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By Ken Trainor
There's no end to the fascinating loose ends that make up the world we live in. Take gum circles, for instance. Please. Lately I've been painfully aware of the extraordinary number on our sidewalks. They're everywhere. What kind of person spits gum out on a public causeway? Someone who has no interest in the common good, I suppose. They must think, if they think, that they an exemption from littering — like smokers who flick cigarette butts casually, thoughtlessly, into the street or on the parkway, or men who clog public urinals by tossing in wadded-up paper towels. Who approved these exemptions? They need to provide documentation. If I were a cop, I'd spend all my time giving tickets to people who spit out gum. At least cigarette butts don't stick to your shoes.
At the very least all of this indicates we've got a whole lot of socializing and civilizing left to do, even here in enlightened Oak Park. But I guess that's not exactly a news flash.
You can learn a lot about people just by looking — and by listening. One young woman to another at Red Hen: "I'm a little hyped from being in New York too long." Maybe, but Oak Parkers can get pretty hyped too: "My brain is so fricking scattered I ended up putting money in the wrong meter," said an exasperated, multitasking woman in the middle of a cellphone conversation. Not that modern technology is all bad: "I was researching Oak Park on the Internet and Hemingway came up. Who'd have guessed?" said an excited woman to her companion as they exited the Oak Park Art Center building, which houses the Hemingway Museum. Paying attention also clues you in as to how things are changing: "But anyway, you can expand his flavor palate," said a young mother, cellphone to her ear, pushing the Humvee equivalent of a stroller. When my son was that age, we just wanted him to eat his vegetables.
Interesting names never cease to amaze me, especially when they match the person's profession or avocation: We carried a story some time back about the new liaison between the Oak Park Police Department and the public. His name is Dennis Leaks. If the irony of that doesn't immediately register, imagine a presidential press secretary named Leaks. Or for that matter, the Pope's butler.
In a recent police blotter, we wrote about a man named Timothy Steele who was arrested for allegedly, yes, pilfering a bicycle. Pre-determination? The power of suggestion? A friend of mine swears that at Northwestern Memorial Hospital there is a highly respected surgeon named Sturgeon. And we featured a seventh-grader at Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest named Eric Forehand in one of our front-page photos. The media would love it if he showed up at Wimbledon someday so they could rave about "Forehand's forehand." Of course, that won't happen unless he develops a solid backhand. If he doesn't, then praise for his forehand would, I suppose, qualify as a backhanded compliment.
I read an article some time back about a "senior elections analyst" for Real Clear Politics named Sean Trende, who cautioned against "expecting current trends to last far into the future." Trende tends toward caution on trends? And I couldn't help noticing that the head chef at Autre Monde restaurant in Berwyn is named Dan Pancake. I'll bet that makes for some awkward pauses when people ask what he does for a living.
Typos, of course, remain my favorite means to a loose end. English has so many words that are perilously close in spelling. Given the current state of the housing market, for instance, the gap between "realty" and "reality" may be widening. No matter how little a writer knows about the Catholic Church, he or she needs to understand the difference between "Canon Law" and "Cannon Law." Recently we alleged that a new faculty member at the local high school was "extremely exited to be working at OPRF" Someday maybe he'll be excited about exiting OPRF, but let's hope not.
If you're a student of history, exploring the "Guilded" Age would probably be a great deal different from the "Gilded" Age. Imagine my shock to read about a local young woman who "spent last summer in Paris learning special Japanese dying techniques." Fortunately, she was talking about fashion, not euthanasia.
A Chicago man "overdoes" on heroin in a Starbucks bathroom gets the point across, but I decided to add the extra "s" just in case.
And I was stopped cold in my editing tracks one day recently when I read about Oak Parkers discussing whether to put in a "cud-de-sac."
I pictured camels in a circle.
And last but not least, bumper stickers. I spotted one recently that read: "Everybody counts. Everybody matters." I think we can presume this was not a Mitt Romney supporter. Let's hope a variation of this sentiment applies in two weeks: Every vote counts. Every vote matters.
The world is full of loose ends. It would be nice if we could tie up one or two.