Thursday, November 15, 2012

Black Friday approaching

I wrote about it last week, but this...yeah. I just had to post.

And in other fun things on the internet other people found for me, this site is still up:

And pointed out to me on Twitter, after I'd commented on this week's syrup AND flour (separate incidents) highway spills in Chicagoland, saying there needs to be a website devoted just to these stories (a quick Googling didn't turn up much):

Truck Spills. Yeah! A very well-organized site. There are some here I don't particularly want to click on...Alas, the site hasn't been updated since 2010. Surely someone's doing this on Tumblr by now?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Soup and sidewalks

Exciting to get to go to a favorite local event, Soup & Bread, held at the Garfield Park Conservatory (its usual season at Hideout on Wednesday evenings isn't till January). For a $5 donation I got to carry around a glass jar and try out an array of homemade soups inspired by ingredients found in the conservatory. I hadn't been in the conservatory at night before. It was fun to experience, if awkward to walk around (holding the soup jars and spoons and a map), and not great for photos with my camera. This one sort of turned out.

One of many soups I tried--this was beet and other root vegetables.

I'd gotten there with a just-bought CTA 1-day pass, and it's hard to be at the GP Conservatory and not want to hop on the Green Line and go to Oak Park, so I did, for a visit to the Whole Foods and Panera in River Forest. Buses home instead of the Green Line. At North and Harlem, an intersection I've been to many dozens of times, I saw this as I walked past Sears and just caught the #72:

What?! Another old sign of retail I hadn't seen before...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Forgotten Woolworth

There's few things more exciting than stepping out on a beautiful morning and discovering something you never knew about a place you've lived near for over ten years! Hmm, I don't know that this exact experience had happened till I discovered my local Family Dollar in Humboldt Park used to be a Woolworth store:

And this is soon after I learned one of the other Family Dollar stores in Humboldt Park (Division & Washtenaw) used to be a Woolworth! Both long before my time in Chicago. The Woolworth chain closed not long after I moved here and I visited several of the still-existing stores besides the one I already frequented on State St. (Logan Square, Little Village, others?). Maybe at some point I'd heard this used to be one, but it was still a shock to see the labelscar on the store Sunday. (I took these photos later; the sun was too bright Sunday).

Admittedly this more clearly shows the labelscar of what it was after Woolworth, but the L is in there! I hope I get better photos before they cover this up somehow. It's been a Family Dollar for several years, after being a day labor agency for a while before that and vacant for some time in-between.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chain store changes

Two photos from today can be grouped together with that title. Sort of. (Coming up with frequent titles is hard, okay?) I was headed to an appointment Monday afternoon and my #72 North bus went by the Damen/Milwaukee/North intersection just as the "W" went up on the former bank that's being turned into a Walgreens (and from the looks of it so far, a fancy one; a big improvement from the plain one two blocks south, and more convenient to me, if I'm still taking the #72 when it opens).

Post-appointment I took the Red Line to Division and walked to Barnes & Noble, exactly as I'd done a week earlier. I had better luck finding a section I couldn't last week, browsed a little, and decided to give in and have a first-of-the-season peppermint mocha. I'd had a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte the night before. This makes it seem like I'm at Starbucks much more than I am. I very rarely sit at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks, so I didn't realize the cafe had their drinks along with treats from two non-Starbucks businesses. Didn't know they mixed things up like that.

I noticed at an adjacent table that a man who used to hang out at the cafe of the Borders on Diversey and Clark seemingly every time I went in--one of the local characters--was settled in here. I don't think I'd seen him in a few years. I honestly didn't know if I felt relieved or troubled by this.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Colorful California Avenue

Before the sunny and 70 degree weather turned much worse--drizzle, rain, temperature drops of 20 degrees, then much more--I had an eventful late morning/afternoon excursion with a friend, much of it biking south on California Ave. As usual I only had a chance to photograph a few things that interested me on the way, always saving some for later. Here's a few random shots I liked together.

