Tag Archives: Chicago

Chicago and Cloud Gate


I once had to catch a bus in Chicago. There were many hours between the time the first ride deposited us in the Windy City and when we had to board the bus. Instead of sitting and waiting, my traveling companion suggested we explore downtown.

I’d been to Chicago before. Once I flew into Chicago (which airport, I don’t remember), then traveled on public transportation to the bus station where I caught a bus that took me to a small town in Wisconsin. At least twice I traveled by train to Chicago and caught a connecting train for the next leg of my journey at Union Station.

I’m not one of those people who leaves the train or bus station or airport for a bit of fun before I make my connection. I’m one of those people who fears missing my connection. I’m one who sits. I’m one who waits.

I once sat for three or four hours in the packed downtown Las Vegas, NV Greyhound station because I was afraid of losing my place on a probably overbooked bus. I could have stored my bag and walked outside to see the sights, but I didn’t. I waited in the crowded waiting room so I was sure to make it home as planned.

Even more unbelievable, I once spent an entire eight hour layover in the Hong Kong airport because I was scared to venture out and find public transit in a strange land. I was worried about all of the many things that could have gone wrong if I had left the security of the transportation hub. I was afraid of a disaster that would have made me miss my connecting flight.

However, this time in Chicago my traveling companion insisted we venture out and look around. He was not one to sit and wait. Luckily, we had access to luggage lockers, so we were able to secure our big backpacks rather than haul them around with us.

We walked toward the water, and by water I mean Lake Michigan. I’d seen Lake Michigan before, when I’d visited my college boyfriend’s hometown of Milwaukee. I vaguely remembered the hugeness of the Lake.

As we walked down the urban sidewalks, we saw many panhandlers standing back against the buildings. They were mostly older Black people, and they had a panhandling technique I’d never encountered before. Instead of muttering Spare some change? Spare some change? or asking for a dollar to catch the bus or get something to eat, they simply shook the cups they held. The cups obviously already had some coins in them; I could hear the coins clinking against each other. I guess words are unnecessary when everyone already knows the script.

Before we made it to the Lake, we saw the huge reflective sculpture in Millennium Park. I’d seen the object in movies. It often turns up when filmmakers want to distinguish an anonymous big city as specifically Chicago. I don’t remember trying to find the sculpture; I think we just happened upon it nestled among the skyscrapers of downtown.

According to the Choose Chicago website, Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean)

is one of the world’s largest permanent outdoor art installations…

The exterior of The Bean is made entirely of stainless steel. It was created using computer technology to precisely cut 168 massive steel plates, which were then fitted together and welded shut for a completely seamless finish…

[It is] is 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, and 66 feet long. It weighs about 110 tons — roughly the same as 15 adult elephants.

Cloud Gate was designed by Anish Kapoor. According to his biography on the Artnet website, Kapoor

is regarded as one of the most prominent British-Indian sculptors of his generation…

Kapoor is well known for his intense, almost spiritual, outdoor and indoor site-specific works in which he marries a Modernist sense of pure materiality with a fascination for the manipulation of form and the perception of space. Kapoor, who was born in Bombay and moved to London in the 1970s to study art, first worked on abstract and organic sculptures using fundamental natural materials such as granite, limestone, marble, pigment, and plaster.

Anish Kapoor’s webpage about Cloud Gate features preliminary sketches for the sculpture, plans for construction, and a photo of it being built. The webpage says

Cloud Gate is a single object of around 25×15×12m. It is made of polished stainless steel and is seamless. Cloud Gate draws in the sky and the surrounding buildings. In a vertical city, this is a horizontal object. Seamless form confuses scale.

I was a lucky photographer on the day of our visit to Millennium Park. There were clouds in the Chicago sky, and they were reflected in the shiny surface of Cloud Gate. We were also fortunate to arrive early in the morning, before crowds surrounded the sculpture. I was able to get some nice photos without too many people in the frame.

I recently came across the article “Every U.S. State’s Most Overrated & Underrated Attraction” by Lissa Poirot. Cloud Gate (AKA The Bean) was named the most overrated attraction in the entire state of Illinois! Zach S. (whoever he is) calls it

…a blob-shaped mirror that vaguely resembles a bean.

