The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, mentioned yesterday, is on route Illinois 59 in Bartlett. As I was preparing for my visit, looking at Google Maps, I noticed something else similiarly interesting just a few miles to the north, also on Illinois 59 in Bartlett: the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. A Jain temple, in other words.

This too had escaped my notice all the years I’ve lived in the northwest suburbs. I figured if I were going to be out in Bartlett to see the monumental mandir, I might as well drop by to see what the Jains have built. So I did.

Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe Jain temple, next to a large parking lot on an even larger bit of land, isn’t as massive as the BAPS structure, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and made all the more interesting because it’s such a rare thing here in North America. That despite what Wiki asserts: “The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The United States has since become a center of the Jain diaspora [citation needed].” This particular temple was built in the early 1990s.
The Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe temple interior is essentially a single room with rows of eye-level effigies along the walls, and some other ornamentation. It all reminded me how little I remembered about Jainism.

I studied Jainism briefly — a class or two — in Survey of Eastern Religions, as taught by the highly learned Charles Hambrick, but that was 35 years ago (a professor emeritus these days, but last I checked still with us). Mainly I remember the strong emphasis on pacifism, which often has the unfortunate side effect of inspiring nearby and less pacific people to acts of persecution. If indeed the Jain diaspora is focused in this country, I hope they’re doing well.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a monumental Hindu temple on 27 acres in suburban Bartlett, Ill., is less than 10 miles from where I’ve lived for most of the 21st century so far. How is it that I never knew about it until a few weeks ago? You imagine that you know your part of the world pretty well, but it’s just a conceit.

BAPS, incidentally, stands for Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha, so the full name of the site would be the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago. I can see why it’s abbreviated. I can’t pretend to know how the group that built the temple fits into the galaxy of Hinduism, though I’ve read that it’s a relatively modern movement, originating in Gujarat state. I wouldn’t mind knowing more, but whatever knowledge I take away from reading about the details of Hinduism tends to evaporate in a short time, sorry to say.

The suburban Chicago temple is just one of a half-dozen such in North America. The others are in metro Atlanta, Houston, LA, and Toronto, and in central New Jersey. Judging by their pictures, each is about as monumental as the metro Chicago temple, though Chicago’s supposed to be the largest. In fact, it’s the largest Hindu temple in North America, at least according to one source. Even if that’s not so important, the place does impress with its size.

On a sunny but not exactly warm day recently, I drove to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for a look. The structure, finished only in 2004, is stunning.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoThe exterior is limestone, the interior marble and granite. The temple’s web site has a sketch of the structure’s creation, which I’ve edited a bit.

The Carrara marble was quarried in Italy and the limestone was quarried in Turkey.
From there it was shipped to Kandla in western India.

The material was then transported to Rajasthan, where it was hand-carved by more than 3,000 craftsman over a period of 22 months.

The finished pieces were then shipped to a final location for polishing, packaging and numbering before being shipped back to the port in Kandla.

It took two months for a container ship to journey from India to the US.

Upon reaching Virginia, the containers were put on a train to Chicago and then transported to the project site.

Upon arrival at the site, the stones were grouped and classified based on a detailed database of each piece.

The pieces were then assembled together like a massive, three- dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

The finished products of rich carvings are a testimony to the exquisite skills of craftsmen, aided by superb logistics and engineering.

I’ll go along with that last sentence. Even though I didn’t understand the details of what I was looking at, I admire the artistic and engineering skill it must have taken to create the thing.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

Next to the mandir is the haveli, a fine building in its own right, featuring some exceptionally intricate wood carving. It serves a number of functions. For my purposes, it included a visitors center, gift shop (with a few postcards) and the entrance to the mandir, which is open to the public.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli ChicagoThe mandir is accessible via an underground tunnel from the haveli. Exhibits about Hinduism line the wall of the tunnel. The inside of the mandir, marbled and quiet, is an astonishing forest of carved columns and sculpted walls. No photography allowed, but of course pictures do exist.

I might not ever make to India. Can’t go everywhere. Fortunately, a striking piece of India is within easy driving distance.

Ravinia Circular ’17

We received the 2017 Ravinia Festival circular in the mail recently. Like last year, I decided to check to see whose tickets command the biggest bucks at the storied north suburban outdoor venue. Last year was something of a mystery, but never mind. This year, less so, at least in my opinion, but in any case at a price I’m unwilling to pay.

