Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Say something nice about Oak Park: OK. Here goes. Saturday night some of the family was gathering up for dinner at Cucina Paradiso on North Boulevard. We found a parking space convenient to the front door. I found the gol-darned Pay by Plate contraption. Located the pix of my license plate on my phone since I can never remember the mix of letters and numbers. Inserted the debit card. Plugged in two bucks for two hours. And when my receipt spit out, I realized the village had only charged me $1.55 since that was what it took to get me to 8 p.m. when the meters became free.

Made me feel not snookered. And you can bet I spent that 45 cents at Cucina.

Back door pizza: So Geppetto’s has gone poof. Been a lot of going poof around here lately. And high property taxes are almost certainly a contributing factor. But as a casual observer of restaurants, I’d say the greater problem for what was, 30 years ago, one of Oak Park’s hottest spots, was that no one ever ate there anymore. Having a completely empty dining room will catch up with you. You can only sell so many pizzas out the back door for delivery to make up for the forlornness of a front of the house that echoes. 

I remember the days of shimmying between overpacked tables to get to our seats at Geppetto’s. I remember small talk with all the people encountered at the cutting-edge salad bar. I remember the longtime owner (not the last owner) being kind of a jerk. Might have had more to do with the long decline than taxes.

We did it for the mayors: Best-case scenario, legislators in Illinois who have approved red-light cameras did it to give mayors in their home districts a new and rich revenue stream. That reportedly is what state Rep. Iris Martinez actually said during an endorsement interview at the Sun-Times. She is currently running for Clerk of the Circuit Court for Cook County. 

The alternative reasons to back red-light cameras are less flattering than kow-towing to small-town mayors. Perhaps you are actively corrupt and getting a skim on the camera deals like now-indicted ex-Sen. Martin Sandoval. Or you are so dumb — you thought red-light cameras were actually intended to improve traffic safety. 

Spring training: OK, we’ve survived the football season. The grand hoopla of the NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago has ended and we’re left with the hapless Bulls. Blackhawks. OK, slightly less hapless. Fine. And I suppose there is a soccer team around here somewhere.

Saturday is the first Spring Training baseball game. Life begins anew. Before you know it, little flowers will grow. The days will be longer. Soon it will be time to plunk Astros hitters every inning or so for their hideously cheating ways. Life is sweet for baseball fans, especially this spring for White Sox fans. Cubs fans? Well you’ve got that new Marquee network you can pay for to ever see your team on TV again. And is it possibly true that Betsy DeVos actually owns a sliver of the Cubs? 

Talk about hideous. 

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...