Archive for the ‘Sic transit’ Category

Biking to work today

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Pelting rain and a northeast wind.
I wore my rain gear
but I’m still wet.

Shedding the detour

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Over the weekend, the Park District opened the lakefront path underpass at Solidarity Drive. This is supposed to ease congestion at that intersection, both for traffic and for path users, especially during evenings when there are concerts on Northerly Island — or days when something’s going on at Soldier Field.

The underpass itself is nicely done and fun to ride, and certainly makes it easier to get around. I can’t count the number of times I was almost flattened by traffic that either didn’t see the stop signs on Solidarity Drive or chose to ignore them. Buses, trucks, families with kids in SUVs — they all tried to send me to the great beyond. So this is an improvement.

My only complaint: Despite the work the Aquarium has been doing since last year, the path hasn’t been part of it. It could have been widened, but no, so it remains a bottleneck. And I foresee some confusion in the Museum Campus area north of the Field Museum where the old detour and the restored path converge. If the Park District marks the lanes well, we’ll all be OK, but I think there will be some swerving and cursing for a while.

Life as usual on the bike path, in other words.

‘Your common, ordinary billionaire’

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

For a few days recently, it looked as if we were hosting a megayacht convention in Burnham Harbor. Docked near McCormick Place were two enormous yachts, both hailing from George Town, Cayman Islands: Cracker Bay (147 feet) and Battered Bull (172 feet). Not far away, and also Cayman Islands-registered, was Blue Moon (198 feet). After a few days, though, Blue Moon was heading out, and Cracker Bay had been replaced by Gran Finale (also 147 feet).

Blue Moon belongs to Dick Duchossois (Arlington Racecourse), Battered Bull belongs to Donald F. Flynn (part of the Emerald Casino group) and Cracker Bay belongs to developer Gary Morse, who’s CEO of the Villages, an enormous retirement community in Florida with 70,000 residents.

It’s tempting to think the three were sitting around planning some giant retirement/gaming/Olympic Village complex, but maybe it was pure coincidence the boats were here at the same time. And who knows, the owners may not even have been aboard.

Gran Finale is a little trickier. During a stop in Buffalo, N.Y., it attracted enough attention that the local paper sent a reporter. He asked the captain, Ted Sputh, who the owner was. “I can’t tell you that,” Sputh said. “He’s very, very private. . . . We always hear the Trumps or Madonna, but none of that’s true. You wouldn’t know him anyway. He’s just your common, ordinary billionaire.”

Something to aspire to.

The boat’s Buffalo visit sparked a long online discussion, to which “anonymous” of Monterey, Calif., contributed this: “OK, I’m going to say this once and I’m telling the truth. The owner of the boat is not Ivana Trump, not the owner of Microsoft, nobody like that. The owner is someone who has their own business and they like to use the boat with their friends and family and they like their privacy. It’s nobody you would know by name but they’re an amazingly generous family.”

You know, if I were amazingly generous, I’d have a big boat too. Is it always the philanthropists who have the biggest boats? Take Donald Flynn. He’s also a trustee of the Chicago Symphony. Morse? He’s given more than half a million dollars to the Republicans (if you can call that philanthropy). And there’s the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Of course, if I had a big boat, I might not be able to afford the philanthropy. It’d be the big boat, or the foundation. And there are lots of foundations, but I’d only have one big boat. Tough choices.

Meanwhile, what about Gran Finale? Maybe the clue is in the spelling. Missing D? Parked near Soldier Field? Gotta be someone trying to put a hex on the Bears. And it seems to be working. Is it Brett Favre’s boat? No, we all know his name. Jay Mariotti’s? No, he’s not known to be amazingly generous.

Anyway, Gran Finale’s moved on, so maybe things will look up for the Bears. Let’s see what the effect on tonight’s game is.

City for sale

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Those of you who spend any time along the lakefront know that the stretch near Oak Street Beach can be crowded pretty much any time of day or week. And weekends? A free-for-all.

Between the cyclists, the joggers, the tourists, the skaters, the beachgoers and the homeless people, it’s a busy stew. Imagine it with an 18-wheeler thrown into the mix. That’s what happened to me the other day when I wound up cycling behind a flatbed semi that was driving from North Avenue to Oak Street Beach along the lakefront path to pick up the remains of the big Chicago Open beach volleyball tournament held July 12-13: fencing, bleachers, tents, you name it.

