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By Ken Trainor
Readers of Wednesday Journal expect the offbeat from this eccentric community, and 2010 did not disappoint.
The Beet Generation
The year wasn't two weeks old and the Village of Oak Park was already using beet juice on our icy streets, beets providing a more eco-friendly alternative to the traditional salt. For a short time the streets ran red.
Conservatives, with no sense of the irony whatsoever, tried to bully Beye School out of plans to bring in speakers to address the issue of anti-gay bullying. Students reportedly survived the encounter with their sexual orientations intact.
Tough on the temple
Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Unity Temple had a rough year. Some disciple of verticality climbed to the roof in January and dropped a bucket of tar through a skylight. In September, a vandal — or bronze fetishist — took advantage of Wright's penchant for hidden entrances to pry 50 bronze letters from the façade over the front doors. The shadowy residue of "For the Worship of God and the Service of Man" can still be seen, a faint visual echo of the words that called the faithful to temple for a full century. Initial estimates of replacing the letters ranged from $10,000 to $80,000. Several nights later, Cucina Paradiso held a benefit supper and raised $1,725 to aid the replacement effort.
11 for the 11th
No less than six Oak Parkers threw their proverbial hats in the ring to run for judge in the 11th Subcircuit of Cook County. A total of 11 candidates vied for the 11th. Given the odds, you might not be surprised to hear that an Oak Parker, Ann Finley Collins, prevailed in the primary. Then again, the Oak Park Six surely split the local votes, so Collins must have tallied well in surrounding towns as well. She easily won in the November election.
In February, the installation of security cameras was proposed for Oak Park's two middle schools, evidently in hopes of keeping the pre-teens and barely teens honest. In December, parents of OPRF students proposed drug-sniffing dogs for the high school to deter substance abuse — although that might lead to a certain amount of substance shoveling in the hallways. If that doesn't work, we wondered, would the next step be inserting microchips in students' necks?
The Oak Park Public Library received the Gordon M. Conable Award from the Public Library Association (a division of the American Library Association) for its transgender collection. According to the association, the library "demonstrated a commitment to intellectual freedom and the Library Bill of Rights." The collection is located on the third floor. The anti-anti-gay-bullying forces probably didn't like that either.
Do bees or don't bees?
At the request of village resident Deb Becker (a WJ employee), Oak Park took legalization of beekeeping under advisement. "It seems like, if we could have two fowl in Oak Park, we should be able to keep bees in our yard," she reasoned. In other words (because we can't resist), if you can keep egg-layers in the village, why Pooh-Pooh honey-makers? In October, the village health board endorsed beekeeping in Oak Park. The village board has yet to vote to make it official.
Connecting with Connecticut
Just two months after Police Chief Frank Limon was named River Forest Villager of the Year by Wednesday Journal, he announced he was leaving to take a chiefship in New Haven, Conn., where he was so well received that by the end of the year, he was facing a no-confidence vote by the local force. New Haven turned out to be no haven.
Dignity, always dignity
Maybe it was the recession, maybe it was the acting challenge or maybe it was just the costume, but some poor thespian was observed at the intersection of Madison and Austin, drumsticking up support for Ms. Lucille's Soul Food Kitchen, 108 Madison St. Over on Harlem, meanwhile, Dancing Donuts looked glazed but game as they directed motorists to Dunkin' Donuts by the Harlem CTA terminal.
WJ featured a number of alarming stories in its March 31 issue: A new division of T-ball that outlawed running (too strenuous, possible injury); the OPRF High School board, already famous for its lawsuit against Oak Park, adding River Forest to its list of defendants and setting its sights next on the public libraries; the YMCA, after failing in its bid to move to Forest Park, announcing a partnership with McDonald's; and the most startling headline of all: "Pope seeks sainthood for Mike Kelly." Fortunately, they were false alarms, part of our Wednesday Jerbil April Fools spoof section. Around here, though, it can be hard to tell the difference.
