Monday, October 28, 2013

Cliff Dwellers


Beautiful fall-ish weather. The last two weekends I’ve been out on my bike—rambling not too far, but to entirely new places.

I especially love riding my bike through piles of crisp leaves—except I can’t ride through them without remembering something my sister said to me once long ago (I think we were both in high school) and I can’t think for the life of me what spurred her to think so bizarrely. We were on bikes riding down our street and it was fall and I said, I love riding my bike through piles of leaves! And she said in return: What if there is a baby in there?

I can’t remember what or how I answered her, because it was so random and illogical. Maybe I said something like, I’d feel pretty bad if I ran over a baby hidden in a pile of dead leaves. What I remember mostly is being very confused. So now, every fall, I ask myself that question, every time I ride through a pile of leaves.

So last weekend I went and toured Chicago Open House. My address, the building I live in is part of the tour in Uptown.

One of the places I stopped was The Cliff Dwellers. Atop the Symphony Center at 200 S. Michigan, the impressive lounge/salon hangs in the clouds—like a peregrine hawk resting on the ledge of a skyscraper—the lounge looks out over Lake Michigan and Buckingham Fountain, and, of course, the Bean.

Cliff Dwellers was founded by Hamlin Garland. I’ve read Hamlin Garland’s Main-Travelled Roads, a short story collection, and 2 books from his Middle Border Series, A Son of the Middle Border and A Daughter of the Middle Border. I was very impressed with Main-Travelled Roads and the author’s focus on stories from the period after the Civil War. We seldom ask ourself: what was life like after a massacre, after a huge upheaval, after a whole country has been rocked by division and war. Farmers came back to farms, husbands came back to wives. This from Wiki: Describing a young man gazing over a valley of hills and wheat in "The Return of the Private", Garland writes, "An observer might have said, "He is looking down upon his own grave". Garland was a prolific writer. Producing almost a book a year between 1891 and 1930, though he wrote until the late 30s.

Garland was friends with many artists of the period. His brother-in-law was Lorado Taft, the great sculptor. He started the private club as a sort of salon for fellow artists and creative thinkers of the day. From their website: Now, as then, it is a private club and functions as a non-profit organization for men and women either professionally engaged in, or who support, the fine arts and the performing arts.

Which led me to wonder: How do those professionally engaged in the arts today afford to join Cliff Dwellers? The Club offers a three-month trial membership for a one-time fee of $150. So for $50 a month one can enjoy conversation and ambiance—the rooftop deck is breathtaking—probably more for the summer.

Anyway, I think I should start a Free Content Club. So many writers and musicians and photographers are busy trying to build clients and followers and begin by offering free-content. It’s a lot like an internship. Where we tell ourself that it is only this one time and then “real life” will kick in.

I’m still trying to kick the free content habit.

So for one hour I got to bask in the Cliff Dweller and ate some peanuts at the bar and snapped photos from the rooftop terrace.

Our Club was named after the novel The Cliff Dwellers by Henry Blake Fuller. Fuller however refused to join the Club and does not appear to have used it after it was established.

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