This, at 44th, was on my list to visit this summer, the one Tastee-Freez location in Chicago I hadn't visited, but I forgot. A great surprise, and it was still open this late in the year, and we ended up having a very inexpensive lunch. It was still warm enough for a mint chocolate shake.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Biking DuPage

I biked to the Western Ave. Metra station for a 3:30 train on the Elgin-bound line. It managed to be an absolutely stress-free bike-on-train experience both ways (not a lot of other cyclists despite decent weather), except that I'm back to using my heavy vintage bike after a lightweight used one I had briefly was stolen.

I got out at the Schaumburg stop, and while trying to find my way out of the station and parking lot area, went the wrong way past the Boomers baseball stadium, even though I biked this route twice earlier this year. It's not easy to figure out and I'd have wasted much more time without a map on my phone. I made it to the major north-south street, Gary, and the unpleasant choice of going on a 45 mph road or on the sidewalk paths with a tendency to end in the middle of the block, necessitating walking the bike for a while or crossing the 45 mph road to use the path on the other side, until it inevitably disappeared too. I noted which side to take for the ride back (and forgot it anyway).

I made it to Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale without incident, except biking up to the mall I didn't see any bicycle rack and didn't have time to search. (Some malls do have them, and I'm always the only one parked there.) I locked it to the "K" (easy to remember!) parking area sign in front of Macy's and had a short trip around the mall. More vacancies than I remembered from a visit a few months ago, but too nice and crowded to be classed as a dead mall (a topic that will be explored a lot on this blog later).  Santa Claus' area was set up but he wasn't arriving till Friday the 16th. (I'd have gotten a better view if security wasn't nearby.)

I was indecisive about the food court and needed to get cash without an ATM charge so I decided to go to the Meijer store across the street to buy some food and get cash back. It was getting dark by then and making it across the huge road and into Meijer's surprisingly badly-lit lot (on both sides; around the store itself was fine) was another ordeal. Nothing looked like bike parking, so I locked it to a stop sign/concrete thing (those things that keep people from driving too close to the store). As I did, a man walked by and said "Biking in November?" in a quizzical tone. (Er, I guess that's implied with the question mark.) He was wearing shorts. In November, because it was warm. I think this is an area where bicycling seems strange at any time...

I got a better meal for $5 than I would have at the food court (Meijer premade sandwich, blackberries on sale for $1, Meijer brand cola), and left the lot. Trying, not successfully for the trip, to recall which side of the street I needed to bike on back north to Lake. And being unpleasantly surprised that there are blocks and blocks in the suburbs that don't have street lights, except at intersections. You're limited to house or business lights, if any are around, approaching headlights, or whatever is on your bike, which, uh, wasn't enough.

I found the Coachlite Skate Center in Roselle, where I'd be seeing DuPage Derby Dames rollerderby for the first time, in their last bout of their first season. I looked for bike parking. Again, I had to lock the bike to a sign. I'm usually the only one biking to suburban sporting events, even in the midst of summer baseball season. The rollerderby was fun and concessions were inexpensive, but it ran to within about a half-hour of the last inbound Metra of the night, and I got nervous. The ride from Coachlite to Metra was shorter than from Stratford Square to Coachlite, but plagued with the same lack of light and disappearing paths. I got to Metra three minutes before the final train.

I try to use the #bikeCHI tag on Twitter often, to describe the joys and hazards of bicycling in Chicago. I ended up tagging this #bikeDuPage and #donotbikeDuPage.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Tree installation!

So this is happening already, if you're the type who freaks out about how early Christmas/winter holiday things appear. Once it's less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, I'm not too bothered by it, though I was taken aback on this visit when listening to WBEZ and they mentioned a certain FM station had switched to its all-holiday-music format that day (and given the problems with reception downtown, it was bleeding into WBEZ on my radio at that very moment).

I'd come downtown to catch the #6 bus to Hyde Park to visit the Seminary Co-op Bookstore on their last weekend in the space they've occupied for 51 years. They move next week to a nearby spot. Even with CTA Bus Tracker on my phone, I just missed the bus I needed and had 20+ minutes to the next. So I got a few shots of the tree and Christkindlmarket getting installed in Daley Plaza.

I checked and all the signs said "NO TRESSPASSING."

