THE INTIMATE TOUR – Rich Paschall

MAX, A Review, by Rich Paschall

If you are in or near a big city like we are, you may have a number of outdoor stadiums where concerts are performed. We have concerts at Wrigley Field (Cubs) and Soldier Field (Bears). We have concerts in parks including the largest of the music Festivals, Lollapalooza (Grant Park). Outdoor music is a big thing here in the summer and you can catch  every type of music from classical to Hip-Hop, jazz to blues, rock and roll to modern pop.

In concert at the United Center

We also have indoor stadiums with concerts throughout the year. We have the Chicago Stadium (Bulls), UIC Pavillion (University of Illinois at Chicago), Allstate Arena (AHL hockey) and others. You will not lack for big name performers in large venues.

There are also many smaller venues, clubs and bars, that feature musical acts. They may range from places where 100 is a crowd, up to locations of several hundred. Earlier  in the year we caught David Archuleta in his Postcards in the Sky Tour at the City Winery. It is a spot that can have up to 300 for seating at small cocktail tables. The feeling is rather intimate compared to the large venues.

City Winery, performance venue.

This spot would have been too large for Max Schneider’s The Intimate AF Tour. With Sirius XM as a sponsor MAX set out to play 15 big cities and very small venues. Aside from the intimate venue stops, MAX picked up a few other notable gigs along the way.

If you are unfamiliar with MAX, we mentioned him before in our young artists edition of “Christmas Yet To Come.”  At age 27, he may seem like an “overnight success” to some. He has a song on the radio charts and has been nominated as 2019 Best New Pop artist for the iHeartRadio Music Awards. He has also made some television and radio appearances promoting his latest single. It is all falling into place for the energetic performer.

Like many “breakout” performers, he has been at it for a while. He started performing at 3. He got an agent at age 14. He was an understudy on Broadway. He got a few TV acting jobs.One was in 25 episodes of the Nickolodeon show “How to Rock.” He won a part in the 2015 Brian Wilson biopic as the young Van Dyke Parks, an early writing partner of WIlson.

He did a lot of cover videos on You Tube. It is the way a lot of young performers have broken through in the business. His channel now has over 1.6 million subscribers. One of his earliest from 7 years ago is with a group of musicians who are playing their iphone apps instead of instruments.

Fast forward to 2019 and the hard work at acting, dancing and singing are paying off in a big way. By the time MAX hit Chicago on his tour of small bars and clubs, he had a performance lined up one afternoon at Lollapalooza. The 4 day event draws about 400,ooo people. Most show up early for the all day music festival over eight stages and across 115 acres on Chicago’s lakefront.  It’s Woodstock for the 21st Century. Some years we even accomodate with rain and mud.  Fun fact: MAX is from Woodstock, New York.

The day after playing for tens of thousands in Grant Park, MAX played a small bar on the north side of Chicago. Schubas, once a Schlitz brewery, has a small room in the back of the bar that they claim will hold a MAXimum of 165. That’s without any table and chairs, just fans ready to rock.

Schlitz
Schubas

A young rapper opened the show with a brief set. We will spare you the review. MAX followed and kicked things into high gear and left it there through most of the set. The small crowd was pressed up against the stage while a few of us older folks took to the bench that ran along one side wall. From there I could stand on the bench from time to time to get a few pictures over the top of the crowd.

MAX, The Intimate AF Tour

If you have been to concerts lately, you will notice a lot of back lighting, usually in shades of blue. It makes it hard to get good pictures or video. Do you think they do that on purpose? This show saw a lot of light using yellow theater lighting gels. Yellow seems to be the theme for MAX at present.

MAX

Following a few successful days in the Windy City, MAX was off to a musical performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Along with some other TV and radio spots lately MAX’s overnight success seems complete. Will he be the headliner instead of the opener some day soon? That of course is hard to say as show business is fickle. One thing we know, having seen MAX here before, he has paid his dues and is bringing the talent.

