By Caren Jeskey
Thank goodness for NPR. Tasty tidbits of information are almost constantly funneled into my voraciously hungry ears, nearly commercial free, thanks to public radio. KUTX out of Austin keeps me attuned to some of the greatest music of all time, old and new. That’s where I found the stunning voices of Alex Maas of the Black Angels, Heartless Bastards' Erika Wennerstrom, and the croons of a distant relative of Davey, Charly Crockett.
I relied on Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers to keep me company on many a cold Saturday morning when Car Talk was airing, even though I did not own a car. The Magliozzi brothers’ schtick was hilarious, brilliant, and comforting with their simple joie de vivre. When I got a car, I had countless driveway moments— when I could not turn the radio off since 1A or The Moth wasn’t over over yet. (That was before I had Bluetooth earpods; now I can take the shows with me wherever I go). Lore has it that they were revered, kept as indoor pals, and considered to have supernatural powers. Fossilized chicken bones reveal that some of our feathered friends received ancient medical interventions that set broken bones, and humans were buried with their two winged friends. Apparently the birds were a conduit to a desirable afterlife. It wasn’t until A.D. 43 when Romans made it to England that the growing British population realized that these prolific pets were rotund and tasty, and the masses needed food. Enter chicken and dumplings.
I was an apple pie American kid and chicken was a dinner time staple growing up. Shaken and baked, roasted, shredded for taco night, or fried and served with incidental greens and buttered honey biscuits.
As kids we couldn’t get enough visits to the Lincoln Park Zoo to watch their smooth white eggs crack open, gooey dinosaur bodies turning into fluffy yellow fur balls before our eyes.
That’s why, in the early '70’s, when my sister and I were offered the choice of a baby chick or a baby duck to take home from Easter Brunch at the Hotel Continental, we chose the tiny relatives of Kentucky Fried.
My Grandma Olive, who’d moved to Chicago at the age of 14 on her own, all the way from Wilmington Delaware, was a head cashier at this glorious hotel. We were her guests. My sister and I wore frilly dresses, white tights and black patent leather Mary Janes, and we each had a rabbit fur muff around our necks to nestle our chilly hands into. We felt very fancy. When we were sent home with baskets of plastic grass, chocolate eggs and live birds we were over the moon.
Ah, simpler times. When my folks were young enough to do foolhardy, spontaneous things.
This week I’ve been staying on Randolph near the lake, taking care of a friend’s little dog. On Tuesday I met colleagues at The Hampton Social for a light dinner. When we left, I walked one of them up the stairs to Michigan Avenue where we saw her bus, the 147, just closing its doors. I cheered her on as she ran towards it. The driver stopped and re-opened the door, and she hopped on. She gave me the thumbs up and off they went.
Just then I noticed many police sirens just north of there. I briefly wondered what was happening, then thought better of it. It had been a long day full of a broken down car and a mean bus driver on the Western bus. Instead of helping me figure out my Ventra app, he said that I must be stupid to have an app that I don’t know how to use.
I’d had enough stress, so I turned away from the sirens towards the stunning architecture. A far cry from my little rental home in Kenilworth Gardens. Eye candy galore.
I passed the Hotel Intercontinental and flashed back to the days when my Grandma Olive was still with us. Being in the restaurant business, she knew everyone. We were treated like royalty on our birthdays in high-backed throne-like chairs at Kon Tiki Ports, housed in this building. A stately statue of Nathan Hale in front of the Tribune Tower commanded a second look; I wondered who he was, and if his statue would last.
I crossed Michigan and came across a couple being photographed for their wedding, beaming without a care in the world. I looked over the railing towards the river and noticed the shape and structure of Trump’s building for the first time. In the past, I’d think “Rump” and turn away in disgust. This time I saw that the building itself is not hard on the eyes, albeit way too big. Looking east towards Jeanne Gang’s masterpiece my good sense returned. Nothing The Donald does is OK. Even though Trump Tower and Gang’s Vista Tower have a similar blue mirrored look, Trump’s building suddenly looked like a strip mall compared to Gang’s exquisite wavy towers.
Heading south, the sound of some very good blues emated through speakers out of a one man band. I noticed the Nutella Cafe for the first time and wondered what that was all about. Then I noticed the long line and stopped wondering; maybe another time.
