Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Songs about Lawyers #2: "This Song."

George Harrison in the video for "This Song."
     "Songs about Lawyers" week continues. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here.

     I hesitated to include George Harrison's "This Song" in my week of tunes related to attorneys, since it never mentions lawyers or the law, specifically. You have to know the backstory. In February, 1976, a trial began against the former Beatle,, accusing him of stealing the tune for "My Sweet Lord" from the Chiffon's 1963 hit of Ronnie Mack's "He's So Fine." 
    The song is an upbeat, joyous, piano-driven middle finger waved at the lawsuit, which had just begun.
    "This song, as far as I know, don't infringe on anyone's copyright, so..." Harrison sings. 
    Harrison had recently found himself in court, on the stand, guitar in hand, demonstrating the process by which he allegedly wrote "My Sweet Lord" and trying to point out the musical differences between it and "He's So Fine." 
    Had Harrison waited until the case concluded, in 1998, 22 years later, "This Song" probably would have been far slower, darker and more melancholy. It has a certain buoyancy that would be ground out of him.
    After I watched the proudly cheesy and amateurish video (which Harrison directed), shot in a Los Angeles courtroom, and was glad I included the song. Besides, it's got that great sax solo. 
     There's a lot going on in the video, including the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, in drag, mouthing Monty Python's Eric Idle's screech, "Could be 'Sugar Pie Honey Bunch'? Naw! Sounds more like 'Rescue Me!'" (indeed, both classic Motown songs echo the introduction of "This Song" as well as each other, a reminder that there is a lot of borrowing in music). 
     The song is larded with such sly winks at the case, including "This song has nothing 'Bright' about it"—Bright Music owned the copyright to "She's So Fine," and in turn was owned by Allen Klein, who until recently had been Harrison's manager, putting him in the unique position of profiting from both the release of "My Sweet Lord" and, potentially, from its copyright infringement settlement. Their animosity also helps explain what should have been handled with the quiet cutting of a check ended up a legal "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a case that has been described as "without question, one of the longest running legal battles ever to be litigated."
     Harrison released the song Dec. 3, 1970, and it became a huge international hit—the first by a former Beatle, and his biggest solo single. That is highly salient to the lawsuit, equal to the two songs' similarity. Without that pot of gold, the parallels would have been a bit of music trivia, like Mick Jagger singing backup on Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." Indeed, honorary Beatle Billy Preston released his version of "My Sweet Lord" three months before Harrison did, and nobody sued anybody.
    The similarities were obvious. Radio stations would start playing "He's So Fine" then segue into "My Sweet Lord." In 1971, country music star Jody Miller put out her version of "He's So Fine," designed, rather maliciously, to highlight the two songs mirroring each other, complete with weeping slide guitar. Harrison said it "really putting the screws in."
    Harrison might have been proud, and creative, but he wasn't an idiot. He first felt chagrined when the resemblance was pointed out, and remembered thinking, "Why didn't I realize?" Later, as the legal noose tightened, he tried to downplay his gaffe, blustering, "Well, it's not exactly the same." 
     In his autobiography, "I, Me, Mine," Harrison does his best to feign outrage, dismissing the merits of the suit with, "It's a joke ... just greed and jealousy and all that."
    Despite the clear borrowing—it's the same tune—the case itself was maddeningly complex. Since it defied belief to suggest that a talent like Harrison, fresh from the Beatles, merely copied the music, the judge suggested it was a case of "subconscious" plagiarism. 
     Harrison said he tried to give the plaintiff the rights to the song, just to be done with it. But his lawyers (boo, hiss) wouldn't permit it.  Judge Richard Owen ruled that it was "perfectly obvious" that "the two songs are virtually identical."  Which they are. During the trial, a keyboardist was recalled pointing that out when they were recording "My Sweet Lord" in May, 1970. Which didn't help. Maybe he wasn't forceful enough. In September, 1976, Harrison was found to have inadvertently copied the song. Which is when the years began to really clock by, determining the judgment. Harrison was eventually stuck with a $1.6 million penalty,  which observers felt was excessive, ignoring the role his fame as a Beatle and the artistry he brought to "My Sweet Lord" played in its success in favor of the tune, which is not exactly hummable. 
     Eventually, factoring in Klein's double-dealing—he used information he knew from producing the song in suing Harrison—in 1981, the judgment was cut to $600,000, which included Harrison gaining rights to "He's So Fine." He did not, however, cut his own version.
     Instead he left us with, "This Song." Written, Harrison notes, at "the end of a nightmarish week in court." 
    One noteworthy thing about "This Song" is, it isn't the only mainstream rock song about copyright infringement. There's also Weird Al Yankovic's "Don't Download This Song." (Set to the tune of "We Are the World," with a plot development borrowed from the end of "White Heat") It's worth seeing for the whimsical animation, and of course Weird Al's spot-on satire: "'Cause You start out stealing songs, then you're robbing liquor stores, and selling crack and running over school kids with your car."
     That always reminds me of that cultural moment, an eternity ago, when the Napster free music sharing website first appeared, and I took the plunge and downloaded the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," while my wife, an officer of the court, remember, stood over me, remonstrating, "You're committing a crime!"
     "So I'll send Mick Jagger a check," I said. 
     I never did. I hope he doesn't sue me.  

Monday, May 23, 2022

Songs about Lawyers #1: "Alas for You."

