Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Since When Has the Direct Route Been the Best Choice, Anyway?

When the Driveabout ended this spring, sooner than I'd originally thought it might, there were three places that I'd wanted to go but didn't get to:  Boston, Maine and Little Rock.  Since then, I've gotten Boston checked off the list, and last weekend I did the same for Little Rock.  (Note to Friend Ken:  I really, truly want to visit Maine.  I don't know when, but I'll get there.)

The reason I'd wanted to visit Little Rock was to see the Clinton Library, since I liked Eisenhower'sLBJ's, and Wilson's, and missed Hoover's (twice) and Hayes's.  But I'm glad it turned out the way it did, because this summer my friend Jennie, an avid fan of the Driveabout, moved to Little Rock so this way I got to see both Clinton and her, as well as Central High School.  I drove to Little Rock via Indiana, which is certainly not the direct route, but I had stops in Fort Wayne on the way down and Indianapolis on the way back.  The result was a trip that seemed a lot longer than just five and a half days, which is what happens when you combine unrelated business and pleasure destinations with almost 2,000 miles of driving.  (Just by comparison, the entire Driveabout was 19,000 miles.)

Little Rock is a pretty city, a bit smaller than Fort Wayne although in a metro area nearly twice as large.  It's on the Arkansas River and as you're leaving town on Interstate 430 you reach a curve in the road which opens up a lovely vista of the river and a valley.  (You see all sorts of things on the way out of Little Rock, including what appeared to be the largest Pentacostal church on earth and a factory that produces ammunition for Remington.)

This picture was taken from a park, not the Interstate (which you can probably tell since I picked up the edge of a parks display in the shot), but you'll get the idea:

You will not be surprised to learn that one of my favorite things to do with friends is talk.  And Jennie and I did, a lot!  We managed to squeeze in some sightseeing, too, but it was really great to have so much time to catch up.

Friday evening, we interrupted our conversation to find some barbecue, which I felt was necessary while in Little Rock.  We went to Sim's Barbecue which was delicious.  I also liked their wall:

Do you see the picture of President Obama in the middle?  It's from the Chicago Sun-Times, which made me feel right at home.

Speaking of the President, it was my great good fortune that the ridiculous government shutdown ended when it did, in time for my visit.  Both the Clinton Library and the Central High School historic site were more interesting from the inside than they would have been just to drive by.

Although I will say that the Clinton Presidential Center is impressive on the outside, too.  (Because I have a perverse mind, the use of the word "center" here reminds me of when bowling alleys decided they could class themselves up by calling themselves bowling centers.  Whatever.)

Here is Jennie in front of the museum.  Or library.  Or center.

During the Driveabout I had listened to Clinton's autobiography on CD, which was great during long midwestern drives because, as my brother-in-law once said about the circus, "It wasn't too short."  So I had refreshed my memory about his life - can you believe he was elected President over twenty years ago? - which helped me focus on the more interesting things in the center rather than just facts and dates.

Such as Jesse, a tour guide whom we encountered in the replica Cabinet Room.  As we walked in, he was telling some people about the early days of the Cabinet Room with Teddy Roosevelt, whose young daughters apparently had the run of the place.  I'm pretty sure that Chelsea didn't climb under the table much, although there were probably days when that seemed pretty appealing.  Jesse then started talking about the training they had received from White House staff and Secret Service agents.  He said that someone in his group had asked what Hillary Clinton was like as First Lady, and was told, "we're not going to discuss that."

For some reason, I have started to objectify people lately.  I don't mean "treat them as objects" but literally see them as objects.  The other night on my street in Chicago I saw two people who looked so much like cartoons that if I didn't know better I would have thought I was in some sort of mixed media movie.  I mention this because it happened when we walked into the Cabinet Room:  a woman was standing at the table, completely still for the first moment I saw her, and I thought she was a mannequin.  Fortunately for all involved she moved before I did something stupid like lean on her.  Anyway, this phenomenon hasn't moved from weird to disturbing quite yet, and I sure hope it doesn't.

Back to President Clinton.  In case it needs to be said, let me say that I am a Bill Clinton fan. I liked him when he was President, and he's become a completely fabulous former President, in my humble opinion.  I'm not quite as big a fan as my friend Rachel, but I'm a lot older than she is and he was her First Love, while mine was, by necessity, Jimmy Carter.  So my view of Clinton tends toward the sympathetic.  I remember that he was the first President who was targeted by the Right Wing Nut Case Media Complex - whether it was Rush Limbaugh making fun of Chelsea (sorry, anyone who makes fun of the appearance of a 13-year-old has given up his right to walk on earth, I don't care what sort of prescription medications he's on) or the cottage industry of Hillary Haters (she killed Vince Foster?  Really?).  In my opinion, the most egregious of these were the endless efforts of Special Prosecutor Ken Starr to find something, anything, to pin on the Clintons.  And Bill certainly gave him something, although I personally don't think that it was worth $70 million of taxpayer money to learn that the President was a less than ideal husband.  Or a poor husband.  Whatever.

But I digress.  I wanted to say all that as a very long (too long? you make the call) introduction to what I was most interested in looking at:  how the museum (I'm done with "center") handled the scandal and impeachment.

And probably I should pledge to reduce the number of parenthetical comments from now on.  I'm going to try.

Anyway, the way they handled it was to describe the episode as a huge power struggle.  Which it was.  I will say that Clinton himself is more apologetic in his autobiography.

And since you are dying to know:  no, we didn't see the blue dress.

They have a bunch of other very interesting exhibits, including a lot of letters sent to the President and Mrs. Clinton from various celebrities.

This display, for instance, has a letter from the Dalai Lama (on the right) next to a letter from Sheryl Crow.

They have a great bicycle on display, along with Clinton's letter jacket:

And a lot of quotations.  Remember this one?  "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America....we pledge to end an era of deadlock and drift..."  From his lips to God's ear, please.

This being a museum, they have some special exhibits.  There is an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  And then there was a good, if improbable, exhibit of Oscar de la Renta's fashions.  Apparently he was a friend of the Clintons.  They had some beautiful dresses on display, including some blue ones.  Yes, I do have a sense of humor.

The morning had been chilly by Little Rock standards, which meant sunny and low 50's, but it was starting to warm up enough that we had a pleasant walk across an old railroad bridge that had been turned into a pedestrian bridge.

By then we were hungry.  The friendly guard - and by "guard," I really mean "greeter" - told us that the museum restaurant was not open on weekends.  We found this curious, since it would seem like the weekends might be the better time to have a restaurant open, if one had to choose.  But the guard offered us an even better option:  a Mexican place next door to the gift shop, a few blocks away, which was Bill Clinton's favorite place to eat in Little Rock.

