Midwest Tour, Day 8: Kansas City, Home of the MLB Champs!

We began our Saturday morning exploring Kansas City’s own River Market. Although we arrived a bit early, we got a head start on all of the produce, cheeses, spices, and home goods that the farmers market had to offer. The brisk morning air refreshed us after a short night of sleep and we enjoyed strolling through the different vendors, smelling the fresh flowers, appreciating the colorful produce, and tasting different foods foreign to Texas.


With just a little over an hour to explore, we tried coffee at Quay Coffee and wandered through the shops open at the early hour. With our noses exhausted from the various smells permeating the market, we left to make it to our Segway tour reservation on time.

Led by Kelly, we hopped on the available segways like pros and began the tour of downtown Kansas City.


We started in an area called Westport, home to bars, shops, and many a hipster. The area prides itself on preserving its history, which we observed in the established community and some of the buildings being the oldest sanding in Kansas City. Founded in 1831 by Isaac McCoy, Westport originally sat three miles south of what is today downtown Kansas City. His son, John Calvin McCoy, is credited as the “Father of Kansas City” and we observed a statue of him during the first part of our tour. We left the area of Westport to continue our tour, segwaying past pedestrians and through a few linear parks. Kansas City, known as the least dense and city with the most green space in America, is home to many beautiful parks. We had the chance to enjoy these areas, albeit, on segway. We followed Kelly along a couple creeks, walking trails, and even spotted public work out equipment along the way. We ambled upon Kauffman Memorial Garden after visiting Westport, a clear juxtaposition to the hip, bar district we had just explored.


The garden, quiet and serene, serves as gravesite to Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, philanthropists to the city in the mid 1960s. We left the garden to continue on our tour, only after appreciating the giant chrysanthemums in the greenhouse.

Kansas City is known as the “City of Fountains,” and one of the more interesting fountains we encountered was a memorial to the Vietnam War.  It was laid out in a series of cascading waterfalls, a reference to the U.S’s cascading involvement in the war.  It culminates in two pools of water at the end, a symbol for the split in public opinion over the war.


We spent the most time on our tour on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins museum, avoiding photographers and muses as best we could. We even had the chance to explore grounds unfamiliar to Professor Yawn, home to sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard (Three Bowls), Henry Moore, and Roxy Paine (Ferment).


We also had the chance to get off our segways and try out Robert Morris’ Glass Labyrinth, which we luckily made it out of without running into any of the glass walls.


We left the grounds, after quite a few photo opportunities, including the chance to see a Claes Oldenburg sculpture (a shuttlecock!)….

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Constance_Alex_Shuttlecock_Web…and an unsettling sculpture titled “Standing Figures,” which is actually a sculpture of 30 headless men standing in rows.

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_30_Men_Standing_WebMeandering through the parks, we also encountered some yoga practitioners, taking advantage of the peacefulness of the park (other than the speeding Segways, of course)…


From there, we made it back to the Kemper Museum of Modern Art, which we had visited the evening before but had yet to observe in daylight.  We were re-acquainted with Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider”…



…as well as Tom Otterness’s “Crying Giant.”

Segway_Kemper_Crying_Giant_WebWe had previously seen Bourgeois’s work in Iowa and in New Orleans, and we had only recently seen Otterness’s work (City Garden, in St. Louis).

That being our last stop…

…we bid adieu to Kelly and her insightful information and headed to scrounge up some lunch.

Much to the recommendation of our tour guide, we decided to eat lunch at Q39, a local Kansas City barbeque joint. We found the restaurant to be very popular and were confronted with an hour wait. With that information, Professor Yawn and Stephanie decided to let us wait and enjoy lunch while they left to grab our bags at the hotel in preparation for our departure this evening. We finally got a table, which was worth every second of the wait, once we received our appetizer of fried onion strings and meals consisting of ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and even better Kansas City barbeque sauce.


Slightly tangy and very sweet, we enjoyed the barbeque that is so different than what we can enjoy in Texas. We left the restaurant full and ready to take on the rest of our afternoon.

We spent the first part of the rest of our afternoon exploring and learning at The National WWI Museum and Memorial. We arrived just in time to sit and watch the introductory video that left us wanting to learn more, so we ventured into the museum. We began with the WWI timeline that started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and led to Austria declaring war on Serbia.


This led to an entanglement of treaties and soon after, the five Great Powers were at war.


The museums timeline was easy to read and separated every year. The year of 1915 showed how the momentum of the war shifted to the east and highlighted the sinking of Lusitania by a German submarine. The year of 1916 on the timeline highlighted the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme. The timeline then moved on to the year of 1917, which is when Germany began to renew their unrestricted submarine warfare. One U-boat had cost American lives, which led to America severing its diplomatic relations with Germany and having to decide upon entering the war. The first American troops landed in France on June 25, 1917 and the spirits of France were renewed. The museum also features sections on Air warfare and others. As we walked through the museum we were able to watch another more interactive video about the war which then escorted us to the back portion of the museum that highlighted the America’s role in the War. The museum was very detailed and included many aspects of the war such as every branch of the military, a woman’s position in the war, civilian’s positions in the war, and an exhibit on war propaganda.

WWI_Propoganda_Alex_WebWe entered a reflections box where we were able to listen to voices from the War. We then took an elevator up to the Memorial where the tower commemorating the fallen soldiers stands. After enjoying the view, we walked back over the glass bridge hanging over the poppies that represent the fallen soldiers of the War.

