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The Covid Winter Blues. January Adventures in Chicago

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Happy New Year, everyone! “Cheers, Good Fortune and Happiness”, is my wish to all for the upcoming year. I trust that your New Year celebrations have left you in good spirits, and you’re fully recovered from any hang-overs or other side effects. It’s time for more adventures!

Actually, there is still a bit of Christmas magic to be found. It’s almost over, so tonight, Friday, January 8th, let’s get out of that work-from-home computer rut.  We’re heading out tonight for Let It Shine, a spectacular, drive-thru light show that takes place at Northbrook Court. The displays are dazzling with well over one million lights that are synchronized to flash along with classic holiday songs. Check it out and make reservations at https://shinelightshow.com/.  Our tickets earn us a 20% discount at nearby DiPescara, https://www.di-pescara.com/, so let’s order take-out and have our dinner in our cars after we drive through the show. We’re both hungry, so the calamari appetizer to split and a burger with fries for each of us sounds like just the thing to munch on in the car. You like fish, correct? Try the horseradish crusted whitefish, it looks and sounds so delicious.

Wasn’t that just a fabulous dinner? The light show was just amazing, don’t you think? WOW! Well, the new year is already off to a good start, so drive home safely, and we’ll talk again tomorrow.

Today, Saturday, January 9th, let’s do something completely different and more than a bit crazy. I’m ready for crazy, aren’t you? The Chicago Polar Bear Club hosts a Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan annually to raise money for a few deserving Chicago area families. This year’s plunge is virtual:  ‘Plunge Where You Are’.

There are five steps that we’re all to do, and you can read about it here, https://www.chicagopolarbearclub.com/, but basically it involves signing up online, raising some money for needy families, doing something crazy in the snow or very cold water while dressed in a swimsuit or costume, and taking and posting selfies to the Club’s Facebook page.  Snow angels, that’s my goal, making snow angels in the front yard while dressed only in a swimsuit. YEAH!

Have we figured out how to video chat with friends, over dinner, and make believe that we’re actually sitting down together to eat and talk and relax as we used to? Yes, in fact we have, so this evening, Sunday January 10th, give us a video chat call and we’ll talk about food, complain about the winter weather, find out how the kids are doing, all that stuff. We can share secret family desert recipes for next week, OK?

Monday, January 11th, make your reservations for our ice skating trip to Rosemont, on Sunday January 31st, for 2pm. Please don’t forget; it will sell out before we get there. https://www.rosemont.com/thepark/entertainment/skating-in-the-park-2020/

This morning, Saturday, January 16th, please join us virtually, from your home workout zone, while we join Amber, from Hot Mess Yoga in her class that’s now streaming over the internet from one of our favorite places, Garfield Park Conservatory. This used to be an in-person class, but is now virtual and free (donations accepted, and yes, let’s help these fine folks). We’ll join Amber for a one-hour flow session, “from the comforts of your own home with the Conservatory as the background.” I’m a total beginner, but you’re a bit more experienced, right? It doesn’t matter, all are welcome to join. There is pre-registration required, so the Park can send you the video link.  Apparently bandwidth is a bit limited, so class size is too. Here is the calendar for the whole month: https://garfieldconservatory.org/events/, isn’t this cool?  Links to register were added on the first of the month, so dive right in! I know, it’s not the same as taking the class physically in the wonder spaces at the Conservatory, but for now, this will do nicely.  I’ll give you a call after class and we’ll catch up, OK?

Today, my friends, Monday, January 18th,  is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My suggestion to everyone, especially every American, is that we acquire a better understanding of the struggles that Black people have endured. To that end, we’re watching the WTTW presentation of Reconstruction: America After The Civil War. https://video.wttw.com/show/reconstruction-america-after-civil-war/ This great series is sometimes hard to watch, as we are taken through the thwarted attempts of President Andrew Johnson to allow prominent, and hard-line, Confederates to be seated in the House and Senate, and how that was prevented by Northern Republicans who simply, boldly and brilliantly refused to allow them their seats. We’ll see how promises made to the families of free slaves were first fulfilled, only to be taken back within a very short time. The episodes are all finely produced, extraordinarily well researched, and perfectly narrated. This is what we all need to see, understand and comprehend in order to finally work together to build a country that upholds the principles upon which America is based. We expect to take all week to watch every episode and all the extras, but it will be totally worth it.