I will smile along with my Republican friends at a couple of interesting business model decisions made at the museum.  The first, of course, is the restaurant's hours of operation.  The second is that the gift shop is about four blocks away.  The museum is quite large and although it's an easy walk to downtown, most likely it wouldn't have fit in the central business district.  But, the friendly guard said, President Clinton wanted the store to be in the downtown area proper to help with revitalization.  They have a solar-enhanced shuttle, the kind you see at airports, running between the two.  We took the shuttle to the restaurant, but when we realized how close it was, we walked back after lunch.  Plus, and I will speak only for myself, I had eaten all the tortilla chips in Central Arkansas and therefore needed the walk.

Along the way we encountered this statue of Harriet Tubman.  Arkansas was, logically, along some of the routes of the Underground Railroad.

It's hard to compare Presidential Libraries, because they're all so different from each other.  Of the ones I've seen, I think I would rate Clinton's first, Wilson's second, Eisenhower's third, and LBJ's last although all of them have been well worth seeing.  Wilson's edges Eisenhower's slightly only because of the incredibly eerie basement display of trench warfare.  My parents have seen a ton of presidential libraries and my mother said that the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station is very good.  Despite the assumptions of many, we Goldner women do try hard to be bipartisan, as well as cheery and helpful.  I mention the point about the Bush Library because Clinton worked with Bush 41 to learn how to design a good library and based on my mother's assessment it sounds like he started with a good model.

Oh - we missed Bon Jovi by just a few minutes.  He'd played a concert the night before and was in the museum when we were walking on the bridge.  Timing is everything.

Then it was off to Central High School which Jennie pointed out is a building that we all recognize.

The school is immense and my camera couldn't get it all - there is more building on each side of this picture.  The historic site itself is across the street, and like everything I've seen run by the National Park Service, is excellent.

One picture that I wanted to get, but didn't because it is creepy to take a picture of strangers, was of a group of ROTC students standing in front of the building.  They were a very ethnically diverse group, including white, African-American, Asian and Hispanic kids, and it just seemed fitting for them all to be there.

An interesting point made at the historic site is that things were going okay, more or less, with the desegregation of Central High School until Governor Faubus went on TV the night before and riled up the segregationists.  Certainly I don't know whether things were as hunky dory as this story implies, but it seems to be generally accepted that the Governor really made a mess of it.  Apparently Faubus was trying to score political points with the right.  Ironically, he'd worked for better schools earlier in his career but ordered the shutdown of Central High School for the following school year.

They have a beautiful painting in the historic site museum, which shows the National Guard protecting the students.

It might have been confusing to be a National Guardsman at that time:  first you're ordered by the Governor to keep the black students out, and then literally overnight you are federalized and ordered by President Eisenhower to protect the students' right to go to school.  I don't know whether the same National Guard troops did both, or if they brought in other units.  If someone knows, can you please post a comment?

Across the street from Central High School is a very cool old filling station.  It is part of the historic site.  Jennie thought that maybe something historically significant occurred there.  I thought that it just happened to be a very cool old filling station that somebody wanted to save, and since it was across the street from a National Parks Service facility anyway, why not just have them look after it?  You couldn't go into the station so we never did find out the answer.

Jennie enjoys Little Rock, and I see why.  And I am glad that the indirect route took me to Little Rock the way that it did.

And Ken, when you least expect me....

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Due to another writing project I'm doing, and probably some other reasons having to do with general laziness and getting busy with other things, it's been a while since I've given you a Chicago report.  And while the purpose of this blog is not to bore you with my daily activities - that's what Facebook's for, right? - I've had a couple of experiences that seemed blogworthy.

But before I get to that, let me apologize to you, Dedicated Reader, for a glitch that you might have observed with some of the pictures in the Driveabout.  Or, rather, spaces where pictures used to be.  I was trying to prune my Google storage and didn't realize that Blogger doesn't independently store pictures - it (apparently, I discovered) takes them from Google Plus.  And so, sadly, they are now gone.  Armed with a court order and resources that far exceed my interest in such an endeavor, I probably could get them back.  However, I have come to terms with that loss and all I can do is say that I have learned my lesson.

And now, to a couple of events of the past six weeks.

First, I went on a bike ride with my friend, Donna.  She had called and asked if I wanted to go for a ride with her at (and I'm sure that was the preposition of the proposition) the Botanic Garden.  It was a beautiful weekend in September and I'd heard that the gardens were lovely, so of course I said of course!  She picked me up about 3:15 Sunday afternoon, I lodged my bike into the back of her minivan, and we headed north.

I've driven by the Botanic Garden on my way to Highland Park - it's about 15 miles north of my apartment, more or less.  Donna initially headed toward the Expressway, which you get to from my place by driving north a little bit and then west for a long way.  But she didn't get on the Expressway, saying, "I didn't realize how far north we are.  We're almost there."

At this point I realized that Donna's plan for the ride was different from what I'd understood, since we were not driving toward the gardens.  Turns out that we were going to ride to the Botanic Garden along a Forest Preserve District bike trail, which is about 14 miles.  We'd get a bite to eat at the Botanic Garden, and then ride back.

I've been on longer bike rides, but I hadn't planned on this today.  My major concern was that the sun was going to set about 7 p.m., which was just over three hours from when we were setting off.  I am not a fast bike rider, and the math was making me uncomfortable.

Still, in for a penny, in for a pound and we took off.  A friend of Donna's joined us.  The friend has a bike that weighs less than my laptop and she is very fast.  Donna is in the middle, speed-wise.  Both Donna and her friend definitely looked the part of bikers, with helmets and bike shorts and all of that.  I looked like somebody out for the bike equivalent of an afternoon stroll.  Plus my shoe string got caught in my pedal at about Mile 3 and the only way I could get off my bike (once I stopped it) was to fall over.  (This is a family blog, as they say, so I will spare you any pictures of the bruise on my backside but it was epic.)

When we got to the Garden, the cafe was closed.  This was lucky for me, time-wise, but Donna hadn't eaten all day, so she had to make do with the next best thing which was a $10 chocolate bar from the gift shop, the cheapest food item they sold.

But all that aside, it was a glorious ride.  Nearly all of the trail is through parkland and along the river (which is not very big at that point; more like a stream).  Lots of trees and we even saw some deer.  (That is the benefit of riding at twilight.)  Even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, it wasn't crowded.  I've gotten accustomed to riding on the Lakeshore Trail which is the bike riding equivalent of driving on I-40 in North Carolina, home of NASCAR.  While I love the Lakeshore Trail, riding in the forest preserve was much more peaceful.