     My hometown of Berea, Ohio isn't known for much. There is sandstone: large quarries that left picturesque lakes, in my youth, that eventually filled up into silty, not-quite-so picturesque bogs. There is a university, Baldwin-Wallace, with a modest reputation for its music program.
     And "Godspell," written by John-Michael Tebelak, who graduated from Berea High School in 1966, a dozen years before I did.
     That put the joyous musical on my radar more than would be typical for a 1970s suburban Jewish kid. The show didn't have the dark, dramatic swoop of "Jesus Christ Superstar," which came one year later, but still managed to upset some Christians, who didn't like to see their faith rendered into show tunes.
     And "Godspell" is fun, bouncy, with the campy, Rudy Vallee-esque "All for the Best," and an actual minor hit, "Day by Day," covered by the Fifth Dimension, Judy Collins and Cher.
     Not music I choose to revisit much, to be honest. Lately though, I've been listening to the show's "Alas for You," simply for the dig at lawyers (You can also watch the video version from the movie, but it's cringingly awful). The song begins:
Alas alas for you
Lawyers and pharisees
Hypocrites that you are
Sure that the kingdom of heaven awaits you
You will not venture half so far.
Other men who might enter the gates
You keep from passing through.
Drag them down with you.
     Why do I like this? I'm not sure. The law is interesting and important. I respect the legal profession, in the main, being the husband of one lawyer and the father of two more. Not to forget my many friends who are lawyers or judges. So I'm not slagging them personally. There's just something funny about tweaking lawyers, even in their absence. Even if they don't perceive the tweak and wouldn't care if they did. A sort of private joke, I suppose.
     Anyway, this week my oldest boy is having the graduation ceremony from New York University Law School that got scrubbed last year, due to COVID. Not coincidentally, I'm taking this week off, so as not to be left with a big mass of vacation at year's end, to do some gardening around the house, and attend to other duties. So in honor of his belated commencement, and so as to not leave you with nothing, I've come up with the next best thing: A week of posts on songs about lawyers. Enjoy. Or don't. Up to you. Either way, see you next Monday.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

"I swear on GoD."


     We are hit by such a barrage of scams, come-ons, grifts, ploys and frauds of all kinds, you'd think we'd be more discerning by now. Yet those who bat away the pleas of Nigerian princes fall 100 percent and forever to the oily entreaties of lying leaders. It's very worrisome.
     While I have no problem ignoring the hammering of crooks, commercial or political, at my various electronic doors, there is my playful side, and sometimes I just can't help screwing with them a little bit. Yes, I know I'm not matching wits with Lex Luthor, but merely causing a flash of puzzlement of someone in a basement boiler room in Burkina Faso. If that. But I occasionally do it anyway, for my own amusement.

     I don't owe anything to the grifters, and they approached me, so I'm free to respond as I please. There is no rule that I must stay on script. Besides, I figure every second they parley with me, who is never sending them a dime, is a second they can't use to squeeze the retirement fund out of some gullible elderly couple in Idaho. So I am actually doing some small amount of good. Besides, I can be bored sometimes, and it's interesting to see how they handle it. Usually by fading away.
      Although it was a little disconcerting to see Facebook friends this week posting the amounts they received back from their Facebook settlements, because those of course were real, I think, although they followed the scam pattern. I do wonder what the fraudsters I respond to make of our exchanges.

         But eventually I get bored, and move on. An important skill in social media, one that many never seem to master.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Alive to the Dead

     I never know what Caren is writing about until I read it on Friday, and sometimes odd synchronicities present themselves. Next week, I'm planning a five day run featuring songs about lawyers, for reasons which will be made plain. And I too never much liked the Grateful Dead, or their unwashed legions of fans, though I was extraordinary fond of "Friend of the Devil." Enough prelude. Here is Caren Jeskey's Saturday report:

By Caren Jeskey

              Shall we go, you and I while we can
              Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?
                                 — Grateful Dead

In the Rogers Park neighborhood where I grew up, music-loving hippyish intellects abounded; there were many Jerry Garcia fans around during my formative years. Yet the Grateful Dead never made sense to me. I thought of them as a mediocre band with a boring cult following. When people identified as Deadheads, I’d quickly write them off as potential friends — what could we possibly talk about? Tye-die? 
     When groups of my peers packed up to go camping at Alpine Valley to “follow the Dead” I never had FOMO. I’d rather be clubbing it up at Kaboom right here in the city.
     Dead & Company is coming to Cubs Park soon and there’s a lot of buzz about it. I decided to pop the song "Truckin’" onto Apple Music to see what all the fuss is about. I was surprised to discover that, not only was I familiar with many of the other songs, I knew quite a few well enough to sing along with at least the chorus. I felt uplifted by the simple, bright, plucky sounds of the band as Apple fed me more. 
     It seems I was subconsciously indoctrinated into the world of the Dead by many years of listening to WLS, The LOOP, and accidentally catching the Grateful Dead Hour on WXRT. I also lived with a bunch of people from Barrington for a year or two in the late 80s and our 6-CD multi disc player was always loaded up with their music. The Dead occupied one of those slots on many a Saturday night as we danced around and pregamed before going to Hamilton’s on Broadway. I didn’t pay much attention, but the songs have stuck in my craw.
     Thanks to my roommates and their crew, I finally got to know Ian Anderson, CCR, Van Morrison, the less well-known Americana of David and David, and a band that became one of my all time favorites, The Silos. My new friend group was apparently full of Deadheads and I even made out with one of them once— he had long blond hair and wore pastel colored tie-dyed shirts— outside of a dive bar on Sheffield.
     Before I had taken the time to listen this week, I rudely said to a self-proclaimed Deadhead (I promise I did know know about this identification when our friendship organically sprouted up) “They’re not good,” and I laughed when I noticed dancing bears embroidered into his clothing. He’s a very pleasant person so just smiled and commented “you’re right. The band isn’t that good.” Looks like I owe that person an apology.
     I learned that the band played songs differently each and every time, in their live shows. The audience was watching art in action; a canvas that was freshly painted based on how they were feeling at the time, I'm guessing often with the use of mood altering substances. “Fortunately we had a chance to play [Estimated Prophet and Terrapin Part I] three times onstage and it made a huge difference," Bob Weir once said. "Then we came back and we knew what the songs were about.”
     I found the song "Estimated Prophet" worth more than one listen, and Bob Weir’s voice compelling. I wanted to listen with over the ear headphones to catch the trippy nuances of sound and composition more clearly but I broke my pair. This has inspired me to replace them soon.
     While I’m writing this I’ve had the album Terrapin Station playing in the background, and I’m soothed by the cheerful sounds of Donna Jean Thatcher Godchaux-MacKay’s "Sunrise" and the sweet harmonies between her and Weir in "Passenger."
     MacKay wrote the 2007 song "Passenger," which is sadly apropos today. “I hear the sounds of war. And they say, we are not to blame Today, let the anger take aim. Piercing to the heart and to the soul.”
     This trip I’ve taken with the marching bears (which I did not place under my tongue, by the way) has helped me with humility. The Dead don’t suck. I need all of the reasons I can find to stay connected to others these days, not more reasons to establish an us and them delineation. The next time I see someone with one of Jerry’s bears subtly incorporated into the cuff of a shirt, instead of scoffing I’ll see if they know some kind of Zen secret I’d be better off embracing.