This morning, friends, Saturday, January 23rd, we hope you’ll join us in supporting local businesses.  Order all your food for the day from one or more local restaurants. For breakfast, we’ll order from the brunch menu at Lula’s, http://lulacafe.com/, 2537 North Kedzie Blvd., a Logan Square favorite, and we’ll be having a Lox Platter, the Royale Sandwich, and a Bostock and an Apple Danish and share everything. Yummm.

Lunch will be from Manny’s Deli, https://www.mannysdeli.com/, 1141 South Jefferson Street, that famous Chicago source of endlessly delicious food. A massive beef Pastrami sandwich? Yes! An equally large, and equally satisfying corned-beef Reuben? Include that too, please. Too many choices are on the menu to make this easy, trust me.  There are delivery options for both the city and the suburbs, or you can drive over and pick it up.

For dinner we’ll indulge is some wonderful Italian food from Tufano’s Vernon Tap, 1073 W. Vernon Park Pl., https://sites.google.com/site/tufanosrestaurant/home, (312) 733-3393, where the Eggplant Parmesan is exquisite, just perfectly melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the taste of Veal Vesuvio will convince you that you’re almost in heaven. Two made-to-order Cannoli for desert, please.

Yes, that was quite the day of food experience, wasn’t it? We actually have enough left-overs to carry us another couple of days, so the warm memories will linger.  Ahhhh, yes.

We’ve decided that this whole experience with Covid, safety precautions, lock-downs, and the closure of so many venues and restaurants that we’ve so often visited in the past has left us, in some ways, estranged from the world and ignorant of everyday happenings.  We’re doing something about that and it’s working out.  Today, Sunday, January 24th, is podcast day in our household. We’ll route the computer to the TV and tune in to WBEZ, where we can, for example, binge on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, “Science Friday”, “Fresh Air” and a host of other broadcasts that will lift our spirits, bring out a few smiles and chuckles, and generally make our day lighter and happier. If this sounds good to you, too, please just go to https://www.npr.org/podcasts and click on any one that looks interesting. You’ll be hooked, I’m sure.


So it’s almost the end of the month, almost everything is still closed and the weather is typical for a Chicago winter, cold, slushy by day and frozen at night.  In a normal year, this would be a time to stay home and read a good book.  So hey, let’s act normal.  Chicago is home to a number of small, independent book stores that desperately need our help and support. I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately in need of a good, long book and the time to read it.  So today, Friday, January 29th, join me, will you, in buying a book from a small, local bookstore, such as Women and Children First, City Lit, After-Words or Bookies. They all have websites, online ordering, curbside pick-up and most will ship to your door. Most of them are open, with social distancing requirements, of course. Go there, in person or online, and get some good escape literature.

Welcome to the end of our Polar Bear Challenge! Today, Saturday, January 30th, it’s time to join the fun, virtually, to see the photos of the crazy things we did, perhaps throw some “trash talk” around with other crazy folks, learn about the families whose lives we’re helping, and congratulate each other on a job well done. We did it, we helped, we had some fun and laughter. Hooray!

Now it really is the end of the month, Sunday, January 31st. Remember those reservations we made two weeks ago? It’s time for ice skating! Can you hear the Wolves howling for us? The Chicago Wolves hockey team sponsors the winter rink that’s we be using today. This is in the Parkway Bank Park, 5501 Park Place, in Rosemont’s entertainment district, https://www.rosemont.com/thepark/ . Bring your own skates or rent skates online for $8. In order to ensure social distancing this year, the outdoor ice rink will limit capacities. We have to have our advance ice skating reservations, don’t forget. Our reservations are for 3pm, so meet us there, with skates and masks (of course), and be ready to gracefully glide through your Olympic skating routine.  Personally, my skating routine usually involves a fair amount of slipping and falling. It’s not pretty. Still fun, but not pretty.

Well, my friends and readers, we’ve made it through yet another month of adventure, despite the continuing effects of the Covid lock down. Vaccines are on the way, England started inoculating people in early December. With any luck we will get enough doses administered here in Chicago to let things open up properly before summer. In the meantime, stay happy, healthy, and adventurous, and we’ll meet again next month.