And the Botanic Garden itself is beautiful.  Due to the time, we didn't stay, but we looked around just a little and I took a couple pictures to show you what it's like.

This is just some of the landscaping along the driveway.
Donna with her dinner.
And we made it back to the car while there was still enough light to see!  It was a great experience.

The second event of note was this past Thursday night, when I became part of the Fourth Phase.  Yes, football fans, I got to see Da Bears!

My friend Sharon and her husband Steve from Fort Wayne have Bears season tickets.  Steve couldn't go to this mid-week game so Sharon invited me.  Score!

My only previous NFL experience had been seeing the Colts play at the RCA Dome a few years ago.  And while I remain a Colts fan (even in the post-Manning era), the RCA Dome was not a particularly interesting venue.  I decided after that game, in fact, that I'd really rather watch at home on TV.  But I knew Soldier Field would be different, especially since I was going with a pro.

We'd had plans to see the game for some time and I knew it was an evening game.  Sharon called me last week to firm up the details, and when I asked her what time we'd meet, she said, "Let's see....the game's at 7:20 and you can get into the parking lot four hours before the game starts, so I'll be there at 3:20."  I was going to L it down to Soldier Field, and I asked Sharon if I could bring some beer or something.  "No," she said.  "I'll have it all so you don't need to worry about carrying anything.  I'll bring the grill and everything."

The grill.  Indeed.  This was going to be Tailgating with a Capital T.

To get to Soldier Field, I take the Red Line (of course I do) to Roosevelt and then take the bus that goes to the Museum Campus.  I went one stop further because Sharon was parked on Northerly Island.  The bus was completely packed, and at the stops between Roosevelt and Soldier Field a couple people got off and on, but at the main Soldier Field stop the bus completely emptied out except for the bus driver, a nice little nerdy kid in a suit, and me.  The nerdy kid was going to the Adler Planetarium (of course he was) where he was a volunteer.  We both laughed at how empty the bus had suddenly become.

Sharon had texted me a picture of her view of Soldier Field as a way of helping me find her.  I showed a security guard the picture and he got me pointed in the right direction, and I found her with no trouble.

When I arrived she already had the grill going and was opening up a couple of boxes of Triscuits to go with the hummus that was already sitting there.  But no beer.  Okay, one of those statements is a lie.

We asked the guys parked next to us, who were already cooking on a family-sized grill, to take our picture.

Look at the spread, with a tablecloth and everything!
Brian Piccolo was smiling on us that day, because the weather was absolutely perfect - sunny and low 70's when we started, clear and 60's during the game - and the guy next to us was a firefighter.

There are a lot of things I like about firefighters.  It's hard not to like someone who will run into a burning building to save you and your loved ones.  But one of the less profound things I like about firefighters is that they can cook, and they like nothing more than to share food.  So in addition to the delicious chicken Malibu sandwiches that Sharon made (along with Triscuits and hummus), we also got to eat quesadillas and meatballs.  Delish.

After two and a half hours of enjoying our little party and catching up, we packed up the tailgate and started walking over to Soldier Field.  As you approach the bridge off of Northerly Island, there's a guard and two dumpsters.  Sharon had warned me about this - it is the end of tailgating.  So we surrendered our beer cans and continued walking with 47,000 other fans into the stadium.

Pre Game
As of that moment, I didn't have any Bears fanware, a problem I have since remedied.  (Oh, so you don't think less of her, Sharon donned her jersey over her white shirt as it cooled off later in the afternoon.)  I had on the closest thing to orange that I own, and when it got chilly put on a dark blue pullover.  Sort of a pathetic effort, I will admit, but it was the best I could do at the time.  What impressed me was that at least 40% of the people at the game were wearing jerseys - and I mean jerseys, that's not counting the Bears t-shirts and sweatshirts and jackets.  There were a lot of Erlacher jerseys, but you can tell the old school fans who were wearing classic Ditka and Payton jerseys.  Lots of tradition at Soldier Field.

One of the traditions, I learned, is that you sing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" after every score.  Luckily they show the lyrics on the jumbotron.  And we got to sing the song quite a bit, as the Bears won!  (Of course, they were playing the Giants who had nearly as many interceptions as completed passes, but a W is a W and we'll take it.)

I am still smiling about the evening.  It was a lot of fun.  Combined with my visits to the Friendly Confines during baseball season (yes, I know, technically baseball is still going on but for Cubs fans the season ended weeks ago unless one secretly cheers for the Tigers as well), I feel like quite a Chicago sports fan.

Bears Win!
Next weekend I am going to Little Rock.  That is one of the places I wasn't able to get to during the Driveabout, and fortunately a friend moved there this summer so I will get to see her and the Clinton Library and Central High School all at once.  Or maybe just drive by the Clinton Library and Central High School, depending on whether John Boehner is able to decide that the country's well-being is more important than his being Speaker.  In any event, I look forward to the trip and will issue a full report.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weekend in New England

Okay, this is a long story for a short trip.

A few weeks ago my friend Val (who lives in Chicago) and her friend Sam (who lives in Silicon Valley) invited me to join them in New Hampshire for the weekend.  Sam's family has a farm in New Hampshire and they were having a family reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their family owning the property.  Val said it was magical and there was a lot of room and it would be fun.  She was right on all accounts.

But the thing I am still shaking my head about is the logistics of the trip.  In order to keep this reasonably concise, I won't go into a detailed explanation of the reasons, but let me just say that circumstances changed after Val and I had booked our original flight.  That plan was for a flight out very early Friday, arriving in Boston mid-morning.  Somehow we'd get a ride from Logan Airport to New Hampshire, which is a couple of hours north.  Then we'd do the reverse on Sunday afternoon, returning to Chicago about 10 p.m. on Sunday.  That was the original plan.

Here's what actually happened:  I took the Friday flight as booked, picked up a car which had been left for me at Logan Airport Central Parking, and then Friday night I returned to the airport to pick up Val on a flight from Seattle, arriving shortly after midnight, and then we drove to New Hampshire.  The remarkable thing is that the entire plan worked without a hitch.

But that left me the problem - and of course by "problem" I mean "embarrassment of riches" - of what to do in Boston for a day.  If everyone had more problems like this, the world would be a happier place.  I emailed my friends Mary and Martha (yes, it sounds biblical, they've heard that before) to see if they were around.  They were planning to spend a long weekend at Provincetown, at the very end of Cape Cod, which created another "problem" in the upside down sense in which I am using the word.  Being problem solvers, we decided I would just come to see them there.  And I did.

