Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Skeery Graveyard Stuff...

Well, it's not ALL skeery. But due to popular demand, here are some more pics from our cemetery stroll.

Judging from the previous post, you might think that all the monuments in Graceland are of the vintage variety, but they are still burying folks there to this day, as far as I know. Witness this relatively modern example, which graces the grave of an architect. Magpie that I am, I was attracted by the big hunk of aqua glass, glistening in the sun.

Here is the final resting place of another famous Chicago architect. Nice bas relief, Louie.

Speaking of bas reliefs, check out this portly fellow.

Not too far from Mr. Huck, just across the lane, is this monument to a fireman. I would say "fire fighter" to be politically correct, but I think the guy considered himself to be a fireman back in the day, and so I will honor his self-perception.

The stonework and detailing of some of these monuments is just stunning. Note the Celtic tracery on this cross...

and on the wall of this vault.

Speaking of vaults, check out this one with its subterranean entrance and its own ventilating system. I have to say, that creeped me out a bit...

This angel, rather the worse for erosion, resides near the Sullivan stone and the Celtic cross.

Although the cemetery is incredibly well-kept, vandals have managed to make some inroads. I'm not sure how long ago this damage was done, though. This place has been around a long, long time, and this looks like an old, old monument.

This is one of the newer monuments, but, since it features an angel (or specter) emerging right out of the granite, I think it's also darned sinister.

Finally, I think this sculpture most aptly portrays the atmosphere that pervades a cemetery. If only we could have one moment more...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Trip to Graceland

No, not to the shrine of white trash decorating aesthetics, although somewhere I have some pictures from my visit there with Beth several *ahem* yes, several years ago, but to the vast cemetery on the north side of Chicago where so many of the city's greats are buried. Jeff and I went for a stroll through the necropolis several weeks ago, and I've been meaning to upload and post my pictures of the place for a while now... so turn on all the lights (or, depending on your mood, douse them) and enjoy.

This is the infamous Graves (yes! Graves!) Monument, which, before the days of digital photography, was reported to resist all attempts to photograph it clearly. As you can see, it photographs just fine. But it IS way creepy!

I found the door of this monument to be much more chilling than a huge honkin' statue of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The door, slightly ajar, chained and padlocked against... vandals who would break in? Or something that might break out? Hmmmm?

Well, I guess if you were born far too late and in far too distant a land to be interred with all the trappings of a pharaoh, if you have the do-re-mi you can do the next best thing--insist upon your own pyramid. All kidding aside, this tomb has lovely details.

The angel,

the steely eyed sphinx,

the stained-glass window, visible through the door to the mausoleum itself... Say, that dude has some keys--think that might be St. Peter?
And I'm sure it all had some deep, meaningful symbolism connected with it. Or else the guy (or his family) just thought it was cool.

Daniel Burnham, whose architectural vision shaped Chicago as it rose from the ashes of the great fire, is buried in Graceland, and you might think he would also command an imposing tomb such as our pyramid guy's. But you would be wrong. Here is Daniel's grave, set on a tiny, wooded island on Graceland's small lake--an island he shares with his wife, his children, and their spouses:

Among the other famous markers in Graceland, this purportedly haunted statue has a particularly remarkable history:
It is supposedly the final resting place of Inez Clarke, and the statue is alleged to move around in her little case and sometimes even disappear from it. Over the years, children visiting the cemetery are said to have encountered Inez playing near the monument. Odd that, because it turns out that Inez never existed in the first place! Check out the link for the whole story.

There's just no way to do justice to all the weird variety of monuments to life and death in this place. I have far more photos than I can share here, but rest in peaceful assurance that the place has stone trees
and real trees (skeery ones at that!), rows of tombs worthy of inclusion in a Hammer horror movie, and silent sentinels, keeping constant prayerful vigil and creeping out passersby for the foreseeable future and beyond.

But I think the most unnerving photo of the bunch was this one, which shows how wind, rain, and ice can all but obliterate images on stones that we know were meant to last, well, if not forever, for some approximation thereof:

I mean, what the heck WAS this supposed to picture?

Pleasant dreams!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 20, 2008


This is my most excellent birthday present!! Isn't it cute? It's so tiny and tuneful!

