Thursday, January 18, 2018

Casimir Pulaski Day...

...isn't until March 5 this year, but the guys and I just couldn't wait that long to honor the Revolutionary War hero and "father of the American cavalry" by dining out on Polish food. Actually, the restaurant -- Pierogi Heaven on Wells -- is just off the Clark/Lake el stop where we left off on our Hike last week.

I had originally planned on tackling the next three miles of the Chicago Marathon course but that would have put us on Cannon Drive smack in the middle of Lincoln Park. We could either cut it short at Fullerton or go a little longer to Diversey but neither seemed appealing on a frigid January night. So we bowed to the weather and walked the less ambitious two miles to the North/Sedgwick Brown Line stop in Old Town.

After dining on Polish sausages and, yes, pierogis of all types, we ventured out into the bitter cold -- 18 degrees! I'm pretty sure it was our coldest Hike yet. In the past I had usually drawn the line in the low twenties or so, but it didn't seem so bad when I was walking my dog, Stewart, yesterday afternoon.

The eight of us set out from the restaurant at about six o'clock and promptly went the wrong direction -- west -- until I course-corrected a couple of blocks later. (I've often told the guys not to get discouraged if they ever get lost; even those of us who pride ourselves on knowing our way around the city frequently get disoriented after dark. What to do? Pause for a moment and get your bearings. Thank God for smart phones!)

So we backtracked a little to LaSalle Street where we turned left (north) for the River North neighborhood. Since it was so cold I had an option in reserve for the less adventurous: you could bail from the group and catch the Brown Line at Chicago. After all, there's no shame in walking a mile in these sub-freezing temperatures!

We crossed the river with its incredible views, past the Merchandise Mart and a number of other personal landmarks from my arrival in the city 37 years ago this month: the Anti-Cruelty Society at Grand, the Ohio House Motel and Rock 'n' Roll McDonald’s (closed for remodeling?) at Ohio, and the LaSalle Flower Shop at Superior. When we reached Chicago Avenue I fully expected everyone from the group to peel off leaving just my son and me for a lonely trek up to North Avenue. To my surprise, however, only two chose to cut the trip short leaving six intrepid souls to continue the journey north. I was impressed!

So on we soldiered, past the Moody Bible Institute and umpteen high rise apartments and condos built in the 1980s to replace all the Single Room Occupancy hotels (what my dad used to call "flophouses") that used to line streets like LaSalle and Clark. (I can imagine how people used to think of the city as "rough" back in the day; now it's full of yuppies.) Across Division Street we encountered Sandburg Village on our right (east), originally an urban renewal project from the 1960s that was intended to buffer the Gold Coast neighborhood from the "encroaching blight from the north and west."

We finally reached North Avenue and turned left (west) through Old Town, passing the Second City on Wells, to the Brown Line Stop at Sedgwick. The el came quickly (Praise the Lord!) and we switched at the Harold Washington Library for the Red and Blue Lines for home.

Next week we'll resume our Hike back at North/Sedgwick and head up through Lincoln Park toward Wrigley Field. That should bring us to about the seven and a half-mile mark and the northernmost tip of the Marathon course. Hope it's warmer!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Someone I know... training for the 2018 Chicago Marathon so I thought it would be fitting to kick off this year's Urban Hike with Mike by walking all 26.2 miles of the course in roughly three-mile segments. That should take us through the first nine weeks of the year.

The course, which winds through 29 of the city's neighborhoods, begins at Monroe and Columbus, right behind the Art Institute.

After fortifying ourselves with hamburgers from Good Stuff Eatery on Wabash, the eight or ten of us (I'm beginning to lose track) set out Wednesday on a wet, but mild, January evening.

Crossing Michigan Avenue, we couldn't help noticing the bright blue monolith at the top of this post, one of two transparent glass brick towers flanking a black granite reflecting pool known as Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. No sooner did I take this picture on my trusty iPhone than it magically changed to reddish-orange. So I snapped another one with that guy's face in the background.

The course took us north on Columbus to Grand Avenue, with Millennium Park to the left and Maggie Daley Park to the right.

We crossed the Chicago River just north of Lower Wacker and were surprised to see so much ice. That's the Wrigley Building, of course, all lit up to the west.

When you reach Grand, which is about 500 north, you turn left (west) and walk under Michigan Avenue toward State Street (that Great Street). Mile One of the course is at about Grand and Rush and a few of the guys peeled off at State and caught the Red Line back for home.

There were now only five of us (the hardiest!) and we turned left (south) on State for Jackson. On our right was Marina City, of which I first took a picture of the east tower and then one of both (I couldn't resist). They just looked so cool with their Christmas lights still up!

The guys have a lot of patience for my tendency to stop and take shots like this, but I know I can't push them forever.

