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?

To continue reading, click here.

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 ...”

To continue reading, click here.

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.

To continue reading, click here.

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