A Poem for May

How to Work                                                      

I’m talking about this old guy from here

name of Charley

that old boy was something


could ride a horse standing up

I seen pikshers of him on his horse

Jiggs in World War I days

he’d swing his little bulldog Jiggs

around his head

dog holding on to the end of a rope with his teeth

suppose he liked the name Jiggs


that old boy could do some work

bought an eight-room house

no kitchen no bathroom

put ‘em both in by hisself

made the cupboards from scratch

landscaped the backyard

rock-walled gardens and a patio

took off the front porch and built a new one

added two rooms

that time his friend Everett helped out


old boy could do some work 

he was sixty-some and

 started shingling that two-storey place

by hisself

just a little guy maybe five-foot-one

hundred and ten or so

done some shingling before but not much

no matter

used asphalt shingles

stiff brittle stuff broke easy weighed

a ton, fifty pounds a bundle

he would sling it up

on his shoulder like a 15-pound ham


Charley wanted his boy to help some

and yes he did      some

 he told the boy to use the pre-drilled

nail holes in the shingles

driving the nails too deep’ll shatter the shingle

kid needed to pay more attention

than he was used to

three broke shingles and three ass-chewins

went a long ways for making the boy a worker


every night after work and weekends

got the job done in two years

that’s his house across the road there

sixty years nothing’s sagging

shingles‘re looking good

Charley’s been gone forty years now


enough talk  let’s go

grab that bundle

sling it up on your shoulder

that’s the way, sling it

now bring it up the ladder to me

remember what I told you about

bein’ careful driving them nails

you and me we’ll get this goddam job going yet

and it won’t take no two years.


Copyright Larry Ambrose

The March ’13 Puzzler Solution

Cable car 1882

Time for the Puzzler solution once again.


This time it was a True-False test, which means even if you didn’t know the answer you’ve still had a 50% chance of being right.




So let’s see if you’re a good test-taker. Herewith, the results:

1.       Chicago once had the largest cable car system the world had ever seen.

 True or False?  True

 In 1882, Chicago took a daring step in transit, as it had done previously in countless other fields. The city became the first to try San Francisco’s style of cable cars. On a cold blustery day in January 1982 Chicago City Railway became the first cable car line to run on State Street from Madison to 21st St.  (Forgotten Chicago)

2.       Elephants stopped traffic on Chicago Avenue every morning for ten  days each spring by strolling from the old Armory a block east of Michigan to the Medina Temple at 600 N Wabash.

 True or False?  True

 The Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus visited every spring and set up in its favorite venue, the Medina Temple for 10 days. The Elephants were quartered in the Armory on Chicago Avenue and made the trip right down the middle of the street to do the show each day. The procession was a favorite attraction for office workers, neighbors and shoppers. (Encyclopedia of Chicago)

 3.       A strip of motels and hotels flourished on Chicago’s lakefront in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s as a major post war tourist magnet. Bearing such exotic names as the “Edgewater Beach Hotel, Lake Tower Motel, The Tropicana, The Tides, Holiday Lodge, The Sands and 50th on the Lake,” this great lineup was sometimes referred to as “The Miami of Canada.”

True or False?  True

 While locals are familiar with the allure of Chicago’s lakefront many visitors do not associate Chicago as a sun-and-sand destination. A characteristic of many of these Shoreline Motels was marketing that suggested a destination far from the Midwest with their vacation-tinted names. Besides their locations on the lake, they also emphasized their newness in contrast to the rest of Chicago’s existing (and aging) hotel accommodations. (Forgotten Chicago)

 4.       The Excalibur nightclub is a former home of the Chicago Historical Society. 

 True or False?  True

The original home of the Chicago Historical Society building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The society used a temporary building from 1877 until 1896. The Excalibur was erected as a permanent replacement and was used until 1932 when the present Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum) was erected. (Chicago Historical Society)

5. Over a hundred people committed suicide from “high bridge” in Lincoln Park, later known as Suicide Bridge. It was eventually demolished.

True or False  True

Lincoln Park, formerly known as City Cemetery, seems like a  place that should be haunted, given its history. It was the gravesite of hundreds of victims of cholera and other epidemics in Chicago’s early years. The bodies were removed to create a park in its place, but plenty of  bodies remain, creating many ghost stories. In addition, many murders took place there over  the years as did many suicides by jumping off what became known as Suicide Bridge. At the turn of the 20th century, the Tribune said there had been enough violent deaths in the park to furnish a ghost for every nook and cranny. (Chicago Unbelievable)

 There you have it. How did you do? I want make sure to congratulate Bill this month. Hey, Bill you got every one of the items correct! But what about next month’s challenge?!

See you all then.

My Apologies! Please disregard my first transmission of the March Puzzler! Haywire software.


Welcome to my latest attempt to get you scratching your head!

(Just don’t go overboard like I did.)

Chicago has had more than it’s share of unique – even kooky – events, happenings, innovations, and legends.

