Monday, May 31, 2010

Day Forty-Two - Remember

Happy Memorial Day. Thanks to all who have given their lives for our country. To honor them, eat a hot dog, a hamburger, and a brat. Fly your colors. Remember those who have served and who are serving. Watch the film Taking Chance. It is on HBO right now...

Day Forty-One - Not Your Ordinary Pizza Party

Friends Doug and Andrea Marello had a pizza party last night. There were good friends, good cocktails, good beer, good wine, good cookies, and most of all, phenomenal pizza. Every pizza (there must have been at least 40) was expertly hand crafted by Doug right down to the homemade sauce and crust. Topping and flavor combinations were plentiful and all pies caused the party goers to sing the praises of the chef and the hostess. I'm convinced this is some of the best thin crust pizza I've ever had, and as my growing waistline will eloquently describe to you, I've had my share. For me, it's all about the crust. This crust was the perfect balance of thinness, taste and texture, crispy enough to stand up to the fresh and delectable toppings resting on top.

I have no doubts that Doug's pies are restaurant ready. He could sell these round masterpieces 365 days a year. There would be lines out his door. If Doug and Andrea ever turned this into a commercial venture, I'd be there once a week, waiting in line, chatting with the other salivating patrons about how I was there at the beginning, when the Marellos were churning these hot, crispy, savory, cheesy, herbaceous, meaty, and mouth-watering pizzas out of their home oven. Even the Noid would wait in line for this stuff. It is that good. This was definitely a pizza party like no other...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day Forty - Here Come The Hawks

The wait is over and tonight the Stanley Cup Finals begin. Today has been spent moving with Lauren, as tonight will be the last night in our first apartment together. Being busy with the move, I haven't felt the creep of anticipation in my mind. Moving activities, however, are nearly over for the day and with each passing minute the excitement builds. Tonight, the Hawks will take the first step to end the longest active Stanley Cup drought in the NHL. It is time to get the Cup back to Chicago. Game 1 starts in about 2.5 hours. Here come the Hawks!

Day Thirty-Nine - At Least Ronnie Was Happy

In the seventh inning of yesterday's Cubs - Cards game, only Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers was happy. Well, Ronnie and about 10,000 Cards fans. Ronnie's unbridled enthusiasm was the most entertaining aspect of the afternoon, as the product on the field was substandard, at least on the Cubs end.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day Thirty-Eight - The Boy on the Bridge

This caricature overlooks traffic on Hermitage Ave. at the intersection with Bloomingdale near my home. I know not how this guy got there. He's at least 12 feet in the air. Someone must have scurried up on to the elevated rail line and stenciled it there, upside down, clearly on a location where something else had been painted over. I call him Scout. This Sunday, I'll say goodbye to Scout, and the rail line, when Lauren and I move to Park Ridge for a few weeks while our new home is being finished...

Day Thirty-Seven - LCD Soundsystem @ Metro: A Retrospective

There are no words, except... Pow. Pow, pow, pow, pow. Pow, pow, pow, pow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day Thirty-Six - Idle Activism

The pictured gentleman stands near the Thomspon Center, on the corner of Clark and Randolph, facing the Daley Center, nearly every weekday morning holding this sign. Though I applaud his activist spirit, to me, this is the worst kind of activism. Sign holding. Alone, sign holding does nothing. This idle activism is lazy and ineffective. Granted, I have no idea what other actions he has taken to achieve his goal (which is what exactly? A job for him, more jobs for all unemployed people, jobs for immigrants, I'm at a loss...), but I'd venture a guess that this is his primary strategy, and has been for the last two years or so. He doesn't even pass out pamphlets or talk through a bullhorn. In any event, I don't think the sign holding is working.

