Sunday, July 17, 2022

Wilmette Notes: The New Normal?

Paris Catacombs. "It's by the malice of the devil that death entered into the world."

     Due to mysterious technical difficulties, North Shore bureau chief Caren Jeskey's Saturday reflections are appearing on Sunday. The proprietor apologizes for this change in routine, though, now that I think of it, shaking up routine is very on-brand for Caren.

By Caren Jeskey
Can you look in the mirror
And tell me everything's alright?
This American crisis
Keeps me wide awake at night.
           — American Crisis, Bob Mould Band, 
     Square Roots Festival, hosted by the Old Town School of Folk Music, took over Lincoln Square last weekend. Bob Mould Band headlined Friday night. I felt a pull to go, but my body had other plans. I spent nearly the whole day and evening in bed. As many others, I was wiped out from the tragic July 4th week. (Plus fatigue, dizziness, and other unpleasantness have become my companions since I had COVID). I crashed with a combination of despondency for the victims of terror so close to home, grief for the violent rage and twisted imagination of the young shooter, and disgust about the availability of tools to act out the depravity he was feeling inside. 
     The facts that he had created an animated video of himself shooting into a crowd of people that was available on YouTube, he’d attempted suicide and threatened violence towards his family, had spray painted an image of himself holding a weapon of mass destruction on the outside wall of his mother’s house, and still had carte blanche access to an arsenal of guns adds to the absurdity of his story.
     The shooters are not adults. They are the children we are raising. Stigmatizing mental illness, addiction, and poverty to the point of forcing people into the fringes is a big part of the problem. I believe that if every one of us made some effort to stay connected to the larger community outside of our castles and nuclear tribes, we’d create a healthier and safer climate for all. Even just a few hours a month — such as becoming a mentor at Mercy Homes or somewhere similar — can make an incredible difference. Our children are growing up quickly— most of them anyway — and will soon be the adults who replace us. Let’s help them feel more secure and show them their value, and thus they will stand a chance of becoming empathic humans rather than isolated pariahs.
     We have to hold onto hope, and slivers come in many forms. A group of volunteer therapists organized to serve the Highland Park community last week is still going strong, and growing. As I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, the Highland Park community has continued banding together in impressive ways. A fundraiser that asked for $5000 to pay the bills and support a woman of meagre means who was injured by a ricocheting bullet has raised over $20,000 with one donor commenting “All of our love and support to you. Our community will not let you become saddled into debt by this.”
     I was in need of a good escape, so after a day of rest on Saturday a long lost friend and I took a walk from Brother’s K on Main Street in Evanston to Northwestern’s campus and back. I realize the importance of keeping my tribe strong, and have been reaching out to good people I’ve lost touch with over the years. This old friend and I once worked together in a small non-profit with a brilliant and unstable maverick at the helm. I took my leave after a key person there attached to me in an uncomfortable way, telling me that she believed I was the reincarnated being of the pregnancy she’d aborted the year I was born.
     You can’t make this stuff up. I wrote my letter of resignation and got out of Dodge. The woman and I did not part on good terms. In retrospect I wish I’d been kinder and more patient with her, less judgmental. I wish I’d been kinder and more patient with everyone in my past who I relegated as unworthy of such treatment. I wish I’d saved my self-righteous indignation for those who truly deserved it, not just those who seemed strange to me and ruffled my feathers.
     After our Evanston walk, I headed to the Square Roots Festival. Old Town School is a cozy haven. Even before frogs started raining from the sky back in 2016, acoustic guitars and group singalongs put their warm arms around us. We survived blizzards there — hot cocoa, homemade soup and warm cider served by Miki who cheerfully ran the concession stand for a decade. (Miki’s now a manager at Kopi Cafe, another welcoming urban oasis in Andersonville, if you ever want to say hello. You’ll recognize him by his long dark locks, sparkling eyes, always welcoming demeanor, and trademark fedora).
     My niece was dropped off to hang out at the fest with me on Saturday. At 9, she’s growing up quickly. She picked out a few things for Auntie Peaches (me) to buy her, as she strode around feeling pretty cool to be a part of the scene. Just as my parents imbued the folk community spirit in me, it’s my turn to pass the baton. After my niece was picked up, I made my way to hear Guided By Voices and got lost in rock and roll. By the time I got into bed at eleven or so, I’d forgotten about bleak realities.
     On Sunday back at Square Roots, the highlight for me was listening to West African drumming with dance moves led by Idy Ciss, a fixture at Old Town and a principal dancer and choreographer at Muntu Dance Company. As we sang in call and response style with Idy in Wolof, his Senegalese tongue, we were at least temporarily sheltered from the storm.


  1. I will consider Caren’s streak still intact as she wrote of her resiliency during tough times.
    Regardless of the craziness that surrounds us, there is usually some form of refuge.

  2. Replies
    1. As grateful as I am for free email via Gmail, the fact that messages get embedded in threads and get lost has been a problem for me on and off over the years; I believe that's what happened. Thanks for publishing it today Neil! And Les thanks for the pass. I try to show up when I say I will, and so far have not yet failed EGD.

  3. I lived south of Main St. and west of Chicago Ave. from '75 to '85, and again in the early 90s. I still miss that Evanston neighborhood, and occasionally have dreams about it.


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