Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Good to Look Up, Part II, " Road Trip"

My new Face Book friend and long ago business crony , Joan, took note of my blog post about looking up. Knowing that I didn't have a car in Chicago anymore, she offered to take me on a road trip to the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette for some high class, North Shore looking up.

We enjoyed the ride up relatively traffic-free Lake Shore Drive and followed the twists and turns of Sheridan Road. Rounding the corner to our destination we spotted the gleaming white temple rising up out of its lush gardens and boldly tiled fountains. I was reminded of how breathtaking the view of Baha'i was the first time I saw it many years ago on our way up north to a family party.

I knew absolutely nothing about the Baha'i temple or the religion, just that it was an unusually designed shrine to something or another occupying a prime piece of real estate overlooking Lake Michigan in all its splendor. Our visit that day was a revelation.

This photo does not do the edifice justice. You really need to go on the website http://www.bahaitemple.org/ and look at their pictures. I felt humbled and very tiny looking up at this cast concrete structure that took almost 50 years from conception to its completion in 1953. That includes eight years of perfecting the appropriate design for the building and 30 years of actual construction. The architect, Louis Bourgeois' intention was to create a feeling of light and unity and he certainly succeeded. The building is nine sided and its pillars carry the symbols of all the worlds' major religions. The interior dome , which soars 138 feet heavenward, is filled with almost too much light to capture it's beauty with an ordinary camera.

In a nutshell, Baha'i , which is a contraction of Baha' u 'llah, the name of the man who founded the religion in Persia (now Iran) in the mid 1800s, is a relatively new religion. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1893 and has grown here to over 155,000 members. The members can gather daily at 12:30 for prayer and on Sundays there is an a' Capella choir of its members. No clergy, no altars, no statues - just reminders everywhere of the oneness of mankind and the sacred nature of peace.

As we left, after watching an informative video and talking with one of the staff members, we looked around for a donation box - to leave a small thank you. There was none. The Baha'i accepts donations only from members. Very refreshing. You really need to visit in person to get the full effect of the beauty of this place. It will be worth your while.

On the way home we wandered around a bit, exploring roads leading to beaches and admiring the lovely Tudor homes, just plain ostentatious mansions and graceful painted lady Victorians. Our last stop was at the Evanston Arts Center which gave us an opportunity to once again "look up", this time at the lighthouse.

Then in Thelma and Louise mode, we tackled the southbound trip down the Drive - agreeing that the approach to the city from about Belmont, down to Michigan Avenue is one of our favorite and most stimulating drives in Chicago - Joan and I agree about a lot of stuff like that. One thing we agreed upon was that we had made good use of a beautiful day and that you really don't get a stiff neck by looking up.
Thank you, Joan.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chicago Raves

I do enough ranting for a small village. It's time for some raves- not in preferential order - just as they come to mind.

  • The VA medical system here in Chicago, both Lakeside and Westside. Great customer service, caring doctors and better patient follow up than I get at my high priced ,well known hospital.

  • Newberry Library. Not just for their adult education seminars, but also for their killer book sales - the big one in July and the mystery book sale in March.

  • 157 bus driver who promises a "stress free ride" on a home made sign - and she is so right. She waits until you sit down before lurching ahead. She greets everyone enthusiastically and answers questions, even stupid ones, politely and accurately. If she doesn't know the answer she admits it instead of making stuff up. She is sure you are safely off the bus and on your way before she takes off.

  • Jesse White's transformation of the Secretary of State's offices. It took me just 7 minutes to get my license renewed, even with a line. Our recent vehicle registration renewal questions were met with sincere, pleasant and well informed answers. Don't ever leave, Jesse, but if you do - go to another agency that needs fixing and do it again.

  • The Chicago Latino Film Festival. Travel the world and brush up on your Spanish from the comfort of a theater seat - 26 years strong. http://www.latinoculturalcenter.org/
    Great people with a passion for the arts.

  • The one man /one truck waste removal operation who collects our garbage daily. He must be the hardest working man in captivity (well, at least in the 42nd ward). He makes a tedious and seemingly unpleasant job appear as smooth and seamless as a well performed ballet.

  • The Grant Park Music Festival - still free, still superbly produced and what a setting - in Millennium Park. Treat yourself to attendance at a morning or afternoon rehearsal. You get to see and hear the real personality of the conductors ( Carlos Kalmar with a pony tail) and it is such fun to see the usually formal string section in flip flops and shorts. Bring a lunch and enjoy the music - stay for the docent commentary during the union mandated breaks in the action.

  • The bar at the Saloon Steakhouse. A real neighborhood gathering place with happy bartenders and great bar food. Some of the best sliders in town. While you're there, ask about their next wine or beer tasting dinner. Bargains to say the least with Wiley the beverage manager at the helm.

