New Eastside Resident makes offer to help

By Daniel Patton

 

New Eastside resident Karin Long has added a unique voice to the ongoing dialogue about the current national health crisis: she’s offering to help. Whether it is fetching groceries, waiting in line at the pharmacy, or completing some other small task, the Loyola law student recently posted her commitment to “getting those essentials for people who can’t get them” on the neighborhood app NextDoor.

Karin Long

After reading her offer, people responded with “a massive outpouring of shock and gratitude for what seems to me to be a very normal response to the crisis.”

“I got like a hundred replies,” she exclaims. “But only one person took me up on my offer.”

So she picked up some groceries for a fellow resident.

The gesture helped solve a problem very similar to the one that inspired her to get involved in the first place. “My grandmother, who lives in Indiana, needed someone to go to like four different stores to find toilet paper,” she says.

It also reinforces her desire to change the conversation.   

“I saw a lot of people shouting online about being scared and telling others what to do,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘what kind of action could I take to help take care of our little corner of the earth and help out your neighbors?’”

Now Long is willing and ready to help with additional requests, and she’s got suggestions for those who are unsure about what to ask.

“I would love it if moms would say, ‘I’m homeschooling my kids could you just get us groceries,’” she says. “Because if you’re working from home and you have kids, you have to practically homeschool them now.”

Besides helping on an individual level, she hopes the effort will affect some change on a larger scale.

“You hear all these stories from World War II of people pulling together to get through the tragedy,” she explains. “I hope my generation can do something similar.”

But first and foremost, it’s all about the little things. For our readers who could use a hand, Karin can be reached via Nextdoor.com.

A novel approach: Local writer Richard Rose works in new genre

by Doug Rapp

Local writer Richard Rose thought his screenplay, “Comic Crusaders,” would never get off the ground. It had been optioned twice by movie producers but never made.

Then Savant Books reached out, looking for works to publish as screenplay novels, which Rose describes as a bridge between novel and screenplay. He offered up “Comic Crusaders” which was released last November.

Rose described the plot in two sentences, likening his summary to the logline for a movie in TV Guide: “A teenage cartoonist uses a magic pen to bring a superhero to life to help him find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. In so doing, he unwittingly unleashes a grotesque supervillain and his dark legions challenging him to find a way to save his father while preventing the dark legions from taking over the world.”

To read a screenplay novel, “the reader has to use his or her imagination,” the semi-retired financial advisor said. “The action and the dialogue move the story forward at a much faster pace.” 

Whereas a novel or story might describe a scene in several paragraphs, Rose said he opens a scene in “Comic Crusaders” in an adolescent’s bedroom with a simple, “A teenage junkyard.”

The longtime Streeterville resident had been thinking of ways to reach today’s readers after observing people in bookstores.

“Kids don’t read like we did,” Rose said. “They’re very impatient. They’re looking at video games and movies.”

Rose, who has also published several novels and short stories, thinks screenplay novels like “Comic Crusaders” are one way to reach them. 

Richard Rose

“It’s a revolutionary way to beget a new genre and attract a much younger audience,” he said. 

The roots of “Comic Crusaders” go back to Rose’s childhood in Kokomo, Ind. He and his brother Charlie would create comic strips with superheroes and villains parodying well-known citizens of his north-central Indiana hometown. Over time, Rose said, it morphed into the story it is today.

“It’s lighthearted and a fun read,” he said, contrasting it with contemporary superhero stories that he characterized as violent and lacking humor.

Rose said he is working on “Redemption,” a sequel to his novel “The Lazarus Conspiracies,” about a maverick Chicago cop who uncovers a deadly conspiracy.

“Comic Crusaders” is available at Amazon.com

Chicagoans enjoy having Leap Year birthday

by Doug Rapp

The odds are 1 in 1,461 that you’ll be born on Leap Day, Feb. 29.

2020 is a leap year, with an extra day tacked on the calendar every four years to keep the seasons lined up with the 365-and-a-quarter days it takes for the earth to orbit the sun. 

