Some Final Thoughts About Chicago

We left Chicago a week ago and drove for two days. When we got home, I got sick. Today is the first day I felt like I could come to any conclusion about the two weeks we spent in Chicago.

A news story about the number of murders in Chicago this year, 113 so far, and calls for the National Guard to come in, prompted me to reflect on the experience. To a great extent, we were in a bubble by staying in Hyde Park and visiting the Loop and the Magnificent Mile. When you are a tourist in a city, you tend not to see the poorer and more crime-ridden areas

We did go to Pilsen, which is a Mexican- American neighborhood. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, which I feel gives it a less cohesive identity. Pilsen has a wonderful museum, The National Museum of Mexican Art and a great restaurant, Mundial Cocina Mestiza.  There were several closed shops and rundown buildings, but there was also a nice park with several baseball games going on.

Chicago has a large African-American population, although at the museum, an exhibit said that in a few years, Hispanics would be the largest ethnic group. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, many areas of Chicago underwent urban renewal. The government took the lead in these endeavors. Today private developers revitalize neighborhoods, and it is called gentrification.

Hyde Park-Kenwood was one of the areas that experienced urban renewal, although large housing projects were not built there. In this case, both the University and the city played a role. The main consequence appears to be that poor people moved somewhere else and the number of bars diminished.

I live in a college town. This year I have visited other college towns and have been surprised that they are not as similar to Amherst as I would have thought. Neither Raleigh nor Hyde Park had the number of shops, pizza places, bars, restaurants, or bookstores that Northampton and Amherst have. Perhaps what I think of as the typical college town is really more of a New England phenomenon?

Hyde Park Is Not That Convenient

We are staying in the Hyde Park area of Chicago. It is pretty with tree-lined streets and several parks. The apartment is about a twenty-minute walk to the University of Chicago. The problem is that there is no subway here and so far, everywhere we have thought about going is a long bus ride away. Also, I am used to college neighborhoods having restaurants, bars, bookstores, and pizza places. We have not found anything like that yet. It seems more like Raleigh than a first rate city. Maybe I am just used to New York. However, even Amherst, where the town is about three or four blocks, appears to have more going on.

A short walk from the apartment is a little strip mall with a small market, two restaurants, some stores and a CVS.  We ate at Cedars tonight and it was good. Tomorrow we are going downtown – long bus ride – and maybe we will see the real Chicago.

Book Review: Good Morning, Miss Dove

Frances Gray Patton published Good Morning, Miss Dove in 1954. It was an immediate success. Prior to writing this novel, she had published short stories in various magazines, including Harpers and the New Yorker. Patton was also a faculty wife who lived her whole adult life in Durham, North Carolina.

I read this book because I thought I might do research on Patton when we went to North Carolina. Duke had several faculty wives organizations including Law Dames (wives of law students) and the Reviewers Club. The Faculty Wives of NCSU occasionally had joint luncheons or meetings with wives clubs from the surrounding area.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is not about a college town or an academic instruction. Liberty Hill is not even a southern town. The book is about learning and the role of teachers.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is very sentimental and somewhat unrealistic.  Patton’s portrayal of Miss Dove borrows from other literary figures, including Mary Poppins. One character in the book even remarks on Miss Dove’s similarity to the British nanny.

The two characters share certitude and high self-esteem. Miss Dove does not possess any of the whimsy or magic of Mary Poppins. They also share an ability to transform the lives of their charges. Patton does capture the phenomenon that teachers can sometimes be the most important figure in a student’s life.

The book is dated both in use of language – “colored” and in the portrayal of the relationship between nurses and doctors. Although it is set in the present, 1954, it has an old time feeling. The only modern element is her discussion of World War II and the fate of some of her students.

The plot, if you could call it that, revolves around the sudden onset of paralysis for Miss Dove.  Her hospitalization and surgery allows Patton to explore and elucidate Miss Dove’s character and memories. The outcome is unsurprisingly positive. Both the town and Miss Dove have gained greater appreciation of the meaning of her life.

In 1955, Jennifer Jones starred in the movie version of Good Morning, Miss Dove. I wish I could see the movie because Miss Dove was not supposed to be a beautiful woman. So far, I have been unable to find the movie in either VHS or DVD format, which is surprising.

