Week 3, Day 1

After work today, I stopped by the post office to mail a package (look for a package, Wifey). It took kind of a long time. Although there were only five people in front of me in line, I was there almost exactly half an hour, but you already knew that, because you were there with me.

I figure I have two choices when I have to wait for something: I can get agitated and impatient, or I can settle into the wait. Sometimes, I pretend I’m exaggeratedly agitated for the amusement of those around me. The mood in the PO was a little tense, so I opted for passive waiting.

Well, maybe passive isn’t the right word, though it looks like it from the outside. (You might’ve noticed a slight pause in my writing right there. I took a nap, went for a bike ride and saw the cutest pitbull puppy ever (with a good owner). I’ll leave it to you to Google cute pitbull puppies.) I intentionally adopt something close to a “At ease” stance: back straight but not rigid, shoulders back and clasped behind my back, knees slightly bent. This is a pretty comfortable position to be in for a while, though today, I had my backpack on and a large envelope in my hand, so I kept my hands in front of me. For some reason, I cannot hold that position for as long before my knees get grunchy.

Inside, I am rather active, looking around noticing things. Some things I noticed today:

This floor has a lot of patched gouges in it for being a marble floor.

The woman in front of me is wearing a red sleeveless blouse, and has two red leather bracelets on her left arm, the one that is visible. There are also four or five sparkly bracelets closer to her hand.

She has reddish hair that is pulled back into an informal bun.

The woman in front of her is wearing a pale orange shirt with white lines running horizontally.

She is wearing pale blue jeans and sneakers. She has straight brown hair that reaches just past her shoulders and curls gently.

The woman over there has been sitting on her walker working at finishing her package for a while. She has short nearly black curled hair. Her walker is red and relatively new looking.

They are out of Selective Service forms.

Every couple of minutes a different person cuts through the line to drop envelopes of various sizes into a plastic USPS tote box.

There are four such boxes, each nearly full.

There is a kiosk to my left offering “Gifts for Everyone”. Grey writing on a navy background. Script-like font. “Everyone loves a Gift Card.” Bass Pro, Old Navy, Amazon, about 20 in total.

The rug is brown, gray, red and worn.

The granite is gray and reddish and curved – this is a round building.

There are four posts with those retractable belts on each side of the line.

I wonder what people are doing at that ATM-like machine.

A Selective Service poster alerts males 18 to 25 of their obligations.

The postal worker at the far end of the counter is wearing blue latex gloves.

She has been working on stuffing single pieces of paper into and sealing Priority Mail envelopes for a while now.

A young woman of Asian descent wearing a mint green sheath dress enters and addresses the postal worker, then leaves.

She reenters with a male, slightly older, also of Asian descent. They hand something to the postal worker and leave.

The postal worker at the closer end of the counter has not changed her facial expression – her customer has been at the counter for several minutes, filling out forms, apparently.

Behind the tote boxes there is a large cart full of packages, haphazardly placed.

The rug in front of the counter says the the US Postal Service appreciates our business.

The line behind me is now longer than the line in front of me.

Behind the counter is a series of cabinets. One is missing a handle. Each is lockable with a key in it. There are two large openings in the cabinets where large carts filled with packages wait. Tension is mounting. People are shifting their weight more frequently.

The worker at the far end of the counter speaks to the one at the closer end. She says something about what she is going to do, (take a break, maybe?) then leaves the counter area.

She re-enters with a package. She repeats this several times.

The woman behind me comments “You’d think they would make reducing the line a priority.” I nod assent. She continues “Maybe there’s something that she has to do by a certain time.” I remark that it is getting close to five o’clock, maybe that’s it. She nods.

She is shorter than I am, wearing a orange and green large paisley print on white dress. Her skin is dark and furrowed on the sides of her mouth. She is wearing large sunglasses. Her hair is dyed dark orange.

An unseen person behind the wall behind the cabinets takes a package out of one of the carts.

The woman in the orange top moves to the counter. She has three packages. The clerk weights and labels each, casually tossing it over her cubicle wall into the large push cart holding a disheveled pile of packages. The cart is nearly full. She tosses without looking. She’s done this a thousand times.

The woman in front of me holds a large flat envelope addressed to someone in Germany.

On the door to my far right: THIS DOOR IS NOT AN “EXIT”

It is gray, has a locking lever-type handle and a peephole.

The line behind me reaches out the main door. Eight people. Six women, two men.

The postal worker remaining at the counter still has not changed her facial expression. Four customers, more than twenty minutes.

The woman in front of me approaches with her envelope, and places it on the scale.

“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late now.”

“But it’s just papers.”

“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late to fill them out now.”

She places the form on top of the envelope on top of the scale on top of the counter on the granite floor.

The tension can be cut with a knife. The woman in the red top is about to explode.

Clearly the postal clerk has said this a thousand times. No eye contact. No acknowledgement of the woman’s frustration. Nothing. The woman steps to her right, to the next empty counter space and begins to read the form.

“Next customer, please.”

My turn.

I step to the counter determined to make the clerk smile, but so unsure if I can, or if I should even try. It’d be easy not to.

