I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. There are many similarities between the metropolitan areas of Cleveland and Chicago beyond geography and weather. The cities were contemporaries in development and shared many features and attributes. My immediate impressions of the most obvious similitudes were the same mid-western, gritty, industrial, neighborhood rich, aspirational city with common culture, diversity, and government, but for my most direct interests, very similar architecture.
I grew up immersed in architectural appreciation. From a young age, my father was involved in local historic preservation groups. Our family loved old architecture. I grew to appreciate the craftsmanship of old buildings and moving to Chicago in the mid-90s felt like just like coming back home when I saw the buildings and houses and familiar lines and styles. In particular, I saw familiarity in the rugged and beautiful bungalows and simple worker’s homes and apartments. All of the familiar styles that evoked the more celebrated work of its parent style, and that of its preeminent practitioner and style-founder, Frank Lloyd Wright; the Prairie School.
Prairie style originated in Chicago and represents one of the few indigenous styles of American residential architecture. Primarily the work of a group of visionary Chicago architects taught, employed or influenced by the Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan (though he himself was not really a participant in this style), the style became to be known as the “Prairie school”. Frank Lloyd Wright is widely considered the master of the Prairie style. The style emphasizes horizontal lines, low pitched or flattened roofs, open plans, natural materials, contrasting wall materials, solid construction and decorative elements emphasizing both simplicity and craftsmanship. Often employing cantilevered sections and roof eves that overshot the building, they were rectilinear and geometric. An emphasis on the building’s interaction and role in the surrounding environment was a basic tenement of the Prairie School. The low-slung prairie lands with their wide spread, contrasting earth tones and openness were the literal inspiration of the architectural style who named it.
The Prairie school aesthetic and use of Arts and Crafts décor and carpentry was a perfect fit for a generation brought up during the Arts and Crafts movement. The style primarily existed from 1900 to 1920 and while widespread during its day, it was a short-lived style of architecture. In large part, its popularity in and outside of Chicago was made possible by the publication of pattern books detailing style elements that could easily be used and copied by architects, builders and craftsmen far and wide.
Prairie homes are typically homes with low-pitched hipped roofs. The eaves of the roof often overhung well past the building walls. Most typically, they were two-story homes, but often employed wide porches, carports, or areas of single-story construction with their own hipped roofs to emphasize flatness. Horizontal lines are a focused theme on many homes. Windows are typically grouped together in tight vertical patterns to form a large horizontal feature. Massive square, rectangular, or pitched piers of masonry, brick or wood are common element in many Prairie homes.
Prairie style homes are found throughout the Midwest, and the style is intermingled, influenced by, and influencing on many other Chicago housing types, particularly the American Foursquare, the Bungalow, Craftsman, some Mission Style and the multi-unit brick flats.
Prairie Tour One is the first edition in a tour series celebrating the Prairie School architecture in and around Chicago. This first installation will focus on the northwest side of the city and we will visit dozens of exceptional examples of the style in Irving Park, the Villa, Portage Park, Albany Park, Mayfair and North Mayfair, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor. We will see masterwork by many innovators of the style, including style founders such as Dwight Perkins, Walter Burley Griffin, Pond and Pond and Clarence Hatzfeld as well as the primary influencer on the entire Prairie School cannon, Louis Sullivan.
This tour will take place this Saturday, May 14 at 11:00 AM at Independence Park at 3945 N Springfield (Irving Park and Springfield). Here are links for more information:
Alkaloid at Steve Albini’s House while recording our final album
WARNING: – THIS IS A LONGISH PIECE AND HAS VIRTUALLY NOTHING TO DO WITH BICYCLES.
Social media is a vexing conundrum for me. It can be a hologram of real life and a distraction from the real goings-on. There are also moments when it is a lifeline and connection to people I love, like and know, many of whom I otherwise get to see rarely or never. Then there are times when Facebook and its ilk are an annoyance, a fake-world, an echo-chamber, and a joyless escape that fails to satisfy. Typically, it is all of this at once, both good and bad and my reception to it is colored by the mood I am in as much as the posts I see. Like others, I have considered tossing it aside, removing my accounts and dropping out. I certainly have friends that have done this and I see the appeal, but there are other days where the time I spend on Facebook, or Pinterest or whatever offers a valuable substitute social interaction when my life squeezes out real interaction.