Why a ukulele, you may ask? Well, I've been joking about getting a uke for ages now, but I was never serious. I mean, who plays a ukulele these days? Tiny Tim's been dead for years.

But then I ran across the Stringbusters, the alter-egos of Pete and Maura Kennedy (aka the Kennedys), who are among my favorite folk acts. Maura came out of the same Syracuse music scene that spawned the Poptarts, and she once played in a band with my little brother (although I don't think they got along well at all--heh!). Anyway, once while googling the Kennedys to see if they had a new CD coming out, I ran across the info on the Stringbusters. I was quick to buy their CD. And I was hooked. What I love is that it's fairly easy to play (although ukulele virtuosity, I think, is a bit harder to achieve), and it lends itself so well to the old tin pan alley standards I so love.

So now, after Jeff and I run through our nightly practice, I sit and do my own little uke practice--I'm getting pretty good at "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along"!

And super-extra wonderful?? Jeff bought a teensy AQUA case for the ukulele!! It was a happy birthday!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tag! I'm It! (and some updates)

My cyberpal Anne-Marie has tagged me for the meme that follows, so here goes:

What was I doing 10 years ago?

On this day exactly? I don't recall. But I know it was at about this time ten years ago that Jeff and I seriously started considering buying a condo. The rent on our tiny apartment kept climbing, and I started doing mortgage calculations online and realized we could buy something twice the size for the same monthly payment. Given, of course, that we could pull a down payment together. That's when I really started freelancing in earnest to supplement our earnings.

5 Things on my to-do list:

1. Bills
2. Order Mom's birthday present
3. Send Mom's birthday card
4. Clear out guest room/office to make way for new bookshelves
5. Assemble new bookshelves and contact Erin to pick up old bookshelves (yeah, I know... I snuck in an extra thing).

Snacks I enjoy:

How long a list can this be? I absolutely LOVE dried cherries, but I can decimate an entire huge bag of them from Costco in one sitting, so I don't purchase them anymore... avoiding temptation! I also love to snack on pecans, but I tend to over-snack on them too. I like fresh fruit, in season. And my new discovery, snack-wise, are Weight Watcher's giant latte popsicles. They are only one point and huge and insanely yummy.

What would I do if I were a billionaire?

I would buy one of the lakefront homes I covet up in Evanston (Jeff and I would have to hash this out, because we have different favorites, and I don't think either one of us would want to compromise...). The house would have to be retrofitted with a huge, soundproofed music room with state of the art recording facilities, though. We would insist. I would hire someone to help my mom keep house, and I would have her entire house refurbished. I would buy a few vacation homes... in the Shenandoah Valley, in Wisconsin, in San Francisco, in London, in Paris... maybe in New Zealand, although I'd have to travel there first to see if it is really as amazing as it seems. I'd donate to a bunch of charities: Doctors without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Macular Degeneration Research, etc. I'd also go back to college and get another degree... this time in geology.

Places I have lived:

Waynesboro, VA
Harrisonburg, VA
Syracuse, NY
Boston, MA
San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Chicago, IL

Jobs I've Had:

Day camp counselor
Fast food handler (no kidding, that was the official Burger King job title)
Inventory taker
Factory/testing area clerk
College instructor
New wave superstar (well, almost: rhythm guitar, backing vocalist, harmony arranger)
Music store clerk and sheet music buyer
Public relations assistant
Admin assistant in a brokerage firm
Temp, temp, temp, temp
Manuals editor
Surface designer (fabric, giftwrap)
Freelance writer and editor
Textbook editor and editorial manager

5 people I'm tagging:

Oh gosh... hmmm. I'm trying to think of five. Okay guys--do it or not, entirely up to you!
G.W. Ferguson

And now, for updates.

First, on the job front. Today was supposed to be my last day. I had been talking to the folks up in Reading, because they are really in a crunch and can use experienced folks, but the offer was slow in coming. I dragged myself into work this morning, fully expecting to drop off my pass, my corporate Amex card, and my laptop and all its accouterments to the powers that be at around noon. Then I was going to head out, licking my wounds and running some errands. At five minutes to noon, I got the call: an offer from Reading. It's as a supervisory editor rather than a manager, but the salary's the same... I took it. So for now, I still have my view. Actually I think it's going to be a good gig for now. We'll see what the future brings. But DAMN!! If HR had made the call ten minutes later!! Yikes!

