The Bard of Analog Chicago: Steve Goodman

Chicago’s a really international town these days. We’ve got a world-famous mayor, we’re an international tourist destination, and soon we’ll be home to the biggest presidential library in the world. Our Cubbies broke the curse as the world cheered, and the industrial image that mayors like Big Bill Thompson and William Carter Harrison were attempting to shuck off at the turn of the last century is in the rear-view mirror. We have arrived.

But now that we are here with our beautifully landscaped front lawn, and our shimmering glass skyscrapers, many old timers look back. They don’t talk about the ‘Roaring ‘20s’ of Louis Armstrong or the ‘Gay ‘90s’ of Daniel Burnham. They speak about a time I like to call the ‘Analog Chicago.’  This was a time between Daley’s, pre-Ditka. These are times defined in history by the elements. There were no lights in Wrigley field, and a mayor’s career was assassinated by a snow storm. My parents grew up in this era. They remember Second City stars on TV every Saturday night.

The Bard of Analog Chicago

No artist captures Analog Chicago quite like Chicago’s lost troubadour, Steve Goodman. Known for a song called “City of New Orleans” about the north/south passenger train that brought King Oliver and Satchmo up from the Big Easy–Goodman was Chicago’s Faulkner. Charming, poignant, and without judgement, he talked of the city from the first person. He lived and breathed Cubs baseball and Northside culture.

So now that the Cubs are no longer “the doormat of the national league,” I’d like to look back at Analog Chicago’s great balladeer, Steve Goodman’s, and his greatest Chicago songs.

A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request

This song, more than any other, perfectly sums up this baseball team’s fans. The Cubbies just broke the 108 year old curse, but a lot of diehard fans couldn’t make it to 2016. The list includes Cubs announcer Harry Carrey, all-time great Ernie Banks, and my grandfather who lived all but ten of those cursed years.

Goodman serves as his own prophet of doom in writing this song. A true-blue loyal cubs fan, he knew the trials of a Cubs fan because he lived it. His song is rife with the slings and arrows of the misfortunes of Wrigley Field fandom. Like the man in the he tune tells, he died of leukemia and had his ashes laid in Wrigley’s hallowed soil. He was only 36 years old.

Lincoln Park Pirates

A darker tune with a lighter topic, this is one of the most Chicago stories possible. It would be unbelievable if it were true. Lincoln Park Towing has been plundering the streets of the windy city for more than 50 years. Ross Cascio’s, former owner/captain, and his merry band of thieves tow cars in legal and illegal parking alike, bring them back to their lair, and charge you $500 to set ’em free. Thanks to Alderman’s Ameya Pawar’s fight against the company, this may be last year that his song has meaning. Goodman’s tune stays true for now and is a simmering reduction of the purest Analog Chicago.

City of New Orleans

 

Trains and Chicago go together like Segways and fanny packs. Being the nation’s hub has enriched Chicago financially and culturally. We built grain elevators and elevated Jazz to the international stage with locomotives. “City of New Orleans” is an ode to the train they call the City of New Orleans. It is purely American and reverently melancholy. There are no words for how lovely this song is. Steve Goodman sang them all.

Go Cubs Go

 

Then there’s “Go Cubs Go.” Admittedly, this is my least favorite song. It has more cheese than a slice of Giordanos. The hand-jive-esque back beat, the obvious blues licks, the singalong… it’s perfect for a crowd of 30. It is a bar song to rival all of Ireland, but without a “frosty malt and a bag of peanuts,” it’s a disaster.

I do respect that this may be Goodman’s most famous song now that the 7th largest gathering of humans in civilization sang it aloud, but let’s also pay some respect to the other tunes as they are the lasting memories of Analog Chicago.

 

How to Make a Segway!

Ever wondered how Segways get made? Well, I just made one, and so I thought I’d put one together for you in a silly video.

To recap:

Step One:  Open a box.

Step Two: Pull out a Segway

Step Three: Put some bars on it.

Step Four: Put some batteries on it.

