Coach’s Corner

New Eastside entering tween years

By John Cohn | Community Contributor

In an interesting and uplifting gathering, the staff of New Eastside News got together for an annual staff-wide meeting. It was a refreshing mix of both young and old. Actually, truth be told, mostly young—I think I was a party of one representing “the old.” Nevertheless, it is great to see so many new and enthusiastic young reporters jumping on board for our newspaper. During the meeting, we discussed anything and everything in regards to our neighborhood and the many potential stories and creative ideas.

I found it interesting that the overriding factor is one I hear and even “feel” all the time here in New Eastside—how lucky we are to be living in such a unique neighborhood of the city.

Many Chicagoans are only just discovering our area and some are not even aware it exists, but that is okay. We don’t mind growing up at a normal pace without all the mad rush. That, I am sure, will come soon enough.

Speaking of growing up, this got me thinking about where our neighborhood is in its current stage of development. Construction on the Lakeshore East part of the neighborhood started in 2004, so, could you say our neighborhood is at the preteen stage, waiting for the onset of the dreaded teenage years? With new buildings going up, and infrastructure changes, we might be in for a full course of upheaval, angst and uncomfortable disturbances.

But have faith. We will survive that teenage period, as all people do, and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor, as the neighborhood enters young adulthood, and later, blissful middle age.

Oh, and one final note to all those young whippersnapper reporters joining our staff—back off. This old guy here plans on sticking around for a while and is not planning on giving up this “Coach’s Corner” anytime soon.

Cohn-Fucius thought for the month: Someday is not a day of the week.

Cars and makeshift structures currently fill the site where the new IJKL towers will be built in New Eastside. Photo by B. David Zarley.

Coach’s Corner – What to do with the last parcel of land

 

The wait is over. Speculation of what will be built on the remaining empty plots of New Eastside land can now end. Four new buildings are ready to join the O, IJKL parcel party, all of varying shapes and sizes. In maps presented at a recent alderman’s meet- ing, the future sites of these buildings are labeled as lettered “parcels.”

Only one plot of open grass remains free from a fate of concrete and mortar, at least for now. It is one of the two sites
left unlabeled. On the northeast corner of Lake Shore East Park, a strangely angular-shaped plot is closed off completely. One remaining question is what to do with this untouched spot, mysteriously labeled “FUTURE.”

The Alderman has indicated that in the distant future, a school will rise in that space, but no one has any definite plans, as far as I can tell. I have a few suggestions about what should rise in the right-angled “FUTURE” spot. How about a 24-hour yoga and meditation center? A basketball court? A build-your-own pizza joint? A drive-thru, all-night White Castle? There are all kinds of possibilities.

Maybe the best idea, with all the construction scheduled for the next few years, is to turn the space into what I will call a Quiet-torium—a building with soundproof walls. It will be place of perfect silence, where those who need it could come for a brief moment to just sit and listen to, well, silence. The only problem is… there might be a long line.

Cohn-Fucius thought for the day: “There is only one place where you start at the
top, and that is when you are digging a hole.”

— Jon Cohn, Community Contributor

“Odysseo” an equestrian delight

If you’re lucky enough to have a south view from the Lakeshore East neighborhood, you may have noticed the massive tent that went up southeast of Soldier Field last month. “The White Big Top,” as it is called, houses Cavalia’s new show Odysseo, premiering this month only, in the South Lot of the stadium.

The show is unlike any other, yet familiar. Priding itself as “the best show ever,” Cavalia is the equestrian Cirque du Soleil. Although they are separate entertainment companies established decades apart, they both originated in Montreal and share a co-founder. The show is made up of “65 horses and 48 riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians,” according to it’s website.

Odysseo is a mesmerizing production beginning to end, with horses, humans, technology, set design and music coming together to create a breathtaking experience. The performance pivots and surprises as you wonder what could they possibly do to surprise you again.

South loop resident Melissa Bakst called the combination of dressage, acrobatics, theatrics and circus tricks “unique and beautiful.”

I had as much fun watching the horses perform with precision, as I did watching them run wild and horse around, challenging each other at times. It provided an opportunity to watch trainers bring unruly performers back into formation using friendship and encouragement.

Cavalia should be at the top of your list if you’re going to see one show this season. Ticket prices range from $79.50 to $144.50 with the show running April 4th through the 23rd.

To purchase tickets, visit http://cavalia.com/chicago/.

— Ben Cirrus

Why does Chicago smell like dessert?

Late one night last year, as I walked home from the State and Lake train station, I encountered a mystery that I have only recently solved.