LIVING IN TWO PLACES – Rich Paschall

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

A while back I saw this Daily Prompt question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeWhat would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has over 42,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Chicago Skyline
Chicago skyline from the museum campus

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues. The major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Selestat
Selestat, France

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?

FIRE! – Rich Paschall

Engulfed in Flames, by Rich Paschall

Fire fascinates. Fire frightens. Fire feeds. Fire consumes.

We may all have a fascination for the dancing flames in a fireplace or a campfire. We may be able to sit and watch for hours and just relax. At Christmas time we have been fond of the Yule Log channel. No, it’s not the same, but it is safer and comes with holiday music. We cook with fire and we actually heat our home with it via the furnace in the basement. It is essential to modern-day life.

Burning Fireplace

Then again, we fear fire for what it can do when it is out of control. I was horrified when the news came up on my phone of the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. I had visited the famed cathedral twice and marveled at the architecture.

You may know that it was the architectural advancement of “flying buttresses” that allowed for the high and heavy vaulted ceiling to be supported. Without this feature, the roofed would have buckled and caved in. It took 182 years to build the cathedral (1136-1345) but it only took 15 hours for a fire to topple the steeple, destroy the roof and damage the upper walls and windows. It is reported that in another 30 minutes the building would have completely collapsed.

Here in Chicago, as in most big cities, we have had spectacular fires. In fact, from October 8th to 10th, 1871 most of Chicago burned to the ground. Three-hundred lives were lost. The burning embers were blown high and far and it was just too much for firefighters of that era. Stronger building codes followed as the city rebuilt and hoped the new buildings would be more resistant to fire.

Although we often say that only the Chicago Water Tower in the center of downtown and the pumping station across the street were all that survived the fire, it’s not quite true. The magnificent St. Michael’s Catholic Church, completed in 1869, was largely destroyed by fire, but the walls and the tower were left standing and the church was rebuilt.

In the 1990’s I attended a wedding there.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

Certainly, there were many large fires after this, but the first of my memory was the fire at Our Lady of the Angels School on December 1, 1958.

The fire broke out while school was still in session. While most of the 1600 students were able to get out, some were cut off by smoke and flame. The older building was considered up to code because it was in compliance when it was built and was “grandfathered in.” Which is to say, it did not have fire alarms, a direct line to the fire department, fire escapes, or fire doors.

Some students jumped from the high second story windows. Ninety-two students and three nuns perished in the fire.

Following this, we all took our grade school fire drills seriously. We knew the way to the exits and where to meet outside. Fire inspectors were frequent school visitors and fire alarms were installed inside and out.

Teachers drilled us on keeping quiet and moving quickly. In case of fire, we would not be returning to our classrooms to pray if there was smoke or fire in our way.

In 1958 the city began to build McCormick Place, the large convention hall that would include the 5000-seat Arie Crown Theater. Sensitive to our history of spectacular fires, the concrete and steel building was touted as fire-proof and opened on Chicago’s lakefront in November 1960.

McCormick Place 1967 (Photo: International Housewares Association.)

Around two in the morning, January 16, 1967, a fire broke out behind one of the booths of the National Housewares Manufacturers Show. At 2:30, the Fire Chief arrived and sounded the fifth alarm. All fire department personnel responded to the scene to try to save the building. The blaze was even fought by fire boats on the lake in the bitterly cold weather. By ten AM the roof had collapsed and the massive convention center was destroyed.

The theater was saved.

Church fires large and small are part of our history. Older buildings with a lot of aging wood are particularly vulnerable. Some are repaired after the fire and live on. Others are not so lucky.

There is always a greater concern when the building is a matter of civic pride or architectural significance. Such is the case with Holy Name Cathedral.

Holy Name Cathedral interior (Photo credit: Terence Faircloth)

The first structure, a large brick building whose cornerstone indicated 1852, was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. Its replacement was dedicated in 1875. The massive Gothic-style structure holds 1200 people and the interior is 70 feet high. The ceiling is largely wood and was meant to symbolize the “Tree of Life.”

