Thursday, June 30, 2016

Traveling In Chicago-Something Missing On a First Anniversary

As of today, Illinois has gone a whole year without a budget and many supports for low income people have been vanishing as a result. While it looks like Governor Rauner and the Dem. leadership may come to an agreement on a budget for the next fiscal year, many services for the poor have been cut or eliminated.Who knows how long it will take us to restore everything that was lost.

Therefore, I was thrilled when I found a vendor selling Streetwise, the weekly magazine for and about the homeless. He was the first vendor whom I had seen in months. Gladly, I bought an issue of it from him and asked where all the vendors had gone. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m here every day.”

           He may be here every day, but a lot of the social safety net has disappeared in Illinois in the past year. We’ll probably see many more homeless on Chicago’s streets and be panhandled more often as more people become desperate. In such times, it’s great to see Streetwise vendors selling their papers.

           Streetwise is a magazine about issues relating to homelessness. The organization trains and employs the homeless. Vendors go through a month training program to learn about customer service and other aspects of business. The issues sell for two dollars apiece and $1.10 of that goes directly to the vendor for his or her income. Last week’s issue focused on restaurant reviews written by Streetwise vendors. Each reviewer was given ten dollars to write the reviews. The restaurants were all ones with meals for ten dollars apiece or less, places that vendors may frequent. There were also articles in the issue about current events affecting the poor, the homeless, and those at risk of becoming homeless.

           The homeless are the other 1% in America. At any given time, that’s how many people are homeless here. While some of the homeless are quickly identified, many more homeless people defy the stereotype we have of them and look just like you and me. Thus their condition is invisible to most. And it could happen to almost anyone.

           When a person becomes a vendor of Streetwise, it may be that person’s first chance in many a year to re-enter the job market and slowly extricate himself from the downward spiral of homelessness and despair and to do it with dignity. The Streetwise organization also has a Transitional Jobs Program and supportive services.

          If you want to learn more about this worthwhile organization, donate money to it, or volunteer with them, you can visit their website at

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Walking the Trail of Woman's History

With Hillary Clinton presumably becoming the first woman to run for president from either major political party, it’s good to refresh our memories about all the efforts that came before to make her candidacy possible. The Evanston History Center gives walking tours of the historic points in Evanstonian women’s history and I am very glad that I joined them for that walk on Saturday June 18th. Most of the Evanston History Center’s historic tours begin at the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood Street, Evanston, Illinois but this one began on the lawn of the Frances Willard House.

The Frances Willard House

Besides learning more about Frances Willard, I learned about the women’s history of Evanston. Evanston grew up around Northwestern University, a college that was associated with the Methodist Church and preached abstinence. Women were welcomed in Evanston as both college students and career women as early as the 1860’s.  Northwestern University became the third university in the United States to become coed in 1870 after Oberlin and Antioch.

Because of the atmosphere created in Evanston encouraging women to have educations and careers, many dynamic women moved to Evanston in the late 1800’s. On the walking tour, we saw the houses of many who had lived in Evanston and made important contributions to women’s history. We were told that the Evanston History Center has many documents about these women’s lives that are available for reading there. I plan to go there and research this in more depth as the other women whose houses we also saw on the walking tour are too numerous to mention here. 

With Hillary Clinton presumably getting the Democratic nomination we see how far we have come and how much further we still have to go. I have to say, however, that we got there behind numerous other countries that have elected women heads of state long before this. Some that come to mind are Germany, England, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, India, and Pakistan just to name a few. And this history tour reminded me that it didn’t happen here in the United States or anywhere else by accident. Women have been working on it for more than a century. It’s about time.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Traveling in Chicago - The Chicago Botanical Garden

This week more than ever, a visit to The Chicago Botanical Garden seemed like a great idea. The carnage in Orlando and the venom that has been spewed since against immigrants especially Muslims goes on and on. I could talk about acceptance – of the LGBT community, of Muslims, and of other immigrants- but you’ve heard it all before. I could talk about sensible gun control, but I’ve done that before also. Pres. Obama made his sixteenth impassioned plea for gun control probably to no avail. Sometimes it feels good to just take a break.

I can’t think of a better place for a break than the Chicago Botanic Garden located at the Edens Expressway and Lake-Cook Road in Glencoe, Illinois. It’s listed as a major museum in Chicago’s Museums, A Complete Guide to the City’s Cultural Attractions by Victor Danilov. Every time we go there we see new gardens and more in bloom. Admission to the Botanic Garden is free but the charge for parking is $25 per car. It is open daily.