This particular idle activism is especially useless. This man claims to be on a hunger strike (for a job, job, job, job), but as you can see, his hunger strike started yesterday. Based on my near daily observations, this activist has been on probably 200 to 300 hunger strikes in the last two years (all for a job, job, job, job). Every two or three days, he resets the date on his sign. I don't think he really understands how a hunger strike works. If you advertise that your hunger strike starts over every couple of days, nobody will respect your mettle or respond to your requests for reform (or a job, job, job, job). Perhaps this guy should just get a good meal and pound the pavement applying for jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day Thirty-Five - It's Hot in the Poor Places Tonight

I'm not going outside... The first heat of the season has settled in on Chicago. Late May now resembles mid-July, and so it shall remain until the end of the week, when the climate allegedly will return to a more customary pattern, just in time for my first trip to Wrigley Field. Friday afternoon can't get here soon enough.

The heat brings forth reminders of summers past in a city that truly becomes alive with activities, cultural experiences, rock concerts, and sporting events. The heat also causes activity of a different sort. Violence, particularly on the city's South and West sides. In a connection nearly so consistent it could be declared science, when the temperatures in Chicago spike, so does violent crime. Last night, nine people were wounded in seven different shootings. This afternoon, a high school student was killed on his way home from school.
In a city that does so many things right in the summer, the corresponding crime often casts a pall over the vibrant Chicago season.

For those of us that live and work in safer neighborhoods, it is easy not to acknowledge the crime and chaos of the city's "poor places" in the summer. We don't have to worry about staying inside as a survival strategy. For those living in the South and West sides, it must not be uncommon to say "I'm not going outside." On nights like last night and tonight, that is undoubtedly a viable course of action as an attempt to ensure safety. I cannot imagine what that must be like... I'm hopeful that things can turn around sooner than later... but I don't know if I'm optimistic.

The inspiration for the picture and title for this entry was drawn from the Wilco record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the song "Poor Places."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Thirty-Four - Moving Right Along...

Lauren and I officially started the moving process today. Ordinarily I despise moving, and I'm sure that sentiment will return when we're hauling boxes and furnishings next Monday, but today was actually not so bad. As we bubble-wrapped framed photos, paper wrapped dishes, packed books, and taped boxes, we watched our beloved Blackhawks take care of business and finish off the sweep of the Sharks. Stan Mikita watched over us as we packed and cheered. He'll be with us (along with my beard) until the end of the next series, the Stanley Cup Finals, win or lose. I'm so proud to be a fan of this team, a group stacked full of hard-working total pros. Exhibit A is pictured above, the best defenseman in all the NHL, Duncan Keith, displaying the costs of making this far into the NHL playoffs. After taking a puck to the kisser, and the puck taking with it several of his teeth, Dunc hardly missed any ice time, playing over 29 minutes in the game. A total-pro. Go Hawks.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day Thirty-Three - Born 30 and 27 years (and one day) Ago

Happy Birthday to Tim and Lauren. These two rock the party.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day Thirty-One - Off The Street Club

Tonight Lauren and I participated in the Off the Street Club's Third Thursdays, where kids from the city can get together with adults and spend an evening of fun together. This is Ireana, my pal for the night. We took a bus tour of some historic spots in many of the impoverished neighborhoods on the city's West side. Every location seemed to have a rich history now marred by some tragic event perpetrated by gun violence. I cannot possibly imagine what it is like to live in these neighborhoods as a young child, where making the wrong decisions must seem so much easier than staying on a positive path.

Despite their challenging surroundings, the children were full of life, optimism, humor, and love. I haven't ever been hugged so much in one night. Ireana in particular was a joy to be around (she was named one of the "Girls of the Year" for the OTSC in 2009). I gave her my camera and she really took to it, snapping countless pictures at one of the stops on the tour, a basilica in Garfield Park. She also took the picture below at the final stop on the tour. At this location, a treasured Off the Street Club volunteer was gunned down simply for asking a drug dealer to leave his corner. We paused here on the tour and laid flowers of remembrance for the fallen volunteer.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day Thirty - The Tourist

Today was an absolutely astoundingly beautiful spring day in The City That Works, so I took a break from my office bound day and walked through Millennium Park. The park was teeming with tourists (or people who appeared to be tourists). In four years working in a building adjacent to Millennium Park, I can count the times I've just walked through the park for fun in the middle of the day on one hand (this excludes attending several shows at the Pritzker Pavilion after work; Decemberists, Andy Bird, Death Cab, Wilco). The park was shining brightly this afternoon (the pavilion was filled for some sort of soul music ensemble) and the Lurie Garden was in full bloom.