In many ways, our family is no different than anyone. My wife Chaney and I have very full schedules. We have two children and demanding full-time jobs like so many others. I do my best to make time for the bike tours and this website, but they feel the impact of a demanding schedule, and I write less and do fewer tours as a result. Of course we have normal lives to live with typical responsibilities, interests to pursue and time we want together and like everyone, we get busy. We are also the only non-school caregivers for our son Jackson who has a wide variety of special needs and complex medical conditions. Caring for Jackson at home is integral to our being a family. We would not want it any other way, still, it is very hard. Being a caregiver for a loved one offers great rewards but it can be a very isolating and lonely experience.
I am not trying to illicit sympathy, but I want to describe our realty, so I will try to offer up some ways that this life of ours works and feels with specifics. If it comes off as attention seeking, I apologize.
Jackson has Cerebral Palsy. More specifically he has chronic encephalopathy, spastic quadriplegia, seizure disorder, dysautonomia, chronic lung disease, scoliosis, CVI and osteopenia and has intellectual disabilities. He is tube fed, non-verbal, non-ambulatory, on dozens of medications daily, is on oxygen or bi-pap 24/7, requires various therapies daily, lies down or is in a specialized wheelchair at all times and is 100% dependent on others for every aspect of his life. He has brittle bones and is prone to pneumonias and aspirations and has had several multi-week hospitalizations over the past two years. As challenging as it is to care for a young man with those needs, I am always aware of how much harder life is for him than for me, how brave he is, and how hard he tries. He is the best boy and he has the best attitude. Despite of all of his hardships and challenges he is a happy, wonderful, social kid who loves super heroes and our family and our cats and his music and singing and being read to and playing and so many things. We love him so much, and by comparison of what life is like for him, it feels wrong to complain.
But our feelings are our feelings and we are allowed to feel tired and weary or sad and beaten down when that is how we feel. We can never leave town. We can’t fly in a plane, or even take longish trips in a car. We can’t find hotels that could accommodate our needs if we did leave, and traveling with all of the equipment he needs for breathing and therapies is not feasible. We can’t take vacations or visit family, even separately, as the demands of jobs and caregiving are such that one of us can’t leave the other to do it all. Since his injury over a decade ago, we have been to the Wisconsin Dells two times, because there is a hotel there that was able to accommodate our unique requirements. This was before his health worsened and now we don’t even go out as a family anymore to have an occasional meal or get out of the house or go to a park or a movie or a zoo or in any way break up our routine because it is just too hard for him. We always ask him, and sometimes he wants to try, but most often he doesn’t or can’t and every time we do go out to do something, anything, he really has a hard time, so we basically don’t typically try these things anymore. We spend time together at home, or one of us will stay home with Jackson and the other will go out with Zoe and try to give her some time to be a normal kid and bond with us outside of the cocoon. They both have school, and we have work and life goes on for us as it does for everyone.
At the end of last year, our friend, babysitter and respite provider Kerry, moved to Michigan. She has sat and cared for Jackson and eventually also Zoe, since Jackson was a little boy. With her help, we were able to go out on an occasional date and have one day a week without having to be sure to be home by 3 PM to bring Jackson in from his Medivan after school. Since her move, she has even come back to Chicago on a couple of occasions to give us a break but we have been unable to find anyone to replace her. Due to several of the recent hospitalization experiences, we no longer have after-school care for Jackson either. In the last two years, what was a challenging and demanding schedule turned into a devastating, brutal one. We are just now finally getting some traction on finding some after-school nursing and it really can not come soon enough.
There have been other sacrifices made for lack of time and opportunity over the years, that just happened…profound changes in some cases that affected our lives so completely. They happen one at a time, but they add up, and soon when I look back I see a whole person I have left behind. I don’t play in bands anymore, or really play music at all. I can never get out on group rides anymore, or even solo rides most of the time, and my pant size sure reflects this. I have had to cut back on my schedule for work and every other scheduled thing we do. My professional career is completely scheduled to within a second of its life that it leaves me scrambling to organize and squeeze even one more showing into a week. Virtually every time I am invited to do a ride, a barbecue, a housewarming party, a dinner, a show, an anything, I have to decline. What I find even worse than not being able to go to these things is when you gradually stop even getting asked because your friends know you will say no.
