BEAN ANGST

Fred Faour: Really, we are going to war with Chicago over a freaking bean?

Chicago had its bean first. Getty Images

Initially, I put this article on my personal blog, freddysworldblog.blogspot.com. But since several people convinced me that this had become a competition and big story nationwide, I should post it on SportsMap. So here we go:

For some reason, with any controversy these days, we slap a “gate” on the end. And lo and behold, Houston finds itself mired in just such a national quarrel.

Call it “Beangate.” 

OK, let’s not. “Gate” is overused and a copycat term, and since the city is basically being accused of doing just that, let’s use something different. In fact, the impetus of all this is a structure called Cloud Gate.

So maybe we will go with something more simple: “Bean angst?”

It all started when Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts got a new statue, a work by British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor entitled “Cloud Column.” The structure is similar to a work he did for Chicago, “Cloud Gate,” better known as the famous Bean. Chicago’s structure is awesome and a tourist draw. Houston is obviously hoping for some of the same.

(Plus, who doesn’t want a structure from a “Sir?” It adds class and dignity. And who would not want to have Sir in front of their name? Sir Fred Faour. See? It’s a game changer.)

Suddenly at odds

The problem is our good friends in the Windy City are somewhat upset over Houston getting the new work of art, albeit it a vertical version of the Bean. In particular, a reporter named Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune is particularly bothered. Janssen did his best to troll the good people of Houston. 

Said Janssen: “If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices.”

Let’s toss in the headline for good measure: “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever

And, of course, now Houstonians are in an uproar over being called a “cultureless abyss.”

That qualifies as trash talk? That gets our city up in arms?

City on city crime

I would love to bash Chicago and come to our defense. But in truth, we brought it on ourselves. The headline on the story linked above in Houston? “Move over, Chicago, Houston has a bean now, too.” Yes, one could see why that would be considered “unoriginal.”  

Janssen seems more upset that Houston is going to pass Chicago as the third largest city sometime in the next decade. He writes, “the (Houston) metro area gained 94,417 residents in 2017, while the Chicago metro area lost 13,286 residents. If that trend continues, Houston could eclipse Chicago as the nation’s third largest city in the next 10 years.” Bad news, Kim, that trend has been going on for quite some time...Whatever.

I would love to list all the reasons why Houston is not a “cultureless abyss,” but if you live here, you already know them all. (And you won’t find an actual “abyss” in Houston other than the potholes). And I would also love to bash Chicago. But the reality is it’s a great city. I have spent a lot of time there, especially in the past two years. Sure, it has its negatives -- if you fly in via Midway, there is a *67.5 percent chance you will be murdered on the Uber ride to downtown. (*-based on watching episodes of Chicago P.D.). But it’s not like we don’t have our own questionable areas (“Gunspoint,” anyone?)

Millenium Park, home of the original Bean, is awesome and we have nothing like it here. Chicago’s downtown is loaded with excellent restaurants, bars and amazing architecture. It remains the cultural center of the Midwest. The craft beer scene is fantastic. Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s pizza are personally responsible for at least 10 of my pounds. 

Of the art we have collected for our home, everything is from Houston except two works, both purchased from a Chicago artist. I have Blackhawks gear I like to wear. So I would be hypocritical to bash the city. And I get the angst. Chicago has always been third fiddle in terms of culture behind New York and Los Angeles, and now some upstart is about to pass them for third largest city. Go cry in your multiple sports titles (see, there is your sports angle) and terrific beer and food scene, Chicago. And, oh, by the way, you still have a lot of unique structures that no one will ever be able to match. 

We should all grow up (me too)

And I will not give Houston a pass for the “move over, Chicago” bit. Our fine city has long had an inferiority complex. “Dallas gets a TV show. Wah. Austin gets to be the cool place. Wah. We didn’t get a space shuttle. Wah.”

“We get a bean, too, and can be just like Chicago!”
Whatever.

It would also be wrong to make fun of the writer who trolled Houston. That’s what trolls want, right? For you to come after them? Why would I take that bait? After all, his name is Kim. Unless you are Korean or a talented Canadian rocker or actor (Kim Mitchell, Kim Coates), your parents are dooming you to mediocrity at birth. I would never make fun of that. 

And there is no way I would mention that a reporter for a major newspaper has less than 4,000 Twitter followers. What has he been covering? Bake sales? Dog walks? Only someone from a cultural abyss would go there. So I won’t.

And there is no way I would bring up that newspapers in general are so desperate for relevance and survival they resort to trolling. That would be unoriginal of me. 

Can't we all get along?

So yes, Houston now has a bean. Should the brilliant work of a famous artist not be displayed because it is similar to something he did elsewhere? Should it just be locked away somewhere? There was a time when imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Where someone would say, “hey look, they want to be like us. Cool! Thank you!” Instead, we resort to insults. 

Then again, maybe you guys are the copycats; trying to steal our inferiority complex. So...Cool! Thank you!

Whatever.

Jovan Abernathy in Iceland. Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com.

So, I promised to tell you about my runcation to Iceland. I have to start with the race of course; that was my whole reason for going (Besides, I promised to give some shout outs. Before I tell you anything else, let me tell you about the Reykjavik Autumn Half and Full Marathon).

