Commuters, residents, and visitors carry on in crisis mode

By Daniel Patton

 

Two weeks after President Trump declared a national health emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago appeared rather desolate on a foggy Friday afternoon. But some people were out and about, carrying on almost as if everything were normal. Almost.

New Eastside News hit the pavement to see how commuters, residents, and visitors are getting by during the crisis.

 

Lynn and Elizabeth (Lizzy) Brahin, New Eastside

New Eastside residents Lynn and her daughter Elizabeth (Lizzy) were enjoying an outdoor lunch in Streeterville when they graciously paused to explain how the pandemic has affected their lives.

Lynn, a Corcoran Urban Real Estate broker, is mostly showing houses through virtual tours to accommodate the stay-at-home order, a process that she believes may ultimately prove to be beneficial for the industry. “Buyers will become much more informed,” she explained. “Back in the day, it would take a long time to visit several properties.”

When the order is lifted, she looks forward to enjoying the intimacy of companionship once again. “That in-person, eye-to-eye, human contact is so much different than anything else,” she said. “It’s priceless.”

Lizzy is a junior high school student at Walter Payton College Prep who has been studying at home due to the statewide school closure. But the thing is, she really doesn’t have to study at all. “You can do the assigments to improve your grade,” she explained. “But not doing them will not make your grade worse.”

Walter Payton also cancelled a school trip to San Francisco, where Lizzy was scheduled to participate in the Knowledge at Wharton High School Investment Competition with the economics and investment team. “We submitted a 14-page report tailored to the needs of a particular client,” Lizzy said. “She’s a mother, a businesswoman, and the CEO of a multi-million dollar venture capital company who graduated from Wharton.” After graduation from Walter Payton, Lizzy plans to attend college and study economics, of course.

 

David and Jill Newton, Streeterville

The Newtons wore their optimism well as they prepared to make an unplanned exit from Chicago, where they have spent the past year residing in Streeterville. Since the native Englanders lived as Windy City residents during a previous two-year stint, they have found many things to love about the city.

David, who has been working at home since Kraft Heinz closed its offices in the AON Building three weeks ago, rearranged his retirement so that he and his wife could spend time with their children back near Liverpool. “I had a month of celebrations for me retiring all planned, but none of that’s happening now,” he said. “We want to get back and see our kids and be close to them at this time.” But he will miss “getting on the lakefront” as well as “Kingston Mines and the Green Mill and the jazz clubs and Andy’s and all the different things.”

Jill will miss the theatres, museums, opera, and symphony. “It’s just a great place to live and I hope that things will return to normal before too long and it will be the great city that it is,” she said.

 

Erin Matsumura, East Lakeview

Personal trainer and dog-walker Erin was strolling near the Columbus Avenue Bridge with a six-month old boxer named Mia when she explained how the stay-at-home era has helped her realize that, “simplicity is maybe the way to go.”

“Everything I thought I needed, I don’t,” she said. “I’m actually pretty much a minimalist anyways, but I mean, you know, buying day-to-day things you think you need or things you think you need to do, you really don’t.”

With so many businesses closed for the same reason, some of her clients have reached the same conclusion. “People are home, so a lot of them don’t need their dogs walked,” she continued. “It’s not like it used to be.” Since gyms are also closed, fitness has taken on a do-it-yourself necessity as well. But Erin offered suggestions for exercising at home. “Go easy and get dialed in with the basic movements,” she said. “Just move — walking, stretching, you know, your basics. If you want to dance, dance. Whatever. Anything to move.”

 

Susan (last name withheld), downtown

A retiree who is “very involved with the performing arts,” Susan was accustomed to going out “every night” until the health crisis came along. Now she spends her days with a new friend.

“I have this dog to take care of as long as we’re sheltering in place,” she explained. “His name is Oreo, which makes no sense because he’s not black and white at all.”

Susan decided to foster Oreo after Mayor Lightfoot closed all the bars and restaurants in Chicago. “I realized that if I was going to be home all the time, I could get a dog,” she recalled. When she’s not walking the dog, Susan checks out the free concerts that The Metropolitan Opera streams every day. It’s not the same as the live performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle that she intended to attend before it got cancelled, but she said, “it’s really generous of them.”

Oreo has been adopted by a Missouri family, but that’s on hold “because of what we’re dealing with right now.” Same goes for his favorite places to walk — the Riverwalk and the lakefront — but he and Susan still manage to get out about four times every day.

 

Thoa Le, Viet Nam

Vietnamese medical student Thoa Le came to Chicago for a cardiology conference but ended up sightseeing when it got cancelled. She was disappointed to learn that Millennium Park was closed, but understood the reason. “Every store and market in Viet Nam had to close at least 14 days,” she said. “The pandemic is dangerous and it can cross borders without a visa.”

