From the monthly archives: "June 2010"

June 29, 2010—

What a time it was. A good time. In 1907 the Chicago Cubs were in the midst of a dynasty. They won 107 games, lost 45 and beat Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series. The Cubs pitching staff was led by Orval Overall and Three Finger Brown and a guy named Wildfire Schilte patrolled right field like Smokey the Bear.
Chicago was in a renaissance.

The Cubs were second in the National League in attendance (422,550) and a couple miles east of their beloved West Side Grounds (Wrigley Field wasn’t built) Chicago author Hamlin Garland founded the Attic Club atop Symphony Center (formerly Orchestra Hall).

In 1909 the non-profit organization that supports men and women in the fine arts and performing arts was renamed The Cliff Dwellers Club. In 1996 the club moved next door to the 22nd floor penthouse of the office building at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue at Adams Street. The outdoor veranda has a breathtaking view of Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

Like the Who said, “Because all the while/I can see for miles and miles.”

The Cliff Dwellers Club is the site of the July 8 party for the hardcover version of my minor league baseball journal “Cougars and Snappers and Loons (Oh My!) [$24.95, http://www.cantmisspress.com/]. The event runs from around 5:30-8 p.m.. There’s a cash bar along with complimentary cheese and vegetable trays. I’ll be bringing some Cracker Jack and a bottle of Cazadores tequila. The party is being thrown by my publisher George Rawlinson.

I’ve been to one of George’s previous events at the Cliff Dwellers.
The regal space is one of the most well kept secrets in Chicago. Bring a camera. The spirit of the club rolls out from the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and an 1891 exhibit at the Art Institute. Native Americans were predominately featured at each venue.
The club was named after the Henry Blake Fuller novel “The Cliff Dwellers,” where he parallels the emerging cityscape of Chicago and the Native American Cliff Dwellings of the Southwest. (For much more visit the Cliff Dwellers website http://www.cliff-chicago.org/).

Who knew? My only Cliff-in-Chicago reference was the lumbering Cliff “Moondog” Johnson, who played left field for a blue spell during the 1980 Cubs season.
Moondog landed in Chicago via Cleveland after the 1979 season when he punched out Goose Gossage in the New York Yankees locker room, sending the Goose to the D.L for two months. And people think Carlos Zambrano has issues.

7/8/10 should be a blast. Swing by if you can.

June 27, 2010—

You can’t outrace your heart.

I went to Portland, Oregon to write some stories for my newspaper. I thought it was good timing. I flew jets and props. I took Amtrak’s scenic Cascades between Portland and Seattle. I kayaked six miles of the Willamette River in Portand.

I walked from the Ace Hotel, a former 28 room flophouse in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle down 1st Street to Safeco Field to watch my Cubs. It is one of my favorite walks in America because I pass lush flower stands, 1950s neon and the Pike Place newspaper stand filled with periodicals of places I’ve never seen and where she went.

I read Willy Vlautin’s “Lean on Pete,” the best novel about broken down horses, stinky road people and an intrepid 15-year-old boy that I have ever read. It is based in Portland and it made me sad.

I met Murph on the final leg of my trip and he always makes me think. He rode with me on the Amtrak from Seattle to Portland. An original 1969 Bleacher Bum, he read an updated hardback reissue of a Hardy Boys book. Before we left the station we thought the train might be traveling backwards. Murph said, “I want to see what’s coming, not what’s already gone.”

Just like life.

The night before I left for Portland I made her a vegetarian pasta dish we enjoyed a couple weeks ago at Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio. The secret is in the butter. And garlic and chives. As she did most of the time, she helped when she didn’t have to. She’s that way.

We sat on my front porch near Humboldt Park in Chicago and listened to distant salsa music. We watched two helicopters beam two spotlights down at the Puerto Rican festival in the park. By the time we went to bed there was only one spotlight left. The people were going home or moving into the tin cup dance clubs on North Avenue.

By the next morning she was gone. It was tougher than I expected. We walked over to a Ukranian deli where immigrant workers unlocked the chains on steel heart shaped tables. We sat down and talked about plans. I later said goodbye near a gate at the side of my house and walked upstairs. I went to my front porch and watched the pick-up truck that would soon gather her last bit of furniture. A big box of composting worms from her classroom were in the back of the truck. They were important.

I tidied up my place, went to my black Pontiac that just hit 100,000 miles and drove to the western suburbs for Father’s Day. After a few hours I drove to O’Hare International Airport to catch my flight. I was early. The heart runs on its own time.