Tag Archive: chicago

It is Reading Challenge time again and I am really excited this month.

My choice for this month features a writer who is a friend, we have worked together in the past, and she has guest posted on my blog. I am talking about Kim Strickland. I love her writing because it makes me laugh on a regular basis.

Now that I have the full disclosure done, let me say that Kim has a new novel coming out called Down at the Golden Coin – her second – and she sent me a review copy. I read it fairly quickly despite the fact I was seriously distracted by the Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio (which I will write about later). At first I was not too keen on the location – until we get hit with the sucker punch of …”Maybe I am the answer to your prayer.”

Cover Image from Eckhartz Press

The story starts and ends in a laundromat – The Golden Coin to be exact. It is not a yuppie laundromat with ferns and a bar next door. This one is hot and humid with a limited selection of drinks in the pop machine. Our protagonist, Annie, is going through a rough time and wishing to find a way to go. That is when she meets Violet, a cobalt blue-haired punker chick who is not as tough as she may appear, and states she is a messiah. Specifically, she is Annie’s messiah. She is here to help Annie get her life back on track even if things end badly. Which they tend to do for her.

As I and other patrons of the Golden Coin listen to their conversation, I can’t tell you how much I found myself agreeing with the conversation – from both sides. I understood where Annie was coming from and understood what Violet was teaching her.

I loved this book because I related to Annie. I know what it is like to get fired from a job, to lose that income and prestige, to feel like you are spinning your wheels but are helpless to do anything else. That is where our personal similarities end, but trust me, I know Annie.

I also enjoyed the writing. It was bright, introspective, unfailingly honest. Sarcasm is spoken well here. I am the type of person who reads for beautiful descriptive sentences. There is this one… “Like no other man I’ve known, Jake reeks of success.” It tells me everything I need to know about this guy, at least what he looks like – his confidence, his swagger.

I also look for characters to remain true to their basic personality traits. When a messiah comes along to give you a message, I wonder how any of us would act but I knew Annie was being real. She was scared but intrigued, as much as she said she wanted real answers the truth of her life frightened her. More importantly, I never felt that Annie, Violet or the other characters acted unlike themselves. They stayed true to themselves, stayed true to their codes which can be really hard when the writer is fighting for a happy ending.

The book was worth my time, a worthwhile read. If Kim tells me she has another book coming out, you can bet I am in line waiting for my copy.

Down at the Golden Coin is being released on March 20th. You can order your copy at Eckhartz Press.


Out On The Lake.

Wordless Wednesday

Last week we took a lovely cruise on Lake Michigan to see the fireworks at Navy pier. Here are a few pictures I took before motion sickness got the better of me. However, after my 14 y.o. son was sick with the same thing over the weekend, I am beginning to wonder if I had the same thing that was aggravated by the waves. I was sicker much longer than I should have been.

Even so, here are some of my pictures of the trip. It was truly wonderful.

They followed us out and later followed us in.


Doesn't that make you want to own one?


Miine! Miine! Miine!


On the high waters of Lake Michigan.


The reflection of the moon on the Lake.

What has been the highlight of your summer?

Losing My Radio Station

Product Thursday

Normally at this spot of the week I am talking about something great that I love and enjoy or that my kids love and enjoy.

But this week I want to talk about a product that had disappeared.

Those of us in the Chicagoland area know Q101. In the 80s and 90s, it was the pop station to listen to with crazy man Robert Murphy at the helm.

Former Q101 morning hosts Sherman and Tingle, image from Illinois Entertainer 08/2008.

In the last few years the station has been Alternative Rock which really appealed to people who like rock with a harder drive to it. My kids played the station all of the time; it was on their alarm clock coming on at 6:45 a.m.

However, the station has been bought by Merlin Media and is making a change to being all news. All of the DJs have been fired and replaced by feel-good names from the past. For now the music is what parents of the former listeners listen to until they can get the news stuff set up.

For me the issue is where can music that Q101 used to play be found on the radio now? There are plenty of stations that play music geared for aging baby boomers in our area. But anything outside of that pop/adult contemporary realm is getting slimmer.

In Chicago we have 1 country station. We have 1 station that plays alternative music of all genres. We have 1 classical station. We have 1 station that plays hiphop or R&B music. And God forbid if any of these stations veer out of their comfort zone.

I could go into “when I was a kid stations played a little of everything.” But I am not sure that was true then. I knew about Aretha and Marving Gaye because they were big enough to crossover. Same for Reba and Alabama.