I took the "Fast Ferry," which means it takes less than two hours, from Boston, leaving from a harbor that looks like this.

I sat on the front deck of the boat which was fun for a while but then I got chilly in the breeze, even with a jacket, so I went into the cabin for the rest of the ride.

Land Ho!

Welcome to Provincetown!

Martha was working from their adorable condo all afternoon, so Mary met me and took me, via pedi-cab, to the Aqua Bar which has a great deck overlooking the beach and the bay.  Then we went to their condo, which has a great deck overlooking the beach and the bay.  You're getting a common theme, aren't you?  Would that all travel problems resolved this way!

Provincetown is simply beautiful, and very fun.  It's a very friendly and comfortable place for everyone - gay, straight, etc. - although the streets are probably not so friendly and comfortable for drivers (of whatever orientation) since they are pretty much overrun with pedestrians and bicyclists.  Oh well.  That is a minor inconvenience for being in paradise.

After dinner I took the Fast Ferry back to Boston, picked up some groceries for New Hampshire (Sam had given me a list), and read my book until it was time to go back to the airport.

Just for the record, between 3 a.m. CDT Friday when the alarm jolted me out of dreamland, and 3 a.m. EDT Saturday when we arrived at the farm, my transportation experience was as follows:  walk to the L station, take the Red Line train, take the bus, take the Blue Line train, fly on a United flight, drive a car, take a boat, ride in a pedi-cab, walk, take another boat, and drive a car.  The "Trains, Planes & Automobiles" guys had nothing on me.

We arrived at the farm, as I said, about 3 a.m.  Since there were already people asleep, we turned off the headlights a bit down the gravel road and so approached in complete darkness.  It was pretty disorienting.  We turned on a couple of lights to walk through the house but between the need for quiet and my state of semi-consciousness I didn't see much.  Except for the stars.  The stars were thick and bright and beautiful.

My room was in a part of the house where no one was staying that night (morning?) and when I turned off the light in my room it was completely dark.  The windows were closed so I couldn't even hear bugs:  complete sensory deprivation.  It's the opposite of my apartment in Chicago, which always has lights coming through the blinds, and where there is constant traffic noise.  I thought about that for the 45 seconds it took me to fall asleep.

Saturday and Sunday were a blur of hiking up a small mountain (it seemed pretty big at the time); setting up, enjoying, and cleaning up the family reunion; sliding down a natural rock slide into water that was ice cold; watching fun family movies including some that were made in the 1930's; and driving back to Logan in time to get Sam and his son on a plane back home.

I do have one picture, of Val and me on top of the summit of the mountain:

Val and I had a later flight than Sam and his son, so we had dinner at the airport.  While we were eating her brother called.  I only mention all this because when I heard Val tell him, "We got to the farm yesterday morning," I had to think about it before realizing that she was, of course, correct.  What a weekend!

When I'd originally plotted out the Driveabout, I planned to visit Massachusetts and Maine in the warmer months.  With the trip ending a bit earlier than planned, that didn't happen, so I am very grateful to Sam and his family for welcoming me into their fold and giving me a wonderful taste of summer in New England.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown

Fort Wayne has this program called "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown" where once a year all the tourist attractions are open for free on a Sunday afternoon.  The point of it is to expose people to all the fun stuff that they can do throughout the year and is based on a recognition that most people don't do tourist-y things except when they have family or friends in from out of town.  Maybe other places do this, too.  It's a good idea.

And its theory was proven true by all the places I went this week with my 16-year-old cousin Josie when she was visiting from Omaha.  We saw so many things that I had to make a list (in order of appearance) so as not to forget anything:

The Magnificent Mile and Watertower Place
Chicago Crime Tour
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower, which is what everybody still calls it)
Navy Pier
Shedd Aquarium
Museum of Science and Industry
Lincoln Park Zoo

We also did drive-bys of Millenium Park and the Buckingham Fountain, and went to the beach.  Twice.  Plus we drove through some of the North Shore suburbs on our way back from IKEA and the movies.

So, let us begin on Sunday when we took the bus to Michigan Avenue and explored the Watertower Place Macy's.  Although not the flagship Marshall Field's (which is on State, south of the river), it's a pretty nice store and much bigger than department stores Josie and I are used to.  For instance, they have an entire mezzanine level devoted to handbags.  Josie found a really adorable dress and then we had to hightail it across the street to meet the bus for our tour of Chicago's criminal history.  It was a pretty long tour.

Our guide was Will, a twenty-something kid with big glasses, boyish charm and a lot of energy.  He began with a history of Streeterville, which is the area where the Magnificent Mile is located.

Streeterville dates to the 1880's, when a would-be gun runner with a fondness for drink named George Streeter ran aground on a sandbar near Michigan Avenue.  He decided he would found his own community regardless of the actual ownership of the area and the fact that it was within the city limits of Chicago.  His story shows what you can do when you have no scruples or respect for anyone's authority but your own.  Plus his timing was excellent, as Chicago was still rebuilding following the 1871 fire.  Streeter charged builders to dump their construction debris and excess dirt onto "his" property.  There was a lot of such debris, and as the land filled in, he started selling it to people on which to build shanties.  This is what you call a win-win.  For Streeter, that is - not so much for the guy who actually owned the property whose lawyers and court documents were no match for the well-armed Streeter. Of course, as more families settled in Streeterville, thinking that they were legally purchasing land for their homes, there were a lot more people with guns to help run off anyone who tried to push them out.  Streeter was eventually convicted of murder but just served a few months and was pardoned by the governor - because that's how we roll in Chicago.

Of course Will gave us the full John Dillinger tour, including a stop at the Biograph Theater where Dillinger met his end with the Lady in Red.  She was actually wearing orange, Will said, but Lady in Orange doesn't sound very impressive.  I agree.  We drove by a speakeasy and the vacant lot that used to be a warehouse where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred.  We stopped at a church which had to replace its steps because they had been so damaged by gunfire during Prohibition.

But Chicago's criminal history didn't end in the 1930's.  We drove by the Rock 'n Roll McDonald's where in the early 1990's you could buy crack at the drive-through.  Will said that the code had been to ask for a "Large Coke, no ice."  When asked what would happen if someone actually wanted a large Coke, no ice, the answer was:  "right - that's how they got caught."  The police had a remarkably easy time arresting these guys, who clearly were not criminal masterminds.