We left the National World War I Museum to stroll down the hill in front of it, capturing the beautiful fall afternoon with a few photographs.


We loved feeling the breeze and seeing the burgundy leaves fly through the air off the trees preparing for the first winter frost.


We walked across the street, following the museum, to enter Union Station in search of the temporary Da Vinci exhibit that the train station holds.  We found the exhibit on the bottom floor of the station and proceeded to get in line, thrilled with the anticipation of learning about one of history’s most prominent inventors and scholars. We entered the exhibit and watched an introductory video about the Renaissance man. Following, we left the compression of the video space and were awed by the expansion of the rest of the exhibit, full of Da Vinci’s inventions.


We had the chance to read about his work in military science, flying machines, scientific diagrams about the human body, civil engineering, and inventions that would make everyday work easier and more efficient. We always knew about the inventor’s paintings, “Mona Lisa”…


…and “The Last Supper,”

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Last_Supper_Alex_Web…but it was even more compelling to learn about all the musings that were found in his journals ranging from thoughts about poetry to the making of the ideal city. We even had the chance to touch multiple replicas of his inventions, like a pulley and a lock system.


Following the section about his inventions, we had the opportunity to read about his artwork, which about fifteen have survived to this day due to the precariousness of Da Vinci’s experiments with new techniques. It was interesting to read about his work with the golden ration, which can be seen in his paintings and in his drawing of the Vitruvian Man. We left the exhibit awed by a man that we knew very little about before and inspired to expand our horizons just as he did during his lifetime.

We also had a chance to return to the Nelson-Atkins and see the special Thomas Hart Benton exhibit.  The theme was Thomas Hart Benton and the Hollywood epic, highlighting styles that tied in with epic films, as well as the time that Benton spent working in Hollywood.

Nelson_Atkins_Benton_Exhibit_WebWhile in the Museum, we took an opportunity to see some of the pieces we had missed the day before, such as the beautiful gardens…

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Thinker_Web…Rodin’s “Thinker” up close…

Nelson_Atkins_Thinker_Web…and the strange, intriguing folk art of Philip Haas…


Before leaving KC, we returned to Union Station to grab a few souvenirs before beginning the drive out of town.

After a while on the road we stopped at Pie Five Pizza Co., in Topeka, KS, for a quick dinner. Constance and I shared the biggest Greek salad that I had ever seen and a pesto chicken Alfredo pizza that was delicious. We left the restaurant, and took advantage of our stop in Topeka to see the state’s capitol and other sites.


We stopped at the capitol building, standing majestically in the middle of town. We weren’t able to go into the Capitol because it was late, but we did capture a few photos. Before getting back on the road we had to make one more stop. We stopped at the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site. Sadly it was closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to have a glimpse inside provided by the glass doors.


In the building we saw the labels “White” and “Color” that segregated the school. Even though we were not able to go inside, it was still a very sobering experience.

We hopped back in the van, en route to our last stop for the night, Wichita, to sleep before getting back on the road in the morning for the long trek back to Huntsville.

Midwest Tour, Day 6: More Marvelous Madison

We began our morning enjoying breakfast at a local favorite, Marigold’s. Known for their creative breakfast options, we loaded up on coffee, an omelet, some pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice. It was, according to Alex, the best orange juice ever.  The food was good, too, a fact attested to by Constance, who breakfasted here last year, and now has two years’ worth of data on which to base her conclusion.

Hurrying back to the hotel, we made it back in time for the first session of the 2015 Film and History Conference.  Like last year, it was well organized by Loren Baybrook, Professor at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

Alex and I chose the session titled, “Generational Dilemma: Situating Women and Young People, a Transitional Age of TV.” One of the first things we noticed is that the dress code is pretty relaxed for a professional conference.  We heard from three different panelists discussing young people on TV, domesticity in sitcoms, and utopia in 1960s television.  All of them read more or less directly from their papers.

First, Mr. Michael Cheyne read his paper about the power in domesticity, the gender inequality as a public problem in sitcoms, and the vindication women achieved in shows like “Father Knows Best,” once women finally embraced their role in the home as a housewife, further constraining them to society’s view. Second, Ms. Caryn Murphy spoke about attempted utopia in the 1960s sitcom “The New People.”  Finally, we heard from Daniel Long about “The Failure of Displacing the Young People on Network TV,” in which he discussed ABC’s efforts to gain influence amidst networks like NBC and CBS, while also identifying social issues and confronting them during programing like “The New People.”  Overall, we learned about the different issues important to our peers in the late 1960s, while also acknowledging the line networks had to balance in order to stay relevant.

Listening to the panelists speak certainly awoke our hunger, so we left the conference briefly to eat a truly Wisconsinite lunch at The Old Fashioned. We tried fried cheese curds…

Cheese_Curds_Web…beer and cheese soup (which, intriguingly, is sprinkled with popcorn)…

and three different types of sandwiches–pulled pork, grilled chicken, and grilled cheese.


Satisfied, we left the restaurant to hurry back to the conference for the afternoon.

Our second session of the afternoon was titled “Journeys of Love 1: Romantic Comedy”, which we definitely enjoyed. Before we attended this session, however, we ran to Professor Yawn’s presentation and took a photograph.

Film_History_Yawn_Presenting_WebWe then backed out, somewhat conspicuously, and returned to our regularly scheduled program.