At the risk of  treating you like you’re back in school, I have prepared a True-False quiz that I hope tickles your knowledge of Chicago history and your ability to judge if somebody is putting you on. So here we go:

1. Chicago once had the largest cable car system the world had ever seen.       True or False

2.  Elephants stopped traffic on Chicago Avenue every morning for ten days each spring by strolling from the old Armory a block east of Michigan to the Medinah Temple at 600 N. Wabash.       True or False

3.  A strip of  motels and hotels flourished on Chicago’s lakefront in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s as a major post war tourist magnet. Bearing such exotic names as the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Lake Tower Motel, The Tropicana, The Tides, Holiday Lodge, The Sands and 50th on the Lake, this great lineup was sometimes referrred to as “The Miami of Canada.”  True or False

4.  The Excalibur nightclub is the former home of the Chicago Historical Society.     True or False

5.  Over a hundred people have committed suicide from”high bridge” in Lincoln Park, later known as “suicide bridge” which was eventually demolished.     True or False


I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Send your answers in  a “comment” and I’ll reveal the solutions in a couple of weeks. (. . . . and remember, if you don’t know the answer give it a shot anyway. It’s true or false, so it’s 50-50 you’ll be right.)

Good luck!


A Poem for March

Seeing Chicago

Seeing Chicago

Temporal Joys

How pleasant it is to not be writing today

not needing to pay intense attention to any moment.

How good it is not to have to be really good at anything

I do today

especially poetry.


I can play my fiddle badly or just go sit in Bughouse Square.                               

I don’t have to be ultra awake talking to my neighbor

or sitting in the dentist’s chair.

I have no need to be guilty

for not writing all the damn time.


It’s much better to wander the ancient streets of Lamu

with tiny children who cry Jambo, Jambo until

I return their greeting.

Or to amble over to my neighborhood barber shop

for the monthly amateur political stylings

of Hector and Mario.


Why try to think of anything

meaningful to say

or get impatient with the

junk I write?

I needn’t be precise with my words today

or brilliant or brave or even fair.

I’ll not be writing.


Today I don’t have to pursue

metaphor or simile like an urban coyote

searching out a toy poodle.

Instead I can float down

the Thames to Hampton Court

stop for a summer shandy and raucous songs

in my favorite pub.


I can sit and contemplate ghostly

chimney vapors casting shadows on the building

next door before I take a notion to look

for my high school yearbooks because

I can’t quite remember what Cynthia looked like back then.


It’s perfectly suitable to ride the 157 bus

end to end

both ways.

Spend time at Cape May or Belmont Harbor

or have the supreme flat bread breakfast with Karen

at Pierrot Gourmet in the Peninsula

and argue whether to use a tip calculator or just wing it.


I am a poet nonetheless.  

I roam about

pray for happenstance – perchance inspiration

and worry I might miss its dawn.


Such trials notwithstanding

poetry is my excuse to look

listen and maybe     



 Copyright ©2013 Larry AmbroseLarry 2013



Your February Puzzler Solution is here!

Ceres at night

Ceres at night

The February 2013 Puzzler consisted of two questions about the sculpture at the right:

     Who am I?

     Where am I?

Congratulations to Paula, Mary and Soren for your correct answers to the Puzzler. It is the sculpture of Ceres, the Goddess of Grain atop  the Chicago Board of Trade Building at the foot of LaSalle Street where it meets Jackson Boulevard. The Board of Trade Building is one of Chicgo’s greatest Art Deco skyscrapers of the late 20’s and early 30’s. It was designed by John Stores of Paris in cast aluminum. Ceres weighs six tons, is 31 feet six inches tall and sits on a six-ton steel frame.

It is said that Ceres does not have facial features because the planners felt that there would never be a building tall enough from which viewers could detect their absence.

Who am I?Where am I?

Who am I?
Where am I?


The February 2013 Puzzler


Here’s your Chicago Stories February Puzzler!

Who am I?Where am I?

Who am I?
Where am I?


Check the picture of the statue.

     Who is it?

     Where is it?

Now, click on “Leave a Comment” and enter your answer.

I’ll reveal the solution in a couple of weeks.

Good Luck !


January’s Puzzler Solution!

Wow! Everybody who responded got the right answer!

Congratulations all! Some of you guessed. Some of you just knew you were right.

As you all know, the answer to the Puzzler is NAVY PIER.

Indeed the Pier has been:

     A jail for draft dodgers and housing for several regiments of soldiers in 1917-1918.

     The location of its own streetcar line, theater, restaurants and evergency hospital in 1919-1921.

     Its own “golden age of recreational and cultural activity. Mayor William H. Thompson’s “Pageants of Progress” drew nearly a million visitors in 1921 and 1922.

     A pioneer in broadcasting – the Chicago Federation of Labor radio station WCFL, “the voice of labor” began at the Pier in 1926.

      “Municipal Pier”, renamed “Navy Pier” in honor of Navy personnel in World War I, 1927. Soldier Field had been completed in 1926 to honor those serving in the Army in WWI.

      A lake freight and passenger terminus that declined, 1930-1940.

     A Navy pilot orientation training center for 15,000 pilots for military service,  including a young airman named George H.W. Bush, future President of the U.S. As many as 200 WWII planes still rest at the bottom of Lake Michigan as a result of  training accidents. 1942.

     A two-year University of Illinois undergraduate program replacing the Navy and remaining there until 1965. The Navy’s main mess hall became a giant library considered “the largest reading room in Illinois”. When I was a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in the early ’60’s we called the Pier “Champaign on the Rocks”.