She begins her litany:

“Any liquids, explosives or hazardous materials?”

“No, just a card for my wife.”

“How do you want to send it?”

“The least expensive way”. Does it really make a difference? Certainly not more than a day.

“Press No, and sign on the pad.”

I press the red No button, and as I move my hand to sign, my thumb brushes the pad. Numbers I can’t see (I don’t have my reading glasses on) start to scroll up the screen. I guess a thumb brush counts as a signature.

“That’ll be two forty-five.”

As I pull out my wallet, she places the postage label on the package, and tosses it over the wall.

I hear it graze off the top of the pile and plop to the floor.

“You’re pretty good at that. Do you ever miss?”

She smiles.

“I just did. I’ll get it.”

“You have a good afternoon.”

“You too,” she says as our eyes connect.


Some highlights from my classroom today:

“Doc Och, can I read a poem to the class?” Um, YES! Kyndall leaves tomorrow for the National Poetry Slam in D.C. She said I could share the poem she wrote, which I’ve done below.

Overheard: “I grayscaled my phone.”

During a discussion of the day we take over the GWC Snapchat: “We could all dress really nice. We could all be like ten out of tens. We could be eleven out of tens.” Don’t you know? You already are.


Kyndall’s poem:


After Warsan Shire


When they come

In white masks or not

Holding ropes inherited from their fathers

Meant to bind or

hang you

Don’t dissolve if they hurt you


Burn their world terrified

When they come

Set yourself on fire


Blessed girl, angel,

With holy oil

Anoint your body where they sliced you

Look them in the eyes

Strike the match against your forearm

Explode into light

Into the sun

I never had to teach you how to be


This is not destruction

Black women know fire well

We’ve scraped hot combs into the napes of our necks

Sizzled our scalps in perms

Baptized our bodies in bath water that was bleach


I imagine the girls in the Birmingham church

Flames licking their Sunday dresses black

Singing swing low

Sweet chariot

Comin for to carry me home

As they melted into each other


This is the reclamation of fire

I choose to burn

For those girls and girls who look like me

Like you


They say fire is dangerous

But remember the water

Our cousins flags waved on Louisiana roofs

or the lead in the pipes

Or the bleach in the swimming pools

or the bodies in the Atlantic

Be safe around the water



You have every right to get angry


The scattered, quiet booms of shoe soles on concrete

The breathless running

From the boys breathless laughing

In their daddy’s car

Engine humming


“Run pretty black girl




How it feels to wake up one morning a ghost

You see your own face


on the news

And you have to remind yourself

That you are living

And that that

Is a good thing


So you roll out of bed and


And smile at your killers


I know how they want you to be

Invisible or

Pretty enough to be trophy

Ready to pull down when necessary

A doll

An example


A vessel for salt and fabricated moans

a tool to elevate an ego

But never our own voices

Just a mouth meant to kiss the feet of

Someone unworthy

Who will call this poem blasphemy


I know the circus act well

Somersault through the high hoops

Contort yourself into bite size

And dance around

The pendulum

Of power

Brushing our necks

In the shadows hide

The clowns in blue

Ready with whip

If you step out of line


Black girl

Eyes burning like Harriet

Black girl


Burn bright

Fire rests in the beds of our nails

Glimmers under our skin


They know we glow

Teach them to fear why


And for everyone who will try to put you out


Fire can’t kill a black girl

born into a burning world

Week 3, Day 0

We’ll see how this goes. There may have been a glass of wine in my not too distant past, coupled with reheated deep dish pizza and home fries with aged cheddar cheese (best home fries I’ve made, gotta say. So good.)

Wow, Week 3 already. I started the day with a 15 minute walk to St Barbara’s Church. I noticed this church three weeks ago as I flew into Midway airport. You can’t miss it, it’s the hugest thing around. I got a really big ladder and took this picture of it. Even way back on Week 0, Day 1, when I was wandering around the neighborhood, I had to go past it, because you can see it from just about everywhere.

A brief aside here. What an inauspicious week to pick this particular church. It turns out that St Barbara is the patron saint of gunners and those who work with explosives. Hmmm. Maybe we can find something else. Patron saint of historians apparently is not taken.

altarInside, it’s even bigger than I imagined. I’d put a picture here, but I’m having a little technical glitch – no more battery power in my camera. I’ll recharge the battery as I write and put it in later. (Update: the picture came out blurry. I took the picture of the altar above from here). What makes it seem so large is that there are no pillars inside it. It’s one huge open space. I estimated that it could hold over 600 parishioners (wow, that word is spelled differently than I thought. I did not know there was a second “i”. Interesting.) easily. I way underestimated, I just learned from the parish history that it was built to accommodate 1,200 parishioners. Well, everyone knows that today’s parishioners are larger. Learning that did make today’s attendance, about three dozen, more poignant.

statueI was struck by a couple of other things while I was there. First, color. So much of it. The sun was streaming in through the stained glass, lighting the entire altar area (technically known as the “altar”) in a glow. The statues are in full color, too. I got this picture here. The effect of all this is really quite stunning.

