Chicago the fantasticalA MEMORABLE PLACE"I never saw a...

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

September 19, 1999|By Harriet Felscher | Harriet Felscher,Special to the Sun

Chicago the fantastical

A MEMORABLE PLACE

"I never saw a purple cow, I never hope to see one ..." but I have seen a sky-blue cow with puffy white clouds scattered across its sides. And a cow all dolled up in a pink gown wearing lipstick and a tiara in a fashionable Chicago shop. And an iridescent white one, its horns piled high with beribboned gift boxes in front of a Marshall Field's department store.

There are 300 of these peaceable fiberglass creatures, life-size cows that amble or graze or just lie down on sidewalks, all over Chicago in a fanciful, slightly peculiar livestock exhibit that -- almost, but not quite -- recalls Chicago as a cow town.

My daughter, who lives in Chicago, was really excited about showing them to me on a recent visit. She had watched local artists -- who had been given the delightful task of decorating them as whimsically as they chose -- paint and paste strange things on the cows in the windows of a downtown storefront. She saw them appearing in even odder places than sidewalks (on the roof of the Water Tower gazing down through the trees) and wanted to take me to see as many as we could find. We started out by city bus to make a cow tour through the Loop before taking an architectural boat cruise through the city.

Once in the Loop, we had to stop and look at these cows close up. We circled one cow after another, peering at the toys, stamps, hats and beads that adorn them, and found ourselves reaching out to touch them gently on their haunches. Crowds of people around us were doing the same, curiosity and smiles on their faces.

We took the river cruise through downtown Chicago's spectacular architectural gems. We craned our necks from right beneath the buildings to see their tops -- it was a perfect day with bright sunshine and a cool breeze on the water.

At the end of the cruise, we took another bus out to the Field Museum to see bejeweled cows corralled on a spacious knoll just above Lake Michigan. On the front steps of the museum, a photographer took pictures of a handsome, reed-covered cow. This one looked -- almost, but not quite -- like a real brown cow.

Then, on a whim (no insides of museums today), we decided to chance another boat ride, departing from a dock below the museum, this time to see Chicago's skyline from a distance instead of towering over our heads. The morning's histories of the marshy cow town were repeated, but from a very different viewpoint. Now each distinctive building appeared toylike in this sunlit perspective across the water. The morning and afternoon cruises and the cows juxtaposed showed off something about the city. Just imagine a psychedelic herd of cows grazing on concrete dust below such extraordinary buildings.

No cow town this -- but it does have a fantastical edge!

Harriet Felscher lives in Baltimore.

MY BEST SHOT

People of Kenya

By Mary Beth Malooly, Baltimore

I took a trip to Kenya in 1990 through Towson University's biology department. It was a trip -- a dream -- of a lifetime that I'd had since I was 5 years old. This is a shot of the SamSuru people -- a desert people from northern Kenya. They appreciated the party favors and postcards of the plane I gave them.

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