Sunday, September 30, 2007

Breaking Away on the Lake Shore Trail

It can take an hour to bicycle from Northwest Rogers Park to the South Loop. It takes 43 minutes on the Elevated Purple or 1.33 hours on the Subterrainian Red line going South from howard. Bicycling is healthier; the trail is buffered by enough green space to keep LSD from tripping you out. I have never felt threatened by traffic contrary to some commentators. I suppose that I should give it time, but there is not much traffic once you hit Devon and travel down Ridge depending upon your timing. It surprises me that so few commute by bicycle on a regular basis. If can't store your bike at the office or the street, then the city has a lock up, lockers(to rent) and showers at Millenium Park. If you can only go one way, take the bike on the subway home.

The route going south runs from Ridge to Devon, Devon to Winthrop Avenue, and Winthrop to Ardmore. Winthrop is the street where most Loyola students will be walking from their dorms to campus. If you are unmaried, then it is a bachelor or cougar paradise. You cycle one way Winthrop Street going south through Edgewater. On the way, you pass a grammar school. How threatening! Although there are some potholes, the bright yellow paint left by the Bike Federation makes it easy to spot the few pits on the trip south. Some you can ride over without much frustration.

Cycling and watching for Ardmore can be a challenge for some, but the green trail signs are visible. Once you turn east (left) on Ardmore, you are two to three blocks from the Lake Shore Trail. It is about a nine mile ride from Ardmore and Sheridan to Congress Pkwy. I usually make it to Columbus and Congress in about an hour unless I am taking snapshots along the way or stop for a water fountain or friend en route. I also ride straight south, rather than turning left at Lake Pointe Towers. Stay on the east side of the street or you will have to return to Lake Pointe. The trail continues south from the East side of the bridge.

The Trail is not as frustrating as it would seem. I have taken the ride without water, but keep a bottle in the backpack in case. In order to keep comfortable, I store a suit at the office and usually manage to avoid too much of a sweat to make a mess. The internal difference in my frame of mind is night and day.
I have even rode back as late as eleven in the evening after I got the urge. The globe lighting around Lawrence needs some bulb replacement or electrical work, but by the time that I had a chance to think about it, I hit a new set that was functional. There are some challenges on the trail with potholes, but they are marked. You return down Ardmore to Kenmore, which runs one way going North. Some may be intimidated around Sheridan, Broadway and Devon, but it really is not that difficult when you approach the street, traffic, and intersection with care. Of course, I never bike without a helmet.

To get out of the suit and into my shorts or sweats before leaving the office is a transition worth undertaking. I am not out to beat the clock, but I keep up with it and if it looks like I can't do it, then I make the trip home on another day leaving the bicycle at the office.

If you bought your bicycle at Roberts on Clark, then his staff is more than willing to blow up the tires and check out the bicycle. Robert may do it, anyway, but you may want to look at his supplies where you get a guilt trip after repeated trips. Usually, I avoid Clark, because it is much busier than Ridge.

My hope is that a bicycle trail suddenly appears on Ridge Boulevard and runs down Devon to Winthrop both east and west. Its time has come and Moore probably knows it, but Carol Ronen needs to allocate the funding in Springfield, as well. There are way too many cyclists coming from the north to cycle the Lake Shore Trail from Evanston and Wilmette. It is almost amusing seeing those from the suburbs heading south on something other than a car. I'd rather cycle on my own, than by proxy. I wonder how long it will take for someone to get the guts to start an RP cycling group for the morning commute?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Backside of Bakers at Midnight, Imagination, Chicago Magazine Digressions, and Other Distractions

Bakers Square ends service at midnight each evening. Tonight, I missed the 11 p.m. cut off for U unLucky Dawg U, so I headed north. I lacked the cholesterol raising craving required for"The Fish Keg" on Howard. This meant that I ended up in the friendly confines of Bakers Square. I swear, it's all a blur!

Our local Mexican Bistro near Ridge and Touhy closes shop earlier. Tonight I did not imbibe nachos and "La Fea Mas Bella" complete with Leticia Pedilla Solis and her Telemundo company. Bakers Square is standard fare after 11 p.m., when The Diner at Clark and Devon does not yield parking spaces and the fridge is nearly bare. Besides, the parking lot at The Diner is a bit seedy compared to Bakers, even if Bakers is a mainstay franchise relishing in Pop N Fresh Pie's Glory. P&S Cafe closes at 3pm, so where do I go? Any ideas? Cuchina di Donatella is closed, as well. Morseland is farther east; again, no parking, too loud, no time to unwind.

I arrived at Bakers to be immediately seated by the host, manager, and cashier. The crowd was down to earth and local. Two fifty something blue collar workers chatted about their experiences directly north. Another feature is a campy dressed red head with unique glasses, who I glance at a few times. She looks like a junior high classmate may have looked in her late twenties. Tonight, she will serve as my 'what Sara T. would look-like, if I saw her in her late twenties before she married a same sex partner, night.' Okay, I got overly creative and Sara rejected my shy seventh grade practice run. The red head amuses me for a moment.

The thoughts serve as more of a diversion to relieve my hunger and "distraction" over a curious internet search three months ago for former classmates. Congrats Sara! Now, maybe I understand.

