Chicago: a race, a violin, and All. That. Jazz……

“The Bean,” a cool piece of public art shimmers in front of the Chicago skyline.

So originally I’d had high hopes of getting to Maine or Arizona or Montana or St. Louis or San Francisco or Boston.  But scheduling in a trip to one of those places just wasn’t in the cards.  Theoretically I’ve been to Chicago before on a high-school jazz band trip.  I remember the house in the suburbs where we stayed and the school where the competition was.  Mom says we also took a trip into the city, and while I believe her, I don’t remember any of that part of the trip….and the few days this past week that I spent in Chicago didn’t ring any bells in my memory.  So I decided that I’m going to count Chicago as my new major city and cross off a list item:

5. Visit a new state OR major city

This trip turned out to be pretty epic.  First of all, I got to spend some time with Harriet, a Compassion LDP student from Kenya.  And you already know how I feel about those Compassion LDP students.  They amaze me.  Then of course there was the free yoga-in-the-park class on Saturday morning.  And then there were the violins.

I started taking violin when I was 2 and a half.  Sometime shortly thereafter I got on the mailing list of Bein & Fushi, a stringed instrument shop that deals only in high-end violins, violas and cellos.  When I was three or four I decided to write them a letter telling them how much I enjoyed the yearly calendar that they sent out with all the violin pictures and that I was only 3 and couldn’t buy one of their violins.  I received in reply a very kind letter from Mr. Fushi telling me best of luck in my studies and that if I ever came to Chicago, he would love for me to visit his shop.  [side note: unfortunately, Mr. Geoffrey Fushi passed away this past April.]  About 27 years later, Keith and I rode the elevator to the 10th floor (might I add that the elevator had an operator!) to visit the Bein & Fushi shop….a place that has seemed magical to me almost my entire life.  (I truly felt as if someone had told me Narnia was real and I could go there.)

About to “step through the wardrobe” into Bein&Fushi. The photo on the wall through the door is used for the cover of their yearly calendar.

We were immediately greeted by Joe Bein, son of the “Bein” in the shop name.  I told him about my letter and he asked if I still played violin.  I told him I did still play and he asked if I’d like to try something out.  I was ushered into the large front room that boasts an amazing view of Millenium Park and Lake Michigan, where the Stradivari Society has their recitals.  Joe re-appeared with a beautiful violin made by the famed maker Guarneri (pronounced “Gwin-air-ee”) in the 1750’s and told me to play as long as I’d like.  I’m not certain of the exact price of this violin, but I’m pretty sure it’s probably worth more than our house and cars put together.  As well it should be.  The sound was magnificent and the playability was exceptional.  It was such an easy instrument to play….as if it anticipated what I was going to ask it to do next.  I played for a bit as Keith snapped photos and then laid it back on the velvet table in the middle of the room, figuring that we probably shouldn’t take up any more time.  As we were turning to leave, Joe came back with another violin.  I thanked him for letting me play the Guarneri and told him we were going to head out.  He laid the second fiddle down and said, “You should play this one before you leave.  You’ll regret it if you don’t.”  It was nicknamed the “Earl Spencer Strad” and had been made in 1723 by Antonio Stradivari, the world’s most famous violin luthier (maker).  It was at one point owned by the family of the late Princess Diana and she apparently took violin lessons on that violin when she was younger.  Her father sold it at auction at Christie’s in 1977.  Again, I’m not certain of the value of the Spencer Strad, but I looked up the most recent auction prices for Strads, and they average between 1 and 5 million dollars.  I was sweating the entire time I was playing it.  It was one of those moments in life where you think, “I’m never going to get to do this again.”  And it was magic.

Playing the 1750’s Guarneri violin.

Playing the 1723 Earl Spencer Strad. I’m not known for making pretty faces when I play. 🙂

The Strad is on the left, or top of the photo and the Guarneri is on the right, or bottom of the photo. I also fell in love with the bow laying in between the two, but since it alone cost $38,000, it did not come home with me.

Amazing view of Lake Michigan from the front window of Bein & Fushi!

