From the Union station it was five or six city blocks to walk to the Chicago Art Institute. The crouched stone lion greeted me on the steps.
I saw the Jackson Pollack canvas. It was wide and outsized the image I saw in my UNL Art History class. The way my imagination snaked its way back between the surface markings and into its oceanic depths. So much to take in. What a delight. And Marc Chagall had a stained-glass work around the corner.
I mention the School of the Art Institute of Chicago because my father was admitted there in March of 1950. Double click on images to enlarge. The admission slip reached him when he was at Stiles Hall at Valparaiso.
When I turned over this letter I found two ink sketches that the 28 year old Reinhold had drawn.
I have checked the address out on the Internet. Today that location is a paved parking lot. But across the street stands a multi-story apartment building. In 1950 that fellow was 28 years old, single, and on his own.
In the summer of 1977, I had completed my third year at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. I was 22 years old, single, and agreed to work for a printmaker, an artist, a friend of my parents, Arthur Geisert.
Mornings were spent in the art studio Geisert had built on a steep hillside. With a long staircase that climbed up to the top or down to the walk. Arthur showed me how he wanted things. The inking his Noah Ark plates, running proofs through his heavy metal press, pulling the wheel handle round and round, felt blankets fed through the press rollers.
In historic downtown Galena, I resided at the Desoto Hotel. (Years before it got renovated and upgraded into the Desoto House Hotel.) An old place with tall ceilings, vintage wallpaper, indoor plumbing, and cheap rates. That was where I began writing about MONROE, the snow fall, the laundromat next door, and my solitary life. It was where I read books from the Dubuque library. It was where I rested up for the work that awaited me each day.
I washed dishes at Raleigh's restaurant, and de-boned cold cooked chicken to make chicken salad in the kitchen. (Right, Betty the stove cook)
At Raleigh's the staff parades into the dining room in the evening to sing to the guests.
One night they asked me to play the piano.
That was where I wrote the short story "THE CUSTOMER."
Betty was the stove cook. Raleigh and Chuck were the owners. Sally was a waitress I worked with. And the dishwasher was me. A snow day mystery with surprises. When I prepared it for this post it took my mind right back to my days in Galena.
It is great to be on your own when you are 22 years old. Walking on foot, full of life, time to read, relaxed, with times of loneliness, busy with work. I found places to hang out. A local church to attend. Geisert stories and Geisert meals on a wood stove. A life entirely your own. Until Christmas rolled around and a phone call asked when I planned to come "home" and "finish" college at the university. Then the freedom I thought was my own vanished. I returned to college and my home state of Nebraska.
From the photo on the wall my father thinks of his boy in Illinois. His adult son recalls the smell of linseed-infused etcher's ink and Geisert's delicious tamale pie. And Monroe wonders what his buddy Karl is going to bring home from the Dubuque Library on Tuesday with his library card. (It could be Houdini, a Western, perhaps the work of Richard Brautigan or The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemmingway.)
(Dubuffet sculpture photo courtesy of Toritextil, http://toritextil.blogspot.com/2011/01/jean-dubuffet.html, Flurry link, http://robotskirts.com/2009/12/28/the-flurry/, Arthur Geisert link, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3482200032.html, accessed 02.10.2015)