Skip to content

Author: pvbella

Another Year

Today, I start my 71st orbit around the Sun. Much to the chagrin of many, I am still alive and kicking. I plan to stay that way. The only thing that changed is I am older, crabbier, uglier, more tired, meaner, and more miserable and ornerier than usual.

While I am no longer 175lbs. of rompin, stompin, dynamite, I am older, wiser, smarter, and in a pinch still modestly dangerous- as long as a shock does not bring on the debilitating, heartbreaking, widow, and orphan-making, heart-a-stroke.

Life has been good, bad, and ugly. As a priest friend once said, life is messy. Looking back, the bad or ugly times were not as bad or ugly as I perceived them. They were just messy.

I survived an almost thirty-year career as a Chicago Police Officer without being killed, catastrophically injured, fired, indicted (Came close), or imprisoned. Being a Chicago Police Officer was the best job in the world. No two days were alike. Over sixteen years ago, I retired. I do not miss the circus. I just miss the clowns.

There are always new things to keep me occupied. I am a constant learner, bookworm, photographer, urban wanderer, foodie, cook, and whatever else my over-curious mind leads me to.

So far, I have survived the COVID pandemic and Chicago’s violent continuous crime pandemic. I take all the precautions to stay well and safe. I do not have to enjoy living like this. I must do it. Self-survival is the first and highest law of nature. I am a survivor.

I am fortunate to have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, cultural and social strata. The number is not large and gets smaller every year. I am good with that. My friends and acquaintances are people I enjoy spending time with, no matter how often or seldom I see or talk to them.

I do not tolerate anyone. Toleration is a lie. People tolerate unruly pets and impish children. I accept people for who and/or what they are. I treat people the way I want to be treated. The older I get, the more open-minded I become.

I try to believe most people are good, and they do what they can to right the wrongs in my city. Unfortunately, I do not believe most of our politicians are good. If they were, Chicago would be a paradise instead of a shooting gallery. Good people must demand better from our elected officials.

I try to stay occupied and sometimes make a few bucks. Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, and I go down hours-long rabbit holes. In June, I had an exhibition of my street photography. It was my first exhibition. I am humbled that I was invited to do this. I am grateful to my pal, the artist Tony Fitzpatrick, for the opportunity to exhibit in his Dime Gallery. I am also grateful to Rick Kogan, Bob Chiarito, and WGN Morning News  for the publicity.

I am not the same person I used to be. Life is about change, constant learning, and understanding. Books and schools are not the sole repositories for knowledge. Knowledge is never static. Learning is a lifelong process. Understanding is just as important as knowledge. Learning and understanding are evolutionary processes. When you think you know it all, you are wrong. You are stuck on stupid.

Every morning, if I open my eyes, I thank the Great Comedian for another day above ground. I get another chance to watch the sunrise and set. Another 24 hours on this spinning orb.

No one makes it off this orb alive. I know one day my time will come. Since we die in alphabetical order, I will be near the top of the list. I will have no regrets since I already rued my life’s commissions and omissions. I will not go quietly. I will go kicking and screaming. Hell, I may as well go out the same way I came in.

Life is short, no matter how long you keep breathing. Live, love, laugh, and eat the damn sandwich.

As my late friend Shelley Howard used to say:

“Hug someone. Smile more. Tell the people you love how you feel. Paint your tapestry with bold colors and rich designs. Postpone nothing. Establish boundaries. Exhibit patience.”

Happy New Year

I stopped going out on New Year’s Eve decades ago. It is the first amateur night of the year. All the amateur drinkers are out, getting beyond drunk, aggravating other patrons, puking their guts out, and driving drunk. No thank you, I will stay home or go to a house party walking/stumbling distance to my lair.

I worked many New Year’s Eves over the decades, Around 11:30, we would find a safe hiding place, usually under a viaduct. The Chicago Police Department frowned on us bringing the cars in full of bullet holes. At midnight, there were so many gunshots, it sounded like the 4th a war zone. We made dead pools. We would bet on what police district would have the first murder of the year. One year I handled the first murder.

 If we were lucky, we made an arrest before midnight. Then we spent a few hours of the New Year processing the arrestee. Worse were the drunken bar fights near closing times or the early morning drunken domestic disturbances, which had the propensity to turn violent.  

