The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The Best Shine for the Classics

WHEN YOU HAVE THE BEST, GO SEE THEM PLAY!

Yesterday’s performance at Symphony Center was stellar in its nature and character and its cast: the greatest and grandest orchestra in the world, our very own Chicago Symphony.

The performance began with Haydn’s Symphony Number 93 in D Major, holding everyone rapt from the opening notes. Certainly every section of the orchestra had the opportunity to shine, and here in the piece’s four brilliant movements, as in every piece that followed, the woodwinds and brass gave out a “megawatt” show. Maestro Honeck gratefully acknowledged the soloists and others who gave out efforts that caused the mind to soar and the soul to lose every ounce of stress and open up to what can happen when years of practice and hard work and diligence come together for this performance.

Next came Strauss’s Don Juan, which in only a few minutes had the power to engender in the classical imagination visions of a man of adventure and excitement, of love and loss, of struggle and of dying… but still making a last effort to survive in a chaotic and confusing world. Even were one not to know the stories of Don Juan, this marvelously structured piece had the most incredible way of bringing up in the heart, soul and spirit the rounds we face daily whether at work or at home or traveling or at play. We have our star – like brass moments, our high flight woodwind moments, our beating times of kettle drums and the ringing of percussion and timpani summoning us to higher and greater achievements.

At the end of this piece as he had with the first and would with the last, the conductor singled out the horn section, the principal flute first followed by others of the winds, and the principal members of the string section, each one humbled to be given this honor in the presence of an appreciative audience resounding with (a few whistles and occasional cries of “Bravo”!). Most though let applause stand for the vehicle of showing their admiration.

After intermission, when all patrons were seated and the orchestra finished its tuning, and Maestro Honeck mounted the podium, our superior CSO launched into the stirring notes of Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7 in A Major, Opus 92.

The maestro put me at times in mind of a major – league pitcher winding up and sending a high – speed ball straight towards a franchise batter, or at other times a sporty performance manager encouraging and directing his team towards higher and grander musical discussions. Even at other times the maestro seemed to dance across that small square of dais, hopping around and gesturing and lifting his baton as though about to imitate the best batter in all of baseball in hitting a homer out of the ballpark. Soaring on and up as though they were one single towering home run, the dozens of fabulous musicians in their uniforms of black, the members of our orchestra returned those fastballs in a “right back at you” way that held everyone in suspense and thrill and some on the edges of their seats, waiting for each volley and play, each call and response. Onward the brass section mounted, the woodwinds and the basses measuring them at every step, and the rest of the strings held valiantly with the basses, keeping things moving until the last notes of the fourth movement had settled upwards into the high ceiling of the auditorium.

Four curtain calls later, my companion and I exited through the doors of the lower balcony, listening to patrons describe this show as a powerhouse, as the best, and at other times letting reverent silence and expressions mirroring the privilege and honor of being in the presence of the best musicians in the world. Any time you are able, purchase a ticket and go see a performance.

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony- a magical, inspiring work to be enjoyed by every person in every age group and all over the world. Let this wondrous work fill you with the majesty of classical music today.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2015.

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Restaurant Hygiene and Cleanliness: Restaurants Can Improve Conditions to Maintain Happier Customers

RESTAURANTS NEED HYGIENE HELP

Safety is everyone's job. If you are in doubt, ask questions.

Safety is everyone’s job. If you are in doubt, ask questions.

If there is one thing I cannot stand to see in a restaurant it is the serving staff handling those filthy rags and cleaning the tables and seats. At many Chicago restaurants I see the bussers wipe the table top, the actual dining surface, with a rag they have taken out of an apron pocket, a dirty apron at that, with hands that most likely have touched a bin full of dirty dishes and then that same rag dozens of times, and then the cleaners will wipe the seats, and then sometimes wipe the tabletop AGAIN before twirling the rag casually like they are showing off or something, and then go off to do something else.

Just don’t let that same busser bring you any lemons or limes or anything else to garnish your drink. And watch out for the basket of bread and crackers- who is bringing it to you? When do you think was the last time they washed their hands?

Order first then wash your hands; you have probably received a menu that is sticky or has some little food pieces or is wet. I order first and then wash my hands. I am also careful to see how the server presents the drinks. It does not make sense that they would handle a glass by the rim, but should handle a stem glass by the stem and a tumbler in the middle. A few seconds’ more of extra care will make the dining experience better.

As for ice- what do they make it in? How often are the ice makers cleaned? And have you ever seen those large buckets in which ice is carried out of the kitchen or waiting staff credenza area on the way to be dumped in a larger bin sometimes near an area where dirty dishes are deposited for the bussers to take back to the kitchen? That ice if it does not have germs on its way into the large bin, or does not get the germs from the scoop, probably get germs from being around the area where the large ice bucket is dumped. If you can do without ice, do without it. Ask for a chilled drink perhaps, that requires no ice.

Cooks and servers should ALWAYS make sure to wash the lemons or limes before presenting them to be squeezed or put into a glass. It is not pleasant to think that a lemon that has come from a field and been handled by others has not been washed before being presented at your table. Wash any utensils that come in contact with fresh fruits, and dry them, making sure no residue remains and that the knife does not contact other surfaces where items such as meats or unwashed fruits or vegetables have been.

If possible do not handle ketchup or mustard containers at the table. Ask the server to put a small amount of the condiments into a bowl or on a plate and remove the sticky containers from the table. The more you handle such containers you contact germs.

And you see what goes on at salad bars… many adults still do not understand the rules of proper hand -washing, so those scoops and tongs that hang out on those little plates before the larger bowls are just brimming with germs and bacteria deposited by people who have not observed proper hygiene. Look closely sometime at those tongs- fingerprints, food residue… well, if you go to a salad bar and make a salad, take it to your table using a napkin to hold your plate (and use one hand to hold the plate and another to serve from the large bowls and hold the tongs) and then wash your hands very well using lots of soap and water and clean towels afterwards!

