Monday, June 17, 2019

An Abandoned Cistern (Houston), 6/06/2019

With Amanda’s hectic work schedule at Jones Hall and our impending departure, we made plans to get together for a few hours for the next three days. On Thursday, we made reservations for a tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern (only about a mile from Amanda’s downtown apartment). 

It was so hot/humid that we decided to drive instead of walk. Fortunately, we found a parking space on the street directly across from the Visitor Center (as parking is limited). Twenty-minute tours are offered every half hour during specific hours Thursday-Sunday for a $5/person fee. However, Thursdays are free (although reservations are required). Go to their website (noted below) to make reservations and purchase tickets. Check in at the Visitor Center about 10-15 minutes prior to the start of your tour.

You can wait in the terrace above the Visitor Center or the line forms near the entrance to the cistern.


The underground reservoir was built to provide drinking water for the city of Houston in 1926. Holding 15M gallons of water, it was operational for decades until an irreparable leak led to its closure in 2007. After it closed, some wanted it demolished, but instead it was altered to enable visitors to see the interior of the structure. A curved entry passageway with guardrail was built. A walkway with railing was also installed around the perimeter of the interior. 




Up to 30 people can be in a group (we had about half that), and a guide provides a historical account of the cistern and highlights interesting features. There are 221 25’ tall columns in the cistern. It is 87,500 square feet which is the size of 1.5 football fields. Also, the space has a 17 second echo…which is pretty amazing! 


The original input pipe is shown in the first photo and one of the four original access points (through the ceiling of the structure).


When in use the water level was close to the ceiling, but an overflow opening provided relief in case of heavy rains. Donald Lipski created a periscope (Down Periscope) to look into the space from above or online (www.donaldlipski.net/houston-tx/v7u8i1zkmezgy8m4fh8pmoamcpccyv). Below is a view of the periscope from inside the cistern. 


Today there is 6-8 inches of water at the bottom of the cistern that is periodically refreshed to avoid mold, etc. 


This was a fun and educational way to spend some time on a Thursday afternoon. I love this kind of thing...


Two previous art installments have been on display here, and more are planned in the future. For additional information or to make tour reservations of the abandoned cistern, go to www.buffalobayou.org.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Chicago, the Musical, at Jones Hall, 6/04/2019

Happy birthday to John, today, June 4thAnd Amanda got us the best gift to celebrate the day: tickets to Jones Hall to see Chicago, the North American Broadway tour. This is a show we have wanted to see on stage for quite some time as we love the music and the movie.


Because we were there opening night, Amanda also arranged for us to be invited to the pre-show reception in the Green Room (comp drinks and appetizers). Sweet!  


We had fantastic seats (5throw orchestra). If you are not familiar with the show, here is a summary (from www.houston-theater.com/theaters/jones-hall/chicago-the-musical.php):

“…A scorching musical satire on celebrity and crime, Chicago is a fearless portrayal of the pursuit of infamy that could ring true in any decade. Set in 1920s Jazz Age Chicago, the tale focuses on two women both accused of murdering their paramours and their insidious journey to freedom, justice be damned. With original songs that have become Broadway standards, the world's longest musical revival is currently high-kicking its way across North American on tour, so break out the fishnet gloves, tap shoes and practice your jazz hands!...”

The show was everything we hoped it would be. The cast, production, music, dancing, everything, was fantastic! What a treat!

After the show we were lucky enough to attend the post-performance cast party at the Rooftop Bar at the Le Meridien Hotel (we walked to it from Jones Hall). We met many of the cast members and musicians while enjoying more cocktails and late-night snacks. 


The first photo is of Eddie George, Heisman Trophy Winner and NFL player turned Broadway performer, played Billy Flynn. Also shown is the actor who played Mary Sunshine. They were both great and we so much enjoyed meeting them.


John was totally enamored with the performer who played Roxie Hart. Isn’t she gorgeous?!?


Even though Amanda worked the show, she and Kaitlyn were able to join us for the cast party.


This was a memorable evening and a great way to celebrate John’s 71stbirthday! Thanks to Amanda for making it possible! It was perfect. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a show at Jones Hall, go! 

Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5/30/2019

Art museums are always so much fun to visit and we have been to many in the last five years as we travel the US. While I personally have zero artistic ability (you do not want me as a partner in Pictionary), I very much admire the amazing talented artists of the world. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was established in 1900 and their main campus is located in Houston’s Museum District. Their extensive collection covers world cultures dating from antiquity to present. 

Currently the Vincent Van Gogh: His Life in Art exhibition is open (through June 27). It showcases 50 masterworks by Van Gogh (1853-1890). Most are permanently housed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo (Netherlands). 