I'd meant to have another pumpkin-y drink at the Joe Muggs cafe in Books-a-Million (I got pressured into buying a membership/discount card at the BAM that replaced the Borders in my hometown, and now I have to buy things with it) but ended up with a gingerbread latte, and just missed the next #6 bus. Under the excruciating circumstances of having to run down the block for one, assuming the crowd of people waiting for it will give you time, then seeing it continue on because no one else was waiting for it. That's when I gave up on making it to Hyde Park, not having time to wait for a third bus, and bought a few staple items at the City Target on State. Also decorated for holidays, but not overwhelmingly so yet.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Two weeks till Black Friday

Well, it's Thursday, but the giant shopping day Black Friday is also two weeks away, given that Walmart is moving Black Friday even earlier on Thanksgiving, starting doorbusters at 8 pm instead of 10 pm. That news may have been why Black Friday was trending on Twitter this morning, or (and strangely I found this out from the local morning talk show Windy City Live on ABC 7), this story of a possible strike. Intriguing...

I of course have to give Picture Black Friday a mention again (even if it's a contest and I selfishly don't want to tell other people about contests they could enter). It's one of the things that kicked off my obsession of the past few years of photographing shopping malls.

In 2010 I went to Chicago suburbs--my first visit to Orland Square Mall. In 2011 St. Louis suburbs--my first visit to Saint Louis Galleria, and a pleasant visit to downtown Belleville, IL. In 2012, if in Chicago I have some ideas. If visiting my family in central Iowa, oddly it might end up being my first chance to see an entire college football game in person (and college hockey that night), plus whatever stores I can get to.

I'd recently learned of a mystery/thriller called Black Friday (Alex Kava, 2010). Book description from Amazon:
"On the busiest shopping day of the year, a group of idealistic college students believe they're about to carry out an elaborate media stunt at the largest mall in America. They think the equipment in their backpacks will disrupt stores' computer systems, causing delays and chaos, disrupting capitalism, if only for a moment.
What they don't realize is that instead of jamming devices, their backpacks contain explosives. And they're about to become unwitting suicide bombers.
FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell must put her own political troubles aside to work with Nick Morrelli and figure out who's behind this terrorist plot—a massacre that's all the more frightening when a tip reveals that Maggie's brother is one of the doomed protestors."

Um, wow.

I went to Amazon tonight to look up the title Black Friday and there are many novels and nonfiction books with that name or variations thereof. Mostly not referring to the shopping day (some are about the financial scandal of 1869), but I did find this:

Sure, a little reading before I head out to photograph November 23.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election results

I ended the Election Day piece with my voting around 5:15; then I was in for the evening--with no alcoholic beverages, not intentionally, just didn't have them--with the radio and TV and internet all going all evening. And cooking a couple big dishes of healthy food, so I wouldn't be stressed out and just eating the cookies I'd made the night before. (I was more worried about being prepared for the day after, depending how things turned out.) I expected to be up extremely late, but instead the live news wrapped up by 1 am, and I fell asleep to "Nightline" airing after 1:30 (was it live, or one airing earlier but postponed during local coverage?). A few TV shots from the day and night:

And in the morning. Well, by the time I got up to take any photos, regular less-newsy things were airing on the network morning shows:

Local shots, from Valois in Hyde Park (wish I'd known about this free breakfast in time; they did it in 2008 too):

Obama campaign offices in Chicago:

And since I was glued to Twitter more than anything else, I'd be remiss in not posting a shot of breaking news there (the Jennings one is an obvious joke, but I didn't have the nerve to retweet it):

I especially liked the moment when Iowa's results broke and my timeline was a lot of "IOWA!" from people around the country. My home state did well in some regards, not so well in others. (Confession: I haven't even looked at all the results yet, not even for things I voted on in Illinois.)

And what Chicagoans were talking about around the time of the acceptance speech:

Unfortunately I didn't make it far to take photos in the real world. I had a headache (puzzling because again, no alcohol and not up that late) for hours, but otherwise I've been reasonably happy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day!

I feel like I should have done more to document election day 2012 in Chicago--I certainly did for 2008 (think I even posted that here, but I'm bad about looking up old posts)--but I was a little lazy since it was about 40 degrees and drizzly out. Not too lazy to return books that were due today (Election Day was a convenient way to remember) at two different Chicago Public Library branches, so I headed out by bike. (Yes, you can return books to any branch, not just the one you checked them out at, but I worry they'll take days or weeks to get delivered back to the proper branch. If it's a new and/or hard-to-find book, I'll try hard to bring it back where I got it.)