In the bathroom, WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY after you use the toilet. Use folded tissue to flush the toilet if it is not automatic, to reduce your touching of any bathroom items. Use another to open the latch on the stall door, and if the door does not push open, use another towel to open the door. NEVER leave a bathroom without washing your hands- you touch surfaces all the time, so a few seconds extra washing will reduce contact with germs.

Some restaurants have bussers that wear gloves and use disposable cloths when they wipe the tables, such as Big Bowl, at their Cedar location. Bussers just need to make sure they wash their hands after wearing gloves and after handling dirty dishes, and especially before boxing up leftovers, if they take over that task from the server/waiter.

Many times I ask for a container so I can box up my leftovers; I prefer to do this myself and feel more comfortable doing so.

Restaurant managers need to educate bussers and servers to better cleaning and hygiene practices. Managers need to see that bussers do not use the same rag on the tabletop and on the seats and then back to the tabletop. Twirling the rags is also not a good idea as this could just flip out food and liquids that the rags caught during the cleaning process. I don’t care for it when a busser walks near my table flipping a rag around, such as I have seen in some restaurants in Chicago’s famous Loop.

For happier customers, take the time to be careful and thorough when maintaining a restaurant. Do not use cloth rags on tables and seats; use disinfectant and bleach disposable towels and wear gloves and wash hands afterwards.

Ensure clean floors and clean doors!

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

 

School and Students:: How to Be and Remain a Good Student

Are you a good student? Do you want to be a good or a better student? Here is an article about how to accomplish that goal… or some good pointers at least.

1. The Phrase “dress for success” Really Does Have Meaning… and here is how it does.

What influences the manner in which you dress, in which you get ready for each day in choosing what to wear? Naturally the seasons of the year have bearing on what you wear; if it is warm you might wear shorts, lighter -colored socks and pants, and light -material and lighter -colored shirts and blouses. If the conditions are cold, you go for thicker socks, heavier pants, and coats, mittens, and thick hats and earmuffs.

What else has to do with what you wear? One factor is what you have that is clean and pressed. If you need to do laundry then do it; if the codes of your school require that your clothes are properly pressed and your shoes polished then do that or have someone teach you how to iron and how to keep your shoes clean and neat. Clothing also must be appropriate for the situations you are going into. Many schools have dress codes and uniforms, and it is suggested that no fuss is made when you encounter those rules. Rules are made for a reason and should be followed. If you are not sure of something, please ask a trusted teacher or other authority figure and listen to them carefully.

If your school does not have a dress code and what to wear is under your discretion, play it safe. If you put something on and you have ANY doubts at all about how you look in it or whether or not the clothes will cause trouble or attract undesirable attention or makes you look funny, then take it off and save it for the weekend or the beach or vacation. Refuse to follow trends if they do not make you feel comfortable; after all you are the one who for hours a day will wear that shirt, those pants or shorts, those shoes and socks and belts and jewels. Opt for simple clothes without a lot of graphics or loud colors that will definitely attract attention and distract you from your studies or will distract others from their studies.

Remember that there are other people around; the school is not just you alone.

2. Be Respectful and Punctual as Possible

Respect is not only a manner of behavior, it is essentially a duty of every citizen one towards the other. To “respect” simply means to look at again. You can certainly respect yourself in a healthy way and thus you are able to respect others as easily as you breathe and walk and eat. In any public setting, respect of others is just essential and vital to remember, simple as that. How do you respect others, or how can you learn the ways to do that?

One way is to wait your turn to speak, especially if those who are talking are older than you. It is just proper to respect your elders, including teachers, professors, and all school personnel, no matter what position they hold. They are your elders and experienced in what they do, and can provide you with direction and knowledge, so listen carefully to what they say.

Never shout down a hallway or on a street corner or in a quiet room or library or other places where people are reading and studying. Shouting and screaming in public is a vulgar habit and is not necessary. If you cannot reach someone right away, you can call them or text them or send electronic mail any time. If you contact someone electronically, remember to use the rules of proper electronic etiquette. There are plenty of resources that teach those habits.

Endeavor to be as on time as possible. Get up earlier for the bus if you have to, so you have time to dress, have breakfast and not rush through it, gather your supplies and head off to school. Do not keep the bus driver waiting, and do not keep the class waiting. Being on time is a life skill that you will always have and need to work on, no matter if you are going to school, going on a vacation, going out to dinner, or meeting someone. Punctuality is a good quality.

3. When You Have a Problem, Ask Questions.

Every once in a while we run into situations we do not understand, something about which we need clarification. At that point we need help… we need to ask questions. We need to gain understanding and problem solving.  This is where teachers and other trusted people enter the picture. These are folks who have the experience you need to get to the root of the problem and find out the answers. If there is a problem with the mathematics homework, ask your parents, or get onto a homework hotline, or ask your professor. Do not be afraid to ask for help; that is what these people are there to help with, solving problems. Be patient and learn the steps that will help in the future when you encounter other odd situations. Problem -solving is a life skill as well; you will need to learn to do this as you go through school, no matter what subjects you study. You will problem -solve in the workplace as well, so learn that skill and polish it every chance you have. Helping others to solve problems or get through concerns is a fine way to polish your own skills and such leadership is desirable. When you teach others you should get a good feeling and want to do more teaching.

4. Branch Out: Grow Out of Your Neighborhood and Into the Global Setting

Many people think that sticking to being in “the neighborhood” is a good thing. It is to a point, that point being that once you have seen everything, know everyone, know the habits and sights and sounds, you are probably ready to go to other places and see new things.