What I really want to get into is how by not having an alternative station, where will those listeners go to find their music. I know that Q101 is going to a web-based station and I saw on the site that all old DJs are invited to return.

However, this leaves a bunch of fans wondering where to find the music of their choice. Perhaps the listenership means nothing to the new owners who are really working on an axe to grind with a former employer. But these “kids” or young adults or fans of harder driving music were right in that ideal media share of 18 – 54 year old males who like to buy stuff.

Trust me, it worked in my house. Especially when my boys wanted to go to the Jamboree hosted by the station every year in June. We bought them and two friends tickets for the all-day event plus gave money to buy food, drink and souvenirs.

I hope that some station in the area is looking at what they have, not liking it and thinking they can make a change. If you are an easy listening station that is the lowest in the ranks, maybe it is time to make a change. There is a market share without a radio station. Doesn’t someone want to claim them?

While I do not miss the music personally (nothing like getting awaken by the song ‘Nightmare’), I miss it for the boys who really loved it.

Have you ever lost a radio station you really loved?

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As the end of the school year gets closer, so does the thought of all of those parties and gatherings and fun times.

I know the kids are anxious for that day to get here. I believe there is a count down going on in my house for the end of school as eighth grade comes to a close.

This time period is so hard on kids (and teachers) that it reminded me of a great movie from when I was a teen.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off stars Matthew Broderick as that one cool kid who can get away with just about anything. He is the guy who is friends with everyone in high school. The one kids who has charmed various people so that he can get his way every day.

But this day, he decides to take the day off to go to Chicago for one of the first glorious days of summer. Along for the ride is his beautiful girlfriend, Mia Sara, and best bud, the morose Alan Ruck. They take Ruck’s father’s prized red convertible to make the day that much better.

It is one adventure after another with close calls and tough emotional decisions that must be made. Jennifer Gray also stars as Broderick’s sister who is always trying to bust him. Perhaps the best scene is the parade segment, maybe it is when Ferris is introducing himself or maybe it is the denouement when all is discovered and only a miracle can save Ferris.

I think it is the whole package that makes this movie magical and wonderful.

That is what makes The Breakfast Club wonderful as well. It is a movie filled with stereotypes. Each student being forced to serve a Saturday detention represents a group in high school. The nerd, the jock, the popular girl, the goth, the insolent troublemaker. Even the principal is a stereotype of a guy who wanted life to be different.

These five people do something that no one expects. They talk to each other and bond. They find what they have in common and what separates them from others. It is a movie that shakes school life down to the bare roots, exposes and replants them – changing our thinking along with these five kids.

John Hughes took his troupe featuring Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson and made real kids out of them. He created a classic that remains true about high school life through the years. Plus, there is a kick butt theme song. No movie about high school should be without one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to P.O. Box 306, St. Anne, IL 60964 or become my friend on Facebook.

Saying Goodbye, Chicago Style.

This past week saw the passing of Ron Santo, the radio color man for the Chicago Cubs. He was a third baseman for the club from the 1969 club that did a spectacular downward spiral at then end of that season.

We could argue if he belongs in the Hall of Fame but let’s not. He was seemingly good guy, one of the better players and full of passion for the game. Cub fans love him but his was some of the worst anouncing I ever heard. That is my opinion and I do not wish to be beaten up for it. 

Picture by Karen Castens

However, I am not sure how many non-Chicagoans noticed that the funeral procession went past the Chicago Tribune building and Wrigley Field before going on to the cemetary.

I know some of you might be thinking that is weird or maybe you are thinking that was a nice gesture to drive by the ball park where Ronny lived and breathed and dived into the dirt.

However, it was none of those. It is a Chicago tradition.

Perhaps they do not do it in your state or city but in Chicago the funeral procession with the hearse goes past the decease’s home before heading to the cemetary. It might make the drive longer and more difficult. But it is what we do.

A few years ago when my Auntie Mary died, we drove past her neat bungalow on the southwest side. We did it for my grandmother and grandfather who lived in Pilsen.

The funniest procession story may be my grandfather’s. It was a cold and wet day, just before Christmas. You have to understand the neighborhood used to be Slovak and eastern European. During the white flight years, many of these people moved out and Hispanic people moved in.  My grandmother refused to move.

Picture by DHarder

I forget the name of the funeral director but it was Valasquez or Valdez or V-something. The procession had driven past the house and turned onto the main drag. That is when the funeral director, Ray, stopped everything so that he could get the interlopers in the line out. People either did not see the honken big hearse or did not want to be bothered with the niceties of waiting for the procession.

