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October in Chicago: Ghosts and Pumpkins and Spooky Fun!

October 1, 2020 - October 31, 2020

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Well, friends, sadly, summer is over. The days are shorter than the nights, and the calendar seems to be rushing to the year’s end. While the infection rate seems to be slowing, the pandemic is still with us, and we are still being careful as we are out and about, so please remember your masks as we adventure.

Pandemic or not, we are adventuring! Please join us

Did you know that Thursday, October 8th, is the 149th Anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire? No matter what you may have heard, or “learned” in school, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow did not start the fire. The reporter who wrote the first story admitted, 10 years later, that he just made that up.  Sigh.  No one is really sure how it started, but it was one of the hottest and driest summers in history and the entire area around Lake Michigan was effectively one big tinder box.  In fact, the fire in Chicago, while the most famous, was not the only, or even the largest, fire that started that night.  The Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin was far larger in area and far more deadly. Deadly fires also sprang up that same night in several parts of Michigan, leading some researchers to theorize that the fires were all started by an meteor shower caused by the breakup of a comet. You can learn more here: http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060206chicagofire.htm

The fire in Chicago burned for three days, leveled over 3 square miles of the city, and left fully one third of city residents homeless. Regardless of how it started, let’s take a minute to think about that kind of unstoppable destruction. The spirit of Chicago is well demonstrated in the Burnham Plan that gave us our “Urbs in Horto.” (It’s Latin, meaning “City in a Garden”, the Chicago motto.)

Today, Saturday, October 10th, is a great day to remember that October is not just about ghosts, goblins and pumpkins.  It’s also harvest season and time to go pick apples.  Meet us after breakfast and we’ll drive out to Honey Hill Orchard, 11783 Waterman Rd., Waterman, IL, https://honeyhillorchard.com. Bring the kids of all ages, and we’ll roam the orchards in search of some of the 24 different varieties of apples these wonderful people grow each year.  There’s refreshing cider, of course, and tasty cider donuts as well.  The kids will love the Farm Petting Zoo and the play area just for them. After that we can all wander through the straw maze, getting lost and finding our way out. The air is so crisp and clear, I almost don’t mind that winter is coming, how about you? Oh look at that: there’s a food truck from Dirty Bird.  I can smell the deliciousness already and suddenly I’m hungry.  Let’s eat!

Pies! They have a reputation for great pies here; we’re definitely bring one of those home. The orchard’s own pure honey has also caught my eye, yes, indeed.  Hasn’t this been grand? Drive home safely!

Monday, October 12th, is Columbus Day. Columbus was the greatest navigator of his day, but, let’s face it, a terrible colonial administrator, so bad that he was forcibly removed and returned to Spain in chains.  His abuse of Caribbean islanders is well documented, so while we can still admire both his courage and skills at navigating, we can also recognize this as Indigenous Peoples Day and honor them as well.

Let’s have breakfast this morning in town, shall we?  Please meet us, about 9AM, on Saturday, October 17th, downtown at Sunny Side Up, 42 E. Superior St., https://www.sunnysideuprestaurant.com.  I’ve called ahead to make sure there’s some space for us, and will you look at this menu? The Florentine Skillet sounds very tempting, with mushrooms, spinach and gruyere mixed in with the eggs, potatoes and tomatoes, so please, go ahead and order. Me? I’m having Steak and Eggs. Yup, indeed, I haven’t had this in years and today I’m going to indulge. Coffee? Of course, thank you.

Let’s chat, just like old times. How are the kids?  Is work going well for both of you? We’re adapting to the “new normal” but it’s still very weird, isn’t it? Yes, it’s true, I just finished streaming this year’s Tour de France for the third time.  I have loved every stage, and still find it amazing that the riders were able to stay so healthy in the face of both race stresses and Covid dangers.  The whole race was spectacular. You still haven’t seen it? Then no, I won’t spoil it. HA!


We haven’t had a long day downtown in so long, it feels like forever.  Let’s just go stroll east to Michigan Ave., and walk through Grant and Millennium Parks, taking in the Autumnal changes. The trees are lovely, but the gardens are starting to look brown and rather bleak, don’t you think? It’s that time.  Buckingham Fountain is shut for the season, but maybe that gives us time to take a closer look at the intricate sculptures that make this fountain so famous around the world.  It’s quite the Chicago landmark.

Speaking of landmarks, we’re already at the Wrigley Building and right over there is the Tribune Tower, both wonderful icons of Chicago and the great people and companies and inventions that have come from this amazing town.  Check out the wall of the Trib tower; see all the little bits and pieces from places and buildings from around the world? How did these get here?  In many cases, the stories go, the bits were secreted out of foreign lands, but we’ll never know which ones. Some mysteries should never be solved.

We’ve walked a long way, so let’s pay a surprise visit down to the original Billy Goat Tavern, way down those stairs, underground, to lower 430 Lower Michigan Ave., where we’ll order some “cheezborgers” made so famous by Saturday Night Live.  Take out only, unfortunately, but we’ll go back into the light and find some place to sit and eat before we head back home.  Yes, of course we took the “L” train, you too, right? So we’ll just say goodbye now and head to our stations.  See you again soon!

The Chicago Botanic Gardens are always beautiful and so well tended, but now, in the Fall, the trees are in their full gold, red and yellow glory, so please join us this evening, Saturday, October 24th,  at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, for a Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns. Trust me, this is not to be missed.  Seasonal drinks and snacks such as spiked cider and ale will also be available, just to add to the fun. Get your tickets early, here: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/halloween, and lets drive up in one car, to share parking costs.

Yes, the paths of the Gardens will be festooned with intricately carved pumpkins.  Some will weigh 150 pounds, and each one will be completely different from any of the others.  All of them are real pumpkins, isn’t this amazing? Do you see the different LED colors on display? The artists who carved these are very talented, don’t you think? I’ve read that they used knives and gouges, which are typical carving tools, but also scalpels (holy cow!) and even power tools to achieve just the right effects. Do you believe this one? Amazing! I am so glad you could join us tonight. We’ll see you next weekend!

Today, Saturday, October 31st, is Halloween.  I heard you’re throwing a costume party, is that right?  We’ll be there, dressed as Pirates! Or maybe Frankenstein’s Monster and Bride! Or…hmmm, this will require some thought.   Actually, with the Covid-19 restrictions that are still in place, we’re thinking that a very small gathering of friends and family is more in order, lest our otherwise outrageously daring and wonderful party become an emergent Covid hotspot.  Have fun, stay safe, and tell us all about it later, please? Even if it’s just at home, dress in a fun costume, turn the music up, dance around, have a blast, and end the night watching some classic horror movie on TV.

Well, has this not been a fabulous month of adventuring through the whole Chicago area? Once again, dear readers, my friends, our Chicago adventures have taken us right through the month and into the new one. Let’s catch our breath, relax for a few days, and we’ll meet again next month.  Until then, stay safe and keep on adventuring!