Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 September 2012, Day 117

Dear Michael,

I'm sorry that i barked at you tonight. I was trying to thank you for the beautiful moonflowers, but it got lost in translation. 

                                                                       Your friend, 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

29 September 2012, Day 116, Pt. 1

The view from the bus stop at Michigan and Balbo

The view to the south

The view to the north
My trip to Hyde Park took much longer than anticipated. There was a longish wait for the #6 bus, which was so packed to the gills with riders when it finally arrived that it didn't even stop. Then there was another 10 or 15 minute wait until the next bus came. Fortunately, i was waiting at Michigan and Balbo, overlooking Grant Park, one of Chicago's most beautiful intersections. It is, of course, impossible to stand on Balbo Drive and not ponder why in hell it retains the name of an especially brutal figure in Mussolini's fascist regime, but that is a mystery to be contemplated on another day; for today i'll just enjoy the view. 

29 September 2012, Day 116, Pt. 2

Harvest moon over Lake Michigan

Today, i went to my second wedding this month, pretty remarkable given that prior to that i hadn't been to a wedding in years. Both weddings were beautiful in their own ways. This evening my friend and former neighbor Natalie was married to her beloved Cynthia at Promontory Point in Hyde Park. The harvest moon rose over the lake just as the ceremony ended and the daylight began to fade. What a lovely setting to celebrate such a happy occasion! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

26 September 2012, Day 113

I'm finding this whole business of taking blurry pictures through the window of an L train oddly satisfying. I saw this huge flock of pigeons wheeling around above the roof of the Aragon Ballroom on my way home this evening. Pigeons. Up close they are just fat, dirty birds, but when they take wing like this, they are a beautiful sight.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

25 September 2012, Day 112

How is it possible that among all the many pictures of Rogers Park that i have posted on this blog, there was not a single one of the legendary Heartland Café?  Consider that oversight corrected.

Monday, September 24, 2012

24 September 2012, Day 111

From the sublime to the ridiculous. 

As you might have noticed, i tend to obsess over the small sector of my commute that involves getting from the Red Line to the Blue. I am truly embarrassed to confess that with all my bitching about the dismal Jackson Street tunnel, it never occurs to me that i could just as easily ascend to street level and walk a block in the sunshine and fresh air. Thank goodness, i finally came to my senses. My reward was this view of one of the gargoyles on the Harold Washington Library and the turreted corner of the Old Colony Building. 

I had no intention of posting any additional pictures, but then while the pup and i were out for our evening walk, i came across poor Pee-wee Herman tied to a scrap-metal truck and looking woeful.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

22 September 2012, Day 109

Our new puppy moved in today. There is a little bit of a dispute over who will get to be queen of the house (i am sadly aware that i am completely out of the running for that title), but in general, it is going surprisingly smoothly. This is as close to each other as they've gotten so far, but considering that Maisie the dog is curled up in the bed of Isabelle the cat, i'd say things are going very well. Of course, Isabelle had already claimed the dog's bed the minute i took it out of the bag, so she really can't complain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

20 September 2012, Day 107

I was running around all day, getting food from Trader Joe's and puppy supplies at Petco. Then i came home and did laundry and puppy-proofed the kitchen, moving all the cleaning supplies from under the sink to over it. All of this in addition to grading a pile of papers. I had my camera with me all day but nothing caught my eye. So here instead is a picture of the wall next to my desk, my favorite wall. Everything on it is meaningful to me either because it was a gift or because i got it for myself under memorable circumstances. The clay mask is the latest addition: a gift from a former student who just returned from a semester in Chile. It's certainly not the most artistic picture i've ever taken, but when you look at it, it will be almost like we are sitting here together. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

19 September 2012, Day 106

Game Day

The last few days have been so hectic that i've almost forgotten to take a few pictures along the way. Fortunately, a commute on the Red Line is practically guaranteed to present at least one photogenic moment. There might not have been time to carefully compose the image while seated on a moving train, but the wind was kind enough to cooperate this evening and provide an excellent view of the American flag and different team banners that i hope makes up for the stupid utility pole in the foreground. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

17 September 2012, Day 104

This time last week, i was complaining about the loathsome Jackson St. tunnel between the Red and Blue Lines.  I confessed that i often pay an extra quarter to take an alternate route and avoid it. Here is that little detour, through the dazzling ghost town of Block 37. It's a strange place, a seemingly cursed chunk of real estate in the heart of the Loop, an architectural beauty with a current vacancy rate of 70%. But it's so light and airy, especially when compared to the grim and claustrophobic tunnel, that i gladly ignore the ghosts and echoes and grab a glimpse of daylight as i make my way from train to train. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

16 September 2012, Day 103

This is the face of a cat who has just realized that a dog may be coming to live with her. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

15 September 2012, Day 102

Road trip today to that rare and exotic place: the suburbs! Here is the Leaning Tower of Niles, IL. I really don't know what else there is to say.