  • The Division Street Farmers' Market. My favorite "peach guy" who gives me his seconds for pies and such. He and his wife dressed in tux shirt and bridal veil for their 25th wedding anniversary that fell on a market Saturday. Joe's favorite Polish bakery goods, especially when the owner is there - she is so charming- reminds me of my grandmother. The "flower lady" who saves the Star Gazer lilies for me if I sleep late. If they would just ban dogs- it would be heavenly. Treat yourself to the Farmers' Market Special Breakfast at Butch McGuire's which is smack dab in the middle of the market. Looking forward to tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.

I guess I can go back to ranting for a couple of weeks now and then round it out with another list of raves. There's so much to love in this city!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear CTA

Dear CTA Management Team.

I have been feeling guilty about using my Blago "old people ride free" pass lately. With the state and the CTA having gotten themselves in near bankrupt positions and my luck that we've been fiscally smart, I actually thought about burning it and starting to feed dollars and coins in the fare boxes. Then I thought about my recent experiences on the CTA and decided that you need me, and others like me, to ride your trains and buses. Here are a few observations:

  • I do not ride during rush hours. I get up too late for the morning one and am in a hurry to get home for cocktail hour for the evening one.

  • I regularly apologize to tourists for the conditions at some of the stations - the smell of the elevator at Clark and Lake, the filth and water at Chicago and Milwaukee, the rude sexist remarks of employees at Rosemont. I actually make excuses like "they're working on it" or "this is not the normal smell" or "they must be new employees".

  • I have become the tour director for the 157 bus whose drivers consistently tell people they do not stop at Water Tower. They DO STOP at Water Tower, just at the back entrance - no big deal. They also say they don't stop at the MCA when the canned message clearly says "Chicago and Mies van der Rohe, Museum of Contemporary Art". Who are the tourists to believe - an authorized CTA employee or a nosy passenger who wants them to have a good experience in Chicago?

  • Your website - which used to be great- is now directing me to addresses in Round Lake and other parts of the country when all I want to do is plan a trip from Lake Shore Drive to the north side. It is actually hilarious.

  • I consistently pick up the crap that people leave on the bus and deposit it in the few and far between containers on the street. Sort of "do unto others...."

  • I have done my fair share of mingling with People with Social Disabilities by riding the 22 and/or 36 buses north from the loop. I could write a book.

  • I have dodged the juiced up pan-handlers at State and Chicago. They never should have put a park there and the businesses nearby should do a better job of policing.

  • I live in fear of the Irving Park and Jeff Park stops on the Blue Line. You are THISCLOSE to falling, or being pushed, off the platform to the tracks.

  • In conclusion, I would like a meeting with the person who designed the buses. I am betting it will be a tall (feet always touch the floor, and arms always reach the pull cord), young (won't fall down even though the straps are dangerous), athletic (flexible enough to move 5 feet forward with nothing to hold on to while the bus is moving) and skinny (size 4 butt fits into seats) male (just because they are clueless) who makes enough money designing buses to never have to ride one.

I hereby submit my application as CTA monitor-at-large. I will not only continue to use my free pass, but I can help you improve service by giving your team feedback from the public. That is, if you answer my call or respond to my E-Mail. I don't want to be paid, but I think I've earned my free rides.


A not so guilty- feeling senior rider.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We Can Save a Forest

Can you remember the last time you actually used a paper phone book? Serving as an impromptu booster seat or doorstop doesn't count. If I need to look up a person or business, I'll go to yellow pages.com or some such web site. If I need a contractor for a household job, I'll ask friends for references or call Lou Manfredini at WGN.

If you can't live without your phone book, you may want to stop reading this now. That's how I feel about a real newspaper. I like the feel of it in my hands and can't quite get satisfaction from on-line news. So I sympathize with you.

On the other hand, consider this. In my building alone - 29 floors with 6 units per floor, we are regularly treated to a pile of at least 12 phone books arriving silently in each of our stair landings next to the trash chute. They sit there for weeks, many times without the shrink wrap being removed by even a single resident. Eventually the maintenance men remove them - hopefully, to the recycle bins in the basement and not down the trash chutes.

I'm sure our building is not alone. According to real estate board statistics, there are no fewer than 626,000 housing units in the city of Chicago. I'm no math genius, but if my building alone is not using 348 of these 3 1/2 inch, 2000 page, 5 lb. monsters. Think how many others are sitting idle in highrises and two flats all over the city.

I know they're free, and the folks who publish them get lots of advertising dollars, but sometimes it has to be about more than money. I hope the P.I. attorneys who paid to have their ad affixed to the cover of each book dont mind that their smiling faces are on their way back to be recycled.

