Tag Archives: Chicago

Chicago Writers & Poets: A Poem by Mary Gray Kaye




Here’s another installment of Chicago Stories’ feature, Chicago Writers & Poets.

   Our writer this month is Mary Gray Kaye. Mary writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.



Little mindsets
In our country
Little mindsets
          filled with tickytack
Little mindsets
Fill the sidewalks
Static mindsets
          all the same

There’s a red one
And a blue one
And a  right one
          and a  leftish one
And they’re all made
Out of tickytack
And they all smell
          just the same

And the people
With their mindsets
Always plugged in-
          to Giant teletubes
So they stare at
Glowing boxes
Where what comes out
          is the same

There are poor folks
And some rich dudes
And some  multi-
          figure millionaires
But they’re all bound
Up with tickytack
And they all sound
          just the same

And they all will
Carry  banners
As they holler at 
          their antagonists
And they”ll bring
Little babies
Who will learn from
          moms and dads

Learn to holler
Clever slogns
They’ll believe in
          ’til the day they die
While they’ll stand on
Little boxes
But they’ll still sound
          just the same

Soon the small boys
Become big boys
And the  small girls
          try to grow up too
While the big shots
On the top tier
Fill their heads with
          sticky glue

So they settle 
Into blue states
Or they fall in-
          to the redder states
And they stick with
Gooey tickytack
And it all just
          stays the same

copyright mary gray kaye
Inspired by Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds



Chicago Writers and Poets – A poem by Ilze Vitands

         IMG Randolph 2 

 Chicago Stories is introducing a new feature: Chicago Writers & Poets with new works by Chicagoans who bring their personal perspectives to the Chicago experience. I’ve been involved in writing groups and classes for a number of years and continue to meet and read the work of those who are capturing in words their unique take on Chicago life. I’ve been having so much fun I just want to share some of that with all of you. And I’ll be sneaking in some of my stuff, too.

A poem by Ilze Vitands.


 By Ilze Vitands                                      

                   Once inside a kitchen cluttered,

                        at the counter there I uttered

                        over many a sauce and condiment bottle

                        and knives with vinyl grips.

                        Here I paused in reverence, asking,

                        my body’s wisdom thus unmasking, 

                        after so much multi-tasking,

                        What refreshment here equips?

                        Of the best and healthy choices?

                        What food here shall pass my lips?”

                     Quoth my body, “Eat some chips.”


                 Ah, distinctly I remember

                        my reaction, this dissembler!

                        How my wise and knowing body could retort and be so flip?

                        So I spake, “I am mishearing.

                        Surely you would not be steering

                        me to such unworthy leering

                        at that yellow plastic clip

                        holding closed this bag of Ruffles?

                        “Truly, this food I should skip!”

                     Quoth my body, “Onion dip.”


              Presently, with virtue stronger,

                        hesitating then no longer,

                        “Sir,” said I, “No, wait..Madam, you must see

                        this weakness has to stop.

                        Do you not have resolution?

                        Stand against your own pollution!

                        Respect the eons of evolution

                        that will crumble from this slop!

                        Imbibe some purest mineral water!

                        Eat the green and leafy crop!”

                   Quoth my body, “Drink some pop.”


            “Be that then our words of parting!

                        Exercise I will be starting.

                        Hoist me hence from my apartment! 

                       To the vast Lake Michigan Sea!

                        There I’ll run along the paving,

                        End this self-destructive craving!

                        My own soul I will be saving!

                        Breathe the air so deep and free!

                        I’ll  run until my sweat

                        doth fill my eyes so I can’t see!

                   Quoth my body, “Watch TV.”


            So my body, glad in quitting,

                        still is sitting, still is sitting.

                        Watching reruns of Green Acres,

                        sharing pork rinds with the cat.

                        But in the dark before each dawning,

                        I plot afresh against each scorning

                        Repeating every doctor’s warning,

                        Every warning falling flat.

                        “Won’t you heed my wisdom, body?

                        Make some effort? Lose some fat?”

                   Quoth my body, “Screw all that.”

Inspired by The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Quoth My Body was pulished previously in the Journal of Ordinary Thought. Ms Vitands writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

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.

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”.

Your January, 2013 Puzzler is here


Time to start the new year with a new stumper

Get your thinking caps on. Here goes:

What well-known Chicago location has at various times been a. a jail for draft dodgers, b. the site of two annual Pageants of  Progress, c. a transportation terminus, d. a military training center, e. a university, and f. an amusement center?

Enter your answer as a “comment” and I’ll reveal the Puzzler solution in a couple of weeks.

Good Luck!!



A Poem for the Month

Chicago Stories’ Puzzler is taking this month off.

In its place is “A Poem for the Month,” one of my recent poems,

usually on a topic of interest in Chicago or something having taken place here.

Magic Start 

The light-bathed, glass veranda

welcomes you to lunch high above

sparkling yellow leaves lining the

bronze River winding through

a Miesian canyon,

gently suggesting that

dining is



You order wine. Chardonnay.

Peruse the menu absent Soup du Jour,

Buffalo Wings, Miniature Crab Cakes.

Fall for the mysterious Toasted Corn Bread Pudding ,

Spicy Shrimp, with Warm Pico de Gallo,

Avocado Salsa.

Luscious crisp round crust encasing

supreme soft pudding smoothness

that seeks out every suggestible

corner of your mouth. In time,

add a sip of wine,

senses singing out a chorus

of rhapsodic tingle and attitude.

Another bite, into beautiful

copper grilled shrimp, begs that

the moment never end.


Pause, return to pudding,  

shrimp and wine,

leisurely now.

The wine settles on your pallet, and you

are the wondrous being

you’ve suspected of yourself  

all these years. 

You can do anything.


Anything at all, especially the never-before.

Gazing out your back window,

re-tasting the moment,

Chopin turned low, settle back

and revel

in your first, most perfect nap.


Copyright© Larry Ambrose

Solution to the October Puzzler

Here it is – what you’ve all been waiting for!

The solution to this month’s Puzzler. But first I want to thank everyone who sent in their answers, and indeed, some of the answers were pretty wild guesses.  

Enough delay – the correct answers appear below in red.

Question #1: Whose ashes were scattered from the foot bridge behind the Museum of Science and Industry that leads to the Wooded Island, famous during the 1893 World’s Fair?

a. Harry Houdini b. Clarence Darrow c. Frank Lloyd Wright d. Shoeless Joe  Jackson e. Jane Addams

Question #2: Which of the answers below was true of William B. Ogden?

a. Ogden, Utah was a named after him. b. Ogden was the first Mayor of Chicago.

c. Ogden was President of the Union Pacific Railroad when the Golden Spike was driven in Ogden, Utah, connecting the eastward- and westward-bound Railways.

d. His brother’s mansion burned in the Chicago Fire. e. William Ogden was buried in a vat of wine.

Question #3: What is Chicago’s official motto?

a. City in a Garden  b. I Will  c. Windy City  d. Urbs in Horto  e. Waddjoo jus’ say t’me?

There you have it. Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t enter? Don’t let this happen again.

Another Puzzler will be coming your way soon.