Friday, September 14, 2012

14 September 2012, Day 101

Sometimes, especially on a beautiful day, i shake up the usual commute so that i can see the skyline and cross the Chicago River from above rather than rumbling through an underground tunnel. Today was such a day. Here is the view through the window of the inbound Purple Line train on this beautiful Friday morning. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

13 September 2012, Day 100

I am not a disciplined person. I am more inclined towards an ever-changing kaleidoscope of enthusiasms than to anything resembling the long-haul. So it is with great pride and pleasure that i greet you on this, my little blog's 100th day of existence. I secretly doubted that it would last this long. In honor of the occasion, i am indulging myself in one of my favorite obsessions (at least at the moment): ghost signs, those ephemeral vestiges of old advertisements and building identifiers that slowly disappear from view or are suddenly revealed when an adjacent building is demolished. All but the first of these pictures were taken from the platform at the Granville stop on the Red Line.

"The Nautilus." Rear of apartment building on the 6100 block of N. Winthrop Street
Rear of 6161 N. Broadway St. from the Granville platform of the Red Line.

"Fire-proof warehouse." 6100 block of N. Broadway St. The top two floors were added when this former storage facility was converted to residential space.
South wall of the same building seen in the previous picture
Apartment building at 6230 N. Winthrop Street
This final picture may not be a ghost sign, but it could perhaps be called a ghost building, the last vestiges of which are on the verge of disappearing. The last time i passed there was a building here, but i honestly could not remember what it was, even though i've passed it countless times. After consulting Google (which i've begun to think of as my surrogate memory), i now recall the nondescript strip of shops (including a Payless and a Walgreen's) that used to stand here. Yawn. Toodle loo! I hope it will be replaced with something more interesting. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 September 2012, Day 98

I did not plan to dwell on the past today, to let this date cast its dark memories over everything. The meaning of that day -- and of the eleven years of strangeness that began with it -- is ultimately inescapable, but i think i succeeded in making this a good day, though not in the way i had planned.  I intended to wander far afield, breathing the air still warm but charged with autumn, and taking pictures of someplace i'd never been before. In the end, i spent most of the day moving from one chair to another, reading, sorting through files, watching a documentary, and buying silent films on Amazon. It's been a productive day, though certainly not in terms of my physical fitness. I always carry a pedometer in my pocket, aiming for the recommended 10,000 steps a day, and i succeed surprisingly often. But not today: I barely cracked 1,000. Fortunately, there is something beautiful, interesting, or disturbing just about anywhere i look, so i didn't need to exert myself overmuch to find the wonderful and strange: moonflowers, white, luminous, and as big as luncheon plates. Here they are. May your hearts be unburdened, and your souls at peace.

Monday, September 10, 2012

10 September 2012, Day 97

These were the worst and best moments of my afternoon commute. 

I loathe the Jackson St. tunnel between the Red and Blue Lines. It feels and smells like a pre-Temple-Grandin cattle chute. I hate it so much that i often switch trains at Block 37 instead, even though it costs an extra quarter. Music is the only thing that can make it tolerable, so i try to keep a song in my heart while i shuffle along with the rest of the herd. Probably because i still have that great concert Friday night on my mind, today the song was Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love."Maybe next time it will be this one.
There was, as i hope there always will be, a light at the end of the tunnel, and a little live music from my favorite buskers on the Red Line platform. I'm glad that other people appreciate them and have had the foresight to record them. This is how they sound.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

9 September 2012, Day 96

It feels like autumn today. The sky is that impossibly deep blue that you usually only see in late September through October. The air is cool, and that makes me hungry for something more substantial than a slice of melon or a croissant. Pictured above is the response to that hunger. Ordinarily, i confine my penchant for taking pictures of my meals to my Facebook page, thus testing the endurance and depth of my friendships with a large group of people, many of whom i've never met outside of cyberspace. But today i thought i would invite that far more exclusive group of self-chosen followers of this blog to join me in celebrating the wonderful ritual of Sunday breakfast. 
I'm not a religious person, but i am given to a fondness for rituals and arcane beliefs. The Sunday-morning pilgrimage to the farmers market is one of those rituals and out of it has sprung a deeply-felt belief in what i like to call "the miracle of the caloric transformation." According to this belief, anything purchased from the farmers market and consumed on the sabbath, is absolutely and utterly devoid of fat-content (and very low in over-all calories). If you share this belief, or would at least like to give it a theological spin around the block, please join me in having something absolutely delicious for your Sunday brunch. I had creamy brie layered with blue cheese generously slathered over slices of baguette, heirloom cherry tomatoes, plum Danish, café au lait, and a glass of San Pellegrino mineral water. Did i mention that i am also a great believer in indulging oneself in the occasional small luxury? I will happily return to six days of black coffee and shredded wheat for breakfast, knowing that the on seventh day there will be pastries. Amen! Go in peace!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