Making New Year’s resolutions began in ancient times when people promised the gods they would live better lives. In the present eras, they range from sincere to ludicrous. People vow to lose weight, join gyms, live a healthier lifestyle, quit what they consider bad habits, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Some are ludicrous because people aim to promise the impossible.

I only make one resolution, to live another year. I only strive for two things. Strive being the operative word. One, I try to be a better person and citizen of the world. Two, I will keep learning new things. These are relatively easy, as they are the things I do regularly. Being a better person is the most difficult, as I am old, crabby, ugly, tired, mean, miserable, and ornery. You know, perfectly normal.

I am a lifelong learner. I try to learn something new every day. The more one knows, the better person one becomes. I try to associate with people who have more knowledge/skills than me. I look, listen, and ask questions. One thing I never ever do is seek perfection. Never ever is a long f**king time. There is no perfection in nature. Humans created perfection to enslave them in a maze they can never escape.

I am fortunate. I know people from all walks of life with various talents and skills. Through conversation, asking questions, or observation, I learn from them. I try to improve on what they provide through practice or more research.

My motto for several years is, if you think you know everything, you are wrong.

Happy New Year.

City of scoundrels

A five-year-old boy became sick at one of the city’s migrant shelters. He was rushed to a hospital where he died. They denied Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero previous requests for medical assistance. This shelter in Pilsen has been the subject of criticism because of horrendous and inhumane conditions.

Borderless Magazine was founded in 2019 to report on issues migrants face in Chicago. Borderless Magazine won or was nominated for many journalism awards. Their work has appeared in other local news organizations.

This story, Investigation: Migrants Describe Inhumane Conditions At Chicago’s Largest Shelter” deals with the inhumane conditions at this migrant shelter in Pilsen. It demonstrates that the Johnson administration is responsible for inhumane conditions in the migrant shelters. The city just does not care about people. The Johnson administration only cares about publicity and sermons. Here are some quotes from their article on the Pilsen shelter:

“Maria* feels the dust and fiber-like particles fall from the ceiling and blanket on her family every time she tries to sleep on her emergency cot nestled among hundreds of other Venezuelan migrants.

It’s cold on most nights. If there’s a heating system in the building, she doesn’t feel it.. You can’t have anything here,” Maria said. “Nothing. No privacy.”

“However, interviews with those living at the shelter and videos Borderless reviewed of conditions inside the building show that the result of that scramble is a building that fails to meet the basic standards for emergency shelter laid out by the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“In recent weeks, migrants described outbreaks of various illnesses, including chickenpox, the flu, and upper respiratory infections, spreading without sufficient medical attention.”

“Staff have barred migrants from recording or taking photos inside the shelter and “threatened” to kick migrants out if they speak with members of the media.”

“Many of the migrants sleeping in the warehouse’s Zone A and B described frigid temperatures and “fiber” particles falling from the ceiling. Some parents with children at the shelter told Borderless their children were suffering from eye infections they believed to be caused by the falling debris.”

“Several migrants also said shelter workers often rationed water, distributing only half a cup during meals.”

“You have to stand for two to three hours to get food. It’s ridiculous.” 

“A recent arrival at the shelter was hoping to get antibiotics to help him recover from a throat infection and the flu, but the clinic staff didn’t provide any medication.”  

“They’re constantly threatening you,” Maria said. “You have to be so careful because they write a report for everything. If you slip, they report you and kick you out. It’s a bit frustrating.”

“They treat us terribly — like dogs,” another young woman said.”

Who is running this site? Favorite Staffing, the same organization that has been failing the migrants since they got the overly boondoggle contract. This inhumane company should be run out of town and sued to get the tax dollars they cheated us out of. Instead, the Johnson administration quietly renewed their 100 million dollar contract. The Chicago Way is alive and well.

One would think that the building would have been inspected before the migrants were allowed in. One would think the building would be checked for asbestos and lead-based paint. How about if the HVAC system is operating properly? Those are just a few inspection and safety points that should have been performed.

One would think wrong. The Chicago Way does not work like that. Make no mistake. Brandon Johnson is a faithful disciple of the Chicago Way. Make the developers and chosen vendors rich while creating conditions of inhumanity.

