Friday, February 26, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

Again with my "old people ride free "card in hand I boarded the #66 bus to the Blue Line. At the next stop a woman with white hair and carrying a book boarded and announced loudly " I had colon surgery a month ago, so I'm sitting in the handicapped seat." She was commenting to anyone who would listen about a number of topics. I used my no eye contact defense. At the next stop a gentleman in a wheelchair boarded and the riders on one of the benches quickly gave up their seats to accomodate him. Two stops later a young woman with a baby in a stroller boarded - which should have required the loud lady to give up her seat. Instead she shouted, "There's no room on this bus for that baby." Oh boy - the young woman then called her a stupid b**ch. Loud lady replied, "I'm not stupid, I have an IQ of 130." Role model mommy came back with - "then you're just an old b**ch!" To which loud lady responded with "I'm not that old - I'm only 58." Perfect opening for role model mom to point at the sign and shout "then get out of the f***in seat reserved for elderly people." Loud lady's "f*** off!" resulted in role model mom shoving the baby carriage into loud lady's knee -at which point loud lady started kicking role model mom AND the baby carriage. Others starting chiming in on both sides. I switched from no eye contact to move to the rear entrance of the bus defense. The gentle bus driver, pulled over and moved in to arbitrate and admonish both parties. We got to the Blue Line about 20 minutes late and grateful that the ride was over.

Role model mom and her baby, boyfriend and a couple of friends followed me into the car and never shut up about the incident all the way to Rosemont. I have no idea exactly what they were saying because he normal looking couple sitting behind me turned out to be a woman and her father who were loudly reliving the details of the woman's divorce hearing that they had just attended. ALL THE WAY TO ROSEMONT.

Fast forward to the return trip on the Blue Line. At about Montrose our car was filled with the smell of something burning. Sure enough there was a small fire on the outside of the car - just near the door. We high tailed it onto the platform where we herded ourselves into the more forward cars. After a 10 minute delay we were on our way downtown - and as an added bonus, the train ran express to Logan Square- making up for lost time. I got home on the #66 with no incident and boarded a #146 to my meeting at the Harold Washington library. At the next stop two slobbering, foul-mouthed drunks who staggered on gave a running commentary ALL THE WAY TO STATE AND LAKE.

Returning home from the library I was grateful for the relative quiet of only cell phones and texting.

No kidding - all this in one day on the CTA - I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Thanks, again Blago.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Garden in Winter

An errand took me to the Harold Washington Library today. I had not visited in a while. The 145 bus dropped me right at the back door - an interesting way to enter this building, full of twists and turns. The shining surfaces must be hard to keep gleaming, but they do it well. More than just a library, this is a gathering place, part museum - part learning center. My errand was completed quickly and with grace and efficiency by the librarian on the 6th floor. I was not in any hurry to go back out into the cold, damp gloom. I decided to treat myself to a self guided tour. While somewhat overwhelming, once I caught the rhythm of the progression from floor to floor I was amazed.

Private spaces in this nine story building abound. One floor had what seems like hundreds of computers set up for use by cardholders. There was a waiting list, and handily, a comfortable seating area with newspapers from all over the world to peruse while waiting.

Every floor has nooks and crannies with either tables or cubicles with wi-fi connections. There seemed to be people doing taxes, writing papers, preparing resumes and just enjoying reading. Others, sad to say, had picked a warm place to settle in (with possessions in tow) to avoid the cold. Everyone was respectful of each others' silence.

I ended my tour on the ninth floor in the magnificent Winter Garden. Another great escape from Chicago's winter. Somehow looking up through the glass roof made the snow seem more palatable. I'll be back and next time I'll stay and read a book in one of those great private spaces. Check it out yourself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jewels of the Atlantic

Two of my favorite places to visit are Cape Cod and the Florida Keys. Whether you cross the Bourne or Sagamore bridge and head east and north to the Cape or take U.S.1 onto the Overseas Highway south to the Keys, you are traveling a narrow band of earth surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and going north, Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound. Going south its the Gulf of Mexico and specifically Florida Bay. Both have evacuation route signs and animal crossing signs - crocodiles to the south and deer to the north.

Heading north to the Cape you'll see quaint town centers with Puritan Shops, Mark Fore and Strike and cutesy colonial buildings with white tablecloth restaurants. My favorite spots are Cuffys for shopping and the Chatham Squire for decent food in a fun place. Head south to the keys and a string of T-Shirt shops "5 T-shirts for $10.00" and ramshackle "All You Can Eat Peel On Shrimp" shacks. My favorites are World Wide Sportsman for shopping and Lazy Days for great fish dinners overlooking the ocean.

If these two vacation spots were siblings, Cape Cod would be the well behaved older child and the Keys the slutty younger sister.