One of the things that is especially trying is having to be selective about which life experiences Zoe can participate in. Organizing simple things like play-dates, extra-curricular activities, team sports, piano lessons and all the normal things we want to do for our kids has to be considered with the ability of one of us always being with Jackson and our respective work schedules. Balancing family life and work and caregiver scheduling and so many other things can be so encompassing that often for weeks or months at a time, the only people I regularly interact with are my family, those I work with, the riders I see on the tours or the occasional ride with my buddies when our availability coincides.
Interacting with my friends and non-immediate family online may be a surrogate social experience, but at least it’s something.
I want to be able to bike more, but I understand it is what it is. I want to be able to play music again, but I understand it is what it is. I want to be able to be the me I was before, but Jackson will never be the boy he was before, and therefore all of us, we are all different by need. We can understand it, but still be undone by it.
Since the alternatives are worse, our family has adapted and we are able to move forward and experience great and wonderful things together, even if it feels so hard so much of the time. Superficial as they can be social networks, internet enabled communication and long-distance virtual friendships are vital support for our lives. We enjoy experiencing our friend’s lives vicariously and seeing them have children and seeing their children grow up and all of the nice things that this remarkable age can provide. We appreciate being able to give solace to others in their times of need or share the experience we are going through with our family, even the tough times when Jackson gets hospitalized. We love seeing and reading about all of your vacations, the old faces, the TBTs, the stickers, and emojis and the valuable connections between the time wasters. Through these online communities and posts and shares from friends I get to read great articles and books and hear wonderful music and see movies and videos and memes and pictures and links and all myriad of distracting and engaging material that I would never be exposed to were it not for the book of faces.
If through mood or exhaustion or endless campaigning or combination this global gateway feels less that way at times and more overwhelmed with negativity, it can be very depressing and further isolating. The election cycle has gone on forever and even as I engage with others, I am exhausted by the ubiquity of the discussion. As much as I decry the echo-chamber effect of Facebook, the pervasive identity of everyone can seem even worse, when confronted with a discovered sentiment of a friend, family member or acquaintance that I disagree with or can’t relate to or worse, find hateful. When the tone gets too dour, I feel disinclined to post, or read or share or experience life through this virtual connection. Before long, it gets even lonelier, so I come back. Even the pattern left me spent after a while.
Last year I started thinking about different ways to use Facebook. I considered the aspects of my time on it that I liked and times I didn’t. I also thought about things in my life that I missed and didn’t do anymore and were otherwise left behind, of which a big casualty was music. I still listen to music, but much less actively for so many years now. Because of our home-life, I really can’t be in a band that tours or has ambition to do great things, and it is hard to find good players without aspirations. I have no more energy or tolerance left in my bones for all the things that go with being in a band beyond just writing and playing songs. I don’t even have a drum kit set up at the home and I haven’t strummed a guitar or bass in years. The only playing I do at all these days is while helping my daughter Zoe practice the piano.
Beyond playing, any listening I was doing was very passive and in the background of what else I was doing. I no longer was able to, or inclined to take out an album, put it on the turn table and relax to music, read liner notes, close my eyes and absorb the songs, I just put on a Pandora station to accompany the tasks at hands. I found it tough to find new music because even that is a more active pursuit than I could commit to. This is a far cry from how integral music was to my life for so long. If I wasn’t playing or writing music, I was listening to it, writing about it, reviewing it, collecting it, buying it, releasing it, producing it, recording it, mixing it, selling it or distributing it. Now, it was fodder in between NPR and Bulls games.
All of this lead me to a project that I hoped could reinvigorate my love of music, use new mediums like Facebook, Pinterest, Google and YouTube, and use those things in a way that I found inspiring and positive and hopeful to counter the times it didn’t seem like that was the prevailing trend. The project was as follows.
Every day I would post a song on Facebook. Usually it was a YouTube clip, either still image and audio, but just as often video, and sometimes it was Soundcloud or a different video source. Each song would be one that I had at one time or another considered a meaningful or delightful or inspirational song. Each song would be one that still pleased me today, either because it was so great or because the memories of the time in my life when it was fresh to me were so sweet. Often enough, it was both. I tried not to repeat artists, but made exceptions for birthdays, when a musician passed, or if Jackson was in the hospital, in which case I would play from his favorite songs.