So much for the humane treatment of migrants by a supposed progressive mayor. His only goal was to get the migrants out of police stations and cram them into substandard facilities to stop criticism of his ineptitude. Worse, the city hired facility managers Favorite Staffing who do not care about the health and welfare of the migrants. They only care about getting the big kachingos$.

Johnson claims the city is looking into the death. All he has to do is read the article in Borderless.

Now the city is separating families before placing them in shelters. Gee, where have we seen this before? Shades of Donald Trump.

There should be an independent investigation of this administration’s handling of the migrants and the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars spent/wasted on vendors and contractors like Favorite Staffing. We deserve answers and information. All we get is secrecy and accusations of racism and right-wing extremism. Now Johnson is blaming Governor Greg Abbott for the death and condition of the building.

Mayor Brandon Johnson told reporters Monday afternoon that “we are obviously deeply sorry and hurt by this loss” before placing the blame on Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been busing migrants to Chicago and other liberal cities for the past 15 months.

“They’re just dropping off people anywhere. Do you understand how raggedy and how evil that is … and then you want to hold us accountable for something that’s happening down at the border? It’s sickening,” the mayor said. (Chicago Tribune)

Favorite Staffing refused to get timely medical attention for that child. Brandon Johnson is the mayor.  He is responsible. No one else is responsible. He wears the hat. Johnson should fire the people who chose that building without an inspection. He and his administration are as raggedy and evil as Gregg Abbott.

Stumbling and mumbling

The City of Chicago spent almost one million dollars to remediate the hazardous waste site in Brighton Park that was to be used for a migrant encampment. Now, the site will not be used for an encampment. Mayor Johnson claimed the money did not go to waste because they could use the site for other purposes.

The money did not go to waste? Yeah, right? Tax dollars are used for remediation and the owners do not have to pay.? That money is on top of the over 90,000 a month lease that the city pays out. We got hosed. We should force the land owners to reimburse the city for the remediation. Hell will freeze over, and pigs will fly before Brandon Johnson tries to get the squandered money back.

The Chicago Council voted on the Chicago Police contract. They voted yes on the economic and other issues. They voted no on the arbitrator’s ruling, allowing officers facing severe disciplinary issues to choose arbitration instead of the Chicago Police Board.

“If you’re asking this body to just simply accept something because it’s law, that would be the antithesis to how this stage even exists,” he said. “Could you imagine if women just accepted the law and did not continue to pursue justice? Black folks, or brown folks, or Asians?” (WBBM Radio Chicago)

Brandon Johnson is advocating legal disobedience over what he considers an unjust law. The ruling will go back to the arbitrator, who decided the issue He showed he would not change his mind. This will set up a court fight the city will lose. Johnson stated he would try to get the law changed. Good luck with that.

Brandon Johnson will go down in history as making the most cringe-worthy statements. The only mayor who is worse was Big Bill Thompson. Johnson should think before he speaks. He is not only infuriating people but also people who supported and voted for him. I know people who regret voting for Johnson.

20th Ward Ald. Jeanette Taylor said it best:

We should not be on the Fifth Floor. … We’re pretending like now we got the power, let us show you how it’s supposed to be done. And we look real stupid right now.” (Chicago Tribune) It is not “we” alder. It is Johnson who looks “real stupid right now.” He stands alone in his stupidity.

Brandon Johnson needs to think before he speaks, if that is possible. He is clueless when it comes to his own public relations. He is spending tens of millions of dollars on the migrant issue with no letup in sight. He stubbornly refuses to take the state of Texas to court to stop the inhumane filtration of migrants to Chicago. The White House stated that what Governor Gregg Abbott is doing is illegal. Even getting a temporary restraining order will give the city some breathing room. We are currently caring for approximately 26,000 migrants. What is Johnson afraid of? Is he a coward?

His solution is to sue the bus companies. It appears he is getting legal advice from a Cracker Jack box.

Johnson is proving every day he is incompetent to lead the City of Chicago. He does not know what he is doing or should be doing. But he sure gives damn good sermons.