Whether they’re called Leaplings, Leapers or 29ers, many Chicagoans said they enjoy having a unique birthday even if it doesn’t come every year. 

Ben Stumpf, who works in the West Loop, is a doubly special Leap Day baby since he has a twin brother, Brad. 

“We have been featured on the news a few times (since) it makes us something like 1 in 4 million,” Stumpf said, referencing the odds of twins being born on Leap Day. 

The Old Town resident said he loves being a Leap Year baby. 

“It enables me to have the easiest ice breaker out there and makes for a good excuse to have a large bash every four years,” Stumpf said.

On off years, he said he celebrates on both Feb. 28 and March 1, but he goes big on Leap Years.

“I rent a party bus in Cleveland, where I grew up, and visit different hot dog establishments with 50 of my closest friends (and) hot dog enthusiasts each year,” Stumpf said. “This year will be the biggest as we are attempting to piggy-back our birthday with the crawl.”

Patrick Foys, of Carol Stream, said he had a vague notion his birthday was special but didn’t fully understand the concept until he was 10 years old.

Foys said his parents usually celebrated his birthday on Feb. 28 while he was growing up but he didn’t enjoy non-Leap Year birthdays, instead celebrated special ages.

Having a Leap Day birthday doesn’t cause many problems, Foys said, although he occasionally comes across a form that doesn’t accept Feb. 29 as a date.

“Also, I recall that after Y2K in 2000, there was a mini-Y2K on Feb. 29, 2000 that most people didn’t know about,” he added. 

Carolyn Young of Evanston was born on Leap Day 1984. Like Foys, she became aware of the uniqueness of her birthday when she was 8 years old, her second Leap Day. However, she didn’t enjoy it at first.

“I didn’t understand it,” Young said. “Other kids also asked a lot of questions and it got annoying to try to keep explaining it.” 

As more birthdays passed, she grew to appreciate her Leap Day birthday, even if some of her family and friends’ phones and computers don’t have a Feb. 29 to plug in birthday reminders.
“But as I got older I really liked it—it made me unique,” Young said. “It’s perfect for places where you are asked to share something special about yourself—always an easy one. It is also fun when making appointments and such and they ask your birthday—there is often a pause and then an ‘oh cool.’”

Romance for the ages: From couples who made it

by Mat Cohen

No one knows love more than the people who have been pierced by Cupid’s
arrow and withstood the test of time.

Two couples in the Streeterville neighborhood offered their stories and advice for others.

Bill and D Clancy, married 60 years, went on the most epic first date you can imagine, and Roger and Jeannette Becker are high school sweethearts who have been married for 56 years.

Both know a thing or two about the ways of love.

D, who goes by the first initial of her maiden name, met Bill when she was 10. She was seven years younger than her future husband and friends with his niece.

Bill’s and D’s families are from Chicago and knew each other.

“The reality is we both really knew each other’s families for a long time,” D said. “I think sometimes newlyweds have problems with families and we never had that, but we both already knew each other’s families really well.”

And everyone thought they’d be together, especially after their first date years later.

“Our first date was more than 24 hours,” D said.

They went to a lecture, to dinner and then out dancing, which is enough to last three dates, but there’s more.

Bill crashed on D’s couch for a few hours of sleep, then they attended 6 a.m. mass the next morning, drove north to visit his brother, and finally back home.

They’ve always had fun together, which continued when they had kids in the 1960s.

“Bill and I had so much fun with our kids,” she said. “And that’s not true for everyone.”

They took a month-long road trip along the California coast and camped in a van along with four kids and a dog.

“I don’t think too many people do that,” D said. “I’m not sure if we were wise or not, but it was great. Now that we’re older we still have a lot of fun as a family. We’re not smothering, but we still have a good time together.

“The ability to laugh at things helps your relationship, sometimes people take things too seriously.”

High school sweethearts Roger and Jeannette Becker started dating their junior year after Roger asked Jeannette to the prom, partly because of her shiny hair.

“There was kind of a click,” Roger said. “A fit that developed more over time. I went away to college, but we saw each other close to every weekend. And we got married right when I got out of college.”