Megan Miskiewicz from Northwestern University was the first speaker for the panel. She discussed marriage timing and economics in romantic comedy films from 1936-1941. To do this she had to answer three questions: who to marry, when to marry and what to do after marriage? She referenced the film “Ball of Fire”, which starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck to answer the question of whom to marry. (Interestingly, Dana Andrews is in this film, and the LEAP Center presented a Dana Andrews film festival in 2009 and 2013.)

In this film, as with many films from the 1930s, the key question for women was, “Whom should I marry?”  She pointed out a concept that occurs repeatedly, which is “the hope that something better is just around the corner”.

Deborah Doderlein from the University of Oslo, Norway focused on the film “Guess who’s coming to Dinner,” which was about an interracial couple and all that they must overcome to marry. We enjoyed the romantic theme of this session greatly, which consequently meant we took a bit more away from the presentations.

We left the second session of the day to run across the street of the hotel and hop on the 2:00 o’clock tour of the Wisconsin Capitol building. Wisconsinites pride themselves on their state house and made a point of making it completely accessible to the public. There are no metal detectors, and all entrances are open to the public; that is, there are no “reserved sections” for “staff and elected officials only.”

We began the tour in the rotunda of the house…


…under the largest dome known to any capitol in the nation and also the largest granite dome in the world.

Capitol_Tour_2_WebThe dome makes for a beautiful rotunda scene, enhanced by murals reflecting the various branches of government, all of which were housed in the state capitol.


The walls, columns, and exterior of the capitol boast 43 different types of stones from six different countries and eight states. Completed in 1917, the building is the fifth to serve as the capitol building of Wisconsin and, more recently, underwent a 158.8 million dollar renovation that lasted fourteen years. Sitting at 284 feet and 5 inches from the ground, the magnitude of the building is offset by the quiet subtlety found inside. Alex noted that this might be her favorite capitol visited yet, a nice contrast to some of the more ostentatious capitols we’ve seen.

We walked up to the second floor to visit the House Chamber, which boasts a thirty-foot skylight…


…and another Blashfield mural depicting important events in Wisconsin’s history.

We moved on to the Senate Chamber, which sits in a circle and is technology free. Second to last, we visited the Supreme Court, with four murals by Albert Herter, who painted his son into one of the murals and whom later went on to be U.S. Secretary of State during the Eisenhower presidency.

Capitol_Court_Mural_Magna_Carta_WebFinally, we ascended multiple flights of stairs to enjoy the view of Madison from the observation deck.

Although both afraid of heights, we thoroughly enjoyed the multiple photo opportunities from the great vantage point.

Capitol_Observatory_Constance_Alex_Selfie_4_WebAlthough it was windy…

Capitol_Top_Constance_Alex_Web…and a bit cold…

…it was still a lot of fun.

Finishing up at the capitol, we walked around the square, past a few unnerving Guy Fawkes Day protesters…

…and arrived at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Sadly, we were unable to photograph the pieces we saw, but did enjoy the opportunity to experience a new channel of art. We were greeted by a horse sculpture by Deborah Butterfield made out of sticks and mud. We have previously seen Butterfield’s works at the New Orleans Museum of Art, UT’s Campus, and in Des Moines’ Papajohn Park.

We ascended glass stairs to enter the main exhibit hall, where we found work from artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Diego Rivera. It was a small gallery, but we spent a bit of time learning about new artists and appreciating the social implications of such art before leaving the modern art museum and heading back to the hotel for the rest of the conference.

The last panel that we attended was titled “Indie Film II: Indie and performance: Changing contexts, Changing strategies”.  Diane Carson from Webster University spoke first about Independent Film director, John Sayles’, films. She focused on the fact that he refused to hollywoodize his films even though he knew that they would not make as much money. She also noted that race issues occur often in his films and that he said “ you can’t avoid it if you’re going to make a movie.” One additional point that Diane mentioned was that Sayles does not sugar coat real social issues and that she hoped that her presentation made us want to go watch his films. The second speaker was Cynthia Baron from Bowling Green State University, who focused on a film called “Set it Off” that focused on women editors in indie films. She noted that indie films used popular actors to gain more views like Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett. To keep her presentation interesting, she showed a few video clips of the film. The third presenter was Chris Holmlund who focused on casing indie actors. She chose to talk about four main actors, John Cusack, Michelle Williams, Lupe Ontiveros and Giancarlo Esposito. She spoke about how actors play social roles because of whom they are and how they look. All performers are not created equal due to their race, body and other identifying characteristics that limit them to specific roles. An interesting way to show this was by informing us that Lupe Ontiveros’ roles were 90% of the time maids. She ended her presentation by arguing that independent films truly allow actors to work.

Following the afternoon of capitol touring and indie film education, we were ready for an adventurous dinner at “A Pig in a Fur Coat”, where we learned about the world of Tapa restaurants. We ordered two snack plates, Duck Fat Fries and Meatballs. All of the food served at A Pig in a Fur Coat was distinctive and different from anything that we had tried. The meatballs for example, included bone marrow, which at least two of us did not particularly enjoy. After our snack plates, our Small Plates arrived. We tried the Pork Belly with shrimp and butternut squash, filled with different and delicious flavors; it was on the smallish side.


the Ravioli filled with duck egg, and topped with bacon, Brussels sprouts and butter, and the Foie Gras Mousse, a bombolini with lard and fig. In the spirit of a Tapa restaurant, we all shared and had a taste of each other’s food. Alex was not a huge fan of the Foie Gras, and was even less so when she found it was made from fattened duck livers.

