Hills


Illinois is a rather flat state. When I ran races in California, the race entry form would describe the race course as either flat or hilly. And by hilly that usually meant some steep incline. I once ran a seven-mile race that was uphill for the first half of the course. When I returned to Chicago and started running races here, some race courses were described as hilly. In California, these types of hills are called “flat” by some race directors and “gently rolling hills” by others.

When I started running cross country in Donaldson, Indiana, we never ran any hills because the terrain is relatively flat there, too. Occasionally, there were some slight inclines, but there were no real hills per se. In Chicago, there are no hills either. When I ran with the Marquette Park Track Club, coach Jack Bolton would have us doing “hill work” by running up the sled hill in Marquette Park or running to the “Nabisco Hill” near the Nabisco cookie factory. They weren’t real hills, but that was the best way to train for the “hilly” races in Illinois.

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This picture doesn’t truly capture the grade of this hill in Glen Ellyn.

In México City, they have mountains, not hills. I once went running with my cousin through the mountains. We ran for about an hour, but I was surprised that I could keep up with him. I think he was trying to run me into the ground.  Afterwards, he told me that since I was from Chicago, he didn’t think I could handle the hills or the altitude, México City having the elevation of 8000 feet.

So now that I’m running in “flat” Illinois again, I found some “hills” in Glen Ellyn that for my area of Illinois are “hilly”. Of course, I’m not as young as I was when I ran in California or México, nor am I in top form physically anymore. However, I’ve been running these hills for the last year or so trying to get back in shape. I think back to some of the hilly California races I ran and these hills I’m running now don’t seem so steep now.

A few weeks ago, I was running up this Glen Ellyn hill, seen in the picture above, and struggling to keep running at the same pace. This hill on Prospect Avenue goes up for about a half mile. I’ve seen other runners stop running and start walking up this hill. I always continue running up the hill. It’s funny how I only remember running uphill, but not running downhill. Anyway, I’m running up this hill, when suddenly I hear footsteps behind me. I could tell it was another runner by the pace of the footsteps. A female runner passes me up and I say, “Good morning” to her. I make it a point to greet all runners I meet in order to share in the camaraderie of running. She runs a few steps past me and turns back to look at me. She tells me in a firm voice, “Attack the hill!” So, I attack the hill and pull up alongside her. I’m pushing myself harder than I would have had I been all alone. I’m struggling to keep up with her, but I actually feel good that she came along and pushed me to run faster. Her running form is smooth, but she’s huffing and puffing with each step up that hill. I, on the other hand, am not huffing and puffing, but you could tell from my form that I’m struggling to get up that hill. When we get to the top of the hill, we part ways and I shout out to her, “Thanks for the motivation!”

I guess I enjoy the challenge of running up hills.

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Vanity license plates


This is not my vanity plate!

Vanity of Vanities! Everyone seems to have a vanity license plate. Everywhere I look on the road, I see a vanity plate.

I give up! For a while there, I was taking pictures of clever vanity license plates, although I must admit that some vanity plates weren’t so clever. People are more than willing to pay extra for these license plates, whether or not they’re clever. There are just too many vanity license plates for me to photograph!

I quit taking those pictures for safety reasons. Occasionally, I would take a picture of vanity plates while driving and a couple of times I almost got into an accident. Is my life worth risking for the sake of documenting people’s idea of “wit”? Will I further humanity by continuing to risk my life? Will anyone notice that I’ve stopped taking these pictures on the road while driving?

Lately, I’ve noticed that there are so many vanity license plates in Illinois. So many that I’ve reached the conclusion that we must be the vainest state of the Union when it comes to vanity plates. Every time I drive, I see at least one vanity plate. When I drive to other states, I don’t see as many vanity plates. Okay, I did see quite a few in California, but not the other states I drove through. But I’m sure that other states will catch up with the growing popularity of vanity license plates.

New Chicago ordinances


Can you find Easy Street on the Chicago map?

Chicago and Illinois residents awoke this morning to a new set of Chicago ordinances. Mayor Daley called an early morning secret meeting of the Chicago City Council. New city ordinances were enacted under the cover of night, surprisingly reminiscent of the Miegs Field Airport closing. The new Chicago ordinances take effect immediately.