I’ve been hearing deafening whirs and whizzes and backfires from cars late at night from my perch in a highrise on Randolph; likely versions of the street takeovers that Neil recently made mention of on his Facebook page. When reading the Sun Times story about these late night sideshows, I noticed the headline of another article where I learned a possible reason for the sirens of Tuesday evening. They were perhaps heading towards the horrible tragedy of a 36 year old man who had been stabbed to death on Ohio near Dearborn at the same time I was meandering around wondering if I should get some chocolate hazelnut dessert. As much as Chicago feels like home, sometimes I feel like the scared visitors from out of town who I used to think were being just plain silly.
Street takeovers like the ones in California...stabbings in River North...the Red Line becoming dangerous...what the flood? When I was last in Chicago, back in June, it didn't feel like coming home, the way it once did. Maybe it was right to feel like the scared visitors from out of town that I used to laugh at. I'm not laughing so much anymore, mostly because I'm 75 and a lot more vulnerable.ReplyDelete
I left Chicago thirty years ago, and in light of what you just wrote, and after what I saw on the local news while visiting...the scared feeling I had doesn't feel quite so silly now. My Chicago, the one I knew and loved, is either going away--or is already long gone. Not so sure I care for the more thuggish town that seems to have replaced it.
Chicago is "on track" to have over 600 murders this year. Not good, but down from last year. Thirty years ago, the number was 939. Just sayin'. Thirty years ago, every event was not captured by somebody's cellphone camera. Somehow, tens of millions of tourists continue to visit the city without either being stabbed or witnessing a street takeover at 2:00 a.m.Delete
I used to think there were answers to social ills and I'm not so sure anymore.ReplyDelete
Life is, and always has been, like Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". We all exit the same way, on some indifferent cosmic arbiters schedule, not our own. Even with these morbid certainties the world is filled with infinite wonder and most days can be exercises in joy and giggles - if we chose to make it that way. We have a new Jeanne Gang building on Forest Park here in St Louis - she makes the world a better and more beautiful place.ReplyDelete
That's good to know Dennis! I'll visit if I make it there.Delete
Learning the balance, day by day.Delete
Chickens? ive got Chickens. some 20 of them. Living over here with the goats out south. Getting ready to haul a load of goat shit out to the west side and dump it in our equipment yard to compost.ReplyDelete
The south side and west side where the vast majority of the violence occurs in our city. Then there are the tiny percentage of crimes that happen downtown to white people. that get everyone scared to go out for a latte. boo hoo
I understand fear. people should be afraid . income inequality, lack of decent schools, healthcare, housing and jobs. police brutality and racism. Until these issues are solved there will be people who saddle up in the morning coming to take what's yours , including your life.
Maybe its best if you just stay up on the north shore listening to NPR
Hello Franco. Please look back at my previous posts; I've been a Chicagoan my whole life and have done as much as I can to work towards social justice. I understand why my comments angered you, but please take the time to get to know me better before being so harsh. Thank you.Delete
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Also Franco, my Grandma lived on 95th & Commercial, Great Grandmother on 103rd & Torrence, and I lived with 9 chickens until last year. So you may think you know me, but you don't, and your comment really hurt.Delete
That seems like an incredibly unkind remark to make, from the safety of your distance.Delete
If I'm not mistaken, Franco used to post under his initials, and was known for occasionally being obnoxious. I thought he was trying to establish a new persona via a new name and had been restraining himself. Clearly, that strategy went out the window this morning. Based on many previous comments, he's a very interesting guy with a lot of life experience. I bet he's on your "side" of most issues, Caren, and I think he's read enough of your posts to know better than to be so pointlessly, misguidedly mean. Tl;dr -- the comment was a cheap shot, but I hope you won't let him get you down. Regular readers know what you're about, and that you didn't deserve that. (Of course, this is none of my business, and if you or Neil want to delete this, I get it...)Delete
Thank you. I could have let it go as well … ☀️Delete
Caren, I have been reading your EGD post since you were in Austin. you write well about interesting things. its impossible to get to know people without meeting them. I dont assume I know you from your posts.Delete
my comment though directed at you is aimed at so many people who lived in chicago but have fled to the burbs. or live in some upscale gated community in a wealthy part of town. you know the good parts where there's an expectation of safety and where people dont get abused by the cops.
anyway people move and you have the right to live where you wish. we all should have that right , but many dont. im sorry chicago is scary and that it scares you. I am concerned about being a victim of violence or that you would be or people I actually know might be. but much less so when im down town or various other parts of town where crime is so much lower than the south and west sides .
regret the aspersion I cast with the NPR comment . but seriously drifting noises from cars on the street East on Randolph st. and sirens that might be headed towards a road rage murder make you afraid? that kind of thing happens everywhere. people from out of town worrying about such things likely are just plain silly.
and yes jakash I used to post as FME. I think ive made that clear.
im frank Verciglio not trying to hide in the comments section of a blog. you can find me on FB and twitter
sorry im obnoxious except for maybe tom aren't we all sometimes?
yes I try to tone it down but like you say murders are down 30% from 30 years ago. chicago is my home. always has been . it aint bad. sick of the fear mongering.
