Your Chicago Correspondent
WOW! It’s been a whirlwind summer already, hasn’t it? This is the best time of year, the hot temperatures, sunny skies, and breezy winds make for pleasant days and evenings to enjoy to the fullest. So, let’s begin right away.
On Sunday, August 7th, The Spinners have a show at the Des Plaines Theatre, 1476 Miner Street, www.desplainestheatre.com/, starting at 5:00 pm. Please join us; the Spinners are Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, Grammy Award nominees, with nine #1 singles and a host of other hit songs and albums. Their songs include “I’ll Be Around”, “Then Came You” featuring Dionne Warwick, “Working My Way Back to You”, and a whole bunch more. It’s great R&B, ageless and soulful.
We haven’t eaten since lunch. Will you join us on a visit to Mehanata, http://restaurantmehanata.com, 1141 Lee St, Des Plaines? It’s a family-owned Bulgarian and Eastern European restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating, with a full menu of fresh and colorful salads. Let’s share a “Mehanata” salad to start, OK? We can follow that with a plate of Spicy Baked Goat Cheese, and for dinner I’m selecting Kavarma, a plate of pork (or chicken) sauteed in wine, with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. They had me with ‘sauteed in wine’. The Chicken Roll-up? The name does not do justice to a stuffing of ham, peppers, pickles and cheese, and look, it’s covered in mushroom sauce. Oh, yes, of course we can all share, isn’t that the point? There is so much more to try, we’ll have to return, soon.
More adventure awaits us this Saturday, August 13th, in the Ravenswood neighborhood, on Wilson Ave. between Hermitage Ave. and Ravenswood Ave., at the Thirsty Ears Festival. This is Chicago’s only classical music street festival, and one of only a few in the country, featuring groups playing live music from the Baroque era through to contemporary compositions. This will be great. Let’s get good spots near the main stage before 2pm, when we’ll hear Chicago Chamber Music Fest followed by a host of other classical music ensembles.
Now for a different summer excursion; today, Sunday, August 14th, it’s time to celebrate the sunshine with a trip to Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave, https://navypier.org. Let’s start at Polk Brothers Park, named for the famous retailers whose family funded the rebuilding of the overgrown and dilapidated space. Isn’t that a wonderful plaza and fountain?
From here we’ll walk north past the Pier to Jane Addams Memorial Park, named for the rabble-rouser, women’s rights leader, ethicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who wrote, “Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.” Such words are still a strong, valuable message for us all.
Bordering Addams Park is Olive Park, honoring Milton Lee Olive the first black soldier in the Vietnam War to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. In a very real sense these are sacred places, peaceful and calming in the midst of all this urban hustle.
Speaking of ‘urban hustle’ it’s time to go out and walk the Pier. Are you hungry? Let’s grab a “cheesborger, cheesborger” at the Billy Goat Tavern, then how about a ride on the Centennial Ferris Wheel? It takes us up 150 ft. (46m) and from up here we can see Promontory Point, Hyde Park and the whole south shore of Lake Michigan all the way to Indiana.
Now it’s time for a special treat. Rainbow Cone has a location right here on the Pier, let’s go. Rainbow Cones was invented right here in Chicago by Joe Sapp in 1926, when he and his wife, Katherine, opened shop. To make something special, Joe sliced, rather than scooped, five delicious flavors, Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House, Pistachio, and Orange Sherbet into one very tasty cone. You can really taste all the flavors as you eat, can’t you? Every bite is a taste surprise, just perfect for a hot, sunny August afternoon at the Lake. See you soon.
Meet us in the morning today, Friday, August 19th, because we’re going to Joliet. The first ever Blues Brothers Con opens today, in the yards of “Old Joliet Prison” (as it’s now called), 1125 N Collins St, Joliet. In a partnership between the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Dan Aykroyd, Judith Belushi Pisano (John Belushi’s widow) and the Belushi family, the fest was created to highlight the cultural impact that The Blues Brothers movie had on us, and to pay a much-needed tribute to the legacy of blues and gospel music that is so important to the history and culture of Chicago and the US.
The fest’s gates open at 2:00 pm, and includes a presentation from The Last Prisoner Project, https://www.lastprisonerproject.org/, dedicated to the release of those in prison for marijuana possession, and the full clearance of their records. This is an excellent project, let’s listen up.