The other thing that I noticed was that the inside of the church looked practically new. Almost every older church (including the past two weekends) I’ve ever been to has paint peeling from water damage inside. I didn’t notice any.   Again, reading the history, I learned that it had just been repainted in 2012. Wow, what a job. There are a ton of pictures here.

Still, the parish seems to be in good shape, financially. They are only about $7,000 form their $275,000 re-roofing project. I didn’t notice the peeling paint from the water leaks in the dome until the pastor pointed them out. They are about the size of a football, and hard to see from the floor.

I’ve been working on a photo essay, and took some pictures on the way home. I still have a few more I need to take. You’ll see.

Week 2, Day 6

I don’t even know where to begin today, but I do know where to end, so I’ll start at the beginning. I really like my yoga studio away from home where I started my day. I’m starting to get to know people there. It’s a really nice, unpretentious studio that I’ll miss when I come back to Connecticut.

I came home after yoga, changed and headed off to my planned adventure for the day: a tour of Plant Chicago (locally known as The Plant) and a stop at the farmers’ market there. I admit to completely misunderstanding just exactly what it was they do at there. Essentially, they are creating a circular economy, where the excess byproducts (they don’t like to say waste) of one company become resources for another. They are not creating new technologies, but connecting together proven technologies as a sort of test bed and proof of concept for this type of reuse on a fairly large scale. On to the tour.

First, I kept thinking of Roger Abraham throughout. This place is like Roger’s hobbies on a grand scale and all interconnected. We started out in the aquaponics room. The basic idea is: fish poop, poop fertilizes plants, plants grow, people eat plants, food for fish comes from spent grain from the brewery (more later). I that murky water, they are growing tilapia, which tolerate crowding. The fish are a hybrid of two species of tilapia, so they cannot reproduce, which prevents a population explosion (yes, these people are aware of Jurassic Park). The fish’s water is filtered through the hydroponics tables, providing nutrients for the plants which, you can see, look amazing. The plants are grown in inert clay pellets, which are the ball-like object below them. A super cool thing is that those grow lights are motorized, so they move back and forth slowly to get light to all the plants. Fun fact: there is a common myth that plants don’t absorb green light, however, when The Plant used LEDs with no green in them, the plants grew oddly: very stalky. Plants use green light.

Next, we moved to the mushroom farm. They use coffee bean waste from the on-site roaster to grow several varieties of organic mushrooms. The space is like a giant reverse grocery store refrigerator; it keeps the mushrooms at the right humidity and temperature. I bought oyster mushrooms at the market and sauteed them up for dinner with some kale. Very yummy.


We moved upstairs to see a room which showed the condition of much of the building when the Plant started. The room was originally used as a meat smoking room by the former tenant, Peer Foods, who still are making meat products after 150 years. (The Plant is located in Back of the Yards, made famous in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. There is an animal fat rendering plant next door which produces soaps.)

Originally, the room was lined in terracotta. That was removed at some point and replaced with stainless steel smokers, which are now being retrofit as toilets. The doors close from both sides and seal you in. No chance of unpleasant odors getting out of there!

We moved on to the Pleasant House Bakery, which I mentioned last week: think Coriander Orange Custard Doughnut. This week I missed the Chamomile Custard doughnut, but managed to snag the second last blueberry filled. They have a wood fired oven built into the factory. The wood they use is all urban wood, trees that have been taken down around the city. The ash is used to fertilize the gardens and for other purposes in the Plant. Also, they grind their own grains. And produce some seriously good bread. Seriously.

The last stop in the building was the Whiner Beer Brewery, which provides heat and spent grains for other uses in the Plant. I wondered if the Plant occupants needed to audition for their positions. It turns out that they are largely self-selecting, having a commitment to sustainable production.

The last stop was outside and through the market. There we saw the small flock of chickens, and the mound gardens, called hugelkultur, which is basically a big pile of wood covered with dirt which you grow things in. It helps the wood break down more quickly and provides nutrients to the garden above it.

There we also saw the as-yet-to-be-completed anaerobic digester. It looks like a giant steel tube. When finished, it will be able to accept 30 tons of food waste (four big dumpsters full) a day. It takes 30 days for the breaking down process to happen, and the material that comes out the other side can be used as fertilizer. In the meantime, it produces methane gas which will be used for heating The Plant.

In the other adventure for today, I went to Mariano’s, a local upscale supermarket. The closest one was about a mile from here. If you are from upstate New York, think Wegman’s. If you are from Connecticut, think Big Y in Northampton, Mass. Sorry, nothing like it exists in Connecticut as far as I can tell. I got nice cheese, grapes, and some other stuff.

If you are my wife, stop reading here. Everyone else can continue reading.

On the way back, I saw a sign for ice cream, and stopped in at J smile 51. Good move. The people who work there are super nice. I got some tiramisu ice cream (super good) and a Pecan bar to bring home. It actually made it. This thing has a pecan chocolate crust, a layer of some buttery goodness and a chocolate top. OMG. Don’t tell my wife. Especially don’t tell her about the other pastries there. OK, maybe do tell her. She’ll be here in a heartbeat, and I do miss her so. Tomorrow is her birthday, and I may have to celebrate it with some specialty thing they call Egg Waffle and Honey Toast. Do I even need to know what it is with a name like that? I think I might have to eat two, you know, because I have to eat Jean’s share. You’re not reading this, are you Wifey?