I imagined a sudden, 'do I know you from somewhere' conversations. How does a guy approach a woman at Bakers Square without looking like he is asking for a date? Blog? Who wants to walk out in that parking lot at midnight at that point until much later. Meanwhile, a mother and daughter combo parks in the booth directly east of me. To view this character of an imaginary first impression, I have to carefully move my eyes east to northwest. Therefore, I have no other choice, but to lose interest in the redhead. Otherwise, I will look like a cradle-robber.

Ironically, I pull out a Chicago Magazine to be presented with another redhead complete with school books with headlines to perk my curiousity. Most of the evening is now spent reviewing this latest Chicago Magazine, which contrasts High Schools. Chicago Magazine can no longer ignore Northside College Prep, Payton and Young. It alludes to other CPS high schools with less applause and minimal recognition. The suburbs get the accolades, besides they buy most of the subscriptions.

My son is about to make that dive into the next level that follows Decatur Classical. That means that, I simultaneously gloat and glare at the stats for the selective enrollment high schools wondering what testing and grades will bring to this family's future educational plans, among other things. I also compare Jones College Prep, Lane Tech, and Lincoln Park, while wishing that they Sullivan found its place higher on the academic pecking order.

Chicago Magazine to me continues to become more of an expression of suburbia and its compulsions draw it into Chicago. There are the high end plastic surgeons, the upscale ambulance chaser ads, gaudy jewelry, and many of the things that none of us should go into debt over. The, 'I like to visit, shop, schmooze, but wouldn't want to live there mentality' looms large on the Northshore. Do they fear how their own pale complexion will fit in a Chicago neighborhood like Rogers Park? Do they think that the cars mow down kids any quicker in the low traffic areas? Does the FBI or media ever calculate the 'per capita crime beat in the suburbs?'

Perhaps, those in the suburbs fear riding their bicycles home on the lakefront at 11p.m. I repeatedly ride into downtown to work if I can time it out and am low on baggage. I have never been hit, grazed, or freaked out by cars; just careful. I admit streets and san need to make a few path lighbulb replacements on the trail by the Lake. Great ride, few cars, fewer bicycles, less pollution; all in one hour and nineteen minutes from 300 South to 7200 North via the Lakefront with three stops for over exposed photos and no hassles. I should bring my tennis racket and meet someone for a set on Recreation Drive en route. No news at ten!

Stay tuned. Okay, enough of my digressions and belly beating urban pride. We just fixed some things in the house and picked up a Museum of S&I Membership that we will actually use.

Back to the October edition and this month's chapter of Dennis Rodkin's "deal estate." I have overcome the educational blow by blow of High School Education. Now, I move to the aggravation, once again, over the Restaurant ratings. "Aruns" is given a recommendation but a bogus 3 stars, when compared the four given to "Tru." Trumonte and Montuano seem like Chicago magazines poster children to the average cuisine charlatan. I suppose to each their own; I suppose that all chefs have better nights than others.
"Avenues" is given four for providing "ecclectic" Altoids on Lamb. "Alinea" gets four catcalls for bacon glazed with butterscotch. What is next Mentos infused in Pepsi infused with flaming Pussers Rum? How do you spell indigestion? Maybe dessert will feature Tums soaked in Gaviscon? I'll take pad tai and curry with all of the art and circuses, when I can afford Sampanthavivat. I suppose that there is something on every menu to enjoy, when the chef is brilliant and on key for the evening.

By that time, I have gotten over my disappointments complete with the memories of Tru with its command to order from the left or the right side, only; its clear kitchy lollipops and that evenings questionable service supposedly unheard of at this Trumonte gem. It is at that moment that my Baker's lukewarm 65-70 degree heated chicken pot pie is served with semi stewed carrots and celery.
The proffered second glass of iced tea sans ice is not particularly refreshing; it is still pushing 85 degrees farenheit. My waitress is definitely paying attention to the subtle gestures, but the ice in the pitcher melted. This left the tea a bit too Lipton. At least, the rolls are piping hot! If you had to choose, don't you wish that the rolls are cold and the pot pie is piping above a hundred degrees! Well, I'll have to order the guacamole burger next week.
My waitress did well. My past experiences with Bakers service are sometimes service disappointments. The food is usually better; the pie is good. Today, Tsehayens earned her twenty percent just for being tremendously more attentive than the last fifteen servers. Believe it or not the thought-provoking redhead is still there reading her newspaper which is spread across the table and cascading to the floor, as well. The patroness reminds me of Sara, a junior high classmate who was a worthy conversationalist. Years later, Sara moved West and came out of the closet as they say. Good grief, Charlie Brown!

I now wait for the host to transform from manager into the cashier. The redhead continues to be absorbed in her newspaper and doesn't seem to notice me. The mother-daughter combo suddenly rises up for the sychronized swim to the cashier. Go figure. I wait briefly, pay, and leave glad that Bakers is open. It certainly puts McDonalds to shame even if it costs a little more. I take my blurred photo in the parking lot, look like a terrorist to the local Marathon gas station attendant, jump into the car, and drive off into the night. This lasts for about a block or so until I reach the computer. Everyone is asleep. It is now Saturday.