          “Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.” 
                   —Grateful Dead, "Box of Rain"

Friday, May 20, 2022

Flat-bottomed bags make the eating world go ’round

      Sharise Stamborski packs newly-made bags at Fischer Paper Products in Antioch

     When 7-Eleven stores in Texas suddenly needed to put their hot chicken legs in some kind of bag — thank you, COVID! — they had to find the right little bags to put them in. ASAP. So they made a desperate call to Fischer Paper Products in Antioch, 50 miles north of Chicago
     Typically, it takes 10 to 12 weeks for Fischer to get a new type of bag to a customer, assuming it isn’t one of the thousand varieties they stock. There is design, then creating prototypes, then testing them. Fischer keeps half a dozen fast-food warmers in their break room for product testing.
     “If the food is going to be sitting in this package in a warming oven for an hour, the materials have to hold up to heat or grease,” said Joshua Fischer, company president and grandson of the founder.
     In this case, they got the bag designed, tested and shipped to Texas in three weeks.
     Restaurants, in a two-year-plus state of continual emergency during the society-jarring disruptions of the pandemic — customers staying home, supply chains tied in knots — will gather to blink at each other, celebrate their survival and plot out a future at McCormick Place starting Saturday, for the National Restaurant Association Show, the first in three years.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

We need the eggs

     Social media likes to serve up scary robots. You know what I mean. Those Boston Dynamics Atlas robots doing parkour, like some kind of mechanical stormtroopers come from the future to show us what kind of nightmare will be kicking our asses someday soon. Or, even creepier, the company's headless robot dogs, dubbed "Spot," perfect for exploring the poisonous dead zone half our planet is sure to become. (No need to wait for the dystopian future; you can buy one now for $75,000). Then there are the realistic robots we increasingly see blinking and turning their heads, smiling and chatting, our closest companions in a world I am glad I'll never live to see.
     Me, I take comfort in how short the attempt to ape human behavior fails, as represented in the 16 photos above. Hopping on a box is one thing; discernment something else entirely. Turns out, it's harder to think than dance. The photos are from my iPhoto account. Long ago I learned to plug a location in the search bar, so if I want to use a shot snapped at the Smithsonian Institution, I plug "Washington D.C." in. It can be very precise, down to streets and even buildings.
     But I did not realize, until recently, that you could also plug in nouns—horse, house, train—and the search engine would round up candidates. Or try to.
     The blog's Saturday star, Caren Jeskey, turned in an essay keyed around robin's eggs. She usually offers a photo or two, but this time she hadn't yet. I knew I had photos of the nest that sat on our porch railing one spring. So I plugged "eggs" into the iPhoto search bar, generating the above dozen and a third photos.
     Take a look at the results. Starting at the upper left, we have: my son eating a sunny side up egg topped burger at the old Joe's Diner in San Francisco. A melon patch. A Peter Max poster of Saturn that the artist sent my son. Six glasses of non-alcoholic beer from a taste test at Harry Carry's, viewed from above. A Jeff Koons sculpture at The Broad in Los Angeles. A Murakami painting of flowers. Five images of orange juice balls served as an amuse bouche at Alinea. Three fried eggs, the last two being at one of the best meals I've ever eaten, in Santiago, Chile. And a jack-o-lantern from the Chicago Botanic Garden.  
     Let me show you what the algorithm did NOT find. This:     
     I bet you pegged them as eggs right away, didn't you? God bless Apple, wonderful company. But based entirely on their inability to tag the image at right as containing "eggs" I would say that the robot rebellion is still a work in progress.
    Being human is hard. That should not be an epiphany. Even with our sophisticated wetware, perfected over the past 100,000 years, with software de-bugged over the past 10,000, half the people can't seem to regularly pull off all the high-functioning tasks required of them. Given how consistently humans fail at being human, I don't think we have to worry about machines quite yet. They can do some tasks better some times in some places. But they also have their spectacular failures as well. I'm still clinging to hope. Let's see a computer do that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Picking over GOP idiocy

Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo in "The Maltese Falcon" (Image courtesy of Warner Bros.)

     “What they shake out of you?” Sam Spade asks a disheveled Joel Cairo in “The Maltese Falcon” after the slimy little crook had been grilled all night by police.
     “Shake out? Not one thing. I adhered to the course you indicated earlier in your rooms,” Cairo protests. “But I certainly wish you have invented a more reasonable story. I felt distinctly like an idiot repeating it.”
     I know the feeling. In that dim, cat-leaving-something-disgusting-on-your-pillow way the media sometimes has, we are batting around the “Replacement Theory” supposedly spouted by the alleged murderer of 10 Black shoppers and staff at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday.
     I really wish they’d craft a less stupid worldview for us to pick over. Show some pride. But we must play the hand we are dealt. So here goes.
     The term itself has been spreading in public discourse for almost five years, since August 2017, when hundreds of white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, bearing tiki torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
     Yeah, like Jews want to go live in your mother’s basement with the Nazi flag thumb-tacked over the washing machine.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Judge a book by its cover