Jeannette agreed, “It was really meant to be.”

When Roger joined the army, travel and distance were introduced to the relationship.

“It takes work to have a good marriage, and by that I don’t mean it’s a struggle,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to pay attention. It’s a miracle that people can change in compatible ways. Both of us are different people than we were back in high school, but we’ve been lucky the changes have been compatible. We’re still best friends and plan to stay that way.”

The Beckers grew up close to St. Louis and moved to Chicago in 1996. The move filled them with newfound energy. Roger teaches a current events class and joined a gentlemen’s club, and Jeannette stays active at church and various seniors groups.

“(Chicago) has so much energy, it revitalized us,” Roger said. “We take advantage of what Chicago has to offer. We like to go out to eat and do many other things together.”

For the Clancy’s, Chicago is not their permanent home. Having Florida to escape to during winter helped the marriage blossom from the start.

“Another thing that was wise of us,” D said. “Bill hates the cold weather, so after we got married we moved to Florida over the winter and into May. I think starting out life with each other there, we got a chance to know each other better. We got off to a really great start.”

Through thick and thin, the couples have grown together, mourned losses together, and loved deeply together.

But of course, there is always some luck involved.

“We’ve been lucky,” Jeanette said. “I got a really great guy.”

Music Journalist turned Owner of The Goddess and Grocer, Debbie Sharpe says feeding 300 people is nothing

By Elisa Shoenberger

Debbie Sharpe came through Chicago on Paul McCartney tours while working as a caterer. “I met some people and I thought, ‘Oh nice place to stay,’ and so I just decided to stay,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe opened her own business, The Goddess and Grocer, which provides both ready-made and made-to-order food in several locations in the city. She’s even licensed out the name Goddess and The Baker to stores, including a recently opened location on 44 E. Grand Ave.

Australian-born Sharpe started off as a music journalist and ended up going to England working for Adam Ant’s manager. She ended up working in the catering company for a year and thought “I can do this myself” and that’s what she did.

Sharpe wanted to open an Australian deli. Fifteen years ago she could not easily find a good sandwich. “I was used to having a food store you could get sandwiches at and you could get prepared foods that you can just take home and reheat and not bother about going to the supermarket,” she explained. 

Sharpe still caters to the musicians, working big shows like Lollapalooza or Michigan-based Electric Forest. “I love the bigger the numbers, the better for me ‘cause I like the challenge.” 

The biggest event Sharpe ever catered was over 2,000 people in Lenin Stadium for the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. They had just fed about 1,000 people but realized there were many more people waiting in line to be fed. She told her staff, “Oh no, we are so not done.”

On a considerably smaller scale, The Goddess and Grocer caters for Teatro ZinZanni, the downtown cabaret circus show. She was asked to cater for the show long before the show found the space in the Cambria Hotel Building. 

Each night, they serve 300 people but Sharpe noted, “Catering 300 people is nothing for me. But you’ve got to get 300 dinners in 22 minutes with a dance routine. It really adds a new level of difficulty.”

Sharpe’s staff are an important part of the show, she explained.  “They sing, they dance, they move props,” all while serving food. 

The Goddess and Grocer features a popular and immensely Instagrammable Rainbow Cake. Asked where it originated, Sharpe said, “We’re not sure. We just think one of our pastry chefs made it one day.” While it’s not exclusive to the Goddess stores, Sharpe recommended Goddess’ version. “I just think ours tastes really much better than everybody else’s because of the buttercream frosting.”

Chicagoan ready for round two of roaring 20s

by Mat Cohen

The 1920s was a decade unfamiliar to most. But Wanda Bridgeforth remembers it well.

Bridgeforth saw the Great Depression, World War II and lived in Chicago when the tallest building was eight stories high.

As the year 2020 begins, she’s ready to welcome the changes that a second shot at the ‘20s will bring. 

Bridgeforth, 98, takes a writing class at the Chicago Cultural Center but has more stories to tell that aren’t on paper. 