The local running clubs did an excellent job of showing the 300 run tourists and I the relaxed and friendly Icelandic running culture. Although small, the race was well organized. From the start line to the finish, we were kept as comfortable as possible from the freezing temperatures and constant wind.

Heated tents were there for us to gather in before and after the race. Once we crossed the finish line, we were handed our medals, a veggie sandwich, and chocolate treat, and most important, our beer.

They thought of every detail. Here is this for detail: the trophies that were handed to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finishers were made of basalt column hand-picked from a secret place in the mountains. Truly one of a kind. The course was an asphalt, flat terrained running trail that circled the island. I can now say that I ran around the Island of Reykjavik. I totally recommend this marathon for a destination race.

And now the truths….

This trip was centered around the marathon. I have dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights for quite some time. Oh how much I wanted to hold an Iceberg in my hands and to relax with a face mask in the Blue Lagoon. But, it didn’t happen. Needless to say, I was disappointed. In fact, I didn’t know how I felt about Iceland. So, I walked about and this is what I found.

Truth #1:

Icelandic people are very hospitable. The first couple of days, I spent my time meeting locals (By locals, I mean bartenders) and the other guests in the guesthouse. Very sweet people who are ready to get to know you.

Truth #2:

Iceland is not ice and Greenland is not green. The myth was a trick that Ingolfr Arnarson, the Viking who first settled Iceland, pulled on the rest of the world so every other heathen wouldn’t junk up his country. It is cold though. I strongly suggest packing a heavy coat, hat, ear muffs, waterproof gloves, and a ski mask, yes a ski mask.

Truth #3:

Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities in the world. No. 14 to be exact. Example: What can you get for $30 in Reykjavik? A 10 minute taxi ride to the start line OR (notice I said or) a burger and fries. The average price for a tour was 20,000 Icelandic Krona or $161.

Truth #4:

Transportation is free….because everything is in walking distance. During the days, I walked the city in search of murals to pose in front of. And at night, I walked the streets in search of Bjork and the Ice cubes, I mean Sugar cubes.

Truth #5:

Loki Guesthouse (where I stayed) is legit.

It has everything you need without being super fancy. This included a fully loaded kitchen, washer and dryer, and free wifi. Even though we had to share the bathroom, it made up for it with a shower with a hand held shower head with excellent water pressure (and ladies you know what that is good for, if you know what I mean as my eyes roll back.)

Truth #6:

Everything in Reykjavik is hard to pronounce.

Case in point. Loki Guesthouse is next to Hallgrimskirkja or as everyone calls “the Big Church.”

Truth #7:

You can drink the water right from the faucet.

But, please ignore the fact that it smells like boiled eggs. Just hold your nose and don’t ask questions.

Truth #8:

The Icelandic food tastes like…

I don’t know. You tell me. I could only afford ramen noodles from Bonus discount grocery store. It became a joke at the guesthouse. Everyone would go to Bonus and come back with Ramen noodles. You could also get a six pack of Thule (an ale with a smooth, crisp finish and official beer of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon which means the ends of the earth) for 75 cents. Now that’s legit.

Truth #9:

Reykjavik has an entire museum devoted to the penis. The Iceland Phallocogical Musuem has 280 specimens from 93 species of animals including whale. No, they do not have human specimens though porn star Jonah Falcon, who has the longest penis on record, has willed his penis to the museum when he passes.

Truth #10:

If you can’t get to the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik’s thermal swimming pools are the next best thing. Steamy oasis’ of hot water that stays open until 10 p.m. You can relax those muscles in a hot pot, hot tub, or sauna. Added bonus: Invest in a city pass and get free admission to all 8 thermal pools.

Truth #11:

Aside from Lake Como, Italy, Iceland is the safest place on earth. The police have only had to shoot one person in the history of modern police. The police don’t even carry guns. They actually have a special unit for that.

The last truth was revealed at the post race party which was held at...wait for it...Bryggian Brugghus Brewery in the Old Harbour. It is the poshest brewery I have ever seen. The race committee arranged for us to get half off beers if we wore our medals. So 12 of us got cozy on plush sofas in the corner.

We made our introductions. There was Antone (a Norwegian run coach), Svandhildur (who handed me my post race snacks), Craig (he ran his first full marathon in 3:53:00), his partner Shelley (who took the race photos). There was also Runa (the first Icelandic woman to run the Major 6 marathons) and Magano (who later drove me back to my hotel).

We took pictures, drank beer, and contemplated important questions on topics like which contributes most to Iceland’s GDP? Tourism or fish? Where’s you next runcation (Because there is always the next one)? And finally, what do you do when you client is faster than you?

As we talked, I realized the final truth: that this moment was what I came for. It was hard as hell to get here. I had to get really creative to make this happen, but I belonged here and I deserved it. I smiled knowing that I had the experience and the drive to get my goals accomplished and that I had another one in me. And since I hate the cold, I think the next one will be in the Amazon. I’m dead serious.

A special thanks to Petur Hegalson, race director and international ultra marathoner for the insight and the pictures and thank you for the volunteers of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon. The Reykjavik Marathon is held twice a year in the spring and autumn. If you want to make this a runcation destination, visit marathonlaup.is to register.

 

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