Summertime Hiatus

Time for a summer hiatus. Time to celebrate what ought to be a string of less-than-working days from Juneteenth to the Solstice to Canada Day to July Fourth to Nunavut Day (July 9), just to make it inclusive for all North Americans. Back to posting around Sunday, July 10.

Yesterday I learned more sad news, that my old friend Ed Henderson has died. I’ve mentioned him periodically in BTST over the years, and I believe he was one of a handful of people who read it regularly. Last year I visited him at his home near Bellingham, Wash., and we had a fine time — as fine a time as his precarious health allowed. I’m very glad I went. Sometime in the not too distance future, I will write more about him.

On the Solstice, I took a look at the full moon. First one on the Solstice since 1948, they say. Looked like all the other ones I’ve seen, but it was pleasant enough.

Closer to home, as in our back yard, the clover is lush.

Schaumburg cloverWho considers clover a weed? Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native clover? Pleasing to gaze at, pleasing to lie on.
Payton dog 2016The dog knows that, too.

St. Mary of the Angels

St. Mary of the Angels is a church in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, not to be confused with Our Lady of the Angels, the former Catholic school in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and site of a disastrous fire in late 1958. (I can recommend To Sleep With the Angels (1996) by David Cowen and John Kuenster, an excellent book about that fire that I read when I worked at Fire Chief magazine.)

Completed in 1920, St. Mary of the Angels was originally one of the numerous churches in Chicago with mostly Polish parishioners. “The structure bears a remarkable resemblance to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,” asserts the church’s web site. The AIA Guide is a little more circumspect: “The tile and terra-cotta dome recalls the silhouette of St. Peter’s in Rome.”

In any case, the dome’s impressive. You can see it at some distance from the 606 trail.
St. Mary of the Angels, ChicagoUp close, “angels tread on the parapets,” says AIA. ‘Deed they do.
St. Mary of the Angels, ChicagoThe view from a little further away. The original architects were church specialists Worthmann & Steinbach, with Holabird & Root rehabilitating the structure in the 1990s.

St. Mary of the Angels, ChicagoI figured I’d be able to see the interior. It was a Saturday, after all. In June. More than one wedding was probably planned for the church that day. I was right. When I entered, the place was set up for a wedding, and guests were trickling in, but the ceremony hadn’t started yet. No one paid any attention to me as I took in the lavish space that can accommodate 2,000 worshipers.

For example, behind the high altar is a depiction of St. Francis at “the little chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where he saw Christ and the Virgin Mary enveloped in light and sitting on thrones and surrounded by numerous angels,” as the church puts it.

The church’s continued existence was a near thing. “With the construction of the Kennedy Expressway in 1960, a sizable number of families and students left the parish, and, by 1988, the church building was closed and slated for demolition due to deteriorating conditions,” the church explains. “At the request of Cardinal Bernardin, then Archbishop of Chicago, the priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei assumed responsibility for the parish in 1991.

“The church restoration started in 1991 with major repairs of the dome, the roofs and the stained-glass windows. Repairs continued in 1997 with the church interior. In 1999, the 100th anniversary of the parish, the church’s interior decoration was fully restored; the installation of new lighting, new doors and a new sound system was completed.”

Just another extraordinary place, nearly destroyed. And not even during the tear-down happy ’50s and ’60s, but in the 1980s. The church is unusual in that Opus Dei runs it. I’m no authority, but overseeing parish churches doesn’t seem to be in their usual line of work. Still, I’m glad they were able to save it.

The 606 in ’16

On Saturday we went to the city for a few hours. Yuriko went to a cake-making class offered by a woman she knows who lives near Humboldt Park. I was the driver, since it’s complicated to get there by train and bus, and driving in the city unnerves her.

As it should, with cars everywhere, parked and in motion, operated by sometimes careless or aggressive drivers and often closer than you think; delivery trucks blocking the way; road construction crews doing likewise — though the rough surfaces and potholes never seem to go away; buses acting as if they own the road; bicyclists passing between you and parked cars suddenly and with inches to spare; random pedestrians all over the place, a few with no sense; people opening their car doors in front of you without warning, emerging onto the street (some with children in tow); large intersections without the benefit of turning signals; and stretches of street being resurfaced, but not completed just yet, which on a dry June day raises clouds of dust through which you must pass.