     One of my personal mythologies is that, when it comes to writing stuff, I'm an endless font gushing quality material, a steely newspaper veteran who can firehose a constant stream of columns and blog posts and freelance articles and books, on command. That's being a professional.
     On Monday, however, I hit SEND on the proofread galley of my next book, due out in the fall from University of Chicago Press, and felt, well, about as drained as a human being can feel and not actually be dead. If I were a cartoon, I'd just collapse into a heap of ash and be blown away on the breeze. 
     It's always been an article of faith that the extra writing I do enhances, rather than detracts from, my job as a newspaper columnist. But this past six weeks, well, I was starting to think I was cheating the boss. Not that the column suffered—I think the writing was up to snuff. But I took on a big story on a certain Wisconsin manufacturer that would have been in the paper by now, but kept getting pushed aside. No gas in the tank. Which isn't the worst crime in the world, but a lapse I'm going to leap to address.
     But not now.  After sending the nearly-500-page book on its way (don't get scared; there's art) I sighed, stood up, and went to water the tomatoes, which helped, then folded a load of laundry.
     Now I'm back, good to go and onto the next task, today's post. Let's, ah, umm, share the cover of the book whose copy I have just picked over like an obsessive mother ape going after ticks on her child. For the past six weeks.
     Seeing the cover of a new book is always a moment of excitement and anxiety. It's like seeing your new face, designed by a stranger. This is my ninth book, and some covers I loved on sight, some hated. This one, I liked it when I first saw it, and like even more now. 
     Although when I first saw it, I did have a nagging qualm. I liked it; but I didn't love it, in the sense that what I wanted was a gorgeous Barry Butler photo—I already had one picked out, and helpfully sent to the Press—something that would shimmer like a gem on the shelves at the book shops at the Art Institute and the Chicago Architecture Foundation the way "You Were Never in Chicago" has done for a decade.
    This was bold. But not shimmering. I'm proud of my response, applying one of my superpowers to the situation, the realization that it isn't all about me. People smarter than myself in the art of selling books chose this route. So I didn't complain. Didn't ask or changes. What I did say is, if I've learned anything, it's that the purpose of a book cover is not to tickle the aesthetic sensibilities of the author, but to catch the attention of readers, to draw them in, and this cover will look fantastic on your phone, shrunk to a half inch tall. 
I remember looking at this and
thinking, "Could you MAKE it 
any smaller?"
      That was my initial take. Love builds over time, and now that a month or two has passed since I first saw it, I do kinda love the thing. Take a look at it and figure out why. Well, there is the artwork of Lauren Nassef, a Chicago artist and illustrator, who did a masterful job illustrating the book, and was a pleasure to work with (the "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" domed silver server illustrates the Chicago Jewish community's famous, to me anyway, "dinnerless dinner" at the Drake in 1921, to benefit the needy in Europe. It was masterfully reproduced to give the sense of presenting the city of Chicago, on a platter). I like the colors, the big bold block letters of "EVERY GODDAMN DAY," the way the server cover just hooks the top corner of the Y. And the way the gloved hand nudges my name up. Okay, I'll say it: I like my name being so big, splayed across the whole cover, and not the tiny type other books have used. Maybe they didn't get the memo from the Humility Department.
     The cover, I should point out, was designed by Isaac Tobin (who happens to be married to Lauren Nassef. Small world). 
     Does it work? Well, you can pre-order the book from the University of Chicago Press (it costs the same as on Amazon, and you aren't underwriting the Leviathan). There's a value to that beyond merely displaying enthusiasm. One way the University of Chicago Press stays in business is by not ordering up vast print runs. My last book, "Out of the Wreck I Rise" kept selling out, especially after Scott Simon interviewed me on National Public Radio. So when it was published, sometimes people would have to wait for weeks while the presses ground out more copies and barefoot children sitting cross-legged in drafty warehouses in Malaysia sewed the bindings (kidding; I believe they use machines now). 
     Although to be honest, I'm not hanging fire on sales. First, it's my ninth book, so I'm familiar with the range of the possible. They always do well, or wellish, or well enough that I get to write another one, which is my main goal. And second, I learned so much doing this one, it was so much fun exploring the wide sweep of Chicago history, blowing dust out of the crannies and taking a peek inside, that I've already had my success. "You don't even have to publish the thing," I told my editor, turning it in. It was worth doing even if I was the only one to read it.
     That said, I'm glad it's coming out—Oct. 21, for those of you who want to mark it on your calendars (what? You haven't ordered yet? Order it! Please).  And I do hope you read it, because, well, it's got a lot in it. I'm glad they gave the book such a kick ass cover. Because despite the old saying, you can judge a book by its cover. People do it all the time.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Why would an 18-year-old kill?

     Do you remember being 18? I do. Graduating from high school, going to prom, spending one last summer in my hometown, Berea, Ohio, baking biscuits at a Bob Evans restaurant. There were worries — I’d be going to college in the fall, living in a four-man dorm room. What about the mini-fridge? What if we all rented one? Then we’d have four.
     When news of the shooting in Buffalo broke Saturday night, everyone grabbed a fact that seemed most important and waved it around. Ten people dead! A supermarket in a Black neighborhood! Toxic white supremacism seemed to motivate the alleged shooter! A lunacy once on the fringe of American society, now planted and growing at the center of the Republican Party.
     The preparations this guy took — that helmet and body armor, which kept him from being wounded by the store security guard. He drove 200 miles. With an AR-15 rifle, of course. Few people even mention the gun, because it’s such an accepted part of American life. That would be like pointing out the air he breathed. Air is everywhere; everyone has access to it. Guns too.
     Me, I kept thinking about his age: 18. To be that young, and throw away not only all those other lives, but your own too. To spend your whole life in prison, probably. Worse than being dead. And for what? To scratch your itch for two minutes.
     Think of all the lives he destroyed or altered. Not just the dead: the wounded, the grieving, their city. I almost included us, too, in the circle of the harmed. But that’s bombast. These shootings are both shocking and routine. The Buffalo shooting was Saturday evening. I’m writing this Sunday morning, but first sincerely wondered whether by Monday this will fade so much as to be not worth addressing. Old hat. No, I think I can slip it in before we move on and forget all about it.
     I focus on the apparent shooter’s age because it’s the aspect I can most relate to — I’ve never been to Buffalo, or shot anybody, or wanted to, or been shot. But I was 18. Sitting in Introduction to Russian in the fall. Shto eta? Eta capoosta. “What is this? This is a cabbage.” Russia seemed a direction I might want to go. Because at 18, you can go anywhere you want. Not everyone knows it. Not everyone has the same resources. But most 18 year-olds have choices.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Flashback 1999: Lasso the kids for Donley's