8 September 2012, Day 95, Pt. 2

A dear friend recently mentioned Auggie Wren, Harvey Keitel's character in the movie Smoke (1995), who takes a picture of the same Brooklyn street corner every morning at exactly 8:00. And so, in the end, i decided to embrace the fact that i too take pictures of the same places over and over again -- though not with Auggie's reliability and rigor -- and go ahead and post today's shots of the lake and the Chicago and Evanston skylines.The day was too spectacularly beautiful not to. The sky and lake were gorgeous; the sun was warm, the breeze was cool; visibility was excellent; and i got to have a conversation with a very nice stranger that included the word "spinnaker"-- a thing that, regrettably, rarely happens to me. 

8 September 2012, Day 95, Pt. 1

This, i admit, is not a very pretty picture. But it says a lot about how i try to see the world around me. As i was walking to the beach this afternoon, something colorful flew across my field of vision. I stopped and stood very still, looking around me until i found this tiny red-breasted nuthatch quenching its thirst from a puddle clogged with plastic bags and other dirt and debris. The picture may not be beautiful, but the bird is. And that's enough. 

And apparently, i'm not the first person to be inspired by a red-breasted nuthatch. Just look at how their song is described on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: "Their excitable yank-yank calls sound like tiny tin horns being honked in the treetops." Now that's poetry! 

7 September 2012, Day 94

Bruce Springsteen put on a great show tonight, with special guests Tom Morello and Eddie Vedder (aka the future Mr. Demeanor). Wrigley Field may not have the greatest acoustics in the world, but it's a gorgeous setting. The show was so good that not even the guy sitting behind us--who literally talked through the entire concert--could spoil it. We speculated that he was on a first date and trying to impress the woman he was with by displaying his encyclopedic knowledge of Springsteeniana. We further speculated that there probably would not be a second date.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

6 September 2012, Day 93

A few postcard-pretty views of Granville Beach in Edgewater on a perfect September afternoon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 September 2012, Day 92

As this blog approaches it's 100th day and as i readjust to the demands of the academic year, i've found myself running on fumes, feeling a little less inspired and observant. On my way home this evening, i suddenly realized that i hadn't taken a single picture all day. Fortunately, the gorgeous Aragon Ballroom saw fit to suddenly appear out the window as the L was stopped at the Lawrence Ave. station. Well, quite honestly, it wasn't all that sudden or surprising, given that the Aragon has stood at that location for the past 86 years, but it's always deserving of another look, another picture. 
I honestly never tire of staring out the window as the Red Line chugs along on its way downtown and back. I'm a creature of habit, and whenever possible, i sit on the righthand side of the car. So on the way into town i look out the window towards the west, always making a point of looking at Graceland Cemetery, Wrigley Field, and Wiggly Field (the dog park). On the way back, it's the St. Vincent mural and playing fields of de Paul University, the Aragon, the pink Edgewater Beach Apartments, and the first silvery glimpse of the lake. And always, there is the ever-changing sky. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

4 September 2012, Day 91

If you've been following this blog for the past three months (!), you may have begun to notice a pattern of returning to the same places on a regular basis (much like the monarch butterfly that gives this wonderful paleteria it's name). I suppose that to some extent i am a creature of habit, but then again, i think there is always something new and interesting to discover even in familiar places. So today i was back on the familiar turf of Clark Street where i stopped to admire the sign that beckons the unwary pedestrian into the diet-busting paradise known as Paleteria La Monarca. I would have liked to take a picture of the inside of this great little ice cream shop, but i didn't trust myself to make it back outside without a big coneful of something cold, caloric, and chocolatey. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

3 September 2012, Day 90

Artists hard at work on this Labor Day in Rogers Park. 

I'm feeling very lazy and have spent most of the day avoiding anything that suggests productive activity, but i'm glad that there are other people, like these artists, who are out there getting things done. The first two pictures show the progress made by the artists painting the retaining wall next to the L tracks on the east side of Glenwood Avenue just south of Morse. I photographed this project on the first day of work less than two weeks ago. They've accomplished a lot in a short time. This mural has a strange, sic-fi, dystopian vibe, which i think will give me plenty to ponder in the future; and on a purely superficial level, every addition of color to this drab stretch of alley is a very welcome sight. The artist in the third picture is working on the west side of Glenwood, just past the sculpture garden that i photographed on 22 and 23 July.