Branching out is a good thing and a vital element of growing up. Being social is just a part of what we do; it is why we are a “society”. You have to have the courage to say, “There are others out there who are different, and I want to get to know them. Sure others say to stick with people who look like me or talk like I do… but no one does that.”

Which is why you must take the lead and talk to others at your school. Is there someone who does not make friends easily? Talk with them. Is there someone who seems alone? Talk with them. Invite them to your lunch table or to sit outside on the school grounds and have a bag lunch out there and just talk about things. You will feel good, someone else will feel better, and both of you might become fast friends for life. Everyone is unique and individual and special, and because of that we must respect everyone.

You are the one who must take the first step away from the streets you find familiar, to reach towards that part of town you have not explored before but have heard about. Go there and look around, ask about what interests you and learn from the people in that area.

And when you have the chance, travel. When I had the chance for international travel I took the opportunity. Because I had the courage, the world was as an open book, but instead of looking at someone else’s photos, the pictures became living and colorful and alive and vibrant. In China there were people doing Tai Chi in the morning. In Japan there were people exercising and walking about and doing business. In Europe people went about their daily lives, playing and working and maintaining the home life. Some were there to take care of the tourists, and thanks to them my times in these areas was made pleasant and comfortable. Travel is essential in the growth process, even if it is just to another part of your city, and favorably if to another part of America and the world.

5. Growing Up, Have Fun!

No matter what you do, be your real self, learn what that means, and have fun exploring what that means. When you are sitting at the desk at home, burning the studying oil after dinner or late into the night to get that term paper ready, you are preparing for a lifetime of work and fun. You are the one who will grow out, make the changes, and learn to help others while helping yourself as well.

Enjoy your life!

Downtown Chicago

Photos taken with a Leica V -LUX -4 “bridge” style camera.

Communication is the Answer

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

 

Homeland Security? Orange Line Incident Prompts Questions About Security and Funding.

Well now it’s come to this: think about what we are doing regarding “homeland security”.

We want to talk up this business about securing our borders and our nation from outside threats such as from Yemen, Iraq and other terrorist nations and organizations… but when it comes to the thought of protecting against threats that happen right here within our own states, we seem to have a major problem supplying personnel and equipment to do that.

The incident yesterday along the CTA Orange Line prompts me, a regular rider, to question what is going on.  For those who read this article and who are not familiar with it, let me enlighten you: the Orange Line is part of the Chicago Transit Authority’s system of elevated trains that goes through the famous Loop district. On this train patrons can ride all the way to Midway Airport; from the Roosevelt Stop the trip is about thirty minutes. You can get straight on it from the Red Line by accessing a tunnel and escalators to go up to the Orange Line stop.

Yesterday the peace of patrons on the Orange Line was shattered when armed assailants burst into the cars, announced a robbery and took things from riders. Apparently they got on at the Halsted stop and got off at the Roosevelt stop and took off. Now with the number of people at the Roosevelt stop and the amount of activity there it is hard to believe that someone did not yell out that there was a problem and that the personnel downstairs could not catch up with those people or call for backup and clear the area.

So where is all this “security” we are supposed to see since 9/11/01? Where are the vested officers, the dogs, the extra cruisers and personnel? WHERE ARE THEY? Every so often in the Red Line I see a dog with an officer, and the occasional extra officers in the gate area, but this should not be “occasionally”.

And if there is any denial that we have terrorists right here in our nation, that incident should push the denial right out of the minds of the law personnel and clear the rust out of our brains and the dust from our eyes and make us question even more, “WHERE ARE THOSE EXTRA SECURITY PERSONNEL?”

Also what happened to the idea of acting so quickly on the sentence we hear every time now that we are on a Chicago train: “If you see something, say something!” Perhaps the riders between those Orange Line stops were so in shock that they could not react quickly enough to inform 9-1-1 or the conductor that something was wrong. Perhaps also, there being more than one assailant, the means of contacting help were denied to the riders until the robbers jumped off the train.

What happens now that the security video has been released?

People sure are brazen these days, but desperation can breed such unusual behavior, such risky behavior as that which happened in broad daylight along that CTA train. It is a mean -spirited and desperate person indeed that brandishes a firearm among a crowd of peaceful travelers and shakes their minds up and demands their belongings. Just terrible…

… but what are we as ordinary citizens going to do about it? Carry more weapons? Have officers in every train car? Have cameras on every seat? Perform more citizens’ patrols? We sure are beyond just talking about the problems and the issues about “gun violence”. We are tired of hearing about it every day, seeing the evidence and the remains of it, and dealing with it. We don’t want to “deal with it”. We want it to end, be over, enough already.

What are we to do?

Divi Logan. Chicago, 2014.

The Workplace and Society: Loyalty, Denial, and Suffering.

Awareness.

At some point during each day and during life we possess and manifest this faculty… awareness. It is being “aware” of something, someone, or some aspect of where a person is and the circumstances of a situation.

We are bombarded with a lot of information and material stuff during each day; some of this is useful for us and some of it is not. We can to a degree screen out or tune out that which is not useful and attend to what is useful, but this takes energy and saps that which we need to focus on what is useful or worthwhile or necessary.

It is possible then to have too much information. You can consider this mental clutter.

It is as bad as having a cluttered house or a workplace. If a living space is filled with junk, stuff you do not use or which is being hoarded, such accumulation is a distraction from healthy living. Sooner or later clutter could attract dust and allergens, vermin, odors and then, if it really gets bad, visits from the fire department and the health department. At that point the situation is out of the hands or the jurisdiction of the owners or residents; it is being given strict attention by authorities who will give orders to the folks to clean up, to straighten things out, and to put the area in safe order before thirty days runs out.