  • All reporters are hereby prohibited from  using the words “clout” and “bribes” in the same sentence with the name of Da Mayor or any council member.
  • Parking ticket books will be issued to all Chicagoans who purchase a Chicago city sticker.
  • Richard J. Daley is now formally recognized as one of Chicago’s founding fathers.
  • Illinois is now officially a suburb of the city of Chicago.
  • Lawsuits against the city of Chicago will immediately be dismissed if not filed by an attorney with Machine clout.
  • Four-day school week will become the law for teachers. Students will continue to attend school five days per week.
  • Old police motto of  “To Serve and Protect” on police cruisers will be replaced with “To Curb and Collect.”
  • O’Hare Airport passengers are now officially Chicago citizens and must pay property taxes while at O’Hare.
  • Lake Michigan is now Lake Chicago.
  • St. Patrick’s Day will only be celebrated on March 17.
  • Days of the week beginning with the letter “R” or “D” are now parking meter holidays.
  • Alternate Leap Days will be designated “The City that Works” Day, whereupon all city workers must work a full day.
  • Yesterday’s problems will be deferred to future generations.

Casimir Pulaski Day


Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

Today is Casimir Pulaski Day. Pulaski Day is celebrated the first Monday of every March in Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. I mean “celebrated” as in Pulaski Day is an official government holiday, but Illinois is the only state in the country where it’s an official holiday. In Chicago, it’s technically also an official holiday. However, it’s not a parking meter holiday, so be sure to feed those meters! That also means I can’t go to the Chicago Public Library today because it’s closed today. Chicago Public Schools and the Cook County offices are also closed today. The United States Post Office just delivered my mail, so it’s not a federal holiday. Pulaski is a very important holiday in Chicago because of our large Polish population. In fact, Chicago is the second largest Polish city after Warsaw. 

So who was Casimir Pulaski? He was a cavalry officer who fought for the U.S. Military during the American Revolution. President Barak Obama, a Chicagoan, signed a resolution that made Pulaski a U.S. citizen last November, 230 years after his death. If you know any Chicagoans, you know that U.S. citizenship is topic that is near and dear to their hearts. Hopefully, President Obama will help resolve the problems of living immigrants next! 

Hoy


Hoy, martes, 16 de enero 2010

Well, I have to admit that I am a news junkie. I try to keep up with most current events, but with my busy schedule, sometimes it is difficult. I used to keep up with the news when I was a newspaper delivery boy and I would read the newspapers as I delivered them. Then I stopped following the news in the 1980s when I returned to Chicago from the Marines. That is, until one day, I went grocery shopping and I tried to buy a gallon of milk, but the grocery store refrigerators were empty. Apparently, there was  a salmonella outbreak that contaminated bottled milk and I didn’t know about it because I didn’t keep up with the local news. Many people became sick from the salmonella because the grocery stores kept stocking the milk and people who didn’t watch or listen to the news didn’t know about the salmonella outbreak and bought the milk anyway. Well, that really scared me into keeping up with the news. I didn’t want to die needlessly if watching the news could perhaps save my life. Not that I ever feared death, but why die stupidly?

However, when I watch the news now, I always think that everything will affect me personally. If I see or read a news story, I think it will affect someone I know in that area. So while I watched the news about the fire at 3034 S. 48th Court in Cicero, Illinois, I immediately thought about my aunt Concepción Rodríguez Molina and her son Peter Molina, my cousin. Normally, news stories do not involve anyone I know. But this time was different. My aunt and cousin lived next door to the house that started on fire and killed seven people. She smelled smoke and so they both ran out of their house grabbing only a laptop. They are lucky to be alive! The village of Cicero temporarily put them up in a motel, but they’ll have to find a new place very, very soon. I will help them out in any way I can. But I still can’t believe this happened to someone I knew!

You may read the article in Spanish from Hoy online by clicking here.

Milestones


Seated: Danny, Rick, Delia, Jerry. Standing: David, Diego, Joey.

Our lives are marked by many milestones. The most easily recognized milestones are birthdays. I don’t really remember any of my birthdays until I reached the age of five. Five was such a magical number for me. Just ask William Carlos Williams about the number five and you’ll see what I mean. Five was special because a nickel was worth five cents (obviously) and that would buy me a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup when I was five. Then there was a long dry spell before I reached the next milestone of 10. It sure felt much longer than five years! Probably because I would tell people my age by half years: “You can’t talk to me like that. I’m seven and a half!” But when I turned ten, I had hit the double digits. I felt grown up. So grown up that I talked my mother into buying an electric guitar and amplifier that I promised to learn to play but never did.