In February 2009 a fire broke out in the roof and the attic of the building. According to reports, first responders entered the attic without helmets or oxygen tanks. Fast work saved the Cathedral. The repairs to the roof and ceiling were completed in six months. Without this response, the building could have suffered damage like Notre Dame. Or worse.

No matter the great care we take, devastating accidents happen. In the Notre Dame and Holy Name Cathedral fires, it is believed electrical problems may have been the cause. It is hard to say for sure at Notre Dame since much of the building remains unsafe to inspect. At Holy Name the cause may have been related to a snow and ice melting system which was installed on the roof.

A Chicago Fire Department spokesman stated after the Notre Dame fire that fire officials are inspecting large buildings every day to make sure that there is a building plan at the entrance, and exits are clearly marked.

In older buildings of historic interest, they want to know what unique challenges may exist and about which they need to know. Even “fireproof” buildings, like McCormick Place, can burn to the ground.

Sources include:

“Rebuilt, but never forgotten – the McCormick Place fire of 1967,” ExhibitCityNews.com  January 1, 2014.

“Notre Dame Cathedral Fire: Investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused Paris blaze, AP reports,” abc7chicago.com April 18, 2019.

“Holy Name survives fire thanks to firefighters,”abc7chicago.com/archive February 4, 2009.

GOING TO THE DOGS – Rich Paschall

Chicago Dogs, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have seen a baseball movie that depicts the hard life of the minor league player.  Bull Durham (1988) may be the most entertaining.  It shows the fictional life of players for the North Carolina team, the Durham Bulls.  One Player (Kevin Costner) stays around the minors for many years, while one rookie (Tim Robbins) makes it to “the show.”  Aside from the love story and the humorous moments, the movie shows that minor league baseball is not exactly glamorous for most.

Nevertheless, there are currently 256 minor league teams associated with major league teams, and a long list of independent teams in eight leagues that have no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation.  This means there are a lot of players who will never make it to an MLB team (aka “the big leagues” or “the bigs.”)  All these minor league teams represent a lot of major dreams, but why would someone play independent baseball hoping to make it to “the bigs.”  Major league teams already have 5 or 6 minor league teams they follow.  Better yet, why would someone start a new independent team in the face of so many independent team failures.  How many area teams do we need?

Impact Field pregame

With two major league teams in our hometown, (White Sox and Cubs), another major league team just 90 minutes north, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at least five area minor league teams nearby, you would think that building a new stadium and starting a new minor league team would be a crazy dream.  But there are baseball lovers willing to try it.

The Village of Rosemont, located alongside Chicago and next to a part of O’Hare airport, has added to their list of ambitious projects by building a brand new 6300 seat stadium, Impact Field.  The cost was 60 million US Dollars.  They sold the naming rights for a dozen years and immediately have a team to play there, the Chicago Dogs, as in hot dogs.

Last winter when we were Christmas shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlet, we saw the location of a soon to open hot dog stand that was also promoting baseball and Chicago Dogs merchandise.  We did not realize then that baseball was coming on the other side of Interstate 294.    I took little notice as they were not yet open for hot dogs.

This year the Dogs joined a string of Midwest, Texas and Manitoba teams in the American Association.  After 3 games in Sioux Falls and 3 in St. Paul, the Dogs opened Impact Field on May 25, 2018 with a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Out view of the opposition

We saw the Dogs face off against the Texas AirHogs in June.  Texas has entered a partnership with the Chinese National Team (Beijing Shougang Eagles) and much of their team is from China.  In fact so much of the roster is from China, we heard the Chinese national anthem before the game as well as our own.

Before the game, I started in the right field corner and walked the entire concourse. Unlike most parks, you can circle this field and end up where you started.  I found there was an adequate number of places to purchase your Chicago style dogs.  These come from Vienna Beef, the popular home town hot dog maker.  They have been here since 1893 and no hot dog stand is worth its celery salt if they don’t have Vienna dogs, but I digress.