Clutter as we have seen can cause dust and allergens to gather. In a workplace, dust is unsightly and gives the impression that the workplace is not being cared for, the merchandise does not move and is not useful or is outdated, and that employees do not care about appearance of the business. Dust might cause problems for customers who have severe allergies to what gathers in it, and then the business might lose customers. One bad comment can cause a lot of problems.

The circle of being in business involves those who work at the business and those who run it (manage, own). Satisfaction is relative; look at the way of conducting business as “do not assume things are good until they are”. Sure, good is a relative term, so think of the business environment in other ways than the ideas of good or bad, high or low, or broad terms such as these.

Consider the safety of those who work there and who are customers. Look at the workplace environment: what meets the eye or the senses when you walk in there? Are your senses met by neatness or by clutter, by clean and fresh shelves and air or by stagnant air and dusty shelves and dirty floors and cluttered displays? Is there room to maneuver safely, especially if you have a disability or other special needs? Is there room to do your work, allowing plenty of space for customer transactions or showing merchandise? Can the customer easily see the items available for sale or rental? Are the displays relevant to the mission of the business and the needs of the customers?

Safety – so valuable an asset that it must be considered at all turns of the work day – must be thought of in every way, from cleanliness to space to work in. Is it likely a person is going to trip over something, or get hair or a limb caught in something like a display or a stand? Are aisles free of clutter that narrows the space in which people can walk and look around and see what the business offers? Is suffering caused when people are frustrated that they cannot feasibly reach something or see something: in the case of the worker who due to clutter has a hard time reaching something a customer wants to see and thus has to take extra time to get to the item and makes the customer wait too long? What if there is too much to work with, to the point that the employee has to shuffle through a shelf display to get to the requested item?

A boss who does not communicate cannot expect the employees to communicate with them. Suffering cannot be known until it is talked about or until someone is made aware of it, is cognizant of the fact that conditions of “suffering” exist. Someone has to think that something is wrong or know something is, and tell someone that it is so that the situation can be addressed and solved. Without that knowledge, the problems continue. Denial is in itself a form of suffering – the one in denial tries to turn off or tune out the causes of the suffering (mental or actual clutter, lack of business, lack of capital, employees who do not perform to the boss’s standards, etc.), and thus might tune out the sufferings of others, namely those who work for them.

One must be careful about crossing the line of that which I call “micro -managing”. To micro -manage is rather like being a vulture that sits on a high post waiting for someone to mess up or be perceived as doing something wrong and then swooping in and correcting the person before the full situation is known. The supposed offender is vulnerable to attack before the situation is completely and fairly assessed and this can be a real morale -buster. Micro -managing is nit -picking and it is not a good idea. It is casting the stones before removing the board from one’s own eyes, it is arrogant and assumptive and foolish and dictatorial. Such an attitude can lose a business not only customers but employees as well, and without customers, what business? Without employees, what business?

Such tactics can also lead to a loss of good manners; those who micro -manage might perceive their employees as not going fast enough, or talking on the phone in the proper way or in the right order. The employee might be doing just the right things but is the boss aware of it or just hearing what they want to hear? Rude behavior is not acceptable; anyone with a modicum of knowledge of manners should know how to talk on the phone and how to interact civilly with others, not to interrupt, not to shout, not to push ahead in line or speak when others are talking.

We can break the cycle of suffering but we must be aware that it is going on and know what we can do about it.

What will you do about alleviating suffering?

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

Shootings? NOT ANOTHER ONE!

Shootings. Shoot… the last word I want to hear every single doggone day around here is “shooting”.

Enough already with the reports that even mention that someone was shot in Chicago or anywhere else for that matter. The time for just talking about or reporting it is come and past; the time for action to stop the violence is NOW.

RIGHT NOW.

After all, there are other meanings to the word “shoot”. Time was that “AW SHOOT!” was nothing more than a mildly explosive expletive when someone would misplace their keys or break a shoelace. The words were just a bridge between the incident and getting over what happened, rather like saying drat, dang, rats or doggone it.

But now when the news networks mention “shoot” it deals with someone getting shot, as happened today in Las Vegas.  A “shooting” with a “gunman” happened at a university in Washington State.

Shootings happen in some parts of Chicago every day, and no doubt folks in Chicago are darned sick and tired of hearing every day about someone getting shot.

Rather get a camera and go on a photo “shoot” and document what’s going on and perhaps in that way find out if there is a solution to this pressing problem. Not attending to “the press” when they talk about it and hype it up is one way. Just turn it off and protest this “if it bleeds it leads” gibberish.

What’s the deal with summer and hot weather being a time when suddenly the violence and people running amok seems to explode? Folks, find other ways to entertain yourselves. No need for this junk with the flash mobs, the gang involvement, and bored kids that seemingly have nothing to do.

The kids have plenty to do if only people with consciences get them off their lazy and jaded behinds and put tools in their hands, give them a plot of land to till, clean, take care of and get a garden going. The kids have plenty to do if they get involved with building houses or playgrounds or tidying up a school or serving in a soup kitchen or collecting items for a charity or a mission.

Come on, people – you don’t need guns and drugs and gangs to give your life meaning. Those things will only put you in danger – in danger of losing your life, of hurting someone else, of ending up in prison and with a record you cannot erase. Gangs, guns and drugs are dangerous.

DANGEROUS. No one can emphasize that enough. Gangs, guns and drugs are DANGEROUS. You ought to be running away from those things as you would from a poisonous snake, a tornado, a scorpion, a toxic spider. You who have conquered the need to have such garbage fouling up your life, and who know about the perils and dangers and ugliness of prisons and police stations and being booked, and facing the people you have hurt, can turn this around and help others get over the need for these things in their lives.

