27 August 2008

Alternate Routes | The Boring Store

While I have yet to become familiar with the works of Dave Eggers, the most notable of which include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and McSweeney's publications and humor site, I have had the pleasure of exploring the fascinating creativity behind his non-profit writing and tutoring centers. 826 Chicago (there are also centers in Boston, Seattle, Valencia, NYC, Michigan and LA) provides after-school workshops, drop-in tutoring, in-school tutoring and a variety of programs to encourage and enhance expository and creative writing skills for students ages 6 to 18.

To this end, 826CHI is not your average tutoring center. In order to get to your tutoring session, you would have to enter The Boring Store, a "cleverly disguised" spy shop that warns you on
entrance: "Not a secret agent supply store." The boring rows of boxes and drawers belie an abundance of crazy spy gear, such as "Watergate Fingers", "Heated Stakeout Gloves", mustache disguise kits, wigs and Groucho glasses. On each boring box is written a non-description of its contents, such as, "The product within this box is not comprised of a thirty-three foot nylon rope and collapsible hook for grappling." Because, after all, this is NOT a secret agent supply store.

All the proceeds from the store help fund the tutoring programs, while the store itself sparks imagination and creativity among its students. The store is also quite handy when it comes to attracting potential volunteers who help facilitate the writing programs. Who wouldn't want to be part of this endeavor when faced with a banana posing as a cell-phone concealment device?

The Boring Store is located in Wicker Park at 1331 North Milwaukee Avenue--a stop in this series that, while not out of the way for those of us in Chicago, may inspire all of us toward something truly alternate. Indeed, there are ways in which we can, and must, think outside of that boring box.

[The pictures and content of this post are credited to an article by Brad Flora in the Windy Citizen.]

24 August 2008

Front Row Seat

To be honest, I don't know that I've ever given too much thought to major party conventions. After all, aren't they just a lot of pomp and circumstance--grand galas disguised as conferences to officially confirm what everyone has already known and accepted for months? Well, I may be changing my tune after reading what I'm sure will be a witty and insightful look at the goings on of these highly regarded events.

A politics professor and ordained minister, the Reverend Doctor Dale Kuehne has never quite been able to fit into any predetermined box, which is precisely what makes him so refreshing. He has been a friend, pastor and mentor to me over the past 5 years or so as I have attempted to navigate the murky waters of faith and politics. Ever thought provoking, he is a serious thinker who doesn't take himself too seriously, and so, I am delighted to introduce him here via his blog as he recounts firsthand the play-by-play of the DNC and RNC.

I'm sure this is a front row seat you won't want to give up.

19 August 2008

Air and Water

The city looks different from 22 floors up. I've been to the Hancock tower, but nothing really beats an outdoor patio on a crystal clear, sunny, summer day watching the Blue Angels fly past at eye level. We were extremely fortunate to be able to attend the annual Air and Water Show via a Topiarius client's Lake Shore condo. Good company. Good food. Incredible views.

14 August 2008

Update: Tomatoes

Oh if you could only have seen Andrew's face this morning as he picked three bloom-rot free tomatoes with clean, shiny bottoms and displayed them on our windowsill. They will have a very short shelf life; indeed, they are probably being diced and spliced as we speak. Yummy.

What's your house sign?

I just know you're looking for something to distract you as you pine for the weekend. I saw this over at House in Progress: Housetrology. Answer some highly scientific questions to determine your House Sign. I took the quiz twice and found myself a cross between a Colonialista and an Urbanist. Aren't you glad you don't have to figure these things out on your own?

08 August 2008

Porch Dwellers

We have expanded the list of inhabitants on our porch this summer. Andrew's new job has inspired him to invest in our own "landscaping" and the payoff has been great. One hibiscus, one hydrangea, two flower boxes and one tomato cage later, our back porch has turned into a virtual garden jungle (indeed, we seem to have adopted a more "natural/wild" look than anything coiffed or controlled). I spend many an evening prying Andrew away as he tends to and cares for our new charges. Here's the roll call:

Hibiscus: Affectionately known as "Hibby", this plant is on her second or third life. We purchased her in early spring and kept her inside until it finally became warm enough to move her to the porch. We think she underwent a bit of a shock in acclimating to the outdoors, and didn't bloom for several weeks in protest. But then we reaped our reward and she has been averaging about five blooms a day. Right now, she is recovering from either being root-bound or possibly some kind of disease in which she lost most of her leaves. Slowly but surely, more new growth is emerging every day.

Tomato: We have some Jetstars and a hybrid variety which look promising until they start to ripen. We think they have some type of bloom rot and Andrew has been adding garden lime in an effort to combat the problem. Successfulness TBD.

Hydrangea: Ah, the beloved hydrangea. Always a hit, ever beautiful. These came home with Andrew from work and have been a joy since.

04 August 2008

A One Car Family

Call it a step in a green direction, call it a fiscally responsible move toward a new fuel economy, call it an opportunity to walk more and drive less, call it a way to save money, gas and parking... call it what you want, but we are now a one car family. And I must say, it feels pretty good. The Red Ranger served us well: it moved Andrew to Chicago, it moved a whole lot of other people to a whole lot of other places, it carried (and stored) Andrew's alley finds, it transported discarded treasures from the museum to our home (and sometimes back again), and on countless occasions, it dependably made those trips to and from Home Depot, laden with materials and supplies. But lest you go thinking we've lost our minds ridding ourselves of such a fine and faithful truck, let me tell you that not every day was a cruise through the park. For the last several weeks, our beloved Ranger couldn't go 5 miles without steaming and spewing. Indeed, as Andrew drove it to and from several potential buyers this weekend, he had to pull over in between each one to let Old Faithful cool down, hoping that he could prevent one final act of ultimate rebellion. Fortunately for us, and for our truck's new owner, he did. And so, with one last display of affection, Andrew said goodbye.

Our truck's new owner can give it what we could not: a new radiator (at least). So, we are happy to send it on to a better place. We're thankful for the many services it provided, but now, we're thankful we don't need to provide it with any more services.