sentimental

I’m not one to get too attached to stuff/things, but every now and then I do. And that now and then was yesterday when I asked my handyman to haul away two lovely chairs I bought years ago when I was in Chicago. Two chairs and a bulky console table that I never loved and won’t miss. But those chairs? Seeing them hauled away made me wistful, sentimental, and kind of teary sad. I suppose they remind me of the life I once had and that I currently lack. The days should get brighter soon, I’m thinking/hoping. And in the meantime I’ll focus on being positive and grateful for everything I do have, which is a lot and which includes two brand new chairs. (Not as wonderful as the older ones but they’ll do/I’ll do just fine.)

how not to sound like you’re not from here

“You don’t sound like you’re from here.” I get this a lot. I open my mouth, and my squarish accent betrays my Midwestern upbringing. I’d try to speak more Southern, but the fact is I can’t/won’t. The dialect is far too pretty and wonderfully varied throughout Mississippi, and I’d hate to do it an injustice.

The above stated, there are ways to lessen your squarishness, if you’re like me. Let’s begin with basic courtesies. Ma’am is square one. If I’m running errands and a woman helps me, I always say, “Thank you, ma’am.” Always. In Chicago, to address a woman as ma’am means she’s old, and I always wince when I’m called ma’am. In the South, it’s a sign of respect.

In Mississippi, there are correct pronunciations for city/county/street names, so follow me on this:

  • Biloxi is buh-luck-see.
  • Lafayette is luh-fye-yet.
  • Starkville is stark-vull. Any city that ends with “ville” is pronounced “vull.”
  • Amite is am-mitt.

In the Midwest, any summer backyard gathering that involves grilling meat is called a BBQ, but that isn’t the case here. Barbecue is a food science and practiced differently, depending on what part of the South you’re in.

This next difference I really love. If someone does something really nice for you in the South, you say, “I appreciate you.” It’s a wonderfully personal way to express one’s gratitude. And with this biscuit/post, I should say I appreciate you, blog readers of mine.

the pulse quickens

Chicago. I lived there for 25 years and still call it home. For the time I’ve lived in Mississippi, I have made a point to visit home several times a year to spend time with friends and to check on my brother. And there’s just something about Chicago, or perhaps big cities, that makes my heart beat faster. The pulse quickens.

I visited last month and saw beautiful lights at O’Hare:

Holiday lights O'Hare Airport Chicago Illinois

Escaped the chill of December a couple times to get hot cider and coffee with friends. This is the Avondale Coffee Club (excellent cider), a newish coffee shop on Elston near Belmont:

Avondale Coffee Club Chicago Illinois

And Buzz Café in the Arts District of Oak Park:

Buzz Cafe Oak Park Illinois

To get my fix for flowers and plants and to appreciate all things green, I headed to the Garfield Park Conservatory where the theme of the Holiday Flower Show is Tickled Pink:

Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago Illinois

Heart.

sam and the goat

When I commuted by bicycle in #Chicago, my favorite part of my commute was wheeling into the loading dock area that sits directly behind one of Chicago’s most famous taverns–The Billy Goat. (I call it The Goat.) The Billy Goat of Cheezborger, Cheezborger fame.

The Goat was founded in 1934 by William Sianis, a Greek immigrant. This guy was a true publicity hound. In 1944, the Republican Convention came to Chicago so he posted a sign saying “No Republicans allowed.” The place was packed with Republicans, of course. What a crafty marketer.

The current owner is William’s nephew–Sam Sianis. I call him Sam. I would see him every Tuesday morning when I trekked in and out of the Goat to go to a yoga studio on Hubbard. Sam would see me and give me a wink. I would nod in return.

Sam

One time he was in the back parking deck where I was locking up my bike. In a very thick accent, he asked me, “What are you DOING?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I explained that I was locking up my bike and scooted on my way to work.

pilsen: a prelude

My last seven years as a Chicagoan were spent in the Near West and #Pilsen neighborhoods–at roughly 15th and Blue Island and 16th and Halsted. I loved living there so much. Prior to moving to Pilsen, a neighborhood called Logan Square was home for nine years, and it was quickly gentrifying to the point where I didn’t recognize Logan for Logan. I knew I had to leave. When I was looking for a place to buy in 2009, I remembered going to an arts district event at 18th and Halsted and really liking my experience. I didn’t know anyone who lived in Pilsen and all of my friends were North Siders, but I thought, Why not move to Pilsen. It was something new. And in the process I fell in love with Chicago again, which kind of shocked me. I had been out of love with Chicago for quite awhile.

