I know what the Bean is now. The Sears Tower is the tallest building in North America and has, I found out, been called the Willis Tower since 2009.

This is me feeling very afraid to step out into glass boxes hanging on the sides of Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).

Who knew? I do. Since I went to Chicago (for the first time!) this past week.I discovered art and architecture and facts about the Windy City, which yes, is windy, and also beautiful and diverse.  But probably everyone else in the universe knows that because they’ve been to Chicago.

One of my favorite things was the smallish Museum of Contemporary Art‘s exhibition called This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. I tend to go for littler museums, especially, contemporary art, so this was perfect for me. Also I grew up in the eighties.

I was a kid back then, so I didn’t know that artists were being marginalized or that Reagan wasn’t acknowledging the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Back then, I attended a Christian school and was handwriting letters to Reagan as a class assignment pleading with him to do more to allow prayer in schools. He sent me a signed picture of himself riding a black horse.

I still have that picture, but apparently Reagan answered more of his mail than any president. Well, probably not Reagan personally, but he made sure someone was writing back. Direct marketing, right? A zillion other people my age likely have that same photo. I’m still keeping it, though.

I also went to the Art Institute, but opted for the lower-priced “last hour” ticket, so I targeted just those exhibits I most wanted to see. Of course the contemporary art was on the top of my list.

I love artist Marc Chagall and when I found out the Institute had many works by Chagall including a stained glass exhibit of his called American Windows, I had to go.

Green Violinist by Marc ChagallI fell in love with Chagall when I was about twenty. I went to NYC for the first time and found myself in the amazing Guggenheim museum staring at his Green Violinist.

I rounded a curve and there he was. I couldn’t take my eyes off his bright green face and purple hat. Every time I go new places, I try to see Chagall’s work. When I was in France, I made a special trip to Nice to see the Chagall Museum.

Chagall is kind of a poet’s painter, which may be why I was so drawn to him at the time. I was writing a lot of poetry in my teens and twenties. The Guggenheim website says Chagall “refused literal interpretations of his paintings, and it is perhaps best to think of them as lyrical evocations, similar to the allusive plastic poetry of the artist’s friends Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire.”

American Windows was lovely, but my favorite image was Chagall’s White Crucifixion, a moving oil on canvas painted in 1938 that depicts “Christ as a Jewish martyr” and calls attention to “the persecution and suffering of the Jews in 1930s Germany.” (Quotes are from the placard next to the painting).

So now the trip’s over and I’m back in the Pacific Northwest and yes, the weather’s divine and I love it, but I miss the freedom of being on vacation and having no responsibilities.

This is my office and my chair. Usually I'm sitting in it, but since I'm taking the picture...

I’m sitting here in my office chair looking out at the sun and writing my butt off, like a good MFA student.

But I miss Chicago.

I miss you, Chicago

P.S. “The Bean” is actually a public sculpture in Millennium Park formally called Cloud Gate by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor.

Me in Millennium Park with "the Bean" in the background.