He goes on to say,

It is as unremarkable as it sounds.

Oh Zach S., I beg to differ! Yes, Cloud Gate is rather blob shaped, and it is certainly mirrored. As to whether or not it looks like a bean…Who cares? “The Bean” is only a nickname anyway. I suspect the artist was not necessarily trying to convey the idea of a bean when he created the piece.

Where I really disagree with Zach S. is his assertion that Cloud Gate is “unremarkable.” I think Cloud Gate is quite remarkable. I like its size and its heft. Cloud Gate takes up space, yet its reflective surface brings the sky down closer to human level. The reflective surface also draws people to the sculpture, including me and my traveling companion.

What’s that over there? we wondered.

Let’s go see it, we said as we went closer.

I don’t remember what day of the week we wondered into Millennium Park and discovered Cloud Gate, but as the day progressed, more people arrived. By the time we left the area, crowds had come and gone, all looking at the art piece and taking photos too.

My favorite part of my experience with Cloud Gate was playing with the reflective surface. Like a funhouse mirror, Cloud Gate shows visitors a view of themselves that’s not quite true. I moved closer, then backed up to see how my figure changed with distance. The changes made me contemplate who I was, really.

Lake Michigan (Chicago)…bigger than I remembered

After spending some time with Cloud Gate, we walked down to the water and looked out at Lake Michigan. It was as big as I remembered…bigger, maybe.

We sat on the grass and contemplated the water. It was nice to rest for a while before we got up again and walked to a new adventure.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Chicago. To me it seems to lack the charm of San Francisco with its bright murals and Painted Ladies Victorian houses or the gritty but captivating street culture of New York City. Maybe I’ve never been to the right places in Chicago, never seen what it has to offer me. In any case, I really enjoyed seeing Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, and Lake Michigan. I don’t care if it’s more a touristy area and less what locals think of as the real Chicago. I don’t care if locals think it’s overrated. I don’t care what Zach S. thinks. I think Cloud Gate is really cool.

Lake Michigan with ship and Ferris Wheel (Chicago)

I took the photos in this post.

Hard Times on the Highway


I was back to selling jewelry on the side of the highway at a small arts and crafts market near a large natural tourist attraction. I’d missed the summer crowd, and this bunch of mostly old, mostly stuffy visitors was not my target audience. Most of these folks had no personality; the ones who did have a personality, well, their personality type was “asshole”.

One morning a man strolled up to my table. I saw him looking at the rocks, so I said to him (as I say to almost everyone who looks at my rocks), Let me know if you have any questions about my shiny rocks. Usually people chuckle or say thank you, but this guy said (in a snotty tone of voice), I have a rock business myself. I don’t know if he meant, Don’t try to hustle me because I know about rocks and their prices or if he was trying to tell me he wasn’t going to buy rocks because he already had a bunch, but he came across as a real jerk.

I just said (coldly), That’s nice. 

Then he picked up a piece of skeletal quartz and demanded, Where did you get this? 


This is the piece of skeletal quartz the jerk man picked up. It may be difficult to see in this photos, but there are three clear quartz points that formed around a chunk of quartz.

I said sweetly, From my rock guy, even though I knew he wanted to know where on the earth the rock was originally found.

No. he said. Where did it come from?

I don’t know, I said (because I didn’t, although since then I’ve been told it came from Colorado).

By that point I was 97% sure the man was not going to buy anything from me, and I was 100% sure I didn’t want him to have that beautiful piece of quartz. If he had asked the price, I would have said $50, even though I usually ask $20 for it. I didn’t want him to have it , but I’d want $50 more than I’d want to keep the stone from him.

On another morning, two women and a man stopped at my table. The man was admiring the winter hats I’d made. He asked one of the women if she wanted one.

When have you ever known me to wear a hat? she snapped at him.

She stalked off, but the man and the other woman stayed at my table. The man asked the price of the hats, and I told him they were only $10.

Where are y’all from? I asked them. Due to his accent and the first woman’s attitude, I wasn’t surprised when he said Chicago.

I commented on how cold it gets in Chicago and said the lady must be really tough if she never wears a hat during a Chicago winter.