More Memories

“Christmas in Chicago was a special time. Electric lights twinkled, and snow glistened on the ground, just right for an impromptu snowball fight. The bitter cold wind off the lakefront nipped at ears and faces, turning cheeks rosy. Frozen breaths hung in the air, suspended like cartoon balloons over the heads of passersby. All these signs pointed to just one thing; it was time to visit Marshall Fields.” (Marshall Fields- The Store that Helped Build Chicago/Gayle Soucek)

I have fond memories of Marshall Fields. When I was a boy, my mother would dress me to the nines to go downtown and Christmas shop. I would wander the magical toy department while she shopped. Then we would go to the Walnut Room for lunch.

Fields would decorate their front windows for Christmas. They were always themed to Christmas stories. There were animatronic characters twirling around. You walked from one window to the next until you got to the end of the story. Many people went downtown just to see those windows.

Afterwards, we would go to Stop and Shop. Before there was Treasure Island and other stores offering foodstuffs from around the world, there was Stop and Shop. It was another magical place for people looking for gourmet foodstuffs from around the world. It was finely decorated for Christmas time and had even more delicacies on hand. As an adult, I used to do most of my Christmas shopping at Fields, then pick up some delicacies at Stop and Shop.

When I was in college, I worked over the holidays at Stop and Shop in their gift department. One day, the owner, Mr. Gardener, wanted to see me. I went to his office. He was very pleasant. His reasons? First, he told me I was the only one who said hello to him in the elevator. (Note, I did not know who he was.) He said no one ever talked to him on the elevator or when he wandered through the store. Then he held up two green personnel cards. He handed me one and asked me if I knew who the person was. I looked at it. It was my father. I did not know he worked there as a butcher. Years later, I found a picture of my dad behind the butcher counter at Stop and Shop.

The Loop was a wonderful place during the holidays. Even on the coldest or snowiest days, it was a place of wonder, especially after dark, when the decorative lights showed off their colored finery. People would hustle and bustle on State Street with shopping bags full of gifts and goodies.

Somehow, the magic disappeared. Maybe it is because I am an old grumbletonian. Or the retailers lost the celebratory spirit and pared things down, using supposed sales to draw customers instead of magic and wonder.

I found out one thing never changed. There was a recent story about the brownie being invented at the Palmer House Hotel for the 1893 Columbian Exposition- the World Fair. Bertha Palmer, whose husband owned the hotel, asked a pastry chef to concoct a pastry confection that women could carry in their hands. The recipe is still the same as it was in 1893. One point of the recipe was to use as little flour as possible. At least some things never change.

Ah, the holidays

 The holiday season is a time for celebration. From Thanksgiving to New Years, we celebrate. Christmas festivities include parties, decorating homes, trimming trees, planning holiday meals, and, of course, gift shopping.

It’s also a time to reflect on the past. The older we get the more we reminisce about holidays past. I remember my parents preparing the feasts for Christmas Eve, Day, and New Year’s Eve and Day. They shopped and cooked with love. There was a gleam in their eyes as they prepared the meals.

I remember sitting around the long table with relatives eating. My dad and uncle reminiscing about their childhoods. I remember the Christmas holidays spent in a suburb of St. Louis, where my mother’s siblings and my grandmother lived. After the meal, dessert, and coffee, there were card games. I remember opening gifts with my cousins early in the morning after we slept on the living room floor of my grandmother’s house.

I remember all the Christmas Eves and Days I worked as a Chicago Police Officer. It was a typical day at the office- handling calls about domestic disturbances, reporting crimes, and patrolling in a repetitive loop. There was a restaurant that would send Christmas Dinner to the station. A turkey, ham, dressing, and all the other trimmings, including dessert. We would meander in on our lunch breaks to eat.

Years later, when I worked midnights by choice, I would get off work at 5 AM. I would sneak into the house and place my daughter’s gifts under the tree. When she was older, I would put the gifts under the tree and sleep on the couch. After opening the gifts and hearing the oohs and ahs, I would go to sleep until it was time to prepare dinner.

Now I have other memories. People my age remember those who are no longer with us and those close friends who moved far away. This year was tough, as too many people I know died. The memories come and go. There will be no more getting together for holiday drinks or parties. There will be no more “Remember when…”

The holidays are also a time of loneliness for many. They are far away from loved ones and have or think they have no one to celebrate with. Celebrating with others is something they remember too. They can’t wait for it all to go away.