A Pig in a Fur Coat was much different from expected and was a great place to try new things.

After dinner we decided to return to DLUX for their amazing milkshakes! We sampled the toasted marshmallow with chocolate, Red Velvet Milkshake and the Salted Caramel milkshake.

On a full and satisfied stomach, we decided to walk around the Capitol building…

Capitol_Constance_Alex_Weband snap some photos in the cold weather (editor: it wasn’t cold) before…

Capitol_Constance_Alex_3_Web…retiring to the hotel in anticipation of a full day of driving tomorrow.




Midwest Tour, Day 5: Marvelous Madison!

We started our morning with a fun-filled trip to the admission-free Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. Because of its layout, when we first walked into the zoo, we thought that it was very small, but we soon learned that it was not. In fact, it kept expanding into a bigger area that we had anticipated. As we wandered the zoo, we were greeted by a furry-faced lion…

Zoo_Lion_Web…and some surprisingly active orangutans. Some of our favorite animals were the polar bears, otters, a white rhino…

the giraffes…


and polar bears.


The zoo even had a bird aviary where Alex was almost attacked by a parrot! (Okay, not exactly attacked…)


The zoo also abutted a pretty City park, where they had green space and Lake Wingra…

…along with many geese!

Zoo_Geese_WebBefore heading back, we took some time to enjoy the beautiful foliage in the area…

After that exciting stop, we were ready for lunch–at DLUX. Alex ordered the Farmhouse burger, a beef patty with a fried green tomato, Monterey jack cheese and bacon.

DLUX_Burger_WebThe burger was delicious, but what really gave it a different taste was the tomato jam that came on the side. Constance had the Sunrise burger which featured a fried egg and the tomato jam as well. Alongside the delectable burgers, we shared parmesan and truffle cream fries that were phenomenal. We then tried milkshakes—Salted Caramel, Apple Crisp, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel. All were awesome.

DLUX_Shakes_WebOur appetites satisfied, we made our way to Monona Terrace, via the farmers’ market, which was set up downtown. The market was stocked with locally grown vegetables, fruits, homemade sweets and breads, and of course, plenty of cheese. Some of us were able to sample the many cheeses in spite of our recent, filling lunch.

We ambled our way into Madison’s Monona Terrace, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built posthumously in 1997, following Wright’s many unsuccessful attempts to get the design approved while he was alive.   Monona Terrace now serves as a convention center in downtown Madison, resting between the capitol and Lake Monona.

Monona_Terrace_Capitol_WebCapitol View from Monona Terrace

Wright designed the complete outside of the building, while Anthony Puttnam, an architect from Taliesin Associated Architects, designed some of the interior.

Viewed from the exterior, multiple curves are a defining element to Monona Terrace’s architecture, adding to an almost space-like futuristic feel. Inside, we passed photos of Wright’s work from all over the nation, while Professor Yawn shared his knowledge of the building. Wright’s theme of circles followed us inside as we observed in the use of lighting, signs, and even a round staircase corridor. The floor, covered in bright burgundy carpet in a leaf pattern, struck us right as we walked in.

Although very different from other works we have seen by Wright, Monona Terrace stands out in its majestic beauty and functionality for the city, two areas Wright strived to make exemplary.


Undeterred by the professionals attending a conference, we wandered the halls and even made it outside to the lake-edge to take pictures and enjoy the brisk breeze off the water.

Lake_Monona_Constance_Alex_WebWe also made our way to the terrace…

Monona_Terrace_Trees_Web…where we enjoyed the lake view.

Lake_Monona_Constance_Alex_Selfie_3_Web…and capitol view.

Mr. Wright would have been proud to see his work come to life, as the convention center served functionally a purpose as well as kept with his original design plans.

After finding our way through the streets crowded with thousands of students walking, biking, and running, we found the University of Wisconsin Law School, ready for our tour. We were guided by a law student who informed us of the strong alum community that the law school has, and described the general day of a typical law student at UW. Our tour guide showed us some class rooms, one of which was the constitutional law class room, and one in which the moot court team holds their practices. We also stopped by the much-occupied library and saw John Steuart Curry’s “The Freeing of the Slaves” mural.


Once our tour guide wrapped up his part, we explored the campus for a while before leaving.

After our enlightening tour at the UW School of Law, we regrouped and returned to another part of the UWM campus for some rec time. We evaded much traffic and many pedestrians en route to The Shell, where students at UWM have the opportunity to ice skate, among other activities, as part of their recreational fees.

Excited to do something not generally available in Texas, we grabbed skates and entered the small arena. What we did not expect was the experience of those who would be skating around us. Natural-born Texans, we both have ice-skated only a few times in our lives, combined, with those living in the North likely to learn to skate shortly after walking, as the tale would be told.

We sucked in our pride, put on our skates, and stepped out onto the slick ice. Close to the stress we encountered at the Willis Tower Sky Deck in Chicago, both of us clung to the sidewalls with death grips to avoid falling at all costs.

After a few times around the rink on the wall, Constance got a bit of a hand at it and slowly sped up and away from the safety net.