Who are the top draws? Performers commanding more than $100 for reserved pavilion seats include Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Hager, Common, Diana Krall, Moody Blues, Sheryl Crow, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, Tony Bennett, Darius Rucker, Santana, Alanis Morissette, John Mellencamp, Frankie Valli, and Stevie Nicks.

My reaction to the entertainers on the list is hm, interesting; or, they’re still around (alive)?; or who? All first-water performers, no doubt, but no one should charge that much, at least according to the Elvis Test, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.

Note the prices on these 1957 Elvis posters. Prices vary, but $3 is toward the upper end. Accounting for inflation over the last 60 years, $3 then = $26.31 in our time. Add another $5 or so because sound systems are so much better now, and another $5 because Ravinia is such a nice place, and needs to be maintained. I’ll even throw in a few more dollars just to round things up. So no ticket for a singer should cost more than $40, because no one is better than Elvis in his prime. A ridiculous idea, maybe, but I like it.

Who gets less than $40 at Ravinia? This year, the CSO for some of its concerts, and a scattering of classical performers. But I will say this for Ravinia: some of the lawn seats for its concerts, which is the place to be anyway unless it’s raining, are reasonable at $10 (though they’re jacked up during A-list concerts).

The top draw this year, according to the accountants, is Stevie Nicks at $200. She’s pushing 70 pretty hard these days, and I hope she’s as mellifluous as she was when I saw Fleetwood Mac on August 17, 1980, at the HemisFair Arena. No doubt her 2017 show would push all the right nostalgia buttons. But I can find ways to do that for a lot less.

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside

Demographic note: a lot more people reside in Mount Carmel Cemetery in west suburban Hillside, Ill., than in the village itself. The cemetery has about 226,000 permanent residents, while the village has only about 8,100 (living) people. But the advantage goes to the living, of course. For instance, they can vote in Cook County elections; most of the dead people can’t.

I’ve known about Mount Carmel for years, but only got around to visiting last week, on a cool and partly cloudy afternoon. The cemetery is thick with upright stones —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL… funerary art —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside… and mausoleums. In fact, there are a lot of family mausoleums there, about 400, including these three.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILAt Mount Carmel, one learns that the Lord is a Cubs fan.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILOn a hillock in the middle of the cemetery is the Bishops’ Chapel, or Bishops’ Mausoleum, but in full the Mausoleum and Chapel of the Archbishops of Chicago, complete with Gabriel blowing his horn.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL bishops' mausoleum and chapelInside are the remains of seven bishops, archbishops and auxiliary bishops of Chicago, mostly recently Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was entombed in 1996. I remember in the fall of ’96 seeing his funeral procession cross the Michigan Ave. Bridge from an office window in 35 E. Wacker, where I worked. Presumably they were headed for Mount Carmel.

The book Mount Carmel and Queen of Heaven Cemeteries by Jenny Floro-Khalaf and Cynthia Savaglio gives quite a lot of detail about the Bishops’ Mausoleum, which was completed in 1912. The cemetery itself was established with the new-born century in 1901, long before the Eisenhower Expressway ran to its north, and probably when Roosevelt Road to the south — not yet called that, but 12th St. in the city at least — was very rudimentary indeed.

“[The chapel] was the brainchild of Chicago’s second archbishop, James Quigley, who oversaw its construction,” Floro-Khalaf and Savaglio write. “He engaged a local architect, William J. Brickman, who came up with the simple, Romanesque style that embodies the building’s outline. However, in keeping with the aesthetic tastes of his predecessor, Patrick Feehan, Quigley engaged one of the most famous architects of the day, Aristide Leonori, who designed the building’s breathtaking interior… Leonari executed a design reminiscent of Rome in marble and mosaic.”

A locked door was as close as I got to the breathtaking interior, for which I blame wankers who would do harm to it. But over the door, you’re reminded that Quigley built the place.

Many Italian names dot the cemtery’s landscape. Benedetto, Bernardo, DeVito, DiGiovanni, Felicetti, Gazzolo, Genna, Mazzitelli, Salerno, Serritello, Truppa, Perazzo, Porcaro, Porzio, and Viviano were among those I saw, though there was a fair number of Irish names and others mixed in.

One name I didn’t see was Capone. If I’d done any research beforehand, I would have known where to look for Al Capone. The cemetery doesn’t guide visitors to his grave, unlike the signs posted to direct you to the Wright Bros. at the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton or the Hunley crews in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. Maybe some other time.