I care much less about them and the companies who are selling the ads, than the fact that my great grandchildren may have to go to history books to see what a real forest looks like.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Then and Now , The Exercise - Part I

I did this as an exercise taken from Writer Magazine. It turned out to be very revealing. While the examples I'm posting today are humorous - I was amazed at how profound some of the others were - and maybe sad. But enough of sadness for now. Try this exercise yourself - no matter what age you are - and you may learn some things about yourself too. Just use the prompts, "I used to".... "But now I"........... See where it takes you.

I used to…. watch Howdy Doody and Junior Frolics on our 12 inch Dumont TV and accept them as all we had to choose from
But now I….have 100+ channels and wish they would bring back Howdy Doody

I used to…gag at the thought of eating an avocado
But now I…can’t go a full week without one

I used to….run behind the DDT truck with as much vigor as if it was the Good Humor truck
But now I….try to avoid second hand smoke and warn my grand kids about ice cream truck drivers who may be perverts

I used to….wish my parents could afford to let me buy name brands instead of no-name brands
But now I….shun people who live by and judge others by the brands they choose

I used to….love tooling around in a 1953 Ford-our family’s first new car
But now I….am happy to not have a car

I used to….reject opportunities to upgrade from my typewriter and adding machine
But now I….cry and moan when my laptop is not available for an hour

I used to….walk on my hands and do flips across the football field
But now I….pat myself on the back if I get to and from Walgreen’s without tripping and falling

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Its Good to Look Up.

As I ran around this planet, living my life, my eyes were focused either straight ahead, looking to the left and right for traffic, or looking down to avoid tripping over things with my two left feet. Now that the pace is more leisurely, I'm discovering all the things I've missed by not looking up. Especially in Chicago, with our wonderful architecture, there is a richness above our heads that doesn't get appreciated as it should. This picture is of the beautiful rotunda in the Chicago Cultural Center. There are several in the building and, especially on a sunny day, they can lead you into a fantasy world full of light and color.

Looking up at the Tribune building makes me dizzy, but the architectural details must have made the men who built it even dizzier trying to get it right. I wonder who tends to the flag on the tippy top, someone brave, no doubt.

Walking west on Pearson I looked up at the Quigley Seminary building and juxtaposed with the old Gothic touches is a glass skyscraper in the background where the crucifix is - apparently mixing types of architecture has God's blessing.

Walking up Michigan Avenue I look up at the sign that declares Allerton Hotel - the Tip Top Tap. It hasn't been the Allerton or the Tip Top Tap for many years, but who cares, it brings back fond memories. And the Allerton was where the Breakfast Club was recorded for radio many years ago - when my grandmother used to march me around the breakfast table, back in New Jersey.

If you get to North Bridge, where Nordstrom's is or the Bloomingdale's Home Store which used to be the Masonic Temple ( where my husband's two Masters degrees from De Paul were presented) - please look up - you'll be delighted.

I'm putting my photos of UP on Flickr and Face book - but I urge you to create your own mental "up album". I know you're all still in a hurry - do yourself a favor and take a few moments to look up in your home environment. There are clouds and bridges , trees and mountains and lots more - even if you don't live in a big city with great architecture. Enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

No Country For Old Ladies...

No - this is not about double dealing drug lords, bloody, bloody murder, killer dogs, or an old lawman. This is about everybody being in such a @*#&+?# hurry.

Old lady gets on the bus...the driver can't wait 'til she sits down - lurches off to the next stop - old lady gets butt slammed into her seat.

Old lady tries to retrieve her luggage from the airport carousel...the obese guy in the bad t-shirt shoulders her out of the way to get his.

Old lady enters the revolving door...the people behind her push so hard she almost falls from the force of the spin.

Old lady is waiting for the WALK sign at the corner of Pearson and Michigan...the jaywalking crowd rushes the crosswalk leaving her in its wake.

Old lady steps into the crosswalk ... her hip is brushed by the hungry cabbie turning illegally in pursuit of a fare.

Old lady walks through Lincoln Park to avoid traffic...crazy biker almost runs her down on the "walking" path - and yells "on your left" and beeps his Clarabelle horn - 10 extra points if you remember Clarabelle.

Old lady points out optimal seats on sight- seeing trolley to her sisters...family of screaming kids rush to fill those seats.

Old lady drives down Sabino Canyon Road to her aunt's house at 5 miles above the speed limit...gets 5 middle fingers and 10 horn honks from fellow travelers.

It just gets better and better. Now you know why I need the Tranquil Spaces in Public Places.


Thanks, American people, for blog material. Have a wonderful day, but hurry up, some old lady may be blocking your way!