The “group activity” for the conference this week was a trip into the city.  The park and Navy Pier.  I had to explain The Bean to the ladies from Montana and Idaho.

“I think it has a real name, but I don’t know what it might be.  It’s…um…modern art or something.  People like to take pictures.  It cost a zillion dollars and then a whole bunch more when they have to clean it and stuff.”

Then I started taking camera-phone pictures with them:

That’s the building from Adventures in Babysitting.  Why are the windows out?!

That’s the Pritzker Pavilion.  Where they have Lollapalooza and the rallies when the Bulls win championships and stuff.

Hey, look!  The Hancock Building is peeking over there!  No.  I dunno why it’s famous. 
This tree gives back.  That’s so Da Mare.

BTT: Cereal

Booking through Thursday – the question was:

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever read? (You know, something NOT a book, magazine, short story, poem or article.)

There is a pizza place in Chicago called Gino’s.  I would call it in the Top 5 of Chicago pizzarias.  Besides the good food, Gino’s is know for allowing patrons to write all over.  Everything they can get their hands on – the walls, tablecloths, chairs, benches.

So I have to say that the weirdest thing I have ever read was the red pepper shaker at Gino’s.  Someone took out a Sharpie and wrote..something.  I forget.  It wasn’t Shakespeare!

Getting Doored

A week or so ago, my friend John* sent me a text from the Emergency Room.  He was “doored”.  Riding his bicycle home from work like a good eco-commuter-getting-some-exercise, a parked car quickly and unexpectedly opened its door right into his path.  He went flying and by the time he landed, was bleeding from the neck.

I am happy to say that he is just fine and will not even acquire a chick-magnet scar.  So because I am on the opposite side of most car vs. bicycle Who Has the Right of Way and Who is Being a Jerk stories, I was ready to forget this incident.

The Trib, however, brought it up.  Getting “doored”, I mean.  Apparently it is becoming more common:

“As spring approaches, the Active Transportation Alliance, which is involved in efforts to make streets safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists in the Chicago region, is launching a campaign to increase public awareness about dooring crashes. The group considers doorings the most prevalent threat to on-street cyclists.

Informal surveys the alliance has conducted among its members indicate that more than half the people who bike on streets have been doored at least once, said Ethan Spotts, spokesman for the organization. But lacking solid statistics, bicycling advocates say they can neither prove a problem exists nor apply for federal and state traffic-safety funds to address it, he said.”

I live in the suburbs, and I was taught to always look before opening the car door.  But seriously.  When you are parallel parking?  I don’t know how it isn’t an automatic thing.

Spring is here, folks.  We are all going to have to learn to share the road.  Drivers can make room and keep a lookout for those that aren’t insulated by 1,500 pounds of steel and driving up the cost of gasoline.  You know, so as not to hit them.  And cyclists can follow the rules of the road and not pretend to be pedestrians every other intersection when it happens to suit them.  (OK, I had to get that out.)


*Whose play, Slouch, closes tomorrow night at Gorilla Tango Theatre in Chicago.  (Ha!  I did that twice!)

Slouch, Gorilla Tango Theatre

Monday night, I went to see Slouch, at Gorilla Tango Theatre. Its posting on the League of Chicago Theatres says this:

Three unlikely friends on the lookout for their friend Larry. Is he a friend? A lover? Something in between? Join us for this dark comedy. It’s Waiting for Godot meets The Rules of Attraction.”

I would say this:

Three friends or roommates or something are each having some kind of later-than-quarterlife crisis in which they each see their lives in the context of their relationships (or not) with this dude named Larry. Larry is a character-in-absentia, who may or may not ever show up, and seems to be a really successful professional as well as a self-absorbed ass.

If that was a lame summary that didn’t make sense, I will defend myself only by saying that the script was written in a narrator’s stream of consciousness that was spoken by all three of the characters.

Not at the same time, of course.

Part of the challenge is to determine what is “real” and what is imagined or perceived or remembered. Not that it really matters because what is imagined or perceived or remembered is real to the characters. But it seemed to me that the moral of the story is that if you are waiting around for someone else to make your existence more stable or exciting or vibrant or otherwise really are missing something. So I liked it.

Full disclosure: My friend, John, plays Ritter in this show.  He refuses to engage in shameless online self-promotion, so I will tell you:

There is only one more performance – Monday, March 21 at 8pm. If you are in Chicago, you should go see it. You can get tickets here.

The Paczki

In my office, there is a monthly calorie-fest in celebration of the birthdays.  As today is also Mardi Gras, someone went to the bakery for King Cakes and Paczkis.

Do you know how popular Paczkis are in Chicago?  Made the Huffington Post.  And no kidding, I saw them at Target last weekend.

My friend, Jodi, is a Chicagoan living in Milwaukee. She posted on Facebook this morning:

“Dude… it’s Paczki Day and I haz no Paczki. Second year in a row : /”

She now has a flood of comments, commiserating or taunting her.

My friend Karen asked if anyone knows where to get a low sodium Paczki. No kidding. One of her commenters noted that the line outside Deerfield’s Bakery was around the block this morning. I would say Deerfield’s is about the best bakery in my area. And check out this Paczki Day Menu.

