Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Is Not Your Babcia's Polish Store

Every year since I can remember.  Somebody had to "get the kielbasi".  My mom used to be the one  We lived in a waspy community where cooking Kielbasi in public was  probably considered un-American and punishable by public service. But  we loved the Easter clog-your-arteries ritual that included kielbasi, farmers cheese and babka.  My theory is that the horseradish cuts the cholesterol.  My mom became the one  because she worked in Newark, N.J. where you could not only get Kielbasi, but the requisite Jewish Rye Bread that made the after Easter sandwiches so good.

 My mom is gone now, so I am the one. It took me many years to realize that you can't buy rye bread at the Polish store. Theirs is bland. The Poles and the Jews lived such symbiotic lives, that their cuisines intermingled. I discovered this only after Joe bought me a Polish cookbook for one of my birthdays. We now eat Polish Kielbasi on Jewish Rye bread. Now that I am the one, I not only get it for our Illinois clan, but for my aunt in Arizona. You know how they feel about immigrants in Arizona, so -I bring her hers in my checked luggage (vacuum packed to avoid smell detection) and hope I make it through security and border patrol screening without having to show my documents.

I headed out this Thursday to get the Easter Kielbasi.  I have always gone to Gene's Sausage on Belmont Avenue near Laramie.  Last year's trip (without a car) took a loonnnng time.  Red Line to Belmont bus.   They opened a new store in Lincoln Square last year.  I decided  #66 bus to the Brown Line to Western was so much shorter that it was worth exploring.  Nice, short trip.  The store is close to where we go every fall for the German fest.  I almost didn't recognize the neighborhood without the fest set-up.  Following my CTA trip planner directions, I found Gene's with no problem.  There was the familiar bovine above the entrance that marks the original.  There is the hanging display of the various sausages behind counter that I recognize.   That is where the similarities end.

I couldn't find the full fat farmers cheese I sought.  Hope my kids will settle for "lite"  In the place of the home made horseradish in red (beets) or white were 14 different varieties of horseradish sauces.  The rough vegetable display with low priced varieties of greens, onions and the like weren't there.  Heirloom tomatoes at Gene's?  OMG.

The biggest joke of all - the sausages hanging behind the counter were labeled in terms that no Polish store shopper would recognize.  At the Belmont store I know I could ask for Weisjka and get what I wanted.  What the hell is Alpine Sausage, Double Garlic Sausage and the like?  They all look like Kielbasi to me. 

There was one rack labeled "Polish Kielbasa" so I went with it.  I had to wait about 45 minutes while they brought some over from Belmont.  Right before I came, someone else had come in and bought 15 pairs - so I was left without any.  Hope it was someone else who had been named the one by her family.

Next year I'm going to Belmont.  I can read on the bus, listen to the Polish language being spoken and get my lower priced stuff in generic plastic bags instead of the fancy paper ones that tout "Fine European  Gourmet Food". 

It's Polish Sausage, for God's sake!  Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Born Worth Keeping

I have not been able to identify the woman who made this quotable statement.  "I think children are like pancakes: You sort of ruin the first one, and you get better at it the second time around."  Today is the anniversary of my first child's birth.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was 22 years old with a husband in college who was also working three jobs. We had no health insurance.  It was a "pay as you go" pregnancy and birth. (try finding a doctor who would do that today.)  I won't expound on the joy of holding your very own child for the very first time.  There have been volumes written - and many of you have your own memories of that.

I was thinking about the pancake quote and how the world would be different if people took it seriously.

First of all, you wouldn't be subjected to this blog, as I would have been discarded.  Then I thought about all the people in my life who would be absent.
  • My Uncle Bill - one of the kindest, gentlest men.  He built me a toy box, a real life size playhouse and the corner cabinet for my mother that my first born now has in her dining room.
  • My cousin Peter - a friend and neighbor most of our young lives.  He grew up to look like Paul Newman and he and his bride have given the world three upstanding and productive sons.
  • My best friend Diane.  What a void without these many years of sharing our lives experiences.
  • My niece Amy and nephew  Bill, Jr.  What a loving daughter and sister, successful business person, loving son and gifted teacher the world would have missed.
  • All my "first" grandchildren:  Andrew, Carolyn, Carrie, Erica, Jack, and Ryan.  No explanation needed here.
  • My sister-in-law,  Joe's sister, Mary.  She was one of my first contacts with the Crawford family. I  would have missed her sharp humor and her kindness toward me. She was also a fellow smoker - bonding over an ashtray in the days when anti- smoking was at a peak.
  • Picture this without the first borns
  • My first born.  I can't picture life without her. The people she helps everyday must feel that way too. She has also given the world three smart, active new citizens who will make their marks on the next generation.  Happy Birthday, Colleen.  Enjoy the day.

I'm sure you all have some "first borns" in your lives that you would miss. 

