Say Hello to My Little Friend

With apologies to Tony Montana for using his famous line from Scarface, I wanted you to meet my little friend the squirrel. Now that winter is here, the temperatures are too cold to bring along my dog, so I ride without her. I miss her company, but the good news is that when I stop for a rest break, the neighborhood squirrels aren’t afraid to come by for a bite. Also, the colder temps have cut down the amount of tourists around so the squirrels need help.

I met this little guy at the Buckingham Fountain plaza while I was taking a rest break from a ride. Lucky for him, I carry a baggie of peanuts for just such occasions. Maybe he knew that. The peanuts are not salted as I don’t want to contribute to hypertension in the squirrel population.

The squirrels around here are amazingly bold. One of them crawled right up my back fender one afternoon as I was standing chatting with a friend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my iPhone out fast enough to shoot a picture of his little face looking at me while clutching my fender.

This little guy sat right in front of me and dined. Usually they take the nuts  run away  to eat them.

Cute, isn’t he?

Tony

Oldies but Goodies

I was just doing some year end housecleaning and ran across these two photos that I had previously sent to friends. Thought they looked good enough to share with you.

The first was a spectucular December morning.

Awesome array of colors

Awesome array of colors

The second was a photo I took one morning walking the dog. The sun hadn’t quite risen yet and there was one of those magical morning lights going on.

This is in Lakeshore East Park looking west

This is in Lakeshore East Park looking west around sunrise. The sun is coming up behind me.

Happy holidays, all!

Tony

Chicago River Around Sunset

I think one of the best kept secrets in Chicago is the Riverwalk, the north and south walkways along the Chicago River. The walk starts at Lake Michigan and works west. I live at the lakefront so am very familiar with this area. I walk my dog there regularly as well as ride my bike.

I shot these to photos right around sunset on a late December afternoon at the end of a bike ride. I love this time as the light is the same as at dawn when the sun is just about to break over the horizon. Electric lights somehow seem charming.

I was standing at the Lake Shore Drive bridge looking west and north for these.

At Christmas time the trees are illuminated.

At Christmas time the trees are illuminated. Don’t you love the reflections in the river?

This shot simply looks farther west along the river.

This shot simply looks farther west along the river. That tall building is the new Trump Tower.

Chi-town is one of the beautiful cities.

Tony

A Splendorous Friday December 14 in Chicago

Triskaidekaphobics fear Friday the 13th, but we almost need to invent a new word on the other end of the spectrum for the Friday the 14th that Chicago experienced.

I posted a number of times on Fall Foliage and the experience of the changing seasons here in Chicago. Typical Fall goings on. The leaves turn colors and drop from the branches.

But, here it is a week before the official start of winter and it feels like someone has turned back the clock. To be sure, most trees are barren of leaves. But, we had spring-like conditions Friday.

Here is Monroe Harbor Bereft of boats, but glistening in sunshine

Here is Monroe Harbor bereft of boats, but glistening in sunshine. That’s Navy Pier in the background

The normal high for December 14 is 35 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 23. We experienced a high of 49 F and a low of 31. Notice that the low is only four degrees under the normal high. In addition, we basked in a luxurious sunny day with very little wind. Most un-Decemberlike. The weather bureau reports that we have just set a record of 285 days without measurable snow. The last such snowfall was March 4. The latest “first measurable snow of season” – December 16, 1965.

Good for a double take - a sightseeing boat in mid-December

Good for a double take – a sightseeing boat in mid-December on Lake Michigan

The day started in the 30s, but worked its way up fast. I felt like it was an imposter 30s because there was no bite to the air. On my first bike ride, I didn’t take the dog, because she doesn’t ride in less than 45F weather. I enjoy having her with me, but I don’t want to be practicing animal abuse in the bargain. By the time I got home from the ride, however, the temp had risen above 40F and I knew I would have company if/when I rode in the afternoon.

I hope these photos demonstrate just what a gorgeous day we had here. Keep in mind that mid-December in Chicago could have blizzard-like conditions.

Gabi taking a rest on a bench wearing only a hoodie in mid-December

Gabi taking a rest on a bench wearing only a hoodie in mid-December

I ride my bike every day that I can, so the variance in temperature meant that I wore a different outfit. Also, I don’t take my dog with when we have less than 45 F.

Because I carry my iPhone with me on rides, I was able to record some of the day’s splendor.

This past Friday was indeed one to remember and for which to be thankful for to a generous providence.

Tony

Happy Birthday, Gabi

My little poodle, Gabi, has a birthday today. She was born on the 12th of December 2005. By a process of rapid calculation that works out to seven years old. I have to admit that I didn’t have a dog seven years ago, nor did I want one. How I got her is a story in itself.  I wrote it up for my other blog on healthy eating and living longer. If you would like to read it click here.

For the record, Gabi is a pure bred poodle. She was the runt of a teacup litter. Teacup poodles weigh around five pounds. Nonetheless, she currently stands 11 inches high and weighs just under 14 pounds.

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Words fall short in explaining her place in my life. She makes me laugh every day with her canine kookiness. I am not having a birthday party for her because she is a dog and wouldn’t understand it. But, I want to put this blog post together for her and for me.

