Lately I’ve seen a few news items about blue-green algae killing dogs and taking over parts of Lake Erie. Who knew it was so close to home? Note: It hasn’t stopped people from fishing.
On the morning of Monday, February 11, a CDOT worker discovered a crack in the metal of the northbound lane of the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River that made it impassible.
Later that day, here’s what northbound rush-hour traffic looked like south of Millennium Park.
Southbound traffic was unaffected.
The conglomeration of pines formed into a giant “tree” at Daley Plaza is no more, replaced by a single, more ecology-friendly tree at Millennium Park. While the cool color scheme is contemporary, managers of buildings along the Chicago River opt for the traditional red and green.
Last year I saw what seemed like dozens of Hemaris diffinis and H. thysbe moths around one of the butterfly bushes at Perennial Garden. This summer I’m seeing very few — mostly only one at a time. I’ve seen only one giant swallowtail, the first butterfly I noticed there on my way home from the farmers’ market. I haven’t seen one since.
At least I’m seeing monarchs, tiger and black swallowtails, red-spotted purples, several kinds of skipper, and a few hackberry emperors. I’m terrible at identifying trees, but several of the trees look like hackberry trees. The hackberry is to the hackberry emperor what milkweed is to the monarch — sole food for the caterpillar.
On August 11, a very pale hackberry emperor landed on my shirt and stayed until I had to start walking and gently shooed it off.
I say “pale” because hackberry emperors are usually darker.
Last week I was about to walk my bike through the grass from one bush to another when a hackberry emperor landed on my arm. It proceeded to probe about with its proboscis. It went at it for several minutes, even after I started walking again, arm raised in an awkward position. After a few moments it flew off.
Assuming it was sucking up sweat, I looked up the behavior, called “puddling.”
By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That’s because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm.
When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the spermatophore. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female’s eggs, increasing the couple’s chances of passing on their genes to another generation.
What could be more charming than knowing your sweat will help produce more hackberry emperors? I may not have children and grandchildren, but I will have butterflies!
22 July 2018
Tom Friedman’s 33.3-foot Looking Up, made of baking pans and other aluminum goods, attracts attention on the south lakefront in Chicago at 47th and Lake Shore Drive.
I had to do what almost every passerby does, sooner or later.
In the credits and the background of The Bob Newhart Show, Chicago is invariably dreary, with uniformly gray skies. It’s as if the show were set in a perpetual early winter, after the autumn is bright with color and before the winter is bright with snow.
This is how Chicago really looks in spring and parts of summer:
and, all right, occasionally this:
In Chicago, the only way to avoid election campaigning is to lock yourself into your home with the blinds down and all electronic devices off, including phones. Even the snow piles created by snow plows after the recent blizzard have been transformed into a campaigning platform (see photo).
The office of alderman has always seemed thankless to me, but that’s because I’m not a native Chicagoan who has witnessed how lucrative it can be. Whether the job is thankless or rewarding, the candidates take the campaign seriously. In my ward, the incumbent sent a newsletter at about the same time a challenger dropped off fliers that tout her as a “wife, attorney, and community activist.” Am I supposed to be impressed? Most adults are or have been a wife, husband, or partner. So she is just like everyone else, which is probably meant to be reassuring. Attorney? I’m one of those who thinks politics is already too dominated by too many lawyers, whose mindset tends toward sometimes narrow interpretation rather than action, inspiration, or leadership. Community activist? Now she’s just trying to ride on President Obama’s coattails. If peered deeply enough at the correct angle into my own background, I too might claim a moment of community activism, maybe, especially if it would promote my career in politics.
She goes on to outline the ward’s woes and what she would do to fix them. There’s nothing insightful in her list — for one, anyone and everyone can see that Stony Island Boulevard should be bustling with traffic and commerce but isn’t. Many of the businesses found along what should be a thriving boulevard are small, with barred windows and gated doors presenting an uninviting front to anyone passing through. What’s she going to do to change that?
Indeed, if listing the litany of issues that plague the ward were enough, this challenger, and others like her, is off to a good start. But even I (not a wife, attorney, or community activist) can chart the issues. What I can’t do, because it’s not something I’ve looked into, is explain how I would address and try to solve them. She doesn’t, either. How can she attract new businesses? What can she do to eliminate the impression of poverty, crime, and blight the barred windows and gated doors create? What would she do that the incumbent hasn’t and how? Through the flyer, she had an opportunity to outline not only a vision for the ward, but a plan. She failed to do either, and also failed to give me a reason to vote for her above all others. At the least, the incumbent can point to accomplishments, but a challenger has to do more. He or she has to show not only what needs to be done, but how they would do it and why. Words aren’t enough.