Near the McDonald's is a Walgreens that was a major source of cyanide-laced Tylenol in 1982.  Several people died and the murderer was never found.  Will said that some people suspect that the Unabomber might have done it, as his parents lived in the area.  (The Unabomber denies the allegation.)

We drove downtown to see the Metropolitan Correctional Center, one of the few federal prisons located in an urban center.  We counted windows to find the 17th floor, from which two guys escaped (using bed sheets and clothes) last winter.  Both were recaptured in a few days, and according to Will they have been assigned to window washing duty since it's hard to find prisoners willing to be on the outside a building that is a couple of hundred feet high.

Speaking of tall buildings, Josie and I also went up to the skydeck in Willis Tower Sunday afternoon.  The humidity had turned into more haze than we'd realized, but it was still a pretty good view.  The view straight down, however, was the most impressive.

See the little white rectangle by Josie's black shoe?  That is a bus, 103 stories down.

Monday we went to Navy Pier, which was something of a disappointment.  It would have been better had the humidity not been 150%, but the fact is that there's just not a lot to see there, once you've bought a t-shirt and a coffee mug.

But the good part of the Navy Pier trip was that Josie had been told that you should take a boat there.  I hadn't heard of that, so I'm glad she mentioned it, because it was fun and slightly cheaper than a cab.  You leave from the north side of the Chicago River at the Michigan Avenue bridge.

Tuesday it was still very hot and humid so we went to the Shedd Aquarium.  There are two ways to see the Shedd, the cheap way and the very expensive way.  We did it the cheap way - we took the Red Line to the Roosevelt CTA station, then caught the bus that drops you off nearly at the front door, and bought general admission tickets which only cost $5 apiece since I am a Chicago resident (otherwise they're $8 - still very reasonable.)  The Shedd is really a great aquarium, and even without the extra exhibits that would have cost us about $20-25 per person more, we spent a great couple of hours there.  Josie has an excellent camera so she got some good pictures through the glass.  I don't, and I didn't, so you can just look at their website for some good shots, especially of the Amazon Rising exhibit, which describes what happens every year when the Amazon rises about thirty feet (nearly three stories).  (Hint:  stuff gets really, really wet.  And muddy.)

It was so hot that we decided the beach was definitely in order, so we made the first of our two visits to Kathy Osterman Beach by my apartment.  It was a fairly short visit, because it started to rain, so we got cleaned up and headed out to the 'burbs for errands, dinner and a movie.

Josie's dad, my cousin Marty, had gone to the Museum of Science and Industry years ago when our grandmother took him and his brothers to Chicago.  He told Josie not to miss it, so we didn't.  Marty was right, of course, and I actually bought a membership because I'll be back.  Plus members get free parking which is worth $20.  I lived in Fort Wayne long enough, apparently, to pick up a minor case of parking entitlement mentality.  I'm working through it, but if I have a chance to get free parking I'll almost always say yes.

The main exhibit we saw was the U-505 German submarine which was captured by the American Navy during WWII.

We took a tour of the innards, which are pretty close quarters for 59 men.  Our tour guide, Anson, was very dramatic which was fun.  Submarines don't have room for things like laundry and water for washing (and the normal temperature in the sub was 90 to 110 degrees), and they don't have enough space for everyone to have his own bunk.  The enlisted sailors would sleep in shifts, and at the end of their three months at sea, they would simply burn the bedding.  The tour did a good job of having lights and sounds at opportune times to add to the realism, but I am very grateful that they did not attempt to recreate the odor of a sub.

The U-505 was captured in 1944 by the U.S.S. Guadalcanal under the command of Chicagoan Captain Daniel Gallery.  The reason to capture the sub, rather than sink it, was because it contained a treasure trove of military codes and secrets.  Of course, if the Germans learned of the capture, they'd change the codes so it was vital to prevent knowledge of the capture from leaking out.

The fact that it was captured at all was something of a fluke.  The Guadalcanal had been looking for a sub for a couple of weeks but had found nothing.  Just as the ship was leaving the area to refuel, they pinged a sub.  Then, both of the U-505's officers were injured by the Guadalcanal's attack, and the engineer was in another part of the sub and didn't know the officers had been incapacitated, so the standard order to blow up the U-boat was not issued.  Anson dramatically explained that they only found thirteen of the expected fourteen explosives - but since the museum built a building around the sub, I'm guessing that no one is very concerned about that anymore.

This picture shows a couple of bunks, but this is a control room that had been sealed by the Germans during the attack.  The Americans were afraid that it could be booby-trapped or flooded but as luck would have it, neither was the case.

Although towing a damaged submarine was no small feat in itself, the major intelligence challenge was the German crew, all of whom but one survived the attack.  The Geneva Convention requires a country to report the capture of another country's service members, but that was not done here.  The Germans were sent to a POW camp in Louisiana where they tried, unsuccessfully until the war ended to contact the military or family in Germany.  Later in 1944, the German Navy had informed the seamen's families that they must have been lost at sea because there was no word at all from the U-505.  Someone on the tour asked Anson whether any of the wives - who thought themselves widows - remarried prior to the return of their husbands.  Anson said that this had always been the lore, but recently some historian had actually checked the records and found that no, no such marriages occurred.  There you go again, facts ruining a good story.

The fact that Captain Gallery was from Chicago is significant to the preservation of the U-505.  After the war, the Navy planned to use the sub for demolition practice.  Captain Gallery knew that the Museum would love to have it and the Navy was fine with that, but there was the minor matter of getting the sub from its east coast port to Chicago.  The Navy's deal was an "as-is, where-is" arrangement and the people in Chicago had to raise the $2 million (in the 1950's!) to move it through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.  Then they had to roll the thing across Lake Shore Drive to the Museum.  For about fifty years it sat on the lawn of the Museum, and then they dug a big hole to lower the sub and built an underground exhibit around it which is where it rests today.

At the exhibit outside the sub we met a man named Gene who had been a cook in a U.S. Navy sub following the Korean War.  He showed us a picture of himself in his galley, and it was fun to listen to him recount stories which included the time that he burned the spaghetti and then a later time when a visiting commander commented on how good his spaghetti was.

There are a ton of things to see at the Museum.  One small item of interest to me (less so to Josie) was a Jones Live Map Meter from 1909.  This was sort of the original GPS.  Don't ask me how it works, but apparently if you find your location and then turn the dial it tells you the directions to your destination.  This one is supposed to get you to Indianapolis, except it must be wrong because it doesn't include I-65.

That was a joke, by the way, about I-65, since the Map Meter predates....yeah, you get it.