With the holidays come parties. People overconsume alcohol. If you are celebrating the season, please do not drink and drive. Take cabs, ride shares, or link up with a designated driver. Fatalities and catastrophic injuries usually occur at higher rates because of alcohol-related vehicle crashes. You may be the victim or harm or kill someone else. Just do not drink and drive.

Suicides increase over the holidays for some of the reasons above, amongst other issues. If you’re in crisis, there are options available to help you cope. You can call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at any time to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For confidential support available 24/7 for everyone in the U.S., call or text 988.

Holiday party advice

The holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and goes through Super Bowl Sunday. It is a time of merriment, cheer, parties, and overindulgence. Sometimes the dissipation is of Bacchanalian proportions.

The problems with these levels of alcoholic overindulgences are extreme embarrassment, people talking, people posting things on social media, memory loss, especially if you do not remember if you made a fool of yourself, and the very real possibility you can get fired if it was a company event. There is also the dreaded hangover, for which there is no real cure.

In the cheerful spirit of all the various holidays, here is some helpful expert advice, ahem, based on my observations through the decades of holiday celebrations.

You do not have to drink every last drop of booze from every bottle at the party. Be polite. Remember etiquette. Other lushes want to drink as much, if not more, than you. Spread the cheer, alcohol-induced sickness, and hangovers around. Do not be a selfish savage.

If you are going to drink, stick with one kind of drink. You do not have to try everything someone puts into your hand. Forget the shots, too. The fastest way to hugging the porcelain is to put all kinds of different alcohol and mixers in your system. Jell-O shots or any drinks made with fruit punch or other highly sweetened so-called juices should be avoided.

Remember, this is the age of smartphones and social media. Your boss, spouse, partner, children, or other family members will not want to see that picture of you guzzling booze from the bottle, throwing up on the carpet, or passed out on the floor cradling empties.

Speaking of smartphones, the last thing you want is your fat-arsed plumbers crack or the top of your thong and tramp stamp all over Facebook because of your drunken, dirty dancing.

Keep yourself hydrated. Hydrated means drinking water between cocktails, not beer chasers. Nibble, snack, and eat during your course of drinking. Putting all that booze on an empty stomach is a harbinger of disaster. It may cause an all too early-end to your festivities.

Do not drink and drive. God made cabs for drunks who own cars. Take a taxi or rideshare to and from your drunken revelry. Drinking and driving can have tragic or lethal consequences. If you are lucky enough to be stopped by the police, drunk driving can have costly consequences. Legal fees are not cheap. It may cost you well over ten thousand dollars if you are convicted, including fines and the vastly higher insurance rates.

Take cabs if you plan to drink. Oh, and write down your home address on your hand. If you are too inebriated to speak coherently, you can show the cab driver the address.

If you are stumbling home from a neighbor’s party and need to clear your head, the worst thing you can do is stick it into a snowbank. You may not be able to get your head out, or you may sink lower into the bank and get stuck. While your upper body is immobilized, your legs will be kicking like a dying cockroach. Aside from the various unconcerned people who will pass you by, you are a perfect target for a dog who needs a place to lift its leg. The dog owner may have a smartphone too. Then again, some people with a warped sense of humor may steal your shoes or, worse, your pants. Imagine your ugly bare feet and legs sticking out of a snowbank.

Last but not least, the dreaded hangover. Look, there are no real cures. There are ways to mitigate some of the symptoms until your body processes the overabundance of alcohol in your system. When you peel your eyelids open, sit up slowly from wherever you slept. Ease out of bed, off the floor, out of the bathtub, or off the couch.

Hydrate. Once again, hydration is water, not the hairs of the various dogs that bit you. Another good rule is to stock up ahead of time on sports drinks. Sip them slowly to get electrolytes back into your system. Go back to bed or wherever you feel most comfortable and try to get more sleep.

If you must drag your bedraggled, hungover, pale, bloodshot-eyed self into work the following day, do not ask stupid questions like, “Did I do anything foolish last night.” The pathetic looks and muffled giggling will tell you all you need to know. So will the security guard who escorts you from the building because you got fired for drunkenly and obscenely hitting on the boss’s spouse, mistress, or family member.

