All Apologies

Dear (probably the only 2 followers I have):

I haven’t posted in almost 2 years-I am so sorry about that. I had an unexpected job loss in 2015 that turned things fairly upside down. I did start a separate blog I did not publish and used as a journal for the associated anguish and frustration I experienced. I think I am back though. I will be better.

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What’s The Best Side?

Last Saturday, I went on a sound walk led by my brother, Norm. He is a sound artist; I think he may provide a better explanation of it than I can, so I’ll let you do the Googling. Anyway, he goes to different spots around the city to record as he walks. He has been to the Indiana Dunes, Jackson Park, Washington Park, the Near West Side and the West Side.

I decided not to do much last Saturday and was looking for some evening entertainment, so I agreed to go out on an East Garfield park sound walk. It was a muggy day, but overcast and breezy. I zig-zagged my way west from Bronzeville. I took Cermak to Ashland, then Ashland to Roosevelt and took that west to Kedzie. I saw some interesting things along the way. Two guys running in front of a parked police car with their lights on; I was afraid I was in the middle of an “incident” but it was a false alarm. At the same corner, a man was carrying what looked like a ten year old boy upside down. He didn’t appear to be in distress, but there wasn’t much I could have done-plus the cops were across the street.

I then headed north on Kedzie, it looked pretty bad. I am well aware of the reasons why, and I was happy to turn off it. Telling my mom, an old-timer about it, her reply was “Kedzie’s always been scary”. My destination was on Franklin Boulevard. Now since I claim to know so much about Chicago, I was surprised that I was not aware of this street. It appears to only exist between Sacramento and Central Park Avenues. It is quite a wide a green Boulevard, but the buildings on it are not very old. I arrived at the address I was to meet my brother at. I beat him there and discovered it was home to a white couple who also used the house as a gallery.

For you newbies, White people did live on the west side that we see today as predominantly black. The flight from the area started in the 1950’s and the riots of the 1960’s cleared out even more. Small businesses and major industries abandoned the area at the same time, and the city appeared to do nothing to keep the area from becoming a wasteland. So imagine my surprise when I pulled up to the house. The atmosphere was festive, as another art happening was taking place along with the sound walk. I kept my eye on the neighbors around because number 1, I was worried about a drive-by happening, and number 2, I wanted to know how they regarded the White folks.

Franklin looking west
Franklin looking west

Things were quite chill, my brother arrived and we mingled with other arrivals. A number of police cars were flying west on Franklin, which tingled my Spidey-senses. It turns out the “boom” sounds I heard prior to their appearance were not firecrackers after all. We took a walk around the block, being quiet as my brother instructed us. We all quietly spoke or smiled at neighbors crossing our paths. One of which was a guy with a little girl and Pit Bull. The pup was cute, but it was on a leash so I felt safe. We were on Ohio and St. Louis; two police SUV’s passed us, with quizzical stares. One made a u-turn and told us about the gunshots to the west and to be mindful of any activity.

Conservatory at sunset
Conservatory at sunset

We returned to the house as the sun was setting more. We then walked to the Lagoons at Garfield Park, which was where the police were headed earlier. It was uneventful and I got a few sunset photos, but my camera was not cooperating, so half of the photos came out fuzzy. My back had finally had enough for the evening, but we were returning to the art house already. By then it was just plain dark, but my brother was taking questions about the walk. I was getting anxious, because how many times do you hear “shots were fired into a group of people” on the news. I got my brother’s attention to see if he needed a ride to the bus stop. He said no, and I told him I had fun but I was out of there.

Lagoon
Lagoon

Round and Round

Hello All!

I just finished watching the latest installment of HBO’s Real Sports. Urban bike riding in the U.S was a featured segment. While it looks great, being a urban biker scares me. Bike lanes and bike sharing are spreading across the country and many city officials are trying to find a balance for bikers and vehicle drivers to coexist peacefully. The segment highlighted several accidents in which bikers were killed by vehicles and pedestrians were killed by bikers. No one was ever charged or convicted in those cases, which just adds to the devastation felt by the victims’ families.

Gumbel and crew traveled to Denmark, where riding one’s bike is part of the daily routine. The post war decades brought automobiles and congestion and the people revolted, bringing about the “bike culture”.

Next stop was Amsterdam, where 60% of the population used bicycles for transportation. However, so many people ride bikes, that parking garages and barges are used for the bicycles of commuters.

The show concluded that as the U.S’s population grows, vehicle congestion will worsen, and solutions being researched to incorporate more bicycling to get around. Many experts noted that most Americans see riding a bicycle a recreational activity and not a daily transportation option.