There was also a vehicle called an armored car, although it does leave something to be desired in the way of personal protection:

Technology has, in fact, improved in the past century.

In honor of my grandmother (Josie's great grandmother), Grandma Shreffler, I took a picture of Josie in front of a train.  (Grandpa Shreffler worked for the Union Pacific railroad.)

And while not an aerospace museum, they do have a bunch of planes.

They also have the largest model train set-up I've ever seen.  It's probably 50 feet by 100 feet, maybe bigger. Here's part of it.

That's Chicago in the background, as the exhibit represents a trip from Chicago to Seattle.

Here are some of the mountains:

And here, of course, is Seattle:

They have a large exhibit of weather science, which is very cool.  There is a giant (20 or 30 feet in diameter) disc that shifts sand around to show you how an avalanche works.  Perhaps I was getting hungry, but it looked like a giant snickerdoodle to me.  One that I could watch for hours.

So BIG WIN for the Museum of Science and Industry.

By then the day had turned hot and gorgeous, so we headed back to the beach and didn't worry about rain this time.

Thursday morning we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is a pretty nice zoo especially considering that it is always free.  That is not a word you hear a lot in Chicago, and while I've been in better zoos, I've never been in a better zoo that didn't cost me a bunch of money to get into.

They have an animal I'd never, ever heard of, a Sichuan Takin.  I didn't get a picture of him, but for some reason I did get a picture of the sign.

My favorite part of the zoo was the polar bear.

And then it was off to Union Station, where we enjoyed a hotdog and Amtrak took Josie back to Omaha, departing on time to the minute, which would have made Grandpa Shreffler proud.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Driveabout Rides Again!

It doesn't seem to matter that I now have a lease and an apartment and a kitchen with a crock pot, the Driveabout spirit lives on.

Google Maps routed me on I-88 across Illinois for my trip to Omaha, which meant that I drove by the town of Dixon, boyhood home of Ronald Reagan.  The Vue barely needed me to direct her as we veered off the interstate onto Highway 26.  She knew.  Plus she's completely bipartisan and more than willing to see historical sites about Republican presidents, even those who exploded the national debt.

Ronald Reagan and his family (mom, dad, older brother) moved to Dixon when he was 9 years old, in 1920, and lived there for three years.

It's a nice house in a pretty neighborhood full of similar well kept homes.  One thing that is different about the Reagan property, however, is that there's a statue.

You can see that Reagan is holding something in his hand.  For reasons that are explained as Illinois having a lot of corn, the plaque states that he is holding kernels of corn.  Yeah, I'm not sure I get that, either.  But check out the plaque.

Can you see in the fourth line down how the word "its" was initially misspelled, with an incorrect use of an apostrophe?  Someone has attempted to correct the mistake, but I still winced when I saw it.  It's frustrating when an organization cannot get its grammar straight.  For some reason this has always been my grammatical pet peeve and if they ever put up a plaque about me they better spell "its" correctly or I will come back and haunt the earth until it's corrected.

Sadly, I couldn't tour the house because it was Sunday morning and they don't open until 1 p.m.  But I had seen another sign for the John Deere Historical Site and thought I'd check that out.  That more than made up for not being able to see Reagan's boyhood bedroom.

When I started the Driveabout last fall, I stopped by the Mississippi River on the way to Omaha, just to stretch my legs and touch the river which I had never done.  Getting back to I-80, if you don't plan to retrace your steps (which I only do if the alternative is certain death), is quite a production and you drive through East Moline which is as lovely a town as you'd think.  But my point here - and I do have one - is that you drive by a bunch of John Deere plants, some of which are still operating and some of which aren't.

So it seemed appropriate, somehow, that I would randomly come across the place where John Deere first settled in Illinois when he and his family moved from Vermont in 1836 to open a blacksmith shop and invented the first successful steel plow in 1837.  (In 1848 Deere moved to Moline to be nearer the transportation options afforded by the Mighty Mississippi.)

If the birthplace of one of the greatest inventions in American history (my opinion) isn't enough to entice you, perhaps you will be lured by the thought of visiting a place called Grand Detour, Illinois.  Had I known that name ten months ago, the Driveabout might have been called the Grand Detour, but it's too much trouble to change the URL now so we'll stick with the Driveabout.  Wikipedia doesn't explain why it's called Grand Detour - the story has to be interesting, don't you think? - but it turns out Orson Welles spent some summers here and the area was something of an inspiration for Kane's recollection of his idyllic childhood in Citizen Kane.  Rosebud!

Anyway, back to John Deere.  Deere's granddaughter, Katherine Buttersmith (great name!) inherited part of the property in 1919 and started buying up the rest so that what is now owned by the John Deere Company includes the Deere home, the area where the shop was located (which is being excavated), a neighbor's house (needed for the gift shop) and a replica blacksmith shop.

It is the replica blacksmith shop that is the coolest part.  I love watching craftspeople work, and ever since I took metal shop in seventh grade with Mr. Eastlack (Mom might still have the dandelion digger I made her, which will outlast nuclear winter), I've especially loved watching metalwork.  And Rick, the blacksmith, was fantastic.

He is originally from southeastern Texas so still has a bit of a twang.  As he described the parts of an anvil, he pointed out that the hardie hole is square (it's where you put different type of hardie tools) and then there is a round hole.  He said in the north that is called a pritchett hole, but in the south they call it a round hole.  And he would tell very hokey little jokes with the kids in the audience that were fun.  For instance, what happens when you put a white rock in the Red Sea?  It gets wet.  Or at one point he asked the kids to think of a number between 4 and 6.  Very entertaining and he showed us how the craft works which was very interesting, even though I'd seen some of this type of work before.

One of the guys on the tour was from Tasmania and he'd been to the site three times.  Sort of a John Deere groupie, I guess.  Of course he had a green cap.

In case she reads this, I want to mention that our tour guide's name was Janet and she was excellent.  It's hard to compete with a guy who says things like "that sizzle is what it sounds like when hot metal touches your skin, except you can't hear it over the screaming."  But within the limitations of her genre, Janet did a great job.

The Rock River is beautiful and the area must have some very interesting history since there is a Bloody Gulch Road and a Lost Nation Road, but that is for another day and I got back on Interstate 88 to continue on to Omaha, Center of the Known Universe.

Plus I wanted to stop at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, which is about 50 miles west of the state line, in West Branch, Iowa.  I had planned to see this in December, but road conditions prevented me from making the stop then.

Interstate 88 ends at I-80 on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities.  At that point you are about six hours, or a little less, from Omaha.

