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Near and Far: April Adventures in and Around Chicago

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent


Hello fellow adventurers! Have you been watching the world once again turn green? Isn’t it wonderful?

Although “April showers bring May flowers”, we never let a little rain interfere with our fun, and April is no different. Here we go!

You all received our best wishes for a holy and happy Easter celebration. It all went wonderfully with us and we hope it was at least that good for you and your gathering.  The Easter lilies remind us that the earth has thawed and it’s time to get that garden ready for planting! We have work to do expanding the vegetable garden, preparing the soil in the raised beds, and getting the seedlings ready to plant. They won’t go in until next month, of course, but in the meantime, let’s all spend some time in our own yards, on our hands and knees, working the soil gently and getting our hands really dirty in a good way. It’s quite rewarding, don’t you agree?

Gardening is its own adventure, of course, and our weekday lives are still hard at work, so how about some special fun, tonight, Friday, April 9thEris Brewery &  Cider House, 4240 W. Irving Park Rd., www.erischicago.com, has a great menu, a spacious interior for distanced seating and an excellent selection of tasty, flavorful brews and ciders. Let’s make reservations for a couple of tables inside (each only seats 4 people), and start the weekend off with a proper beverage and some good pub food.

Fried pickles and some Mac & Cheese for Sharing look to be delicious appetizers, don’t they? The Chef’s Specials change periodically, so we’ll check the menu. I’m looking for the Duck Confit Grilled Cheese, with shiitake mushrooms, red onions, goat and muenster cheese, all cooked to perfection and served on toasted polenta bread.  Otherwise, on the regular menu, the Spanakopita Grilled Cheese, or perhaps the Smoked Brisket Melt, or…, oh, come on, they all look so good.  We’ll each have to order something different and share a few bites.

Eris is a cider house, with a variety of fruit ciders, not just apple. I’m starting off with a blueberry cider they call “Van Van Mojo”, but don’t be surprised when I follow that up with a cherry cider named “Blush”. There’s plenty of beer, mixed drinks, and a number of other unusual liquids; go ahead, try something different.

This is fun, and it’s great to be back together. Is your work going well? How are the kids doing? Us? We’re doing quite well, in fact, and thank you for asking.  Catching up with good friends is always rewarding, and Eris is impressive. I’m sure we’ll be back, but now it’s time to head home. So travel safely and we’ll meet again soon.

Today, Saturday, April 10th, first thing in the morning, please remember to make reservations for next month to see the exhibit, “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes”, at the Museum of Science and Industry, www.msichicago.org.  We all need reservations, of course, and this exhibit is selling out quickly, so please don’t forget.  On display will be hundreds of pieces from the Marvel Universe: original art work, pages from comics, movie costumes and props, and a lot more.  Our reservations are for May 15th at 12:30pm. We can’t wait!

While we are at it, let’s book some time at the Shedd Aquarium, www.sheddaquarium.org/, for later this month, perhaps the 24th? Pick a time and let us know, so we can reserve for that time as well.  Until then, be sure to check out the many videos we can view from that worn-out spot on the couch.

National Record Store Day, https://recordstoreday.com, is supposed to be in April, but with a winter and spring still full of pandemic-related restrictions, the organizers have moved to a different way to support your local music store. “RSD Drops” will be happening occasionally throughout the year, with dates scheduled around new releases from independent record labels, and individual stores handling things as they think best.  With that in mind, let’s call ahead, and then head out to Hyde Park Records, 1377 East 53rd St., (773) 288-6588,  where we can browse through a seemingly endless selection “of Jazz, Blues, Soul and Gospel and a new and expanding selection of rock and modern rock as well as Hip-Hop…” Will you be picking something new? I’m always curious and interested in expanding my musical comfort zone, so I’ll grab something I’ve never seen before, to go with a newer copy of something in my collection that’s gotten all scratchy and irritating.

Thank you for joining us, it’s been a great time.  We’ll meet you again soon.

This week, everyone, beware! Because Thursday, April 15th, is better known as Tax Day. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your return filed before midnight!

I need something different, how about you? If you’re up for it, this Saturday, April 17th, let’s go get some real, honest-to-goodness, genuine Chicago-style barbecue at Lem’s Bar-B-Q, 311 E. 75th Street, Chicago, http://lemsque.com, where we’ll order a large rib tips & hot links combo, with fries, bread, extra sauce, and some cole slaw and potato salad for pick up. This is the real deal: Lem’s uses the unique-to-Chicago aquarium style smoker, and tips and links are the traditional meats cooked this way. There aren’t enough places that use this technique, so supporting pitmasters like the Lemon brothers is satisfying in more ways than one.