Catch Wake Up, Brother Bear! at Chicago Children’s Theater before the bears go back into hibernation

by Angela Gagnon

The Chicago Children’s Theater presentation of Wake Up, Brother Bear! Is a delightful, interactive play that will take you, and your little ones, on a magical journey through the four seasons. Brother and Sister Bear go on enchanting adventures through a year of discovery.

Featuring live music, familiar songs, captivating sound effects and several heartwarming scenes, Wake Up, Brother Bear! will ignite your senses in a charming and intimate setting. You’ll observe a melting waterfall in the springtime, dance with butterflies and lightening bugs in the summer, cast a fishing line into the water on a chilly autumn day and ice skate on a frozen pond in winter. 

From amusing nature encounters to energizing, heart-pumping activity, you’ll enjoy every detail of this sensory-rich storytelling experience. Even the youngest theatergoers will delight in being part of the show, as audience participation is beautifully woven into the performance and thoughtfully encouraged. Performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. until March 1. The show is geared toward ages 0-6 with a run time of about 45 minutes. Chicago Children’s Theater is at 100 S. Racine Avenue in the West Loop. There is free onsite parking in the lot adjacent to the theater. For more information, visit www.chicagochildrenstheater.org or call 312-374-8835.

Soho House and Threadless bring top artists to West Loop

by Elisa Shoenberger

The work of local and national artists regularly decorate Soho House’s Green Street exterior. Graffiti on Green, a collaborative murals program between Soho House and Threadless, started in January 2015, five months after Soho House Chicago opened.

“Soho House Chicago is a members club for creatives, so we loved the idea of allowing for that creativity to literally live on the building’s corners,” according to a Soho House statement. 

Soho House and Lance Curran, Artist Shops Account Director and Comic Book Czar at Threadless and curator of the program, decided to collaborate.

“We thought this would be a fun way to engage the community,” Curran said. Initially, Curran chose local artists but the program has attracted international interest and artists from around the world contact him to participate.

He gets inspiration from being in Chicago. Curran approached October’s artist, Saul Palos, after seeing his work on the nearby B-Line.

“I combine both up and coming artists in a variety of fields with well known and established artists,” Curran said, “I also like to mix it up and work with artists who may have never done murals.” 

Soho House features a different artist each month and nearly 60 artists have participated in the program. Curran said it takes artists a weekend to finish the murals.

While the program has livened up Green Street where Soho House is located, Graffiti on Green has also helped boost artists’ careers. 

“The combination of Soho House and Threadless promotion of the corners has been very successful in boosting the careers of many of the artists,” Curran said. “We get lots of feedback about how much work they get specifically from being featured as part of Graffiti on Green.” 

Chicago-based artist Lauren Asta painted a mural in April 2016 and participated again with Kate Lewis in summer 2018.

“It was my very first job in Chicago,” she said. “I think it had a domino effect of murals, jobs, and connections for me.”

Not only was it her first Chicago commission, it was one of her first murals at street level. “It was such a perfect little spot for communicating with the public,” Asta said.

November and December will feature Chicago artists Joey D and Caroline Liu. Curran has the artistic schedule planned a year out.

Secret Underground Music Performances in the West Loop and Across the City

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

Imagine a secret underground music show at a beauty salon or someone’s rooftop apartment. That’s Sofar Sounds. Getting its name from “Songs From a Room,” Sofar aims to create intimate musical experiences for its guests. 

“We live in the age of distraction,” Stephanie Albano, Chicago Director of Sofar Sounds, explains. Sofar aims to “get back to the connection and the magic” of live music, she says. 

Sofar Sounds first began in 2009 in London when its founders had a disappointing concert experience because there were too many distractions taking place. Founder Rafe Offer decided to bring people over to his place and invited musician Dave Alexander to perform. From that, more concerts came and ten years later, Sofar Sounds is in 438 cities around the world.

Chicago began hosting shows for the past five years with one to two shows a month. Now, there can be up to 50 shows a month. To attend an event, people have to choose a location in the city without any knowledge of where the venue is. They have to apply for a ticket, which is more like making a reservation, and will receive notice if it was accepted. 

If they are accepted, they can purchase $16 tickets. The day before the show,  they will receive notification of the address, often a non-traditional venue like the top floor of the Willis Tower or the backroom of a closed restaurant. Guests won’t know the musicians until they arrive at the venue. Each event has three different musicians from diverse genres; some are local while some tour with Sofar Sounds.

“I just like the consistency of the energy of people who attend and the guarantee that people are going to listen,” The Nunnery, a Minneapolis musician who played at a recent West Loop event. 

