Street Smart Chicago

Race Review: Run the Ribbon Mile Race (June 20, 2015)

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Runners competing around the ribbon/Photo: Zach Freeman

Runners competing around the ribbon/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Like witnessing a world-premiere play on opening night, participating in an inaugural race is exciting. Particularly when that race is planned in a popular new location and set at a rather uncommon distance. Saturday morning, the location was the skating ribbon around the climbing walls in Maggie Daley Park and the distance was a single mile. Not only was the promise of being one of the first to run around a new track intriguing (the ribbon has been open but used for skating—both ice and inline—up till this point) but the chance to test the legs on a distance that’s typically reserved for track meets made it especially unique.

CARA hosted the event, with categories for youth, open and all-comers running in sixteen waves spread out over several hours. Just over 100 racers made their way around the twists and turns of the ribbon, racing only against their given wave group (typically around ten runners to a wave) with a miked announcer calling out names and position numbers. The full length of the ribbon meant runners had to circle it five times to complete a mile (organizers rang a bell for the final lap) and the curvature didn’t make full-out sprinting especially easy, but it was indeed, as the CARA website described it, a “memorable experience for racers.”

Cash prizes were given to the top three finishers with a bonus promised for any male who could run a sub-4:00 and any female who could run a sub 4:40 (witnessing those feats would have been worth the cost of admission). The small field of runners and the track-meet-like atmosphere of the race allowed for more camaraderie and spectating than any other race I’ve run in the last several years. Though adding runners would spread the waves out even further, this could easily be an exciting half-day event in future years. Read the rest of this entry »

Capping It Off: Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa Walk Into A Bar…

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Brad Richards - Chicago Blackhawks" by Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA - IMG_7583. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Brad Richards – Chicago Blackhawks” by Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA – IMG_7583. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Don De Grazia

Like many adults self-consciously seeking intellectual justification for their maniacal attachment to a sports team, I maintain that my obsession with the Blackhawks quest to regain the Stanley Cup was largely cerebral, spiritual even—as edifying and inspirational as any philosophical text, and chock full of practical-yet-profound life lessons: Hustle and flow, grind and glide. Never give up, never lose confidence, every new contest is a clean slate. Adversity is the greatest motivator, and it’s never too late—but don’t cut things too close, or you might get smacked down by a random roll of the dice in the form of a floppy puck bouncing off your own player into the net to hand the 2014 LA Kings the golden ticket.

During the last NHL pre-season, I was having a nightcap at a mostly empty West Loop bar when I realized that the three men sitting stiffly at a table across the room were none other than Marian Hossa (my all-time favorite Hawk), Patrick Kane (the greatest stick wizard in hockey) and… some other dude. I realized that this was The New Guy—Brad Richards—who had just been brought in to center for Kane. Richards was a star in his own right, and had sacrificed an awful lot of money (and ego) to sign a one-year deal with the Hawks.

I’m no expert on body language, but the situation at their table seemed crystal clear—Richards and Kane were on an awkward first date, in anticipation of their arranged marriage, and Hossa was there as a sort of… well, wingman. But Hossa soon departed, and left the two Conn Smythe winners staring silently into space. My impulse was to go buy them a round of drinks and see if I could get an inside scoop on the upcoming season, but I am far too respectful a person to ever do something so intrusive. So, I encouraged an attractive young woman sitting next to me to do it instead. Read the rest of this entry »

The Company Factory: Is 1871 an Incubator, a Community, Endless Summer Camp or All Three?

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Photo: Emerson Dameron

Photo: Emerson Dameron

By Emerson Dameron

It is not a typical Tuesday at 1871, the labyrinthine tech-startup hub located on the twelfth floor of the Merchandise Mart, because there are no typical Tuesdays here.

David Johnston is here. He is Canada’s Governor General, a position noble enough to merit a large floating entourage and the attention of much of 1871’s leadership. Thus, as I wait for my afternoon date with CEO Howard Tullman, I am left largely to my own devices. I explore. I chat up various people who don’t appear too engrossed in their work. I struggle to find the men’s restroom, which is about as far from the women’s room as it could physically be.

1871 does have a ping-pong table, but it’s stashed in the mailroom and does not seem to have seen much use of late. The closest thing I can find to an interactive game is the Higi Station, which measures BMI, pulse and blood pressure. It is one of several such kiosks scattered around the city.

Quantification is not a perfect paradigm for measuring success, but it may be the most useful we’ve currently got as a species. In some respects, I’ve done well enough trusting my intuition—it’s led me to fruitful creative work, wonderful friendships, and a marriage that saved my life with no facilitation from OKCupid or eHarmony. In other respects, it has not served me so well. My personal finances were a wreck until I discovered the Mint app. And although my health has ticked up since my hard-partying days, it has always been a source of painful anxiety.

