What’s most important right now?

By Jon Cohn, April 1, 2020

 

I am a coach, so competition is always running through my mind even during these difficult times. I started to think of the items that are the most necessary while I am hunkered down at home. I started playing a game.

I thought of all the essentials. I started with hand sanitizers, books, paper towels and TV News updates.

Then kept at it: going for a walk, Netflix and Amazon Prime, alcoholic beverages, chicken breasts (man are they hard to find these days), sleep and rest, toilet paper, house cleaning, family discussions, the computer, board games and even mental toughness and resilience.

That was my “sweet sixteen.” But I wanted to know which is number one? What is most vital?

After some intense deliberations and difficult eliminations I cut the list in half. What survived were news updates, Netflix/Amazon Prime, books, toilet paper, hand sanitizers, going for a walk and mental toughness and resilience.

I still wanted to narrow it down to just one.

After an extremely painful back and forth, the final four: hand sanitizers, news updates, toilet paper and mental toughness remained. I felt bad about losing my books and especially “going for a walk,” but something had to give.

Still, to get down to one wasn’t easy. In the end, sorry news updates, I will miss you (maybe), and sorry hand sanitizer, you were so hard to find and now I have lost you again.

But I brought it down to the final two: mental toughness aka resilience or toilet paper. The logic, the sentiment, the morality play here would be for mental toughness. Good-ness knows in the coming weeks we will need this.

But I couldn’t stop the momentum of toilet paper. The sheer practicality of it all. It’s gaining popularity. It was a close and intense battle, but bottom line? Toilet paper wiped out the competition.

Some two months ago toilet paper was a mere afterthought. An easy to get resource that we all took for granted. How times have changed. The previously disregarded TP stood out as champion. The king of essential home items. Standing atop the world and looking down on all of us who may have looked down on it.

Lesson learned, TP, and no hard feelings. Won’t ever take you for granted again.

John Cohn is a New Eastside resident.

Image: stand png from pngtree.com

Man, do these kids have it good at the playground

By Jon Cohn

I recently checked out the Maggie Daley Park kids playground. Oh, to be young again!

The playground of my day was a couple of chain swings, maybe a teeter-totter (remember those things?) and a really COOL  jungle gym. 

Fast forward some 50 years and welcome to today’s state-of-the-art playground.

At Maggie Daley Park, visitors can start with the watering hole, a special play area for 2-5 year olds. Adjacent to this is a separate area dedicated to swings, which includes three old-school, strap-in swings and one grand luxury swing, complete with big bucket seats and extra leg room.

Decked out with two giant climbing tree-house towers and a beautiful wooden suspension bridge, the main area really has the ‘wow’ factor that made me want to just climb on in, but I didn’t because I was over the age limit.  Connected to the tree-house towers are two gigantic winding slides that I would have loved as a young kid. Suddenly my old jungle gym didn’t seem so cool.

I was dubious about a four-pronged metal slide I spied. I’m not sure what metal bars were all about, but it sure would be very painful for any fully formed adult male to slide down and so I didn’t try it.

Just when I thought the playground tour was over, I stumbled across a pirate-ship area, really cool nest swings (think giant baskets where two can ride), and an enchanted forest.    

Yes, an enchanted forest, complete with winding paths, cool trees, mini statues, a maze of mirrors and more slides. They just don’t make playgrounds like they used to.

The grass, mud and wood chip flooring we had in our playgrounds has been replaced by a comfy and colorful soft, spongy surface.

I’m not sure I would say today’s kids are soft but the surface they walk on sure is.

Keep it on the down low, but I may go back when it’s a little dark and not many people are around. I just might climb up that tower and go head first diving down that giant winding slide.

Forever young.

Some friendly (and not so friendly) reminders for watching the Air and Water Show

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

One of the Midwest’s great summer events descends upon the city as the Chicago Air and Water Show rears it’s noisy, but exciting, head on Aug. 17 and 18. 

Huge crowds are expected and the Chicago beachfront will be packed, which could present some interesting challenges. So, as a long-time veteran of the spectator wars at the Air and Water Show, we present some crucial “don’t forgets.”

  • Don’t forget to get there early. More than two million people attended last year, so there will be battles for prime viewing locations. For an up close and personal experience, North Avenue Beach is perfect, but prepare to be squished in among a throng of fellow viewers.

Great viewing locations exist along Oak Street, Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue beaches. My secret spot is the long line of elevated steps between Ohio and Oak streets, offering a great view and it’s a little less crowded.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen. If it’s a hot day and you forgot your SPF 30 you will cook like a Fourth of July hot dog on a grill. A hat with a flap is also recommended.
  • Don’t forget to bring fluids (preferably water). Bring snacks, too, if you don’t want to wait in long lines for food.
  • Speaking of long lines, don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you head out. Washrooms are available along the route, but you might as well bring a book as the wait can be excruciating.

Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars. The up-close looks can be spectacular.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog. The loud noises can freak out even the calmest of pets.

Don’t forget Friday is practice day. Many a downtowner has panicked thinking air raids or worse when the planes do their runs.

Don’t forget to duck when the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds head your way in a screeching, loud, downward spiral. It’s a natural reaction, we all do it.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the show.

See the city like a local: A guide to downtown’s hidden gems

Don’t want to fight the crowds at Cloud Gate to get a selfie? Looking for a special spot or event not typically on the tourism map? Get off the beaten path and get in with the locals with this quick guide. Wally Braun, a Chicago resident and official city greeter, has some suggestions.

By Wally Braun

1. Chicago SummerDance, 601 S. Michigan, Wednesday through Sunday from June 26 to Aug. 24. The dances generally run from 6 to 9:30 p.m. There will be 48 live bands or DJs offering a variety of music. Instructors teach the dances from 6 to 6:30 p.m. followed by open dancing until 9:30 p.m. There are also refreshments. Many local residents participate, but not too many tourists. The event is a fun way to meet many other people and visitors can dance or just watch. For a complete schedule, check out chicago.gov.

2. Chicago Instagreeter: Free, one-hour walks around the Loop with a local volunteer are offered 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Monday by the Chicago Cultural Center at 78 E Washington St. Limited to a maximum of six people, the tours take visitors by places they would probably never see. This is similar to the regular Chicago Greeter Service but visitors do not have to sign up ahead of time, just show up.

3. New Chicago Public Library, 400 S. State St. The library has a beautiful interior—go to the upper atrium to really get an eyeful. There are some wonderful permanent and short term exhibits, including a beautiful, and absolute moving, permanent exhibit of more than 55,000 dog tags representing the men and women who died in the Vietnam War. This display is at the third floor escalator entry. 

4. Signature Room on the 95th floor in the John Hancock building. The elevator is free and the cost of a refreshment is less than the fee to the observation floor. Be sure to tell female tourists to visit the ladies’ room. (I’m told the window goes from floor to ceiling and the view is quite exciting.)

5: At DuSable Harbor, there is a very nice, small spot called Café Michelle where tourists can sit with a refreshment and snacks while watching the other tourists, locals and boaters. It’s fun, interesting and relaxing.

Wally Braun is an official Chicago greeter through the city’s Chicago Greeter program. Learn more about the program at choosechicago.com.

Spark joy with organizing tips from Chicago’s experts

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

With spring warmth just around the corner, it’s time to clean house and local pros have some advice.

Monica Friel, president and founder of Chaos to Order, a Chicago-based organizing company, recommends decluttering the house twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, to keep on top of the clutter.

Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method of tidying emphasizes discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” The method suggests going through items by category (books, clothes and so on) and touching each one. If it sparks joy, keep it—then, once you’ve gotten rid of the things you don’t want, you can organize the rest.

Friel said Kondo’s Netflix show has resulted in an uptick in her business.

“I think it’s great that Marie Kondo has inspired us to declutter and get rid of things that don’t bring us joy.”

While Kondo’s methods don’t work for everyone, Friel said getting rid of excess baggage is healthy. “I believe that the clutter that accumulates in and around our homes really weighs us down, and it’s kind of a burden that you carry,” Friel said.

Terri Albert of The Chicago Organizer said the KonMari Method doesn’t tend to work well for her clients because they often need more hands-on coaching.

Instead of “sparking joy,” Albert uses three words with her clients: need, use and love. Items that you need in your life, use regularly, and have a strong attachment to can stay. Everything else can be thrown away or donated.

The time it takes for someone to go through their entire house varies, so Albert suggests setting a timer and working for 15 or 30 minutes at a time. “People will be very amazed that they can get a lot more done if they really focus,” she said.

As for staying organized, Albert said it’s necessary to have a realistic “baseline,” or vision of what your ideal space looks like.

Albert said changing habits is hard but can be done by taking baby steps.

“A good one is to open up your mail every single day, immediately recycle the junk mail, immediately enter important event dates in your calendar, and if you can’t get to the rest of it, attend to the rest of it as soon as you can,” she said.

First we learn to crawl, then we learn … to drink?

By Jon Cohn

I’m not sure how the great tradition of the “pub crawl” started.

I’m not even sure that Chicago is the home for these particular events, but based on the number of them coming up we might as well be.