State Street extends from North Avenue at the southern tip of Lincoln Park all the way down (intermittently) to south suburban Crete. Its intersection with Madison (zero north/south and zero east/west) has marked the base point for Chicago's address system since 1909. (I've tried -- in vain -- to teach that to my sons and to the guys on the Hike. Why are so many young people resistant to something that would make their lives easier? Oh, well.)

The street changes a lot along its course, and I pointed out that at one time State Street was the flagship shopping district of the city ("Michigan Avenue before Michigan Avenue"). We walked past Macy's (the old Marshall Field) and Target (the old Carson Pirie Scott), and it was hard to believe that the street was dubbed "the brightest thoroughfare in the world" in 1958 -- the year I was born -- by the Chicago Tribune. (Yes, that means I'll be 60 years old this year. I should run a marathon or something!)

At State and Jackson (Mile Two) we turned right (west) and turned right again (north) on LaSalle Street. I just had to take another picture of one of my favorite structures in town, the Chicago Board of Trade Building at the south end of "Money Canyon."

We continued north, with the Federal Reserve to our left and the historic Rookery Building, City Hall and -- I'm sorry -- the hideous Thompson Center to our right, to the Clark/Lake CTA stop, just shy of Mile Three across the river. After exchanging obligatory fist bumps, one of us boarded the Green Line, one the Red Line at Jackson, and the rest of us the Blue Line for home.

Next week, weather permitting, we'll resume our Hike at Clark/Lake and head north toward Mile Six, which is on Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park between Fullerton and Diversey. Won't you join us?

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Cy Young, an Olympic javelin thrower who died at age 89. Wait a minute! That's not him -- this is Mr. Young:

Imagine growing up with the name Cy Young.

"Are you a pitcher?"


"Do you play baseball?"


"Why not?"

"I just don't. Okay?"

And to make matters even worse, his father played minor league baseball. You don't suppose that put any additional pressure on someone with that name, do you?

"Come here, son, I want to teach you how to throw a baseball."


From his obit in the Times (all emphasis mine):

Cyrus Young Jr. was born in Modesto, about 90 miles east of San Francisco, on July 23, 1928. His father was a farmer who played baseball for the minor-league Modesto Reds, and his mother, the former Thelma Gartin, was a homemaker.

Young Cy wanted to play baseball, but asthma restricted his athletic activities. 

So what did young Mr. Young do?

At Modesto Junior College, however, a coach suggested that he learn how to throw the javelin.

He became the first American man to win a gold medal in javelin, and when he died at 89 at his home in Modesto, Calif., on Dec. 6, he remained the only one.

That was in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Four years later his javelin career was over:

He told The Bee in 1996 that he had made a pile of his shoes, sweatsuits and javelins, poured kerosene over them and set them afire.

Yikes! (Sounds like he had some anger issues.)

“It was time to get on with my life,” he said.

After the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Young became a full-time farmer and rancher.

Kind of sounds like, "F*** you, everybody! Even if I didn't play baseball I still had a great athletic career. Now leave me the f*** alone!"

But I'll bet every time someone was introduced to him the first thing they said was something like, "Cy Young? Hey, did you play baseball?"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ray Thomas, a founding member...

...of the Moody Blues who played flute, sang and wrote a number of the band's songs, died at age 76.

From his obit in the New York Times (my emphasis):

In 1967 they released what is considered a progressive rock landmark, the album “Days of Future Passed,” which featured contributions from the London Festival Orchestra. It was one of the earliest albums to embrace the long, interconnected songs and musical experimentation that became key parts of the style in the early 1970s.

Mr. Thomas’s solo on the single “Nights in White Satin,” which became the group’s signature song, was one of the album’s defining moments.

1967? I distinctly remember this song being a hit when I was a freshman in high school.

Mr. Thomas said that when executives at Decca, the band’s label at the time, heard the album “they panicked: ‘Who’s going to buy this? It’s neither one thing or the other: it’s not rock ’n’ roll, and it’s not classical as such.’ ”

The label was right to be wary. “Days of Future Passed” did reasonably well in England but disappeared without a trace in the United States. It found an audience there only belatedly, when it was reissued in 1972 and broke into the Top 10. “Nights in White Satin” reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Brendan Byrne, whom I remember... the governor of New Jersey when we lived there in the 1970s, died at age 93.

What I didn't remember was his sense of humor. From his obit in the Times:

"There was a poll that showed 96 percent of the people knew who I was, and 4 percent thought I was doing a good job."

"It is not true that I can only read at a fifth-grade level," he told a group of [local journalists], after being roasted at a press dinner. "I read out-of-state papers, too."

 "I knew I’d get re-elected when people started waving at me using all five fingers."

"Remember that stuff they put in our food during World War II, to prevent us from getting excited about girls?" he said at the dedication of a military monument when he was 84. "It’s beginning to work."