These are from a previous post in which photos of already questionable quality were resized. Some of the originals are lost, but I hope I can find at least a few. Hodge was a character who thought he was a lion to my antelope.
This is the first time since 2019 that Lessons and Carols, a Christmas Eve tradition at Rockefeller Chapel, has been held in person. I remember in 2020 and 2021, it was streamed. This year it was both in person and streamed. I attended, but within a few days had developed my first bout with COVID-19. I held out almost three years.
Rockefeller is always an experience. The snow was a great touch.
I love that the children don’t have to make or buy costumes to be farmyard animals. These days they can wear pajamas. My favorite was the Holstein cow (possibly an anachronism).
Normally I’d have taken a couple of Amtrak trains to Pennsylvania for Christmas, but 2020 isn’t normal so here I am in Chicago. Normally if I were in Chicago I’d attend Lessons and Carols for Christmas Eve at Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. But it’s 2020, so here we are. I lit my own candle.
I picked up my bike yesterday from GoodSpeed Cycles in Homewood. They did a great job with what they had (the wheels and tires available relatively quickly).
J. took my bike to GoodSpeed Cycles in Homewood, where I met him after taking Metra for the first time in months. You’re supposed to wear a mask on the train. Most people did. Some, however, sported them on their chins. I’ve never known chins to spew droplets, but there are many things I’ve never known.
I’m getting new but different wheels and new but different tires, WTB ThickSlicks without tread. This will be . . . different. I also asked for new pedals since I knocked off a reflector a while ago. The woman at GoodSpeed is throwing in a new magnet for the speedometer. She didn’t see any problem with fixing the bike. It’ll take up to a couple of weeks to get the parts in (shortages thanks to COVID-19, which is why I’m getting new but different wheels — they’re what’s available). This is setting me back more than half the original cost of the bike, but it’s not optional for me.
Like me, the woman at GoodSpeed isn’t shocked by the theft of the wheels but by the idea the thief replaced them (with bad ones). I’m still gobsmacked by that. As an aside, the imposter front wheel is bent. No wonder someone needed new wheels.
As an aside, I found what I am sure are my wheels and tires on a bike in the Flamingo’s bike room, but that may be a story for another day.
On the afternoon of a day that will be one for the history books (if there are any), I went out to fill my bike’s tires for the first time since my last ride in the autumn. Out to the building’s locked bike room, that is.
I unlocked the bike and moved it off the rack. When I started to fill the back tire, the gauge shot to 80, although usually it takes muscle, effort, and time to get it to the target of 60. Something didn’t feel right. It was similar to the scene in Star Trek‘s “That Which Survives” in which Scott says, “Mr. Spock, the ship feels wrong . . . it’s something I can’t quite put into words.”
I couldn’t spin the front tire to find the valve. When I found it by feel (most of the lights in the bike room aren’t working), it was missing the cap. The tire was flat, which was odd — my tires lose air over the winter, but they never go flat.
It was then I noticed the tires didn’t match.
And the wheels didn’t look like I remembered. The spokes were missing shine in a lot of places, and there was writing I didn’t recognize. I peeled back the front tire to find “Ritchey” underneath.
It hit me. Someone had stolen my wheels. While my bike was locked to the rack. They’d gone to the trouble of replacing them with old MTB wheels and mismatched tires. While my bike was locked to the rack. Someone with access to the building and the key to the bike room.
My beautiful heavy-duty wheels and fat Bontrager tires (to support my fat weight) — the ones that had carried me at least 400 to 500 miles. Gone. Forever.
I depend on my bike for transportation and mental health. I could have cried.
I did cry, later, when I double checked photos to make sure I wasn’t somehow mistaken.
It feels . . . wrong.
Later I went out to check both bike rooms, curious to see if my wheels had appeared on any of the other bikes. No, although they could have been out in use at the time I checked. I don’t know if I’ll have the heart to look again.
With the front wheel locked, I can’t walk it over to the Metra station to take to the bike shop in Homewood. Accessibility was part of the reason I’d chosen that shop. I’d have to ask J. for his help. If I didn’t know him, I don’t know what I’d do.
