Friday, July 15, 2016

Chicago vs. DC: Similar Neighborhoods Names

After living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I still get tripped up on the names of some of the neighborhoods here.  My confusion stems from the fact that I also lived in DC for 10 years and some of the neighborhood names there are similar to some of the ones in Chicago.

Lincoln Park, DC                  Lincoln Park, Chicago
When I first moved to DC, I lived on Capitol Hill in a hood called Lincoln Park. The largest park on The Hill, Pierre L'Enfant included it in his original 1791 plan for DC, intending it for public use and planning it to be the point from which all distances in North America would be measured, although it was not ultimately utilized for this purpose.  It's also been historically known as Lincoln Square.  It is the first pubic site to bear the former President's name.  When I lived there, the hood consisted mostly of young white couples who were parents to children and/or dogs, and some empty-nesters.  It was primarily residential with not much by way of shopping and restaurants

Chicago has both a Lincoln Park and a Lincoln Square.  We currently live in Lincoln Square and it took me the first year of living here to stop calling it Lincoln Park.  Lincoln Square is a cozy northside hood whose population mirrors that of Lincoln Park/Square in DC, but offers much more to do than just live in your home.  Row houses, single-family homes and some condos share space with bars, restaurants and shopping.  On the other hand, Lincoln Park in Chicago is one of the more affluent neighborhoods filled with established mature couples and families, and where a recent college grad will share a small, expensive apartment with 3 other people just so he/she can be in a predominantly white neighborhood that's loaded with bars.

In DC, I also lived in Logan Circle.  When I first moved to DC in 1995, Logan Circle was mostly a place for hookers and drug addicts.  The neighborhood was peppered with run down townhouses and abandoned garages and warehouses.  During my 10 years in that city (as well as since), Logan Circle has become was Lincoln Park in Chicago is.  As is usually the case, the gays moved into the blighted area and revitalized it.  Soon, straight women follow, then straight men, then couples, then families.  You can set your calendar by it.  Contrarily, Chicago has Logan Square even though the park from which the neighborhood gets its name is actually ovular and not square.  I lived in Logan Circle in DC and now I work in Logan Square in Chicago.

Logan Circle, DC                                                                               Logan Square, Chicago

I finally have the Lincoln Park/Square thing under control, but it's going to take a while to get the Logan Circle/Square thing managed.  But I'm getting there.

My brain's a mess.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Something that continues to surprise me when I see it happening: someone littering.  It always shocks me.  I guess I think of it as something children do that we eventually stop doing as adults because we know better.  And that's why it's so shocking - adults are the ones doing it.

When I see littering happen, I always audibly gasp.  I can't help it.  I feel like that 70's Keep America Beautiful commercial that showed the Native American chief on a hill strewn with litter and as he slowly turns to face the camera during a smog-ridden sunset, one solitary tear is streaming down his face.  Man, that was a good commercial!  Forty years later and I still remember it.  The interesting thing about that commercial was that the Native American was actually a Sicilian-born actor who changed his name to Iron Eyes Cody.   I guess he was a kind of a latter-day Rachel Dolezal.  Yet another wide-eyed childhood belief shattered to pieces.

I've always thought of tossing a lit cigarette as littering (and worse!) and even THAT surprises me when I see someone do it.  But hurling trash out of a car window is inexcusable.  I can be driving down the highway or a city street or a country road and then suddenly trash will fly from the windows of the automobile in front of me.  Or I could be walking down the street and someone ahead of me will just drop a gum wrapper or throw a receipt on the ground and just keep walking without missing a beat.  What gets me is that the act is so blatant.  It's as if the litterer believes that what he or she is doing is actually okay.

If I am driving and I see it, I blow my horn.  This serves the dual purpose of allowing me to vent my frustration as well as signal to the driver that, "yeah, that's right - I saw what you did."  And if I am walking and see it, I'll sometimes call after the person, "Excuse me you dropped something."  Sometimes they take it back but most of the time they ignore me.

When I see things like this occur, my mind immediately plays that scene in Steel Magnolias:
Truvy: Well, these thighs haven't gone out of the house without lycra on them since I was 14.
Clairee: You were brought up right.

And then I wonder if it really is just that simple?  Does it all just come down to the fact that my parents corrected that behavior in me as a child or at least taught me some responsibility, not to mention what it is to respect yourself and those around you?  Because that's all littering is - a complete disrespect of yourself and those around you.

Littering is a completely selfish act.  And in a time when the world is already full of selfies, overblown egos, and an entitled generation, the last thing we need is discarded trash piling up on top of it all.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Summer of 1976

The summer of 1976 was a big deal for everyone, including my family and me.

Big for everyone because of the Bicentennial.  America was celebrating 200 years of independence from British rule.  You couldn't swing a cat without hitting the American flag.  It seemed to be a year-long celebration of everything that meant anything to Americans.