I lived half my life in Chicago and its suburbs...I've always had a love-hate relationship with the city of my birth...and from its earliest days, Chicago has always had its good sides, its bad sides, its stunning tourist sides, and its appallingly ugly sides. It is still the most American of America's cities.Delete
When you've learned to negotiate the town's ins and outs, and its highs and its lows, then you can call yourself a Chicagoan. It's the out-of-towners who worry about all the dangers, just as they used to make machine gun noises and talk about Capone. Except for the Capone talk, I guess I'm more of an out-of-towner now. But I'm still a Chicago boy at heart.
And as for being offensive? After you've been banned for life from commenting at both Nextdoor and the Washington Post...as I have been this year...then you can truly call yourself obnoxious. Maybe I earned them...or maybe not. Their houses...their rules.
Of course, many of us cranky folks who comment on this not exactly "sunshine and lollipops" blog are obnoxious sometimes, Franco. And I believe that none have referred to *themselves* as being obnoxious more than I have, so there's that.Delete
Also, my comment above was designed to put your cheap shot in some kind of perspective, but not to denigrate you as a person. I had hoped that was clear, as I thought we sort of had an understanding from previous exchanges. Just from what we've read on EGD, it still seems clear to me that Caren was a poor target for the vitriol, however.
Anyway, I'm glad you explained your comment more fully. If I ever make a pilgrimage to Harold Washington's grave, which I've long intended, but have not done, I'll be keeping an eye out for chickens and goats. ; )
I did not feel denigrated in any way. `I believe we see eye to eye mostly. you should certainly tour oak woods its a beautiful cemetery . There is a Jewish section thats gone wild on the south edge, a confederate prisoner of war section and many other notables besides Harold buried there . Im just east on the southernmost corner.Delete
Caren you are welcome to come by as well
Nathan Hale? As in "I regret that I have but one life to give to my country" as the British slipped the noose around his neck?ReplyDelete
Yes, that Nathan Hale. What else do you know?Delete
I also worked on an urban farm in Humboldt Park where we provided food to a pantry. I rent a tiny house in the suburbs because 2 of my neighbors were car jacked in Chicago in January, and as a single person who lives alone I felt unsafe. Student loan debt renders me unable to buy a home of my own. So again Franco, please don't mudsling out of context. Thank you.ReplyDelete
One of the many incongruities with regard to the Biggest Loser is that he was born and reveled in being a big-city libertine. He built buildings and hung out with Big Apple jet-setters. Yet, to satisfy his massive ego by gaining political power, he's had to hitch his wagon to the votes of hidebound, culture-averse, city-hating burghers and rural folks who have long undoubtedly been beneath his contempt. (As if that were possible.)ReplyDelete
His Chicago building is actually appealing, and I don't even really cotton much to glass and steel monstrosities like that. But it's pretty good, it seems to me. It has such a marvelous location and takes full advantage of it, such that it looks swell from several different angles. If he weren't such a totally self-absorbed asswipe, he'd have left well enough alone and let people enjoy it -- turn to their friends and say "what building is that?" and be amazed to learn that it was his. Instead, he had that unimaginably awful sign posted right along the river, destroying the view of the lower portion and immediately prompting anybody with any sense to recoil. Most of his supporters would never consider stepping foot in the Hellhole, so they don't appreciate the sign, but residents such as myself are confronted by the vulgarity regularly. As an architectural detail, the 5-letter abomination is heinous. But, I suppose, as a bit of extremely obnoxious trolling, it's world-class! Try as I might, I always have a hard time looking down the river from the East and not having it ruin the scene.
When it was built I was very sad that it obstructed the IBM building's view of the river, more than anything.Delete
Can't argue with that. That's something you could never charge the old Sun-Times "barge" with doing. ; )Delete
Things always change but to live in fear is doing yourself a disservice. Violence can rear its ugly head anywhere. It always has. Always will.ReplyDelete
No place is the same as it was thirty years ago.
When I visit Miami, my home for fifty years, its not the same. Some things are better, some worse.
I agree; I don't walk around in fear, but it hits me now and then.Delete
Greetings from someone who grew up near 83rd and Exchange, Caren.ReplyDelete
And remember that fear is the mind killer.