Step Five: Rule the world.

April Madness!

For the first time in our great sports history, Chicago is hosting college hockey’s biggest tourney, The Frozen Four! No, this isn’t a back to back to back to back showing of Disney’s uber-hit starring the Wickedly talented Idina Menzel. It’s hockey.

With so much love for the Blackhawks this time of year, we should take a little time to check out the up-and-comers in the NCAA showdown on April 6th and 8th.

The Frozen Four

In 1948 the Michigan Wolverines won the first ever College Hockey Championship held that the historic Broadmoor Ice Palace in Colorado Springs beating out Dartmouth in overtime 8-4. Only four teams played in the three game tournament filled with college students as old as thirty due to their time in World War II.

The tournament stayed in Colorado Springs for ten years with Michigan winning six championships there–mostly at the hand of legendary coach Vic Heylinger. Over the last half century, the tournament toured the nation; Duluth, Syracuse, Minneapolis, and other cold weather stadiums across the country hosted the College Hockey Championship.

In 1999, they changed the name to the Frozen Four because, well, that’s an awesome name and a take on the famous Final Four of college basketball. Then a year later, the tournament expanded the the 16 team tournament that is happening at the United Center April 6th and 8th.

How to Watch the Frozen Four

Photo: Choose Chicago

The two national semifinals of Minnesota-Duluth against Harvard and Denver versus Notre Dame will take place on April 6th.  Both games will air on ESPN2. The winners will play for the national title on Saturday, April 8th, and it will be broadcast on ESPN.

You can still get tickets if you are in Chicago for all three games for under $200 which would be the cheapest hockey ticket in the United Center all year.

 

April the Fourth Be with You

Chicago Flag Day is upon us! No, not Chicago ‘Flag Day,’ ‘Chicago Flag Day.’ Confused? We were too, so I spent a little time breaking it all down for you here on the Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours blog.

PHOTO: CHICAGO TRIBUNE PHOTO BY ALEX GARCIA

Chicago Flag Day

Today, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Chicago’s preeminent hipster politician (sorry Ald. Ameya Pawar and Rep. Will Guzzardi), announced that Chicago’s flag get’s a holiday on April 4th. Ald. Rosa tweeted , that his proposal to give the Chicago flag it’s own day passed unanimously in the Chicago City Council. This comes on the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Flag designed by writer Wallace Rice.

Photo carlosrosa.org

Ald. Rosa, who’s office is in the heart of Logan Square, likely pushed for the six-pointed starred-and blue-barred flag to appeal to his neighborhood’s younger constituents who were responsible for his election. Logan Square has been one of the nations fastest growing neighborhoods, and a large swath of this growth has come from young adults who have fallen in love with Chicago and its icons. The Chicago flag tattoo has become a symbol of love and status for Chicago’s cultural fanatics.

Chicago’s ‘Flag Day’

The Windy City has had a long history of honoring flying fabric. Chicago has celebrated flag day for longer that any city in the union. According to Stephan Benzkofer of the Chicago Tribune, flag day celebrations began in Chicago in 1984. The ‘American Flag Day Association’ was formed to organize the event by musician LeRoy Van Horn and dentist Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand. “The festivities featured tens of thousands of schoolchildren, bands, songs, parades and speech after speech after speech,” says Benzkofer. Thirty years later President Woodrow Wilson created the national holiday, but now, thanks to Rosa, that flag waving feeling is coming back home.

Chicago’s Flag

In a competition that Wallace Rice set the rules for, Rice beat out over a thousand designs to create the image seen on coffee mugs and forearms throughout the Chicagoland area. The simple yet elegant design was passed through City Council by a unanimous vote on April 4, 1917–two days before the U.S. officially declared war on Germany.

So what exactly is the Chicago flag? It is simple and elegant, but can it really mean that much? Well, for a rectangle with just six effects, it tells a wonderful story.