Alex, meanwhile, stayed closer to the wall, but made a few friends along the way – even one possible future hockey star, if he is to be believed…. We had less than an hour in the rink but had an absolute ball; and Alex insists she must come back in order to truly master the art of ice skating. (Or maybe to check up on that hockey star…)

Finally, after working up an appetite on the ice, we roved through traffic across Madison once more to find dinner. A cute restaurant tucked in a strip mall, Nile offered Mediterranean food that was very different from what we had tried previously. We began the meal with salad, soup, and an appetizer of Kibbee Balls, a fried meat and bulgur mix that had a great smoky flavor. Alex tried the Mediterranean Shrimp, served in a red sauce with a side of rice, while Constance enjoyed the beef kebab and hummus that was truly, otherworldly good. Overall, the meal satisfied our craving for Mediterranean and impressed us at the same time. It was a great day in Wisconsin; one that made us very happy that our paths had crossed with LEAP and Wisconsin!



Midwest Tour, Day 4: Our Kind of Town, Chicago

We began our morning with a trip to the village of Homewood, Illinois to check out their Richard Haas murals.  Although Huntsville boasts the largest collection of his murals (14), we were excited to find 13 murals that call Homewood home. Arriving in the quaint village, we parked and excitedly began our scavenger hunt for the elusive, illusive murals.

The first we found clung to the wall of a florist’s shop, a greenhouse to accompany the business’ theme.


Moving on, we came across a theater, paying homage to the original theater and marquee formerly found in Homewood.


Interestingly, the theater’s “Coming Attractions” involve at least one film involving Chicago, “Some Like it Hot,” which the LEAP Center used as its centerpiece for our Marilyn Monroe Film Festival.

Walking down the historic Dixie Highway, which connected the US Midwest with the South, we came across even more murals–one in recognition of the ever-present Midwestern prairie alongside the Dixie Highway…


…one depicting dancers (on the side of a dance studio, no less),


and finally, an extensive mural on the history of the bicycle.


With the hunt for his thirteen murals complete, we hopped in the car to commute to downtown Chicago.

Parking was a challenge, but we found a central location. We ventured into the very busy Chicago streets and made our way to Millennium Park, where the very famous public sculpture “Cloud Gate” (a.k.a., “The Bean”) is located.

Constance had visited Chicago and “The Bean” last year, and she guided us through the crowded crosswalks that astounded Alex, thankful to not be wandering aimlessly alone. The crowd of Chicago pedestrians thinned out around Millennium Park, and we were met by a new crowd of tourists at “Cloud Gate” (Anish Jay Kapoor), where we actually fit right in. We explored the sculpture, and snapped a number of pictures before Professor Yawn and Stephanie met us there. Alex even had the chance to participate in a picture series photographer Susan May Moody is working on titled, “Jumping at The Bean.”

She wasn’t the only one in the series.  Others also jumped for joy.

After taking more pictures than we’ll ever use, including one with sculptures by Jaume Plensa


…we made our way down to the Chicago Architecture Foundation shop. We were welcomed by souvenirs of an architect with whom we are all familiar, Frank Lloyd Wright–as well as an intriguing model of Chicago.


Circumventing busy professionals and tourists alike, we lunched at Russian Tea Time. Our first time trying Russian fare proved to be a bit overwhelming initially, by all the menu items offered, but we were excited to dig in to our appetizers, stuffed mushroom…

Russian_Stuffed_Mushrooms_Web…and Russian Dumplings…


…and our shared Chicken Duran Schnitzel entrée.


The food was wonderful. We look forward to the opportunity of comparing the Russian schnitzel with the Austrian variety we will try at Grunauer’s in Kansas City in a few days.

Stuffed, we walked off a bit of our lunch en route to the Chicago Institute of Art.


Constance was excited about her return trip through the extensive exhibits, she was most excited to view Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” which was on loan during the LEAP Center trip to the Film and History Conference last year. Alex, on the other hand, reported being overwhelmed upon entering the vast lobby of the 122-year-old building originally built to house the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.


With no time to see all the works, and with exhibits separated by style, we began in pre-1900 American art, perusing Tiffany lamps…


sculptures and paintings alike by Frederick Remington, and quite a few works by John Singer Sargent. We focused next on American art post-1900, where we encountered several works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,”


Wood’s “American Gothic,”


and a new favorite artist, James McNeill Whistler, famous for many works, especially “Nocturne: Blue and Gold-Southampton Water,” a beautiful piece in subdued colors and plentiful shadows highlighting a moonlit night. Alex’s favorite was Monet’s “Stacks of Wheat.”

Next, we headed to the much-anticipated Impressionist exhibit to find Renoir, Degas, and Monet.


We were awed, overwhelmed by the immensity of the exhibit along with the magnificence of its various artists. Just being in the same room as so many notable artist’s works was like a dream. To commemorate we took a few photos with one of the most famous works, Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”


We also saw Vincent Van Gogh’s famous self portrait.

CAI_Van_Gogh_Self_Portrait_WebIt was also a chance to make connections to other things we’ve seen and done.  The Museum, for example, had a statue of Abraham Lincoln by David French, whose also did the statue for the Lincoln Monument, a replica of which also graces Lincoln’s Tomb.

CAI_French_Lincoln_WebThere was also a sculpture of James Fraser’s “End of the Trail,” the larger version of which Constance had seen on her first LEAP Center trip to Oklahoma City.