The bike shop’s site said they are open, but an appointment is required. I assumed this is to manage the number of people there and “social distancing” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I’d take an afternoon off later this week.
The woman who answered shot that down before I mentioned it. She volunteered that the next available appointment was June 18. JUNE 18. Nearly three weeks away. Three weeks of glorious spring weather away.
I made an appointment for the afternoon of June 19. I already know that if the bike can be fixed, I won’t be able to get the same wheels and tires. Sigh.
“If the bike can be fixed” is a question. I don’t know where damage was done or how much. I asked her if they have a comparable model to replace it. She came back with, “Possibly, but you may not be able to get one for quite a while. There’s a global bike shortage.”
Global. Bike. Shortage.
Later I looked it up.
In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent.Thinking of buying a bike? Get ready for a very long wait by Hilary Swift
By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a severe bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in demand.
This shouldn’t surprise me. Maybe it’s what led some lowdown varmint to steal my wheels.
My wheels from my locked bike. In a locked bike room. Behind a locked gate.
An infinitesimal thing in a world gone utterly mad. It’s going to be a long summer with who knows what at the end?
As a child, I didn’t think about water until I started visiting a friend whose family drank well water that smelled and tasted of sulfur. The odor permeated their house. “You get used to it,” she said. Accustomed to the tasteless taste of “city water,” invariably I felt thirsty the moment I arrived. I never got used to it.
Forty-five years ago the typical person didn’t carry a water bottle or buy bottled water. We drank whatever came out of the tap. Unswayed by Dr. Strangelove or decades of bottled water marketing, I still do, and that’s what I fill my insulated water bottles with when traveling.
On our annual pilgrimage to Pennsylvania in the 1960s and early 1970s, we used to stop at a couple of roadside springs and fill a jug or two with spring water. We didn’t need to. Our “city water” in New York was fine with us — well, as fine as any water in our polluted world can be. There didn’t seem to be any objection to our hosts’ water, either. By the time I was sentient, we were no longer staying with anyone who lacked indoor plumbing. My guess is my parents liked the idea of getting water from a roadside spring and preferred it as a rare treat. I did too. Water straight from a spring — as nature intended. (We didn’t boil it, either.)
Later we stopped at the usual places and found signs indicating the water was too contaminated to drink — the effects of coal mining. My heart broke a bit at the loss of a tradition and the sense the earth itself was dying one roadside spring at a time. After all, I was being raised in the era of the fiery Cuyahoga River, algae-choked Lake Erie, and the horrors of Love Canal.
I wish I could remember where those springs were and find out if anything has changed.
According to findaspring.com, which seems to be defunct, Pennsylvania leads the U.S. in the number of listed springs with 84. New York is second with 59, while Illinois lags behind with only 17 shown.
When I was visiting my cousin for Christmas 2018, I found out they’ve taken to collecting and drinking spring water. My cousin hinted, however, that the spring is far from picturesque. In my mind’s eye, I saw an ugly, chipped-up plastic pipe protruding from an ugly, denuded hillside in town. Something like that.
The spring is south of Tyrone, so we used a visit to Village Pantry as an excuse to get some water. It’s on a lightly traveled road paralleled by a stream, Elk Run, that seems to cross back and forth under it in several places.
My cousin and his wife quickly set up an efficient two-person jug-passing and -filling operation while I meandered back and forth across the road, drinking in (so to speak) the sights and sounds of the spring and Elk Run on its journey.
When a house buyer sees a stream, he pictures flooding, damage, and dollars. I picture myself at a church picnic at Chestnut Ridge, a lifetime ago, walking on 18-Mile Creek, listening to its gushing and trickling, soaking in the sight of countless tiny drops, waterfalls, and eddies, and hoping to spot tadpoles, frogs, minnows, and fish in the clear water reflecting a perfect summer sun filtered on the edges by healthy trees. I had no way of knowing how ephemeral that experience would be.
I don’t know how clean or safe the water from this spring is. As I said, it’s south of Tyrone, whose paper mills wafted their distinctive odor through my aunt’s screen door seven or eight miles away in Bellwood. I’ve seen a discussion about agricultural runoff in the area as well, although many think it’s insignificant.