Lawn ornament larceny
Case in point: A wayward gnome made its way home in March after a year of wandering. Attached photos allowed the victimized owner, Erika Baldonado, to track its progress. The mysterious perpetrator also attached a note to the pointy-hatted pixie, which read: "You may think you own me, but you are mistaken. I don't appreciate the chain you had around me, so I decided to take a vacation. I hope you didn't miss me too much, but here are some photos to show you how much fun I had with my freedom. Regards, Gnome." Meanwhile, a $7,000 Buddha statue disappeared from the grounds of a second homeowner, Cynthia Hicks, in July. In November, the Buddha booty was likewise returned, sans photos, accompanied only by a note of regret: "We're sorry for taking the Buddha — the Buddha belongs to you and your family." Evidently, as Gautama himself once observed, "All suffering is caused by desire." He may also be the one who said, "All's well that ends well."
St. Catherine meets St. Catherine
Actor/comedian Bill Murray's sister, Sister Nancy, performed a one-nun show about St. Catherine of Siena at — where else? — St. Catherine of Siena.
Nothing paltry about poultry
In June, we profiled Jennifer Murtoff, urban chicken consultant, aka "the Chicken Woman." The Oak Parker is owner and founder of Home to Roost, which advises urbanites on raising chickens in their backyard. No word on whether she also keeps bees.
District 97 board President Peter Traczyk reportedly (we still can't quite believe this), willingly and apparently deliberately, ingested several real worms as part of a fundraiser in June. He did this before the host informed everyone it was a practical joke, ha ha, and no one really had to eat them. Nonetheless, this qualifies as the most amazing example of selfless public service since Marty Stempniak dined on cicadas for this newspaper back in 2007.
Right ... What's an ark?
Maybe it was the lack of belief in fairies, maybe it was global climate change, but in late July, we endured a deluge of biblical proportions. Oak Park registered 8.33 inches of rain, which would translate into 80 inches of snow. The total amount of water that fell on the village was an estimated 651,442,176 gallons of water.
In August, we profiled a local tattoo studio, RockStar Ink, and found Pastor Ian Carroll of Greater Chicago Church in Oak Park (formerly Vineyard) getting a bible verse, in Latin, inkjetted on his leg. Couldn't be a cheat sheet. He would have used his arm, which already sports a Celtic cross.
An apology for an apology
In August, Rev. Larry McNally, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church, apologized to all the women in the parish for the way the Catholic Church has been treating women of late. After delivering some 600 signatures on petitions from local parishioners who agreed with him, the Archdiocese of Chicago forced a pro forma apology for the apology, a kind of canonical tit for tat. Wait, was that a wink?
Oak Parker Eden DeGenova, proprietor of Baubo's Garden, a lingerie boutique in Forest Park, organized a "Beauty in the Bra" window display among local shopkeepers to raise awareness about Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Muse, Chameleon Clothing, and Nora's Shoe Shop in Oak Park took part. Students from the Dominican University Apparel Design and Merchandising Department devised the window displays.
Among the special guests at the OPRF High School Homecoming Dance in October was an 8-foot python. No word on whether the snake danced.
No, it's not their mascot
In October, we profiled Bob Calin-Jageman's research on sea slugs at Dominican University, an attempt to learn more about memory loss in ... um ... oh yeah, humans.
Having his cake and driving it too
Oak Park inventor Don Rutledge, a stay-at-home dad with apparently plenty of time on his hands, recently designed a pink cupcake car. We're not exactly sure why, but you can't miss it on the road. Reportedly, he got the idea from the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. The electric vehicle has a range of roughly 20 miles. He plans to use it to drive to Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Oak Parker Dale Bemis was recently inducted into the White Castle Hall of Fame. At his wedding, he and his wife distributed White Castle "Crave Cases" to their guests.
We don't know if Don Rutledge and Bemis are planning to team up to design a Slidermobile, but all this proves that, in Oak Park, it takes all kinds.