Tag Archives: chicago

Pipeworks Unicorn’s Revenge double IPA at the Tribes Beer Fest.

A delightful true double, coming in at 10%, which this beer drinker feels is necessary to define a true double IPA.

This beer hits off with massive tropical fruit on the nose, and then coasts into a remarkably balanced taste on the tongue with a toasty, almost woody sourness of malty, hoppiness with just a hint of oily mouthfeel.

Pipeworks has a winner in this beer, simply because they’ve created a new experience of extreme balance.

As the beer warms, there is an almost rotted fruit smell that transitions to a ridiculously warm experience on the taste buds that hits all the senses and enlivens almost anything, I suppose. I’m drinking this with fried cheese curds, and I almost feel as though I’m consuming a tropical drink on a beach somewhere.



The kids are alright, until they’re not


There are many stages in parenting, and I have no idea which one I’m currently in. 

I despise parenting advice, so this isn’t advice, in fact, don’t take it as advice. It’s just an experience I’ve had recently. Take it for what it’s worth. 

When your children are born, they are very needy, and your entire life is given over to them. 

Well, your wife’s entire life is given over to them. If you’re a dad, you try to help out where you can, but the blowouts and the, um, feeding, tend to fall into mom’s lap, generally. 

When they get a little older, they gain some independence, and this is both awesome and terrible at the same time. 

They can hold their head up on their own, they can roll over on the bed, which means you don’t have to wake up panicked in the middle of the night fearing your child has expired from sudden infant death syndrome. 

But they can roll off the bed too, which means you suddenly have some freedom, but you also have a different kind of responsibility too. 

Then they learn to walk, and this is exquisite, because you don’t think you can carry them through that Saturday Market one more time. 

And it’s awful too, because now they can run out into the street or disappear in the grocery store. 

For every ounce of independence they gain, parents get a change in responsibility. Children learn things very fast. Their brains are capable of these massive influxes of information. 

As adults, we are losing brain cells and starting to slow down a bit. This has always been a strange dichotomy to me. 

Then there is this interesting moment where your children are old enough to have really intelligent conversations at dinner and where you go to museums together and enjoy good food. 

As a father, you look around at the dinner table at night, and you’re really proud of this little family you helped create. They’re smart and funny and fun to be around. 

And it’s so brief. 

If and when you recognize this moment, it’s too late. You’re already at the end of this golden age. 

Our oldest son became old enough to babysit when we moved to Montana in 2007. This was a righteous blessing for us, since we hadn’t really had a nice hour or two away from the kids in years. 

By the time we moved to Alaska in 2009, the kids were old enough to cook for themselves and generally police their own lives, which gave us a little more independence. 

And then we moved to Chicago in 2012, and we spent the first two months really enjoying each other’s company. Of course I can only speak for myself here. But it’s really true. We had nice meals out in the big, oak-lined backyard. We watched fireflies at night and my wife and I sipped on ice-cold, bone-dry rose while the kids cleaned up the dishes. 

We watched movies together on the really hot days. We went to the beach together and spent Sundays exploring Chicago’s many food choices. 

And then that moment came. 

I was sitting at dinner, and the kids were asking deep questions about world affairs and politics. I felt like the king of the castle. 

Everyone was happy and smiling. It was perfect. 

And then it was gone. 

It might have flickered a little through the winter, there were a few moments here and there, but when the spring rolled around, the kids were gone. 

Off to spend the night at a friend’s house or hanging out at the mall. Skateboarding with the crew from down the street, or flirting with the neighbor girls. 

Even the little one, the joy of my heart, is often gone away to some friend’s house when I come home from work. 

This same one used to run at me full speed whenever I got home. I had to institute a no-hugs-until-I-took-my-shoes-off rule. 

When we go on adventures on the weekends now, the boys automatically opt out, and if I force them to go, they will find a way to ruin the entire experience. If you think teenage girls are moody, I have two boys who say it’s an equal opportunity emotional roller coaster. 

Yes, yes, I realize this is all part of growing up. I understand that this happens. I just wish that I had paid attention enough during the times when everything was perfect. I wish I didn’t just recognize it that last time. 