Elk Run appears to be a tributary of the Little Juniata River. I once told my dad I’d seen a leopard frog in the Little Juniata as it runs past Logan Valley Cemetery in Bellwood. He made a wry comment about it, perhaps “How many legs did it have?” Now he and my mother are buried in Logan Valley. Cemetery, within earshot of the Little Juniata. Water, however clean it is or is not, connects us — all of us. We shouldn’t forget that.
Curious about the current state of the Little Juniata, given I’d been handed two bottles of spring water, I found out it’s not as bad as I thought.
Well, the Little Juniata River is not well-known nationally, primarily because it’s only been a trout stream since around 1975. The reason being that prior to that it was literally an open sewer.Bill Anderson, president of the Little Juniata River Association
After decades of pollution and a “mysterious pollution event in 1997,” we have brown trout fishers to thank for cleaning up the Little Juniata and shoring up its eroding banks.
We want to make sure this resource stays open for our children and grandchildren.Bill Anderson
This would have made Dad happy. And he didn’t fish.
I must be in a time warp because it cannot be two weeks ago that I was packing to go to Pennsylvania, and it cannot be tomorrow that I will return to work. These have been the shortest two weeks of my life, and I’ve no doubt that tomorrow will be among the longest days.
We spent Christmas Eve in Howard. To get there, we headed north on Rte. 220. The new highway has spoiled some of what I loved about the area in the 1960s and 70s — and now there’s talk of a Walmart in or near Pinecroft — but the drive north has granted me a greater appreciation for the little green hills I miss so much when I leave them.
Rte. 220 is built against the base of a mountain ridge (Brush); on the other side lies Sinking Valley, which my dad called some of the richest farmland in the state. To the left is Logan Valley, with Altoona to the south and Tyrone to the north. For me as a child, Tyrone and its pungent paper mill smell was an important milestone of the journey because it meant we were almost there — Bellwood was not too far off. And when I stood at the screen door of my aunt’s house on 1st Street, especially in the morning, the air was heavy with Tyrone’s industrial scent. When that powerful odor violated my nostrils and lungs, I knew that I was “home.”
Beyond Logan Valley is another ridge of the Central Alleghenies, another ancient wrinkle in the earth’s skin. After the trip up Rte. 220, and after passing through successive tunnels on the way to Lancaster, I, the three dimensionally impaired, have finally made the mental connection between the flat lines and shaded areas on the map and the relationships of the ridges and valleys across which the shadows of the clouds pass.
I long to walk up the ridge on a rare clear summer’s day, now that I’m old enough to appreciate the effort, the accomplishment, and the vision of forested hills cradling the vulnerable valleys and their quaint frame houses.
When I returned to Chicago, I settled for a very different sort of activity — attending the premier New Year’s Eve party at Kendall College. We arrived just in time for the salad course, which, like all of them, was very good. The service wasn’t polished to perfection, but that’s what I expected, and everyone was in such a good mood.
The DJ played music that I recognized (vintage), although J. could not get me to dance. I suppose I didn’t feel like shaking my booty in front of 98 well-dressed strangers. I was just relieved to get a table for two.
It was a lovely evening, with the blue moon shining on the frigid, yet restless city and the north branch of the Chicago River.
We saw only one questionable driver, and that was at around 11 a.m. the next morning in Hyde Park. He made a left turn at full speed and immediately swerved into the next lane at full speed when he noticed the cement median in his way.
So, happy new year — and be careful out there. Day or night.
Capitalists in the making
College female 1: . . . a concept for class. That’s how Jamba Juice was created.
College female 2: Oh, wow.
When reviewers need editors
This is a book that every single parent needs to read.Book review
[That’s single as in every parent, not as in every unmarried parent.]
Something old, something new
DUDE, WE WERE ON FIRE!Chicago History Museum headline
Poetry in transit
My love for you is like a shiny heart-shaped metaphor about the sea.Metra sign
Take it off vibrate. I don’t pay for that.Women speaking into her mobile phone
We have swine flu masks! We have Hallmark cards for Mom!Electronic sign at Walgreens
College doesn’t equal smart
Some students purge or starve so they can binge drink.RedEye
For when video games can’t keep them entertained
Offered by the Illinois Tollway at oases: The popular Captain Tollway coloring book
Whatever happened to “Billy” and “Susie”?