Of course, that timetable presumes that the Mississippi River bridge isn't closed.  A few minutes before I came upon the scene apparently a semi and three cars collided, fortunately injuring no one, but they shut down the entire bridge for two hours.  Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time - and had I foregone my Grand Detour I would have avoided the whole mess, but where's the fun in that?  It took nearly an hour to go less than two miles, and I must say that the State Police in Illinois did as poor a job of traffic control as I have ever seen.  They made us all exit, of course, at the Mississippi River Road exit which was perfectly reasonable but there were no signs or police to tell you what to do after that, and if you've ever been at that exit you will know that the answer is not obvious.  (Plus they didn't even keep traffic from entering the interstate - truly these guys need some lessons from their friends in Iowa, who did seem to have a clue about how to deal with a major traffic headache.)

However, since this was the same place I had gotten off in November (see above), it all seemed vaguely familiar and I wound my way through East Moline, by the vacant lots and the public housing and the rundown industrial buildings, and eventually got onto I-74 which took me to I-80, this time west of the Mississippi so I was able to actually use my accelerator which was a nice change of pace.

Unfortunately, by then I had lost all interest in seeing the Hoover Library.  Poor Herbert was once again overcome by events.  Sort of like his presidency, come to think of it.

In June the big event in Omaha was the College World Series.  This week it is Goldnerpalooza.  Check your local listings.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Funny, I Didn't Hear Anyone Say "Patriarchy"

It's been a busy few days here in the Windy City, what with various people visiting and cookies that needed baking and getting ready to go out of town.  And a giant march.  A girl barely has time to blog.

My friend Sarah was in town for the American Library Association conference, so we had lunch and went on a boat tour of downtown architecture.  The volunteer docent talked for ninety minutes non-stop about the details of architecture and the history of buildings in Chicago.  She was beyond impressive.  It's a good tour to take if you're in Chicago, but you might want to time it better than we did and go when it's not 90 degrees with the sun beating down.  Wow - when did I think I'd ever say that?  I've become a real Chicagoan, I guess, and have come to expect that cool lake breeze.

On the way downtown - and if you need me to tell you my means of transport, you really haven't been paying attention - a woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation.  She looked to be in her 30's and was in town with her husband, brother, niece, and assorted other family visiting from Cleveland, Tennessee.  They were staying in Rogers Park and were headed to Daley Center to pray for people.  She was a very nice woman, and she asked me if there was anything I'd like her to pray for on my behalf.  A job, she suggested/asked?  (We had been talking about my job search.)  I'm not really into prayers for specific things, so I awkwardly suggested that she pray for "general goodness" which really has to be the dumbest thing I've said in weeks.  And that's a high bar.  I probably should have suggested that they head to Springfield to help figure out Illinois's pension problem.  Still, it was nice of her to offer.

Sarah is someone I used to babysit.  Probably the first time I babysat for her she was younger than her three-year-old daughter is now, and that's just weird to contemplate.  But it was fun to catch up, and I was able to give her a heads-up that she should expect gigantic crowds in the area on Friday, Friday being the day of the ginormous Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration.  If I had failed to mention it, the topic would have come up anyway because as we were walking  along Michigan Avenue we saw this:

Yes, that is a Blackhawks helmet on the lions in front of the Art Institute.  Apparently at other times the lions have worn Bears helmets and Bulls jerseys, and White Sox and Cubs gear.  The Cubs gear must have been out of some desire for baseball team equity or something, unless perhaps it was back in 1908 which is possible since the lions have been there since 1894.  We also saw a line of people waiting to get into a store on Michigan Avenue - turns out it was the Blackhawks store.  We love us some world champions.

On the way home, I got off the Red Line a couple of stops early to go to the new weekly market on Argyle Street in the Uptown neighborhood.  This is an area with a lot of Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese stores and restaurants.  Apparently the branding of the area (branding being all the rage in commercial redevelopment) has been somewhat controversial because you can't call it, for instance, Little Burma since that excludes the non-Thai businesses, etc.  So they settled on Asia on Argyle which has a nice alliteration.  The CTA station has a cool feature not seen at other stations:

The sign just went up this winter, and it sounds like people didn't like it.  Go figure.  I think it's okay, because I'm not so concerned about these sorts of signs.  The brand is the actual fact that there are a ton of Asian shops and restaurants.  Why does it surprise anyone that putting up a sign is pretty irrelevant to what people think of the area?  The market itself was nice, and I got to meet my Alderman, Harry Osterman.  (His mom was Kathy Osterman, for whom my beach is named.)  By all reports he's a good guy, and he certainly seemed friendly enough when I went up to him and introduced myself.

Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. one of the local news stations was showing massive crowds of Hawks fans, a sea of red and black, and the parade wasn't scheduled to begin for three hours.  The city estimated two million people attended - which is about one of every five people living from the Wisconsin border to Joliet.  Did I mention that we love us some world champions?

Through careful planning, I missed the crowd on Friday and spent a couple of hours with my cousin, Jeff, and his wife, Patty.  They live in Los Angeles now but used to live in Chicago.  We met for lunch at one of their old favorite places, the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park, and it was good to catch up.  Cousins are great - you have the bonds of family and past that let you reconnect easily, but you don't (or at least, I don't) have a lot of baggage that gets in the way.

Saturday was a very busy day and I will spare you the details, but it did include baking cookies and brownies to take to church this morning for a bake sale the kids are having.

My new church, Second Unitarian, is located in Lakeview - often called "Boys Town" because over the past twenty or thirty years it has become something of a gay mecca.  They (I should start saying "we") have a really active social action program at 2U (as the church is called).  A 2U group will be marching in the Gay Pride Parade this afternoon, and the kids are having a lemonade stand/bake sale.  Hence, the cookies and brownies.  Yeah, sometimes I outdo myself.  I can't walk in the parade this year, as I am going to drop off the cookies and then head to Omaha for Goldnerpalooza, a Celebration of All Things Goldner.

Luckily, on Saturday afternoon there was another pride event that a 2U contingent walked in, so I was able to participate in something.  I could describe it as an event created by people who felt that the official Pride Parade was too corporate, political, and organized.  Or I could just tell you that it's called Dyke March.

This is a gay pride march the way gay pride marches used to be, back when the Supreme Court was upholding laws that criminalized homosexual activity and before politicians east of San Francisco decided they liked gay voters - and even before Subaru identified lesbians as a great market.  There are no corporate sponsors and from what I could tell no politicians.  It's run by something called the Dyke March Collective which made me look around for people passing around granola and weed.  I saw neither.