“My life has been different than average,” she said. “But I’m still a kid at heart.” 

Bridgeforth grew up in Bronzeville and has lived in Princeton Park, the Loop and now Hyde Park for the past 16 years. 

As a kid in the 1920s, Wanda’s family visited downtown Chicago once a year to see the Christmas decorations.

“We got dressed up to come downtown with gloves and hats,” she said. “Once a year we came down to Marshall Field’s to see the tree. Then we went up to the eighth floor to look down on it.”  She said although the Christmas setup is still the same, most things have changed drastically.

“Downtown is so different than what it was,” she said. “ The department stores, the theaters, all the high-rises. Sometimes I just have to suck in my breath and go with the flow. Everything is moving so fast these days with all of this technology. It’s just amazing to me.” 

As a kid, she saw neighbors stick together through thick and thin.

“The Depression came when I was about six or seven,” she said. “That’s when everybody’s life turned upside down. We had a closeness and a strong community spirit that we don’t have now.”

This tightness helped during World War II when her husband was stationed overseas.

“When he went overseas it was 56 days from Chicago to India,” she said. “I didn’t know he was in India, I just knew he was away from home.”

Beth Finke, who leads the writing class, has grown close to Bridgeforth.

“(Wanda) is profoundly deaf and I am totally blind,” she said. “Maybe we connect because both of us acknowledge  our disabilities without letting it de ne us. We both are resourceful and have to figure out ways to do certain things  that others do with their ears and eyes.”

Bridgeforth said there was another reason she was drawn to Finke.

“We clicked immediately,” she said. “Primarily through (Finke’s guide) dog because I love animals.”  

Singers in Chicago Children’s Choir ‘have to be excellent’

by Jacqueline Covey

The best young voices in Chicago perform with the Chicago Children’s Choir in storied locations like the grand glass-roofed third floor of the Chicago Cultural Center.

Members of the Voice of Chicago choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir’s premier mixed-voice ensemble, have performed overseas and in front of international leaders, such as former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The mantra for this elite group, instilled by Judy Hanson, senior associate artistic director with the Chicago Children’s Choir, is “the more excellent, the more magic.”

“They have to be excellent,” Hanson said.

At a recent holiday-themed performance of “We Are One” at the Chicago Cultural Center,  students in leadership roles addressed the audience at an open rehearsal.

“We connect to people through music,” said Isaiah Calaranan, a member of the choir. “We’re breaking down barriers and outside social constructs.”

During performances, the reaction of the crowd gives immediate feedback to the performers. “I love seeing their faces light up,” Calaranan said.

During the civil rights movement, the choir was  founded in Hyde Park to bring children of diverse backgrounds together.

Hailing from Rodgers Park, Calaranan followed his brother’s footsteps throughout each level of the organization, starting when he was nine.

“We have to be role models,” Calaranan said. “We are what (other groups) want to be. We are the end goal, but we keep inspiring and changing lives even after high school.”  

Streeterville Walks welcomes newcomers to the area

by Stephanie Racine

Streeterville Walks, a social walking program of Streeterville Neighborhood Advocates, has been around for nearly six years. 

Craig Kaiser, who organizes the walks, started the program as a neighborhood watch endeavor. But he noticed people who came on watch were much more interested in the social aspect, so the walk evolved.

The walk was then focused on hidden gems including public art, architecture, and businesses. Now, Streeterville Walks adds a different angle: welcoming newcomers to the neighborhood.

“We will introduce new people to the highlights of living [in Streeterville], including the usual history, art and architecture but also pointing out the great amenities like groceries, coffee shops, child care, pet care, parks etc.,” Kaiser said.

The first of these neighborhood welcome walks took place on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. The group met at the plaza next to the new Apple Store, on Michigan Avenue, just north of the river. Kaiser figured the recognizable location, plus the surrounding architecture, was a good place to start for newcomers.

New residents come to Streeterville frequently. With schools and hospitals in the area, including Northwestern Law and Northwestern Hospital, there’s a preponderance of newcomers every year. According to Kaiser, more than thirty thousand people live in Streeterville, along with ten thousand dogs.  

