Sunday, March 29, 2015

Creepy Times in Sleepy Town

Indiana:  you've stepped in it again.  You'd think our neighbors  would lie low for awhile after everyone was reminded that Indiana staged the last lynching.  But no.  

Until now, probably the first thought I had about Indiana was that it was boring.  I know there are islands of interest like beautiful Bloomington or architectural Columbus, but the rest?  Pretty lame.

I got to see the state on a trip to Huntington.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I. My man at the time was a structural engineer and avid bridge fan.  He loved studying bridge construction around the world.  So, when he discovered, in one of his journals, that a bridge was for sale for $1 in Huntington, Indiana, he decided it was worth a visit.

The catch, of course, was that the new owner would have to pay for repairs and upkeep.  It was the sleepy little town's entry into the big business of privatization.  They couldn't have known then that they were just years ahead in this national trend.

Gerry didn't buy the bridge.  And, we didn't see the billionaires who were creeping up behind us.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Good Will

When Dean Smith died I wrote about his outstanding life -- as a basketball coach at UNC and as a human being.  He championed civil rights in the south when it was unpopular and dangerous.  He stayed in touch with his players long after they graduated.  Some of them say they consulted "Coach" before making any big life decisions because they trusted him completely.

Now comes some more good news about Dean Smith.  In his will, he has left $200 to each of his students who earned a Varsity letter at UNC.  He encouraged them to enjoy a great dinner as his treat.

One of the moments in my life when I felt the most pride was learning that my son's high school English teacher had left money in his will to Bill -- recognizing him as one of his favorite students.  Bill used the gift to take his high school buddies to an NBA game.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The House and the Tree

Winnetka takes its memories seriously and my friend Lail understands.  Being a recent widow wasn’t the only reason she hesitated to sell the family home and move on.  Her daughter had died many years before, and in their grief, the family had planted a tree in their big back yard.

Knowing that the old house and property would probably be sold to developers, the idea of leaving the tree behind was too painful.  But, this was one of those moments when the universe listens.  The woman, who Lail approached at her daughter’s grammar school about replanting the tree on their grounds, had also lost a child.  The tree found a perfect new home.

Next, the people in charge of protecting Winnetka’s landmark properties wanted to be sure that no people or events of landmark status had preceded Lail and her family.  It was expensive and she had to pay for it, but a history of the house had to be obtained.

I visited Lail at her bright new apartment in Evanston on the same street where we had been sorority sisters.  That house was long gone, but we still had our memories.  She showed me the “history book” about the Winnetka house.  There were stories of some really interesting people who Lail and her family will now join as “the ghosts of Cherry Street.” 

So now the memories of her wonderful house live on in the book, as the memories of her wonderful daughter live on in the roots of the tree.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On the Way Out

The Post Office is hiring people but they are only accepting applications online.  These are temp jobs, people!  What the plaque was to Europe, "online" is to the Post Office.  The end times are here.

Maybe after the elimination, they'll keep stamps around for some obscure function (logo on your drone?), but the sentimental value will only last so long.  In the meantime, I'm going to keep on keepin" on by sending postcards and letters with interesting stamps on them.  But don't count on me to stem the tide.

What will happen to the marvelous Post Office buildings constructed in the '30's to keep the country and the people alive?  These buildings are cathedrals of a secular society, where everyone could stay connected for the price of a 3 cent stamp.

The Chicago Public Schools, another endangered entity, is considering turning some of the 50 shuttered schools into retirement homes for teachers.  Maybe we can do the same for postal workers.

If we do, I hope Mr. Walker, my postman for 15 years until he retired, gets the penthouse.  He was the most friendly, efficient, and engaging person to visit us six days a week.  We had a big cake in the lobby on his retirement day.

Retirement day for the Post Office?  I don't think that cake will taste very sweet.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rahm World

I was happy when I went to my doctor the other day.  He had given me a series of shots six months ago that kept my creaky knee working and I was back for another round.  He walked into the room with needle in hand.

When he saw my Chuy button he smiled that terrifying smile.  You know, the smile those killers have in the movies I never go to see.  The smile was the least of it.  He launched into a lecture about how dumb it would be to vote for Chuy.  It was at least ten minutes of rat-a-tat bullying.  This is my Doctor!  

What a nightmare.  I felt as if Rahm himself appeared as my M.D.  Wait . . . isn't his brother one of those doctors on TV?  One of those "medical authorities.?"

 Here's the worst of it.  I have to go back for two more shots.  Maybe I'll think of something clever to say.  But then, he has the needle, doesn't he?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

An Unlikely Pair

Sports fans in Chicago will understand when I suggest that Jay Cutler and Hillary Clinton have a lot in common.  Both are talented and bring a lot of experience to playing on the big stage. . .   and both leave us groaning.

Jay and Hillary seem to be bewildered at the fuss we make about their missteps.  Are they blind to their public persona?  Or just unwilling to address their mistakes.

Jay and Hillary are also alike because it looks like it is going to be impossible to replace them.  Jay's big contract is "too big to eat" just like Hillary's stranglehold on the Democratic nomination.  They are both going to stay in place.

Even as both put us in danger of letting the other team win.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Follow the Money

Do you have any of those Susan B. Anthony silver dollars lying around?  Neither do I.  So now, despite that misstep, there's a boomlet of interest in having a woman on our currency.  This time it's the folding kind that people actually use.  I think they want to replace Andrew Jackson.  (He was pretty bad, wasn't he?)

Who would you like to see on your $10 bill?  My vote is for Eleanor Roosevelt but I'm sure you have others in mind who are equally deserving.  (Please don't get cute and say Oprah or Angelina Jolie.)

Last week the Canadian government said it was okay to mark up their $5 bills to make Sir Wilfred Laurier look like Dr. Spock.  Let's not settle for some transgender scribbling here.  We need a full makeover.  And, while we're at it, let's add some color.  Our currency is so drab.  Women shouldn't have to put up with that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

It Goes Deep

I wore my Chuy button to my bridge game on Thursday.  The game is in the suburbs so there aren't many Chicagoans, but I thought I could engage one or two in conversation.   One of the women asked me if I was a "peon."  That surprised me so much I didn't have even one arrow in my quiver for a response.  Earlier, a good friend told me he wanted a Mayor who is "smart."  He took it for granted I'd know he was talking about Rahm.

When the blizzard hit last month, I read that the same people who were connected with the "hired truck" scandal were being paid to plow the snow.  I was thinking: "Why don't the Aldermen go to the high schools with shovels and pay the students who want to make a little money to shovel the side streets?"  "Or, provide parking in school lots so the plows can reach the curb."

This run-off is reminding us of some deep stuff. In Chicago, we hate the way we are in debt.  We hate the crooked deals we know are being done every day.  We hate it that the same people run for re-election time after time.  And, when someone new tries to open a crack, swarms of "volunteers" pour over every signature to keep the newcomer off the ballot.  This time, however, a few have made it through to the run-off.  It's a chance.

 We Chicagoans complain, but we must not really care because we don't vote.   Let's not be afraid to try another way. It's a mess, so why not shake things up and see what happens.