Going there in June there is so much blooming. Instead of deluging you with more words, here are some of my favorite pictures. I fervently hope that all of us individually and America as a whole has a better week ahead.

rose garden

rose garden

English Garden

In the sensory garden

walk to Spider Island

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Traveling in Chicago - the Mary and Leigh Block Travel Museum

One of the many good things about traveling in Chicago is that there is always something new to see. This day, however, was a beautiful one and I wanted to see the Lakefront. We have to enjoy every nice summer day that comes here to us.

viewing the Chicago skyline from the Evanston Lakefront

In Chicago’s Museums, A Complete Guide to the City’s Cultural Attractions, Danilov lists the Mary and Leigh Block Museum. Part of Northwestern University’s Campus, it is located on the Arts Circle and is open daily except Monday. Admission is free.

When Danilov wrote his book, the Block Museum was relatively new. It opened 36 years ago and has since become an integral part of the college campus. Besides its art exhibits, they have a film museum that shows a wide variety of films and seminars about film.

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum

While the Block Museum has a collection of over 5,000 pieces of art, their exhibitions are temporary. At this time, the works in their sculpture garden are being restored and unavailable for viewing.

The main exhibit right now is “A Feast of Astonishments” by Charlotte Moorman. This amazing woman began her career in Little Rock, Arkansas studying to be a classic cellist. She soon got caught up in the Avant Garde Movement and moved to New York. She is mostly remembered for organizing the Avant Garde festivals in New York City from the 1960’s to 1980’s. The exhibit consists of photographs, macramé, performance art recorded on video, and collections of things that she collected. I saw videos of her playing her cello in midair and one of her talking about being arrested and jailed for giving a cello concert in the nude. Charlotte Moorman believed that art should be a blending of all the art forms and this she tried to do. In the process, she became involved with people in every avenue of the arts.

Charlotte Moorman developed breast cancer in the 1970’s and became less able to be involved in the art world.  She retreated increasingly into her house writing several journals that are on display in this exhibit. My favorite part of the exhibit was the room where all her collections were stored in boxes. Before dieing, she left her husband the instructions “Don’t throw anything out.” While some things were undoubtedly pitched, there was plenty left behind giving new meaning to the term packrat. I’ll think twice before I call anyone a hoarder again. At least most people don’t try to leave their stuff for posterity.

I can’t say that I liked this exhibit but it certainly gives one something to think about. Charlotte Moorman challenged the prevailing assumptions of her time inviting all to expand their minds. Her exhibit will be there at the Block Museum through July 25th. Go see it if you dare.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

California - See It Now

We had a great time in California but there are some good things about coming back to Chicago. I knew I was back in the Midwest when we went to a restaurant here and the waiter brought a pitcher of ice water to our table without being asked. It’s a small thing that too many of us take for granted. We shouldn’t. Drought and other conditions caused by climate change are here to stay. Right. I’m “no scientist” but it seems to be evident with the many natural disasters that have been occurring almost weekly. People in California have begun to adapt to some extent. Despite all the grass being watered, there seemed to be more succulent plants growing than when we were last there.  Hopefully, people will be planting them more often. Nevertheless, for me, it was an enjoyable change of pace. We don’t see those types of plants in the Midwest. 
succulent plants in the Rios District of San Juan Capistrano

Before going to California, I had worried how I would handle the drought. Fortunately, water isn’t being rationed there yet and in most restaurants, was available on request. At one restaurant, we were given a card reminding us of California’s five-year drought and telling us to specify exactly how much water we were going to consume. They didn’t want to bring us an ounce more than that.                              

Despite the water problem, we had a beautiful time in California visiting family. We spent a few days in San Clemente and beach towns near it and a couple of days in San Diego. We were warned that we were arriving in the middle of the May Grays. Every morning began with gray, cloudy skies but by late morning or early afternoon, the sky was blue and beautifully cloudless. The beach invited us in. Surfers surfed in wet suits and some children actually swam in the water in bathing suits. It was too cold for me to swim, but I got some good pictures of the coast that I’ll share with you now.

In San Diego, we had a wonderful day at Balboa Park. This is probably San Diego’s gem and if you’re ever there, you should pay it a visit. Seventeen museums are housed there as well as Spanish Village, an open area where artists and artists have their studios. There are several theaters as well. All of it is done in Spanish Rococo architecture.

Balboa Park has gardens of several types. We enjoyed the Desert Garden especially. It is next door to the Rose Garden. We visited that as well, but we can see roses any time. It isn’t often that we get to see so many varieties of cacti and other desert plants and other succulents.

Desert Garden in Balboa Park

Desert Garden

Desert Garden
This was our first trip to California in a long while. We saw a lot more but there isn't space to talk about all of it. Now that we’ve been there, I’m sure I’ll look forward to returning for a visit another time.