“Since Sofar shows are held in a variety of spaces across the city, this encourages people to explore new neighborhoods and venture out of their comfort zone,” Albano explains, “Beyond rediscovering the magic of live music experiences, we’re ultimately trying to create a space in society where people can come together in one safe space.”

At a recent West Loop show, Worth Knight, who has attended 44 Sofar Sounds, explains, “I got tired of going to big venues to spend an hour going in, an hour going out. This is much more intimate. I love to support young artists and to hear the new poets tell their stories.”

Sofar Sounds hosts events almost every evening throughout the city. Check out their online schedule to find a performance near your neighborhood.

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

Hospitality goes to the dogs with DineAmic’s pet-centered brunch


(Published April 2, 2019)

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

The brunch scene heats up in spring and Chicago’s DineAmic has created a dog-friendly menu that will allow your pet to chew on some delectable treats while sitting next to you, so you don’t have to leave your beloved pet at home.

According to Cara Zizzo, DineAmic senior PR manager, the inspiration behind the idea stemmed from the company’s general canine-friendly policies.

“We allow corporate employees to bring their dogs to work with them every day. In the past, DineAmic’s restaurant patios allowed dogs on their patios with each dog receiving a treat and bowl of ice water. But last year, we wanted to take a step further,” she said.

Launched last summer, the Puppy Menu includes entrees such as chicken breast, a burger patty and skirt steak, as well as dessert. All entrees are grilled with extra virgin olive oil with no added seasoning. The Woof-Cream dessert has dairy-free whipped cream and is served on an eco-friendly disposable plate.

Since the DineAmic chefs have dogs, making food that would cater to a canine’s tastes was not a huge task.

“We have seen a huge response from dog owners consisting of all sizes to try out the menu. There have been Huskies, French bulldogs, bulldogs, pugs and even dobermans who enjoyed the entrees and dessert specifically catered to the four-legged animal,” Zizzo said.

“The response has been positive from both sides, canines seem to scarf down the meal and their owners love the option.”

Although there have not been any brawls between the dogs, Zizzo has witnessed unbridled excitement.

“A Siberian husky named Wolfgang was so excited to get the food that he finished his meal before the plate was set on the table,” she said.

Bring along Fido as an additional guest to one of the following locations:

· Siena Tavern (51 West Kinzie St./River North neighborhood)

· Bar Siena (832 West Randolph St./West Loop neighborhood)

· Barrio (65 West Kinzie St./River North neighborhood)

· Public House (400 North State St./River North neighborhood)

Shark research includes regular residents at the Shedd

(Published April 2, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

This month, as gray skies finally give way to blue, some residents will be sailing around the Bahamas.

It may sound like an ideal vacation—but there are sharks. Lots and lots of sharks. The Shedd Aquarium is taking regular people along on a shark research expedition as part of an ongoing series of citizen scientist projects.

Dr. Steve Kessel, director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium, said the trips are valuable both for science and for the regular people who sign up.

“The participants that join these expeditions get authentic hands-on experiences conducting field research with sharks,” Kessel said. “This includes opportunities to get up close and personal with wild sharks, contributing to the ultimate and very necessary goal of improving shark conservation management.”

The groups are small, about 15 people, and of those, eight are citizen researchers. Kessel said those eight people get so excited by studying sharks that they often turn into citizen shark advocates. Plus, he said, the scientists need the help.

“The inclusion of participants alone makes this specific research expedition possible,” he said. “We get a whole other research trip to an area of the Bahamas that would otherwise go un-surveyed. This will represent a very important spatial data point that will be invaluable in the broader understanding of the shark populations that use the protected waters of The Bahamas, and how we maintain and improve shark conservation in this region moving forward.”

While the trip is fun, it is actual work and Kessel said before anyone signs up, they should be ready to work.  

“People who will get the most out of this trip are those who revel in the opportunity to get their hands dirty and want to contribute important scientific data to Shedd Aquarium’s shark and ray conservation research program,” he said.

A typical research day starts with breakfast and then teams break up for team assignments. Some researchers tag sharks while others take underwater video. Evenings are spent entering data, studding marine samples or learning about sharks and marine ecology. There is an occasional movie night and some days citizen researchers can kick back for a bit.

“This is a research trip rather than a pleasure trip and as such the activities can be quite physically demanding,” Kesssel said. “This isn’t to say that we won’t have any fun, some more relaxing activities are also built in.”

The next research trip will be an iguana study in June.

Check the Shedd’s website, sheddaquarium.org, for details.

Learning to cook; kids can hone their culinary skills at Sur La Table


(Published April 2, 2019)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

Kids can get busy in the kitchen at Sur La Table and experience some hands-on cooking fun this summer and learn to make delicious classic summer eats from scratch.