Along my route I stopped to chat with one Chicago Dogs employee who noted that some of the players have spent time in “the bigs,” while others still hope to get there.  Some want experience to become coaches or managers some day at the major league level.  This employee mentioned a few famous examples, including Hall of Famer and former Cub, Ryne Sandberg.

Game time

One Chicago connection on the team is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop.  Another is Kyle Gaedale who is related to baseball Hall of Famer, Bill Veeck. The colorful Veeck worked for the Cubs and planted the ivy in the outfield in 1937.  Years later he was the owner of the Chicago White Sox.

The mascot is a giant Mustard bottle, seriously.  Maybe you wish to have your picture taken with mustard.  There was also a ketchup bottle roaming around but we do not put ketchup on our hot dogs…ever.  In addition to luxury boxes, a must at any new stadium, the stadium has party areas, a Kids Zone, a restaurant and of course, a merchandise store.

There are promotions every day for the inaugural season.  Fireworks on Thursdays and Saturdays.  There’s a giveaway every Friday and kids can run the bases after the game.  You might want to go on Mondays however and be early.  The first 1500 fans get free mustard.  What could be better?

The main drawback is actually the location.  The busy district of Rosemont can barely accommodate more traffic.  Without much land to use, the park has a three-level parking lot alongside.  On a day with a small crowd, it was slow getting in the lot.  I can not imagine how they do it when the park is full.

The story needs a Boston angle for Marilyn and Garry and we have one.  The manager of the team is former Boston Red Sox player Butch Hobson.  Butch was drafted by Boston in 1973 and made it to “the show” by 1975. He spent six years with the Red Sox, a year with the Angels and a year with the Yankees.  Hobson made it back to Boston to manage the Red Sox from 1992-1994. He is still colorful and still likes to argue with umpires.  We’ll see if he gets tossed out of more games than the Dogs win.

DISCOVERING HOME – Rich Paschall

Local Culture by Rich Paschall

Whether you live in a large city or a small town, there are likely to be places of cultural interest, historic sites or local festivals nearby.  If you are in Mitchell, South Dakota you can visit the Corn Palace.  Stockbridge, Massachusetts has the renowned Norman Rockwell Museum.  Hannibal, Missouri has the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, along with the white fence that may (or may not) have been the inspiration for the scene of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence.

Tom Sawyer Fence? Hannibal, Missouri

In a big city like Chicago, there are many large cultural attractions.  The Museum of Science and Industry is located in a building erected for the 1893 World’s Colombian Exhibition.  The Art Institute on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago holds many iconic artworks.  The “museum campus” on the lakefront contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History, home to Sue, our T-Rex skeleton.  Yeah, it’s big.  Washington Park on the south side of the city holds the DuSable Museum named after the Haitian fur trader and supposed first permanent settler in the area now known as Chicago.  I have been to them all.

Du Sable Museum, Chicago

It is impossible to get to all the festivals around town.  We love a good festival and the summer is filled with them. Ethnicity, pride, food, drink, music are all reasons for festivals. In the third largest USA city, you can not know about all of the attractions, even if you have lived here all of your life.  On a recent visit from a friend from out-of-state, we found a few things we have missed in the past.

Before arriving in town he suggested we go to the Chicago Beer Classic at Soldier Field.  I had no idea we had a beer classic.  With booths set up all around the playing field where the Chicago Bears attempt football, one could go around and get 2-ounce samples from 150 craft beers in a special 2-ounce souvenir glass.  These were mostly out of area beers with only a few local brews known to us.

Soldier Field in Spring

Armed with a booklet of 48 tickets we set off for our samples.  I used 15 tickets but since some booths did not bother to collect them, I probably got about 20 samples, not a lot for 3 hours.   We interrupted our beer trek to take the behind the scenes tour of Soldier Field.  We saw locker rooms and some of the features of the recently renovated stadium.  Little more than the original columns exist today.