A side note: during yesterday’s panel introductions every panelist shared words to live by, and I agreed with every one: To whom much is given, much is required; Everything happens for a reason; and the like. I thought about what I would add to those. My additional words to live by: If you can pay someone a sincere compliment, take the courage to do it.

I was walking home from J smile 51, and I passed a house with extraordinary gardens. In this part of Chicago, all gardens are small, often smaller than 3 feet by 6 feet, which is the size of a front “lawn”. I’ve passed this house several times on walks, and smile every time. Not satisfied using up the whole yard, there are planter boxes on the sidewalk and stoop. Today, a trio was conversing (in Spanish) on the porch. I asked if they were the gardeners. Two of them pointed to the third, and said “She is.” I complimented her on the garden’s beauty, which started a whole conversation on how the gardens were her “babies” and that the back yard is full, too. Her smile upon learning that someone noticed her effort was so deep and genuine. Win-win.


Week 2, Day 5

Today we had our second guest, guests, really, in our GWC classroom. Accenture set up a panel of six (but it ended up being seven) female new employees and interns for an hour long  Q&A. At first, everyone was a little nervous, but by the end, it was hard to tell who was more excited, the students or the panelists. I took notes on who are guests were, then promptly left them in the classroom. No, wait, think back… Hey! Here they are in my backpack! (Be prepared.)

Our guests:


Leticia, who is a campus recruiter for Accenture, and has worked for them for a year. She helped organize the panel and was the facilitator. Thanks, Leticia!

Now from left to right:


Anna is a consulting analyst who joined Accenture about a month ago.

Heather is an Endpoint Security Analyst who, get this, speaks Zulu! On her intro slide she said she can click, which is part of Zulu language. Here is a short video with someone speaking Zulu. I have no idea what he is saying, so if you understand Zulu, please don’t be offended if it is distasteful.

Emma is next, but I set my pen down briefly to check on something, and I missed her introduction.

Danica is a CIO intern, and has been at Accenture for a month.

Nadia has also been an intern for about a month, and mentioned that she has only been out of high school for two years, which immediately made a connection to the girls.

Viviana is next. She has been a Technical Consulting Analyst for about a month. She and our next guest are both students at University of Michigan.

The last guest, who is not pictured, was Jessica, another intern. She heard about the panel and stopped in out of sheer interest, and quickly became a panel member, even though she wasn’t sitting in the row of chairs at the front. She was so engaging and enthusiastic that the girls instantly connected to her.

One of the early highlights came during Heather’s introduction. She told a story that I think she was a little embarrassed about, but everyone immediately connected to, and set the tone for the whole event. She said she was a problem solver, and has loved solving problems since she was a kid. She recounted one summer when she was seven or eight years old and she found a tangled mass of string in her backyard. She had no idea how it got there, it was just there. She started unravelling it, and continued all summer long until the whole thing was untangled.

After the introductions, questions and answers started. At first, the students were shy about raising their hands, but soon, the questions (and answers) started to fly: What’s it like to work in a male dominated field? Did you know that this is what you wanted to do? (Emma asked who in the room knew what they wanted to do – only a couple of students raised their hands – the rest of us have no clue.)

The conversations continued for almost half an hour after the panel ended. I think the panelists felt like rock stars, garnering so much attention from the students. The students were happy to find someone they could relate to who was only a few steps ahead of them – not so far that they couldn’t see themselves in the same place soon.

At one point, one of the panelists talked about what it was like to work at Accenture. They talked about how much on the job training they had, and how she worked on one project to its completion, then moved to another, which almost like applying for a job. It struck me how much differently working there is different from a traditional corporation. It seems like a lot of the work they do is done by almost ad hoc groups of people, pulled together for a single project. Your next project may have some of the same people, but maybe not. This explains how our presence has been accepted so smoothly. I think a roomful of teenagers plopped into most corporations would cause some disruptions. At Accenture, however, it’s different, we have been smoothly included in the day to day operations. Even 23 extra people arriving at about the same time for lunch has not caused any noticeable chaos. (We actually split into two groups about six or seven minutes apart, so as not to overwhelm the cafeteria. Still.) Also, so many different people have helped us, some we’ve seen just once, some a dozen times. I’ve mentioned before that not all these people have ever even met before, yet it runs like clockwork. Perhaps it’s related to this ad hoc group model. People join the group as they are needed, then move back or onto some other group, wherever they are needed. It’s pretty cool, and seems to work better than the traditional model where job responsibility and “turf” are predestined.

After the panelists left, I told my students how incredibly proud I was of them; how professionally they conducted themselves and how excellent, thoughtful and varied the questions were. What  great way to spend the morning.

Here is our view at lunch:lunchview


This also happened this morning. This is a completely unposed shot. Anisha (in the center, driving the computer) got her code to work, and the girls are gathered around as she explains it. ♥ This is how Girls Who Code should look.


