Dog in Snow

Sure enough, a lot of snow fell Thursday night into Friday morning. Maybe a foot. But it was no blizzard, and no big deal. Even the side street on which I live was cleared by Friday afternoon. A little more of the same fell Saturday morning and then much more on Sunday morning. More shoveling and that was cleared too.

For the dog, this much snow means romping around in the back yard.

Every time it snows this much, a truck comes to clear the blacktop next to the school behind the house. Why this was necessary Friday, when school was cancelled, I don’t know, but anyway the dog rushes to the back fence to bark at it. And then along the fence as it drives nearby.

From the point of view of the dog, this must be effective. The truck goes away before long.

February 1st Miscellanea

February, bah. A really cold week lies ahead, with some snow. The only good thing is that January is over.

We got a call one recent day at 7:41 a.m., not the best time, but I guess it couldn’t wait. Our machine recorded it, so I can transcribe it here, with a few details changed.

“Please stand by for an informational message from your community. There may be a short delay before the message begins.

(pause)

“This is an important message from the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department. Please be on the lookout for a missing juvenile named W—-. Male, white, five feet tall, approximately 90 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes. Last seen wearing a purple Washington Huskies sweatshirt, gray sweatpants, and black, white and red Nike Air Jordan sneakers. Please call the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department or 911 if you have any information. Thank you.”

At 8:44 a.m., there was another call.

“Please stand by for an informational message from your community. There may be a short delay before the message begins.

(pause)

“This is an important message from the Schleswig-Holstein Police Department. The missing juvenile referenced in the previous message has been located safely. Thank you for your assistance.”

That was a first. Maybe W—- wandered off without telling anyone. It was a relatively warm morning.

Something I happened across in my online wanderings, an incident in New Jersey: “A 16-year-old from Willingboro was arrested by West Windsor Police on Dec. 4 after attempting to steal a car. The theft was thwarted because the car had a stick shift, and the would-be thief only knew how to drive cars with an automatic transmission.”

You’d think the JD — there’s a term to bring back — would have backed away when he saw that the car had a stick, and before police got involved. Then again, JDs aren’t known for their brains.

This falls under the My, How Things Have Change File: Recently I got an email from a grocery store that has my address. The subject line said: ORDER YOUR SUPER BOWL SUSHI PLATTER FOR $29.99.

I’m not holding a Super Bowl party, or going to one, or watching the damn thing at all, but somehow I don’t associate it with sushi. Just me being old. I vaguely remember, about 30 years ago, Mike Royko (maybe) mocking in print the fact that sushi was being sold at some baseball game, probably in California. That seemed strange, I suppose.

Since then, though still associated with Japan, sushi has been fully assimilated into American eating habits. Probably not too many people younger than me would give sushi at a Super Bowl party a second thought.

This Has Never Happened in January

According to Accuweather at least, the highs in my part of the suburbs on January 26 and 27, 2018, were 51 F and 50 F respectively. Maybe so, but on Saturday the 27th from about 11 am to 2 pm, the air felt warmer. On my deck it felt warmer, maybe because of its southern exposure.

It felt so warm I decided to cook some sausages on the grill, which usually spends its winters standing idly in the back yard. That’s probably not good for the long-term condition of the grill, but it’s a nuisance to find a spot for it into the garage. Anyway, just after noon on Saturday the grill was smokin’.

It only looks like a dry grass hazard. Because of recent snow meltage — earlier in the week — the ground was damp, even soggy in spots.

Even better, we sat on the deck and ate the sausages for lunch. An al fresco lunch in northern Illinois in January. I don’t even need one hand to count the number of times I’ve done that. I’m not sure I even need more than one finger.

Of course it didn’t last. By Sunday temps were back below freezing, with a dusting of snow. But brevity made the warmth all the more pleasant.

Twelve Pictures ’17

Back to posting on January 2, 2018, or so. Like last year, I’m going to wind up the year with a leftover picture from each month. This time, for no special reason, no people, just places and things.

Champaign, Ill., January 2017Charlotte, NC, February 2017

Kankakee, Ill., March 2017

Rockford, Ill., April 2017

Muskogee, Okla., May 2017

Naperville, Ill., June 2017

Barrington Hills, Ill., July 2017

Vincennes, Ind., August 2017

Denver, September 2017Evanston, Ill., October 2017Chicago, November 2017

Birmingham, Ala., December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

A Christmas Carol, Suburban Chicago Version

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is an excellent mid-sized theater that would fit in anywhere in the city, but it happens to be in suburban Arlington Heights. We went to see a production of A Christmas Carol there on Saturday.

Another nice detail: they produce paper tickets. This was Ann’s.
The soulless ticket cartel might be eager to get rid of paper tickets, but venues ought to be eager to keep them. People keep them, especially if they show was good. They’re cheap long-term bits of marketing.

Ann had never seen A Christmas Carol on stage, and neither had Yuriko. The last time I saw it was also at the Metropolis — almost exactly 10 years ago, when I took Lilly.

