By Dan Haley
Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Cupcake craze: Shocking, I know, the idea that just perhaps there is not a permanent place in our economy for multiple cupcake-only bakery chains. The New York Times reports this morning — well, it is one of their lesser reports, but it is still in the Times — that Crumbs, a 65-store cupcake emporium, has ceased operations in 12 states as of right now.
One of those states used to be Illinois and one of their stores used to be in Oak Park. You might remember. It was situated for a brief moment in the space that once was the magazine section of the old Barbara's Bookstore on Lake Street. And then one day, poof, it was gone.
I bought a cupcake at Crumbs once. It was stupidly large. Was one of like three cupcakes left in the store one evening about 7 p.m. The woman who sold it to me was surly. The cupcake was stale and gross. Otherwise I loved my Crumbs experience.
But those pancakes!: We are having another brief moment of nostalgia for the old pancake restaurant, now gone, lo these many years, from the corner of Lake and Forest. I can still picture it in my mind. A low-slung, one-story building clad in fake rock. Proud on the corner and tucked neatly next to the dry cleaners and the ice cream shop that was never open. Those were the days, my friends.
Ate breakfast there every Thursday morning for years with my friend and colleague, Ed Panschar. Sometimes we were the only customers. The rest of you guys who apparently loved the place so much must have been home just thinking about it.
But clearly we ought to have found a way to preserve it. Instead, we will soon be stuck with a dramatic, 21-story high-rise apartment with homes for hundreds of new tax-paying, cupcake-buying neighbors. What are we thinking?!
What were they thinking?: The new Ridgeland Common pool has smaller locker rooms. Instead it has a small wall of lockers outside where swimmers can stow their stuff. Personally, I want to know what the architects were thinking! I loved the old locker room. It was spacious. Often as empty as a pancake restaurant. Of course, no one used the locker room to like get naked and shower with strangers. Was that actually expected?
So you're telling me the architects and the park staff actually noticed that no one uses locker rooms at public pools anymore, that they just need a place to lock up their iPhones and their trousers? So they made them smaller after thinking about it? Don't believe it!
Gravel to gravel: So Oak Park trustees are talking about the condition of our streets. Not so good. Bumpy and bruised. I will leave to the financiers the issue of whether we should fix them all at once by borrowing $20 million or continue the current practice of repaving a street or alley only after the local pancake houses and cupcake stores have sent in their sales tax receipts.
Like any observant citizen, I could offer my personal list of failed streets. (How about Austin Boulevard north of the Ike!) But I am a trained journalist and I see things others may not. Yes, it is a curse. And what I have noticed this spring is a couple of streets in town that are failing in a whole new way. This is beyond potholes, more than those long craggy stretches, beyond buckling. This is actual disintegration. As if in some complex chemical process, the teeny little bits of asphalt have disassociated from each other and returned to mere gravel. President David Pope took us back to brick streets. Now we are returning to gravel streets.