Thursday, July 4, 2013


The typical visitor to Chicago would drive right by Bridgeport. It's not a place that ordinarily attracts visitors as they parachute in. It's a place where people actually live, actually work, and actually live their lives.

It's a neighborhood with a long history - perhaps dating back before the incorporation of Chicago itself. The lots are long and narrow - about 30 feet wide - and the homes are mainly row houses. They're well kept. Judging by the asking prices for real estate in the neighborhood,  it would appear to have become a desirable place to live.

 Kissy Missy and I felt perfectly safe walking through the neighborhood during daylight hours, and even after dark. That sense of security in a residential area is something I've grown used to in small-town Michigan, but not anything I'd ever felt in a large Michigan city.

Even the back alleys were clean.  Perhaps that's a remnant of the days when the Daleys ruled Chicago. The Daley family came from Bridgeport.

Bridgeport once was one of the areas most resistant to racial integration, and it's still got that reputation. That's changed, obviously, as seen in the faces of the riders of the No. 62 CTA bus that serves the neighborhood. 

In fact, Bridgeport is seen as Chicago's most diverse neighborhood. It's a place I wouldn't mind living.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kissy Missy loves Chicago

There was business to take care of in Chicago, of course, but that didn't stop us from exploring. Kissy Missy completely fell in love with Union Station. I fell in love with the lighting from the huge, translucent skylight above the Great Hall. 

A trip to Chicago isn't complete without a trip to the Chicago Skydeck. Kissy Missy actually stepped onto The Ledge. She didn't look down. I apologize; my video failed. There was shrieking. It was entertaining.

She also was a little worried as she noticed the massive thunderstorm approaching from the west. Just because we literally were in the highest place around, 103 stories above Chicago, a severe thunderstorm headed our way, she got a little doubtful.  What could possibly go wrong?

"Point that thing somewhere else."

A trip anywhere isn't complete without sampling the local cuisine. I think her favorite place (we went there twice) was Lou Mitchell's on Jackson Street. She's enjoying the roast beef over noodles; I had a fluffy omelet with Michigan apples. Make sure you get your Milk Duds or doughnut hole if you go there. 


Timothy O'Toole's in Streeterville is one of the coolest sports bars I've ever been in. The selection of hard ciders, like this California pear cider, really enticed Kissy Missy.

And the bloody Mary on the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue wasn't bad, either.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Benedictine Bed and Breakfast

A group of Benedictine monks operates an extremely nice bed and breakfast in Chicago. We stayed there, and it put us in the middle of a diverse and highly interesting neighborhood in the city.

 The bed and breakfast itself is the first floor of a row house, and includes a living room, two bedrooms and a fully stocked kitchen. Calling it a bed and breakfast is not quite accurate; you get to cook your own meals, but everything works and the monks supply ample amounts of food.  It's a lot like visiting grandma's house in the city.

The presence of the monks in the city is a fairly recent phenomenon; their history is here. The physical center of the monastery is the former Immaculate Conception church, which was closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1989. It has been repurposed into a place that mixes the ancient and the stunningly modern, all for the glory of God.

Kissy Missy and I had the opportunity to attend Sunday Mass at what is called the Monastery of the Holy Cross. The liturgy is a beautiful, ethereal mix of the ancient and the recent, done with Gregorian chant. The worship space itself, alive and reverberant, becomes a part of it all. In the midst of the city, it is a sound straight from the Middle Ages, alive still in the 21st century. 

St. Francis keeps watch over the garden, which includes strawberries and gooseberries. The Monastery of the Holy Cross is at 3111 S. Aberdeen, Chicago. Reservations are necessary; the monks take PayPal.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and Father's Day

Andrew and I saw Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson outdoors at the Soaring Eagle Saturday night. It was everything you'd expect from from that kind of a show - extreme volume rock and roll, pyrotechnics, and even though Alice Cooper is on Medicare these days (really!), he still performed with the snake, the straightjacket and the guillotine.

 It was Andrew's present to me for Father's Day. He said it made him feel good to be able to get me something he knew I'd really like.

The Soaring Eagle attracted a really good-size crowd for the show.

Both these performers have been playing since before some of their fans were born. 

And some of their fans seem to be have been listening for as long as Alice Cooper has been performing.


Jagger and Richards said it best nearly 40 years ago: It's only rock and roll, but I like it!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Still more postcards from Chicago

Three teenagers wait for an Orange Line train at Roosevelt Station high above Roosevelt Road between State Street and Wabash Avenue in the South Loop at dusk. 