Remember that gangs and guns and drugs endanger everyone, including children. Kids want a safe place to live, play and go to school. They should not be afraid of dying on the way to the store or having some idiot gang banger drive past their porch and open fire in the hope of killing someone else.  Children are vulnerable in this society as people start to care less about others and more about only their selfish and lazy and arrogant selves. Kids are abandoned to make their own decisions, to test judgment not completely mature, and to be exposed to harmful habits, to foul language, to violent video games, and to “the streets”.

If only more adults could think like the teachers who sheltered students during the tornadoes the Weather Channel features on their tornado week specials these days. Teachers in Moore, Oklahoma sheltered their students as the twisters approached and damaged their school. Teachers in Joplin, Missouri did the same, taking care of their students. But teachers cannot do the work of parents. Sure a school can provide shelter and food and instruction during part of the day but a school is not a home and teachers are not parents. Parents MUST take more responsibility, first for their own habits and then for their kids, making sure they have these good examples of care and decency and dignity to follow.

Maybe it’s time to stop this diversity thinking and start thinking UNITY. Quit thinking about whether or not someone “looks like you”, “talks like you” or “lives in your neighborhood”. So what? No one is going to look like, talk like, or live like anyone else, even though they are right across the hall or the street or in the next building. Everyone is different but in some ways we are united.

Those who are united in the common thought of ending the violence must band together, stuff the diversity talk in the trash bin, and start thinking in a group sense and a unified sense. An army cannot fight successfully and with a purpose and with strength unless the personnel are unified in their goal of driving out the enemy. Without this common bond of discipline and unity and purpose the biggest army will be nothing but a bunch of people going every which way, not going forward to the goal, and the effort will collapse, and the enemy will win.

The armies of the gangs, guns and drugs cannot be allowed to win these little victories every day. Thanks to the mass media they are winning, because people talk about the incidents and the shootings, talking about the problems instead of the solutions, talking about the investigations instead of banding together to call people out to drive the gangs away for good.

AW SHOOT, folks… can’t you find ways to stop the violence already?

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

Rahm Lights Up Chicago? Be Sure to Clean Up Thoroughly First!

Inspired by a news story heard this morning on Chicago’s CBS affiliate radio station, News Radio 780 WBBM, I present:

CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!

1. To Beautify a Space, First Make a Plan

When someone designs anything –  a garden, a car, a cityscape, a grand hotel or an office building or a home, the process begins with a plan. People sit down and draw a plan that goes from the mind, the workings of the brain, onto paper and also on a computer. A lot goes into making progress: the way the group works together, weather, availability of funds and of the location suited to the project… so many variables.

The important factor is that the planners work together in a civilized atmosphere with all that is needed to make the plan come to life. Whatever is needed: coffee, tea, a new office, travel to other destinations, booking a hotel or a limo to get to where the plans will take shape, a quiet place to sit and draw it up… everyone must agree to what will make the plan a success.

2. To Beautify a City, Talk to Everyone Who Has a Say in How it will Look (or should look)

** And that means EVERYONE, EVERYBODY who is a member of that city and community! **

Start by doing at the very least what will make communities better: THINK UNITY! One reason we are so fragmented is that we are thinking along demographic lines, not person to person and civil lines. We are thinking in ways that box us in (race, income, ethnicity, religious creed) instead of thinking on common ground and thinking towards what will make progress. We will make progress only when we clean up ourselves in all those ways that make humans special: in mental, spiritual, and physical ways.

We need to clean up areas of gang violence. Why, even the very idea, the term “gang violence” is ridiculous. The gangs were not here first and people are sick and tired of hearing about them on the news every day. The more the press gives attention to the gangs and those actions related to them, the more they will do those things that get them press time and air time and talk in the reports. NO MORE GANGS! Folks, get brave and get those gangs out of the area, right now. Stop your need for drugs and guns; YOU DON’T NEED THAT STUFF and you don’t need anyone to help you solve problems, at least not that way.

You can solve your own problems without drugs, illegal guns, and membership of and the presence of gangs. How stupid can we get, tolerating gangs. REALLY. Gangs are nothing and nobodies and mean nothing to us except for the trouble they cause. Well, run those punks off your street corners, clean them out of your area and get involved.

When we get our streets and land cleaned up, we can turn to beautification.

But we must make sure the gangs are out of the picture, the abandoned buildings are either renovated or torn down, the lots are cleaned and free of pests, trash, rats, squatters, etc., and the streets are safe for people to work on, play on, and go to school and work on.

The job does not do itself; we have to use elbow grease, folks. We have to run the gangs out with shouts, voices, prayers, music so loud they can’t transact and will leave the area, stones if necessary, sticks and pelting those punks with bottles and rotten tomatoes until they get the message. GO AWAY AND DON’T COME BACK. These are OUR streets, understand!?

Assess, once the area is safe, what your area looks like. What are the main problems and who will help you solve them? Who will help you break through the red tape and get the funds and the materials necessary to get the community looking better? Are the problems viaducts that flood, then sit on the departments of water and streets and sanitation until they get off their behinds and act to solve the problems.

Is the problem a lot full of trash and debris? Well then, get in there with a group and clean it up. Get the tools of the cleanup trade: tarps, rakes, shovels, sturdy gauntlet gloves, bug spray, insect repellent, trash bags, trash cans, dumpsters to haul the stuff away, and people who will be available to have food and drink ready to serve to volunteers who, literally, work for food in such cases.

3. Beautification Begins With a Thorough Cleanup Campaign

* For a city Chicago’s size, is a month enough? *

For the mayor’s plan to work, Chicago needs a thorough cleanup. There is enough bird poop in the Loop to build a wall, so no matter what we feel towards wildlife, the pigeons must go. After all, pigeons are introduced pests from Europe. The proper name for these birds is the European Rock Dove. They were brought to America and have prospered due to a lack of natural enemies, so they must go. Accumulated droppings can lead to disease, and it looks really gross and smells even worse (like waste will do after a while), and animal waste attracts some of the worst pests of all, the disease -bearing rats we are trying to rid out of our city.