She’s tough as nails, the man said.

He asked me if men wear my hats. I said yes and told him about the man who’d bought one the day before.

He liked the hat my styrofoam model was wearing, so I told him he was welcome to try it on.


The man from Chicago liked the hat the model is wearing.

He pulled it on while I got the mirror.

I told him the hat looked really good on him. I wasn’t only trying to make a sale; the hat did look really good on him. He said he wanted it so he could keep his ears warm while walking his dog this winter.

With the hat on his head, he called to the woman who’d walked away and was now three tables down the line of vendors, How do I look?

She replied immediately, after barely looking at him, Stupid!

Wow! I said. Is that your wife?

Yes, he said. We’ve been married 30 years.

Wow! I said again. “Y’all must really love each other.

He called out to his wife again. Should I get this hat?

She looked totally disgusted and said, You’re the one who’d have to wear it.

He didn’t buy the hat.

I thanked him for his admiration of my work, and he said, We haven’t left yet. He said if his wife bought something, he’s be back, tit for tat, but I didn’t see him again.

A few days later, a young man and woman stopped at my table. The woman was wearing a pink hoodie with “Vinton, Louisiana” printed on the chest. Since I have family in that area, I asked her if she was from Vinton, Louisiana. She said no, she wasn’t from there. But there’s a pit there, she said. She turned around and there was a rooster screen printed on the back of the hoodie.

Cockfighting, you mean? I asked her.

Yeh, she said. My dad made his way down there…

Whenever they asked me the price of something, I added a few dollars–let’s call it a cruelty to animals tax–but they didn’t buy anything. It wasn’t until after they walked away that I realized I should have said, That’s barbaric, as soon as she confirmed we were talking about cock fighting.

The most annoying jerk was a young guy. He was clean-cut and looked totally straight, but the young woman he was with had long dreadlocks. It was the end of the day, and I had all of my rocks and most of my jewelry packed up.

They expressed interest in my highest priced necklaces.

Pendants of wire wrapped stones by James Smith. Hemp work by me.

These are the necklaces the couple was interested in.

I told them the pendants on the necklaces were made by a young local artist who charges $45 for them; I offered to let them have an entire necklace for $40.

The young guy said, They don’t charge that much at the expensive stores in town.

I replied (in a calm, neutral tone of voice), I don’t know where you’ve been shopping, but I know this guy charges $45 for his pendants.

The woman liked the lepidolite necklace, so I gave her the spiel.


This is the lepidolite necklace the woman liked. In real life, the stone is a deeper purple. Please forgive my overexposed photo.

That’s lepidolite. It’s a local stone, mined in this county. It contains lithium, so it’s good for lifting depression and stabilizing mood, and it helps with insomnia.

The young man kind of snorted and said, I’ve never heard of it before, as if I were lying to them about a stone so they would buy it.

Sure, there are people who would lie about a stone to get someone to buy it, and the guy had no way of knowing that I’m not one of those unscrupulous people. But this guy was acting as if because he’d never heard of lepidolite, it couldn’t possibly exist. I hear about new rocks all the time. I never think a stone can’t be real just because I’ve never heard of it.

The couple wandered off, and I continued packing.

Soon they were back, and the woman was looking at the necklace with the ledpidolite pendant again. I hadn’t made much money that day, and one more sale before I left would have been nice, so I told her she could have it for $30. The man was standing next to her, and he asked, Would you take $20?

I flatly replied, No.

It was cold and windy, and the man left to get his coat.

I told the woman, For $30, you’re getting all my work for free and $15 off the pendant.

The woman also looked at a short necklace with a pendant made with a local amazonite. I’d done the pendant’s simple wrap and was asking only $15 for the necklace. I told her the price and said the rock had been found locally.

The man walked back up to the table, and the woman showed him the necklace with the amazonite pendant.

That looks like just a rock, he said,

That’s because it is a rock, you idiot, is what I wanted to say, but instead I said, It’s a natural stone. It hasn’t been polished.

The man told the woman she should only get it if it were the best necklace she’d ever seen and she was totally excited about it. She put down the necklace, and they were off again.

