Saturday, January 29, 2005

Hey ladies, BOW!

Okay, one more discovery to share with you from my poking around the State of Illinois website. Then, I've got to do laundry and pay bills.

Ladies! You can Become an Outdoors-Woman thanks to the Illinois Deparment of Natural Resources and a non-profit group, BOW.

The Become a City Woman program (BOCW), with skills like how to get your table moved deeper into the non-smoking section, who's your alderman, and where to buy a good donut, has yet to be developed.

A Deeper Shade of Blue, Part Two

First Illinois committed to protecting gay people from discrimination. Now, they've made it illegal for health insurance companies to charge women for birth control pills. God, I love this state.

Whadda you say we wait seven days, and if we aren't all mingling in hell by then, the right wingers call it a day?

Update: I had this wrong. Insurance companies must cover the pills, but they may charge something for them. At least I had the seven days part right. Be gone with you right wingers!

Friday, January 28, 2005

You'll Never be Stirred to Greatness Here

Posted by Hello

Yesterday I went to the Harold Washington Library for the first time in a long while and was reminded that the building is like a dunce's paper bag. You can't find your way out of it. Or, into it for that matter.

They shaped the main lobby like a giant cube. Four corridors depart off of it, but not one architectural detail suggests where the hallways lead. Left-over street banners and other paper afterthoughts sag from the walls. In the center of the lobby the architects created a circular opening in the floor that lets you gaze one whole storey below. The main level also houses the "Popular Library." I think this is where you'll find the Danielle Steel novels and the cool high school kids, but I may be wrong about that. Perhaps it's where they put the Starbucks.

The architects hid the unpopular library two escalators up, around a few corners, and through an undistinguished entry-way. Signs with giant letters and arrows shout from the gray walls. They seem to trying to make up for the work the architecture failed to do. Their bland tyepface drains the warmth from the atmosphere that the wood paneling and retro-lamps struggle to provide.

The architects tried to breathe some life into the place by stencilling quotations from Big Thinkers on the walls, but they failed miserably. You'll never be stirred to greatness here. You'll never feel inspired to invent a flying machine or pen a novel based on Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Frankly, you'd be lucky to find the books you want.

The library makes almost no effort to help patrons figure out what floors house which books. When I told a reference librarian that I was having a hard time finding the call number locations for the titles I needed, she laughed and said, "Tell me about it. We should really have those posted somewhere." Then she reached for a thin black binder where she kept the secret information. My six books were located on four different floors.

Even the library's website takes pains to distance itself from the creation:

The architect responsible for the design is Thomas H. Beeby and his colleagues in the firm Hammond, Beeby and Babka. It was their design as a part of the Sebus Group that won a design/build competition in June of 1988.

In other words, we're not responsible. We love libraries. Beeby's the one who hates them.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

When You're With a Sweep . . .

I had my chimney swept today by a skinny man with a smile like Dick Van Dyke's. His cheeks were covered with gray soot. I think he might have rubbed it on right before he rang my doorbell. He came right in and set to work. He spread a sheet in front of my fireplace and removed the screen as if it were a rare painting. He cleaned out the ashes with an industrial vacuum and then opened his tool box full of brushes. One brush looked like the wooden type you might buy to scrape snow off your car. Another broke into three parts and had bristles that looked like a spikey Cher haircut. It disappeared up the chimney one inch at a time. At the bottom of the tool box was an improbably gold shovel. It flashed at me from the nineteenth century, caught me marveling at its owner. Then, as quickly as he arrived, my sweep left. He folded up his tools, tipped his hat, and disappeared over the roof tops of Old Town. I completely forgot to shake his hand.

Flyers on Your Windshield

Nordic Skiing at Camp Sagawau in Cook County. . . HotHouse February Calendar of Latin and African Dance, Jazz, Blues and Improvised Music . . .Free Green Tech U courtesy of Richard M. Daley. . ."Really new music spiked with jazz, rock, folk and a dash of zen" from Fulcrum Point

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Then & Now: 1327 N. Noble

Balloon man and boys in front of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. 1911.

Van in front of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 2005. Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Chicago's Finest (No Irony Intended)

"Many men of the Sikh faith wear a small sword under their clothing. Orthodox Jews often refuse to move illegally parked cars on Saturdays. Outsiders may photograph statues in Buddhist temples, but not in Hindu ones.

These are some of the insights in a series of videos the Chicago Police Department uses to train its officers in dealing with non-Christians. Community leaders say the videos have substantially improved relations between various religious groups and police officers.