I went by the newer (and awkwardly named) Daley, Richard M.--W. Humboldt branch on Kedzie, then over to the Manning branch on Hoyne near the United Center. (I'd say the "eerily quiet" United Center, but that only applies in a Blackhawks lockout context. It was actually a few hours before a Magic-Bulls game.) Rewarded myself for my civic duty by finally visiting the new Dunkin Donuts east of the UC, finishing a small latte (99 cent special) on my ride home. This is the only real Election Day photo I have, a polling place on Damen:

I got home just as it was getting dark, put away my bike, and walked one block to my polling place, two hours before it closed. I'd seen reports of long lines, especially during early voting (one, two, more hour waits), but this entire process took 20 minutes. Including the walk. The man waiting before me had been switched from the 29th to 26th precinct--a significant percentage of voters had precincts switched this year--and was given an address about a mile away and a friendly admonition to actually make it there to vote. I'd read the Bottom of the Ballot series at Gapers Block and taken a few notes, and it helped me as I filled out my paper ballot. (I chose this over touchscreen.) How exciting to actually feel informed about the Water Reclamation District candidates! I still felt too intimidated to do anything about voting for judges to be retained or not--I only had a few names to vote against, so I left it all blank.

Not until I'd left did I realize that easily 99% of the negative political ads on TV I've had to endure (because I have the TV on a lot, and my mute button isn't working) for weeks and weeks were for candidates in races I didn't even get to vote on (Dold/Schneider, Walsh/Duckworth, Foster/Biggert). Ugh. I also felt like I'd just been to that polling place "a few months ago" for the mayoral and other local races...of course, that was a year and a half ago.

We get receipts, not stickers, here. Way too much space taken up on social media by people complaining about not getting stickers, or on the question of whether it's legal to take a photo of your ballot, or whining that too many people were posting "I voted" photos.

Monday, November 05, 2012

So we went to Ukraine

2012 has been a momentous year for me personally, mostly for overwhelming/challenging/alarming things I won't be writing about on a blog, at least not yet. But also for huge and exciting things, some of which I'll write about. For now, I'll say the trip I referred to in May before I vanished from posting here for months: two weeks in Ukraine. And my mother wrote a piece about it that's been published in a major newspaper. Part of the "Iowans on the Go" series in the Des Moines Register. Here it is, with a photo of me, even (you might have to click on "more" if it's not all displaying).

As for me, I have about 8000 photos, two crates'-worth of souvenirs, and pages of observation in a notebook that I've got to wrestle into a series here. And I'd love to write about it for other sites, too. Here's one photo of my first moments setting foot in Ukraine (it was a while before I got anything other than airport photos):

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Weekend videos

Still in testing-out-blogging-after-a-long-absence phase, and now I'll test how it works to upload my own videos. Two short ones from the weekend, that represent this weekend well without having to go through the 400-some photos I took and tell those stories right now.

Sat. 11/3, the sign at Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, IL, a Route 66 classic (first visit for all four of us driving around Chicagoland/south suburbs that day):

Sun.11/4, some kind of tubes I don't think I've ever watched go by on a freight train before, on a train past the abandoned Brach's factory on Chicago's West Side:

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Logan Square Farmers Market 2012

I try to get to the wildly popular Logan Square Farmers Market as many times as possible every season, if for little else than people-watching and taking a few photos of shoppers, kids, dogs, and of course the beautiful merchandise. I made it at least once a month or so in 2012, though it was several visits before I bought anything (I never seem to have cash Sunday morning--although I should point out some vendors take cards), and I don't think I bought actual produce all year, just goodies like hand pies and pastries, and hot cider on this last visit. (At the much smaller Garfield Park Conservatory farmers market the same day--also its last day this year, and I'd never been--I bought two small decorative gourds and they threw in free tomatoes, which I carried in my bag through many hours of bicycling. They were very appreciated in the breakfast sandwiches I made during the week.)