     I was sad to hear that Donley's Wild West Town is closing after 45 years in business. I was only there once, nearly a quarter century ago, with the boys, then 3 and 4, but I remember it being a fun, unusual place, with a little train, and a jail, and panning for "gold," and energetic employees working hard to give kids a great experience. 
     Usually, my old stuff doesn't make me cringe, but this one did,  a little. You could slice the first four paragraphs off and lose nothing. If this were someone else's work—oh that it were—and they asked me to critique it, I'd say, "You buried the lede. Start with 'I never had heard of the place...'" Or, better, "I'd never heard of the place..." Less awkward. Ah well.
     News is by nature negative. Headlines point to the disasters and tragedies of the day. You never see "EVERYTHING'S FINE" in big type.
     That's good, since everything is not fine, as a rule. So the bad gets publicity, and the good can be ignored. Run into something wonderful and enjoy it, but keep it to yourself. You don't want to be a publicist. What is forgotten is that others might enjoy it too, if only they knew.
     So, realizing the risks involved in praise, I have to let this one out:
     Donley's Wild West Town in Union, Ill. Fun. Unexpected.
     I never had heard of the place. Never heard of Union, for that matter. My wife found it. She has been running her own one-woman summer camp, and, in her endless quest to occupy the boys every day, found Donley's in a book. My first thought was: "I've never heard of Union. It must be far away."
     Make that far, far away. A solid hour's drive from Chicago. Plenty of time to dread the kind of cheesy, rundown joint a bitter cynic such as myself would expect from "Wild West Town." Neglect. Decay. A few pathetic attractions, run by indifferent teens forced to wear plastic uniforms.
     It wasn't. Not close. A big area enclosed by neat wooden buildings. For nine bucks, kids pan for gold in a miner's flume and ride a pony and a small choo-choo train. They are taught to lasso and invited to watch a bullwhip demonstration and a 20-minute Wild West show with gunplay and chases and corny jokes and bad guys tumbling from balconies.
     The place had an enormous restaurant where a tired dad could enjoy a beer with his lunch, and a jail cell where the sheriff herds the kiddies into a real old-fashioned lock-up and lets them ponder their imprisonment for a moment before compelling them to sing a song before he lets them out, all with a deft good humor, as if he hadn't done the same thing a dozen times that day, a hundred times that week, and thousands of times over the years.
     That wasn't the best part, however. The best part, for me, was the faces of the employees. They were adults. Men. One face after another, deeply tanned, lined, sun baked. Cowboy faces. Grizzled Marlboro men. A long, white mustache. A Clint Eastwood squint. All dressed like real, genuine cowboys. My kids will remember the pony, but I will always be amazed that the guy leading them around looked like he just stepped out of "Rio Bravo."
     Enthusiastic, authentic employees couldn't be an accident.
     "What we try to do is attract people who have a love of the old West," said Mike Donley, son of the founder, adding that the town has been there 25 years this summer. "We get a lot of retirees looking for something to do. The first thing we try to instill is: We don't pay your salary. Those guys coming through the door do. If those kids go home at night thinking you're camping under the stars, eating beans, then you've done your job. If you haven't, those kids aren't coming back."
     So that's the story. My apologies for sharing something positive. I'm sure I'll be my old self again next time. But with my kids clamoring to return and, incredibly, me looking forward to taking them, I couldn't just sit on this. The bulk of August stretches long and hot before us, and more than a few readers must need somewhere to take the kiddies that is worth the drive.
          —Originally published in the Sun-Times, Aug. 3, 1999

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Wilmette Notes: Respite

   After you've read a certain writer for a while—last month Wilmette Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey passed, without fanfare, her second anniversary contributing to this space on Saturdays—you get a sense of their moods, their rhythms, their ups and their downs. I read the essay below and thought, "She seems her old self again; a little lighter mood. The spring must be doing its work." Maybe you feel the same.

By Caren Jeskey
I will take an egg out of the robin’s nest in the orchard,
I will take a branch of gooseberries from the old bush in the garden, and go and preach to the world;
You shall see I will not meet a single heretic or scorner,
You shall see how I stump clergymen, and confound them,
You shall see me showing a scarlet tomato, and a white pebble from the beach.
                                —Walt Whitman
     Ever since childhood, the eye popping blue of robin’s eggs has been one of my favorite things, probably because my mother felt the same way. My folks put birds, trees, insects, woods, water, and dirt on our radar from the moment we hit this planet, my siblings and me. I can still feel sand crunching between my teeth from peanut butter sandwiches on Wonder Bread at the beach. We lived outside whenever we could. 
     When I was gifted with eggs from neighbor’s chickens in Austin I’d carefully blow out the insides and save the almost weightless shells. They sat decoratively on windowsills and eventually ended up in the compost bin. When I lived in a tiny house with a chicken coop in early COVID times, the hens would leave warm oval offerings and I’d interact with them in multiple ways. First, just picking them up gently and feeling the weight in my palms, and admiring their hues. Then I’d place them into a bowl on the kitchenette counter as a pretty display. I’d gaze at the prettiness in the bowl on and off for days, and eventually crack them open— one or two at at time— to scramble up in a cast iron skillet on the portable electric stove top.
     The mind can be a complicated place. The same murky matter that plays traumas and insults over and over— and fears aging, loss, and death— can become still and serene by a simple unexpected joy, such as finding a nest full of eggs at the lakefront as my niece and I did last weekend. What a boon for this egg lover!
     We were at the Lighthouse Beach off of Central in Evanston on a much needed sunny day, and ended up in the wooded area with a gigantic climbing tree and rocks overlooking the lake. We built an epic fort with a tree-stump living room. My niece had me peel long strips of bark off of branches and sticks we had scavenged, which we used as twine.
     I noticed a thick ropy vine hanging down over a small tree, and pulled at it to see if I could break it off for fort lumber. As I tugged, I quickly realized that it was holding tightly to the tree, so I let it go. As the tree snapped back into place I saw a female robin flutter away. I took a closer look and there it was. Her nest, just a foot or so over my head. I held up my camera and snapped.
     I’ve never before found four perfect little blue eggs in an exquisitely crafted nest. I needed this tiny gift. Being at the lake with loved ones on a sunny day was great, and finding these babies was the sweet buttercream icing on the cake. In this truly vida loca, Mother Nature is still my refuge.
     I thought a lot about those eggs in the coming days and had a strong feeling that they would not make it. As the season finally relented and invited us outdoors, the beach and surrounding parks are becoming busier. With all of that activity I felt concerned for the birds. I also saw plenty of squirrels perching nearby, and a hawk hangs out there too.
     Last night I finally made it back to check on the babies. I held my camera up and snapped, and it was just as I’d thought. There were two eggs left, one sliced wide open with sticky yellow insides exposed. The other had a small round hole pecked clear out of it, with no movement inside. I also found a near whole, empty egg shell under the tree.
     All living beings are the same. We come into this world, and if we are lucky we survive. Along the way we might get henpecked or worse, and we also accomplish great things, big and small. We will all, as Walt Whitman did, eventually lose our ability to enjoy any of them. It’s time for me to get out on my bike now and do as Mary Oliver said in her poem "Summer Day:" Take advantage of this one wild and precious life.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Abortion is murder; oh wait, no it’s not