Chicago Beer Classic

Our week of local interests included the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, founded in 1857.  The original museum collection was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Today it is located in a Lincoln Park building erected in 1999, containing exhibits of nature unique to the Midwest.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

One of the most popular features of the museum is the Butterfly Haven.  You have to be careful opening the doors to this large atrium style room so that the butterflies and moths do not fly away.  We were lucky enough to be there when they released new butterflies and moths to the room, which is a daily occurrence due to their short lifespan. In fact, some of the large moths they release only last about 5 hours.  If you sit still, some are likely to land on you.

The Chicago History Museum was also on our hometown tour.  This was founded as the Chicago Historical Society in 1856 and like the Nature Museum, it lost its collection in the Great Chicago Fire.   The current structure in Lincoln Park was built in 1932 and has been expanded twice.

We found interesting displays including those on Abe Lincoln, the development and recording of Blues in Chicago, and the struggles of diversity throughout our history.  I stepped onto an old elevated train car and sat at a school desk and saw that children of color did not always get the same education as others.  I saw a mocked up recording studio for Chicago Blues musicians.  If you were bold enough, you could walk into a little club room and sing the blues for us, karaoke style.

Chicago History Museum

By the way, I missed the Corn Palace in South Dakota.  When I was eight years old, we were on one of those family road trips to see Mount Rushmore. On the way back we went through Mitchell.  When we got there I was sleeping in the back seat of the car, so they left me there and my parents and older brother went to check out the palace.  Someone should have called Child and Family Services on these people. I think I was scarred for life by missing this attraction.

Many years later I took a friend from France to Hannibal, Missouri.  One of the few things he knew about the country was from reading Tom Sawyer.  I can not imagine how that translated. I am actually in the picture at the top, but my friend was clearly more interested in capturing Tom Sawyer’s fence than getting me in the picture.

If I ever get to Stockbridge, I am sure I will check out the Norman Rockwell Museum.  I have always been fascinated by the detail of his work.  I remember seeing them often on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

What are your favorite local spots of interests?  What do you have left to explore on your stay-at-home vacation?  What could possibly be close to home that you do not even know about…yet?

CULTURE SHOCK – RICH PASCHALL

Travelling to America, Rich Paschall


You might think that anyone who moves to a new country might be in for a bit of culture shock.  If the person is coming to America from a wealthy Western European nation, Norway let’s say, you may not expect the shock to be too great.  After all, aren’t we as advanced as any of the other leading nations of the world?  Would we not seem as modern and progressive as anywhere else?  If we leave the political situations out of the equation, you might think those from the most prosperous of countries would feel at home here.  Of course, if their nations are modern, prosperous and progressive, you might wonder if there is much interest in emigrating here.  I have not met any new Norwegians in the neighborhood.

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

What of those coming from South or Central America, for example? Would the architecture astound? Would the museums and parks enthrall?  Would the restaurants, night clubs and bars amaze? Would the typical tourists spots excite?  Let’s say you are coming to Chicago. Would you be blown away by the skyline? Would the Planetarium be out of this world? Perhaps the things that we would think provide culture shock are not those things at all. So we have a giant bean in the park (Cloud gate, actually), will this surprise a new resident?

In a world where the internet is just about everywhere, a new resident, no matter what part of the planet he or she comes from, would likely have researched the new destination. The immigrant would have seen the famous locales, and then it is only a matter of visiting in person what has been seen online. The tourists spots and infamous towers were already known. They may provide some momentary amazement but no surprise and certainly no culture shock. No, it is other things that brought shock to my new South American roommate. Surprisingly, they were in my home.

Adler Planetarium

For a couple of months I saw my roommate peel potatoes with a large knife. I never thought much of it until one day I realized he should be using the potato peeler. So I got it out of the drawer and took a potato from him and showed him how I do it. Yes, this was one of the many culture shock moments. My kitchen was filled with little gadgets that were not common to a poor household in South America. Imagine what you have in your kitchen that would be a surprise, even a shock to others.