The office of alderman is not lofty, but it is visible. We expect mainly that our streets will be protected, our children will receive a good (or at least adequate) education, our businesses will be encouraged, and our potholes will be fixed, and that we’ll enjoy basic services. If Candidate B wants to unseat Incumbent A, it’s not too much to ask how she is different and better. Is it too much to answer?
While I was walking toward the rail overpass at 55th and Lake Park Avenue, someone coming from the opposite direction said something about “stuck” to his companion. This proved to be a Budget rental truck, the top of which was scraping the underside of the overpass (clearance 11’10”). As a University of Chicago police car blocked entry from the west, two young men sat on the ground, one on each side of the truck, probably trying to let air out of the tires.
It was at least 20 minutes later that I realized I should have taken a photo of the wedged-in vehicle. And too bad there’s no photo of the driver’s face when he realized what he’d done. One of the first rules of driving a high-profile vehicle: Know your clearance and plan your route!
J set aside Memorial Day to visit his paternal grandmother’s grave, which he’d learned is in Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in Niles. After a sunny early morning and stormy late morning/early afternoon, he picked me up.
Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery is enormous, larger than I would have expected. If you hadn’t known the northwest region of Chicago was heavily Polish, you’d have only to try to read the names on the thousands of tombstones. There are non-Polish names — J’s grandparents’ included — but I didn’t see many during our brief drive toward the section he’d been told to look for, or later on the way out.
And you can’t miss the names because so many graves aren’t marked by basic, flat, in-ground stones like those of my parents in Pennsylvania. The cemetery is dominated by a wealth of impressive monuments, statues, and crypts. Later we noticed a monument seller conveniently located across the street. Also across the street there’s an expansive florist shop. J noted that the Polish seemed to have done very well for themselves.
As it turned out, his grandparents are buried in a section of modest flat markers, his grandfather’s adorned only with his WWI service and a cross. We didn’t notice any other family markers nearby. He doesn’t know why they came to be buried here, other than that they were north siders and Catholic.
Given the size of the cemetery and the occasion, I was surprised not to see more people or more flags. On Memorial Day, the cemeteries where my parents and my aunts are buried are filled with flags, placed by a local organization at the grave of each veteran. There are a lot of veterans in the central Alleghenies.
Our next stop was the Chicago Botanic Garden. By this time, the weather had turned perfect, but the grounds were nearly empty. After a jaunt around the Rose Garden and a brief rest on a bench, where every mosquito in the vicinity zoomed in on me and my legs, we walked to Evening Island and the carillon, both of which I’d see only in the distance. Stupidly, I had never realized that you can walk there. Why I thought it was a forbidden place I cannot explain.
A robin flew in front of us to a small tree, carrying something large in its bill. I was trying to point it out to J when suddenly, from a nest in the crook of the tree, three mouths shot up. The robin made an attempt to stuff them, but perhaps either intimidated by their insistence or our presence, it flew back toward the water, where it seemed to have found a good spot for foraging. The moment it left, the mouths withdrew into the depths of the nest — just as J had gotten his camera and lenses sorted out. He hadn’t seen them. And, while he was fiddling with his backpack, a chipmunk crossed in front of us. I teased him that someday he’ll have his camera out taking photos or videos of some mundane thing, while bears, mountain lions, eagles, and other creatures line up behind him, out of range of his lens, to watch and laugh. He also missed some large birds (herons?) flying overhead, but at least he saw and photographed the red admiral I pointed out on the leaves of a tree.
He thought there would be a carillon concert, but they start in June. Our timing was perfect, though — the 7 o’clock hour chimed just as we were approaching.
In the berm between parking lots, J noticed a bird that I couldn’t identify at first. It was head on, and the colors weren’t true in the shade. As he was snapping away (and mentally debating getting out the big lens and tripod), an adult robin hopped over and shoved something in the other bird’s maw. Our mystery bird was a fledgling robin. Through the large lens, I could see its pinfeathers. It was at that awkward stage between infancy and adulthood, neither helpless nor mature — the avian equivalent of a gawky teenager. The parent soon wandered off, but Junior continued to stand around expectantly.
Walker Bros. Original Pancake House was closed for the holiday, but I (for one) got my fill of comfort lasagna at Rosebud of Highland Park, which made me sleepy for the long ride home. I felt strange after the long holiday and variable weather.
And so back to the inanity.
31 May 2010