The L stations, the entire L structure, and buildings along that area of the Loop must be power -washed and cleaned down, right to the sidewalks, and then anti -pest programs must be instituted. Putting up anything that will get rid of the pigeons is necessary… either that or bring in a natural solution, the amazing Peregrine Falcon and the super Cooper’s Hawk.

These birds are bird -eaters, and will go after anything when they are hungry, and there is a plentiful supply of pigeons. We could then return these birds to a natural setting or watch them breed and enjoy the balance they will bring to controlling the pest population.

We must also assess the pollution in our city in order to find the right ways to clean up such problems as petroleum coke, or petcoke, which is documented as causing caustic pollution to an area of Chicago near a plant that harbors piles of this black sooty stuff that gets on people’s homes and into their yards and into their lungs. Chemicals pollute our water, trash litters our beaches and litter clogs our streets and alleys. Corporations need to be held seriously accountable for their practices, for no matter whether they say that their studies show they are acting within the law, doing so does not mean that what they produce and how they manufacture is good or right or best or decent. Those who produce and harbor the petcoke say they are acting within the law and are doing nothing wrong, but in using such language they are completely ignoring the residents of that area who suffer from the black dust that floats into their neighborhood.

Also, excess light is a form of pollution. It is now shown that light pollution harms the circadian rhythm and causes stress to the human body and mind. We need our dark spaces and our real night spaces so we can rest, have quiet and transition from work to rest. In those areas where the mayor wants these light displays, people do live, and the mayor wants to attract more tourists to those areas. People need their space… residents need their space away from tourists’ eyes, and people do live downtown.

Do you wonder why our city has that odd dirty -bronze rusty -golden color at night? Light pollution, plain and simple. We are thrown into thinking we have to act and work all day and all year no matter what, because of this overblown presence of artificial light. We need to turn it off, not turn it on, and we need more efficient lighting, using mirrors, reflectors, solar power, whatever it takes to conserve energy and make our use of it more efficient. Besides, as the news story related, Paris, the famous “City of Lights” is trying to cut down on its golden reputation and reduce use of light. This is more energy efficient. Why Chicago wants to use excess light, even more light on buildings and bridges and historic structures, is not logical. We need less light , not more light.

There are times and places for tourists and times and places for residents. Residents’ needs and wishes come first, plain and simple.

Trash along a Chicago street.

So, Your Honor, before you get some high-minded plan to light up the city, be sure that what you want to highlight is what you want the world to see. Be absolutely sure that you want the world to see trash on the riverfront, homeless veterans roaming the lakefront and the riverfront and the Loop digging in trash cans and sleeping on corners. Be sure you want the world to see places where gangs shoot up innocent people and teenagers roam in flash mobs terrorizing law -abiding tourists and citizens shopping and dining along Michigan Avenue and towards the Loop. Be completely sure you want the world to see the petcoke, the trash on the bridges, the dirty buildings, the oil on the lake, the glass fragments and other debris on the beaches, the bird poop in the Loop and the trash along the highways. Do you want the world to see and hear about the gangs, the drugs, the labor disputes and the airport noise?

We could spend months getting the trash picked up from the roadsides and still only begin to make a dent in the pollution that plagues Chicago.

Let’s get up and get to it, folks. The roads and bridges are not going to clean up on their own.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

RESOURCES

1. Wikimedia Commons, searched through GOOGLE images.

2. http://waronfilth.com/tag/broken-glass.

Memorial Day: Occasions to Ponder and Give Thanks

It’s true, we do not need a day called “Thanksgiving” to be gracious and humbled. We can have gratitude every single day of our lives, if not for some things, than for someone.

In this case it is for the people who have served in our national military services, giving and straining for the highest achievements such a career can provide. You give the effort, someone else gives their efforts to help you be your best, and in the end, you serve and you sacrifice.

As many ads of the past month or so indicate, many uniformed personnel return and are reunited with their families… in one bodily piece. We can also hope these folks are mentally fit as well as they are physically fit. These ladies and gentlemen are so happy to see their families, and those kids sure are happy to see them, running up to the arms of mom or dad.

On this day of auto racing in the Indianapolis 500, on this day of barbecues, swimming, pickup baseball and pro baseball and other outdoor activities which Americans are privileged to engage in this long holiday weekend, we must remember all of those who are serving now in this country and overseas in the name of freedom and the preservation of those rights we as American citizens hold dear and near.

We should take time to remember the first responders of our emergency medical services as well as those in our Army, Navy, Air Forces, Marines and Coast Guard. We can find special ways to honor them. Think about the veterans languishing in hospitals or at home care, and consider what you can do to help them. No veteran should be alone, or waiting for care when they are in pain or suffering, or homeless and searching for their next meal in a trash can dirty with pet waste, chemicals, and broken glass. Everyone needs someone at some point… what can you do for one of these in need?

Place a flag in a military/national cemetery. Honor your serving relatives who happen to be in the states with gifts, a dinner, something really nice to show your appreciation. Serve them breakfast in bed tomorrow morning, go on a picnic, go to a parade and spend some time on this fine day watching the marching bands and the ROTC corps in their dress uniforms troop the colors and the streets they might someday defend like those who have paved the way for them to receive an education. If your loved ones are overseas, send them an extra special message of I Love You and Thank You, and gather the family for a photo. And hope all of those who are in other nations come back soon and are healthy.