I was a tourist in my own city for a brief span, and I was pleased to take a moment to appreciate what surrounds me every day. As I returned to the office, I was reminded of Radiohead's "The Tourist." Though I could not begin know what Thom Yorke was thinking when he wrote the song, I believe the lyrics are possibly meant to be a tourist's thoughts as he observes a city's workers marching stoically along, noses to grindstones, eyes planted firmly on the prize and not taking a mere second to appreciate their vibrant surroundings. The tourist's thoughts
pour out to the droned city residents; "Hey man, slow down, slow down, idiot, slow down, slow down. Hey man, slow down, slow down, idiot, slow down, slow down." Ok Thom, I promise to slow down...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day Twenty-Nine - Rat Hockey

A double dip of ice hockey tonight. Attended Rat Hockey at Johnny's for the second week in a row and snapped a couple of pics of the ice before heading into the locker room to throw on the pads. Rat hockey is essentially a pickup game with players of various skill levels. Tonight we only had 7 players per side. That makes for long shifts. Long shifts = exhaustion. Got in a pretty nice skate and raced home in time for the puck drop of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Hawks and the Sharks. So far so good after 2 periods...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day Twenty-Eight - Sports, Sports, Sports, Sports

As recently as the last MLB season, I used to lament the days that the Cubs had off. I'd actually be slightly bummed out knowing that the boys in blue wouldn't be trotting out onto the diamond on the North Side or some other park across the nation. This year, I've tried to remain a little less emotionally invested (but always aware, hoping, and rooting), especially early in the season. And as poorly as the Cubs have been performing so far this year, the off days are a break from the general frustration of being a Cubs fan.

These days I find myself wishing the Blackhawks played every day (though I know this is simply not physically possible) and I lament the days the Hawks have off. Over the course of the past two NHL seasons, this team has given 100% night in and night out
(last night being no exception) and my fandom now races at a fever pitch. A couple of fantastic nights at the UC this year have convinced me that hockey is, by far, the best spectator sport and the NHL-ers are some of the best athletes in the world. I now remember why, as a young fan, I turned on my radio (before I had a TV in my room) just loud enough (so that my parents would not know I was still awake) so that I could listen to those games during the west coast road trips and hear Larmer, Roenick, and Chelios skate late into the night.

I continued to follow hockey and the Hawks growing up, and developed a love for the sport (thanks in large part to NHL 95 for Sega Genesis and a neighborhood street hockey gang), but it has been the last two years and Chicago's ice hockey renaissance (thank you Rocky) that has elevated the frozen sport to a borderline obsession. I've started playing weekly and taking lessons at Johnny's Ice House (Hockey 102 starts in June). I'm addicted. I live for Tuesday night hockey. As soon as I step off the ice, I want back on. Pictured you have my hockey bag, holder of pads, socks, gloves, tape, skates, and a helmet; a smelly and awesome new addition to the apartment.

Go Hawks. Beat San Jose.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day Twenty-Seven - Home Is Wherever I'm Wth You

Headed over to check on the new place (Lauren and I are in something called "escrow" on a condo in Wicker Park) and take some measurements. The workers are nearly done staining the hardwood floors, but they have a long way to go to get the entire space finished in the next month as they promised. We've been under contract now since early March and are more than eager to move in to our new home. Super-eager. Uber-eager. Mega-eager. Ben-Eager (Blackhawks joke, and a bad one (Eager is a big guy)). The Sellers have put this "SOLD" sign in the window, just to let all potential buyers know to not even think about this 3rd floor penthouse. It is ours... or will be... assuming we close this decade...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day Twenty-Six - In the Pew

Another wedding this Saturday, this time the nuptials of Natalie Lemus and Cuyler Robinson. Down time now, between the ceremony and the reception, time for drinks and relaxing with friends before another all night dance fest... 3 of said friends are pictured here in the pews of St. Jehosaphat Church on Southport in Chicago. Jumpin' Jehosaphat!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day Twenty-Five - We All Scream For...