CAI_End_Of_Trail_Fraser_WebFinally, we also had the chance to view an expansive exhibit of sketches, paintings, and even sculpture by Edgar Degas, famous for his dancers.  Both of us have seen his house in New Orleans, on separate LEAP Trips.

To finish our musings, we scouted the Modern art section, part of which, much to our dismay, was closed for construction. Deterred not, we explored the farthest exhibit from the entrance in search of pieces by Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. With little time left for wandering, we took photos with a few renowned art pieces, such as Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.”


Alex, new to Dali and Matisse, commented on the distinction their art holds in the easily recognizable themes in their pieces.

But we also discovered other artists with whom we weren’t familiar (but  researched and found to be quite famous!), such as Lyonel Feininger…

CAI_Fenninger_Harbor_Web…Thomas Cole…

CAI_Thomas_Cole_Web…and Childe Hassam…


We left the museum, awed by the history we had encountered and encouraged by the inferences we can begin to make as our repertoire of art knowledge grows.

With the sun setting, we began a brisk walk towards our anticipated yet unnerving next destination, Willis Tower. Built in 1973, the 108-story building rose above us, almost as if to gloat in its terrifying height. We bought our tickets, entered the elevator, and began ascending to the Skydeck at a whopping 17 miles per hour (or 24 feet per second), finally reaching the top, 1,353 feet high.


At the top, we encountered 360-degree views of the Chicago skyline at sunset.


It was completely worth the frightening elevator ride. Mustering much more courage, we even had the chance to stand on a clear floor 1300 feet up in the sky, which was beyond our comfort zone.  With that behind us, we had an impulse to leave, but we stayed, continuing to document Chicago’s descent into night.

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After the adventurous and phobia-induced experience at the Willis Tower, we taxied to Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Constance_Alex_Loyola_Law_School_Webto meet with former Junior Fellows President, Daniel North – a reunion of sorts for Professor Yawn and Stephanie, and an introduction for us. Daniel showed us the equivalent to the LSC Ballroom at SHSU, where we sat while Daniel described his life at law school along with his plans after graduation, answering our questions about law school, and reminiscing about his time at SHSU and as a member of the Junior Fellows.


Daniel also showed us the courtroom where the Loyola Moot Court teams argue, and the Loyola law library, where we can expect to spend numerous hours in study. It was another connection for Alex, who recently spent time at UNT and TTU Law School Courtrooms as part of her Moot Court Experience.


We also attended a Professional Responsibility class session with Daniel and his classmates. We sat in the back row of the class where we could see all the students prepared for class with their laptops, water bottles and books. Professor Grogan was passionate about what he was teaching and incorporated many previous cases which he has encountered (or taken an active role in) to help students understand the material.

Professor Grogan made the class exciting and kept his students engaged by incorporating humor. The main topics of discussion during the class were contingency, ethics, fraud, and a brief note on veterans, which quickly captured Constance’s attention. The hour and forty-five minute class flew by because of the interesting material and discussion.

It was an amazing experience for us, and we were very grateful to Daniel and Loyola Law for giving us this opportunity.

Daniel continued discussing his law school experience while we walked to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for dinner. After splitting a couple of small appetizers…


we shared a “classic” Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, filled with cheese and topped with a layer of sausage. Daniel suggested that one slice would be enough, and one slice was definitely enough for most of us!


After such a filling dinner, we hoofed it for about a mile and a half across Chicago, checking out the beautiful architecture and river scenes.

Constance_Alex_Chicago_River_Selfie_WebOne such photograph we specifically took for Austin Campbell…

Chicago_River_Trump_Tower_Web…who, for reasons unknown, is obsessed with Donald Trump.

Getting in past midnight, and leaving Chicago at 6am, we returned to our hotel, with a busy and bustling day to reflect on as we descended into sleep.

Midwest Tour, Day 3: The Land of Lincoln

After a quick, “on-the-go” breakfast, Constance and I enjoyed the first part of our morning at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  We have both been to Presidential Museums previously (Alex: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; Constance: Harry Truman, George W. Bush, and LBJ), but this was our favorite!

The Lincoln Presidential Library

The museum is innovative, offering visitors an engaging, emotional and educational experience.  It is also the largest of the Presidential Museums, although it is operated by the State of Illinois, rather than the National Archives, and some do not count it as a true Presidential Library/Museum.


Visitors experience Lincoln’s early life by walking through a replica of his childhood home–the famous log cabin.  They have a similar walk-through experience of Lincoln’s “White House” years, this one using 21st century technology to bring the 19th century to life.


Visitors, for example, travel down the “Whispering Gallery,” seeing holograms of Lincoln’s rivals criticizing his decisions.  Of course, we also saw Mary Lincoln surrounded by her rivals, other women in the Capital’s social set, criticizing her appearance and behavior as first lady.


Another noteworthy “replica room” included Willie’s bedroom, turned into his sickroom.  Sadly, Mary Lincoln survived the death of three of their children before they reached age eighteen due to various illnesses.  Two of her children died prior to President Lincoln’s assassination.

President Lincoln’s work on the Emancipation Proclamation was depicted through special effects with an impact. The Hall of Holograms included critics of the Emancipation Proclamation from both sides –that it went too far or didn’t go far enough. It was easy to imagine how the President must have felt while being attacked through these comments.

The Museum contrasted the media of Lincoln’s day with today’s media, offering a simulated version of what his momentous decisions would have wrought in the 24-hour news cycle.