I viewed one of those ceremonies and parades yesterday in Chicago when in the Loop I watched Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth in her sharp, spiffy dress uniform go to the eternal flame area with Mayor Emanuel at her side to place a wreath. Then came the singing of God Bless America and then a profound playing of Taps. All around were proud young soldiers and older soldiers in their fine uniforms and giving salutes and showing such poise during so profound and intense a moment as that was. The parade down State Street followed, with the usual fanfare, the floats, the bands and the folks in command, stirring their charges with reminders to keep in step and to halt and proceed at certain times, and stirring all who attended with their voices meant to get attention and remind us, in a way, to do our best as well.

Wherever you are this weekend, at an airport, on the roads, with your friends and family; whether at home snug and comfy in your library engaging in a good book before a nice dinner served by your cook and staff, or whether you are cooking your own supper in the company of your television and a movie, no matter where you are or what you do, think about those who have paid the ultimate price to ensure you can do just those things.

Pray for peace as you go about your day as well, for world peace and peace of mind, for yourself and for everybody.

cropped-flagam1.jpg

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

Race Relations? Are We Making Progress… or Making Problems?

Race relations is a very complicated issue… and we have made it even more so by allowing our government to put into our culture and our more vulnerable trains of thought and action and working the idea of demographics being so important. Well, perhaps “demographics” are important but only if the methods lead to actual, real, and tangible actions being done for those who are really in need of certain things being funded or built or done for a community.

But what is “good” and who is doing the “good”? Truly it should not even matter, but these days when Americans are so rude and crude in their manners that they are coming out and DEMANDING things, and DEMANDING this or that, and thinking that they are the only important factor because of their skin color or their ethnicity that they can push others out of the way and get in the front of the line, we need to be more on our guard than ever.

Race relations will not make progress until we lessen the role of the Census Bureau and wake up to the fact that it does not matter what you look like, “where you are from”, what your ethnic background is, or what you do for a living. People need to realize that the government is not really doing the average citizen any good at all.

Witness the recent talk of school segregation. Who really is at fault? Everyone or no one or the government or school officials? Is it the false idea of the “neighborhood” school that prevents  people from growing up and out and expanding their trains of thought and branching out? Is it the fear among these “neighborhood” people that if “someone does not look like me that they will have a bad influence on my family”? What kind of silly thinking is THAT?

Who cares about what the person looks like that is teaching your kids or treating your for a disease or selling you that house? And anyway, NO ONE looks like anyone else, so get that into your unique heads right now! NO ONE looks like anyone else, and we all think about things in different ways and see things in unique and variable ways. Someone can say there are “identical” siblings, but that’s not the real issue here. People vary in their coloring, in their hairstyles and hair coloring, in eye color, in a thousand different physical variables that push the idea of “looking like” another person completely out the window with the rest of the demographic garbage.

Think about this, a thought inspired by something I heard on the radio this morning, to wit that there are not enough “African – American” doctors in the “underserved” areas of Chicago, and no doubt other major cities. And then someone thinks the resources are not there to train and get these doctors -to -be, those “black” and “brown” children mentioned in the report on News Radio 780 WBBM in Chicago, out to those areas where the need appears greatest. Bologna.

Have you ever heard of a medical school, Mr. WBBM Reporter? Yes, there is actually something called a MEDICAL SCHOOL, folks. Just in case you in those communities are not aware, there have been doctors of every “race” and background for decades in America. Anyone, yes anyone, can go to a medical school, get the proper training, get incentive, and get to the business and the study of becoming a physician. Then they can choose where they want to go, and the choice is based on those variables such as where they will feel comfortable or needed or what kind of money they will make.

Well if the money is all that matters the doctor will not be a good doctor to the point of seeing the patients as people instead of as payments. If the doctor wants to get out there and serve the populace that is the target of the policies that have cause that population to be inadequately served and thus in need of care and comfort, then they will do so. An episode of the popular television show EMERGENCY! had a physician who put his private practice way out in an area of desert and scrub and no one around for miles, at least not another doctor who could provide his skills. The small office had a nurse, a couple of nice clean patient rooms, and a surgical suite.

Now in early parts of the episode there is a bad accident that the main EMERGENCY! characters come upon as they return from a vacation. They must get help for the victims since they cannot practice their paramedic skills in another state, so they eventually get help and race the mother and boy to that small clinic in that small town area. The nurse is the only person on staff there and so they must wait for the doctor, who eventually arrives and sees that there is need for his services. The paramedics are expecting to see an old man, the proverbial lovable old country doctor but instead a younger man with a thick mustache and in very casual clothes, comes in and assesses the scene. After the victims are treated the paramedics and the doctor talk about why he has put his practice in that part of the state. He says something to the effect of, “Well I just wanted to practice where I am most needed. That’s why I stayed here.” Marvelous. EMERGENCY! as a 1970’s television show had a cast that was wonderful in its professional presentation and diverse nature, and this one episode is only one demonstration of what happens when need and service and consideration outweigh “government” policies and separatist attitudes and action takes over and someone has the courage to establish that practice where they really are most needed.

Now think about this: when it comes to “race”, what someone looks like on the outside, what would you do if your house caught fire and you were trapped on a higher floor with no way out? The only “race” you should then be concerned about is the dash of the fire department to your home to save your life. Would it really matter to you who was first up that 100 foot Pierce Aerial in that basket to rescue you from the burning bedroom? I think not. If you looked out that window at the firefighter who came up in his or her heavy gear to get you out, what would you see – someone with a face that “does not look like yours”, or someone who is there to save your life, with arms at the ready to carry you down and get you some help? If you took one look at that firefighter and back at the flames coming through the bedroom door, I suspect you would reach out and let the firefighter carry you down that latter, with his or her words of reassurance as you go down to the ground, safely away from the flames and smoke.

