Friday, July 25, 2014

25 July 2014: Gone Fishin'

Dear Reader,
I am taking a break from this and my other blogs for the next couple of weeks to focus on personal and professional matters. I hope to return by mid-August. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

23 July 2014: Surf's Up!

Lake Michigan is flexing her muscles this morning,
doing her finest impersonation of an ocean. The surf is roaring,
the wind is blowing, the swallows are swooping,
and the air is clear and cool. What a morning!
Drop everything and head to the beach:
days like this are as rare as they are wonderful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

22 July 2014: A Bumper-Crop of Fungi

It might seem frivolous or escapist of me to focus so often on the small quotidian details of life in Rogers Park at a time when our neighborhood seems to be under siege. Each day brings news of yet another shooting, and i've even wondered if maybe i should leave this place i love. But ultimately, the fact that i do love this neighborhood -- fiercely -- makes me reject that notion. We've been through hard times before; hopefully this latest wave of violence will soon be resolved, and life in our beautiful community will return to normal. In the meantime, i will continue to celebrate the beautiful, the strange, the charming, and the inexplicably weird elements of life in Rogers Park. It's just my way of reminding myself and my readers what a precious place this is. 

On that note, here is a chronicle of the latest crop of bizarre fungi growing on a lawn on the 1400 block of W. Farwell. The cool weather and heavy rains this summer seem to be especially conducive to the proliferation of fungi. Doggie Demeanor has graciously lent her assistance in providing a sense of scale to the pictures; admittedly, she is a very small dog and objects placed next to her may appear larger than they would if shown in juxtaposition to a Bernese Mountain Dog, but these are some huge 'shrooms!

NB. I know absolutely nothing about mushroom identification and, as a rule of thumb, assume that these, like any fungi  that i haven't bought in the market, are poisonous. 

Sunday, 20 July: What looked like four giant golf balls perched on their tees emerged on the lawn. 

Monday, 21 July: The "golf balls" have developed into classic mushroom shape 

Tuesday, 22 July: The caps have flattened a bit and gotten even larger. To the naked eye, they are a pure, bright white; the photos make them seem to be glowing in a strange otherworldly way.

Yikes! It looks like Doggie Demeanor is pooping UFOs!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

19 July 2014: Lotuses

The lotuses in the pond in the Hare Krishnas' garden
are just about ready to bloom. I confess that i never
noticed them before today, but isn't it nice how they
blend with the painted lotuses on the sign?

Friday, July 18, 2014

18 July 2014, Pt. 2: Rogers Park, a Love Story

This has been a tough week for us Rogers Parkers. After the tragic death of William Lewis on Saturday and the shootings near Farwell and Greenview on Wednesday, i don't think that i'm alone in feeling a little bit afraid in this neighborhood i love. In the fourteen years that i've lived in Rogers Park, i've seen a lot of ups and downs. When i first moved here back in 2000, things were so bad that i used to walk an extra four blocks from the Loyola L stop rather than risk walking from Morse after dark. But this time, i even considered, however briefly, whether maybe it was time to find a new place to live.

Even though the events of this week have truly rattled me, i've been reminding myself of the resilience of this neighborhood and its people, of how we don't let these relatively infrequent outbursts of violence define us or drive us away. Then yesterday afternoon i walked to the beach with the dog, as i often do. It was a beautiful day: the sun was shining, the lake was sparkling, there were kids playing in the sand, bicyclists, couples strolling along the path, old folks sitting on the benches, and the man pictured above strumming his guitar and belting out "Free Bird" at the top of his lungs. And i stopped. And i smiled. And i remembered that this is the Rogers Park i love. 
This is home. 

18 July 2014: Rehab Barbie

Rough night, Barbie? Woke up under a tree again?
Maybe it's time for an intervention.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

17 July 2014: Playing with Picasso

This picture was taken yesterday at Daley Plaza.
Music was playing and the kids were dancing and playing on the Picasso
 -- a sight that always cheers my heart. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

16 July 2014: At Glenwood and Devon

A fundraising website has been set up to raise money to cover Wil Lewis's funeral expenses and establish a scholarship fund in his honor. Click here to contribute.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

15 July 2014: Rest in Peace, Wil Lewis

At the intersection of Glenwood and Devon, on the border between Rogers Park and Edgewater, a small makeshift memorial has been set up. A man died here on Saturday afternoon, shot in the back as he waited for a bus. His name was William Lewis. Born in Guatemala and adopted into a Wisconsin family, he was 28 years old. Just two weeks ago, he and his wife moved to Rogers Park, a neighborhood they considered "safe enough." He was a professional photographer about to start a new job on Monday. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 201 human lives have been lost to homicide in Chicago so far this year. And although all life is precious, a death like this one rocks us to our core. This is the kind of killing that we cannot rationalize away. When the first account of the shooting came out, some people immediately jumped to the conclusion that the victim must have been a gangbanger and that somehow that made it make sense; there were comments from people who wrote -- as they always seem to do -- that we should just let all the bangers kill each other, as though that would solve the problem. It was a gang-related shooting, but Wil Lewis wasn't a gang member -- he was just a guy waiting for a bus at the moment the shooting started. That's not the tidy little narrative of living and dying by the gun that we use to avoid really thinking about the impact of gang violence and gun violence on all our lives. 