Second, a Shelly health update. We've been able to cram the capsule down her gullet every morning. She hates it, and she fights it, but so far we have prevailed. Her breathing is much better. She's not eating very much, though, which worries me. And she seems very listless. It's really clear that she's fading. She still hops up in bed with us and snuggles and purrs, though. She doesn't seem to be in pain. So for now, we watch and wait. We're taking her in for some blood work in a couple of weeks (if she lasts) to see if the meds need adjusting. I just wish it would cool down a bit. I know she's not too comfy with that fluffy coat, although it's not nearly as fluffy as it used to be. Poor kitty!

Third... Next post (unless something momentous intervenes), I will introduce you to my excellent birthday present! So cute! So tuneful! And relatively easy peasy to play!! Stay tuned!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 11, 2008

Part Two of the Street Fair Stuff

A week after Custer's Last Stand (scroll down a couple of posts if you need a refresher), Evanston holds its Fountain Square Art Festival. Fountain Square is right in the heart of downtown Evanston, and the art festival is one of the jewels in Evanston's street fair crown. I wrote up last year's festival--you can find it in the archives--and this year I headed there on the last Saturday in June to take it all in.

But first, just for my pal Barb...
Ah, the Funnel Cake. Staple of street fairs the nation over--maybe even the WORLD over. But I am proud to say that I withstood temptation and refused to partake of the sugar-dusted confection.

There were a variety of arts and crafts that spanned the spectrum from incredibly expensive original oil paintings to fun stuff to hang in a window on a patio. Here are some "tree earrings" I thought were sufficiently sparkly to whet my magpie's appetite.
I love the autumn hues.

My favorite stuff, though, was, as last year, the guy who made funky creatures and busts out of old found household objects. Here's the tent:

And here are a few closer glimpses of his handiwork:
Some masks,

some cool heads,

and these strange creatures. How I would love to purchase some of his work! Maybe one day. Maybe next year!

This year I picked up a card from his tent, so I can reveal that this funky finery is the brainchild of Steve Meadows of S. D. Meadows Folk Art Gallery in Palestine, Illinois.

I made one purchase at the festival, and that was this woodblock print from Marvin and Wendy Hill that I have coveted since last year:

A few years ago, I purchased a very cool piece from Marvin and Wendy at this self-same show. Since then, though, Marvin has passed away. His wife Wendy is keeping his art and his memory alive, though, by continuing to print, color, mat, and frame his woodblocks. I just love his stuff!

And look what else was at the art festival:
The soft-serve ice cream booth! Yay and yum!

Alas, just as with the fair at Main and Custer the previous week, the weather stepped in to wreak havoc. About a half hour after I returned home, there was a scary blast of wind followed by an intense thunderstorm. But the wind--I've never experienced anything like it. According to news reports, it was 65 miles an hour. And it wasn't just a quick, intense whoosh. It lasted for fifteen seconds or more and it sounded like freight train, with doppler effect and everything. It tore limbs off the trees all up and down our street (a major thoroughfare), and it apparently devastated a large part of the Fountain Square Art Festival. Here's a entry from an eyewitness's blog. I only hope that the artists who lost so much were adequately insured. Still, it's hard to lose work that represents so much imagination, effort, and time.

Next Evanston fair up is not really a street fair at all, but the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival in Dawes Park. That's next week. I love this fair. I hope we can make it this year. If we do, and if the weather cooperates, I'll provide some pictures and commentary!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

When Pet Ownership Sucks...

Shelly is sick. Really, really sick. She's not going to get better, but we may have as many as six more months with her, or as few as a couple of weeks.

She's always had a heart murmur. A few years ago it was diagnosed as a congenital problem that could be managed but not cured. We were managing it, but it has caught up with her. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that she seemed to be breathing quite hard and fast. It was hot, though, and it seemed to pass. I made a mental note to take her to the vet for a look-see, but other things always got in the way. Then on Sunday I noticed that it was alarmingly bad, although she seemed fine otherwise. We took her to the vet yesterday evening, and the vet sent us right on to the emergency pet hospital, where she spent the night in an oxygen chamber, IV'd on heavy duty diuretics.