I like a wide variety of music. I own thousands of albums and appreciate and listen to punk, classical, folk, metal, bluegrass, country, pop, R&B, classic rock, prog rock, celtic, reggae, noise, rap, ska, hardcore, postpunk, blues, jazz, music from all over the world, and nearly every variation of these styles is fair game.
Each month I would share the songs for that month as a YouTube playlist and a Pinterest board, which had the added benefit of letting me look through so many fantastic pictures of the artists that formed my musical interests and influences. Sometimes the perfect song was obvious, and sometimes it was very difficult to pick one song from artists with such tremendous bodies of work. In many cases, I was reliving these songs that I hadn’t heard in decades, and the memories they triggered were as pleasing as the trusty chords and beats I heard. Even better, people who were associated with those memories would comment on particular songs, enhancing the memory and bringing it back to present. Being able to reminisce with friends I shared these songs with was one of many unexpected pleasures this project gave me.
The project coincided with the unearthing of tapes, 7″s, LPs and CDs of bands I was in. These documents of the evolution of my playing and taste and rising and falling talent and sophistication were an even bigger reward. I had not listened to much of these things in decades and reconnecting with the people I made them with on Facebook was a particularly great result of this endeavor.
I really liked doing this. It reconnected me with music. It had me doing things I liked with Facebook and Pinterest and kept me searching YouTube for great songs and artists and pics of them on Google so I found cool ways these tools. I had great interactions with people about the songs and the times of the songs. By the end, there was a panic trying to get all the most important and influential and forgotten artists jammed in before the year was up. I ended up adding a day accidentally, but no regrets with that or any of the selections.
Here are the YouTube Playlists and Pinterest Boards by Month starting with April 2015 and ending with April 2016. Pinterest boards all link to the video as the Facebook posts did. YouTube playlists all begin from the first song of the month, but you can use the pull down menu on the left of each YouTube frame to scroll through the songs and play particular tracks on each playlist. You can play it on this site or in YouTube and you can share the links if you so desire.
Thanks for taking the time to read and if you take the time to check any of these out, thanks for that too. Much of it may not be your cup of tea, but you might also find something that becomes a favorite and if you’re lucky, a favorite memory too.
I am very proud that this April first we will be celebrating the one squadrothionth Liar’s Ride. Very few rides make it to their dupliantharallellianth ride or their googledecahydrothianth ride, or even their lousy one billionth ride, but to reach one squadrothion is really something special.
I think you all for the support throughout the years/galaxies/epochs/parallel universes. It is really all of you, those that survived AND their heirs that made this ride special. We would not be endorsed by every major chemical polluter in the Western hemisphere if it weren’t for the lunch-bucket, hard-working, a-list team of cracker jack participants that we get every year. The years add up, and sooner or later, your staring at your one squadrothionth ride. Give it up. To yourselves.
This year we will be visiting the memorial for all those that we lost on Liar’s Rides over the years, located at the bottom of the Spire site, herein dubbed the Chicaghole. We’ll also rejoice in getting above the 50% mortality rate for ride participants for two years in a row! Way to go!
But before we detail the presidential candidate ride-alongs, the in-ride filming of the next Spike Lee movie, or any of the celebrity guest corkers that will join us this year, I have to be serious for a bit.
IN ALL SERIOUSNESS
While the Liar’s Ride is and always has been an adventure in cycling satire and very little of the event is serious, it is free. Most of our rides are $10 on site, but each year, the annual April Fool’s Day ride is completely un-serious, almost entirely untrue, and free for all to join. Before we resume the silliness already in progress, I do in all seriousness ask you to consider making a donation to West Town Bikes instead of the ride amount, or if you can afford it, a bit more. You can do it online at the link below, and I will ask again at the ride, with the proceeds to be passed on to Alex Wilson, the Founder and Executive Director of West Town Bikes, bike guru and great person.