There is next the issue of this stuff about “neighborhood” schools, especially in Chicago. A neighborhood is made up of people who can be of the same background or can be made up of a lot of different kinds of people. So what does it matter what the teachers or the officials “look like”? Goodness gracious, what digression… what aggression… what stupid trains of thought! “I won’t let you teach my kids because you don’t look like them!” Come on, folks. If the teacher is qualified, if the school system is providing qualified personnel and proper facilities, then there is nothing to worry about. People are letting words and concepts such as “charter” and “selective” and “magnet” and “private” and “public” get in the way of seeing that the students are provided a good and proper and higher education. We are being taken away from the real issue: EDUCATION.

My teachers were very diverse when I was growing up and attending public schools in Nashville. I didn’t care a bit what these ladies and gentlemen looked like: I respected them each and every one, I sat and listened in class, and I was respectful of the principals and other school officials and bus drivers. Had I thought, “I’m not taking math from him because he’s not from my neighborhood” or “I won’t listen to her because she has a different skin color from me” would have gone against the very principles of what education is meant to do and what its purpose is. Education is meant to challenge us to grow and expand our horizons, to get us to put different skill sets together and continue to learn and work with others, to make out the map of our lives and careers and our plans for the future. If we do not draw out the talents we have or that others have; if we do not march out and away from the ideas and thoughts that impede progress in the sense of us working together with others for success; if we do not lead others out of the mental captivity our government officials have chained many of us with, then our education system has failed.

We have failed, we have then wasted money and energy and resources, and we have not done our best.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

 

 

Wabash Renewal Project? Clean Up Your Spaces First!

It seems that the more we hear about tax increases and paying for the management errors that have resulted in our pension crisis (or is it pension emergency?) here in Illinois, the less enthusiastic we become, the more we tune out any more talk of taxes and politics, and the less happy we become with our officials, from the mayor to the city council to everyone above and below and in between.

Now we have word of this special district around State Street, and the talk of raising taxes and of funding to work on Wabash Avenue and the areas between State Street and Michigan Avenue. Now hold on a moment, folks! Before you waste even one more minute talking about it or one more cent “working on” a plan or “looking into it” or “investigating it”, there are certainly aspects of that area we affectionately call “the Loop” that we can take care of right now.

As my late grandmother would tell you nonsense talkers and big talkers, “DO SOMETHING!” She was not one to take the nonsense stuff politicians and planners throw out these days to woo the taxpayers and to lull the citizens into doing what they want. No way. She would have tackled what can be easily done at the moment the need is seen to take care of a very important facet of revitalizing any area or doing any kind of project of that nature.

Clean up the area first. That’s right, use elbow grease and planning and gather the resources and CLEAN UP THE SPACE FIRST.

Think of a true class act – think Palmer House Hotel. This is a beautiful, classic building inside and out, with a sense of welcome and of luxury and of grace that I think epitomizes what Wabash Avenue should be. Sturdy elegance and gracious service are what make businesses of any kind special and inviting. A bland interior need not be what is all that the business shows, as is seen by the interior of the Palmer House. A plain brick and glass and neutral stone face might conceal a richness of color and pattern and creativity in artwork and displays prepared to welcome customers and visitors, families and colleagues.

The Palmer House Hilton Hotel - Chicago, IL - Mezzanine The Palmer House Hotel

So here is what is needed: Get the pigeons away from the buildings and the “L”, get the trash off the streets, the trash cans cleaned and sanitized, and the sidewalks power blasted. Get the windows washed, the alleys washed, the buildings washed and given a good dusting inside and out. Break out the shovels, the rakes, the bags, and tackle the parks; break out the tool kits and tool belts and work on the doors and windows. Give the store displays a totally fresh look, an appealing look that will invite shoppers to come in… but first go back to step one and get the resources together.

It is very simple, though tackling the bird problem might be somewhat risky and complex, it needs to be done. The health department must get involved, especially in the area that is bordered by State Street, Adams, Jackson, and Wabash. In that area are some of the filthiest L tracks, sidewalks, signs, and stairs. There is a stink in the air in that section that is probably caused by the accumulation of bird waste and trash, and in an area where there are so many restaurants and thousands of people walking it every day, that is a recipe for health problems and the driving away of business. I mean, it is not very pleasant looking around there.

So, for that project there is step one: get the resources together. The needs are easy to figure out: gloves, masks, shovels, hoses, trash bags and trash cans, power washers, boots, sturdy clothing, head protection, bug spray, pest control. Everyone must organize, from first responders to be around in case someone gets into serious trouble, to small business owners giving solid input as to what they want to see and what is best for their customers and capital plans; from volunteers willing to give hours to making their city look better and smell better and be more inviting to people giving supplies to make the project successful.

 Picture taken from a search on GOOGLE images, showing businesses alongside the Loop “L”.

No one person will be able to take on the remodeling, renovation and reworking of the Wabash Avenue Loop area alone. It will take the veritable mission control team to make it happen: people to supervise, people to take over when others are on breaks, people to bring in supplies and people to haul trash away. It will take everyone looking out each for the others to ensure safety and security. The project is huge, but taken step by step, beginning with a good solid cleanup session as detailed above, a lot of problems will be seen and some will be solved. Issues regarding structures will then be noted and repairs or other steps can be taken, such as historical preservation or demolition or repurposing.

It is hoped businesses would open their doors to those working on the project, for restroom use, or for dining in the food courts or just for a place to sit and have a simple lunch if the weather turns wet or stormy. Were I a business owner, that might be on my menu too – wanting to help out the workers who are giving time and energy to make the Loop look better and be welcoming to visitors and to my customers. I might have a place set aside with a sign saying, “Welcome Loop Work Volunteers! Sit here, rest and have something to eat!” Pitch in and do your part, and don’t worry about the money. It will come when things look and feel better.

Get cleaning first, and then take the next steps.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

RESOURCES

1. http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/palmer-house-a-hilton-hotel-CHIPHHH/index.html?WT.srch=1