It’s just a hunch, but I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this between now and 2016. Probably after that, too, if the Park District finds there’s enough money in it.

Pity the poor county forest preserve district with no beaches to rent. Money from that might save the disappearing tobaggan slides.

And speaking of those slides, before they’re gone, shouldn’t one of them, or a part of one, be donated to the Children’s Museum? The museum ought to at least hold examples of what public money gets spent on (or not) for kids’ education, entertainment, exercise and leisure. It’s already a good example of that, why not admit it and put it in a glass case?

Rollin’ on the river

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

The city plans to extend the riverwalk, starting this summer, by adding underbridges west of Michigan Avenue. That means extensions will be built on the south bank so you can walk (or bike?) under the bridges at Michigan and Wabash (that’s the Irv Kupcinet bridge, possibly the only thing on that stretch of Wabash that hasn’t had the Trump name slapped on it).

This will have the effect of narrowing the river by about 20 feet at those points, something that will excite anyone who has watched the Medusa Challenger snake through the place. It’s not called the Medusa Challenger anymore, it’s the St. Marys Challenger. Did you know it’s the oldest ship working the Great Lakes? Me neither, but it was launched in 1906.

Judging from Google Maps’ satellite photos, even a river narrower by 20 feet is still plenty wide enough for a boat that size. Still, it’d be exciting to stand on one of the new underbridges and watch.

To make it a little more exciting, let’s find a corporate sponsor — we love corporate sponsors in Chicago — for each of these underbridges. I know just the one: Target.

Leg update

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Still hurts, but at least it’s healing. I was worried I might be walking around on a fracture, so I went to Michael Reese’s emergency room and was treated very kindly. They X-rayed it and found no break. I think I heard something in the doctor’s voice when he described me as “the guy who tripped getting on the bus,” though. Hard to blame him.

Despite the maze-like streets around the place, I hope they manage to keep the old building and its arch when the Olympic bulldozers move in. It must be good for something. Children’s Museum?

‘Watch your step’

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Monday I rode about 70 miles on my bike with no ill effects, other than a little soreness. Tuesday I rode the bus downtown and now I can hardly walk. Proof that cycling is safer than public transportation. At least for the clumsy.

I was going to meet some former co-workers for a drink, and when I saw a couple of Number 6 buses, I ran. When the buses are bunched, if you don’t get one, you can wait a while for the next one. I caught the second one, but was moving a bit too quickly when I stepped in; I stumbled, falling on my right knee and smacking my ankle on the edge of the platform. I felt stupid but OK.

Downtown as people got off, the driver said, “Watch your step.” Words to live by. My ankle left me alone as I chatted with people, but on the way home I was limping, and a day later I’m still limping. The ankle doesn’t mind cycling — I rode to the store earlier today — but balks at walking and climbing stairs. So it’s an ice and aspirin diet for the thing.

A quicker thinking person than I might have been on the phone to lawyers already, planning what to do with that big CTA judgment, but a quicker thinking person than I probably wouldn’t have tripped in the first place. No, I can’t blame the CTA for my clumsiness.

But I can blame it for bus bunching. I’ve been at a bus stop with a dozen people waiting for 20 minutes, only to see four buses finally arrive together. Bunching is what we call it; apparently the CTA considers it the convoy system. Developed in wartime to help protect ships from enemy submarine attacks, the convoy system was adopted by the CTA to protect buses from being picked off by Downstate legislators bent on big infrastructure projects at the far ends of the state. Well, if they’re so keen to take our public transportation away, they should be the ones icing their ankle and cursing the fates, not me.


Monday, May 5th, 2008

Forgot to mention that during my ride last week, I cycled past Waveland Golf Course. Heading south near Irving Park I heard a loud “thwack” on the path near me and saw a golf ball bouncing off toward Lake Shore Drive.

I’ve ridden by the course dozens of times over the past 35 years and that’s the first time I’ve nearly been brained. Either it was a very bad shot (couldn’t even keep it on the course; is that a ground-rule double in golf?) or a very good one (duffer prefers a moving target to the flag). In either case, I’m glad I was wearing a helmet.