When the word got out that we were planning a visit to The States and that our first stop would be the Windy City, two of our friends, originally from those parts, got excited, very excited, maybe more excited than we were (well, than I was). Bryna Lee went so far as to notify some old friends of theirs that we would be in their neck of the woods and suggested that they invite us to spend Shabbat with them in W. Rogers Park. A series of emails followed between us and Sherwin, and we were duly invited.
What could they feed us; what could we bring them? I understand, Sherwin, that you are a coffee drinker. Shall I bring you some extraordinary coffee from my supplier? No thanks, I drink instant these days. How about some wine? My wife drinks wine; I’m OK with grape juice. I get the picture: a good guy with simple tastes.
The Fri. morning in question, Tina made a stop along the way at Whole Foods, a topic for an article of its own. Having been out of shopping range these fifteen years, I had never been to any Whole Foods store. There’s a lot of stuff in ones of these squeaky-clean emporiums, some of which we could actually eat. Yes, they actually had kosher wine. OK, they had two kinds of drinkable kosher wine, but that gave me something of a ‘choice,’ as I only needed one bottle to bring with us.
After spending much of the day with our kids, we were back in our luxury suite on N. LaSalle, all by our lonesome, as everyone else had decamped to their lakefront property in Michigan. And then bells and whistles started going off. Sherwin was trying to get hold of us. The deal was off; we were being uninvited. (Oh no!) Maybe it was because we had spent time with Tina, duly-masked, or maybe because they had spoken with a friend who is a nurse in a COVID unit, who scared the living daylights out of them (even if they test negative, they can still…), or maybe it was because of their own health issues, or maybe it was a combination of why-they-shouldn’t’s), but we would not be welcome at their doorstep.
We can understand your concerns, but, ummmm, it’s Friday afternoon, we’re all alone here, and we have nothing prepared for Shabbat, and by now, all the stores are closed, and even if they weren’t, it would be hard for us to get around, and as we’re strangers in these parts, we wouldn’t even know where to go to get what we need.
We had them there. They couldn’t just turn their backs and leave us to starve over Shabbat. That would not be neighborly. To their credit, they proverbially stepped up to the plate and knocked in the winning run – if I may toss in a cliché or two. A few hours later, with enough time to return to W. Rogers Park, they arrived laden with stuff: more than enough food for several Shabbat meals, some victuals for a seudat shlishit, even some herring and whisky for a reasonable kiddush Shabbat morning. (I don’t want the bottle back. The few fingers of Chivas Regal had probably been languishing on a shelf for who knows how long. Not my favorite, but I’ll make do.) They supplied paper goods, plastic cups, even a warming tray. (Even a warming tray!) It’s as if they were expecting some similar emergency and wanted to be prepared. I would miss out on experiencing Shabbat in W. Rogers Park – and who doesn’t want to be wined and dined in a community you’ve never been to before – but at least we wouldn’t be gnawing at the wallpaper.
Let’s take a walk around the block
Shabbat morning, after the virtual minyan finished davening, we set out a spread for the virtual kiddush club. Granted, it’s not as exhilarating as the real thing, with the lively chatter of a few friends, but it is what it is. A little bit of the Scotch, some cold coffee made the day before from our hosts’ Nespresso machine (definitely not Brandon’s cold brew) and some Vita herring in wine sauce – by far, the star of the show. And then, before lunch, let’s take a walk, up N. LaSalle Ave. to the actual Lincoln Park, after which the neighborhood was named.
We walked several blocks, and then, intrigued, I stopped dead in my tracks. Let’s say someone doesn’t have Facebook or some other similar social medium but does have a ground floor apartment that faces the street. Why not print out some slogans and tape them to a window to start a useless discussion? That’s what this guy had done. (I had to go back the next day bright and early to photograph the window for posterity. I hope the guy appreciates my efforts.)
Let’s take the memes one at a time. Start with John Locke, one of the all-time smart people worthy of our respect. Of course, at the time, he was railing against the abuses of the British monarchy; where he would fit on today’s political spectrum is anybody’s guess. Taking Sowell’s quote at face value, he seems to be objecting to any form of representative democracy, where we elect people to make decisions and pay them for that privilege. Or is he referring only to the ‘other guys,’ the politicians he doesn’t like? While it is true that the more things cost, the more money the government rakes in in tax revenue, that does not prove that inflation is the same as taxation – with or without legislation – as Milton Friedman contends. If I saw these memes on Facebook, I would just keep scrolling; the worst thing anyone can do is respond to something political and get drawn into a ridiculous argument from which no one will emerge as the victor.
Barbara, for one, was taken with the advice about liberty and safety, but if any of you out there is envisioning old Ben Franklin as a poster boy for today’s anti-vaccers, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. (Watch out for Bowser sniffing around below!) Anyway, we kept walking up to the park named for guy who objected to the notion that some people were at liberty to own other people, a big issue back in the proverbial day.
It was a beautiful summer day in Lincoln Park, and the place was packed, with an equal number of pets on a leash and young humans in strollers. It was Shabbat for us, but for everyone else it was Farmers’ Market Day – not quite the same thing. What’s this? The first concession stand we came upon was providing organic treats for the same pets on leash we kept seeing. That sort of set the tone for the morning, perhaps giving a sense of the target audience milling around the park.
The good thing for us was that we could walk around and enjoy the sights. No way could I consider purchasing any of the near-perfect farm-fresh produce on offer. (Look at those b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l beets; I know we have no way of cooking them, but I have to buy some anyway. Look at those baskets of flowers. There’s no shmittah here in Chicago.)
I again stopped dead in my tracks and started to read. Coffee: that will always get my attention, much more interesting than political clichés. Two ex-pats from Kenya were importing and roasting coffee beans and selling one-pound bags of coffee beans right there at the market. (Can I help you? Yes, but not today.) I wasn’t going to get into a long explanation: today is my Sabbath and I don’t…… Later, I found out that the market is also open same time, same place on Wednesdays. Maybe, just maybe…….
It was later in the afternoon; we had finished our lunch, taken our mandatory Shabbat snooze, and we were getting antsy just sitting around. Let’s take walk and explore the neighborhood. Let’s go the other way, (That would be N. Welles St., the way Tina had taken us the day before), and then we can go through some of the side streets. I had noticed that it was a commercial district, with shops and restaurants lining both sides of the street for about four or five blocks, but I hadn’t conceptualized what it would be like at 7PM on a Saturday night on a summer evening. Where are all these young people coming from; where are they going? Must be from all over the area, from miles and miles away, and they’re heading for the bars and the restaurants, getting a head start on their Saturday night fun. It’s nice to see other people enjoying themselves, even if we can’t take part.
And then I again stopped dead in my tracks. Look at that window! The store owners and Mr. I-don’t-have-Facebook could battle it out big time with their competing takes on reality. I can just imagine Bowser munching on the organic treats his humans had bought that morning and attacking his brand-new Trump doll. (You are free to approve or disapprove; I’m just the guy with the cell phone. (As I said before, I returned the next morning to take the picture.)
We continued walking through some of the side streets with their old houses with post-modern price tags. Much quieter than the main drag, with only an occasional dog walker out for a stroll with Bowser or Fifi. We returned to our quarters, had our third meal (thanks to Sherwin), and soon Shabbat was over. I stood outside on the patio connecting the two buildings and looked up at the silhouette of the tall building down the block. Can I get that with a cell phone? One way to find out…..