The San Juan Freezer. A Bucktown fixture. I'm twenty-eight years old, and the last time I encountered an ice cream truck with any degree of consistency was a a young lad while visiting Grandma Helen and Grandpap Pete in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. I remember hearing that jangly song, dancing out from the back of the truck from a beat up speaker, letting all the grandchildren know it was time to spend grandma and grandpa's hard earned and hard saved dollar on something sweet. I remember running, as fast as my husky frame would allow, bare foot, with heels and pads stained black from residual iron soot in the air of the blue-est collar town in America. All for a Screwball.

I miss Screwballs. Maybe I'm tired of fancy restaurant desserts with dark chocolate, ganache, demi glace, mousse, and hazelnuts. Maybe I just want a Screwball every once and a while. Is that so wrong? I don't even know if the SJF has Screwballs, but I'll keep on imagining that it does... and every time I see this truck, I'll imagine a miniature version of myself, chasing down sweet treats, barefoot, holding one of Helen and Pete's dollars.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day Twenty-Four - Park Ridge Community

Lauren and I were out in Park Ridge tonight, her home town, to visit with her parents, her sisters, and some additional family who were in from out of town. Took a little stroll uptown to check out the Park Ridge Community Church, where Lauren and I were married almost eleven months ago. On the way, foreboding clouds were rolling in above the picturesque suburban homes and lawns. Trees with young spring leaves swayed and shook in the hustling gust front winds. The tallest tree on the block had forgotten to yield a single leaf, but stood stalwart against the swiftly moving sky. It stuck out, so I took a photo.

I eventually made it uptown and captured this snap of the front of the PR Community Church, but the tree has stayed with me. I wonder if it is dead, or maybe just a late bloomer. I wonder what the tree's owner will decide if this giant has truly pushed forth its final leaf... I guess only time will tell. Tall leafless wonder, I'll be seeing you again...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day Twenty-Three - The Cortland Corridor

This evening I got my hair cut in Lincoln Park, and decided to walk home to get a little exercise and look for photo opportunities. It has been unseasonably cool for the past few days, and tonight had the feel of an Autumn evening, save for the green on the trees. My walk took me along a stretch of Cortland Avenue that connects Lincoln Park with Bucktown, The Cortland Corridor as I call it. The Corridor begins at George's, a great gyro / hot dog joint at Cortland and Damen, and heads east to Cortland and Clybourn, ending at Mitchell's Original, a solid breakfast spot (with eggs that have two yolks! Whaa?).

This stretch also crosses the North Branch of the Chicago River. East of the river lies the North River Industrial Corridor, most of which is comprised of the A. Finkl & Sons steel company complex. Here you have two photos of the facility grounds. Often times, large warehouse doors remain open when fluorescent molten steel is being poured. Tonight, no such luck. A. Finkl & Sons also has massive steel hauling vehicles (straight out of the Alien films) that cross between the buildings on both sides of Cortland. Tonight, the behemoth autos were a no-show.

Additionally, on two separate occasions, I've been driving east on Cortland late in the evening and a portion of Cortland has been blocked by military vehicles and soldiers in the area of the A. Finkl & Sons complex. What's being done there on those late nights, I have no idea, and the men with the assault rifles want to keep it that way... Nonetheless, great photos are to be had on this stretch of The Cortland Corridor... Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day Twenty-Two - Banksy Strikes Again?

Now the last thing that this project should turn into is something that is considered "one note." I say that knowing full well that this is my fourth post in three weeks about graffiti / street art, but I simply could not let this one pass. I've long been a fan of a Brit artist named Banksy. Spend some time on his website, and it is impossible not to dig at least some of his pieces, nearly all of which are plastered on public places in major cities across the world (mostly London). This is guerrilla art, saying things it shouldn't say, and on display where it shouldn't be.