The holiday season is a time for merriment, cheer, and goodwill towards your fellow man. If you overdo the goodwill and cheer, you might end up working at Goodwill.

Chicago musings

I was safe from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As a good patriotic Anti-American consumer, I bought nothing, and did not contribute to the economy or government because of sales taxes. My money is safe. I refuse to follow the herd of less-on* lemmings.

I am not a cheapskate and chiseler when it comes to gifts. I just refuse to be sucked in by the foolishness of the retail industrial complex. I refuse to follow the great unwashed rubes and bark chewers who are suckers for phony sales.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day and realized I omitted something. With all the homicides over the past three years, what is lost in the news are all the lives of shooting victims saved by Chicago Fire Department Paramedics. These people are Chicago treasures.

It was 15 degrees when I woke up yesterday morning. The flailing Chicago government is doing nothing to move the thousands of homeless people into shelters or their ridiculous tent “cities.” Go figure. They just barely got the immigrants off the streets and out of police stations. The Johnson administration is in full-blown failure mode. There is no winter plan for the thousands of homeless people. Chicago is a town without pity and a city without plans. Oratory is more important than people. Brandon Johnson is full of oratory- hot air.

Brandon Johnson is blaming, without proof, right-wing extremism for his failures. He fails to listen to the people in the neighborhoods who are angry about his ham-fisted actions placing migrants in their communities. He refuses to consult with the aldermen. Maybe Johnson should realize something. He works for us. We are the bosses. He is the employee. So, he better shape up or ship out.

Johnson proves every day he is clueless and not fit to be the mayor of Chicago. He is ruling by the seat of his pants. He finds irrelevant excuses for his failures. I do not blame the moronic people who voted for him. I blame the almost 70% of the voters who stayed home on election day.

Johnson was a nobody nobody heard of until he was tapped by Chicago Machine Boss Toni Preckwinkle to run against Lori Lightfoot. He was a silent backbencher on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Now, he is the mayor of the third largest city in America and he has no clue how to run, manage or administer the city.

The McCaskey Ken Dolls finally won a game, yet it was by the skin of their teeth. It was not won by the quarterback, but a kicker with ten seconds left. Big deal. The Ken Dolls are not going to the post season. They will flounder through the next couple of months. The McCaskeys will be going to and laughing all the way to the bank. They will be thumbing their noses to the back woods peckerhead Ken Dolls fans. The only hope for that miserable team is for the McCaskeys to sell to owners who value winning over Kachingo$.

*Less-on- Lower than a moron

Food and more food

“When you cook, there is a great deal of love. You cannot cook indifferently. You have to give a lot of yourself. Cooking is the purest act of love, whether it’s for your kid or your grandmother or your lover or your wife. It’s always to give.” (Jacques Pepin/Artnet)

The older I get, the more I look back. A lot of those memories are food-related. Sometimes the memory flood is overwhelming. From simple pleasures to fabulous home-cooked feasts. Food is what we have to comfort us, especially since the cooler to cold weather sets in. Food is sensual, satisfying all six senses- sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing, and umami.

I remember the summer barbecues. My dad grilling lemon garlic chicken or ribs. Sometimes there were hot dogs or burgers. My mother made potato salad. On hot humid days or two later, that cold leftover potato salad was a meal.

Sometimes, my dad and I would sit at the table with Italian cured meats, cheese, olives, homemade bread from a neighbor, and wine. We would sit and talk. Two men, one aging and one younger adult. He would talk about the past. I would talk about the present.

Food was always part of my life. I grew up in a food-loving family. My parents loved to cook, and that love showed in their craft. Even a simple pot of chicken soup was made with love. Holidays were special. They pulled out all the stops. There was enough food to feed an army.

I think about all the holiday dinners I prepared or helped prepare. A month before, I would scour the food magazines looking for recipes. There was the calvados, cider, and apple pork roast, the leg of lamb wet rub marinated with pesto, the varnished turkey, geese one Christmas, plum duck, ginger ham, stuffed trout, and the various side dishes to go with them.