I finished packing quickly, hoping they’d come back wanting the $15 necklace so I could tell them they were too late and had missed their chance. If they’d wanted the lepidolite necklace for $30? Well, I guess I would have unpacked that one.

(I took all the photos in this post)

To read more about customers, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/05/we-feel-for-your-situation/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/10/red-letter-day-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/26/turtle-ass/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/17/how-much-are-these/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/09/selling-hemp-again/ or here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/14/mean-daddy/

And Now It’s Saturday


I didn’t go to bed until nearly 1AM. I am not typically up so late. It was after 11 when I got home, then I stayed up talking with The Lady of the House and eating peanut butter-banana-chocolate chip bread. I didn’t wake up this morning until it was full on daylight.

I don’t have big plans for the day.

#1 Pick lemons in preparation for the lemonade stand with Nolagirl and Little Phoenix. I don’t know how much I will be actually participating in said lemonade stand, but I have offered to provide the organic lemons from my host family’s abundantly fruity backyard tree.

#2 Attend puppet slam with my host family.

Of course, there are many other tasks I can work on, like laundry and tidying my room or organizing the vanhome. But I can delay everything but the big two of my list.

I made it to the First Friday vendor’s market. I got a tiny bit lost, which gave me an opportunity to pull into Taco Bell and get an order of pintos and cheese while waiting for Nolagirl to text back and tell me how to actually get where I was going.

I arrived and was unloading, when I was approached by the woman who organizes the market. This woman had not been very nice to me over the phone, acting not only as if she were in the biggest rush of her life, but as if I were an idiot. When my phone didn’t receive her text with instructions for paying her through PayPal, she got really defensive and acted as if I were maybe fibbing about not receiving it. (Her text, sent at 8:40pm, arrived at 1am. I have no idea why. Mysteries of the ether.)

So I wasn’t thinking highly of this women, but I know some people don’t do well on the phone, or maybe she had been in the biggest rush of her life when we talked. I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. But then she walked up and said to me, Who are you? This question was not asked playfully. This question was not asked in a friendly tone of voice. This question was asked as if she’d just awoken from a deep sleep and found me standing at the foot of her bed. So I shot back with, Who are you? The look on her face was fantastic. It was both pure shock and total bewilderment. I knew immediately that this woman is accustom to talking to people any old way she wants and never being challenged.

She identified herself by name, and I identified myself by name, and she told me where to set up.Throughout the night, she referred to me as “hemp girl” and “little hemp girl” (although she wasn’t that much bigger than I am).

The guy next to me (and maybe others) were grumbling about how close together the organizer was packing us in. (There was zero space between my display and the display to my right.) In response to the grumblings, the organizer went on a diatribe about how if any of us wanted to take over her $650 a month lot, we were welcome to. She seemed to think that because she’d perhaps made a poor real estate decision, she can be rude to the people paying her rent. Later she got a little sweeter and announced that she’d started this market so there’d be something better than the markets she’d been selling at. She seemed to want us to thank her for treating us rudely while charging $30 each to pack us in like 19th century tenement dwellers.

The vendor on my left was a women selling candles. Throughout the night, I heard several people ask her if she’d made the candles. No. Other people asked if they were soy. Also no. She was charging approximately $25 per candle. (As the night progressed, she was giving buy one/get one for 25% and later 50% off deals.) I was surprised that she was actually selling anything. I assumed that people who want factory produced, paraffin wax candles drive over to Wal-Mart or Target to buy them.

The vendor on my right was a guy selling coffee by the pound. To entice people to buy his coffee, he was handing out free samples. He was a loud, East Coast guy, and all night he bellowed, You tried the rest, now try the best! At the beginning of the night people were vocally expressing their dislike of his coffee, but it seemed to be grow in popularity as the night progressed.

The vendor next to the coffee guy was a friend of his selling cheesecakes. The cheesecake guy was from Chicago. He had big posters of cheesecakes (not his cheesecakes, professionally made cheesecakes) mounted on stiff paper so they would stay upright when propped in a sign stand. However, it looked as if he’d been storing his signs in a damp basement because they had a prominent curve to them and on one of them, the corners were curled and paper layers separating. It looked awful, really trashy. His cheesecakes looked sloppy too; they definitely did not look professionally made, but people bought them.