I think one picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some of her. Below is a shot just after a grooming. Glamorous, no? Thanks to my friend, Maxine, for putting the photo together.

Next is Gabi on the Fourth of July with her festive bandanna.

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth!

This photo below is a prize winner that my daughter, Kate, shot. It was a Purina Dog Chow contest and the winners were displayed in Times Square. I was holding her over my shoulder and there was a fan blowing in her face.

Prize winning shot of Gabi in Times Square

Prize winning shot of Gabi in Times Square

The photo below is an ‘attitude’ shot. It is morning and I am on the couch reading, but she is ready for her walk. Her patience is running out.

Her patience is running out.

Her patience is running out.

I love this next one. She gets cold in the winter so I have bought her several hoodies. She doesn’t like the feelilng of them being slipped over her head. This shot shows her hiding her two front paws and her neck so I can’t slip it on her.

HIding her front paws and neck.

HIding her front paws and neck.


No collection of Gabi photos would be complete without one of her riding in my bike basket. This was shot by a Chicago newspaper photographer of us riding on Northerly Island. You can see the Chicago Skyline behind us. She rides several thousand miles with me each year and has had her picture taken on the lakefront hundreds of times by tourists from all over the world.

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Last, but not least, one of her puppy pics.

She was four months old here and I hadn't adopted her yet.

She was four months old here and I hadn’t adopted her yet.

Happy Birthday, Gabi!

Tony

Lakeshore East Park in Chicago

Created by the Magellan Development Corp LLC. This lush 6 acre park was dedicated to the city in 2005 and is part of the Chicago Park District. It features more than 500 trees of which there are 20 varieties. There are more than 100 varieties of plants and flowers. I think it is also one of the Downtown area’s best kept secrets.

Some final fall foliage

The Magellan website says, “The gated children’s park includes interactive water features and play structures on colorful surfaces, some made out of recycled tires. The area is bordered by shade arbors and seating for parents to observe children in close proximity. The centerpiece is a spray fountain that children can run through and enjoy….

Northeast corner of the park

“The long list of awards to the park that took four years to create includes Best Open Space and Best New Park in Chicago.”

All of that is true and as you can see from these photos the park is especially beautiful in Fall. I lived in London for a year when I worked for Reuters. I think they have some of the most beautiful parks in the world. Lakeshore East compares favorably with a London park.

Looking west you can see the bottom stories of the famed Aqua building

This is the park where I walk my dog three times every day. So, I am here regularly. As a result, I can attest to something the Magellan website neglects to mention, namely, that the park transforms high rise living in the area to neighborhood living.

Because I am there every day of the year, I encounter the amazing array of my neighbors. Many of them own dogs, but there are also the parents of the toddlers in the children’s park. There are the fellow retirees who come to sit and enjoy this tranquil urban beauty. Folks in the area come to stroll, picnic with family, play frisbee or soccer or just hang out.

I have lived in a high rise building since 1980, but this is the first time I was able to enjoy the experience of being in a neighborhood. It is like going back in time to my childhood when you would walk out your door and know everyone that you would encounter because they were your neighbors.

In addition, because the park serves as a gateway for folks on their way to Navy Pier and the lakefront, I also encounter numerous tourists, both local and international. You can read some of their reactions to the park here.

Looking west and down from Harbor Drive

I shot these photos to give you a look at the park in fall, but it is equally beautiful in the rest of the year, too.

As Michelin would say, “Worth a detour.”

Tony

Sweet Cycling Surprise

I am a member of The Chainlink, Chicago’s Online Cycling Community. They had a Halloween contest about creative uses of a bicycle. I entered a picture of my bike with the basket on the front and the pet carrier in it. My little poodle was sitting in the basket. As it turns out I won the contest. I have a small amount of guilt about winning as I think the photo of my bike with little Gabi sitting in the basket won on the basis of being so darn cute.

Here is the photo that won of my bike (and cute dog).

First prize was a tin of bicycle cookies with one a replica of my bicycle.

I think Rocky, the baker, did a great job on the cookies and they taste delicious, too. (Thanks, Julie, for bringing them down.)

Tony

A Chicago Lakefront Bike Ride

I made this video a couple of years ago when I got my first iPhone. I was so thrilled to have a camcorder with me on rides, I decided to make a video riding a bicycle ride along the lakefront.

I hope you can get a feel for riding along with me on the bike. That’s Willie Nelson on the soundtrack.

Tony

Lovely Fall Day for Lakefront Biking

I shot these photos yesterday on what may have been one of the best days of the year for riding a bike. Temp remained in the mid 60s and the wind wasn’t crazy.

This is what it looked like just before sunrise.

It was red in the morning, but no sailor’s warning was needed.

After walking poochie we got out on the bike.

I thought The Riverwalk looked especially inviting.

This frosted treetop is down by the Museum Campus.

In the background you can see the Willis Tower on the left and the Hancock Building on the right.

I retired on October 2 some years ago so this was the final, but one, day of my bicycling year.

Tony