Movie Poster Good Morning, Dove
Movie Poster Good Morning, Miss Dove

Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got Nobody

Yesterday, Tenured Radical discussed an article in the New York Times that was examining the dating situation for young women on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The school is almost 60 percent female and that leaves many coeds “all dressed up with nowhere to go” on a Saturday night. Someone from the University explains they have this gender imbalance because they do not have an engineering school.

Many liberal arts colleges have a similar gender imbalance; the ratio tends to be 50 -50 or a higher amount of men when the school is strong in math,  science, and engineering. Historically when a profession became more than 50 percent female, it often became less valued. Of course, women now make up 50 percent of the workforce so it is not clear if that pattern will continue.

We spent a week in December at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. The whole experience had a retro aspect to it, which is similar to the feeling I got reading the New York Times article. Social and cultural life at NCSU appeared old fashioned, segregated, and more traditional in terms of gender issues. The same was true for the city of Raleigh.

Raleigh

We are home now after our two week research/vacation trip. Internet access was a bit of problem so I was not able to post as much as I would have liked. I have written before about the immediacy of blogging and how I sometimes just ignore that imperative. This turns out to be one of those times.

Our trip to Raleigh was very interesting, particularly because it was a Southern city. It seemed segregated; we did not see that many people of color in restaurants or at the university. Nine percent of the student population of North Carolina State University is African-American. This seemed low to me but there is a historically black college North Carolina Central University nearby in Durham, which is ninety percent African-American.

The underlying context of my new book, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees, is the changes in higher education in the past 100 years. After being in Raleigh, I wonder about the continued existence of historically black colleges, especially when they are state institutions.

I think my reaction to the lack of diversity in Raleigh is understandable, but I realize that Amherst, where I live, is not necessarily that much more diverse. The comparable public university in Amherst is the University of Massachusetts. Four percent of its student body is African American. The other two schools in Amherst, Amherst and Hampshire College are both private schools. Amherst College apparently does a good job in attracting a diverse student body since ten percent of its students are African-American.

My point is that I was approaching Raleigh from a holier than thou Northern perspective. On reflection, many places in America, both north and south, need to do a better job of creating and sustaining diverse, integrated communities.

Our last day in Raleigh we did sightseeing, which was very enjoyable. The Capital is a very pretty building and we got to go inside the Governor’s mansion, which was also very nice. The museums in Raleigh are free which is great. The history museum had a wonderful exhibit of pictures from the Depression and the natural history museum had a spectacular butterfly environment, which was spectacular.

The beer got better as we went along, and in the end I found two good craft beers:  Carolina pale ale and Bad Penny. Both were very enjoyable.

The people in Raleigh were very nice, hospitable, and friendly. My original impression of Raleigh was that it was similar to Springfield, Massachusetts. After six days there, I still feel this is true. Raleigh is a city with certain tourist attractions on an urban level but it does not have the energy, vitality, and thriving downtown of the great cities such as New York, Paris, Boston, Edinburgh, or San Francisco.

Raleigh - State Capitol

Research Trip Blues

Yesterday, our second day in Raleigh was not that much better from the food, beer, or entertainment side.  After our first full day in Raleigh, I have to say it is not my favorite place.  Heavy construction is going on around the University, making getting anywhere very difficult.

The library is beautiful and the people at Special Collections are very nice. It is modern with lots of comfortable seating.

After long day at the archive, we tried to find somewhere to eat. First, we went into a bar, which was so smoked filled I had trouble breathing. I have really forgotten what being around people who smoke is like.

We settled on another bar and sat in the dining area to try to avoid the smoke. I asked the server what kind of beer they had on tap. She replied, “Everything.” She then rattled off a lot of names – PBR, Bud, Coors, some names I had never heard of and Magic Hat. I asked her if there was any local beer. She replied, “Coors, everyone drinks that because it is cheap.” I said, “I mean beer made in North Carolina.” She said no.

I picked the Magic Hat. No. 9. I had never had it before. It was a standard lager and very sweet. So far, Raleigh seems to have a lot of fried food, smoking, and mediocre beer. Maybe tonight will be better.