Week 2, Day 4

By pre-arrangement earlier this week, my TAs and I went to Taste of Chicago after work today. It’s five days long, and has just about everything you could want in a Taste Of type event: music, restaurants, food trucks, garbage cans, large corporate sponsors, the works. They even have what are called  “pop-up restaurants”, which are restaurants which just come for a day or two.

We were eminently blessed with cloudy skies and the threat of imminent rain, rain being immanent to today’s forecast. (Oh, yeah, I just went there.) This kept the crowds and lines away, so we were pretty much free to choose what we wanted. There were only a few long lines. The Happy Lobster food truck was one. (No link because I didn’t eat there.)

We wandered a bit, and as we neared the end of the first leg of the venue, I spied the Bruges Brothers Food truck. (No apostrophe there because that is the name of the food truck, although I could put one there if the truck actually belongs to the Bruges brothers.) I liked the name (food trucks have the best names), so I wandered over. I fell prey to the Duck Fat Frites and Samurai Sauce, but only the Taste portion. If you have not had duck fat fries, um, yeah, they’re good. If you are living in Connecticut and want to try these things, the Mercado Food Truck (I am just way too good to you people with these links) at the Coventry Farmers’ Market had duck fat roasted potatoes last year, which is pretty close. Samurai Sauce is a spicy, but not too spicy, mayo.

We wandered back along our path, and set off along the second leg of the fair. As we got to the end of the row, partially on a dare, partially out of interest, I stopped at Chicago’s Dog House, and had a Taste portion of Rattlesnake and Rabbit sausage, which, I must point out, is a Humana Healthy Choice option. Not even kidding. The sausage was pretty sausage-like, relatively mild in flavor, although it was served with cheese and a mix of sweet and hot peppers, so the overall effect was spicy.

A few minutes after this, it started to rain. My companions, knowing my personal motto, asked if I was prepared – they weren’t. I reached into my backpack and pulled out my umbrella, which kept us sort of dry, although it would have been a tight squeeze if we all tried to fit under it. (Girl Scout motto: Be prepared.) We were still getting wet, and one of my TAs mentioned that if her dress got wet, it would become see through. (Girl Scout motto: Be prepared.) I asked if she wanted a rain poncho, and she assented. Because doesn’t everybody carry both an umbrella and a rain poncho in their backpack? I think I got major Girls Scout brownie points today. Or maybe it’s major Brownie Girls Scout points. Hmmm. I think age might play a factor there.

Taste portions are pretty small – about 15 frites and three bite-sized slices of sausage. I knew I didn’t have any kind of dinner waiting at home, so I was looking for something to complete my meal, but not anything junk foodie. Earlier, at the intersection of the two legs, I had spied Vee Vee’s African Restaurant. I went over and bought a full portion of Goat and Plantains. It was so mellow – goat and plantains in a tomatoey tasting sauce. A really nice comfort food for the rain. (I admit to some ignorance regarding this restaurant’s logo. It had the outline of an African country and a version of that country’s flag on it. I mistakenly thought I was looking at the Ethiopian map and logo, but found out just moments ago that they were actually Nigerian. Only 3,000 (almost exactly) miles off.)

After that, we headed home, all thinking that we’ll be back tomorrow.


Week 2, Day 3

From the moment I stepped into the place, I knew what I was going to blog about tonight.

It started with a text a week ago wednesday morning: “… I want to tell you that I should be in Chicago next Wednesday. Perhaps a meal after I golf?” About half of you will know instantly who sent the text: Mark O’Donnell. It almost worked out. I met him after class at Bridgeport Coffee (they have seriously good coffee there – I got after church and whenever else I can), and he met me at my apartment, two blocks away. Then we got our stories straight and met on the sidewalk halfway in between.

He proposed a restaurant he heard about at the course: Kimski. I’ve been wanting to go to this restaurant for a while now, it’s right across the street from Bridgeport Coffee. This is THE most unusual fusion restaurant I’ve ever even heard of. Think about the name for a second; Kim – Korean, Ski – Polish. Yes, you read that right, it’s a Polish/Korean fusion restaurant. I’ll give you a moment with that.


Hopefully, you’ve recovered a bit.

I am so, so glad I went with a good friend. This is an experience you just have to share. To call it fusion is sort of an understatement. I’ll summarize at the end in case it’s not clear in the narrative.

When you walk in, the place is tiny. I think officially it is a take out place. Outside there are four small tables, inside a window counter with three stools, a table with a booth (handmade, I think) and two chairs, and the retail counter. There is a window and door into the kitchen on the left. You pick up a menu and order. I’m just going to paste the menu here, because any words I’d use would be inadequate.


