Friday, August 26, 2011

Where I'll Be Tonight

With JB and Dee at the Portage Theater tonight for the last show in this year's Silent Summer Film Festival: The Mysterious Lady, starring Greta Garbo.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/26/11

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/25/11

A large chunk of the Berlin Wall stands inside the Western Avenue Brown Line station, perhaps to remind commuters that, as much as being stuck on the CTA can suck, there are circumstances out there that suck a whole lot more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saturday Night's Dinner

A sausage and mushroom pizza from Marie's Pizza & Liquors, washed down with a few cans of Red Dog, which is not only my all-time favorite beer, but now the cheapest at the neighborhood liquor store. (Take that, PBR!)

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/22/11

Monday, August 15, 2011

White Borscht and Wine

Whenever I get out to the Patio Theater (which I do as often as I can), I make a point of stopping at the Polish deli/liquor store a few doors down.

It's not a big place--as wide as a typical Chicago storefront, but a bit deeper than most. Its narrow aisles are crammed full of grocery items--some typical (milk, mustard, pineapple chunks, etc.), but many catering specifically to their Eastern European clientele. Like breads baked in the Old World style. Or freshly smoked meats (one whole wall of the store is taken up by the deli counter). And jars of white borscht soup.

I was introduced to white borscht soup (sometimes referred to as sour rye soup) by Gretchen (a.k.a. Mrs. Fluffy) back when we were dating. There was (and, I believe, still is) a tiny Polish restaurant on Division Street (a remnant, perhaps, of the time when the whole neighborhood was Polish, back in the days when Nelson Algren lived there and wrote The Man with the Golden Arm) where they served the soup, hot and fresh, with sausages or--if you were really lucky--a hard-boiled egg floating in it.

It's a fairly sour soup, but extremely flavorful and hearty (especially when the sausage and egg are added). Gretchen and I went there more than once for it, We also attempted to make it in her kitchen using one of the packets of dried soup you can find in many Polish delis all over the Northwest side. The results? Horrible. We left out some key ingredient (probably because the instructions on the packet were in Polish, which neither of us could read) and wound up with a pot full of foul-tasting paste. Not too long after, though, we tried a second time, with much better (and tastier) results.

I continued making white borscht soup long after Gretchen and I broke up, and we remained close friends after that as well, even after she and her fiance (and later husband) Greg (a.k.a. Mr. Fluffy) moved to the western shore of Michigan, where she and her family are from. I visited them from time to time, staying at the home she (somewhat) affectionately referred to as "Crumbling Cliff." I read poetry at their wedding and danced at their reception.

For one of Gretchen's recent birthdays, I sent her packets of (what else?) white borscht soup--wherever she was living at the time, the soup was impossible to find.

I switched recently from the packets of soup to the jars, which are somewhat easier to cook--I can concentrate more on what I'm going to add than the base of the soup itself, which is premade concentrate that only needs a quart of water to finish it. (I usually use either chicken broth or vegetable stock instead--much deeper flavor.) When I was out at the Patio this past Saturday to see Horrible Bosses, I stopped by the Polish deli after and picked up a couple of jars of soup and some fresh polska kielbasa to slice up and toss in. Add some onions, basil and black pepper, and serve along with some sunflower seed bread (also picked up at the deli), and you've got a bowl of comfort on a damp, gray night.

I also had some wine with dinner. Nothing special--whatever was in the discount bin at the liquor store. The glass I sipped it from, however, was special. It was a clear crystal glass, part of a set of six given to me by Gretchen as a birthday or Christmas present quite some time ago. I always use them whenever I drink wine (which isn't as often as it used to be). Sometimes, I'm careless--I accidentally knocked over one of the glasses back at the old La Casa del Terror and shattered it on the floor, something which wouldn't have happened had I taken it to the kitchen and cleaned it immediately. (Instead, I left it out and knocked it over later that evening.)

Somehow, I managed to break another of the wine glasses Saturday night. No, it wasn't another alcohol-sodden mishap (not that you'd be unreasonable in suspecting such), but an accident during the preparation of the white borscht soup. I had way more sausage than I needed for the meal, so I reached into the cabinet beneath the kitchen counter to grab a Ziplock bag. My hand came nowhere near the shelf where the wine glasses stand--at least I didn't feel it touch that shelf--but one of the glasses nonetheless tumbled off the shelf, bounced off the back of my hand and smashed to pieces at the bottom of the cabinet.

I would have felt bad about this at any time--the guilt of breaking a present from a dear friend can be overwhelming--but I felt especially bad about breaking the glass Saturday, which was two days shy of what would have been her birthday.

In other words, today.

As you may or may not remember, Gretchen passed away in April.In her honor, her husband, Greg, is running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to raise money for AIDS Chicago, a cause close to Gretchen's heart. (She lost several friends to the disease, and she and I did at least one of the AIDSWalk Chicago events together when she still lived here.) You can make a donation to Greg's run here.

Please give something--anything--if you can. It's a important cause, and it would be a great way to honor the memory of Gretchen, a great friend who is missed very much--especially on this day.

Stormy Saturday

Storm clouds chased me down the Brown Line as I headed over to Lincoln Square on important errands. (Hey, quality cheese is important. It is!)

On the Way Home Last Night...

Another party I wasn't invited to.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/15/11

Friday, August 12, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/12/11

It's Friday--stop and smell the flowers, won't you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/5/11

Most years, I make it to one or two films in the annual Silent Summer Film Festival at the fabulous Portage Theater. One year, I even made it to three showing during the fest.

This year? I've made it to two out of two movies, I'll be there again tonight and I have tickets already for the remaining three nights. Not only does this mark the first time that I've been to every movie in the Festival, but it also ensures that I'll break--if not outright shatter--my personal record for movies seen on the big screen in one year. (The record, set last year, is 32; I'll have that many before August is over.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

At Lunch Today...

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/4/11

I wonder if they'll pull the old Carson Pirie Scott & Co. plaques off their former flagship store when the building is converted into a Target later this year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the Way Home Last Night...

Three views of the cool front (I can't really call it a "cold" front, since temperatures will be in the upper 80s today, as opposed to yesterday's muggy mid-90s) that sliced down through the city last night. (Please excuse the visible camera lens in the last shot--I was taking my pictures through the window of a northbound Brown Line train.)

Every Picture Tells a Story: 8/3/11

Monday, August 1, 2011