Didn’t I tell you? This is so good. Oh yes, more please. Yes it’s rich and full of fat, but this is no time to count calories. We’ve paid our taxes, life is good, it’s time to eat delicious food that’s cooked right here by genuine Chicago folks. Totally worth the drive, don’t you agree?

This year Earth Day is expanded into three days of action, from Tuesday, April 20th through Thursday, April 22nd.  It’s undeniable that human activity is having huge negative effects upon our planet, and it’s still the only one we’ve got.  We all need to make every little contribution we can toward reducing our own carbon emissions, reuse and recycle as much as possible, and even be fully aware of keeping our city and our neighborhoods clean. Of course we also need to make governments accountable and responsible for the messes that they make. Democracy, especially in America, “is a full contact sport”, and what better way to make contact?  I’ll be volunteering with the Park District on a local clean up campaign, how will you be helping?

Today, Saturday, April 24th, we’re meeting at the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, on the Museum Campus, remember? This will be, as always, extraordinary. The exhibits include colorful Caribbean fish, exotic seadragons, hammerhead and other sharks, and even stingrays.  There are lots of safety measures in place of course, so we’ll be walking along a well-marked route as we venture along.  Look at those piranhas, and all those different jellyfish! They glow in the dark water, and that feature serves as both a warning to predators and a lure for the fish and animals they prey upon. Interesting and so beautiful, but dangerous, so I’m glad they are on the other side of the glass.

This weekend is a great time to celebrate Chicago’s jazz heritage. Today, Thursday, April 29th, is Duke Ellington Day, so the playlist will feature the Duke, as well as Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis and so many others.  My windows will be down with the music loud as I’m driving, so yeah, that’s me, blasting jazz. Listen up.  Non-stop jazz all weekend, now that’s something to celebrate.

Friday, April 30th, is International Jazz Day, so let’s finish working a bit early, and we’ll meet for a late lunch, at 3:30pm, at Demera, https://demerachicago.com/, an inviting and wonderful Ethiopian restaurant at 4801 N. Broadway, where we can indulge in one of their Chef’s Selection Messob, a family style dinner for sharing eight different dishes, including seafood, beef, lamb, chicken and more than one vegetarian recipe.  It’s incredible, isn’t it? From the moment we walked in, the smells have been oh-so-amazing, and now, have you tried the lamb yet? Words do not adequately describe this.

“Yes, it’s amazing, but what does this have to do with jazz?” you ask. Well, aside from jazz’s African roots, we just happen to be across the street from one of Chicago’s oldest jazz venues, so let’s finish up and get in line for a booth or table at The Green Mill, https://greenmilljazz.com/. This landmark jazz institution, located at 4802 N. Broadway, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, is open with a posted schedule of Thursday and Friday events; others occur on short notice. Tonight we’ll get there early, and grab a table before the club fills to current capacity.  The music starts at 5:00pm, with Chris Foreman playing his jazz piano until 7:30, and there will likely be another band after Mr. Foreman has thrilled, soothed and captivated us.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. We’ll talk the way we used to, remember? Catching up and telling jokes, beware! Covid has left me full of puns. HA! Have you heard the one…

Well that was more fun than ever, wasn’t it?  Be safe and careful; we’ll see you soon.

Yesterday, it’s true, was also Arbor Day, a day set aside in many countries, especially the U.S., for the care and planting of trees.  But we did not spend much time with the trees or the garden, so let’s do that today, instead.  Since Saturday, May 1st, is officially May Day, we could dance barefoot around the May pole, but honestly, I’d rather help my city and neighborhood do a bit more clean up and perhaps plant a tree or two.  We’ll be contacting our alderman to see what activities are available, or we’ll volunteer to help the Park District clean up a park and plant a few trees, and we encourage everyone to join in.  This feels like real work, right?

For those of us who celebrate holidays on  the Eastern calendar, today, Sunday May 2nd, is Easter Sunday.  Take time to gather your family, and those close to you, pray, feast, and celebrate the Resurrection and the hope it brings to everyone.

Well, dear readers, friends and fellow adventurers, we’ve once again adventured right into next month, and helped make our little space in the world a bit cleaner, a bit better, for ourselves and our children.  What could be better?

Until next month, keep adventuring!