Deputy Marshall Ronald Reagan

Portillo’s is a (mostly) local chain specializing in hot dogs, Italian beef, burgers and the like, and across its various locations, thematic decorations from the ’20s to the ’60s. The food is good and the decorations interesting, so every few months we go to one of the locations, two of which are fairly close.

Last weekend Lilly and I visited the one on Illinois 83 in Elmhurst, a bit out of our usual orbit. Before ordering, I was waiting while Lilly was in the restroom, and taking a look at some of the items on the walls in that part of the restaurant. Off in one corner is a framed picture of Ronald Reagan in a western outfit, wearing a badge that says Deputy U.S. Marshall. My guess would be it’s a publicity shot from Law and Order (1953).

On closer inspection, I noticed that it’s autographed. I’m not familiar with Reagan’s handwriting, but I’ve no reason to think it isn’t his. “Dick” must be Dick Portillo, who founded and still owns the chain.

To Dick –

If I don’t make it acting, I’ll try the hot dog business.


The Chicago Time Zone Plaque

One more item from downtown Chicago, at least until the next time I go there. This plaque, near the junction of LaSalle and Jackson for over 40 years now, memorializes something few people give much thought — few people give it the time of day, you might say. Time zones.THE STANDARD TIME SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES ADOPTED ON THIS SITE — OCTOBER 11, 1883.

Chicago’s famous Grand Pacific Hotel, then on the site of the present Continental Bank building, was the location of the General Time Convention of 1883 which, on October 11 of that year, adopted the current Standard Time System in the United States.

The Convention was called by the nation’s railroads. Delegates were asked to develop a better and more uniform time system to govern railroad operations.

Previously, time had been determined by the position of the sun, with high noon as the only existing standard of exact local time. More than 100 different local times resulted from this method.

The new plan, proposed by William F. Allen, Convention Secretary, established four equal times zones across the country, each one hour ahead of the zone to its west. All railroad clocks in each zone were to be synchronized to strike the hour simultaneously.

The Standard Time System was inaugurated on November 18, 1883. On that Sunday, known as the “Day of Two Noons,” the Allegheny Observatory at the University of Pittsburgh transmitted a telegraph signal when it was exactly noon on the 90th meridian. Railroad clocks throughout the United States were then reset on the hour according to the time zone.

Although implemented by the railroad, the Federal Government, states, and cities began to use the system almost immediately. On March 19, 1918, Congress formally acknowledged the plan by passing the Standard Time Act.

CBOT Allegories

More snow this afternoon. In fact, more than any other storm this winter so far, and it’s still falling. This can mean only one thing: shoveling soon.

Last week I took a look at these downtown ladies – 12-foot granite ladies who weigh a remarkable 5.5 tons each, festooned with last week’s snow. They can be found in the plaza outside the Chicago Board of Trade.

First, Agriculture. Note Ceres Cafe in the background.

Next, Industry.

Allegorical statues, that’s what this country needs more of. A nearby plaque explains: “These two statues, one symbolizing agriculture and the other industry, once stood at the main entrance of the Board of Trade Building, built in 1885. The statues greeted commodity traders and the public for 45 years. Thought lost forever when the buildings were demolished in 1929 to make way for the exchange’s current Art Deco structure, in 2005, the statues were graciously returned to their origins through the generosity and goodwill of DuPage County Forest Preserve District.”

A 2004 Tribune article says: “The statues turned up in 1978, lying on their sides in grass, when the DuPage Forest Preserve District bought the former estate of Arthur Cutten, a wealthy CBOT grain trader in the early 1900s. For about the past decade, they’ve stood watch over the parking lot to the Danada Forest Preserve District in Wheaton.”

Jewelers Row, Chicago

Since I don’t go downtown regularly anymore, I miss new things that appear there. I’m not sure when these signs went up on Wabash Ave., but I don’t remember seeing them before. It could have been several years ago for all I know. I’m going to think of them as new anyway.

There are more than one of these gamma-like signs, with some on each side of the street, though I didn’t make an exact count. It’s more than just an historical marker, since there’s still a concentration of jewelry stores along that stretch of Wabash from Washington to Monroe. Jewelry makers and sellers, silver specialists, and watch makers have clustered in the area for about 100 years.

It’s an historical district for its buildings. According to the City of Chicago: “Comprised of a distinguished group of buildings important in the development of Chicago commercial architecture, the district includes important building types such as post-Chicago Fire loft manufacturing buildings, Chicago School loft manufacturing, mercantile, and office buildings, early twentieth-century skyscrapers, and Art Deco-style mercantile buildings. These buildings were designed in a variety of architectural styles, including Italianate, Chicago School, and Art Deco, by significant Chicago architects, including John Mills Van Osdel, Hill & Woltersdorf, Adler & Sullivan, D. H. Burnham & Co., Holabird & Roche, Alfred Alschuler, Christian Eckstorm, and Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.”

Note that the sign is brown, to match the paint on the elevated tracks nearby. I think that paint job is new, too, since I seem to remember the El tracks being faded yellow covered with the grim of decades, but maybe I’m just imagining that.

Heaven on Seven ’13

Snow fell on Thursday night all right, but not enough to stop anyone from normal tasks on Friday. Workers went to work, kids went to school, and I commuted downstairs to file a couple of things, including my podcast. Then I went downtown to meet some old friends for lunch at Heaven on Seven, which I’ve mentioned before (and I met the same old friends, only we’re all a little older).