Then there’s the matter of parallel parking. Yuriko doesn’t care for it. A lot of people would say the same. I never knew how to do it until I moved to Chicago in the late ’80s. Then I learned it well. It’s an essential skill for owning a car in the city. I also learned what to expect driving in a place like Chicago. Or New York or Boston or Washington DC or Atlanta or Miami or Dallas or Los Angeles or Seattle — all harrowing in their own sweet ways.

I’ll say one good thing about driving in Chicago, though: it’s easy to know roughly where you are all the time. The streets mostly form a grid, with major streets at regular intervals, and just about every street, even the most minor, marked with an easy-to-see, well-placed and legible street sign. Not every city has such luxuries, and I mean you, Boston.

With Yuriko at her cake class, I had a couple of hours to kick around in the late morning. The Puerto Rican Festival in Humboldt Park, Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, was slated to start at noon, as evidenced by people carrying the commonwealth’s well designed flag into the park and the flag being flown by a lot of passing cars. Here’s a vendor selling some.

Puerto Rican Day Chicago 2016Since the event wasn’t actually under way, I went elsewhere. I visited St. Mary of the Angels church about 20 blocks to the east, taking a North Avenue bus, and then walking back, partly on the 606, the same linear park we visited on its opening day a little more than a year ago.

This time I saw a bit more of the trail’s eastern end, though not quite to the east terminus. At around 11 am in mid-June, the sun is high and the trail very warm. Temps were in the upper 80s F. That didn’t keep people away.
The 606 ChicagoI was glad to see that the landscaping on the edges is now more lush than a year ago. Also, development of the land nearby continues apace.

606 Winchester AveI also noticed that the trail is short on shade. Most of the year, that wouldn’t matter, but in summer it’s important. Even the trailside parks weren’t particularly shady. At Park 567, where the trail crosses over Milwaukee Ave., there were only three or four spots under trees offering any significant shade. I was lucky enough to be able to sit by myself in one sizable pool of shade, though I would have shared the space if any had asked.

I got a look at the trail’s first art installation, the serpentine “Brick House,” by a sculptor named Chakaia Booker.

606 - Brick House scultpureI’ll consider the title whimsical, since no bricks are involved, or any obvious connection to the song celebrating feminine pulchritude. It’s made of stainless steel and recycled tire rubber. Put in last fall, the piece attracts children, who instantly want to climb it.

I would have spent more time on the trail, but I’d forgotten a hat (though not water). The shade, provided by mature trees, is better on many of Chicago’s neighborhood streets, so after about a half mile, I walked the rest of the way on small streets, as well as along North Ave., whose buildings also provided shade at that time of the day, at least on the south side of the street. I’m not the devil-may-care teen I used to be, who sometimes walked miles in clear 90-plus degree weather in San Antonio or Austin.

Otaue Shinji, 1992

On June 14, 1992, I went to Sumiyoshi Taisha (Shrine), not too far from where I lived in Osaka, to see the Otaue Shinji, a rice planting festival held at that time every year.

“Although events associated with this rice planting can be found all over our country, the festival at the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine is unique for its reproduction of the rituals in faithful observance of ancient procedures in such a grand ceremonial style,” the Japan National Tourist Organization notes.

I understand oxen till the rice field first, but I missed that part. I did see the ceremonial rice planting, done by women in white robes in the field.
Otaue Shinji, Osaka 1992 If I remember right, those are priests and musicians on the platform next to the rice field, making the appropriate noises.

The event also involved a procession through the shrine complex. With drums.
Otaue Shinji, Osaka 1992Sometimes at such events, you find yourself behind rows of people, mostly with a view of the back of their heads.
Otaue Shinji, Osaka 1992Usually the headgear’s not as interesting as it was that day at the Otaue Shinji.

One Summer: America, 1927

Bill Bryson’s a most entertaining writer. Recently I spotted his One Summer (2013), subtitled “America, 1927,” at the library and I had to pick it up. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, with accounts of Lindbergh’s flight, Babe Ruth’s season, the Great Mississippi Flood and much more still ahead (which reminds me, I want to read Rising Tide).

