Saturday, October 15, 2022

Northshore Notes: Simplicity

     A good story not only takes you somewhere but teaches you something. I not only enjoyed accompanying Northshore bureau chief Caren Jeskey on her ramble today, but appreciated learning about the existence of Purple. And soon so will you.

By Caren Jeskey

     Fresh out of grad school I took a temporary job, working for a small company called Archeus, an Employee Assistance Program, also known as an EAP.  A place to call when an employee is caught doing things they should not do on the internet and needs “counseling.” Many employers offer this service.
     Granted, this was 20 years ago, when folks didn’t realize that nothing you do online is private. EAPs are also the places to call when you need grief support, marital help, or when the stresses of life get to be too much. We’d counsel folks over the phone, or in satellite offices peppered around the Loop.
     The owner of the company was an elegant man, Reverend Sterling Minturn. I met him twice. Once at the office, and once at a martini lunch at a private club on Michigan Avenue. It was when I was working for Archeus that I experienced the coolest synchronistic experience of my life, which I wrote about in EGD back in April of 2020. 
     During that time I was also working for a corporate wellness program. They sent me out to Burr Ridge, to the Mars chocolate factory where I offered “Lunch & Learn” programs. I’d teach swing shift workers how to decompress with simple breathing and stretching practices. They’d send me home with coolers of dry ice and Dove ice cream bars. A win-win. 
     M&M’S® has recently introduced their newest member, Purple. She was “designed to represent acceptance and inclusivity” and “is known for her earnest self-expression. Keen self-awareness, authenticity and confidence are the driving forces behind Purple’s charm and quirky nature.” 
     Why not? I appreciate the rah-rah of a simple, old-timey pleasure these days. Bring on the Cracker Jack man with sailor hat and bell-bottoms. I was going to say Aunt Jemima, but remembered that her sweet mamie role has been rightfully retired.
     Flashing back to the past, I drove by Mars on my way to an appointment in Burr Ridge yesterday. I always take back roads and enjoyed a 75 minute, leisurely Friday afternoon drive out out to the southwest suburbs.
     I remembered an allergic reaction to super hot sauce at Heaven on Seven in nearby Naperville. They have glass droppers placed in childproof medicine bottles tucked away on a high shelf, and I was silly enough to ask to try them. The waiter cautioned me, suggesting one drop only. Being the high-roller I was, I had three. My neck immediately turned red and itchy, and my date and the waitstaff contemplated calling 911. I talked them out of it. “I’m fine!” I said. I was too embarrassed to admit I might need help. In the middle of that night I woke up to try to put out the mitts of fire that were my hands. I held them under cold water, but not before rubbing my swollen eyes, causing them to burn. Capsaicin poisoning. Being young and foolhardy, I slept it off.
     Yesterday, I knew that driving west into the country would yield great benefits. Road trips always do.
     Clumps of thick forests appeared between fields of tall prairie grasses. After my appointment I asked a local where I might find something pretty to look at. He directed me to Graue Mill. I was not sure what I’d find.
     I parked and found myself in the thick of fall foliage. 
Old trees surrounded a placid body of water, which I later learned is part of the Salt Creek Watershed. I marveled at the constant beauty of nature and gave a nod to good old Illinois. This land is our land. I walked a half mile or so on a nicely paved path as the dusk settled in. I wanted to keep going, but it was getting dark. I asked a couple if the path wound around the lake. They said “no,” and that I’d best be heading back the way I came. A young boy, 12 or so, came walking up with a fishing pole. He said “I’m going that way. My grandma is picking me up.” The couple encouraged me. "He knows where he's going!" The boy and I wound around the lake and he regaled me with stories of hunting deer with his uncles, and of the 48 inch fish he’d caught a few weeks back. “It was taller than me!” He showed me a picture to prove it. He also showed me the fake minnow bait on his fishing pole and explained that an internal hook was only activated if the bait was firmly snapped back. I’m not a hunter or fisher, nor a vegetarian, so this mini lesson was fun. Hats off to those who catch my food for me.
     His grandma started honking her horn in the distance, so he called her on his phone. “I’m 60 seconds away,” he lied. He stopped and tried to catch a quick fish from the water’s edge. I told him he’d better hurry to his grandma, who was probably worried. He asked me my name and I told him. He ran towards his grandma’s car and called over his shoulder "it was nice to meet you Caren! I’ll be back here Sunday.” I told him I’d try to make it back too.
     A Huck Finn day was had by all.

     “Stars and shadows ain’t good to see by.” Mark Twain, 1885


  1. Caren's Heaven on Seven catastrophic experiment with hot sauce reminded me of my first taste of a hot pepper, long before I married a Korean woman, who got me addicted to KImchi and other delectables. That first hot pepper unfortunately made it to my gullet before I reacted, which involved spasmodic coughing, sneezing and tears, much to the amusement of my Puerto Rican buddies. Their reaction to the hilarity of my predicament was almost as violent as mine to the capsaicin attack. Some of us learn from experience only.


    1. I can imagine it. We hosted a friend from Italy in Chicago when I was a teen, and we ate at a Mexican, Indian, or maybe Thai restaurant. He overdid the peppers and had a similar reaction. I love hot things, but did not realize that there was a very good reason these peppers were locked away, out of the reach of children (like me).

  2. I remember that story, Caren. You offered assistance and comfort to two gentlemen at the lakefront. They were bearded bicyclists who had been stopped by police for Biking While Weird, questioned, and searched. It turned out that one of the guys actually knew you.

    That was twenty years ago, not long after 9/11. It's a lot worse in America now, not better. If that same thing happened today, I'd be willing to bet they'd be arrested on some trumped-up charge (sorry, couldn't resist it) and hauled away. Welcome to Sha-caw-go...da land of da free and da home of depraved.

    1. I agree- it's better to fly under the radar these days. Thanks for remembering! :)

  3. What a great day for you ! How lucky to have that young boy come along to not only lead the way, but tell you things you never knew about.

  4. I believe that you would have been by Salt Creek, not a lake. That area is lovely.

    1. Good to know about.,River%20in%20central%20Cook%20County.


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