The exhibit is designed around the four stages of his career: early sketches and drawings while living in the Netherlands; the luminous period in Paris; his search for light and color in southern France; and, exploration of nature as inspiration in Saint Remy


Van Gogh painted for only the last 10 years of his life. Initially, he trained himself to draw using instruments on display. Some of his sketches are shown including some “larger-than-life” reproductions.



While in Paris (1886-1888) he painted this portrait of a former lover. It was also during this time that flowers began to play an important role in Van Gogh’s paintings. 

                     In the Café: Agostina Segatori            Vase with Gladioli and
                            in Le Tambourin, 1886                  Chinese Asters, 1886

Roses and Peonies, 1886

The following were painted by Van Gogh in southern France (1888-1889) where he was captivated by the sun-drenched and colorful landscapes.

Les Roches (The Rocks), 1888

The Green Vineyard, 1888

The Langlois Bridge at Arles, 1888

Tarascon Stagecoach, 1888

Admitted to an asylum in 1889, Van Gogh continued to paint. The first is a view of the garden at the hospital in Saint-Remy. He loved irises and did many paintings of them.

                        The Garden of the Asylum                           Irises, 1890
                            at Saint-Remy, 1889

He was released from the hospital and moved back to Paris where he rented a room. He died three days after he suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound while living there in 1890.

In addition to the exhibition of Van Gogh’s works, we checked out the Gallery Experience: Van Gogh Close Up. Interactive displays and several “step-inside-the-painting” sections made for an fun and educational experience. Below are two of them. 

                            Bedroom at Arles, 1888              Café Terrace at Night, 1888 

Van Gogh painted more than 30 self-portraits. He reportedly did them for the purpose of introspection, to further develop skills as an artist, and to make money. An original is on display in the exhibit.


Studios are set up to replicate his during the years he painted. His love of sunflowers, irises, and other flowers is evident in his paintings.



We really enjoyed the entire Van Gogh experience. I have long admired his style and it was pretty awesome to see more of his original works without having to travel to the Netherlands!

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has an impressive collection of American art, European paintings, pre-Columbian and African arts and designs, photography, prints, drawings, modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures, and Latin American art. We started with the antiquities.

                        Greek – Corinthian Helmet,           Roman – Portrait of Caligula
                                 Bronze, 495 BC                         Gilt Bronze, 37-41 AD

                           Roman – Sarcophagus,             Darius Painter, Loutrophoros 
                             Marble, 140-170 AD              (tomb monument), Clay, 340 BC

I guess it is fascination with the macabre, but the Egyptian displays of mummies and such are always interesting. 

                                    Egyptian Ibis,              Coffin for Princess Sopdet-em-haawt
                                     664-332 BC                                 750-700 BC

Mummy of a child and other Egyptian artifacts

The European Art Galleries also contained an extensive array from 1200 to 1940.

Sandro Botticelli, The Adoration of the Christ Child, ~1400 

                      Spanish, Processional Cross,            French, Virgin and Child,
                                         ~1400                                            ~1400

And, now to more modern works

Russian, Vasily Kandinsky, Sketch 160A, 1912

                            French, Henri Matisse,           Spanish, Pablo Picasso, Woman
                                 The Song, 1938                        with a Large Hat, 1962

Below are two busts, Bust of a Bacchante in marble, and, a second one in terra cotta (~ 1870. The sculpture, Albert-Ernst Carrier-Belleuse, is best known today as a teacher to Auguste Rodin. 


Antoine-Louis Barye (French) was commissioned to create a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Napoleon I (~1865). This is the small plaster model for the piece. The project was subsequently abandoned but this fragile model remains. The second photo is of an oil painting, The Elder Sister (1869) by William Bouguereau (French). Some say this painting is haunted as both girls died tragically in their youth and the eyes of the older one appears to follow you when you walk about the gallery...


The large galleries make for a great experience when visiting this museum. We made a quick stop at the lovely gift shop, and then proceeded to the lower level. 



Across from the Museum Café was the Between Play & Grief: Selections from the Latino American Collection(through September 8). What a diverse selection of work!





This is just a fraction of the amazing pieces of fine art you can see at this Museum. We did not visit the Sculpture Garden as it was so hot that day (98 degrees!) or other buildings. I know we will be back when we visit Houston in the future. 

Admission is to the Museum is $17/adult ($15/senior), but Thursdays are free. Tickets that include the Van Gogh exhibition are $25/adult ($20/senior). Thanks to our daughter, Amanda, we provided comp tickets. For additional information about the Museum and exhibitions, go to www.mfah.org

Because we were downtown and Amanda was wrapping up a meeting at work, we met her at Cellar 7 for afternoon appetizers and a cocktail (www.cellar7htx.com). We arrived before the after-work crowd, and enjoyed spending some time together. 



(PS. John does not have a smile on his face, but, honestly, he was very happy all day!)

All and all, a lovely afternoon!