I had my table all set up by about 5:30. Because I was only working with 6 feet of table space (instead of my usual 10 feet), I was able to set up pretty quickly. However, I didn’t have room to put on most of my rocks. I had all of my hemp jewelry on display, but only kyanite, ammonites, septarian concretions, rose quartz, and amethyst     .

The highlight of my night was when Nolagirl and Little Phoenix visited me. Little Phoenix read every tag with a description of a rock on it. Her interest was sweet. Nolagirl brought me a much needed bottle of water and two bottles of hand sanitizer so I could kill off germs after blowing my nose and otherwise sopping up snot. I figured no one would want to buy hemp jewelry that was possibly harboring my cooties.

More people started showing up around seven o’clock. It was a huge crowd. I sold a couple of necklaces, which is always a thrill. I also sold several bracelets. Bracelets tend to be a big seller. At $6 each or two for $10, they are something most people can afford.The big sellers of the night were ammonites. I sold an ammonite pendant and three ammonites that had not been made into jewelry. Near the end of the event, a group of women stopped at my table and bought a small amethyst cluster and the second septarian concretion of the night.

The worst part of my evening was trying to get my displays and tables and merchandise back in the van. I’d had to park the van about two and half blocks away, and it must have been around ten thirty when I walked over to get it. When I got back to the area of the market, there was no space for me to pull in. I ended up driving around for at least 15 minutes, dealing with closed streets and temporary no-turn signs, while looking for a closer place to park. There was nothing. Finally, a cab pulled out about half a block from where all of my stuff was, and I pulled in haphazardly between a car and a barricade.

I had just picked up my big box of shiny rocks, when the organizer of the market walked up and started being fairly nice to me! She started off with Hey, hemp girl! How did you do tonight? I said ok, and when I indicated the heavy box of rocks I was holding, she said I should set it down and talk to her for a while. Just about the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the night while my van was weirdly parked out of my sight was to stand around and chat with this woman who had previously been rude to me. But I set the box down, and she asked me again how I had done. I told her fine or ok (my standard noncommittal answer when anyone is trying to learn  about my financial situation). She asked me if I had made at least $100 and I told her probably, although once I sat down later and did the math, I found I had not made quite that much money.

Then she asked me if I thought I’d come back. I was stunned. I wanted to say, Are you kidding me! After the way you’ve been acting, why would I want to come back here? However, I am much too Southern for anything like that. Besides, why burn bridges? And as The Lady of the House pointed out, a response like that would not likely have changed her attitude. So I just reminded her that I was only in town for a visit and probably wouldn’t even be around next month.

Last night I was adamant that I would NOT go back there. However, in the light of day, I think I might return if I am still here early next month. At least this time I’d know what I was getting into, and I could arrive early enough to get a closer parking spot.

Financially, I did ok at the market. The reality is that I am not getting rich selling at these kinds of events. If I were paying for rent on a place to live, renter’s insurance, health insurance (which I currently don’t have), as well as car insurance, gas, food, toiletries, phone bill, laundry, entertainment, and whatever else I buy in a month, I don’t think I could make it selling jewelry and shiny rocks. I would have to sell at least five days a week (and do fairly well on each of those days), and  I’m not sure if even a big city has that many markets.

The Lady of the House and I had a long talk last night about selling jewelry and rocks and why I do it. I don’t sell just to make money. I enjoy making jewelry. If I didn’t sell the jewelry I make, I’d eventually have big piles of it and no money to buy more supplies. Selling the jewelry lets me meet people who appreciate my creative expression. As I mentioned before, it’s a big boost to my self-esteem to have someone not only like what I create, but like it enough to shell out dollars for it. So intangible aspects of selling jewelry is as important as the money I make from it.

In the end, the jewelry I make is unnecessary. (Some folks might be able to make a case that the shiny rocks are necessary. I am not going to try to make that case.) Yes, the jewelry looks lovely and it makes people happy, but in the end, every bracelet, every necklace is simply another nonessential good consumer good. No one needs what I’m selling, so how can I ever blame anyone for not buying it?