It’s South by Southwest time here in Austin, and like a true local, I spent most of it out of town. (This isn’t a slam on SXSW, I find people that complain about it more insufferable than festival goers, I just had other places to be.) Mainly, one of my dear friends was getting married in Chicago last weekend and because plane tickets into Austin spike in price for the festival I chose to take a detour through Dallas. And just in case you were ever in doubt about whether or not I’m a huge nerd, I spent my time there visiting a couple of presidential history museums (oh, and taking advantage of my hotel’s cable to watch Shadowhunters in real time…).
I seemed to have brought the gray weather north with me, but nothing can ruin this view for me. It gets me every time I come around the curve on LSD.
As previously stated, this is not a wedding blog, but I’m just so incredibly proud of Julia and my gift to the happy couple. It seems Pinterest worthy, so I’m uploading here so we can make that happen. (Basically it’s a basket full of booze for them to mark milestones in their marriage. And Jules did the bow, I have no crafting talent.)
The happy couple at their wedding brunch at Farmhouse
Jules expertly Vanna White-ing the delicious pastries
The next day, I went for a good old fashioned urban hike through a long stretch of Lincoln Park, and stumbled upon the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Chicago Spring Flower Show. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s right up my alley.
I took a million pictures, many of which you can see on my new all-flowers Instagram account.
It was one of those Chicago spring days where it can not decide if it’s gray or bright or cold or warm. But Grant looked pretty good in the afternoon light:
My destination on the walk was the Chicago History Museum, which I had somehow never been to before. (I know, it makes no sense.) But I’m glad I went, it was a lovely mix of traditional and socially conscious, and I nerded out a lot.
The 1893 Columbian Exposition as depicted in the diorama room. These have been on display since the 1930s.
A suffragist in the exhibit on social protest
They have a temporary exhibit right now called “The Secret Lives of Objects,” which is essentially a hodgepodge of intriguing things curators found in storage. Some fun and some ssurprisingly poignant. Like this lamp, it started the Iroqouis Theater Fire (which is the reason we have doors that open out in public spaces.) A really cool exhibit if you’re in Chicago.
The old part of the CHM building is gorgeous:
In the permanent exhibit, I learned that the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Chicago (and remained headquartered there until the 1970s but have been named after the NYC neighborhood since the 1920s, which doesn’t make sense), and saw these important historical artifacts:
They also have a really well designed, small exhibit of some of Vivian Maier‘s street photography, which I really loved:
What I loved about the exhibit was the way I felt surrounded by the faces of the people Maier captured. It felt like being on the street with her. Very transporting.
That night I got some post-work Bourgeois Pig with Jules and then enjoyed The Bachelor finale with the girls I started the season with. (Such a treat to see them all again so soon!) And then the next morning it was off to Dallas.
Despite the swing in temperature & humidity, it turned out to be another lovely day for a walk, and I was surprised by how pretty the part of downtown I was staying in was. And they had cool, historical photo based, public art:
I was walking to Dealey Plaza.To pay my respects as a longtime Kennedy fanatic (I won’t go into that now, this post is long enough) and to visit the Sixth Floor Museum (which is a great mix of tribute to Kennedy’s legacy and examination of what happened on 11/22/63).
The Plaza itself was a WPA project, and is really pretty. But it’s sort of surreal to walk around it. I’ve seen footage and photos of it so many times, and other than the models of the cars and the heights of the trees not much looks that different. It was very surreal.
Also strange, the amount of men walking around carrying strange homemade signs trying to convince you to pay them for their tour of “what really happened”
Very high tech conspiracy HQ
They don’t let you take pictures inside the museum, but it was a moving and thought provoking experience for me. (For the record, I think Oswald did it. I’m not completely sure how to explain Jack Ruby, maybe the mob was involved, maybe not. Oliver Stone is full of shit.)
I took the DART light-rail to get around. I found it clean and easy to navigate. I also could have rode for free the whole time, but chose to pay, because I believe in supporting public transportation.
Across from my hotel there was a place called Thanksgiving Square, it had murals and interfaith scriptures, and this ring you were meant to pause under and give thanks. It felt sort of stuck in where it was, but I said a little prayer under the ring. (I didn’t go into the chapel, but I sort of wish I had, it looks really cool.)
On my second day in Dallas I took the train out to SMU to visit George W. Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum. I did this, because of my life goal to visit all of the President’s landmarks (see LBJ and Lincoln).
Although, I was not and am not W’s biggest fan, I’m not going to go into a political rant here. Mostly, because most of my experience at this museum was apolitical and nice. The staff were all really lovely. They had a temporary exhibit about how campaigning has changed that included this carpet that showed all the results of every presidential election:
And Bill Clinton’s sunglasses:
On loan from his library in Little Rock
And this awesome looking board game that I am not allowing myself to look up on eBay, because I will buy it
The building itself is really beautiful:
And, while I found myself disagreeing with the emphasis of the permanent exhibit there were some pieces that were done unquestionably well.
For instance, the 9/11 memorial, which includes a part of one of the Towers and a lot of very moving archival news footage:
And the recreated Oval Office (one step up from LBJs because you can step in, walk around, and even take pictures at the desk!):
There were also some nice lighter moments featuring the First Family. Hilariously, when I went searching for a statue to take a selfie with, I couldn’t find one, but these were prominently displayed:
The only part of the whole thing that made me truly angry was the “Situation Room” simulation.
Basically, you sit down in rows with a bunch of strangers, and vote on a screen in front of you on which “crisis” you want to tackle. (My group chose Hurricane Katrina. Other options include Saddam Hussein and The Financial Crisis). They then give you a briefing and 3 options to choose from. You can track what others in the room are thinking with a CNN-like approval line on the big screen. Then you vote on what you would do. Then they tell you what Bush did. As I was walking out of the room it felt like a cool multimedia experience, and I was surprised that I had chosen the same response that Bush did to the crisis. (I do not generally think I agree with how he handled Katrina.) And then I started to feel queasy. The flashiness and official look of the presentation makes it seem like in each of these situations, Bush had exactly 3 options, none of which were all that good and that’s why he made some of his least popular choices. Now, I do agree that being the President is an impossible job, and perfection is not an attainable goal, but I think this presentation simplifies the most important failures of my government during my lifetime to “well things are complicated, you couldn’t do any better.”
What sucks, is that this was right at the end of the exhibits, so I left with the bad taste in my mouth. As you can see from the newest addition to my Presidential Photo Collage:
Now that I’m back in town, I’ve mostly been lying around exhausted. Though I did go see Midnight Special yesterday. It’s amazing. I want to go see it again. Like I want to go pay full ticket price a second time. That’s an extremely rare feeling for me. But like, I may go see Midnight Special again tomorrow if anyone wants to join me.