House sausage, soju mustard, Kraut-chi, scallions,soft roll


Ground beef & potato filling, farmers cheese, soy cream, herb salad, pickled onion


Sauerkraut and Mushroom filling, farmers cheese, soy cream, herb salad, pickled onion


Rice roll w variety of daily banchan, AP sauce


Sweet and spicy AP sauce, sesame seeds, scallions


Sweet and spicy chili sauce, kapusta, sesame seeds,sesame leaves


Pork shoulder, kimchi of the day, smoked soy sauce


Kraut-chi, kimchi of the day, fried egg, scallions and greens


Our potato scallion pancake, muenster cheese,sautéed kimchi, sesame leaves


Fries, kimchi beer gravy, curds, kimchi, scallions,sesame seeds

I think you can see what I mean. They’ve made up a lot of their own words: Kraut-chi? Wangs?

Mark and I ordered the Veggie Potskis and the daily special, which the owner described as a fusion between Kimski Poutine and Maria’s Standard. It was a fusion of fusions; a quadruple fusion.

After we ordered, we were told to take our number (6), take some utensils (chopsticks and a plastic knife in our case) from the counter, and go next door to the liquor store-cum-bar. Oh yeah, and be prepared to show ID.

We followed orders, and walked into a fairly typical liquor store, with the exception that their independent beer/cider/beverage selection filled three refrigerators, and the standard miller, Bud collection just one.

The proprietor dutifully checked our IDs – really checked them – he mentioned both of our years of birth. Mark was older than he, I was younger. He pointed us out the back door of the store, which led into a typical looking bar with about a dozen patrons. We passed through the bar and into a garage-like room with several hand built booths, tables and a long bar with stools. Behind this bar was a giant chalkboard listing the beers and ciders they had on tap: a total of 24! The draft spigots were on two side by side pipes, twelve numbered handles each.  When you order, the bar keep looks up at the board only to check which type of glass – there were at least six or eight, as far as I could tell – to use: a pint glass for my cider and a snifter for Mark’s beer.

Dinner arrived before I was done ordering the beer. We split the two plate. I started with the Veggie Potskis. This looks like a fried dumpling on the outside, but the inside is filled with a traditional pierogi filling, sauerkraut with mushrooms. As I ate my first bite, my eyes slid closed, and I disappeared in a reverie. Holy crap. Who knew? The onion cream and cheese just completed the experience. Every type of flavor in a delicate balance. Ok, now I need a moment.


Then I had a taste of the special, but not until Mark had already nodded his approval. I can’t even tell you what was in it other then the house sausage. I remember seeing that. This thing was an orgy of flavors, but none overwhelmed any other. Delicious. Just that.

After our first tastes, we were sure we would need to get more food. However, by the time we finished, we found ourselves pleasantly sated, and let it be.

In case you missed them, here are the fusions I noticed:

  • Polish/Korean cuisine (toss in a little Quebecoise with the poutine)
  • Take out restaurant/liquor store
  • Liquor store/bar
  • Bar/garage
  • Maria’s standard/Kimski poutine

Just remarkable.


Week 2, Day 2

Once again, last night, serendipity waved her wand and granted me an extraordinary adventure in spite of the fact that I set out to have exactly that.

The plan: Leave alone about 9 pm, ride about 20 minutes along 31st Street to the lake shore, watch some of the best fireworks in Chicago over Navy Pier from about 4 miles away, turn around, ride back.

What actually happened: About 8pm, my roommate, Charles, asked me what I was planning, I told him, and he said he’d go too. It became clear he didn’t like my plan so much – he wasn’t comfortable riding down 31st. He suggested that going north was a safer alternative. OK, so we left earlier and headed north. We rode through the streets (in bike lanes), Charles offering a  hearty “Happy Fourth” to just about everyone we passed. It put a smile on the face of every one, including a couple of police officers.

We ended up at the Shedd Aquarium, about two miles from the Pier. The fireworks started promptly at 9:30 as advertised. The delay between the flash and the boom was about seven seconds. Still when there were some really combinations a roar arose around me as the crowd cheered. Then, as suddenly as they had started, there was a quick finale and they ended. Fifteen minutes. 9:45. Done.  The crowd started to disperse. I was incredulous – didn’t I just see a 45 minute show in Middlefield a month ago for their Sesquicentennial? What’s this?

We turned our bikes around, and began to walk with the crowds out of the park. We aimed west, since we noticed that our path up from the south had become packed with people since we had arrived. We got to a bike lane along Roosevelt Road, hopped on our bikes and headed west. We then turned south on Halsted for the two and a half mile ride home.

The roads were largely abandoned, except for the occasional car that passed us. But the skies. Oh, the skies!

The brick facade facing me flashed. The sky sputtered, spun and exploded. Snaps, sparks, claps: the sound slapped the sides of the structures, erupting and echoing off the edifices.

We rode faster to catch the lights, slower to give them time to change.

Chicago was sizzling, hissing, singing, as the rainbows blasted from every direction. Green, purple, gold – reflecting royally in Windy City’s windows. Red, white, blue, whistling wildly.

We rode, slowing slightly on the Halsted Street South Branch Bascule Bridge, we saw fireworks flying, flaring, flashing all around us, near and far.

We pushed on, at last arriving in our neighborhood. The spectacle was not over, not by any means. On every street, in every alley, the show went on. I didn’t need to go anywhere – it came to me. Did I mention I live on the edge of Chinatown? My neighbors know something about fireworks, and how celebrate the Fourth.