Nerves aflutter, I submit to the cold, numerical wisdom of the Higi Station. My BMI is safely in the “normal” range for my height and age. That’s an improvement. My blood pressure, though, is dangerously high. That’s… disheartening. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Killing Ghost and Her Falling Stars

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The more I read about owls, the more I realize how paranoid white people have always been. In Western culture, owls are almost always associated with witchcraft  or some other nefarious practice. Maybe it is the eyes; they’ve always weirded people out. The eyes that Athena found “burning with inner light” freaked out the civilized types.
I must admit, when I found the down-covered screech owl, I was intrigued because I thought owls were mysterious and weird. I was not a popular kid, an ill-tempered little fucker who didn’t have many friends; mostly art kids and the other weirdos like me who hung around the pet store and drew pictures. I was thirteen when I found him and my sister named him Oliver. That summer he ate his weight in cicadas and eventually mice. He was not a friendly pet, in fact not really a pet at all, but an orphan. He was a gray screech owl and when he shed his down and his plumage filled in he was a beautiful bird; odd in all of the ways that I myself was. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Why Rolling on the River Is No Easy Task

Checkerboard City, City Life, Loop No Comments »
Tight turns and bottlenecks making cycling on the riverwalk a tricky endeavor. Photo: John Greenfield

Tight turns and bottlenecks making cycling on the riverwalk a tricky endeavor./Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Earlier this month, the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, grabbed the spotlight as our city’s latest fabulous public space. However, the Chicago Riverwalk extension, which partially opened on May 23, is another strong contender. The new two-block stretch between State and Clark takes you down to within a foot or two of the sea-green water, and there are unique, breathtaking views of the city as you round the bridge houses.

The roughly $100 million project, funded by a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act Loan that needs to be paid back in about thirty-five years, is slated to be extended all the way to Lake and Wacker by 2016. The now-open sections are the Cove, which has stone-like concrete seating units and will feature kayak rentals, and the Marina, with elegant teakwood banquettes whose tops will double as bar seating for eating and drinking establishments. Upcoming amenities include amphitheater seating, a water play area, fishing piers and a boardwalk.

The new spaces are already a hit with Chicagoans from all walks of life, and you’ll see dozens of people strolling, lunching, catching carp and relaxing there on nice days. The one fly in the ointment is that, while the riverwalk extension was designed to be a transportation corridor, it doesn’t function particularly well as one. Narrow sections of the path create bottlenecks, and sharp turns in the route are tricky to navigate, making it difficult to walk—let alone bike—the route efficiently when it’s crowded. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 18, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Would you like to stop pushing and struggling for a while? Is there a clenched attitude you would love to let go of? Do you wish you could take a break from having to give so much and try so hard and be so strong? Then do it! Now would be a good time to take a sabbatical from any situation that feels too demanding or frustrating. You wouldn’t incur the wrath of the gods or the twists of karma if you sneaked away to indulge in some recreational frivolity. For the foreseeable future, “relax” and “surrender” are your words of power. Read the rest of this entry »

Dynastic by Design: How The Field Museum Built the Nation’s Largest Chinese Historical Museum Exhibit

Museums, News etc., South Loop No Comments »
Guardian Lions

Guardian Lions

By Nona Tepper

“When I look at it straight it looks straight, but when I look at it sideways it looks crooked,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, director of exhibitions at the Field Museum.

The man paces in front of an arch decorated with red, blue and gold images of ancient Chinese life. The air smells like dust, and a saw grinds on a bench in the middle of the gallery. Project manager Tom Skwerski stands behind him.

“It’s tricky to do an immersive environment,” Skwerski says. “We don’t want to look like a Chinese restaurant.”

The men are standing in the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, an upcoming exhibit at The Field Museum slated to open just three months from that day. The arch is stenciled with what look like the same designs that decorate the entrance gate to Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, but is it crooked? Hoogstraten and Skwerski have had this debate before, Hoogstraten says. Perhaps they’ll have it again. The men walk away and start talking about what still needs to be done. The nearly 400 objects need to be mounted; the mounts need to be attached to bases; the bases need to be covered in decorative felt. The producers need to speed up the slideshows on Chinese dynastic history and, speaking of technology, the technology for the projections of Neolithic China still needs to be developed.

The men have three months.  Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 11, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “To look at a thing hard and straight and seriously—to fix it.” Aries author Henry James said he wanted to do that on a regular basis. He didn’t want to be “arbitrary” or “mechanical” in his efforts. I invite you to make this perspective one of your specialties in the coming weeks, Aries. Pick out a tweaked situation you’d like to mend or a half-spoiled arrangement you want to heal. Then pour your pure intelligence into it. Investigate it with a luminous focus. Use all your tough and tender insight to determine what needs to be transformed, and transform it. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Volition America Half Marathon (June 6, 2015)

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The finishing chute of the Volition America Half Marathon/Photo: Zach Freeman

The finishing chute of the Volition America Half Marathon/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Billed as a collection of half marathons that is “the first of its kind to honor America through running,” the Volition America Half Marathon series kicks off its inaugural season this year with six races across the country. This weekend’s American-themed races—a half marathon and a 5K—down Chicago’s Lakefront Trail marked the second event in the series (the first was in Boise, Idaho in April). And it was just as “steeped with patriotic distinction” as the website promised. Read the rest of this entry »

Afternoon Delight: In Praise of “The Afternoon Shift” On Its Final Day

Media No Comments »
Niala Boodhoo

Niala Boodhoo

By Eric Lutz

Radio is a uniquely intimate form of media. We accept these voices into our cars and our kitchens, into our headphones and routines. And when you listen to enough radio, certain voices come to sound as comforting and familiar as the voice of a smart, curious friend.

For the past three years, “The Afternoon Shift” on WBEZ has been home to many such voices, first under the guidance of Steve Edwards, then the great Rick Kogan, and, since 2013, host Niala Boodhoo. Yesterday, the station announced they were pulling the plug on the program and letting go of Boodhoo. This is sad news, in part, because it cuts local weekday programming in half, but also, much more viscerally, because it feels like the departure of a friend. Read the rest of this entry »