A few weeks ago when Keith was doing some preliminary research to see what was going on the weekend we’d be there, he’d discovered that the Rock ‘N’ Roll series Chicago 1/2 marathon was going to be that weekend so of course I had to sign up.  The race was so much fun…it begins in Millennium Park, winds it’s way through downtown past famous landmarks and then up Lakeshore Drive back to the park for the finish line.  I’d set a goal of finishing in 2:45 which I didn’t quite attain.  But, with an official race time of 2:48:17, I still beat my previous 1/2 marathon time of 2:52:14 by 3 minutes and 57 seconds.  I have a feeling this is due largely in part to the fact that I didn’t walk at all this entire race!  Granted my “run” by the time I hit miles 10 through 13.1 was more of a trudging jog than a run, but I never once broke stride.  And it was HOT!  The Nashville half was super hilly, but Chicago was super hot!  I think had it been cooler I could have really smoked my time.  Next time.  Wait, did I just say “next time?” (Keith and Jessica… does New Orleans sound?)  {Side note:  I love that I can REALLY officially know I checked the 1/2 marathon off my list.  I’d worded it as “run/complete a 1/2 marathon” because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to run the whole thing and just wanted to get to the finish line.  Which is what happened the first time. But THIS time….I ran the whole thing, baby!}

Official race results.

ready to run! standing in my corral listening to the start gun go off for all the folks ahead of me!

Excited to see Keith at mile 6.5! Halfway there!

Proud of my finisher medal!

And just to reassure you that Keith did not spend his entire vacation taking photos while I played violins and ran: we also took a hop-on-hop-off-double-decker-bus-tour of Chicago, shopped on the “Magnificent Mile” (Keith had to practically drag me out of American Girl Place, the American Girl Doll store), listened to a free concert in the same pavilion where I did yoga (add in a symphony, some Rossini, a starry sky and some ambient lighting and that place is magical as well), saw an improv comedy show at the Second City Improv theater (which boasts famous alumni such as Steve Carrell, Rachel Dratch, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Shelley Long, Chris Farley, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler just to name a few), ate great, cheap sushi, rode the “L,” and generally enjoyed ourselves.  Oh.  And even though I’ve already completed all of my “tasting new foods” list item, I will tell you that I tasted deep dish pizza.  And I didn’t really like it.  Way too much sauce.  But, proud that I’m up for tasting new foods thanks to the old blog project.

So, to recap I’ll leave you with a two lists, and some fantastic photos taken by my husband, who is a great photographer.

List Items Crossed off on my Chicago trip:

5. Visit a new state OR major city

18. Take a yoga class

Plus, a new “X” by 3. Read 8 books (one a month) 

Things I Wish Had Been On My List To Cross Off Because They Were Fairly Epic Too:

A) Play a violin made by Antonio Stradivari (alternately titled “play a violin that is worth more than the collective value of everything I will ever own in my entire life.”)

B) See a Great Lake

C) Run a SECOND half marathon

Aboard the double-decker bus tour taking in the sites!

The pavilion in Millennium Park at night during the Rossini concert.

Really cool fountain/video art/sculpture feature during the day…..

……and all lit up at night!


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About bethanybordeaux

I fiddle around a bit.

5 responses to “Chicago: a race, a violin, and All. That. Jazz……”

  1. A Light at the End of the Fiber says :

    What what?? My two violins, two bows, two cases, and other associated paraphernalia don’t cost as much as that bow, even. Probably not even the bow hair. :p And I’m just not even sure what to think about playing a Guarneri or a Strad…I think epic does sum that up. 🙂

  2. Momma Daniel says :

    What can I say?!? So many exciting experiences you’re enjoying – and while you’re young – and that Keith enjoys them all with you. That’s the best part!

  3. pbrowder says :

    I want you to know I cried when I read the story of you playing the violins. That is such a once in a lifetime story and I just wish Keith could have video taped it so we could have heard you also. I am so thankful you both have the opportunities to live life to the fullest.

    • bethanybordeaux says :

      actually…..Keith DID tape me. But the violins were out of tune….and I was too afraid to tune them, so the recordings don’t sound super great. The kind of thing, you treasure….but don’t post on a blog. (Maybe I’ll let you see them at the holidays!)

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