Take neighborhoods - on the Cape you have well defined communities which are clearly identifiable as middle class, upper class, lower class and so on. In the Keys one community bleeds into the next and you are likely to see a multi-million dollar gated home across the street from the local guy with 3 beaters up on blocks.

Can we talk about beaches? Because of the magnificent coral reef, the Keys have no natural beaches on the ocean side - no waves to create sand. The scraggy shore is broken up by stands of highly protected mangrove forests and the mighty Atlantic is reduced to a shimmering, gentle giant, feeding the pelicans as well as the fishermen. The Cape abounds with majestic dunes and large waves and therefore long stretches of sandy beaches, many alive with harbor seals. The Cape oceanfront is a bit scary in its vastness and depth - and gulls rather than pelicans abound.

Even at their extremities they are so alike and so different. P-Town and Key West are both known as party central - but feel so different. P-Town acts almost embarrassed at its wildness and is more subdued than Key West, where the pandemonium is all out "in your face". Both have wading birds and feral cats - but Key West has the added madness of feral chickens.

They are both indeed jewels of nature. Cape Cod is the string of pearls worn at the Falmouth Yacht Club and the Chatham Bars Inn. The Keys are the ankle bracelets and bangle earrings that are more at home at Sloppy Joe's and Hog Heaven.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

What looks like an ordinary spagetti scoop has also been used in our house......

....As a back scratcher

.....To reach items on high shelves

.......To pull the speed change chain on the ceiling fan

..........To drag a shoe out from under the bed

.............To scoop out laundry from the bottom of a deep washing machine

................To open a cabinet when my hands are sticky

And of course to pull pasta from the boiling water.

I'll bet you can think of other uses. I can't live without mine. How about you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Worth It and Then Some.

No need to have stressed. The trip was well worth it. In a nutshell:

*Free "Blago Pass" rides to and from O'Hare

* Friendly airline and TSA agents

* Any flight that lands is a good flight

* Fresh grouper hours from the ocean - yum!

* Fun friends from all over the country/world

* The Osprey nest that was blown away in a hurricane is back - and occupied

* No internet, TV or mail

* Hair blond, skin tan, mind rested - don't ask about the waistline

Now I can spend my time stressing about something else - like world peace or political sanity.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is It Worth It?

My 46" carry on is almost packed, the newspaper and mail delivery have been dealt with and the ice maker has been turned off. My 3oz bottles of essentials sit staring at me from their 1 qt. see through baggie on the counter, practicing for their performance tomorrow morning for the TSA person who will barely bother to look at them.

After the theater tonight we will jump into bed, set our alarm for 4:00 AM and then spend a sleepless night worrying that the alarm will fail to go off. Tomorrow bright and early we will head out for the Blue Line to O'Hare hopeful that the "...we are being delayed waiting for signals ahead" announcements will be few and far between. Once at ORD, shoes and coats in hand, we and our carry ons- we refuse to pay $100 to check our bags - and our baggies of plastic bottles will be carefully scrutinized (or not, depending on the mood of the TSA agent). Then on to the gate to wait for our boarding group to be called. Instead of reading my book, I will probably be sizing up our fellow travelers for their propensity to commit acts of terror.

If we are lucky enough to land in Miami as scheduled, we will jockey for position at the car rental counter in hopes that our car is there and smoke free, as promised. Getting out of Miami is tricky, but once on U.S.1 its a pretty straight shot to the causeway leading to the Overseas Highway and our destination at Milemarker 92.5.We'll have two weeks of no newspaper, TV, Internet, ice or snow. For the last two days of our stay we'll start the process of preparation for travel all over again.

I sometimes think we should just stock up on seafood,unplug ourselves, buy a sunlamp and some Beach Party and Gidget movies, and stay home.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Take the 66 to Summer in January

Layered up and feeling like the little kid in The Christmas Story, I walked the four frigid blocks to the 66 bus and climbed aboard. There were only three of us on the bus. I pictured myself walking into a deserted Navy Pier,the end of the line. Who goes to the pier in 14 degree weather? Evidently, lots of folks do. The energy, as I pushed through the doors to the main lobby was palpable. Families and other groups filled the benches surrounding the silent stage just basking in the warmth and the light coming from the Crystal Garden. The carts that sell gee-gaws of every kind were surrounded by the curious and paying customers alike. Every restaurant and bar was filled to capacity although it was mid-afternoon. (What recession?) I couldn't help but notice most people were drinking beer, snacking on popcorn and finishing up with ice cream. Summer has returned.

The temporary tattoo artist and the guy who does caricatures both had lines. The entire length of Festival Hall was filled from stem to stern with Strictly Sail, a 4 day show of every kind of vessel from kayaks to luxury yachts. At the end of the pier the magnificent ballroom, overlooking the frozen lake and lone lighthouse was set for an elegant party - a 30 piece orchestra was prepping on the stage.I'm told its a mile out and a mile back on the pier - so I guess my two jaunts out and back were about 4 painless miles.I'll be back.