Recently, I've read on Chicagoist that Banksy's work has been popping up all over Chicago. While I'm not entirely sure if the pictured work is a legit Banksy, it certainly looks like it. If this is not a Bansky piece, it is no doubt inspired by the world's most famous street artist. This faceless firestarter adorns the west side of a viaduct wall along Elston near Wabansia. While the meaning of this piece is certainly lost on me, I believe public displays of art of this caliber are valuable contributions to the city. I hope the public works department never gets around to whiting out this addition to an otherwise blah stretch of Elston. That would be the true act of vandalism in this case...

UPDATE - Not a Banksy... part of a local artist CRO's Run, Blago Run! series. Blago face gone from this piece now... Blago hair remains...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day Twenty-One - Three Weeks In

Here we are, three weeks in to this project. The response has been very positive so far, and it seems like quite a few people have a look every once and a while. For that I'm very grateful. Thank you all for your viewership and readership, I hope to keep your attention and keep the product up to snuff for the next forty-nine weeks.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day Twenty - Dancin' Rod

The Sebastian wedding celebration continued last night and into this morning in the Fulton Market area of the city. The Mars Gallery became the site of the one of the most inspired and relentless dance parties ever in the history of dance. The floor was literally bouncing. The roof was figuratively on fire and we didn't need no water. Pictured are two of the main culprits in the dance assault that occurred last night, Brian Deines and Rod "the Bod" Holzmacher.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day Nineteen - The Sebastians

This is Michael and Sally. They're married and tonight they're having a marvelous party tonight to celebrate their wedded bliss. Last night a group of us had dinner and went out to our go to neighborhood bar, Lemmings. A good time is always had at Lemmings, especially when Samurai Bartender Sung is serving cold PBR on tap and whiskey shots. Here you have the wedded couple sharing a private moment after last call...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day Eighteen - Big Fleur

Lauren bought this flower. Singular. It is the biggest flower I've ever seen. Aside from a sunflower. This is the biggest non-sunflower flower I've ever seen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day Seventeen - Revolution Brewery

Two snaps tonight from the Revolution Brewery in Logan Square. Met up with some good friends at this new and popular joint tonight for a little pre-weekend get together. The beer was delicious and the food looked spectacular (I'll return to dine for sure)... Two great nights in a row now, sure to be chased by two more fine evenings with the arrival of the Bowlins (including new family member Gary D.) and the Holzies for the nuptial celebration of Michael / Sally. Good times behind, good times ahead... more pics to follow...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day Sixteen - MDQ + Game 3

It has been a fine Wednesday evening. Lauren and I attended the musical production Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo Theater here in Chicago. The performances were excellent as the actors and musicians told the tale of how Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley came together one night at Sun Studios in Memphis and had a blow out of a recording session. Very entertaining stuff. Equally entertaining is that we made it home in time to find the Hawks ahead by a goal after 2 periods against the Canerds. Off to watch Period 3... Go Hawks

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day Fifteen - We About to Have Some Church Up In Here

This is the St. Mary of the Angels church located near my home. This place is massive (it can be viewed easily from 90/94), and is really quite beautiful from the outside. I'm sure the inside is stunning (see the website... wait churches have websites?), but I've never walked through the doors. This is because St. Mary of the Angels is run by the priests of Opus Dei. In The DaVinci Code, those guys were ultra-freaky-deaky (self-flagellation and mortification of the flesh!). Maybe I'll get over it one day and go inside. Until then, I'll admire the outside... thanks a lot Dan Brown.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day Fourteen - Try Harder

So this makes two posts so far about street art in my neighborhood (and I must confess I've always been generally interested in street art and graffiti, especially when it is creative and thought provoking, See Banksy), but this one carries some real significance. The pictured location is mere steps away from where two young women were savagely attacked by a bat wielding gang member on April 23rd. That type of violent crime rarely occurs in Bucktown these days, but it serves as a reminder that Chicago is a city of nearly 3 million people, most of whom are great citizens, some of whom are real scumbags. This impromptu addition to the viaduct wall (unknown if this appeared before or after the attack) reminds us also, as community members, to try our best to do the right thing most of the time... or at least not to commit violent felonies.