On the first walk, Kaiser took note of classic Streeterville lore, mentioning the story of its founder—George Wellington “Cap” Streeter. He also pointed out definitive restaurants in Streeterville, such as Robert’s Pizzeria, Yolk, and Lizzie McNeil’s. He spouted little-known architectural factoids, including the ordinance that Tribune Tower will always have an uninterrupted view of the lake.  

Christian and Janet Silge moved to Streeterville from Lake Forest about six months ago. “We were looking for a way to get to know the neighborhood a bit better,” said Christian Silge. They happened upon the Streeterville Walk on the neighborhood app NextDoor and have been happy with the experience.

“We love the fact that each walk has a different focus and we are always excited to learn some new tidbit of information or some historical significance of a street, building, park, monument, mural, or other artwork” said Silge.

The couple is happy to be more educated about the community and look forward to future walks. “Who knows, maybe we will lead some future walks ourselves,” said Silge.

Kaiser is hoping to partner with real estate agents in the area who sell or rent to newcomers, so they will have an opportunity to go on a walk and learn about the neighborhood, while also meeting their neighbors.

For more information about the Streeterville Walks program, email SNA60611@gmail.com, or join their official Streeterville Neighborhood Advocates Facebook group.

Comedy showcase marks decade in Streeterville

By Doug Rapp

Kanye West’s “Homecoming” boomed through the dark room.

As the lights came up, host Blake Burkhart took the stage riling up the audience of 90 gathered in a back room at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in Streeterville.

Taking off a beanie to reveal his newly shaved head, Burkhart said he was giving in to his baldness.

“I look like a room temperature John Malkovich,” he said, or even worse, “a young Dr. Phil.”

Burkhart was hosting “Comedians You Should Know,” or “CYSK,” a weekly showcase of Chicago comedians that’s been staged for nearly 12 years. Each Wednesday night, a rotating host and six comedians perform. The venue charges an $8 cover.

“It’s the cream of the crop as far as Chicago comedians go,” said Danny Kallas, one of the founders of the show.

 “CYSK” started in 2008 in Lakeview but moved downtown to its current home base nearly 10 years ago.

 “Our idea was to put on the best standup show we could put on,” Kallas said. “It’s a celebration of Chicago comedians past, present and future.”

 The 90-minute show features touring veterans as well as up-and-comers on the Chicago comedy scene. On a recent Wednesday night, three club headliners performed, including Marty DeRosa, Sean Flannery and Pat Tomasulo. Having more than one headliner on a showcase is rare, Kallas said, but their show attracts top Chicago talent.

Kallas noted many Chicago comedians who have performed at “CYSK” have gone on to national fame, including Hannibal Burress, SNL actor Chris Redd and Cameron Esposito. Over 25 comedy albums have been recorded there as well, Kallas said. The showcase has added weekly shows in New York and LA, making it the only simultaneous comedy show in the three biggest comedy markets.

 Jonah Jurkens, one of the show’s producers, occasionally hosts and performs.

 “We host the best comics in the city,” Jurkens said. “It makes you want to be a better comedian because you’re surrounded by the best.”

Besides the three touring comedians, three local comedians, Ed Towns, Malic White and Gena Gephart, performed that night.

“When you get on this show that’s when you know you’re starting to make your way,” Jurkens said.

Kallas said most people can name a handful of famous comedians but the average Chicagoan doesn’t realize how many great comedians live next door to them. They’re trying to attract more Streeterville residents to show the entertainment available in their neighborhood. 

“Take a chance on Chicago comedy,” he said.

The News Gets Around

Take a little piece of home with you when you travel this holiday season. Show love for your community by snapping a photo holding up New Eastside News in a new and exciting location. We would love to hear the story behind the photo as well. The best photo and story we receive each month will get a spot in the paper and a gift card.

Managing Editor Stephanie Racine just took a trip to Newport Beach, California. Before having lunch with a view of the Pacific, Stephanie took a picture with the September edition of New Eastside News in front of Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. 

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