La vida Pilsen was great. It had its fair share of challenges (crime, some neglected buildings, and so on). But the benefits far outweighed the challenges. There were restaurants and coffee shops (really miss the family-run coffee shop, Kristoffer’s on Halsted, sniff). There was the Mexican Museum of Art. There were the sweet abuelas, tias, and tios who swept the sidewalks outside their homes.

There was the annual Slow & Low Lowrider Festival (I absolutely loved this):

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And then there were murals, created by artists from all over the world:

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I guess Pilsen was a prelude to moving to Jackson, Mississippi. I like living in places that are kind of foreign to me because it forces me to learn and adapt. Here’s to preludes and living in places unfamiliar.

the kentucky shelter dog that hit the jackpot: this guy (not guy the beagle)

Guy the now royal-by-way-of-Kentucky beagle. What a hardluck-hit-the-jackpot story. I have a rescue dog of my own (Nickel Short), but this story isn’t about Nickel. It’s about this beautiful Kentucky hound called Zeus.

It was August 2013, I think. My friend Nobu Hata had posted a photo of a terrified dog in a Kentucky shelter that was days away from being euthanized. He needed a foster and then a loving home. I was in the midst of getting my condo ready for sale but thought I might be able to help. Foster a dog? Never done it before but submitted my application. Done.

If you’ve never fostered a pet before and can, you should. It’s quite an experience. The Naperville rescue group (I forget the name) partners with KRRA–Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter in Hazard, Kentucky. Naperville volunteers drive down to Hazard and then haul rescued/abandoned dogs in massive vans back to Greater Chicago. It was a hot morning and I arrived at a church to pick up Zeus. This boy was exhausted and looked like broken goods. I couldn’t help but cry.

Two volunteers helped me put Zeus on a cart and a used crate and then I folded him and the crate into my little car.

I honestly don’t remember how I got Zeus into my 4th floor condo. He was difficult to move. I got him into my condo, and my Cavalier spaniel was not amused. Whatever. I got Zeus into the bathtub and gave him a warm bath. Actually four baths since his coat was crusty with all sorts of stuff. Pretty gross.

I took him for a walk in my neighborhood (#Pilsen) and passed two abuelas who gasped upon seeing Zeus. He looked rough, I won’t lie. I greeted the abuelas, and Zeus and I kept walking. Over the following days, Zeus blossomed. What a dog. I adored him but knew I needed to find a home for him because otherwise I would adopt him. And I knew I couldn’t afford another dog.

Zeus after 2

(I particularly love this photo of Zeus and Penny. Look at Penny. What a drama queen.)

Zeus after1

A few weekends later I headed to a backyard BBQ/get together on the North Side. I remember thinking, Bring Zeus. Maybe I’ll meet someone who wants to adopt him. And that, dear readers, is exactly what happened. I couldn’t believe my dumb luck. Or Zeus’s for that matter. Zeus sniffed and greeted a few of the party goers. Two of them, a married couple, mentioned that they were looking to adopt a dog. I extolled Zeus’s benefits, which were many (fully housebroken, great on a leash, doesn’t bark). I connected them with the Naperville rescue group, and they submitted their application. Their application was approved, and the day of the hand-off arrived. I drove Zeus to his new North Side home. Zeus’s new humans and I took him for a walk. At a moment that seemed good to me and when Zeus wasn’t looking, I slipped away and drove home. Again crying, but the good kind of tears.

You’ll be glad to know that Zeus’s new humans gave him a better life than I ever could have in Chicago. They have a beautiful home with a backyard where, I understand, he likes to run around and also lounge. In the winters, he likes to wear snuggly sweaters. His humans are devoted to him, and he to them. Heart, heart, heart them all, all darn day long.

south side interloper

Have you ever visited Chicago’s South Side? It’s a vast swath of city starting, in my opinion, at Archer (Avenue), which, depending on which block you’re on, starts at about 2600 South. And then the South Side stretches down to at least 130th. Think Pullman, Beverly, Morgan Park. The South Side is a massive place. And I hesitate to call it a place, per se, because it’s really a densely constructed quilt of different neighborhoods.

Nine years ago, I became a homeowner in East Pilsen at 16th and Halsted, which is technically not south enough to be considered South Side. So I was a South Side interloper. I loved bicycling in parts of the South Side. There is a pristine paved trail that hugs Lake Michigan. My favorite spot was this–at roughly 47th. I miss it so freaking much.

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I also liked bicycling through specific neighborhoods. When it occurred to me to take photos, I did. Like this one in #Bridgeport.

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Or this one in #Kenwood, I believe.

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Sniff. Miss you much, Chicago.