Fall is when I really think about food, past and present. Fall through winter is the time for comfort foods. Foods that mend your heart and heal your soul. Foods that take you away from the junkyard world we live in. Meals to enjoy alone or in the company of others.

Our lives are complicated. We get too wrapped up in all the political, cultural, and social rhetorical wars swirling around us. We forget the simple pleasures of life, food, wine, and companionship of family and friends.

The pandemic brought out the best of us in relation to food. People were home with too much time on their hands. First it was the bread bakers, then sourdough took over. All of a sudden social media was flooded with home-cooked dishes. People discovered what that strange place in their homes, the kitchen, was for.

Fall is here and winter is around the corner. The brutal hawk, the cold Chicago wind that chills your heart and soul, is hunting. The days are shorter. Soon, sunny days will be few and far between. I think about food, comfort food. As much as I love to eat out, I love to cook or eat someone else’s home cooking. I no longer like cooking for myself. I prefer to cook for and share the meals with others.

Now that many of you found uses for your kitchens, scrap the delivery or carryout. Stay home and cook. Cook for yourself, your family, and friends. Cooking and sharing food is one of the purest forms of love. Cook the simple comforting foods, soups, stews, meat loafs, chili, or roast chicken. There are plenty of places to get the few other necessities, like good bread or other food items.

Go into the kitchen, turn on your favorite music, and forget the outside world, the junkyard world we live in. Cook for yourself. Cook for family or friends. Keep it simple and comforting. Share the love.

I ate in some of the finest restaurants in Chicago. I enjoyed the food. But nothing ever beats a simple, comforting home-cooked meal made with love and shared with others.

Cooking should be treated as a survival skill. Everyone should be able to cook for themselves, families, and friends. It is not hard. You do not need a lot of equipment. All you need are recipes and the literacy to follow them.

Winter is upon us. Get in the kitchen and cook. Even if you screw up, you can still eat your mistakes and learn. Oh yeah, do not forget dessert.

Be grateful

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” — Henry Van Dyke

Thanksgiving is on Thursday. The Christmas shopping season- Black Friday- starts the next day. Thanksgiving is the only holiday that celebrates gratitude.

Humans have celebrated a “holiday” related to gratitude since ancient times. After the harvest, people celebrated the bounty in various ways. That whole garbage about the Pilgrims and Native Americans being the first Thanksgiving in America is pure horse droppings. Native Americans had been celebrating a harvest festival for ages. They just celebrated that one with their new neighbors. The feast was wild game, fish, and whatever the Pilgrims and Native Americans cultivated.

Let’s remember why we celebrate. Forget the history, legend, lore, or myth. We should ignore those imbeciles who want to change the name to something more socio-political accepting to assuage their made-up group guilt.

We celebrate once a year to be grateful for what we have, no matter how much or little. As a friend used to say, “If you have a roof over your head and a loaf of bread under each arm, you should be thankful.”

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about?” Nora Ephron

We dedicate the day to food. It does not matter what you prepare for the feast, no matter how lavish or meager. You are sharing the love. There is no rule that turkey must be on the menu. Make whatever you want. It is your choice how you celebrate. Just do not forget why we celebrate. To thank God, some other deity, the Great Comedian, or your friends and family for whatever you are grateful for.

Every year I think of all the things I am grateful for. It is a list of little things. It does not change much from year to year.

I am grateful for everyday I wake up, take a breath, my feet hit the floor, and live another day.

I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful to still have a somewhat sound mind.

I am grateful for living in Chicago, the best city in the nation.

I am grateful to have the bare necessities of life, food, shelter, and clothing.

I am grateful that I can still cook the feast with family and friends.

I am grateful for my friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, beliefs, or lack thereof.

I am grateful for our police, firefighters, and EMTs, who keep us safe 24/7/365.

I am grateful for the emergency utility workers who respond to outages no matter the weather.

I am grateful for the medical professionals working in hospitals instead of celebrating.

I am grateful for all the restaurants who sent turkeys and hams to the police stations while we worked on Thanksgiving.

No matter your station or status in life, there is always something or someone(s) to be grateful for.

This Thursday, celebrate gratitude, then enjoy the feast, family, and friends.