West Town Bikes is a non-profit community bicycle learning center and Ciclo Urbano is its full-service bike and repair shop. West Town Bikes serves the city and its citizens by providing all manner of support and services related to bikes, bike mechanics, bike riding, commuting and using bikes as a tool for positive transformation of individuals and communities. West Town Bikes is responsible for a wide array of bike related activities throughout the year and around the city as well as through an extensive calendar of workshops, classes, youth programs, job training and advocacy. West Town Bikes teaches beginners and aspiring bike mechanics alike, and offers open shop time with trained mechanics and supervisors as a community resource for repairing and maintaining one’s bicycle. They can even help you build your very own bike or help you enjoy riding your bike more.
Ciclo Urbano is a full service community bicycle shop that supports the Humboldt Park and West Town Neighborhoods by focusing on affordable and reliable transportation. They provide sales, professional service, parts, accessories, and both new and used bicycles to suit many different needs. The shop supports the mission of West Town Bikes by offering several entry-level jobs and internships for graduates of youth bicycle programs.
Why don’t you join us at the ride to find out? Every year we meet on April Fool’s Day at West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park to enjoy a silly journey on our bikes, ending at Fischman Liquors, a bar in Jefferson Park. Along the way, you’ll be subject to an infinite number of horrors and will probably never be the same. And it will be the unquestioned greatest night of your life.
Liar’s Ride 2016
Friday April 1, 2016 at 7PM
Outside Ciclo Urbano and West Town Bikes
At 2459 W Division in Chicago
In addition to the evidence provided by the relative furnace-like 60s and the open windows blowing curtains past my cat and laptop-filled lap, there are further signs. Sunday we set our clocks forward, the crocuses on the side of our place just popped through yesterday, I’ve been properly dropped from a group ride of mechanized roadies and Saturday is our first ride of the Spring Season, so it is really, really REALLY here.
Crap…..I was supposed to be thinner when spring hit this year.
Tour of Norwood Park and Edison Park
This Saturday we kick things off with the Tour of Norwood Park and Edison Park at 11:00 AM at Norwood Park, 5801 North Natoma Avenue in Chicago. The whole Northwest side of Chicago is a favorite corridor of mine, but these two communities in particular have wonderful and unique characteristics that I admire like interesting curvilinear streets, lots of splendid architecture and a feeling very much like a separate little village within the city. Now that it is Springtime, you are fresh out of excuses, so come join us.
On April 1, we will be holding our annual Liar’s Ride. This year, I have invited some of the luminaries that have attended the rides in past years to reflect back on their own experiences with the Liar’s Ride. Like this one.
Prairie School One Tour
I proudly admit that I have a Prairie School bias, and highlight many Prairie buildings and homes on my tours. All of my favorite architects are Prairie School architects, and I never tire of the design aesthetic of our environment rendered in building form. Prairie School Oneis the first in a series of bike tours that only focuses on Prairie School buildings, houses, landscaping and architects.
In addition to our rides for the season, you can also purchase the four new(ish) Tour Posters by Ross Felten. Click on the images to purchase those posters.
Jaks Tap at 901 W Jackson, Chicago, IL Saturday February 20, 2016 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM $5 at the Door Vendor tables SOLD OUT
For the sixth straight year, Chicago area cyclists will be able to come together to browse and buy bikes, bike parts, bike clothes and accessories as well as discover a wide variety of companies, non-profit groups, individuals and organizations with bicycle related services.
Who will be there?
Aaron & John – SMC | ABUS Mobile Security | Active Transportation Alliance | American Lung Association in Greater Chicago | Back Yard Bike Shop | Bicycle Illinois | Big Shoulders Realty | The Bike Lane | Blackstone Bicycle Works | Blue City Cycles | The Chainlink | Chicago Bicycle Coalition | Chicago Cargo LLC | Chicago Ride of Silence | Chicago Velo | Freeman Kevenides Law Firm | Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices | Illinois Bike Attorneys | John & Sarah’s Bikey Bits | Life Behind Bars Cycling | Linda’s Bicycling Jewelry and Glass Art | Monday Night Bike Build | Pachyderm Cycles | Pedal to the People | The Recylcery | Retro Metro | Ride Illinois | The Stabettes | Timbuk 2 Chicago | Tour for Cancer Gran Fondo | West Town Bikes | Women Bike Chicago | Working Bikes
and many individual sellers.
The swap this year is brought to you by the Chicago Bicycle Coalition and Women Bike Chicago