This production had everything it needed to have, particularly an actor (Jerry M. Miller) who could handle Scrooge’s dour initial disposition that slowly melts to his inevitable conversion to altruism. A Christmas Carol without that is a limp rag indeed.

Since it’s based on a novella, and not a source play, stage versions are going to differ, as the movies do. There was more singing and dancing in this version than others I’ve seen. Each of the Christmas spirits got a song-and-dance by a troupe, for instance, which was pleasant enough. This version also featured Bob Cratchit as the story’s narrator, which was a little odd.

A couple of important lines were omitted. Lines I think are important, that is. Old Fezziwig, who seemed reasonably prosperous — he had apprentices, after all — but who also knew that life was about more than making money, got none of his lines. He was mentioned in passing by Scrooge, and he got to dance, but that was about it.

“Yo ho, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let’s have the shutters up,” cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, “before a man can say Jack Robinson.”

When faced with the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge didn’t ask it a most important question.

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

Just quibbles. Now I’ve done my bit to introduce my children to the Dickensian part of Christmas. If you’re going to celebrate the holiday in this post-Victorian world, you should know it.

St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral & The Holodomor Memorial

Last week I was near St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral (of the of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the USA and Canada) in Bloomingdale, Ill., so I stopped by for a look. It wasn’t part of Open House Chicago, but I’d read about the place a while back and realized it’s fairly close to where I live.

St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Being the middle of the week, the church itself was closed, as suburban churches often are. Still, a committee of holy men greets you above the door. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.
St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox CathedralIt reminded me a little of the artwork depicting Vladimir’s baptism of the Kievan Rus over the entrance of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago, which we saw a few years ago.

 Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic ChurchBut only a little. It doesn’t much look like any baptism is going on at St. Andrew, so I assume it depicts something else.

More than the church, I came to see the memorial to the victims of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, which is on the church’s grounds, near its cemetery. The Holodomor, as it’s called, when Stalin starved untold millions of people to death.

Holodomor Memorial IllinoisHolodomor Memorial IllinoisThe plaque’s a little worn — it’s been out in the elements since the memorial was erected in 1993 — but it says, in English: In memory of over seven million victims of the great famine artificially created in Ukraine by the Moscow-Communist regime.

Holodomor Memorial Illinois

Much too somber a note on which to end, so I looked around for some comic relief about Stalin, and found this, attributed to Romanian writer Panait Istrati, who visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, just as Stalin had consolidated his dictatorship: “All right, I can see the broken eggs. Now where’s this omelette of yours?”

The Pirates of Penzance

Not long ago Ann and I went to Evanston to see a production of The Pirates of Penzance by a troupe known as the Savoyaires, directed by Amy Uhl (choreography) and Timothy Semanik (music). I’d seen it advertised in the Iolanthe program last spring, and it occurred to me that I’d never seen it on stage. So I wanted to go.

img492I saw the Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt movie version sometime in the mid-80s at the Vanderbilt cinema. It was essentially a filming of the 1980 Broadway production. I’m not sure what it was, but I remember the movie being a little off. A little stiff.

Maybe it didn’t offer enough of that jolly good time that you should get from Gilbert & Sullivan. We got that from the Savoyaires, who didn’t need an elaborate venue to pull it off. The show was staged in a sizable but plain junior high school auditorium, complete with an orchestra.

Phillip Dothard played the Pirate King with gusto, and Sahara Glasener-Boles brought the right amount of sauciness to the part of Ruth. Of course what everyone was waiting for was the Major-General to show up and sing his signature song. An actor named Bill Chamberlain did that part.

“How did he learn to do that?” Ann asked later.

“Practice,” I said, though in fact, even if I had the voice, I doubt that I could ever do “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.”

And while Chamberlain was very good, he didn’t quite get all of the enunciation. Close enough, though. He was definitely part of the jolly good fun.

The program included “A Pirates of Penzance Glossary,” including the likes of Babylonic cuneiform, The Frogs of Aristophanes and Heliogabalus, whom it described as an “infamously depraved Roman emperor.”

“What was he depraved about?” Ann asked.

I couldn’t remember. It had been years since I’d read about him. A vague sense of perversion clings to him, but I wonder if there’s much to it. Ancient historians liked gossip and lurid invention as much as anyone else, and so did not-so-ancient historians.

“To confound the order of the season and climate, to sport with the passions and prejudices of his subjects, and to subvert every law of nature and decency, were in the number of his most delicious amusements,” Gibbon wrote of the boy-emperor.

He also wrote: “It may seem probable, the vices and follies of Elagabalus have been adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice.” In other words, dress as a woman a few times and people will make up all kinds of stories about you, especially if you’re emperor.

Ah, well. I will leave it to learned sages to argue over Heliogabalus. Next year’s production by the Savoyaires is Ruddigore, another G&S I’ve never seen staged. I’ll try to go.