We entered Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and then into the  full-scale recreation of the Representatives Hall in Springfield’s Old State Capitol. Alex reported later,  “This room was the most emotional for me. Having walked through Lincoln’s entire lifetime, I felt as if I was walking into this room to pay my respects, and not as a visitor of a museum.”


The walk through Lincoln’s life was made all too real through the use of advanced technology in the museum. To evoke the time of a simpler day, we checked out “Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic,” a play area for younger children.


While there, we learned about the types of toys that Lincoln would have played with as a child and other things that children, such as Alex, would find interesting.

Alex_Lincoln_Size_Chart_WEbWe also learned that Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright. (We are making a lot of connections on this trip!)


Following the tour of the Museum proper, we explored the grounds.


The Lincoln Depot is nearby, with a statue of Lincoln commemorating the area.  Alex spent time with the wise old President…

Lincoln_Statue_Alex_Web…receiving tips on life, law, and politics…

Alex_Lincoln_3_Web…and even directions to the next destinations.




The Lincoln Home

To continue our Lincoln-inspired morning, we followed Lincoln’s directions to his former home, the only home he ever owned.


Even though Abraham Lincoln lived in Kentucky as a boy, he spent nearly half his life living in Springfield, IL. The home is now operated by the US National Parks Service, having been sold by Lincoln’s only surviving son, Robert, for $1.  The home is part of a 12-acre historic site, in which surrounding homes have also been preserved, giving visitors a 19th-century feel.


A Park Ranger led us on our tour through the home…


…sharing plenty of information on the home’s interior and such trivia as the Lincoln’s humble Christmas celebrations.


We were even allowed to use the original hand railing on the stair case that the Lincolns used! Upstairs, the master bedrooms were covered in an extravagant wallpaper,which made for some interesting pattern clashes next to, say, Lincoln’s bed.


and the children’s rooms were located in the back of the house, over the kitchen, so the heat from the kitchen stove also heated the rooms.

One of the more interesting sites in the home was Lincoln’s desk, where he probably wrote his first inaugural address.

Lincoln_Home_Desk_WebAfter the tour of the home, we explored the grounds, where we actually had the opportunity to enter Lincoln’s outhouse.

Lincoln_Outhouse_WebThis seriously verged on TMI, but it was interesting to see the some of the more unpleasant aspects of 19th-century life, endured even by Presidents.



Having touched the same railing as Lincoln and learned about his life, we had lunch at a home he frequented. That home is now a restaurant, Obed and Issac’s Microbrewery and Eatery, and it is owned by the great-great grandson of Obed Lewis, who knew Lincoln prior to Lincoln winning the presidency.

All the food was satisfying, but we all agreed that the award for lunch of the day went to Constance for trying the fig pizza!


We finished lunch with bread pudding and a very sweet butter cake–too sweet for Alex, but the recipient of rave reviews from the remainder of the group.

Lincoln’s Tomb

Following lunch, we proceeded to Lincoln’s tomb.  We were happily surprised that not only was the tomb an impressive and fitting structure…

Lincoln_Tomb_Exterior_Web…but that its interior is open to the public.

The interior consists of a series of marble hallways, which contain information about Lincoln’s life and death, as well as plaques with text from The Gettysburg Address, Lincon’s farewell to the people of Springfield, and his 2nd Inaugural.


Each corner is also adorned with replicas of famous statues of Lincoln.


The back of the interior is Lincoln’s burial place, just a dozen or so feet away from the final resting places of Mary Todd, Willie, and Tad Lincoln.


His other son, Robert, is buried in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

The exterior monument is 117 feet tall, and the tomb structure is the largest in the United States.


Illinois State Capitol

We left Lincoln’s grave site to return to downtown Springfield and explore the capitol building.  Awed by the French Renaissance beauty seen from the outside, we entered the majestic building intrigued by what lay within. The external beauty held no match for what we encountered upon entering the 126-year-old capitol building. Ornate fixtures, bright colors, and grand marble surrounded us on all sides. It was hard to find a certain spot to fix our eyes as the overall busy-ness of the interior kept focal points hidden amidst the bright (some might say gaudy)  décor.


Marble staircases, huge murals, and lavish entryways abounded throughout the capitol, which is the state’s sixth such structure. We used our time by going on a guided tour to learn as much as possible.  We visited the House of Representatives Chamber where 750-pound chandeliers hung with their original crystal, giving light to  the chamber’s 118 members.


Interestingly, there are more than 118 desks .  The surplus desks are there to accommodate possible future growth.  In addition, some desks have phones.  These desks are for the chamber’s leadership.


We left the House to head across the building and enter the Senate, where President Obama served as  state senator until 2004.


A bit less gaudy than the previous chamber, the chamber was still opulent, with beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and reflecting light off the rich mahogany walls.


Moving on, we explored the rest of the capitol and learned of its record-holding height at 361 feet, its original price tag of 4.5 million dollars (in 1889), and even some of the saga surrounding former Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Some of the state’s history (but, thankfully, not that involving Blagojevich) was also told in a bas-relief sculpture just below the dome, including the famous “Lincoln-Douglas Debates.”


And, of course, we took some photos, including one of President Lincoln…


…one of the bronze statue titled “Illinois Welcoming the World,” by Julia M. Bracken, in the center floor of the rotunda…


…and Murals that adorn the walls and ceilings throughout the capitol.

Illinois_Capitol_Mural_2_Web..and even the Governor’s office.



