could have done them.  (She replied that THAT was why THEY were artists and we aren't.)  Creative use of old broken watches, costume jewelry, and other common items comprised the pieces available for purchase, and some of them were actually in my price range!

Another store in Water Tower Place is a candy store on the 7th floor.  In there they have a "Candy Museum" with memorabilia from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, some dresses made of candy, furniture and other items associated with candy, and artworks dealing with candy.  Oh, and you can buy lots of candy there...including old "vintage" candies like Charleston Chews and Oh Henry! bars. 

Walking on Michigan Avenue, we came across a lot of street musicians, of varying interest.  But one in particular, a clarinet player doing jazz and accompanying his recorded background music, was really excellent, and we had to give him a tip.  I hope he was doing really well because he deserved it. 

We went to see Blue Man Group at their Chicago location at the Briar Street Theater.  Now THERE is an exercise in creativity.  From the percussion performances to the skits and sketches to the multimedia to the audience participation, it is a fun, funny, engaging performance that keeps your eyes glued to the stage and the Blue Men, who, as the name indicates, are totally painted in blue greasepaint (as if there was anyone by now who doesn't know who they are and what they look like). 

Last, we saw a showing of Cirque du Soleil:  Worlds Away, a film that brings a couple of characters from a regular circus (one a spectator, one a performer) through several of the worlds of Cirque Du Soleil.  Very fun and interesting film.  It's a visual feast, and very creative in its storytelling and execution.  The performers are often amazing with their almost-not-human abilities and body control.  Who thinks of this stuff?  Quite ingenious.  And incredibly creative.

So there it is - a three day celebration of creativity in the big city. 


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