Fallen leaves, squash, cider, and plenty of Chicago Bears gear around (the game had already started by the time a friend and I were there after noon, and due to a busy day I didn't learn Bears won till 5:30 pm)'s a few terribly autumny photos from October 28:

That sign appears to have 2011's dates on it, but I assume people knew the market was ending that day, not Tuesday...
And since it was the morning after the biggest party night of this extended Halloween season (see my lament posted Nov. 1), it wasn't too strange to see a "bloody" prom dress in the trash on the nearby corner as we got our bikes:

Friday, November 02, 2012


I've vowed to not do anything that consists of blogging about blogging or about not blogging, but I'll allow a brief post if I change anything here. Unfortunately, I haven't yet updated the long-out-of-date blogroll (on this or my sports blog either), so I apologize if your cool project isn't on there, or your dormant site is.

BUT I did change my Blogger profile picture (and of course description), from this 2009 self-portrait to this 2012 photo (taken by Jared Kachelmeyer). It was from my first visit to an abandoned Chicago factory filled with parade floats, seen in this Flickr set. I like everything about the 2009 photo but I knew it was outdated (I do still have the shirt). That photo consistently gets views somehow and has a lot of text with it as it was a "20 facts about me"-type thing floating around at the time. (And someone I didn't know very well tried to make date-oriented conversation, in person, by bringing up one of the obscure facts I'd posted on it, over two years after I'd posted it. I'm flattered my older material online gets attention, but, um, that came across as really creepy. Just saying.)

I've changed the City of Destiny image for now to a favorite 2010 photo of The Lure abandoned restaurant in Gary, Indiana. It replaces a lovely postcard of a building from the 1933-34 World's Fair in Chicago. Long after I'd started using that image here, I visited a friend's home in another city (now a great friend I've gotten to visit many times), and he had that card in his living room next to a vintage lamp...and he hadn't seen my blog. Whoa! Anyway, I made a few other minor changes, pending a redesign.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Bah humbug, Halloween edition

I am meh about Halloween and I feel guilty about it. Here's a holiday that (for secular adults without kids at least) doesn't have religious connotions or family obligations, doesn't have an expectation of gift-giving, is just about candy and revelry. It's easy to complain about Christmas/winter holiday commercialism or to complain about Valentine's Day; it feels too cranky to not like Halloween.

I like candy. I like pumpkins (real ones, and pumpkin-flavored-things, which a friend points out are really pumpkin pie spice flavored). I don't like most spooky things, but cemeteries and the occasional ghost story are cool. And oh I like dressing up. Every year I think my impressive collection of vintage clothes and uniforms and such should go to good use--I should wear something I can't get away with at other times, I should lend or rent items as costumes for others. Or sell a lot of it. I just don't get invited to Halloween parties, or go to the ones I know about, or want to do bar events (since Halloween has become nearly as bad for massive public drunkenness as St. Patrick's or New Year's Eve). I don't want to feel I have to wear a sexy costume. Or actually I'd like to wear one, but it's generally near-winter weather in Chicago at Halloween, even if other days in October have been warm. I live on a floor where I don't have to worry about trick-or-treaters coming to my door. (And don't miss it, as I grew up in a house set back from the street enough that we didn't get many trick-or-treaters. Or we got a few. It's Girl Scout cookie salesgirls we never got...) The Halloween costume pop-up stores in empty big-box and mall stores (especially empty Borders, RIP) depress me. And so this year, where a Wednesday Halloween somehow turned the season into two full Halloween weekends and the day itself...nothing.

The only two things I do are buy discounted candy, and watch morning TV news/talk shows for the hosts' costumes. This year the national shows didn't do their Halloween festivities because of Sandy storm aftermath, so I was left with just the Chicago shows. (Edited to add: oh, and always like the bit on Letterman's show, too--weird costumes for kids--which did happen. The image is of a girl as a restaurant cup of coleslaw.) They did all right dressing up on set or in bits at the big costume store. (Both WGN and ABC7 had LMFAO outfits, and I realized I'm so out of it I wouldn't recognize an LMFAO costume. I know the songs--I do attend a lot of minor league sporting events, after all--but haven't seen the videos enough.)

I am happy to have gotten the photo at the top of the post while walking in Bridgeport during a Forgotten Chicago tour. A nice mix of friendly and unfriendly. AMERICA.