Week 2, Day 1

Happy 4th of July!

This is not my picture. It is not dark here yet. I hope to see this later tonight. This picture is licensed for reuse, so it is OK that I put it here.

It’s been a pretty quiet day for me, although not so much for the neighborhood. It’s kind of a war zone out there. There are some SERIOUSLY loud explosions. I may not need to go anywhere for fireworks tonight. (I was going to make a joke about PTSD here, but decided not to. PTSD is not funny. – Thanks EH Mental Health Awareness Club, I hope you are more active next year than this year, because your mission is a job that needs doing.)

One thing my trip to Chicago has taught me: I am surrounded by an electronic net of protection. That could be a new addition to the next version of Dungeons and Dragons. For about the first week I was here, every time I logged in to my Google account, it asked me for some additional piece of information to prove I am me: what city do I usually log in from, what is the email address of my recovery account, what is my maiden name, you know, stuff like that.

Then today, I tried to make a 1-click purchase from Amazon. I was signed into my account and ordered a digital book to help me with the ART/Science collaboration paper I am writing. I figured the $20 for the book would save me enough time to be worth it. Only, no such thing. I asked for it to be sent to my Kindle app but it didn’t show up. I’ve ordered this way several times before, and always had my instant gratification button pressed. This time, no go. I went back to my account, looked up the order, and the status was “Pending”. Pending what, I don’t know. I tried a bunch of things, like reordering it updating my credit card information and the like. Nothing.

Then I check my email this afternoon, after an unsuccessful mission to find ribs (RibFest was this weekend, but apparently not today [sad faced emoticon with no barbecue sauce on it]), (I’m never sure where to put the comma around a triply nested parenthetical phrase – writer problems), to find this (excerpt):

We believe that an unauthorized party may have accessed your account. To protect your information, we have:

— Disabled the password to your account.

— Reversed any changes made by this party.

— Canceled any pending orders.

Amazon wrapped it sweet loving arms of protection around me and protected me from myself. It took so long to get the book (or not get it) that I wrote around the problem, and I don’t need the book. Now let’s hope what they said is true, and the orders were cancelled, because it doesn’t say that yet in my account.

Week 2, Day 0

What are the odds, really, of landing at a Latin Mass two weeks in a row, especially if you don’t plan it or even realize that it’s going to happen? Today I stopped in at the Monastery of the Holy Cross for their 10 am Mass. It went much better this week than last week.  There was a gentleman who caught my eye as I came in, handed me two booklets and said “It’ll go much better with these.” And he was right. The mass was a mix of about 50 percent Latin, 50 percent English, 90 percent chanted (only the first and second readings were not chanted – the gospel WAS, though), and I could follow along. I’ll never understand how they decide the Latin and English parts – the intro to the our Father was in English, but the prayer itself was in Latin. Good quality hosts (thicker and firmer than most, with a good texture – who thinks about these things?), too, and they are definitely not shy with the wine. Overall, a great experience. I had half an idea to visit a different church each week I’m here, but this casts some doubt on that.

I’ve included a couple of pictures of one of the handouts I got today (mostly for Alice – click for more detail) . It was printed with today’s date, and there was just the one mass scheduled, so I felt OK bringing it with me (that is a euphemism for stealing, I know). I left the one that was clearly reusable. The brothers have a bed and breakfast in the monastery (hint, hint Mom and Dad).

I set off this afternoon for a farmers’ market up in Logan Square, about an hour away by either bike or public transit. I chose public transit, since two hours of riding was more than I was interested in. I’d have made it sooner if I rode my bike: the fickle hand of CTA fate seemed conspired against me.

Google Maps is indispensable if you take public transit.  It  generally gives you several choices for getting to your destination, with travel time for each. It even factors in walking time, and tells you when to leave. It told me that there were buses I could catch in 14 minutes and in 28 minutes, with a six minute walk to the stop, the first bus was entirely doable. I gathered my stuff (I carry a lot with me in my backpack – a book, glasses, Splashy, who is my camera, an umbrella (which has been magnificent at keeping rain away since I purchased it – it hasn’t rained once while I was out) plastic bags, reading glasses, band aids, gum, napkins and probably a bunch of other stuff. Most of it stays in the pack all the time.

I walked to the stop, only to have that event every transit rider fears happen: the bus passed by about a minute before I got to the stop. No problem, there should be another in about 15 minutes, so I did what I always do, I started walking in the direction I was going, planning to catch the next bus at a later stop. This is how I get to know the neighborhood: four Chinese restaurants, four Mexican restaurants, a bakery, an organic restaurant, a bike shop, a coffee shop and various other businesses. I walked, and walked, and walked. I stopped and got two tamales from a street vendor – she’s there every day, all day selling them (warm) out of picnic coolers. I figured they must be good and safe because lots of people stop and get them and she’d be out of business really quickly if they weren’t. Then I kept walking.