Here’s my take-

I live and drive in Chicago. I don’t want to be anywhere on the streets on a bike. There are just a handful of neighborhoods where one could bike from home to stores and transit links without encountering major arteries carrying dense and fast moving traffic. And retrofitting some streets here to add bike lanes have rubbed me the wrong way. As a driver, nothing good can come from reducing a two-lane street to one lane, but that’s the only way. However, new, Master-planned communities can really shine from good planning.

I applaud the brave souls who do take to the streets, but it just does not feel safe enough for me yet. I hope things do change for those like myself and for those who have not thought about biking as an option at all.

Arts and Crafts at the Asylum

The last few months I have been using art to work out my issues. I was dabbling on Amazon and ordered a pattern coloring book and a six-pack of markers. Since then I have added one more book and become a regular customer at Blick art supplies on Kingsbury. I found some of my Prismacolor (expensive) markers from my college says fifteen years ago. However, I soon discovered that while they were full of ink the color no longer matched the description on the label. I’ve been off the chain with my coloring, so here are some samples:

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So it’s evident I like Purple and Turquoise. I feel so centered when I am working on these, If you have the budget, Prismacolor markers are awesome, but I use the Blick Studio markers, about a dollar cheaper than Prismacolors. I also use Tombow Brush markers-which are water-based and do not bleed like Blicks and Prismacolor. Sharpies work, but they bleed and do not come in a big variety of colors, but are about a dollar less than the Tombows.

May 14th (Insert Year)

Tonight is the eve of my birthday, and no I’m not telling you my age. I have been thinking of the many spots in Chicago where I have spent my birthday. My earliest birthday destination my have been Showbiz Pizza. Basically Chuck E Cheese, I think they bought out Showbiz. I remember the robotic animals, game tickets and pizza of course. Was there a funny smell?

When I turned 13, I convinced my mother to take me to the Hard Rock Cafe in River North. This was a feat-to ask her, on a weekday after teaching crazy-ass kids all day to take me downtown to eat. I’m actually starting to feel guilty now. And guess what, when we finished eating, she realized she had a flat tire. It got remedied somehow, we were home by 10pm.

I’m sure we hit Pizza Hut a few times, but no specific memories come to mind. I am sure I hit the golden arches before my tastes became too discriminating. Two years, 8 and 10 I had parties at my house, so I may not have had dinner out.

My sweet sixteen was okay. That was not a girly phase for me, although from photos, my friends had a great time at my house. We did go to Lansing to see The Crow, but I can’t remember any meals from that day.

When I was eighteen, I was mad and I ate a hot dog for dinner. I think I had to face the injustice of eating it on bread too. I I could not believe that my mom was putting off a fancy birthday dinner for another day. “My birthday is now and we must celebrate it NOW” is how I felt. I even wore a dress to school, which I never did and my friends forgot it was my birthday. We eventually went to the Medici on 57th.

In my college years, my birthday fell just days after moving out for the Summer. I met up with friends one year at Taza on Wabash and Monroe. It was an “all kind of chicken” kind of place. I was partial to their chicken pesto sandwiches.

When I turned 21, I went out with my brother and cousins to the House of Blues. I had crawfish etouffe, a daquiri and after I got home I threw up. But it was a great night before I high-tailed it to the bathroom. Life lesson-no booze and seafood. I still stick to that today.

Tell Me What You Really Think Rick

I stumbled across a salon.com interview with travel guru Rick Steves from 2009. It was very insightful and told us more about the happy-go-lucky tour guide people know from watching PBS.

I think I began watching Travels in Europe in high school or college. I was immediately hooked, and stored the knowledge for whenever I would be able to escape to Alsace or the Cinque Terra. He made some good points about customs, Americans and travel vs, tourism. The funniest point he made is that only Westerners sit on their toilets, other cultures are squatters-I had no idea. My trip to Germany last year did reveal that the toilets have shelves in them; supposedly for fecal surveillance. I’ll leave that right there.

Steves also noted that only a third of the world eats with forks and knives. The next third with chopsticks, and the last third with their hands. His point was that Americans who have not had diverse travel experiences believe their way and culture is the “norm”. Everyone else is either deviating or abnormal.

He also believes there is a distinct difference between travel and tourism. He compared tourism to the all-inclusive resort compounds full of other tourists-usually attractive ones. He has faith that savvy, experienced travelers know the difference between a tourist trap and an authentic experience. If you have watched his show as long as I have, that travel savvy will rub off on you.

The interview shows a strong desire from Steves that Americans see the world. He sees travel as an educational tool that exposes us all to the fact that most people want the same out of life-health, happiness and happy children, but politics and extremism sometimes get in the way of how outsiders see these desires. His persona on his show is more friendly towards this issue, but the article shows a deeper and more passionate argument for international travel and a more connected world.

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.salon.com/2009/03/20/rick_steves/