There are blocks and street corners in our neighborhood that have a reputation for gang activity. We tend to avoid them, especially at night. But Devon Avenue on a Saturday afternoon isn't one of those areas. It wasn't dark, it wasn't lonely. In fact, there were multiple eye witnesses including our own alderman, Joe Moore, who happened to be standing just a block away at the time and heard the shots, saw the suspects fleeing, and literally helped wash the blood from the sidewalk. My hope is that because of the very public nature of this tragedy, we will start to make some serious changes to address the roots of the horrible downward spiral of violence and undervalued lives that turns every weekend into another bloodbath. 

We cannot afford to become accustomed to the statistics, to mourn only after the victim -- like Wil Lewis or Hadiya Pendleton -- has been cleared of any suspicion of gang affiliation, meanwhile shrugging off all those other deaths, as though it were okay to write off the lives of fifteen year olds who've gotten caught up in gang life.  I don't know how or when we lost track of the understanding that all life is precious, and that it must be cultivated and nurtured. Human beings are communal creatures -- we seek out a place where we can belong. When we turn kids away, under-educate them, leave them in poverty, remind them day after day that they do not belong and are not welcome, they will find a sense of belonging elsewhere, in the pseudo-family of street gangs. They will take the gun that's handed to them and start to shoot at someone they don't even know because that's what they've been told to do; if someone gets caught in the crossfire, that's just their bad luck. Constantly confronted with the evidence that their lives are not seen as having value, how can they learn the preciousness of their own lives and the lives of others?  

In recent years, a hardness and lack of compassion and empathy has become pervasive throughout our country. Self-righteous mobs of complacent middle-class citizens scream curses at busloads of children awaiting deportation. God-fearing Christians begrudge the poor their mouthful of food and the roof over their heads. Kids kill each other in shoot-outs on the street and as long as that violence is contained in other neighborhoods, other towns, we comfort ourselves that things like that don't happen where we live. But they do. 

I don't have answers, but i hope that out of this terrible tragedy we will remember that as John Donne wrote, "No man is an island." We are all in this together. We have to find a way. 

UPDATE: The Rogers Park Positive Loitering group will stage a march on Wednesday evening, 16 July, and all neighbors and supporters who want to help put an end to the violence in our neighborhood are encouraged to attend.  The group will meet at 7:00 PM at the corner of Glenwood and Devon, where Wil Lewis lost his life, and will walk east on Devon to Broadway/Sheridan, then return west to Uncommon Ground on the opposite corner of Glenwood and Devon.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

13 July 2014: Deutschland ist Weltmeister!

This isn't a very good picture and doesn't do justice to the excitement
of watching the World Cup final on the Mayne Stage's 20-foot screen.
It was a great time whether you were rooting for Germany or Argentina.
But to be perfectly honest, it was a better time for those of us
who are Germany fans.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

12 July 2014: Independent Bookstore Day in Chicago

When was the last time you went shopping in a brick-and-mortar bookstore? Well, there's no better day than today to get back in the habit. Today is Independent Bookstore Day in Chicago, so i dropped by one of my favorites, the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. I bought a bag full of books and enjoyed a free cupcake. The cupcakes are gone but the books are still there; they're open until 10 tonight, so why not pay them a visit, or stop by your personal favorite bookstore.

Friday, July 11, 2014

11 July 2014: The Second-Most-interesting Front Lawn on Lunt Ave.

There must be something in the water on Lunt Ave. west of the Metra tracks that inspires the residents to get creative with their front lawns. Everyone who has gotten off the Metra at Rogers Park is familiar with the house adjacent to the platform, the one with the dazzling array of old CDs, hubcaps, and other round objects, hanging from the branches and fence. This house on the 1800 block is only slightly less spectacular, but far more pleasing to the eye of this observer. It has a primarily western theme, in keeping with the facade of the house, which reminds me of a saloon in an old John Wayne movie. But because this is Rogers Park -- where we don't feel compelled to stick to the rules -- the plastic horses, the old kettle hanging above a simulated campfire, and the teepee with a Kokopelli-and-bison motif, are joined by prayer flags, tiny dinosaurs, and an infestation of enormous ladybugs. It's so bright, colorful, and whimsical, that it is guaranteed to make you smile.

Monday, July 7, 2014

07 July 2014: Frank Lloyd Wright and an Ice Cream Sundae

Today's adventures took us to scenic Oak Park, for a visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio.

Unity Temple, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, completed in 1908

Entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright's Studio

Classic neon sign at Petersen's Ice Cream. The turtle sundae was delicious
(though i'm still partial to Margie's)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

06 July 2014: And what Did You Do this Weekend?

I've been absent from this blog for a few days while i've been out and about enjoying the weather and showing the sights to a friend.  Here are just a few of the things that my camera has encountered this weekend:
Jaume Plensa's "Looking into My Dreams, Awilda" - Millennium Park, Chicago
Blackhawks logo on the windows of the old post office -- south branch
of the Chicago River from the Wendella architectural boat tour. 
View from the south branch
Windy City Ribfest in Uptown
Turkey-leg guy - Windy City Ribfest
A great band called Cat Fight playing at Windy City Ribfest
Wisconsin countryside - taken on our Tour du Fromage
Wisconsin landscape