What I did see was a sea of humanity ranging from a bunch of very boring looking people, such as myself, to a few people wearing much more unusual clothing:

Yes, that's a tail.  And she was blowing bubbles.  Why not?  But there was more diversity than just somebody in a leopard costume.  There were straight people, gay people, transgendered people, and everyone in between.  There were drummers (of course there were) and people with babies and some motorcyclists (although they didn't ride their bikes in march.)  There was a woman with a two-sided sign in three languages protesting the treatment of gays in Chile, Russia and Greece.  She spoke with an accent but the fact that she's holding a cigarette while carrying the sign is prima facie evidence enough that she is from somewhere in Europe.

I even met a young transgender lesbian from Omaha.  She was friends with one of the people from church and had come out - pun definitely intended - for the weekend.  I offered her a ride back but she already had a Megabus ticket for Tuesday night.

2U hadn't gotten their yellow "Standing on the Side of Love" shirts yet from the Unitarian Universalist Association, so I wore mine from the UU Congregation of Fort Wayne.  That was a good transitional step for me - sort of like one foot in the past and one in the future.  It's harder for me to let go of my Fort Wayne congregation than I had thought it would be.

Anyway, twenty years ago, all it took to be provocative was some drag queens and a couple of "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Over It" signs.  It's harder to do that now, what with the Supreme Court striking down DOMA and professional athletes coming out and over half of Americans supporting marriage equality.  And so, of course, if one's goal is to be "out there" one must continue moving farther out.

And so they did.

First off, this was a march and not a parade.  There were no floats and not even any easily identified groups. Some people carried banners but we all just sort of moved along as one snakelike mass of a couple thousand people.

Along the way we were greeted by folks who had obviously come out (no pun intended) to watch, and a somewhat larger number of people who had made the mistake of attempting to drive in Uptown during the march.  Everyone was either friendly or quietly sullen (most of the sullen ones were in cars and I can't say I blame them.)

Of course there were chants as we walked along.  They had so many - fifteen - that they printed them on a little piece of paper which was handed out.  A young woman next to me, walking with her boyfriend, commented that some of the chants probably wouldn't bring many people over to our side, and I can't say I disagreed with her.  I won't repeat them here because my nephews read the blog and in Aunt Karen's mind they aren't ready for R movies or strong language.  I will plead guilty to occasionally (okay, often) cursing like a sailor but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable shouting those words in the street.  It's that Methodist decorum that I inherited from my mother.  So I joined in some of the chants, and parts of others, and otherwise just took the whole scene in.

The topics of the chants were pretty wide flung - not just GLBT and women's issues, but prisons (anti-) and the Palestinians (pro-) as well.  Quite a radical group, and it was fun to be part of it.  It was especially fun to walk behind these women:

Check out the Hawks tattoo.  This picture is so Chicago pride.  Of all kinds.

And now, to 2U to drop off the cookies and then I'm hitting the road for Goldnerpalooza.  Have a great Fourth of July and we'll catch up soon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writer's Block

I probably should have read the poem.

If I had read the room better I would have done so, rather than reading a couple of Driveabout posts at the Tallgrass Writers Guild open mic night tonight.  Live and learn.

When I was at Litfest earlier in June, I came across a group called Tallgrass Writers Guild which has an open mic night every month at a Lincoln Park coffee shop conveniently located three blocks from - what else? - the Red Line.  It sounded like a good way to get more objective feedback on some of my little writing projects, which consist mostly of the Driveabout and some random poems.

You're given ten minutes and I had timed it so that I could read two posts and one poem, but Whitney, the lady who presides over the group, broke in about two-thirds of the way through Fort Stockton to remind me I only had ten minutes.  So either my timing was way off, which is possible, or she didn't care for what I will admit ended up being a fairly tedious history of Fort Stockton.  It had sounded better when I'd practiced at home.

Everybody else read poetry, some of it quite good.  My problem with poetry readings is that I usually need to read or hear a poem a couple of times before I get it, so much is lost on me if I only hear it once.  I did refrain from the urge to ask someone to re-read one of their poems - which would be high praise from me, actually, but sometimes comes across as "I wasn't paying attention; please repeat."  Anyway, this was definitely a poetry group and people only read their poems once.

It's also a book group.  They were all talking about books (of poetry) they had published or were writing.  I hate to go all Gen Y on you, but I just kept wondering why they didn't simply do a blog.  Lots of people do. It's not like most people make money from selling their books of poems, although perhaps I'm wrong about that.  No, probably not.

The guest writer was an excellent poet named Timothy David Rey.  He looked to be in his late thirties and therefore has some of his work online.  The rest of the writers looked older than me.  Sort of like bridge only without the high school brainiacs.  I'm not sure what that says about my interests.  Okay, I'm pretty sure I know what that says about my interests but I don't like the answer so I'll just ignore it.

I do find it helpful to get a flat response.  Nearly everyone who reads the Driveabout is a friend or relative, and the only feedback I get is positive.  That's most heartening, but it's not necessarily complete.  And since I've decided to turn the Driveabout into a longer piece, less positive feedback is helpful.

I've been struggling with the format because I want to fictionalize the story - fiction being more honest than non-fiction.  (Non-fiction is weirder than fiction, but for this story the weird will take care of itself.)  The other day I finally made myself start and then realized that was a story I simply didn't want to write.  So I've now begun again, in a very informal first person format which at least sounds like me and which I enjoy.  Which isn't to say that anyone will enjoy reading it, hence the value of disinterested feedback.

That is, if I get it written.  After all, I still live a block from the beach, and it's summer.

Oh, here's the poem I would have read if I'd been smarter.  I'm not saying the folks at Tallgrass would have liked it better than Fort Stockton, but at least I would have gotten the genre right.

Things Said in Church This Morning

“Life and death and the moments in between” said the minister.
“Birthdays come around so fast” said a woman of a certain age.
And as one enters the second half of one’s life –
Oh, hell, let’s be clear:
As I enter the final half of my life –
Time moves much too quickly.
Perhaps it’s like riding a bicycle downhill?
Except there are no brakes, nothing that slows you down
So that those moments rush by
What had once been long anticipated becomes a memory all too fast.
Giving one –
I really mean me, of course –
Only one choice which is to savor every morsel, every moment,
Every experience, every effort.
As on a bike, keep your eyes open, right?
Don’t pay so much attention to the speedometer that you forget to look around.
And by all means watch for oncoming traffic.

Fear not, dedicated reader.  That is all the poetry that you will see on this blog.  As for the fictionalized Driveabout, who knows?  Maybe I'll write the whole thing in rondel form.