It’s got lively decorations. Mardi Gras is over, but it always looks a little like Mardi Gras at Heaven on Seven. The only reason it’s mostly empty is because we met there at 2:30. Every other time I’ve been has been closer to noon, when there’s a wait for a table.

I didn’t take any pictures of my food. I can’t say I’ve never done that, but mostly I skip it. Somehow Look at what I ate! doesn’t appeal to me. I had some red beans & rice, hoppin’ john, collard greens, and andouille sausage, with gumbo on the side. All that might not have made a good photo, but it made a good lunch.

Ten Years Later

Big snow predicted for tomorrow. Not a blizzard, mind you, but six inches maybe. The weathermen try to act impressed by that, but it isn’t impressive. I haven’t checked to see if the Weather Channel is trying to stick a name on it. Last time it was a noted cartoon fish (or submariner). Maybe it’ll be Winter Storm Magilla.

Oddly enough, and apropos of nothing, I never watched The Magilla Gorilla Show, though I can’t say that about other awful output of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon factory. Or at least I have no memory of it. Not sure why. I was squarely in its demographic, at least by the end of the show’s run in 1967. But there must have been something else on at the same time that I, and probably more importantly, that my brothers wanted to watch. I never even heard of the show until much later, when I listened to the theme song on a TeeVee Toons collection.

Just out of curiosity, I counted up the number of posts between the day I first posted back at Blogger, February 21, 2003, and today. It’s only a milestone because we use base 10, but base 10 it is. The total is 2,435, or almost exactly two times every three days. Not so much across the span of 10 years. I couldn’t say how many words that is, but at 300 per entry — a seat-of-the-pants estimate — that puts it around 730,000.

Two hundred words a day. Eh, any fool can do that. Even if you count the for-pay words I’ve done in the last 10 years, that might only be 800 to 1,000 words a day. That doesn’t take one into the league of Asimovian compulsive writers.

But quantity isn’t everything. I’ve enjoyed blogging in particular about those few places I’ve been over the last decade. With any luck — because life is impermanent — I’ll record impressions of a few more places here over the next decade (or in a successor blog, because blogs are impermanent, too.)

“Stand when I speak to you, earthman.”

There’s all kinds of interesting things at this blog, which I chanced across the other day, but which also seems to have been discontinued. I think I understand why. It looks like a lot of work: all the scanning, caption writing, linking and publishing.

I’ve only skimmed it, but I like the tone of the site. Not: look at all this junk from the past we can feel superior to, for moral or aesthetic reasons. And not: look at all this cool stuff that reminds me of my childhood, when the world was a better place. But rather, look at all this! The world’s got an inexhaustible supply of interesting things, for endless reasons. Enjoy!

I found it because I was trying to learn more about the cartoonist Charles Rodrigues. I have the paperback book Spitting on the Sheriff and Other Diversions (1966). I picked it up at my mother’s house at some point, where it had been kicking around for years. “the in crowd” has scanned a number of them here, some of the better ones in fact. One of my favorites is, “Stand when I speak to you, earthman.”

The Presidents Day Blackout

At 5:10 p.m. the electricity flickered, went out, returned for a few seconds, then went out for about 50 more minutes.

Time to be dramatic: Blackout! NW Suburbs Without Power! Family of four plunged into uncertainty of powerless, dimly lit Monday evening! Forced to eat dinner and play a board game by candlelight!

But it wasn’t dramatic. It wasn’t that cold today, so the house didn’t even lose that much heat. There was no obvious reason for it — no windstorm or ice buildup on power lines. Just one of those things.

Only three of us were here, since Lilly was visiting a friend at the time. I checked the block and everyone else’s power was gone as well, though the lights outside the school behind our back yard were still glowing. Lilly reported later that Twitter had informed her that some undetermined local area was dark — her friends were tweeting about it, I guess, but it couldn’t have been too large an area, since her friend (about a half mile from us) didn’t lose power.

Our TV and Internet were gone, but how can that be a bad thing for a few minutes, especially that fine silence where the TV used to drone? We discovered that our camping lantern, which contains four D batteries, has actually been a container for dead batteries for a while now. But we have about a half-dozen candles, and so ate our Japanese curry-rice by their light. Good thing the rice had cooked by the time the juice went off, though we could have boiled pasta and had curry-pasta.

Ann wanted to play a game: Sorry! As we prepared the table to set it up, the power came on again. I told her we could still play, and she still wanted to play by candlelight, so we did, though her mother was watching TV in the same room, so it wasn’t quite the throwback experience it might have been. Her yellow men edged our a victory over my green ones, four home to three home.

“Chicago Totem”

We’ve entered the late-winter doldrums. What, cold again? Dramatic winter events are still possible, but mostly it’s just one gnawing cold day after another.

Something else I spotted downtown last week: “Chicago Totem,” a 15-foot bronze near the 400 E. Randolph by Abbott Pattison.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the large chunks of sculpture downtown, there’s more.  Apparently two works used to stand at this site, the other being “Pavane to Chicago,” which is now on the DePaul University campus. A Guide to Chicago’s Public Art (Ira J Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray) notes that “in making his ‘Chicago Totem,’ sculptor Abbott Pattison wanted to represent his native city with a totem that like Chicago is ‘soaring, living, writhing with animal force.’ ” Uh-huh.