For those not familiar with this unique concept, let’s loosely call it a form of recreation, socialization, physical exercise (remember, there is walking involved!), and of course drinking. The basic idea—and there have been many takes on this—is for groups of people to meet with a common theme and wander to various drinking establishment in the assigned area. One drink per location. A rule, not surprisingly, that is broken early and often.

As you can see from the description, the concept isn’t very complicated. The beauty in its simplicity.

Here’s the good part: Whether you are a veteran pub crawler or a novice looking for a new experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get in on the fun coming up later this month.

St. Patrick’s Day alone offers several opportunities.

Among your selections would be the Irish Stroll Pub Crawl in River North, the Wicker Park Bar Crawl, the Lincoln Park Bar Crawl, the Division Street Bar crawl, the Logan Square Bar crawl, and the Shamrock Crawl in Wrigleyville—again, all on St. Patrick’s Day. There’s no lack of opportunity to “get your crawl on” if you so desire.

Can’t make it St. Patrick’s Day but the idea still interest you? No worries. There are many more to come, such as the Cultural Crawl (drink and explore new neighborhoods) on April 13, The Office Trivia Bar crawl April 6, and the Cover Your Bases bar crawl in Wrigleyville on May 18.  September, October and Halloween bring on another barrage of potential pub crawl experiences.

Check out eventbrite.com/d/il–chicago/pub-crawl for more complete listings.

Final note: These pub crawls often start at 8 a.m.— yes a.m. — not a typo.  Pub crawls are apparently not for the faint of heart (or liver).

The art of the thank you

Leontina Richardson, president of Stepping Into Etiquette


Let’s face it: There’s going to be at least one gift under your Christmas tree this year that you’d

rather sell on eBay. We’ve all been there. But the reality is, you still need to write that person a thank-you card. Although you wouldn’t be caught dead in that itchy scarf your coworker made everyone in the office, she still put a lot of time and thought into it. The relationship is what really matters.

Here are some tips for writing good letters this holiday season.

1: Don’t go digital

Handwrite your cards. Not only will your recipient appreciate getting a letter that isn’t a bill, but they’ll also recognize you put time and thought into it. Texting “Thanks, Grandma,” is far less endearing.

2: Don’t begin your card with “Thank You”

If you say thank you first, then your recipient won’t pay much attention to the rest of the letter

because they know what to expect. Instead, write your letter with the following guidelines:

The Beginning: “Dear [insert name here].”

The Middle: Write something that elicits an emotional response equal to the thoughtfulness of

the gift. Try, “I am blown away by how perfect your Christmas gift was.” Then include what you

enjoyed about the gift. Try, “These dishes look so good with my new dining room set.” Now you

can express your gratitude: “Thank you so much.” Then add any closing thoughts you have, as in, “Now all I’m missing is your company for lunch. Let’s get together soon.”

The End: You’ll likely want to sign off with either “Best Wishes,” “Best Regards,” or “Warmest

Regards.” Only use “Love” for your closest relationships.

3: Don’t wait too long

For the holidays, get your thank-you cards out within two weeks of receiving gifts. For dinner parties and other small events, you can wait up to a week. For weddings, three months is best. Remember, you want your recipients to feel appreciated, so don’t put it off until the last minute.

When it comes to expressing thanks, a well-written card goes a long way. Be an example to those around you this holiday season by always keeping a stack of thank-you cards on your desk. Not only will you be prepared for the unexpected gift, but your friends will feel safe knowing that you’ll love their gifts no matter how itchy they are. It’s the thought that counts.

Leontina Richardson is the president of Stepping Into Etiquette, a consulting firm specializing on manners and style. For more information, visit the company website at www.steppingintoetiquette.com

Football fandom for complete dummies

By Tom Conroy, Staff Writer

The weather is cooling off and the leaves are starting to change, which means it’s time to stay inside all day Sunday and watch football. This can be daunting for someone who may only be a casual fan or has never watched the game. If the latter sounds like you, and you find yourself at a bar or a Sunday watch party, here is how to get by like a pro:

  1. Following multiple games is necessary

Your friends might all be Bears fans, but don’t be alarmed if someone insists on switching over to the Steelers-Bengals game. It probably means that someone at your gathering has Ben Roethlisberger or A.J. Green in their fantasy game. If you find yourself lost, just pick a team. Latch onto the Bears’ bandwagon and cheer whenever you see the navy blue and orange pop up on the screen.

  1. Everyone hates Roger Goodell, and you do, too

Your friends will probably bring up the NFL commissioner at least once, and it will be negative. Whether it has to do with the national anthem, concussion protocols, new penalty rules or his $200 million contract, Goodell will always draw the ire of fans, regardless of their viewpoints. Do not waste time forming your own opinions about the man; just hiss whenever you hear his name.