As I said, I have no idea what stage I’m in currently. Maybe there are a few bad ones before a good one rolls around again.

And this is not advice, merely one man’s experience. Take it for what it’s worth. 

But if you look around your dinner table at night and see your kids elevating the conversation to new levels in an artful way or challenging you with good questions, stop and relish that moment for a bit. 

Because chances are you’re already close to the end of it. 


One Year in Chicago


We moved to Chicago a year ago today. It was 105 degrees and 100 percent humidity when we arrived, so we knew instantly what we were in for. 

When you move to a place where you don’t know anyone, an unfamiliar city with no connections, you might at well throw a dart at a map to pick out where you will live. 

We picked Palos Heights because a friend and former colleague grew up there, and he always spoke highly of the neighborhood, and because my friend and former boss is in Real Estate in Chicago, and she found us a lovely little corner house with a big green lawn that is surrounded by six big oak trees. 

Starting a job in a big city when you’ve been working as a journalist in relatively small markets is scary. Managing a new set of people means starting over from scratch, throwing out the play books and learning everything over again. 

The learning curve is steep, and you must immerse yourself in history, current events and popular culture to try and even understand the daily conversation that is the news in Chicago. 

We spent the second half of our summer learning about the two Chicagos. We explored downtown Chicago as often as we could, and we learned about the suburb we lived in and the suburbs that surround us and which make up Greater Chicago, also known as Chicagoland. 

We found beaches like the Indiana Dunes and North Avenue Beach. 

We spent way too much time going to Ikea to furnish our house. 

And we tried to find ways to stay cool when the temperature topped 90 degrees on 45 separate occasions, which was a record. 

We watched the leaves change color in the fall, a process that took several weeks, as opposed to the two days of fall you might get in Alaska. 

And we battened down the hatches as much as we could when the big storms rolled through, especially when the leftover winds of an East Coast hurricane came howling. 

The kids started at new schools, making them at least the fifth, if not more, new school for each of them. 

But they made friends fast, and soon they were running around the neighborhood in little street gangs terrorizing the squirrels with their bicycles and skateboards. 

Winter didn’t hit hard until after the new year, in fact the weather was rather pleasant through the holidays. The neighborhood grew quiet, and we didn’t see our neighbors or their children for months on end. 

Winter finally dug in its heals at the end of February and into March. 

We used the cold months to go explore Chicago’s famous food scene, especially the ethnic restaurants with menus you cannot pronounce and food so delicious you can’t wait to come back for more. 

We started to explore our surroundings too, opting for a cross country skiing weekend in Madison, Wisconsin and a trip to New Glarus Brewing Company. 

Winter melted into a cool spring, which carried on and on. Our house flooded a few times as the heavy rainwater came up above the foundation. 

But we hunkered down and waited for those first few clear days when you know things have finally turned. 

We planted flowers and went off to explore the natural features of the area at Starved Rock State Park. 

As spring gradually warmed up into summer, albeit a bit late for our taste, we found our neighbors out and about again, and we picked up where we left off last fall. 

Because we missed out on going to see the Cubs and the White Sox last year, we hit both opening days. The boys and I went to see the White Sox, and Cheryl and I went to Wrigley to see the Cubs. 

We have never been hockey fans, but since the Blackhawks went on that undefeated run to start the season, it was hard to ignore. When they made the playoffs, there was a fever in the city, and it seems we caught it. Because by the final game of the Stanley Cup, we were not only fans of Chicago’s team, we were fans of the game. 

Chicago is a fantastic city for many reasons, not the least of which, for me, is the fact that Chicagoans are so hard on the city and relatively unforgiving of it. 

Yes, Chicago has more violent deaths on average than Iraq or Afghanistan. There is no getting around that. Yes, the segregation issues that remain, the physical barriers that still oppress a major portion of the population are an ugly reminder of just how far we are from we should be. 

But, there is also a pervasive hope in the city too, an outlook that you don’t get anywhere else. 