That is when I notice that my mother is laughing to herself. She points to her younger sister and they share a knowing look. I ask what is going on. My mother explains that the hearse is parked right outside of Grandpa’s favorite bar.

We are in the middle of Pilsen, on the way to the cemetary and, apparently, Grandpa needs to say goodbye to one more place. So he does and we drive past.

A year ago we buried my Aunt Barbara next to her husband, Pedro. Because her casket was coming from Indiana, many of us did not drive past her former home in Little Village or the family home in Pilsen. I missed that tradition although I did enjoy getting to talk to cousins I have not seen in a long time.

I am sure Cub fans feel the same way. It was fitting and right that Santo’s hearse went by the ball field. After all, it has been a home for him for most of the last forty years in one way or another. He was able to say goodbye to the most historic field in the country that is still standing.

That alone is worth every mile out of the way from the cemetary.

Goodbye, Ronny. Maybe, this is finally the year.


picture by runron

Monday, June 28 – $2.55

Tuesday, June 29 – $2.55

Wednesday, June 30 – $2.74

Saturday, July 3 – $2.69

Monday, July 5 – $2.69

I am not journaling my daily candy expenditure. This was gas prices in my county last week. The $2.55 was only at some of the stations but those stations were quite popular.

I listed the gas prices to show why those of us in Illinois are so frustrated. We never know what to expect from day-to-day when it comes to gas prices. I live in a very small town that is 15-20 minutes from another town. Our gas prices are always higher, from 5¢ to 9¢ per gallon higher than the next town over. And that is why I will never buy gas from our town stations unless I absolutely have to do so.

Picture by Ariadna

Worse yet, prices can vary greatly depending on how close you live to Chicago. In Kankakee (K3) County, prices can be up to 30¢ per gallon lower than what they are in Chicago. From my experience of working in the south suburbs, just going 40 miles north meant an increase of 8¢ to 10¢ per gallon.

Crazy you think? It gets better.

Go south of here by about a half-an-hour to an hour and you will find prices lower by 5¢ to 10¢ again. Watseka and Champaign will always have lower prices. Makes me want to have excuses to travel there.

 Now some people might think there is some sort of conspiracy going on. When I used my Linked-In connections to find an expert, one of the first questions was on unfair taxes in K3 County. This person wanted to know why our prices are closer to that of Chicago as opposed to some he sees in the Western Burbs.

 I did a lot of searching and found nothing about specific gas taxes for K3 County. There was a proposal in 2008 to get one on the books that would have pushed a tax of 16% on every gallon of gas sold in the county. However, that was voted down in the voting booth in November of 2008 according to http://www.outragenew.org. Thanks to Outrage, that tax never happened.

Furthermore, I am not sure where this person is going in the Western suburbs of Chicago because I have not seen that great of difference when I travel about.  I do notice that our price for gas per gallon is close to the price per gallon of a gas station near the University Park METRA train station. I suspect that is so business will naturally go there. Having travel for work a bit in that area, I would not allow that one gas station to be your barometer for gas prices.

But what I do know is that gas prices at the pump are affected by oil futures market prices. When you listen to the radio you might hear the report of what the price per barrel is currently. I started watching this and noticed that when the price per barrel went up, gas prices here would go up by 15¢ to 20¢ per gallon. And when barrel prices come down, pump prices trickle down by 2¢ to 5¢ per gallon.

Another person who wrote me stated the future market affects the prices as does availability of product, ability to refine the crude to gasoline, taxes (federal, state and local), and various cogs in the machine setting up their profit margins. That does make sense. (Thanks for the good info, Robert) Quite frankly, these businesses do need to make money.

On the other hand, I do not want to be gouged for the mistakes of BP.

Picture by Nacu

Within a week or so of that tragic explosion gas prices in my area went up 30¢ per gallon. So now I am paying for the mistake they are not able to fix. Granted, prices have gone down since then. And perhaps it should.

For the last five years, the public has heard report after report of trillion dollar profits from the oil companies. While Americans are tightening their belts and thinking how to make due on fewer trips in the car, these guys are rolling in the dough by all appearances.

 Instead of making us pay for their mistakes at the gas pump, it is time for these companies to pay for their mistakes. Start with those trillions of profit from the last few years.

Karyn Bowman lives in Kankakee County with her husband and children. Become friends with Karyn on Facebook.