Willow! Montana!Dad calling his children
When your marriage is as comfy as an old shoe
Elderly couple at the bus stop discussing the man’s choice of gym shoes:
Woman: Is there any reason you made that weird decision?
Man: If it aggravates you, that’s reason enough.
Taking the high road to higher education with no pit stops
Dedicated to the enlightenment of the human spiritWindow sign at Roosevelt University
NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS
Capitalist dreams, part III
If I major in econ. and work on Wall Street, I could be your sugar mama!College student on mobile phone in elevator
There’s something about spending a single night away from home that makes me feel more disoriented than returning after a week-long trip. J. and I went to the last Hyatt party Friday night, and it was Monday before my sense of strangeness started to dissipate.
On Friday at about 6 p.m., I met J. at Moonstruck, one of my favorite places downtown. We started the evening with watching the dancing, which become less coordinated and more creative as the night wore on. As I stood on the second level, I couldn’t help thinking of ballroom dancing in 1930s movies and how much has changed in what is a relatively short period of time. For a moment, I could imagine the sweep of tuxedos and gowns.
When most attendees were at their happiest and most uninhibited, Exhibit A shows me nursing a midnight coffee — proof that I am old or dull or both. For the first time at this event, I could not be persuaded to dance, although I am not sure what held me back.
On Saturday, after substituting breakfast for a swim in the pool that no longer existed, J. and I headed to the Rosemont elevated stop, where we saw a flock of perhaps 80 Canada geese divided into four parts nibbling on the small islands of grass along the Kennedy Expressway. It struck me as an odd sight, a glimpse of nature adapting to the unnatural and unpleasant speed and noise of the expressway.
The weather was perfect for spending an hour and a half at the outdoor Christkindlmarket — a little below freezing, not too cold, no wind, and with a steady flurry of snow coating everything. While J. shopped, I found myself fascinated by the snow-covered model train as it made its monotonous rounds. A few boys watched the train for a bit, then commented in a deprecatory tone of voice to prove that they were too old for such toys. I envision them in 20–25 years, telling their children about the model train at the Christkindlmarket, even if it is by then more of a feeling than a memory.
Near the train tracks we came upon a snow-covered bench occupied by tiny snow people, made of regular-sized snowballs with evergreen twigs for arms. I named them Peter and Héloise, as doomed lovers. They were such a charming couple that almost everyone who spotted them did a double take, then snapped a photo of them. One woman even looked at us strangely as though we were the responsible parties. I wish I were that imaginative! It was with great reluctance that I left Peter and Héloise behind.
When all I could feel of my hands was pain, I dragged J. away on the bus and home with me, where a well-fed Hodge greeted us. I lit candles, plied J. with Holiday Dream tea and a Homemade pizza and cookie, and put on the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen so J. could sleep through it. Fortunately, the pizza and cookie revived him in time for a second showing.
In the meantime, the weather had become truly frightful. At 8 p.m., when we went downstairs to wait for the cab that never arrived, the wind was whipping The Flamingo’s awning furiously, and snow was coming down heavily and even less realistically than in a Hollywood movie. Since J. had to wait another two hours for the next train, I plied him with fair trade hot cocoa while we watched a Judy Garland, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra TV concert. I told J. that times have changed; today, Judy Garland couldn’t get away with a bare stage, a simple dress, and pumps. She would have to have a full band onstage, scantily clad chorus girls and dancers, a light show, and fireworks. During this performance, though, the stage, lights, and outfit didn’t matter. All attention was on that tragic face and that remarkable voice. You don’t need to distract your audience when you have talent.
J. finally arrived at the train station, after a 20-mph taxi ride in blizzard-like conditions. I couldn’t see Lake Shore Drive from my bedroom window. When I called him at 2 a.m. to see if he’d gotten home in one piece, the weather was still howling and blowing. Yet by 8 a.m. Sunday, it was sunny, clear, and calm, with the new coating of snow the only evidence of the previous long winter’s night.