Other mafioso are buried in Mount Carmel, though not as well known as Capone any more. But their stories are no less lurid. Such as Joseph “Hop Toad” Giunta, who ran afoul of Capone in a particularly bloody way, or so the story goes. I didn’t see his grave, either.

Find a Grave says, “He was a high ranking member of the Capone gang who formed a secret alliance with Al Capone enemy Joe Aiello. Giunta planned to kill Capone and take over his operations, and enlisted the help of Capone triggermen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi with the promise of higher positions when Giunta was in power.

“Capone found out about the plan and invited Giunta, Scalise and Anselmi to a dinner party. During dinner Capone brought out an Indian club he’d received as a gift and proceeded to beat the three men to near death. Capone then allegedly finished the job with gunshots…”

A Poster, A Sign & A Lot of Bumper Stickers

Persistent rain starting last night and on through most of today. Mud season has started. But it also looks like the grass is greening.

Spotted on a telephone pole on Randolph St. on the near West Side of Chicago late last week. Looks like someone added the toothbrush mustache.

anti-Trump poster March 2017Spotted in Itasca, Ill., also last week, sometime after the presumed wedding. Glad that “Bubba” isn’t dead as a name.

Itasca Baptist Church 2017Spotted at a rest stop on I-57 between Champaign and Chicago.

Been There Bumper Stickers 2017I can’t quite make out all of the stickers, and there are more on the non-visible side of the van, but included in the destinations are the Kennedy Space Center, California, Nevada, Laughlin, NV, Key West, Roswell, NM, Wyoming, Mackinac Island (two), Naples, FL, Ventura, CA, Texas, the UP (more than one, including the 906 sticker), North Dakota, Piggly Wiggly, the Full Throttle Saloon (Sturgis), Route 66, Mississippi, Montana, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and a sticker that says, “There’s a place for all God’s creatures. Right next to the mashed potatoes.”

Songbird Slough

Sometimes a name on a map is intriguing enough to inspire a visit to the place. So it was with Songbird Slough, a part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Charming name. When we went on Friday afternoon, it was toward the end of a pleasantly warm day, the kind you get sometimes in March (but not too often).

The Forest Preserve District says that “the 393-acre preserve is a part of a large glacial kettle formation that is the low point for a 1,000-acre watershed that drains the surrounding urban area. Songbird Slough is a combination of natural and constructed wetlands, fishing ponds, restored prairies, and meadows.”

Still a little ahead of the greens of spring, but not a bad place for a stroll, especially in 70-degree temps.
Songbird Slough, DuPage County“This urban retreat serves as a nesting spot for numerous grassland and song birds, and is a great spot for wildlife viewing, especially during waterfowl migration season,” the forest preserve continues. Not that many highly visible birds around on Friday, but there were a few.
Songbird Slough DuPage CountyWe left at about 6 pm for a 20-minute or so drive home. By the time we got home, it was 10 or even 15 degrees cooler. The sudden drop was the beginning of a cold, wet, generally unpleasant winter-spring mix of a weekend.

A Flying Egg

At about 11:15 pm on Saturday, I was driving Ann home from a friend’s house, headed south on a four-lane street here in the northwest suburbs, in the lane closest to the curb on the passenger side. Traffic was light. Suddenly, we heard a loud THUMP from direction of the passenger side.

Immediately the driver’s thoughts — my thoughts, that is — turned to, what did I hit? But only a few seconds later Ann told me she saw egg on the window. Later, I determined that an egg had hit the door, probably just below the window. No damage, but some eggish goo was left behind, with a few bits of shell.

Eggs aren’t know to fly. Must have been a random act by some young wankers, wasting their parents’ eggs. Better than getting hit by a rock, I suppose, or something much worse. That hasn’t happened to me, luckily, but years ago someone unseen bombarded my car with a water balloon.

Mail From the Patel Brothers

Something new in the mail the other day: a circular from Patel Brothers. The grocery stores of theirs that I’ve seen have the appearance of being local — tucked away in strip centers — but in fact Patel Brothers is a national chain, with about 50 stores. The brand did start in Chicago, however, with its first store on Devon Ave., hub of the city’s East Indian population, in the 1970s.

Patel BrothersThe four-page circular has one of our names on it, so it’s more than a blind mass mailing. Chinese New Year is mentioned on the front page. Guess the Patels are looking to expand their market a bit.