As I made my way across Michigan Avenue, I smelled the alluring scent of chocolate brownies. I remember thinking, “Some nearby bakery is getting an oddly early start on the day.” But as I continued my walk up the hill to Columbus Avenue, then back down into Lake Shore East Park, the sweet scent (seemingly impossibly) lingered.

Even the irresistible scent of Garrett Popcorn’s Chicago Mix only emanates a block or so from the store. How had this chocolate fragrance followed me for a half mile? Had I accidentally dipped my sleeve into a chocolate fountain?

No. I checked. Unsure of what had transpired, I was at least happy that for one shining moment, Chicago smelled like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

A short time later, the delicious perfume struck me again as I strolled down the Riverwalk. I smiled with glee as I walked, the scent following me all the way to Merchandise Mart – in fact, growing perceptively stronger along the way.

Chicago had become Choco-Land; not some bleak big city with open sewers and pollution, but a wondrous fairyland of desserts and decadent calories.

My childhood was spent in residences near paper mills and horse farms – never have I lived in proximity to such a pleasing bouquet of smells. But what was the source?

A little Internet sleuthing gave me the answer. The incredible aromatic perk bestowed upon our neighborhood emanates from Blommer Chocolate Company, located just northwest of the Loop.

When the chocolate is being made, and the winds blow in from the west, our world becomes a heavenly place to dwell.

— Matthew Reiss | Community Contributor

Joffrey Ballet’s “Winning Works”

I attended opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s 7th Annual Winning Works program on Sunday, March 13, at the Harold Washington Library’s Cindy Pritzker Auditorium.

Winning Works is a program designed to promote diversity in the dance community. The show featured four performances, each created by a different choreographer. Each performance included a video introduction, in which we saw the dancers in rehearsal, and heard each choreographer’s vision.

The first performance, Scend, was perhaps the closest to classical ballet — beautiful to watch and inspiring to see the amount of technical skill on display.

The second piece, Moonlight, featured Debussy’s Clair de Lune; the lead dancers commanded the stage for this performance, evoking an ethereal quality, and a sense of longing.

Hopeful Undertones explored the heightened emotions of adolescence, the performance feeling very much like a high school hallway before first bell.

And my favorite piece, Suite Hearts, rounded out the evening — a high energy, lightning fast ode to flirting.

Winning Works is an engaging program that reminds us of the power of dance to express emotion without saying a word.

Matthew Reiss has been a Lakeshore East resident since 2007 and a New Eastside News writer since 2015. He married his true love at the Blackstone Hotel and earned a law degree from the University of Kansas, but prefers to spend his evenings onstage, performing and directing for the local comedy group, The Stuntmen.

Food (or lack thereof) for thought

Normally in this column I go pretty light and try to find some of the humor in our daily New Eastside activities. “He who laughs lasts” has always been one of my guiding principals. But not this month. In our city’s coldest hours, I take a slightly different tone.

It started innocently enough on a chilly, but otherwise bright and sunny, Saturday afternoon stroll down Michigan Avenue. I observed something that made me uncomfortable, a sight that I am sure many of you have seen numerous times.

What I saw  was a group of Chicago citizens sitting on the pavement in the cold weather, clearly homeless, looking for any kind of handout of food or money.  Another group was right next to them — and I mean literally right next to them — dining inside a nice restaurant, separated only by a thin pane of glass.

They were less than a stone’s throw away from each other, but as far as lifestyle and circumstance, they might as well have been miles apart.

No moralizing here, it is just an uncomfortable observation.

On a related note, I was more than pleased to read New Eastside News’ recent story about New Eastside for Charity, an organization dedicated to helping the area’s homeless population, founded by a group of our neighbors.

The organization has already had one successful clothing drive.  Here’s to hoping that with the help of many of our readers, this organization will grow and progress over the years — maybe  even to the point where, in the future, that thin pane of glass won’t separate us as much.

Cohn-Fucious quote for the month: “It is better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness.”

A moving experience

reiss001-01I have lived in Lakeshore East for a decade, all of it in the same apartment building, until last month.

For most of you, November 2, 2016, will long be remembered in Chicago lore as the day the Cubs finally won the World Series. I shall also remember that date as the day I chose to move from one Lakeshore East apartment building to another.

I took a vacation day for the occasion, which seems absurd in retrospect, because it was the hardest working “vacation” I have ever taken. It was a full-day affair, moving out of one apartment into a second apartment, then coming back to the first apartment to clean it and turn in the key before midnight. By the end, I was an unpleasant emotional mélange of crabby and giddy from packing fatigue and physical exhaustion.