St. Edmund Catholic Church & Grace Episcopal Church, Oak Park

Unusually warm this week from Tuesday to yesterday. Still a lot of green leaves. Autumn, but not quite autumn. It’s also the time of the year for Halloween decorations, and to avoid any store or event that uses the terms boo-nanza or spook-tacular.

Two more places from last week’s Open House Chicago, both in west suburban Oak Park. One was St. Edmund, which the sign outside says is Oak Park’s oldest Catholic parish. The church building dates from 1910.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkHenry Schlacks, whose work I’ve run across before, design the church. The interior is resplendent.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkMuch of its splendor is the stained glass, created by a studio in Munich (presumably pre-WWI).

St. Edmund, Oak ParkSt. Edmund, Oak ParkAnd an interesting baptismal font that, when I was there, reflected one of the windows.

St. Edmund, Oak Park

A few blocks away, among the numerous churches on Lake St., is Grace Episcopal Church.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkFirst occupied in 1905 — and the building took a lot longer to complete according to its plans, namely another 70 years — Grace Episcopal also has a resplendent interior, in its more muted way.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkGrace Episcopal, Oak ParkA sign near the entrance reminds visitors that the church, designed by John Sutcliffe, figured in a scene in Home Alone. I wouldn’t have remembered that, since the last and only time I saw that movie was during a bus ride from Perth to Adelaide, or maybe it was Adelaide to Sydney, in early 1992. But I did see “Everything Wrong With Home Alone” not long ago, which was funnier than the movie itself.

We listened to the organist practice for a while at Grace. Very nice. It’s also good to see a church equipped with a gong.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkI understand that the gong used during the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York is quite the thing to hear. And see.

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

During the last part of our Chicago Open House visit-as-much-as-you-can excursion on Sunday, in the near western suburb of Oak Park, I found myself face-to-face with a Mills dime slot machine.
Pleasant Home Oak Park Mills slot machineA nearby docent encouraged me to put in a dime. I did so and watched the wheel spin. It might be an antique machine, but it will still give you a fruit-based result. What it will not do is give any sort of payout. My dime was a donation, so I could see the machine move.

Next the docent made it spin without putting a dime in, so I could see the machinery inside in action. The back had been removed just for that purpose. It’s impressive — mainly because I can’t understand at all how such a machine works.

My dime is going to the further upkeep of the building in which I found the slot machine: Pleasant Home, also known as the Farson House, built in 1897.

Farson House Oak ParkAs much as I understand these things, the house is important in the development of the Prairie School. The AIA Guide to Chicago not only has an entry about the house, it devotes more than a page to it, which is major attention from that publication. Prairie School and in Oak Park, but not by Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather George Washington Maher, a contemporary of his who didn’t live nearly as long (dying in 1926), designed the house.

The Maher web site says: “In describing the Farson house, architectural historian Paul Sprague wrote ‘…it was extraordinary… compared to typical residences of the late 1890s. Its clean lines, flat surfaces of Roman brick, stone and wood, and simple rectangular window frames, chimneys and porch openings would have been hard to parallel anywhere at the time except in building by Sullivan and Wright.’ ”

Got an expansive porch, all right.
Farson House porch Oak ParkWhat do slot machines have to do with all this? That’s a tangent worth pursuing — another benefit of looking at things and then thinking, What was it I saw?

The first owner of the house was, according to the Pleasant Home web site: “Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties and top hats or straw boaters. [John] Farson gathered around him a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything up-to-date. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy.”

He was a Gilded Age millionaire banker (d. 1910), so he could indulge his interests. Slot machines were not one of them, however. That was the business of the second owner of the house, Herbert S. Mills.

“Shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893, the young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine and later manufactured Mills machines of all kinds for his penny arcades and fortune-telling machines. Mill’s penny arcades became institutions on American’s main streets and amusement parks at the turn of the century.”

I’ve read elsewhere — a tangent from a tangent — that it was actually Charles Fey who invented the modern slot machine, out in California. But he did partner with Mills to produce them on a mass scale, and no doubt become very rich as a result.

“Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons… In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.”

One more detail: while it was probably a pleasant place to live, certainly by early 20th century standards, Pleasant Home takes its name from its location, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in Oak Park.

Atatürk at the Stoplight

Sometimes you’re driving along and you see something odd. Not long ago I was driving with Ann in the front seat, and we stopped at a light behind a white truck — unadorned except for one thing.

Ataturk 2017I had her take a picture, since I didn’t have a camera with me. I told her that the face was that of Atatürk, father of modern Turkey. She hadn’t heard of him. Now she has. What he’s doing on a truck in the northwest suburbs of Chicago is another question, one for which I don’t have an answer.

As far as I’ve been able to determine — and I’m not at all knowledgeable about Turkish — the words at the bottom mean, “We follow in the footsteps of Atatürk.” Well, why not? Still, it’s a little like a truck with the face of George Washington plying the streets of suburban Istanbul. Maybe that happens, but it would be odd, wouldn’t it?