I suppose for me, I see possibility here. I see a chance for real change here, the third largest petri dish in the country. 

But I have been accused of being an outrageous optimist too, so there is that. 

This year in Chicago has been good. 

I still get asked if I like Chicago. The answer is yes. I love Chicago. It’s a great city. I love the people here. It’s teeming with life, especially Navy Pier where I go to work every day. 

I still get asked where we’re going next. And to be honest, I have no idea if or when we’ll move on. Our oldest has asked to be able to finish high school at one school. He has three years left. 

After that, I don’t know what the future holds. 

But I’m glad for the opportunity to work in the city and to live in the tree-lined suburbs for a while. It’s good to experience this part of the American dream. 

Thanks to all of you, my coworkers, my neighbors and the random people I meet here, for making this year such a great one. For giving us the experiences necessary to making Chicago make sense. 


Do you see the stories around you? –

Do you ever wonder about those you walk past every day? I’m fascinated by people. I’m intrigued by the possibilities in their individual stories.

When I get on the train in Blue Island, Illinois, I’m inundated with story, and I listen hard for the details. It helps me understand people I might otherwise judge based on irrelevant things.

There is a guy on my train, one of the only other white guys who rides in from Blue Island. He’s clean cut with bulging biceps, and by looking at his tattoos and the patches on his gym bag, I would say he’s Navy. He always sits with a group of black ladies in a four seat near the back of the train.

He doesn’t say much, usually just reads his phone or the newspaper.

Once in a while he’ll joke around with them.

But they are all always happy to see each other. Almost co dependent in a way that sets their day in motion or drives it off the tracks if one of them is not there.

There are lots of stories here, and I can feel them starting to take shape. I’m always anxious to know more, but the best stories always reveal things slowly over time.

There is a homeless man who sits on the corner of Wabash and Michigan Ave. He has a nice spot in a small doorway in the concrete pillar of the bridge that crosses the Chicago River there.

Every morning I watch him put his things in order. There is a box, and he organizes the details of it carefully in the quiet moments before the tourists start walking the Magnificent Mile.

He doesn’t pay much attention to the business suits that hurry past him. He just carefully arranges his cardboard sign.

And I think he must have some clout among people who make their living on the street, because sometimes he just leaves his sign there along with his belongings, and no one seems to bother it.

I wonder about his stories. I wonder where he learned to be so detailed and precise. I can’t hear him, I can only watch him bless people as they walk by.

Along Illinois Ave, there is a new building going up across from the AMC movie theater. There is a big sliding gate where the trucks go in and out.

And every morning, I hear tiny bits and pieces of dozens of stories as I walk past it.

A dozen men and a few women stand around the gate and in boots and jeans with neon vests and hard hats adorned with union stickers.

They are waiting to see who doesn’t show up for work today to see if they can get day hired. If they get day hired, they might catch the eye of a foreman if they work hard enough. If they catch the foreman’s eye, they might get picked out of the lineup the next day and the day after, because the permanent guys are always missing work.

They stand around talking and smoking and making fun of the suits as they walk by, and it makes me glad I don’t wear a suite.

But they stare at me as I go by, and I wonder if they wonder what my story is.

There is a high-rise condominium at the end of Illinois where it runs into Lakeshore Drive. And I see a dozen people pour out of it every day as I walk by..

A man whose wife can barely walk helps her into the backseat of a car, and then he holds her for a few minutes, whispering assuring words to her. And I love their story.

A young woman walks out with an angry frown on her face. And I notice a car following her slowly down the road. There is a man inside, and he’s yelling at her through the rolled down window.

He tells her to get in the car, that this is ridiculous. I’ve seen this twice now. And if Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then I think this fellow has a story too.


I’ve been walking to work for several months now. I recently started longboarding to work, which shaved about 12 minutes off my commute time.

Now I see the city’s underbelly as I skate under the massive tri-level Randolph Street, and I get to surf through the crowds of runners and bikers on the Lakefront Trail.

Longboarding down Navy Pier at 7:30 a.m. when there is not a tourist in sight is one of the most rewarding parts of my ride.