Weekend update / no apologies to SNL

Suggestions for two new art installations to explore and some thoughts on reading.

New art and music on the State Street median


Photo by James John Jetel for Chicago Loop Alliance.

I wrote about the new State Street plaza in June when the public space on the State Street median opened. This pleasant parklet is still there, between Wacker Drive and Lake Street.

Tables and plantings create a place where you can read a book with your lunch or meet a friend for coffee.

Now there’s a new piece of sculpture at the south end of the plaza, created by Dusty Folwarczny.  I updated  the story about the plaza  in Gapers Block this week.

And the Chicago Street Musicians play popup concerts at lunchtime occasionally. It’s an admirable urban oasis.

City melting pot:  The new mural in Old Irving Park

tony-sparrow-mural-positive-babel-thumbnailIf you’re out and about Saturday morning, you can stop by  Irving Park Road and Keeler Avenue for the dedication of the new mural celebrating the Old Irving Park community. You can read my story about it in Gapers Block. Artist Tony Sparrow led a team of artists to create the mural on both walls and all the pillars in the Metra/Union Pacific underpass just west of the Kennedy Expressway underpass. Tony was a delightful host when I visited last week to interview him and tour the neighborhood. (The image shown is a small portion of the mural; thanks to Tony for the image.)

The mural is a world skyline titled Positive Babel: The World Lives, Works and Plays in Old Irving and celebrates the residents of some 70 ethnicities who live in the neighborhood. Old Irving is generally bound by Pulaski Road and Cicero Avenue east and west and Addison Street and Montrose Avenue north and south. The Old Irving Park Association has been working for the last 10 years to improve the neighborhood environment and one of its projects has been turning underpasses into art galleries. The Positive Babel murals are the 10th and 11th created.

If you want to explore the murals on foot, there’s easy street parking on Avondale just east of the Positive Babel underpass.

Reading on the CTA Redux

imagesSome time ago, I wrote about how I like to spy on what people are reading on the CTA. I said I never go anywhere without something to read because you never know whether the bus will get stuck in traffic or whether your lunch date will be running late. I complained about how anonymous e-readers keep me from spying on book covers (and I admitted that I read all formats—print, phone, Kindle and iPad).

Now here’s Transit Readings, a fun site where the blogger thrives on photographing people as they ride and read their books, real books.  Sometimes the bus or rail line info is included too.

And here he explains what’s he’s doing and his rules for doing it. If you’re reading a book on the Blue Line or the #36, you may find yourself here.

The joy of reading on the CTA

I never go anywhere without something to read. You never know when you’ll be stuck waiting for a lunch date or a movie time, for a doctor or a freight train (when I lived in DeKalb, the RR tracks crossed the intersection of two major highways). And there’s nothing nicer than sinking into a book or favorite magazine on a long bus, train or plane ride.

RS-billiejoearmstrongIt’s fun to see what other people are reading and to wonder why they’re interested in that subject. I’ve gotten into conversations with fellow travelers about reading matter. When I was in the middle of Eric Clapton’s autobiography, I debated who is the greatest rock guitarist* with the guy sitting next to me. And today I was reading the new issue of Rolling Stone with Billie Joe Armstrong on the cover (the front man for Green Day and now out of drug rehab) and had a discussion about changes in rock and drug culture with a young woman with purple hair peeking out of the hood of her down jacket.

Let’s face it. I love my technology; my Kindle, iPad and iPhone are part of my life. I often read the Kindle while commuting because it’s smaller and lighter than the iPad and no one will want to steal it. (CTA riders have to be vigilant.) But I still prefer stashing a book or magazine in my bag – and I enjoy the vicarious thrill of seeing what other people are reading. On a morning bus, you may see students reading law or business textbooks. There’s always a dressed-for-success person reading the latest business best-seller. But the most interesting are the fiction readers. When I see someone reading a novel I enjoyed, I want to talk to him about it – but I usually don’t. On other days I’ll note that everyone sitting around me is reading an e-reader or a phone and I’m blocked from getting any insights into their literary tastes. Book covers are great views into someone’s interests. Too bad e-readers hide the cover that a book designer worked hard to create.

The anonymity of e-books isn’t a new discussion. Christopher Borrelli wrote about it in “On the ‘L,’ e-books change spy game” in the Chicago Tribune last year. This comment was intriguing: “… reading on a train or bus is what urban dwelling is about, a near perfect illustration of how living in a city often means being simultaneously public and anonymous, surrounded by strangers at exactly the moment you just want to be left alone.” You can find Borrelli’s article and a fascinating diagram that maps CTA routes to passengers’ reading habits. http://tiny.cc/zfthtw

Maybe I’ll add a verse or two on urban solitude to my poem “Urban Woman Blues.” https://nancybishopsjournal.com/2012/10/22/urban-woman-blues/


* Speaking of great rock guitarists

I am totally excited about the new Jimi Hendrix album, released this week. Yes, the late Mr Hendrix, who is almost always #1 on lists of great guitarists. Not only was he great, he was left-handed! The new album is People, Hell and Angels – 12 tracks out of the Hendrix vault of officially unreleased music. (Why did it take 40+ years?) You can read about the album here. http://tiny.cc/ksshtw You can listen to one track here. http://bit.ly/14u1ySp I listened to the whole album the other day on NPR First Listen. OMG, it’s good.