After sets from Toronzo Cannon, Curtis Salgado and others, the final act of the evening is a 90-minute set from Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, aka Elwood Blues and Brother Zee. Since the tickets are a two-day pass, we’ll be back tomorrow for the gospel music services in the morning, then more blues from The Chicago Blues Angels and others. We’ll eat at stands from local restaurants and take in a Bluesmobile car show. The end of all this amazing fun is a big screen presentation of The Blues Brothers. WOW! It’s still a great movie.
After another week of hard work, today, Saturday, August 27th, let’s spend the day in Greektown, https//greektownchicago.org. We can meet at Artopolis, 306 S. Halsted St., about noon, have coffee and a bakery treat before walking up and down Halsted St. to take in all the artwork on display for “My Painted Lyre: Seeing Music in Chicago’s Greektown”. There are 26 pieces commissioned to celebrate “music with personal interpretations of the “lyre,” that ancient Greek instrument, reimagined in modern-style sculpture.” The artists drew inspiration from science, history, Greek mythology, and more.
Among these intriguing pieces is one called Day and Night, by Olena Diadenko, a local artist of Ukrainian heritage who says tells us, “Two women, Day and Night, are each dressed in traditional Ukrainian outfits and surrounded by the fields of wheat and poppies. They represent the beauty and rich folklore of Ukrainian culture. One of the women (Day) holds a bundle of wheat that represents prosperity and life in Ukraine. Another woman (Night) holds a dove of peace and poppies that speak to the beauty of the land.”
Another, String Theōros by Terry Poulos, brings us a work of great intellectual as well as artistic depth. It’s meant to convey the convergence of the musical theories to quantum theories asserting that particles of matter are created in the vibrations of quantum threads of interaction. That’s a lot to wrap our brains around, isn’t it?
Compare those two pieces with Lyrical by Diane Thodos, inspired by images from ancient Greek pottery showing emotion and movement in lyre players that still capture our imaginations today.
After all that walking and thinking, I’m thinking it’s about time for dinner so let’s just wander into Athena, www.athenachicago.com, 212 S. Halsted St., and sample from their many offerings. Zagat says this is the best outdoor dining in town, the spacious patio with its fountain and columns are designed to bring the “actual experience of ancient Greece”. How about starting with a plate of bread and pita? We get three dipping choices; my votes are for the spicy feta cheese (terokafteri), fish roe and potato (taramosalata), and roasted eggplant with garlic (melitzanosalata).
For appetizers, how about an order of spanikopitakia to go with our flaming saganaki? For dinner, everything seems so good, but for me it’s the exohico, lamb, veggies and feta wrapped in phyllo dough. Or perhaps a combo plate with dolmades, pastitsio, and lamb with rice and potato. Isn’t this delicious? With a glass or two of a good Greek wine, it’s the perfect end to the day. Thank you again.
In our monthly adventure tradition, we’ve gone right into next month because today, Thursday, September 1st, is the day the Chicago Jazz Festival opens. Please join us in Millennium Park this evening for the start of my favorite festival. This year’s celebration of all things Jazz includes Henry Threadgill and Zooid, Bill Frisell, William Parker and his quintet, Miguel Zenón, Linda May Han Oh and Jazzmeia Horn and there will undoubtedly be other great artists as well.
This is the best festival of the summer. The crowds are mellower and the atmosphere reflects the music we’re enjoying; relaxed and cool. There’s always new, rising talent to discover, and established favorite artists to engage you in familiar tunes. It’s been an excellent evening, don’t you think? The festival runs all weekend; we’ll be back for more.
Did you know that President Cleveland inaugurated Labor Day, and deliberately made it on a Monday, in a blatant effort to quell the rising emotions of America’s labor force after he called in the US Army to violently break up the peaceful Pullman Strike in Chicago? Mr. Pullman lowered wages to his workers, most of whom lived in housing that he owned and they rented from him. Rents, of course, remained the same, putting all those workers under severe financial strain. The subsequent strike crippled American transportation, since then, as today, most of the nation’s railroads passed through Chicago. The Army was called in to break the strike, and eventually did so, often violently. To head off the public backlash, President Cleveland and Congress passed the act declaring Labor Day a national holiday just six days after the strike was broken. So, on September 5th, when we take our much-deserved day off, let’s take a moment of silence to remember those in America’s labor movement who worked, fought and died to give us decent working conditions. We’re not all the way there yet, but we’re a lot farther than we were in 1894.
So, until next month, dear readers and friends, live for adventure.