Museum of Science & Industry

     Less than 48 hours after the draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would scuttle Roe v. Wade was leaked in the press, the Louisiana legislature moved a bill out of committee that criminalizes any abortion, from the moment of conception, as a homicide, allowing women who have such a procedure, or anyone who performs one, to be charged with murder.
     Meanwhile, at the same time, states like Illinois rush to guarantee the right of women to control their own bodies, and certain companies, like Levi Strauss, Yelp and Uber, announce they will pay for female employees to go out of state to have an abortion — raising the specter of a nation where a citizen doing something in one state can get reimbursed by her boss, while doing the exact same thing in another state lands her in prison.
     Unless it doesn’t. Late Thursday, after even anti-choice advocates protested that they were overplaying their hands, supporters clawed the bill back. For now.
     Punishing women who get abortions makes for bad optics and, besides, it implies that they are responsible for their own decisions, and not merely the playthings of men, who are the ones with volition and therefore the ones who should be punished.
     Louisiana tossing out harsh laws and then yanking them back is the kind of chaos we can expect in the months to come. Religious fanaticism and forethought do not go hand in hand. If you set your daughter on fire because you feel shamed by who she is dating, then you probably didn’t deeply consider that you won’t have a daughter anymore and might be casting an even greater shame on your family.
     Ditto for political fanaticism. If you bar immigrants because you are terrified at the thought of a diverse America, then the strawberries rot in the field, because we actually need immigrants to make the economy work — to be surgeons as well as pick fruit, I must point out.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022


     And we thought the first Trump administration was a nightmare. During the Biden administration, rather than slowly grope their way back toward being decent people and loyal Americans, the MAGA crowd is deteriorating into a permanent state of foaming nonsensical madness, where no fact cannot be dismissed nor situation twisted into something contrary to what it is. Those lost in fealty to the former president have a phrase, "Trump Derangement Syndrome," they apply to anyone paying critical attention to his crimes or, indeed, critically pointing out anything about the 45th president did or does, such as my observation here Tuesday that the news he wanted to lob missiles into Mexico, then deny we had done it, revealed in former secretary of defense Mike Esper's memoir this week, would have been big news in a less crazy America.
     Prompting the following tweet. I know I shouldn't reply—what is the point? This guy has four followers. But sometimes you just have to point out the obvious, out of fidelity to reason, the country and whatever shred of hope remains of our nation avoiding utter ruin. Of course he never responded. They seldom do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Rainbow Cone shines up north, too


   Once upon a time, in order to savor the quintipartite joys of an Original Rainbow Cone, you had to somehow get yourself to Beverly. Not too difficult if you were already in Beverly, or near it, or at least on the South Side. But an insurmountable hurdle to guys like me, far, far away from the Pepto Bismol-pink ice cream shop at 9233 S. Western Ave.
     Then Rainbow began popping up at Taste of Chicago, where I first tried the five-layer frozen delight, perhaps the pinnacle of the Chicago ice cream world. (Which is a small planet. There’s Margie’s hot fudge. And Lezza’s Spumoni & Desserts. And ... that’s about it, right?)
     For the unenlightened, a Rainbow Cone’s fivefold path is, from top to bottom: orange sherbet, followed by four ice creams: pistachio, Palmer House (New York vanilla with walnuts and cherries), strawberry, chocolate. As with actual rainbows, the wonder was hard to find, but that’s changing.
     The past half-dozen years, Rainbow Cone has run a summertime kiosk on Navy Pier. Last year, another opened in Lombard.
     Beginning Wednesday, deprived North Siders can partake, as Rainbow Cone opens at 3754 W. Touhy Ave. in Skokie in a symbiotic relationship with Buona Beef.
     I swung by Monday with one goal: to enjoy a Rainbow Cone — whoops, I mean, to talk to Lynn Sapp, granddaughter of founders Joe and Katherine Sapp, who opened Rainbow Cone in 1926.
     “I grew up right behind it, and my grandparents lived above it,” she said.
     Has a lifetime of proximity muted the allure?
     “No. I’ve always loved Rainbow,” she said. “It’s kinda like a drug for me.”
     But scarcity drives value. Is she concerned the proliferation of Rainbow Cones — there’s also one in Darien — will dilute the magic?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

"What need we fear?"

     Given that former president Donald Trump is a relentless, proven, consistent, pathological liar, why doesn't that fact preface every new report of his latest fabrication?
     Why float each new fib as if there were even the possibility of being true?
     For instance, his claim that he "had to run the military" while Mike Esper was secretary of defense, the typical ad hominem smokescreen in response to the jaw-dropping claims in Esper's new memoir, A Secret Oath.
     In a sane America, the secretary of defense revealing that the ever-fibbing president wanted to fire missiles into Mexico and then pretend we hadn't, or bring in soldiers to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters, would have been huge news and led to the gravest crisis.
     But we no longer live in that world.  In this world, it barely caused a ripple. In this world, it's just Monday, with news Tuesday sure to efface it with something even more horrendous. 
     Because no excess of Trump's is damaging. To him. His fans literally do not care what comes out, because the source can always be impugned, and his fan base will never falter. Thus he can shrug off the truth and plaster it over with a thick crust of lies that neither he nor his audience believe.
     "What need we fear who knows it," Macbeth asks, "when none can call our power to account?"