Thirteen was another important milestone because, suddenly, practically overnight it seems, I became a teenager. Being a teenager was cool! My sixteenth birthday meant I could take driver’s ed. I felt like I was really moving up in the world. I was sixteen and I had my driver’s license! Of course, I couldn’t drive because I didn’t have a car and no one was foolish enough to let me drive their car. I wouldn’t drive a car until I turned eighteen and I bought my own car. Eighteen was a very memorable milestone for me, too. I also had to register for the draft and I was sure I would get drafted and have to go to Viet Nam! So I enjoyed life as much as possible before I was drafted, even though President Nixon had stopped the draft and no one was actually getting drafted anymore, but I was convinced that I would somehow get drafted anyway. Nonetheless, I was an adult with voting privileges.

Nineteen was also memorable because that’s when the state of Illinois, in its infinite wisdom, lowered the drinking age to nineteen for beer and wine. Let’s just say that I communed with the spirits on weekends to unwind from the long week of work at the peanut butter factory. When state legislators realized they had made a mistake in lowering the drinking age, they raised it back up to twenty-one again. But not before I turned–Tada!–twenty-one! I take pride in having planned my date of birth so precisely. Twenty-one meant I was an adult for real. Even if I would never get drafted. You would think that there would be no more milestones after twenty-one, but then you would think wrong! As all male drivers under twenty-five know, surviving your own reckless driving habits to live to your twenty-fifth birthday grants you the privilege of seeing your auto insurance drop dramatically.

Then the milestones were no longer significant. Thirty? The big three-oh? Thirty was so anti-climactic after seeing my auto insurance rates drop. Forty? What a yawn! I celebrated by taking a nap. And don’t even ask me about turning fifty. So stop asking me already. I actually forgot all about my fiftieth birthday until my sons reminded me that we usually go out for dinner and the movie of my choice for my birthday. Do I know how to celebrate or what?

Now, I hate when people ask me my age. And not because I’m embarrassed about my age. I actually enjoy being my age and I never try to appear younger than I really am, but please don’t ask me my age. That involves math. How old am I? Let’s see. This is 2010 minus 1956, the year of my birth. That makes me … Oh, I hate doing the math. That’s why I majored in literature! After twenty-one, I stopped keeping track of my age. Age became just a number to me–an unknown variable that I didn’t want to calculate! Why do I need to know my own age anyway. If I go to the liquor store for a bottle of wine and the clerk asks me if I’m old enough to drink, I just hand him or her my driver’s license and say, “You figure it out.” Now that I think of it, why am I still be carded?

My next milestone–and one that I look forward to seeing–is my 100th birthday. Triple digits! I hope you read my blog entry on that very special occasion!

2009 Chicago Auto Show


2009 Chicago Auto Show

Last year, I wrote about going to the Chicago Auto Show. This year I actually went to it. I wrote about how my father used to take my brothers and I to the Chicago Auto Show. This year, my oldest son dragged me along against my will. I find this amazing because my son doesn’t even have a driver’s license. He’s nineteen and he’s never taken driver’s ed. I gave him the Illinois Rules of the Road book to study twice with the promise that if he studied I would take to take the written test to get his driver’s permit. But he never studied and he still doesn’t have his permit. He’s just not that interested in driving or he would have gotten his driver’s license by now. Which reminds me of my friend Vito who has never–to my knowledge–ever had a driver’s license. My life would have been so different if I would have never gotten my driver’s license. I can’t even imagine how could exist without one.

Anyway, the Chicago Auto Show was fun even though I didn’t really want to go. I enjoyed it vicariously through my son who seemed to enjoy looking at the expensive cars that I cannot afford and probably wouldn’t drive even if I could afford them. I took some pictures of the cars. And then I took some more pictures of some more cars, but this time my son was in the pictures because he insisted on being in pictures with him in some of the cars. Of course, he offered to take a couple of pictures of me, for which I posed begrudgingly because I don’t really enjoy being photographed. One thing I did miss was the celebrities that used to come and sign autographs. And they no longer had beautiful models in evening gowns posing for amateur photographers near the new cars. There were plenty of workers continually wiping fingerprints off cars and keeping them shiny. But overall, I did have fun and was glad I went.