As for famous people. Most of our presidents, Nobel prize winners and the likes of Walter Cronkite  and Oprah Winfrey are first born.  But so are Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin.  I guess it cuts both ways.  What a very different world this would be indeed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday "Out"ing

Okay - yesterday the first of our deck chairs came out of hibernation and today the first of my neighbors went out to use them.  I would have been out there myself, but friends of ours had a  new movie that just came out and was showing at the  27th Annual Latino Film Festival - so we spent a few hours in the theater.  The film was wonderful, by the way.  One of many great ones at the festival this year.

When I looked at the temperature this morning, and observed what the lakefront crowd was wearing, I got out my blue shirt that's been too light for the cool air and my blue Keds - their first outing since last summer. It is the first time in a very long time that we've been able to go without a jacket.

We hopped on the packed #151 (standing room only) so I stayed up front and peered out the front window with the bus driver.  The entire world was out enjoying the 80 degree weather in Lincoln Park and the traffic was bumper to bumper.  We transferred to the #36 at the zoo to head north to the theater.  There was plenty of room to sit - so I was able to look around instead of holding on for dear life and staring straight ahead. 

That's when it came back to me.  The bulbs are starting to sprout which makes me happy. Another spring phenomenon is the coming out in full bloom of the boobs and various other body parts. What is it about the first warm day that shouts - "Okay, ladies let  those boobs out of captivity. Never mind your age, shape, ethnic group or political belief. We have to stand together as teeny boppers, women, old ladies and get those girls OUT on display."   

 And if you've got low slung, skin tight pants - pull them out, put them on and get those muffin tops out as well.  Everyone loves some mid-body flab staring them in the face.  I guess I'll get used to it as the warm weather comes to stay.  Who knows - maybe I'm just jealous.

Just sayin' some things are better left IN or to the imagination..

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Ultimate Sign of Spring - 2011

I originally posted this on March 18th, 2010.  Since this is my most heartening sign of spring - I am re-posting it for my own pleasure.  Note that it is happening almost a month later than last year.  LSC

While I was out running errands today, our maintenance guys adorned the deck- (I don’t think Mies van der Rohe would approve of my calling his Esplanade a deck) -with five chairs and three chaise lounges – newly released from wherever they hibernate when they quietly disappear on the first cold day every fall.

They sit there, lonely and waiting for the dozens of others that will join them for the summer. In a long line, they will be there for us, and our diverse derrieres, various tanning products, books ,laptops, and friendly conversations. My imagination takes me a few months into the future.

In the evening the chairs will rearrange themselves into cocktail party formation and late on certain nights into a fireworks watching theater. The lake will be alive with boats and people. Suddenly the trees near Navy Pier won't look dead, but ready to burst into leafy shade for picnickers and the sun-shy to enjoy. The backdrop for the chairs will be green grass, yellow lilies and over- abundant impatiens. (Unless our ill -advised board insists on keeping the ugly prarie grass they inflicted on us this fall.  Prarie Grass for a Mies building? Really!)

I can visualize the water turning that wonderful shade of turquoise that I had in mind when I picked out my living room carpet. I can hear the music of the revelers on their parked boats. Tied together on a Saturday in July for easy party hopping they are quite a sight.

I picture the seagulls diving from the seawall and I wonder, as I do each year, “where do they go in the winter?” Maybe they go to the same place where we hide the chairs, wherever that might be.

It doesn't take much to make me happy - the return of the chairs is enough for today.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rahm Can Fix It - Asleep At the Wheel

I am sooooo stupid.  Last year I observed a truck from a suburban sprinkler company parked on Lake Shore Drive .  The driver appeared to be unconscious at the wheel.  He was there for over three hours.  Fearing that he was ill or dead - I took out the binoculars and read the phone number on the truck.  I called the company and asked for the manager.  I expressed my concern for the well being of the driver.  I was told that he was probably waiting for specific instructions on the sprinklers.  There are no sprinklers on this particular stretch of Lake Shore Drive.  I was assured that they would check on him.  Within a half hour a van with the same sprinkler company name pulled up along side of the truck, knocked on the window and within 5 minutes it was gone.  I am soooooo stupid.

I regularly see 5 guys around a manhole, one holding a flag, two looking up and down the street, one guy in the manhole and one asleep in the truck.  They always seem to have a lot to say to each other.  I can't hear them, but I imagine "how "bout dem Sox?"  "Damn Cubs!"   "What's for lunch?"  You and I are paying these guys.

Now I see what is happening.  I thought I was pretty savvy - but I'm NOT.  I am sooooo stupid.

After reading this lame excuse from current administration about the truck drivers who drive others to work and then are free to sleep or read, I am incensed.  My husband and I worked our asses off for decades and  got ahead only because of performance and value added to our employers.  My kids are doing the same thing.  We also don't receive pensions equal to our pay  after we retire  - and free medical insurance.  These pigs should stop feeding at the public trough and be evaluated for their value to the taxpayers.

  •  Teach the drivers to work or teach the workers to drive
  •   Have the cops or other city workers rat them out
  •  Put them on a performance program
  • Make the Aldermen or the Ward Superintendent accountable for their productivity
  • Deputize people like me to report on them
  • Don't ever let me meet them.  I can't respect anyone who takes money for doing nothing. I will punch them out.
  • Put everyone on bicycles - they have to stay awake.