Monday, May 9, 2022

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass

     The Boeing Co. isn’t the first sharpie to show up in Chicago with a smooth patter and a suitcase filled with dreams to end up slinking out of town on a Greyhound bus.
     Their departure is supposed to be some kind of insult. But remember who Boeing is. A fine piece Friday in the Sun-Times detailed Boeing’s departure. It mentioned their $1.2 billion first quarter loss but politely sidestepped the 737 Max disaster.
     Remember? Boeing engineers tried modernizing an old plane design by spitting on their thumbs and smudging the computer code, ending up with some horrific glitch that sent one plane powering into the ground, killing 189 passengers. Sending Boeing into spasms of inertia and blame offloading for five, count ’em, five months until the same thing happened again, killing another 157 people, at which point Boeing mumbled, “Umm, yeah, well, OK maybe there’s a problem here ...”
     Not the company we want to keep.
     Given the blundering that Boeing embodies, who can even pretend their nesting here is some kind of civic adornment? Of course they prefer to be near Washington, D.C., close to the regulators and Justice Department officials who will be harrying them into eternity. Or should be.
     Some of the 500 jobs at Boeing’s headquarters were lost in the pandemic, and some might stay when the headquarters moves. But even if they all vanished, 500 jobs is chicken feed. That’s one big law firm. Sidley Austin has almost 500 attorneys. Plus another 500 support staff. Status and number of employees do not go hand in hand.
     Any idea who the biggest employer in Chicago is? You’ve got it: the federal government. Necessary, but nobody is thumping their chests saying “Chicago’s got 3,800 mail carriers ...”
     Does anybody even care anymore what companies are headquartered here? Excepting the company they actually work for, and maybe not even that, now that we’ve become unmoored from our places of employment. When Bally snagged the Chicago casino, did anybody other than me think, “Oh, that’s so cool, because Bally is headquartered right here, in Chicago, where it was founded in 1932 ...”

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Big G Ghetto

     Loving words is not without its disappointments. Because many people don't care.
     And subscribing to the New York Times can also be disheartening. Because sometimes they drop the ball.
     Those two sources of  let-down merged Thursday, reading the Arts section, topped with Robin Pogrebin's story, 
Reviving the Renaissance Temples of Venice's Jewish Ghetto, about exactly that. I read it twice, not because it was so interesting—it really wasn't—but to make sure what was left out truly wasn't there.
     Venice's Ghetto, the tiny acre and a half island where up to 5,000 Jews were forced to live, lest they pollute Christian Venice, is the original ghetto. It's where we get the word, taken from an iron foundry that was located there 600 years ago.
     The etymology isn't a big secret. The second sentence of the Venice Ghetto's Wikipedia entry is: "The English word ghetto is derived from the Jewish ghetto in Venice."
     That might not be a big deal. But it is interesting, is it not? Worth sharing. 
     I suppose, in their defense, maybe they assume that everybody already knows. Though you didn't know, did you? And you're pretty smart.
     Why include it? I'd say it's the most relevant, germane aspect of the story. Otherwise, it's a rehab story about a place you'll probably never see.
     Maybe I'm just bitter. I've been to Venice twice and didn't get to the Ghetto either time. The first time because I was there with my dad for a single day at the end of a very long trip and had no energy, time or intention of going. Though 
I tend to hit synagogues abroad—muscle memory—we had been to temples in Charleston, Bridgetown, and Rome. That was enough. 
     The second time, five years ago, I did hope to go.  But we got hung up at the Palazzo Grassi, ogling Damien Hirst artworks.
     Though I comfort myself with the thought that now I have a reason to go back to Venice. With millions of dollars being poured into restoring these synagogues, it's better to have waited until they were looking their best.
    Still, c'mon, New York Times. A little respect for the etymologists. History matters. To some of us, anyway. If you find yourselves writing a travel piece about Normandy Beach, at least mention that there was a famous landing there a long time ago. It'll be news to some folks, and those who already know, well, we expect a least a nod.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Wilmette Notes: From Chaos to Peace

    I haven't been inside a movie theater in over two years. I was just musing that, after two vaccines and two boosters, I'd maybe possibly go sometime in the indeterminate future, if the right film came along. Wilmette Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey has once again beaten me to the punch. Her Saturday report:

By Caren Jeskey

     "Everything Everywhere All at Once" at the Davis Theater had me stifling sobs, just as the play "Spring Awakening" at Porchlight did last week. The first hour of the film was chaotic and jarring, absurd, bizarre and sometimes violent. It brought to light the disjointed, incomplete existence many of us are feeling.
     I was tempted to walk out. I had reserved seats in the middle of the theater away from everyone else in a row all its own, and was double masked for my third movie of COVID. I was with a friend who did not seem to want to run out of the theater screaming, like I did. So I stuck it out.
     My favorite bodies of work often start slow or uncomfortable. They take a commitment to get through, and the rewards are worth it. "Schitt’s Creek" is one of them. It started off with annoying and unrelatable characters. I just didn’t care about them, and I wanted to stop after the first few episodes. The comedic brilliance of Catherine Anne O'Hara kept me around, and I was also intrigued that three of the characters three of the characters are related in real life. "Schitt’s Creek" became an all time favorite.
     The show turned out to be a gift to all who made it through the beginning to be rewarded with convulsing belly laughs. It was also poignant, and showed how family ties can be the strongest bond of all, despite the difficulties of maintaining a sense of oneself amongst those who know you best.
     The first hour of chaos in "Everything Everywhere..." sets the stage for one of the sweetest emotional releases I’ve been led to via cinema. It gave light to the fractured parts of ourselves; the good, the bad, and the ugly. The movie is a vessel for connection. It had me feeling less alone when the characters erred and then found their ways back to themselves. It provided a visceral experience of battling with oneself and one’s family of origin with all of the ambivalence and cognitive dissonance that entails. It ultimately reminded us that we are all in this human existence together at this precarious time. The movie shows that vulnerability with those we love can provide a window into salvation.
     When I say salvation, I mean the dictionary definition: “Preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.” Being human intrinsically comes with the inevitably of being affected by each of these three things. We are harmed multiple times in our lifetimes, either physically, psychologically, or emotionally. Perhaps all three, just the perils of being human.
     When the roller coaster experience ended, we stumbled out of the movie, with me wiping tears into my sleeve. We decided to have dinner at a local establishment. A young woman who was sitting at the bar paid me a compliment. “You’re so skinny.” Well, that got my attention, seeing as I concur with a 20 year old client who said to me this week, "I feel old and decrepit."I quickly realized why she approached me. She was suffering. Her two year old child had just been removed by DCFS. She told me her story, and there was nothing I could say. I hugged her, and she cried.
     The next day I reached out and found three references for attorneys who specialize in such cases, and sent them to her.
     In a Zoom staff meeting a few days later everything went wrong. The internet was intermittently failing for part of the time, someone was recovering from an uncomfortable medical procedure, and a colleague didn’t realize that she was making quite the ruckus into our speakers with her movings about.
     It was a mess. It reminded me of the first hour of the movie. Things were falling apart, but the ultimate goal was achieved. After things settled down, in the last ten minutes we looked into each others’ faces with warm, reassuring smiles. These days the best we can do is find those moments where we can pretend everything is OK.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Time to embrace ‘Our Lori’