On the back page, various East Asian items are offered, such as Ichiban Tofu, Sriracha sauce, TYJ spring roll pastry and Chaokoh coconut water. Looking up that last one further, I learned that the Thai product is the “Official Coconut Water Partner of Liverpool Football Club.”

Inside the circular, the products are more South Asian. From it I learn that Swad brand is popular. Apparently that’s an Indian food distributor headquartered in Kerala, but its web site is less than helpful when it comes to offering much information about the company.

The About Us page says, all sic: “Catering to gods own people is no mean task. We embraced this challenge with great enthusiasm and with Swad Food Products, a well known house hold brand name in India. We make available premium Wheat & Rice Products all over the world. Our products are available all over the world through more than hundred strong distributors. Our Product Quality agreed internationally by getting orders from Middle East, Europe and USA.”

Anyway, at Patel Brothers, you can buy Swad peanuts, cashews, salt, moong dal, whole moong, kidney beans, kabuli chana, turmeric powder, ghee, rice flour and canola oil.

Cricket in the Northwest ’Burbs

On Saturday as I walked the dog through the park and school grounds behind my house, I saw a group of about 15 men on the elementary school blacktop. From a distance, I thought they were playing baseball, which would be a little odd. Then again, the recent rains froze in the ground and then melted enough during the last few days to make the ground squishy, which would render the ball fields in the park a little difficult for a game.

Then I noticed they were playing cricket. A pick-up game of cricket, you could say, since the pitch was clearly improvised, and I don’t think there were enough of them to field 11 players on each team (one of the few facts that I know about cricket). (And that Don Bradman was the greatest cricket player, according to an Australian I knew who insisted on that point.)

I’d never seen anyone playing cricket in that park. Cricket pitches were common enough in places like England and Australia, built into the urban parks in those countries, and I remember wandering by such places and seeing cricket players do whatever it is they do. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play cricket in North America, though I know that people do.

For instance, Vanderbilt had a cricket team whose picture was always in the yearbook, and every jack man of them was of East Indian heritage. As were the men playing in the park on Saturday.

Thursday Loose Ends

While the Northeast is buried under snow, I look out onto a patch of northern Illinois — my yard — that’s brown. The heavy snow of December gave way to a moderate January, by local standards, and all the white went away. It’s cold out there, but it doesn’t look like February, which is usually marked by unmelted snow in some spots, or at least in the shadows.

I noticed the other day that My Favorite Martian was on demand, so I watched the first episode. I don’t have much memory of its original airing, from 1963 to ’66, and I don’t remember seeing it in syndication, so it’s essentially new to me. Verdict: mildly amusing at times, mostly because Ray Walston and Bill Bixby had some comic talent. But I don’t think I need to watch many more episodes, thus putting it in the same class as Mister Ed or Leave it to Beaver.

Reading a bit about the show, I learned that Bill Bixby’s full name was Wilfred Bailey Everett Bixby III. In our time, that would be the original name of a hip-hop star. Also, just before he died, he married Judith Kliban, widow of B. Kliban.

Hadn’t thought about B. Kliban in years. Didn’t know he was dead, but he has been since 1990. Somewhere at my mother’s house (I think) are collections of his cartoons that I bought. One is called Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head. Words to live by.

At a magazine rack in a big box store not long ago, I saw a copy of Rolling Stone. I was shocked. It was so thin you could put it in a box and use it for Kleenex. The magazine was also standard size, or smaller, not the tabloid that by rights it should be. It was like running into an old acquaintance who’s now dying of a wasting disease. Guess its real presence is online now anyway.

“Acquaintance” because I never read Rolling Stone that much. Not all together my kind of magazine. But I would pick it up and look at in doctors’ offices or from friends’ coffee tables or the like. And I have to say it often had interesting covers, even if they depicted celebrity musicians I cared nothing about.

Last Friday, I dropped by the visit the Friendship Park Conservatory, a small conservatory that’s part of the Mount Prospect Park District. Nice to see some green now, even if the pit of winter this year isn’t too deep.

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount Prospect

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount Prospect

The last time I remember being there was in late summer, when it was green outside the conservatory as well as inside. Back in 2005. The girls were a lot smaller then.

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount ProspectEarly this week, Junk King paid a visit to a house on my block.
I’d heard of the company, but never seen one of its distinctive red trucks before.