Sur La Table, located at 900 North Michigan Ave., offers three- and five-day cooking classes for kids 8-12 and teens 13-17. The classes start in July, last about two hours each and are limited to 16 students.

“All of our classes are taught by classically trained culinary professionals,” said Adam Leach, resident chef at Sur La Table.

Sur La Table will offer two camps this summer. One incorporates different themes each day like backyard BBQ or pizza parties and will include about four different recipes per day. The other camp will focus on teaching different techniques, like working with pasta and pizza dough, learning knife skills or grilling or BBQ techniques.

“There will also be a bakery and pastry component this year, which will take place one day as an all encompassing experience in the five day camp,” added Leach.

Kids get to eat what they make and even compete in a friendly mystery box competition at the end of each series similar to the TV show, Chopped wherein chefs must create a meal with a box of mystery ingredients.  

“Teams get a menu together, curated through the instructor, but created by the kids. They use what skills they’ve learned the previous days to put it all together for a final menu,” said Leach.

The chef picks a mystery ingredient to be used somewhere in the menu, and kids are encouraged to use a kitchen gadget they haven’t used before. “The winning team gets a prize,” said Leach.

“I look at my job here as inspiring people to cook more at home and build confidence in the kitchen,” said Leach. “I like people to leave the class wanting to cook more!”

In addition to gaining culinary skills, kids will take home a packet of recipes and a Sur La Table apron. Register for the classes at surlatable.com.

Holi celebration set for Navy Pier

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Holi is coming to downtown Chicago.

Holi is a Hindu celebration that runs March 20-21. Navy Pier is hosting a free Holi festival on March 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Aon Grand Ballroom.

Holi is known as the festival of colors and the festival of love.

It is a celebration of letting go of resentments, while playfully dousing others in colored powder or water. Holi begins with the lighting of a bonfire, meant to symbolize the triumph of good over bad, according to the official Holi Festival website.

A number of legends attached to the festival.

The legend that is said to have led to the celebration of colors involves the Hindi god, Krishna becoming jealous of his soulmate Radha’s light complexion, according to the Holi site. Krishna complained to his mother, who told him to color Radha’s skin any color he wished. He did so, and the mischievous act turned into a celebration, and a symbol of love between partners.

“Lovers long to apply color on their beloveds face and express their affection for each other,” the Holi site said.

Navy Pier’s celebration will feature musicians Red Baraat and Funkadesi. There will also be dance performances from groups including Peirce Elementary School and Mandala Arts. Bombay Wraps will sell food and colored powders will be available to be thrown outside in the Miller Lite Beer Garden, as supplies last, until 4 p.m. Visitors may not throw powder inside.

To learn more about the Holi celebration at Navy Pier, visit navypier.org/event. To learn more about Holi, visit holifestival.org.

Joffrey Ballet stuns audiences with ‘Anna Karenina’

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Joffrey Ballet brought to life Leo Tolstoy’s tragic love story “Anna Karenina” on Feb. 12 in an all-star production.

The ballet will run through Feb. 24.

Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and composed by Ilya Demutsky, the Chicago Philharmonic performed the score, while Lindsay Metzger accompanied on vocals throughout the production.

The ballet begins with a man being run over by a train. The set design dazzled with a mix of projected media and ornate physical sets, reflecting Tsarist Russia. Anna and Vronsky meet for the first time at the Moscow train station and their immediate attraction palpable. Kitty is introduced at her home, in shades of pink, as Levin and other gentleman vie for her attention, but she is only interested in Vronsky’s impending arrival. Later, the company dances around Kitty as she fights for Vronsky’s attention, with dancers’ multicolored skirts brightening the stage. Anna, in an intricate black bedazzled dress, scandalously dances with Vronsky, dashing Kitty’s hope of a proposal from him.

The stately Karenin, Anna’s husband, is accompanied by robust brass instruments, as he meets his wife at the train station in St. Petersberg. Anna is reunited with her son at home, but domestic tranquility will not last as Anna rushes to Vronsky and their passionate affair begins with a languid and fervent pas de deux.

Anna and Vronsky run away together, but their affair soon sours. Heartbroken, Anna returns to her son and Karenin, but he banishes her forever, in an intricate dance between the three of them. Anna is distraught and undone, performing a frenetic and haunting solo before ultimately taking her life on the train tracks. The production ends, however, on a different note, with Kitty and Levin, now married, frolicking happily together in the countryside, surrounded by blue skies and yellow fields.

The performance is two hours long and runs Thursday through Sunday. For tickets and other information, visit the Joffrey Ballet online at joffrey.org/anna.

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