So far I’m enjoying it. Among other things early in the book, Bryson discusses the rise of the tabloid in America during the 1920s, kicked off by the Illustrated Daily News in New York, which Col. McCormack had a hand in creating. The following is about a clearly colorful character I’ve never heard of.

“Such success inevitably inspired imitators. First came the New York Daily Mirror from William Randolph Hearst in June 1924, followed three months later by the wondrously dreadful Evening Graphic. The Graphic was the creation of an eccentric, bushy-haired businessman named Bernarr Macfadden…

“Macfadden was a man of strong an exotic beliefs. He didn’t like doctors, lawyers, or clothing. He was powerfully devoted to bodybuilding, vegetarianism, the rights of commuters to a decent railroad service, and getting naked. He and wife wife frequently bemused their neighbors in Englewood, New Jersey by exercising naked on the lawn…

“As a businessman, he seems to have dedicated himself to the proposition that where selling to the public is concerned, no idea is too stupid…. When tabloids became all the rage, Macfadden launched the Evening Graphic. Its most distinguishing feature was that it had almost no attachment to the truth or even, often, a recognizable reality. It conducted imaginary interviews with people it had not met and ran stories by figures who could not possibly have written them… The New Yorker called the Graphic a ‘grotesque fungus,’ but it was a phenomenally successful fungus. By 1927, it’s circulation was nearing six hundred thousand.”

That’s only a small part of the strangeness of Bernarr Macfadden. He even had a go at running for president, though it isn’t clear how seriously. Sounds like a man who liked to hear himself talk. Under just the right circumstances — as we’ve all been reminded of recently — that can get you pretty far.

Fun With Autofill

Google autofill is reputed to say nice things about Hillary Clinton, but I have no way to judge whether that’s true or an election year canard or if it even matters. In the meantime, for fun, I put in “Hitler” for Google to autofill, because he always makes guest appearances in modern political rhetoric, which rarely mean more than, “I don’t like my opponent.”

Anyway, Google “Hitler” suggested (the other day, your results may vary) in order:

quotes, memes, youth, death, ‘s birthday, ‘s rise to power, salute, did nothing wrong [!]

Google News “Hitler” suggested, in order (caps added, because I’m an editor):

‘s birthday, death, and Trump, memes, compared to Trump, book, mustache, quotes, youth

For additional grins, I let Google autofill “Mussolini,” too. This is what turned up:

death, quotes, Trump, definition [?], speech, WW2, nickname

Google News autofilled “Mussolini” this way:

Trump, death, definition [who’s asking that?], facts, Italy, quotes

For a more contemporary autocrat, I then let Google autofill “Putin”:

bay, news, memes, net worth, on the ritz, Trump, poutine, height, wife

Google News “Putin”:

news, Trump, Greece, Russia, Syria, hockey, NATO, Obama

Four Brews

Old friends came over on Saturday for grilled meat and the pleasure of conversation. We’re all old enough so that no one spent time glancing at phones during our visit, and no one took any pictures either.

As I do about once a year, I bought beer for an occasion. I got one of those pick-your- own six smaller-brand beers for a certain price ($10). I picked them for geographic diversity and interesting labels. Here are four that we eventually drunk. We’re not a hard-drinking crew.
Craft beers?I had the Two Brothers and sampled the Shiner, which were both good; the other two were finished by guests. Two Brothers is made locally, as in Warrenville, Ill., a western suburb. Shiner, of course, is a Texas beer, the beer that made Shiner famous, made by the Spoetzl Brewery in that town, which is in Lavaca County, east of San Antonio.

Prickly Pear is a summer seasonal brew. The bottle says “the fruit of the prickly pear, a cactus native to our brewery’s landscape, blends wonderfully with Citra & U.S. Golding hops of a tart, citrusy flavor and floral aroma that’s unlike any other summer lager. It’s a crisp and refreshing alternative to drinking  from the hose.” No doubt.

Stone, which calls itself the “go to IPA,” is a product of the Stone Brewing Co. of San Diego County, so that’s a West Coast Brew. Its mascot (a registered trademark) looks more than a little diablo.