 2 Blue Stripes

The blue stripes represent the north and south branch of the river. Chicago’s origin story has always revolved around its “discovery” by Jaques Marquette in the 17th century. Though the natives did not view the mouth of the Chicago River as a “wild and wasted stream” as the legend tells us, they certainly could not have envisioned the site as an international port. When Chicago was incorporated in 1837, the I & M Canal (connecting the Chicago River and the Mississippi) was still eleven years from completion. By 1917, the Chicago River was an important reason for Chicago’s vast wealth in industry and agriculture, and seen as a divine setting for a city. Early twentieth century Chicagoans marveled at the foresight of the city’s founders.

Three White Stripes 

The white stripes represent the cardinal directions in Chicago: North, South, and West. There is no East in Chicago, or as a young Barak Obama put it in 1985, “Chicago–a handsome town, wide streets, lush parks, broad, lovingly crafted buildings, Lake Michigan forming its whole Eastside, as big and mutable as an ocean.” Each other side is filled with neighborhoods formed by the immigrants, migrants, and refugees who made it their home.

Four Red Stars

The stars represent the two tragedies and two triumphs that make up Chicago’s brief and furious history. The first two stars, symbolizing the Great Chicago Fire and the Worlds Fair of 1893, sat waiting on the left hand side of the flag for almost twenty years before the picture was finally rounded out in 1933. The second Worlds Fair held in Chicago, called ‘A Century of Progress,’ was as good a reason as any to add a third star, and in order to create some closure on a hundred year old disaster, a fourth star was sewn on in remembrance of the Fort Dearborn Massacre.

Each of the 24 points on the flags 4 stars has its own meaning as well, but those may be for a different blog.

Until then, fly your Chicago flag high or raise your tattoo to the sky because on April 4, Alderman Carlos Rosa an the whole broad shouldered city salutes you!

 

 

Chicago’s Historic Gardeners

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show has been ushering in Spring in Chicago since 1847–ten years before the city was incorporated. This year, as we celebrate it’s 170th birthday, lets take a look at how gardening has made elegant an otherwise industrial city.

The Gardener Mayor

Chicago’s first mayor in 1837, founder of the Chicago Board of Trade, and President of the Union Pacific Railroad, William Ogden, may be known more for black soot and railroad ties. However, he was one of the early prominent Chicagoans to take advantage of the fresh Lake Michigan water and keep a private garden on his property that spanned multiple city blocks. Ogden used his vast wealth to build a Greek Revival style home where he entertained politicians like Martin Van Buren and Steven A. Douglas. They would stroll both indoors among the flowers of his glass enclosed greenhouse and outdoors through his roses, dogwoods, and wild vines. In his home, he housed an Austrian-born gardener along with his personal secretary, coachman, and five domestic servants.

A shrewd and ruthless businessman, Ogden had a soft spot for gardening.

When the great fire of 1871 burned his home and every building in downtown Chicago, Ogden said, “Never before was a large and very beautiful and fortunate City built by [a] generation of people so proud, so in love with their work, never a City so lamented and grieved over as Chicago.”

Worlds Columbian Exhibition

Chicago twice founded a Chicago Horticultural Society. The first one was started in 1847 by William Ogden with the son of one of the city’s first American citizens, John Kinzie, as its president. Then it was re-founded in 1890 and hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition Chrysanthemum Show of 1893. Taking advantage of the international attention Chicago was garnering from hosting the World’s Fair, the show was a hit. However, like the two Worlds Fairs that Chicago hosted, the Chrysanthemum show was followed by international depression and turmoil. The Chicago Horticultural Society didn’t recover until 1943.

1892 at the Regiment Armory

The Worlds Fair of 1893 itself was a gorgeous display of flora the likes of which the world had never seen. The Horticultural building–designed by the inventor of the skyscraper, William LeBaron Jenney–covered more than 4 acres of the fair grounds and 8 different greenhouses and the various state buildings brought their own native flowers and fruits. The Midwest exhibit had a building made from corn-on-the-cob and Missouri created the St. Louis Bridge entirely out of sugar cane.