Big for my family because of events that took place that summer.  My mom's sister, Aunt Kay, and her family were back in Maryland visiting from California.  Back then, traveling across the country was a very big deal - not like today where you can fly to L.A. for the weekend.  Aunt Kay, Uncle Bill and cousin Jeff, who was just a month younger than I, only came back to the east coast every 4 or 5 years.  The last time they were home was in 1972.  Jeff and I were both 6 years old.  But in 1976, we were 10 and were able to develop a real friendship and connection.

Aunt Kay being back also meant that all of Mom's siblings were in one location at the same time.  Her father, Pop, had died 6 years earlier, but the family took advantage of geography and posed for some family pictures in Granny's back yard.  I love this picture of them.  It's a time capsule.  This is the image I have of them in my head all the time, and will be how I remember them forever.  Mom is in the back row on the left.

I can guess how precious these photos are to them.  Three years later, Aunt Jeannie would die from complications with her heart.

Aunt Kay and her family would return to California the end of that summer, but would move back to Maryland within the next year.  Jeff and I became good friends through our teen years.  I was even Best Man in his first wedding.  But we'd eventually drift apart as he entered the navy and I went on to college.  And In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Jeff and I would be the only ones of our generation to inherit the bad heart gene.  We'd both end up having heart attacks when we got older.

And sometime during the summer of 1976, Dad was honored by being selected as the Allegany & Garrett Counties Volunteer Firefighter of the Year for the state of Maryland.  Dad had joined the Clarysville Volunteer Fire Department a few years earlier and had held several positions within the department, including being Chief for several years.  That's Dad in the picture below in his stylish dark blue leisure suit.

Against her wishes, Dad signed Mom up to join the Ladies Auxiliary.  Mom (being Mom) cried the night before she had to go to the first meeting.  Dad forced her to get out of the house and do something - anything - other than being a wife and mother, which was all Mom ever wanted to be in life.  But over time, she blossomed.  They developed friends and a real sense of community among the other "firemen families".  Both Dad and Mom were dedicated to the success of the organization.  We'd attend socials, picnics, conventions, fundraisers, chicken dinners, holiday parties...   I even sang at one or two of those functions.

And my sister Kim was crowned Clarysville Volunteer Fire Queen the same year Dad won his award.  I think they both actually rode in local parades together that whole summer.

And speaking of Queens, the summer of 1976 would be the year Granny chartered a bus and the entire family went to DC for the day, where I would see a visiting Queen Elizabeth II.  It would be my first time in DC, and I certainly didn't know I would live there for 10 years during my 30's.  Our huge entourage hit all the big sites: Capitol, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Washington Monument.  But I especially remember the actual bus ride down and back.  Back then, it took about 3.5 to 4 hours to ride from Frostburg to DC.  So there was lots of singing, lots of laughing, lots of snacks moving around the bus.  I remember Mom being sad because Dad couldn't get the day off work to go with us; he was the only person in the whole family who wasn't on the bus.  I'm sure that was hard on both my folks.

The summer of 1976 was also the last summer of Camp, but certainly not the last summer of big family get-togethers.  Those would thankfully continue for years to come.

The Summer of 1976.  It was a big deal for everyone and somewhat of a turning point in my life.  I remember it being a really fun summer, and carefree as all summers were for kids back then.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy 240th, America!

July 4, 2016 marks the official 240th birthday of the United States of America.

I am old enough to remember its 200th birthday, being 10 years old in 1976 during the Bicentennial.  It was a year full of fireworks, U.S. history, and a sense of renewed hope, faith, and pride in America:  Watergate was behind us, there was a huge train that everyone needed to see, and I had my first experience visiting Washington, DC - a city in which I would unknowingly live another 20 years into the future.

Life may not have necessarily been simpler in 1976, but it certainly was cheaper:
  • Gas per gallon:  $0.59
  • First class postage stamp:  $0.13
  • New house:  $48,000 (national average)
  • Income per year: $16,000 (national average)
  • Monthly rent: $220 (national average)
And from the Millennial "What the hell is that?" Department:
  • Polaroid camera:  $28
  • Zenith 25" Color TV:  $599
  • CB Radio:  $147
And in other news:
  • Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers
  • The first laser printer was created by IBM
  • VHS is introduced to compete with Betamax
  • In New York City, the "Son of Sam" pulls a gun and begins a series of attacks that terrorized the city for the next year
  • The first $2.00 bill is issues
  • Viking 1 and Viking 2 landed on Mars
  • Bruce Jenner won the decathlon in The Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada
  • The Winter Olympic Games are held in Innsbruck, Austria
  • Fidel Castro became the President of Cuba
Popular Films
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • All The President's Men
  • The Omen
  • Taxi Driver
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Rocky
Popular Musicians
  • Bay City Rollers
  • Elton John
  • Barry Manilow
  • Diana Ross
  • Paul Simon
  • The Four Seasons
  • Queen
  • ABBA