Stone beerIf you can have Demon Rum, I guess Devil Hops is possible.

Finally, there’s Snake Dog IPA, our East Coast Brew, by Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md. The more I looked at the label, the more its bad acid trip art looked familiar.

Snake Dog beerIt’s by Ralph Steadman, the British artist who illustrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, among many other things. The beer bottle art is signed by him and dated “98.”

Spring Valley, June ’16

We went to Spring Valley on the afternoon of June 10 to look for the peonies, but we were a little late. Not sure why they’d bloom earlier this year than two years ago around June 10. This year’s been rainy too. Natural variation in timing, I guess. But some were still in flower.

Spring Valley, June 2016Even so, Spring Valley’s usually a good walk, even in very warm temps. Just take some water and avail yourself of shade when you can.

There weren’t as many lily pads on the major pond as in previous years, either. Mostly pond scum. Which is probably an underappreciated and misunderstood part of the eco-system and health of the pond, etc, etc. But if you look closely at the surface of the water…
Spring Valley, June 2016You’ll notice a frog, partly submerged, belly up.
Srping Valley June 2016Waiting for hapless insects to come to close, probably. Unfortunately, says Susan Paskewitz of the University of Wisconsin, “adult frogs eat a variety of things but there is no evidence that mosquitoes are an important part of the adult diet of any species.”

Also, according to Professor Paskewitz: bats are overrated as agents of mosquito control. Too bad.

Five + Half Century = 55

One of the presents I got on my fifth birthday, just more than 50 years ago now, was a red toy helicopter. I’d probably remember that, even without the help of a photo. I was fond of that helicopter.

In fact it’s the only thing I really remember about that birthday, celebrated in Denton, Texas, except that a chocolate cake with blue trim was also part of it. Or I might remember that because there’s a different picture of me from that day, holding the cake in our front yard. The helicopter picture was taken along the side of the house, on the driveway that led back to some detached garages.

This year, I got a wallet. My old one is wearing out. Had key lime pie instead of a cake.

Graduate Names, Abdulaahi to Zell

Lately I’ve been able to look at the commencement program from Lilly’s graduation at some leisure. Most of it, of course, lists the names of the graduates. Interesting thing, a list of names. This one goes, in terms of last names, from Abdulaahi to Zell.

It’s a fine example of the American salad bowl of ethnicity. Some examples at random, though alphabetical: Admundsen, Bagaybagayan, Bjorkman, Campbell, De Ocampo, Fritz, Gonzalez, Hyc, Khan, Kopielski, McCoy, Muhammad, Patel, Son, Stribling, Stepanian, Uy.

Patel is the number-one most common name on the list, hands down: no fewer than 12 graduates have it as their family name. It’s the Indian equivalent of Smith, I said to Ann. Then she noted that there was only a single Smith on a graduate list. Hm. The list doesn’t represent the nation as a whole, after all. The Census Bureau still puts Smith as most common: more than 880 per 100,000 people. Then come Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller, Davis, Garcia, Rodriguez and Wilson.

I’m glad to report at least one other Lilly on the list, spelled that way, and a scattering of Anns, though more often than not it functions as a middle name, or a part of a combination first name. Wouldn’t want them to be too common.

A glance at the list tells me that not only are girls’ names of earlier generations gone, as you’d expect — the Berthas and Ethels and Ednas and Myrtles and Zeldas — so are perfectly fine girl names popular when I was born — the Barbaras, Cynthias, Deborahs, Lindas, Lisas, Karens, and Patricias of the world, and even the Marys are fairly scarce. A couple of years ago, during a conversation on names, Lilly characterized “Barbara” (for example) as an “old lady name.” Tempus fugit.

Boys’ names are more stable across the decades, but even so there seem to be fewer Johns, Michaels, and Roberts. Or Toms, Dicks and Harrys. I’m glad to see a Lars and a Homer and an Omar.

First names are a little harder to sort through, but I did pick out some interesting ones: Atyab, Breon, Da-Eun, Destinee (a friend of Lilly’s), Dwji, Heaven, Jax, Nuh, Yash.