     What if we’re stuck with Lori Lightfoot?
     Not just for another year, but for another term. Would it really be so bad?
     Let’s think this through.
     Like you, I was hoping one of the usual suspects — Paul Vallas, Mike Quigley — would come charging into the mayor’s race, someone significant we could get excited about. And no, Willie Wilson tossing away fistfuls of cash doesn’t count.
     But each potential savior took a long look at our churning municipal disaster, then fled.
     Another kick to prostrate Chicago: a city so broken nobody even wants to run it.
     Except Lightfoot, though yes, she goes about the task with the determined cringe of a cat owner squeegeeing up a particularly voluminous pool from a hardwood floor.
     Can you blame her? Why would anybody want to be mayor of Chicago? It’s an impossible job.
     Do you remember a successful, popular mayor? Me neither.
     Do those two traits even go together? Effectiveness and popularity seem inverse qualities. Jane Byrne was a hot mess with no idea what she was doing. Yet Chicagoans were fond of her ... why? Personal style. Panache.
     That’s what makes a mayor beloved. People embraced Harold Washington whether he got anything done or not. Richard J. Daley was so hated we forget how loved he was by the bungalow belt, who kept pictures of him in their living rooms, like he was the pope. All they ask is that the mayor reflect their own person. Then they can extend the blanket approval they give themselves.
     Do Chicagoans have to like their mayor? Not really. Rahm Emanuel was an abrasive jerk. But he created the Riverwalk, a cool addition to downtown. Many folks didn’t particularly like Richie Daley, an entitled princeling brought up behind the high walls of his Bridgeport purdah. He hurt Chicago, giving away the parking meters, the Skyway and bus stops in ludicrously bad deals.
     But the Bean! And Millennium Park! All is forgiven.
     That’s what Lightfoot needs. I reached out to her office to inquire what kind of glittering bauble the mayor plans to bestow upon the city in gratitude for her second term. The answer filtered back — it isn’t like she’d talk to me — to the effect that she looks with pride at the progress she’s made in each of Chicago’s 77 distinct communities.
     See? That’s so Lori, I glanced over my shoulder, expecting a laugh track, the canned “Oh Lori!” groan.

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Flashback 1998: ROE V. WADE; The debate no court can settle

     Someday we're going to look back on abortion as one of those issues that captivated our nation's attention when we should have been focused on actual problems. 
     I've certainly been writing about it for a long time. Two dozen years ago, for the 25th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, I found two women on opposite sides of the fence, and dug up some background on the ruling itself. Alas, this could run in the paper tomorrow with very little alteration. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art
     Both women wept at the news.
     When the historic Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion was announced 25 years ago this week, both Mary Anne Hackett, at home with her five children, and Sue Purrington, at her job, were overcome with emotion. Both vowed to change their lives but, in keeping with one of the most controversial Supreme Court rulings of the century, those vows were at cross-purposes.
     "I cried because I was very happy," said Purrington, who went on to work for abortion-rights groups. "I made a pledge in my life that what I was going to do was make sure Roe would stay legal."
     "I remember reading it and crying," said Hackett, president of Illinois Right to Life. "I couldn't believe the land of the free and the home of the brave would allow mothers to kill their children. I became very actively involved on that day."
     Roe vs. Wade, which upheld a woman's right to have an abortion, at least in the first two trimesters, was a landmark, and 30 million legal abortions have taken place since then.
     All because of a case that started with a 22-year-old Texas street person named Norma McCorvey, who had two children and, pregnant again, wanted an abortion, which was illegal in Texas in 1970. Calling a lawyer she thought would find her an abortionist, she was drawn into a group of activist lawyers searching for a pregnant woman to use in a lawsuit to overturn the state ban.
     McCorvey was first called "Jane Doe," but that reminded her of the tag put on a woman who had died giving herself an abortion; it was changed to "Jane Roe." Few realize that McCorvey, unable to get an abortion, had the child.
     She later changed her position, and now she is strongly anti-abortion.
     The "Wade" was Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney, who lost the case and appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court.
     Abortion was not entirely banned in the United States before Roe. Instead, each state decided individually the circumstances under which women could have an abortion.
     A few states permitted abortion; others banned abortion altogether or, as in Illinois, permitted it only when the life of the mother was at stake. About 500,000 legal abortions were performed nationwide in 1972.
     The number of illegal abortions is harder to determine. Women with money went to Mexico or to states with open abortion laws.
     Poor women were in a tougher situation. Desperate for abortions, they went to great and sometimes fatal lengths to end their pregnancies. They douched with bleach or peroxide. They used paint brushes and cocktail stirrers and pencils and knitting needles. And yes, they used wire hangers.
     "Of course they did," said Dr. Quentin Young, who worked at Cook County Hospital in the 1970s, when as many as 90 women at a time were in the hospital's septic abortion ward, suffering from their own attempts or from the bungling of back alley butchers. "They hurt themselves, perforated their uteruses, they came in bleeding, with difficult-to-treat infections."
     Anti-abortion activists contend that whatever barbarities were inflicted on women in those pre-Roe times have been dwarfed by the plight of the unborn caused by easy access to abortion.
     "Abortion has destroyed America," Hackett said, adding that women who have abortions universally regret it, leading sad and lonely lives spent missing their dead children. "It has destroyed respect for human life and had a brutalizing and sad effect on women, pretending that they can kill their children and just walk away as if nothing happened. Millions of women are suffering from it."
     Purrington, who had an illegal abortion as a teenager in 1960, still recalls the fear and humiliation she suffered.
     "The result of Roe is it institutionalized the right of a woman to feel safe and was a significant step in women having control over their own lives," Purrington said. "Roe meant that most women did not have to die in back alleys, or fear for their lives."
     Robert Bennett, a law professor at Northwestern University, finds two surprises from a perspective of 25 years:
     "First, how little closure, societally, the court was able to bring to the abortion issue by rendering the decision. And then, how much staying power the decision has had. It didn't seem to end conflict out there in society. But it has held."
                —Originally published in the Sun-Times, Jan. 20, 1998