'This is not just a superficial thing,' said Kareem M. Irfan, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. 'It has changed our community's relationship with the police to the extent that people are beginning to see the Chicago Police Department as an ally rather than an opposing force.'"
From The New York Times, January 23, 2005


And now for a word from Michelle La Groue, Miss Illinois 2004

Happy New year to everyone! I hope that 2005 is a year full of realized dreams and lots of success for all of you. December was not very busy for me as Miss Illinois, but still a fulfilling month between visiting friends and spending time with family for the holidays. . .

I was honored to be the emcee for an Essay, Poetry and Art contest awards event at Jones High School in Chicago on December 16. . . . I am very excited as these students give tangible evidence of the violence that the Miss Illinois Organization is taking a stand against.

On a lighter note, the weekend of December 10-12 was a small Miss America Reunion in Nashville, TN. A few of us met in Nashville hosted by Ashley Eicher, Miss Tennessee, and had a blast together. Thanks, Ashley! It was our first time to see each other after the Miss America competition in Atlantic City and so fun to hang out without any pressure of competition.

Thank you for your continued support.
E-mail me

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Deeper Shade of Blue

On the heels of the inauguration of a detestable President whose key supporters conveniently ignore that Christ wanted us to love our neighbors, I am proud that yesterday our state prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nothing threatens my marriage, my family, or my children's well-being more than the support of bigotry. I am happy and grateful to live here.

Governor's press release

Friday, January 21, 2005

Not Made in Chicago

The clothes I put on this morning and where they came from:

  • Blue wool sweater. Made in Hong Kong. Bought at Saks Fifth Avenue (on clearance).
  • Gray v-neck cotton t-shirt. Label missing. Origin unknown.
  • White bra. Made in Indonesia. Bought at Target. (It pains me to tell you that.)
  • Rust corduroy pants. Made in Cambodia. Bought at Old Navy.
  • Underwear. Made in Israel. Bought at Victoria's Secret.
  • Blue cotton socks. Origin unknown.
  • Brown snow boots. Made in China. Bought from Lands' End.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Splitting Food Hairs with Ira Glass, Continued

You'll never guess who stopped by my humble, cobbled blog the other day. Mr. Ira Glass.

If you look around, you'll know I'm in no way ready for a visit from the big-time likes of him. I've got draperies to hang, boxes to unpack, and I can't decide what color to paint the rec room. Long ago I realized with my real house that if I waited until it was immaculately clean to have people over, I'd end up dying alone in an unmade bed. So be it with my blog. Come on in, Ira. It's my honor. The place is a mess, but go ahead and make yourself at home.

It seems Ira got word that I was niggling over some nuances of a review he wrote in the Reader (January 15 blog entry).

He dropped in to clarify:

I meant "neighborhood restaurant" as something connoting a sense of size and scale. Reasonable prices. Everyday eating. Versus, say, a tourist restaurant or a fancy businessman's restaurant.
I get this. To the list of neighborhood restaurant features, I'd add dedicated personnel who seem integral to the enjoyment of the place. I'm thinking here of the ubiquitous, gracious owner of Aladdin Falafel House on Lincoln Avenue. Or, the warm owner of Think who daydreamed about putting a nursery downstairs so parents could enjoy dinner while she cared for their kids. Or, the host of Club Lago who kissed his two fingers and waved them at us as we left -- "See youse!"

At neighborhood restaurants, great food and great people blur. Choosing the best, I still think, is a bit like choosing a favorite relative. But, Ira deserves a break here. It was a 300-word restaurant review, not an urban studies thesis.

Coming Soon: Part 2 - Quibbling over the Importance of "New York"

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Splitting Food Hairs with Ira Glass

The first place I go to look for restaurant options is the Reader. Their "R"-rated spots almost always satisfy, and they frequently identify places I might not have discovered otherwise. So when I read that Lula Cafe received a "RRR" featuring a superlative review by Ira Glass, local-boy-turned-NPR-legend, I headed over there. Yes, the place is truly notable. You must go.

But two things in his review struck me.

First, he writes: "I don't say this lightly: it may be the best neighborhood restaurant in Chicago."

I don't think you can say a neighborhood restaurant is the best in Chicago any more than you can say Pilsen is better than Andersonville. Maybe he means "best restaurant located in a neighborhood." But the adjective where he's placed it suggests to me that the restaurant is particularly representative of the neighborhood somehow. That's hard to find and do. And, I don't think that's what Lula Cafe is, as splendid as it is.

Second, he writes: "I brought a friend who's a professional chef in New York, and he stuck around for hours to order nearly everything on the menu. "

Why use the qualifier "in New York"? It has an unfortunate whiff of cultural one-upsmanship. I'd like to think his including it was a grammatical reflex rather than a hint of the spoils of fame.

For the record: a) I don't know Ira Glass; b) I really love and admire This American Life; c) I suspect everything tastes different on the radio.