Chicago's Calder is called "Flamingo," and it's in front of the federal building.

A street musician jams after dark on Michigan Avenue at Congress Parkway.


Nobody rides trains anymore, right? The concourse at midday at Chicago's Union Station.

The Great Hall of the old station remains as beautiful as it ever was.

The passageway to the trains deep beneath the city's streets.

No set of postcards would be complete without a shot of Chicago's Water Tower.


Or the Tribune Tower, a remnant of the days when monopolies controlled the media and raked in enough cash to build giant edifices to their own power. 

Nick, a student at Illinois Institute of Technology, gave us a pedicab tour from the Loop to Streeterville. We tipped him well.

Chicago's extreme gas prices

The price of a gallon of gasoline in Chicago is enough to make you cry, but there are good reasons for it.
Chicago always has the highest gas prices in the Midwest. A variety of factors cause this:
• High taxes
• High overhead for retailers; city locations are expensive
• The requirement for an expensive-to-produce reformulated gasoline
These prices were at the tail end of a refinery shutdown scare, and the supply of that reformulated gasoline was still not where it should have been. Blame it on Adam Smith's invisible hand.
Who benefits from the less-dirty air? Certainly Chicagoans do, but perhaps more importantly, people who live downwind from Chicago do.
In other words, us.
This was brought home to me a number of years ago when I edited the Huron Daily Tribune in Michigan's Thumb. We did a happy-happy story about a toy helium balloon that was launched from a Chicago suburb and landed in Huron County.
How did it get there? It got carried on the very same air that had been in Chicago a few days before now was over the rural farm fields of Michigan's Thumb.
Who pays to keep the good Republican farmers of the Thumb from choking on dirty city air? The answer is right there on the BP station sign at 31st and Halsted.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

More postcards from Chicago

The full moon shines over the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.
The fountain has been putting on amazing displays since 1927.

Two young lovers embrace by moonlight and the light of the fountain. 

Kissy Missy found the perfect bloody Mary at a sidewalk cafe on Michigan Avenue nearby.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Postcard from Chicago

Sometimes, a postcard just leaps out at you. Kissy Missy and I stepped off the train and went outside Chicago's Union Station. The scene just begged for a shot. The Chicago Sun-Times building is in the background. Please note, although I was carrying an iPhone, that was not the camera I used for this shot.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Le Tour de Mont Pleasant

Another edition of Le Tour de Mont Pleasant is in the books - and it's so much fun to shoot.


The racers are just incredible athletes, and they do it for the sheer joy of it.

This year, I concentrated on the downtown criterium races - closed course races that test athletes' endurance.

The course was changed slightly to add the roundabout at Main and Mosher, and to bring riders up the Pine Street Hill.

Temperatures were in the low 70s, winds a little bumpy and it was somewhat humid - but overall, it was perfect for a bike race!

The final of the Category 1 men's race - 75 minutes plus three laps - came down to a sprint to the finish. Incredibly, the same rider who won the 107-mile road race through Isabella County Saturday sprinted to the top spot.

After the event, Katherine talked to 44-year-old Kirk Albers from Upper Arlington, Ohio, who won both big races. She covered the event for the Morning Sun. Some folks get football games. She gets the bicycle races.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring? Not so fast

Our first softball players showed up on the Horizon Park field today. That's a sure sign of spring!
But we've still got a snow shovel on the porch. I'm not ready to put it away.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Really. It's not cold

Many years ago, when I was a Scoutmaster, we'd go camping in all kinds of weather. Inevitably, even if the temperature was like a summer morning, a Scout or two would complain he was cold.
"It's not cold," I'd tell him. And as summer moved into fall and into winter, I'd continue to tell him "It's not cold. It's a little nippy." Or, "It's brisk!"
Uh, huh.
The Scouts, bright kids all, were a little skeptical, but they played along. So did my own children.
They decided that perhaps Dad was a little deluded, but they weren't cold.
Eventually, I developed a formal scale, which, with some expansion and tweaking, is illustrated above.
One winter, we took a trip to Searchmont with the Scouts to go skiing, and the Great Lakes region had been enveloped in bitter arctic air. As we drove down into a valley in the Laurentians north of Sault Ste. Marie, I was watching the temperature readout on Kissy Missy's minivan. It kept dropping.
"OK. It's cold," I said calmly.
In the back seat, Katherine shrieked. We still went skiing.
Wind chill, by the way, counts. And tonight, with the wind chill, it will get cold.
But not cold enough to go inside.