6C Chicago Bohemian Society

October 30, 2007

The three cousins told the rest of us (privately, out of earshot of our aunts) that Diana had so dominated their father, the doctor, that he died a “broken man.” I was not surprised, though I fond Diana less irritating than I had found my Grandmother Agnes.

After Grandfather Harry had died, broken or not I don’t know, Agnes had left Chicago and come to live with Naomi in Orange County, California, so I do remember her. I did not like her, but then I didn’t like most of my family very much.

My three sisters had apparently been part of bohemian Chicago society in the 1930s. I can drop a couple of famous names, at least in retrospect. Apparently my family knew the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, at least slightly. I believe when I was a baby I was introduced to him once, or at least displayed to him.

(Although my daughter did not know Frank Lloyd Wright, she has a strong dislike of him and his work. I have not discussed this with her in detail, but Wright’s life was filled with commotion and turmoil. He does sound like a bit of a jerk, although perhaps a very talented jerk.)

My Aunt Naomi once told me that she and the other bohemians of her time used to sit in cafes and talk about the great novels they were going to write, and other works of art they were going to create, but in most cases they just talked about them and never got around to actually doing the writing and creating.

To illustrate the value of hard work, Naomi told me that one of the members of the café society would disappear for long periods of time, and actually write a novel. Several more books appeared over the years. His name was Nelson Algren. His most famous book (which I’ve never gotten around to reading) is Man with the Golden Arm, a book about morphine addiction.

Algren who had been in jail (for a minor crime) like many people of his time was a leftist and an advocate and spokesman for the poor and outcasts of society. I don’t know if the comparison fits, but I think of him as sort of the “Jack Kerouac” of his time.

As bohemians, my father’s three sisters all had artistic ambitions. Although she did not become a famous ballerina, Naomi did dance professionally. Apparently the apex of her dance career was dancing in the chorus line of a road company production of the famous Musical Oklahoma.

As I mentioned, Diana became involved (like her mother) in children’s theater. My impression is that the work she did in this area was not as dreadfully awful as her mother’s. Next, Henriette the opera singer.

5 Responses to “6C Chicago Bohemian Society”

  1. renaissanceguy Says:

    I’m enjoying your posts on your eccentric family. I hope that you are benefitting from writing about them.

    I remember how you told me that family history was not something that interested you much, and this certainly isn’t going too far back in history, but I wonder how thinking and writing about these folks is impacting you.

  2. modestypress Says:

    Hi Renaissance Guy,

    That’s a perceptive question. There is quite a bit going on at present right now with my aunt, and some tricky problems to solve and decisions to make. I wasn’t quite sure how to address the current situation, and in discussing the roots of the present, I began thinking about the past. I haven’t really got yet to the present situation yet, which is developing day by day, faster than I can write about it.

    Also, I posted in a hurry this morning, and just realized all my paragraphs were run together, so as I get a chance, I will clean up the article a bit.

  3. renaissanceguy Says:

    I know you don’t believe in God, but I pray that he give you and anyone else in the situation the wisdom that you need.

    I don’t want to be presumptious, but use me as a sounding board if you like.

  4. modestypress Says:

    Renaissance Guy, I appreciate your offer, and don’t consider you presumptuous in making it.

    I have cleaned up the paragraphs in this post. If you just read it, you won’t know that they were messed up in the past.

  5. cheles Says:

    Wow. I’m starting to think that your family and my family (on my father’s side) are possibly related, lol. They’re a strange but bright lot too.

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