 

  1. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are necessary evils

Bears fans are sick of losing to Rodgers and the Packers. The entire NFL is sick of watching Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. However, refrain from wishing season-ending injuries on either quarterback.

 

I was at the Bears-Packers season opener at Lambeau Field, where I witnessed Bears fans cheering at the sight of Rodgers leaving the field with a potential knee injury, only to exclaim in agony when he returned later in the game to pull off the victory. Guess what? It was one of the most exciting and compelling games I’ve ever watched. Rodgers and Brady may win all the time, but football is more compelling when they are on the screen.

  1. Sundays are now your new cheat day

Diets are hard when pizza, wings, beer and every other game day indulgence surround you. If you know you’ll be gorging yourself on Sunday, plan ahead. Get in your exercise and healthy eating during the week. Pack some fruit if it is a potluck gathering. And make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid a Monday hangover.

 

Unbearable: The best jerseys to troll Bears fans

By Tom Conroy | Staff Writer

When I first got to Milwaukee, I received strange looks whenever I wore my favorite football jersey because of the name “FAVRE” stitched on the back.

Little did I know that students on campus, most of whom were Packers fans, were still bitter about Brett Favre going back on his retirement following the 2007 season to play for the Jets. This experience made me wonder about how other teams’ fans felt when they saw certain players’ jerseys, so I asked some Chicago Bears fans what would incite their rage.

Brett Favre: Packers fans may have been upset with Favre for a few years, but Bears fans will probably hate Favre forever. Fans always feel the strongest about divisional rivals, and the Hall of Fame quarterback posted a 22-10 career record against the Chicago Bears.

“I would rip their Favre jersey off,” joked Adam Ruff of Crown Point, Indiana.

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady: Nationwide, these two share the distinction of being hated because of their dominance as the two best quarterbacks in the league.

Like Favre, Rodgers is an easy target of animosity because he’s the Packers quarterback (and he boasts a 16-4 record against the Bears). I was surprised to hear from so many Bears fans about the Patriots QB. “The problem with Brady is that he’s a great player on a great team with a great system and still he cheats,” said Jesse Patton, Jr., referring to the “Deflategate” scandal of 2015 when Brady was suspended for four games for allegedly tampering with the air in the footballs.

Rex Grossman: Grossman has the distinction of being the only Bears alumnus that came up. After all, he is blamed for Chicago’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. Considered to be the weakest link on the team during the 2006 season, Grossman threw for only 165 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the 29-17 Super Bowl loss.

Players linked to controversies:

There were several players who came up based on incidents off the field. Bears fans mentioned Ray Rice because of his assault of his then-fiancée that was caught on video, while Colin Kaepernick came up because of his kneeling during the national anthem.

The takeaway: Avoid the jerseys of players whose actions off the field are discussed more than their performance on field.

Published September 4, 2018

What’s in a name? Cool and funky boat names of DuSable Harbor

By Jon Cohn

Published August 2, 2018

 

What’s in a name?:  Meet the boats of DuSable and Monroe harbors

For most of us who aren’t lucky enough to own a boat, having them around us at the DuSable and Monroe harbors is a true pleasure.

 

Call it boat envy, but there is something about being around the docks and taking in all the sights, sounds and even the smells of the waterfront that help make our New Eastside so special.

 

I started to wonder, though, about all the interesting boat names. There are stories behind them all, I am sure. On a recent visit, I brought along the old reporter’s notebook and jotted down some of my favorites.

 

Proud vessels included the Weekend Retreat, the Aquation, the Sea Weed, the Out of The Blue, the Endless Nights and one boat way too caught-up with itself, the Handsome Pete.

We spotted, the Veni Vidi Veatchi (I would have gone with the Livin’ La Vida Loco), the Off Balance (count me out for a ride on that one), the My Anesthetic (I hear ya there), the Sail-Vation, the Prestige II (what, one wasn’t enough to rub it in?), the Painkiller, and the Fearless.

Not to leave out, the Eclipse, the Mini Me, the Glad It’s Over, the Sea Beaux, and—be careful here editor—the BullShip.

My personal favorite? In big bold letters staring straight at the DuSable Harbor, the We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat. Yep, pretty much says it all doesn’t it?

These are great names and I am sure there are stories behind them all.

Don’t get too envious of the boat owners though; owning a boat is a lot of responsibility. There is an old saying that goes, “The two best days of a boaters life are one, when he buys a boat, and two, when he sells it.”

 

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