Part of her heart muscle is dead (result of the structural problem that produced the murmur), so fluid is building up in her chest around it. Last night, our regular vet was worried she would not survive until today, but today the kitty cardiologist gave us the six months v. two weeks prognosis. We're going to try a mix of meds to slow down the process--that is IF we can get her to take them--but they will only slow it. Not stop it.

She's 14. She's had a good life. A cushy life. We dote on her. We'll dote on her some more.

I'm just so sad.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Summer's Here and the Time Is Right...

For art fairs in the streets!

Which of course mean lots of food vendors. This picture is expressly for Barb, and she knows why!

Because we live so close to Evanston, almost all of our street fair-going of a summer takes place up there. At the end of June, we hoofed it up to Main Street and Custer for Custer's Last Stand. It's not so much an art fair as a boisterous street fair with lots of arts, crafts, and geegaw vendors:

Oh yeah. And food vendors galore!

See, Barb? EVERYONE had funnel cakes for sale!

We opted for less ostentatious fare--Jeff got some satay from a Thai food vendor, and I indulged my inner Cajun fille with some red beans and rice from these good folks:

Among the food stalls, this incongruity caught my eye:

The sacred flag of the Old Dominion, flying proudly over an Illinois street fair! And the vendor wasn't even selling ham biscuits. The stall purveyed Pan-Asian vegan food! Go figure.

After strolling around and perusing the wares,

(Hubba, hubba! Spicy, indeed!) we gave in to the siren song of the soft-serve booth.

Alas, one cannot always control the weather, for that very afternoon (once we had made our way safely and mostly dryly home) the skies opened.

And they spewed forth dime-sized hail!

I know it's nothing at all like the hailstorm my cyberpal Anne Marie experienced several months ago--we didn't have to replace the roof, for example!--but it was not the kind of weather anyone would want to be caught in strolling around or manning a booth at a street fair!

This is getting kinda long, so I'll save the pictures of the following week's street fair for the next post. See you there!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

IKEA, Oprah, and a Possible Mirage

Tonight is random night... just some recent incidents, thoughts, and such...

First, IKEA. Now, I like to go to IKEA occasionally. I like their candles and their kitchen gadgets, and I live in hope of finding a duvet cover in a pattern I like. I don't like it enough to go on the weekends. It's a zoo there most of the time, but weekends are impossible. Since I'm really just biding my time at work, using my office as a staging center for my job hunt, AND since IKEA is having sale, yesterday I decided to take off right after lunch and drive through the half-hour or so of suburban sprawl to get there.

I grabbed a cart and started filling it, but sparingly. Since I was alone, I had to make sure I could carry everything to the car by myself in one trip. Those of you who are IKEA veterans know that you cannot take carts to the parking lot. And there is no system to guard your cart if you have to leave it on the dock to bring your car around.

So anyway, I got some candles, some picture frames, some glass jars with airtight lids, some wooden hangers, a big tote bag to use at the farmers' market...I'm sure there were a few more items. After about an hour of shopping, I headed to checkout where the only real option was the self-serve kiosks. The lines for a cashier were ridiculous, and I had just shy of 15 (smallish) items, so self-serve it was for me. Except the scanner at my kiosk was for shit. I don't know if it's IKEA's self-checkout system in general, or if it was just the kiosk I got stuck with, but the scanner rang almost everything in twice. And you can't just delete the double ring yourself--you have to wait for an attendant to come and key in his or her code. Annoying, but simple, Right? Except that there were nowhere NEAR enough attendants working the self-serve lanes. Each time I double-rung something, it took longer for an attendant to acknowledge the blinking red light that summoned him or her to the problem kiosk. After the fourth double ring, I waited a full ten minutes for an attendant to show up, at which point I just gave up and left all the stuff at the kiosk, half checked out.

And then drove empty-handed back to work. At least a gallon or so of gas wasted... which really sucks nowadays.


I wonder how long it will be before I venture back there again? Maybe never.

Now to Oprah.