A Century of Gardening

Over the last hundred years, Chicago has been growing its gardens indoors and out. In 1908, the Garfield Park Conservatory was constructed, the Chicago Botanical Gardens broke ground in 1965, and Chicago’s Park District has followed suit with a multitude of public gardens and green spaces. Just last year, Northerly Island reopened as a natural prairie space that takes you back three hundred years to the untouched natural landscape of Chicago’s past.

Garfield Park Conservatory covers 4.5 acres of land.

So when you stroll through more than twenty indoor gardens at Navy Pier this weekend, take a moment to stop, look around, and smell your place in the lineage of gardening enthusiasts in Chicago.

 

 

 

International Home + Housewares Show 2017’s Amazing App

If you’re in town for the IH + HS 2017, you must download the show’s useful app. It has all the information you are going to need about the exhibitors and events.

It’s really helpful.

Wanna know when famed New Orleans Chef Emeril Lagasse is going to make an appearance? Just check the Event + Exhibits section or search for his name. Want plan your route through the exhibit? Just click the star next to your most desired booths on the Exhibitors section, and it will save you time searching them out. Want to know where the heck McCormick Place is and how the heck you can get in and out of there? Just check the transportation section for the free buses and the many other cheap options you have to make it to and from your hotel.

It’s pretty.

You would hope that a show with a focus on form and function would make their app useful and pretty. Well, they did. There aren’t a billion bells and whistles. It just gives you the information you need in an easily digestible package.

It’s small.

It takes up like 20 MG which is less than the ten thousand baby photos you took over Christmas. You can download it here.

It’ll get you 10% off on a Segway Tour.

If you show us this app or any proof that you are at the International Home + Housewares Show this weekend, Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours will give you 10% off on your tour. Check out Choose Chicago for more things to do while you are in town, and enjoy your time in the windy city.

 

 

 

Are Segways Difficult to Ride?

“Is it hard to ride that thing?”

We get this question daly at Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours so I decided to take a second to address it in detail. It is not a dumb question. If I had to give a short answer, I would say, “No!” but let me explain why.

Training

The average training time for a new rider on a Segway is 3 minutes. Can you learn to drive in 3 minutes? Can you learn to ride a bike in 3 minutes? No way!

Our training session takes about 25 minutes in total with a full group of 8 Segway riders. That means each trainee has about 3.125 of time to learn to master this machine until they hit the streets of Chicago. Some take a bit longer than others, but on the whole, training doesn’t take any longer than 25 minutes. There must be something easy about the machine right?

The training itself consists of a video followed by a live presentation and individual hands on training. Our guides do not allow anyone to escape their grasp until they are confident in their ability. The positive attitude of the guide is their most powerful weapon. They wield it with great authority–striking down the fears of their trainee. The Segway is scary, and they no it, but they have seen this fear before. They know that if the customer powers through, they will achieve.

Imagine being a Segway tour guide and knowing that you have the ability to teach anyone in the world how to do something new in just 3 minutes. It really goes to their heads!

Can anyone not get it?

If you don’t want to, you don’t have to do anything. Of the hundreds of thousands of people that Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours has taught to ride a Segway, a handful have failed. They all have one thing in common: they didn’t want to do it! Their family or friend forced them to go try that weird machine in the park, and their body knew what their mind did. They didn’t wanna be there.

This is totally cool. All we ask is that you try. We care about every customers experience. We thrive off of their joy.

So you’re saying anyone can ride a Segway?

I really am. We have had customers from 12 to 100 (If you are over 100 and want to ride a Segway, we will give you a crazy discount). Folks with differing heights and weights, differing abilities, and differing backgrounds all found the Segway safe and fun. I have personally taught a paraplegic with one prosthetic leg, multiple people with various stages of MS, and even people with bad attitudes! I do not believe in a failed Segway rider, and neither should you.

Please take the time to believe in yourself and your own abilities. Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours has experience to prove that you can learn to ride a Segway in just 3 minutes.