They don’t appear to ship to Milwaukee.

So tomorrow begins Lent, which my brother would like to remind the world is not meant to be our own personal diet plans. He said that the fifth year that I gave up French fries.

Fine, then. I am giving up nothing.

Recording the Event

I did not take pictures of the Blizzard of 2011.  OK, fine.  (walks to the window with a phone.)  Here is one.  Just to prove I was here.  From my bedroom window, you can see the snow drift going almost to the top of my four-foot fence.  The drifts were justs as high in front of my garage and my front door.

Yesterday, my office was closing early, so I called my dentist to see if my appointment was still on.  It was.  I arrived early and they took me early.  When I walked out the door, the blizzard was in full swing.  It took 45 minutes to drive the three miles home.

I live in a cul de sac, so there are three snow plows required to get us out.  The big village truck goes down the length of the street.  The little village truck does the circle.  And we contract with a guy to do the driveway.  The village trucks came at regular intervals.  The driveway guy came at 2:30 a.m.  There have been six or eight inches since then.

I woke up at about 5:15, confirmed that my office was still closed, and went back to sleep.  Turned on the WGN and the Facebook at about 7am to hear about all of the people that had been stranded overnight.  My friend Matt left his office in the city at 8pm and went to northwest station.  He got home at 2:30.  Tammy’s car died and her heat went out.

I called the rescue at 9am or so.  Apparently, even if I got off my own street, I couldn’t get on to theirs.  I tried to shovel, anyway.  And decided that I need a snowblower.  So I called every hardware store in a 20 mile radius – and every Target – and no one has any left.

11:30ish the cabin fever really hit.  I was going out.  I knew Target was open, anyway.  I got my car out just fine, but the garage didn’t shut properly, which gave us a big scare when I arrived back home.  I think it’s ok, though.

Target was awesome.  And creepy.  I saw exactly two staffers and two other customers.  I nearly ran into a guy turning a corner and for two seconds, I could have sworn that he was a zombie and I was going to die.

I had to take a detour on the way home, as the plows were doing their thing, so it was a bit of a tour of North Glenview.  Except for a few cars that were still stranded on the streets, it didn’t look too bad.  But the best part?

McDonald’s was open.  I love my McDonald’s.

So.  Two feet of snow.  Serious snow drifts up against my house and the fence.  But assuming the plows finish up and the salt trucks get around tonight, we should be in good shape for tomorrow.   And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I still live in Cook County.

Influence with a Capital O

Weekend Assignment # 348: Trendsetters

Musicians, writers and other artists frequently have an impact on their fans that goes beyond simple enjoyment of their work. Many rock stars have had an influence on fashion or politics or both, and fictional characters sometimes inspire real people in their opinions and career choices. [I’m not going to try to prove these assertions here; just go with them, okay?] Has an artist or artistic work ever inspired you to do or believe something that might never have occurred to you otherwise?

Extra Credit: Do you think it’s appropriate for artists to be political activists? Does such activism have a positive or negative impact on your respect for that artist?
I’ve been sitting on this question for three days, wondering if Oprah counts. I wouldn’t exactly call her an artist, but…screw it.
I live in Chicago.  Besides sports, we have Malkovich and Sinise.  We have Second City.  And we have Oprah.  For a few more minutes. 
Oprah seems to have outgrown Chicago.  She seems to have grown into that stratosphere of celebrity where she no longer seems to live in the same world as the rest of us.  Like Michael Jackson.  But if you can remember back to the days when she hosted a talk show and tried her hand at acting, she was great.
She taught us that a woman can be a great success with or without a man.  She can be happy without being married and have cocker spaniels instead of children.  She doesn’t have to be a size four (although she ought to try to be healthy).  She can cover real stories of adversity and survival and heroism and then do the celebrity gossip with the best of them. 
Even today, she reminds me that I can have my intellectual pursuits and my brain candy, too. 
Say what you will about the content of her Book Club, but she gets people to read.  (Anne’s Note:  You do not need to spend $15 for those Dickens novels.  They are in used book stores everywhere and you can probably get them on an e-reader for 99 cents.  Yes, you could borrow them from your library, but it is Dickens so I suggest having your own copies.)

So let’s get to that Extra Credit, since it is probably why I thought of her: most of the time I am not really listening to celebrities and their causes.  I might take note of which are supporting ASPCA and other animal adoption stuff.  Who showed up when New Orleans was underwater.  And I sometimes listen to Bono.  But even with Oprah, I know that she was a big supporter of President Obama.  And I know she built a school in Africa.  That’s about it.  I remember the latter because I wished she would build such a school in Chicago.

If I were a celebrity, I would absolutely use the platform to talk to people about issues that I support.  So I can’t blame them.  However, I would also take very seriously the responsibility of getting my facts straight.  I am not sure that everyone holding a microphone could say the same.

Oprah doesn’t pretend that she is infallible.  Or she didn’t.  She was duly embarrassed by the James Frey thing.  Although she has not, to my knowledge, apologized for launching the Dr. Phil machine.  All the same, she seemed very human to me.  So I hope that when she leaves town, safe in her cocoon of handlers, that she remembers why many of us liked her in the first place.