After half an hour, I got to the Orange Line station. I looked at the electronic bus schedule (it tells you when buses are due), and one was due to arrive in 28 minutes. Really? I waited for it to scroll, and saw there was another bus in 18 minutes, but a train in just 8 minutes, so I opted for the train. As I was standing on the train platform, which overlooks the bus stop, I saw the bus I wanted pull away. Needless to say, there were delays on the Blue Line by the time I got there. I did eventually make it to the farmers’ market, but it was closing down. I did manage to score some blueberries, good cheese, fresh bread and lunch, including cucumber limeade, which is yummy.

I plan to bike the the fireworks tomorrow night – there are lighted bike lanes all the way once I get to the end of my quiet street. Maybe I’ll take pics, but I don’t plan to get too close to the madding crowds downtown, so I’ll be a couple of miles away at the beach.


Week 1, Day 6

Today started out with a bike ride to my yoga class, which mercifully started at 8:30 instead of 7 this week, so I could sleep in. After class, Ellie took me over to a farmers’ market about a mile and a half away at The Plant, a food to energy facility about 14 blocks south of here. I so, so, so wanted to tour the building, but the first tour wasn’t until 11:30 and it was only 10 and I had a lot to do, and it was a small market so hanging for an hour and a half seemed creepy (although I did manage to spend 45 minutes there). I plan to get back another week when there isn’t a deadline looming.

How did I manage to spend 45 minutes there, you ask? (Or if you’re smart, you didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway.) I started with a stop at the Pleasant House Bakery stand, where I purchased the first thing that attracted my eye. It turned out to be a coriander-orange custard custard doughnut. I am not a big fan of orange flavoring in my food, but it was too late because I already bought it (buy first, ask later, fly without a net, it’s the only way), and I was really hungry (I hadn’t eaten before yoga, and it was 10am), and oh, am I so glad I got it. That thing was delicious! I walked around in a stupor while I ate it, nibble by nibble. I did not want that thing to go away. You can’t have your doughnut and eat it, too. But you can buy another, should the necessity arise. Always bring enough cash to farmers’ markets – although at this one you could buy at any booth and swipe your card at the front booth.

When a bakery is that good, you have to go back. So I did. Twice. Once for this sticky bun kind of thing that is still stuck on my teeth I’m sure. Again with the orange, but oh so yummy. Then back again to buy a sourdough baguette, which I had to eat the end off of so it would fit in my backpack. Someone’s got to fall on these grenades, and I’m just the person to do it. Before you read on, you should know, lest you think I am a glutton, that I saved the sticky bun thing for later.

By this time, I was mighty thirsty, so I invested in a cup of cantaloupe water (he had watermelon water, too). This was a good choice. The vendor handed me the cup and said he put a lot of ice in it, and that after I finished I should come back for a refill, which I did a little later. This is the perfect after yoga drink. So refreshing, and not too sweet. The man’s son, about eight, was handling the money. Cute kid.

I walked across the aisle and got elote: grilled corn on the cob, smeared with mayo and cayenne pepper. This one was vegan, so they put some yeast powder or something on it, too. Once again, I got it with everything – no net! The mayo was Just Mayo, a vegan alternative mayo. I just had some on my sandwich, too. I think I like it better than regular mayo (sacrilege, I know).

I made my way back home, and eventually to good old Harold Washington Library (HWL). I am revising a paper I’m writing for The Science Teacher, the National Science Teachers’ Association high school science teaching magazine. Internet was out at the apartment, so I headed to the library, which was quiet (but busy) and comfortable (enough). There was only one (well, two) interruptions. The first was a pair of men arguing (with swearing) somewhere on the same floor I was on. Eventually, they stopped.

The other was a young man, maybe in his late twenties, who asked for help connecting his tablet to the internet. Well, actually, he told me he just bought a tablet from a pawn shop and was having trouble using it and noticed that I had a laptop and could I help him. He just wanted YouTube and Google.

I will admit I wavered on this one a bit. He was pulling a cart to which was attached several plastic shopping bags, most of which were filled with partially eaten containers of junk food (Pringles, soda, and the like). He was quite possibly homeless. Plus, I really wanted to get this paper done. On the other hand, he needed help in a topic I am almost expert in.

Something about his sincerity called to me. He just needed help. So I helped him. Actually, I told him I could help him for a minute or two, just to give myself an out. He took a box out of one of the bags, and unpacked a tablet. There were still the original packing materials. I thought maybe it wouldn’t be charged yet, but he turned it on and handed it to me. It turned out to be an Android system. My confidence suddenly fell away. I’ve never even TOUCHED an Android before, much less set up a network connection.

Fortunately, it was rather intuitive once I got oriented. For some reason I had to set up the network twice before it worked. The Chicago Public Library homepage came up, and I handed it back to him. He asked about getting connected on the train and at McDonald’s, so I showed him what I did. I think he was the happiest person in Chicago at that point. He thanked me profusely many times. He was so excited.

At five o’clock, I got kicked out of the library and headed home. I had a glass of wine with my host (who I think of as my roommate in my head) and his friend. They headed out to dinner and “something after that”. I’m happy to have the place to myself tonight so I can relax (except for the occasional loud explosion – it IS Fourth of July weekend, after all) and read.