I was "working from home" today, so I decided to do something I very seldom do: watch Oprah. Today was a summer version of her big "favorite things" show where she talks about great products and gives the audience piles and piles of merchandise. When the studio audience found out that this was a giveaway show, they went completely NUTS! The elation! The prayerful, upturned faces mouthing "Thank you, Jesus!" The middle-aged ladies jumping for joy as if they were high-school cheerleaders! The greed was palpable, just oozing out through the TV. It was raw and unfettered. It was so ugly. And all this for stuff I'll bet most of them never, ever use.

The big ticket item was a Weber grill. Audience members received it so that they could grill the to-die-for turkey burger Oprah wants them all to taste made from a recipe from Donald Trump's Palm Beach resort. Other stuff included (and this is not an exhaustive list), a tank top with spandex built in to smooth the torso, "Fit Flops" (a kind of Earth-Shoe-like flip flop), a wheelie weekender bag with a Garvin GPS system and a $200 hotel chain gift card tucked within, lots of make up, a cookbook, a self-help book, a CD of some lady singer...I'm sure there was more, but I don't recall it all.

My point is, how much of this stuff will those lucky ladies (and the handful of men) in the audience ever use? Maybe it's my situation (like, facing the possibility of having to tighten the belt in the fairly near future) that made me find this display of conspicuous consumption and raw greed to be, well, disgusting.

And finally...I walked up into Evanston this afternoon for a little stretch of the legs, and as I returned to Chicago along the lakefront curve, I noticed that I could see downtown, crystal clear. There was the John Hancock building. There was the Sears Tower. And the condo highrises all along the lakefront, marching row upon row all the way down to the Loop. It was beautiful! I wished I had my camera. But it was weird, because I've walked and jogged that stretch a hundred times before and NEVER seen downtown from there.

Later, when Jeff came home from work, we decided to walk up to Evanston again to eat at Cross Rhodes,a small Greek restaurant we like. I grabbed my camera, because I thought that the city would look GREAT in the waning light.

Alas, when we rounded the curve on our way home, the scene was as it always was: lake and more lake. No towering buildings glimmering in the distance.

And now I wonder... did I see a mirage?

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bird Attack!!! (Part 2)

It turns out that the bird wasn't clumsy or woozy from eating fermented berries--the damn thing WAS attacking me!

Check this out:

Male Blackbird Intent on Protecting Turf

From the link:

"Nesting season is in full swing for the red-winged blackbird, making the males extremely aggressive. Walk or bike too close to one's nest and expect to hear its high, menacing squawk overhead. Then comes the peck-peck-peck on your head, victims say, or claws rustling your hair."

So, it was a red-winged blackbird and not a starling that was the culprit! But I didn't hear any squawk. Oh. Maybe because I had the Sex Pistols cranked? "Now I got a reason, now I got a reason..." SLAM!

At least I didn't get PECKED!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bird Attack!!!

After yet another red-letter day, I decided take a nice, long, iPod-fueled walk up along the lakefront to work off my frustrations. And they are many. The way this layoff business is sorting itself out has churned up so many demons I thought had been dealt with and banished years ago, but I guess I always knew they were lurking, just waiting for the perfect moment to surface. Which is why a brisk, five-mile hike after the slough of perfidy in which I've been spending my days lately is just what the shrink would order (if, indeed, I had actually GONE to one--and I may yet). It makes me a little easier to live with of an evening. I think.

Anyway, I was strolling (well, really, more like striding. Or maybe stomping) along the lakefront just north of Dempster thinking of serrated verbal retorts to fling at those who deserve them, when something slammed me in the back of the head. It felt like someone hitting me with the palm of their hand, just a bit TOO hard for a friendly "hey there!" that was meant for the shoulder but came down wrong. Already primed and steaming, I whipped around to find... nothing. But I didn't IMAGINE it. I was still kind in shock from the blow. Then I saw the starling swinging rather woozily on the branch of a nearby bush. It looked as if it had had the sense knocked out of it (if starlings HAVE any sense to begin with). All I can think is that it was headed for its perch and somehow I got in its way...

Well, it was so absurd that I had to laugh about it. Which lifted my spirits a bit.

I did look around to see if there were any OTHER starlings gathering, perching, waiting, beady eyes shining. Nope. Just the one scatterbrain.

Once I got home, though, I washed my hair. Two times. You never know where those birds have been!

Labels: , ,