As my wife and I worked late into the night, we kept track of the Cubs game through the reactions of the only other people using the elevators — a horde of pizza delivery folks. They all had the game on in their vehicles and gave me updates upon request.

moving_truckWe finished just as the Cubs were forced into extra innings. I had no TV and I was too tired to go anywhere, so I tracked the box score on my phone. But I didn’t need the phone to know when the game was over. Ecstatic shouts, car horns and sirens erupted in a jubilant symphony.

I was elated that the Cubs were finally victorious, that the move was over — the only casualty being the mysterious disappearance of our cat’s miniature playhouse, which got lost in the shuffle — and that we could finally go to sleep in our hastily constructed bed.

If I had known that the Cubs’ fate was dependent on me moving, I would have done it years ago.

Matthew Reiss has been a Lakeshore East resident since 2007 and a New Eastside News writer since 2015. He married his true love at the Blackstone Hotel and earned a law degree from the University of Kansas, but prefers to spend his evenings onstage, performing and directing for the local comedy group, The Stuntmen.

— Matthew Reiss

Christmas every four years

cohn0001b-01This month, “Coach’s Corner” travels into dangerous territory that will no doubt reduce my popularity with the 12-and-under crowd. Yet, due to its importance, I persist. The risky topic of December’s column is making Christmas, and the entire holiday season, like the Olympics by celebrating them every four years instead of every year.

Now, before I present my clearly lost and hopeless case — and before you suggest renaming the column “Grinch’s Corner” — let me first state that I love the holiday season. I truly do.

The decorations, the family gatherings, Christmas music, the cheerful holiday spirit, the gift giving, office parties and all the trimmings are splendid. Indeed, some of my greatest memories as a child were of Christmas mornings, coming down the stairs and seeing all the presents under the tree. Those memories still give me goosebumps.

the_grinchSo, no: it is not due to a dislike of the holidays that I suggest the once-every-four-year “Olympic” idea. It is more the sad reality that, as you get older and time goes by faster, the holiday season simply comes too often.

This month, our beautiful New Eastside will be all decked out in holiday regalia. The Santa sightings and the Mag Mile shops and the condo parties will deliver some holiday cheer, but, for many of us, the relentless “here it comes again” feeling will pervade.

How special it would be — with the anticipation and the wait of four long years — when Christmas season finally arrives. We would really be celebrating! Buying gifts, sending cards, attending parties, cooking, and gathering with the family would be truly special.

Anyone with me here?  Christmas once every four years instead of every year?  Anyone?

Maybe I will present this to our local alderman. That is, if I can get past the legion of angry 12-and-under protestors.

Jon Cohn is a native Chicagoan. He has worked as a high school coach, youth coach, recreational director and sports official. He has been a radio and TV sports announcer for many years.

Besides the New Eastside News, Cohn writes a weekly sports column for a suburban paper and has completed his first book, Stuff, People Might Want To Know (From Someone Who Really Shouldn’t Be Writing A Book).

— Jon Cohn

Afternoon tea, an Autumn respite

MISCHAELA3-01

As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, you may be tempted to tuck into one of the gorgeous hotels along the sprawling Magnificent Mile for afternoon tea. Great idea, but do you know proper high tea etiquette? Let’s look at some often-overlooked fundamentals.

Always tea first, and then cream.

Back in the day, the upper classes were the only ones who could afford the fine China capable of withstanding hot tea poured before cream, which was used to buffer the impact. The lower classes, particularly the service classes, used inexpensive pottery that would shatter if hot tea was poured directly into it.

Never put your pinky finger out while sipping the tea.

I’m not sure how this affectation took root, but it’s bad manners. We’re drinking tea, not liquid gold. No need to make a horse and pony show of it.

Don’t stir like a hurricane.

Proper etiquette is to take your spoon and stir the sugar by moving the spoon from six o clock to twelve o clock and back and forth again. We don’t want to swirl or churn the tea, and we especially don’t want to clink the silver spoon into the fine china.

Never place your hand on the saucer.

When we’re having tea, we want to hold the cup and saucer together and place our hands under the cup. Never put the hand on top of the saucer to stabilize it unless you feel you are about to drop something.

Respect the dress code.

Most afternoon tea reservations will require a dress code of you. The best guideline is to dress in business casual at the very least. Jeans are often tolerated, as long as they are smart-looking and of a darker wash. Flip flops will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Mischaela Advani is an international etiquette expert whose knowledgebase includes instruction from protocol instructors formerly employed by the Royal Household of HRH Queen Elizabeth.

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