Illinois Supreme Court

After learning so much about the generously decorated state capitol, we left in search of the Supreme Court of Illinois, stopping to pose alongside a statue of President Lincoln along the way.


Originally housed in the capitol building, the Court is now in an adjacent building on beautiful grounds adorned with beautiful fall colors.


Walking in, we were escorted by a deputy marshal of security to the second floor of the building that finished construction in 1908. We explored the law library with its bright blue floors…

Supreme_Court_Law_Library_Web…the Appellate Courtroom that is no longer in use today…


…and the Ceremonial Courtroom where pictures had to be taken, of course, of both me

Supreme_Court_Constance_Web…and Alex making oral arguments…

Supreme_Court_Alex_WebIt was a beautiful room.


Finishing up, we passed Supreme Court Justices of old and new on each side to proceed downstairs and head back out into the beautiful, unseasonably warm and unbelievably pretty Springfield afternoon.


With just enough time to grab Starbucks, we piled into the car and began our journey to Chicago. After a quick three-hour drive, full of conversation, productive picture editing, and Stephanie’s deft driving, we arrived in a southern suburb of the Windy City.  We enjoyed dinner at A-Fusion, with selections of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. After enjoying a hibachi show…


…some good food…


and watching Alex (unsuccessfully) attack a monstrous plate of cashew chicken, we headed out.


Odds and End of the Day

We had one more planned stop.  After seeing Bella Abril’s (LEAP Center Student Worker) gopro video from The Great Muddy Escape, we decided to purchase a gopro ourselves, and we look forward to putting that into use in Chicago, tomorrow’s destination.

But little did any of us know we had one more stop to make.  As we headed toward one last stop before reaching the hotel, Constance and Alex didn’t see glances exchanged between Professor Yawn and Stephanie when they realized the Indiana state line was literally minutes away.  They tagged an extra twenty minutes to the trip and Constance and Alex both got to add one more state to their list, making a quick stop in Riverside Park in Hammond, Indiana.



Lubbock, Law, and the LSAT

For SHSU’s Moot Court team members, this weekend promised to be a full one.  We headed to Lubbock on Thursday, leaving campus around 1:00pm.  With a tournament on Friday and Saturday, the weekend was sufficiently stressful, but half the team members were also set to get their LSAT scores, adding a bit of stress and spice to a long weekend.

The weekend’s tournament is being held at Texas Tech Law School.  Thirty teams from Texas (plus the powerhouse US Air Force team) will be on hand to compete.  As a sign of the rigor involved, 43 teams originally signed up, but more than a third of these teams dropped out in the week prior to the competition, despite having already paid admission fees.  Preparation for this competition involves reading 19 cases (approximately 20 pages each), and practicing extensively on body language and speech delivery.  We may not win, but all of us are better speakers and more knowledgeable about the law as a result of our work.

With that in mind, we headed west after our Thursday classes. There’s not a lot between Huntsville and Lubbock, Texas, and that made for a long drive, although this did give us some study/prep time, helped on by our coach, Jean Loveall.

Moot_Court_Studying_WebThe drive was made longer by bad weather most of the way.

West_TX_Sky_WebAnd then the drive got more stressful around 6pm, when our three senior members got emails indicating their LSAT scores were available.  Well, this made the drive much more interesting!  After some group discussion, the three seniors decided to postpone opening their emails until they got to the hotel.

Around 8pm, we pulled in to Perini Ranch steakhouse, which is in Buffalo Gap, Texas (about six miles south of Abilene).  The steakhouse’s origins date back to 1973, when Tom Perini began catering for private affairs.  He opened his steakhouse in 1983.  The restaurant did well, but business took off in 1995, when the New York Times recognized his steaks as the “mail-order gift of the year.”  With that recognition, profiles in Texas Highways and Texas Monthly followed, and at the beginning of the G. W. Bush presidency, Perini was asked to serve steaks to members of congress from the White House lawn.  It was a memorable day–not because of the steaks, but because it was scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  The “steakout” didn’t happen, at least not on that day, as the history-altering terrorist attacks forced a cancellation.  More happily, Tom and Lisa Perini were invited back to the White House the next year, and the event proved successful.

Thankfully, our dinner lacked international dramatics and, despite the looming LSAT score discovery process, we were able to try some new foods and enjoy the steak.  For appetizers, we all tried “Quail Legs,” which was a new dish for about half of us.  For the entree, we all ordered steaks, which we split.  The steaks have a great flavor, a product of, among other things, a great “streak rub” (which, incidentally, is for sale online and in the restaurant store). For dessert, we had bread pudding (great!), chocolate cake (I didn’t sample, but it got good reviews), and in an experimental flourish, “Jalapeno Cheesecake.” It was very good!

Special mention should be made of the fact that Austin ate three whole jalapenos during dinner. There was no real explanation for this act of self-torture, other than some sort of behavioral distraction from his impending LSAT discovery.  On a related note, Austin also drank six glasses of water at dinner.

After the obligatory pose at the giant armadillo outside of Perini Ranch…


…we settled in for our final stretch.  We got in at midnight, when the students wasted no time accessing their LSAT scores. The students have worked hard to position themselves for law schools, and their work has paid off.  Armed with solid to strong LSAT scores and excellent grades, their work has been a model for the younger members of the team.

And on that happy note, we moved on to our rooms, hoping to get some rest prior to our competition on Friday!