“Rich!” my mate called out one day.  I came running, so to speak, (OK, I wasn’t actually running) as if something was wrong in the kitchen. We had recently been to the supermarket, another culture shock, where roomie had picked out some cans of tuna in oil. He showed me the can and his face told me the problem. They just did not buy canned goods in his area. Getting into a can was a mystery. I handed him a can opener but he returned it with the best “What the hell do I do with this?” look. This gave me the opportunity to demonstrate the fine art of the can opener. While we now know how to open cans, we also had to learn that we do not drain off the oil into the sink. This is why I save certain jars.

While the kitchen is filled with unique gadgets, I did not expect that the coffee maker was one of them. I guess what I have is non-traditional. It is a Hamilton Beach that has a reservoir on top and you dispense the coffee like a pop machine by depressing the lever. Roomie told a neighbor I did not have a coffee maker with a coffee pot. The nice neighbor gave him one for Christmas.  Now we have two perfectly fine coffee makers. I was shocked to find a guy from Colombia who does not know how to make good coffee. Fortunately he does not read me so I can continue to insist his weak efforts at coffee-making are just fine. I have tried to buy coffee that mentions “Colombia” on the package as one of us thinks it is the only good coffee in the world. I do not wish to shock him with coffee from other lands.

He has, of course, seen microwaves, but never actually had one. He had a television with a remote, but not multiple remotes for multiple devices. I am still trying to get him to use the on and off buttons for the satellite remote. The “on” button will turn on the satellite box and TV and when you hit it again it will turn off the television. I frequently find the box is still on while the TV is off. Getting television from other countries was no surprise, but I guess the amount of them is a bit of a shock.

The stove is rather interesting, I guess. It is not two burners hooked to a giant propane tank. It is five gas burners  I have been unsuccessful in explaining that the flame is not just on or off, but you can control the level. Everything is cooked with a high flame which usually means we have another in-home annoyance. The smoke detector is shocking every time it goes off, which is just about every time roomie cooks.

The biggest shock to date is the weather and the temperature indoors and out. The house is not a comfortable 85 degrees during the day as it is in his homeland. Now that my warm weather room-mate has figured out what the up and down arrows on the thermostat are for, I am usually in for a shock when I come in the house from outside. Thankfully it is a programmable thermostat and resets periodically. Wait until he finds out how 85 feels in Chicago in July or August when the humidity is high. Yes, the culture shock will keep coming.

 

OKTOBERFEST, THE PEOPLE’S FAIR – RICH PASCHALL

The meaning of the annual celebration, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

German-American Festival, Chicago
German-American Festival, Chicago. It seems every community wants to have an Oktoberfest.  It doesn’t matter if they have any idea what the Oktoberfest actually is.  They just want to have one.  Perhaps some think if they have enough music and beer, then they have a Fest.  Our community is no exception.  Chicago’s largest ethnic group is German-American so we think we know how to have a Fest.  As street festivals go, it is pretty good.  It is not an Oktoberfest like you would find in Germany.

Some of my friends have the Oktoberfest in Munich on their Bucket List.  They think I should want to be a party to this too.  The older I get, the worse this idea actually sounds.  For those who don’t know, around six million visitors show up for the 17 to 19 day festival.  If you do not have a reservation in advance, you are not likely to get into one of the crowded beer halls.  In fact, huge crowds of beer drinkers can get rather unhappy if they run out of beer, as happened at the 200th anniversary in 2010.
The Bavarian festival began in October 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig got married and invited the people of Bavaria to join in the celebration on the field in front of the city gate at Munich.  The celebration was held somewhat annually and eventually lengthened.  It’s beginning was moved into September and ended with the first weekend in October.  So in many ways this “Volksfest” is more of a September event.  If the 3rd (German Unity Day) falls on a Monday or Tuesday, the event gets extended to include that date.

Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgart, Germany

Contrary to what many may now think, the event was not always held.  Twenty four fall seasons saw no festival because of cholera, or war, or hard economic times.  But most years the autumnal celebrations go on around Germany and tourists flock to the carnival like events.  For those who like to wander the grounds or can not get into a hall, the outside areas now include rides, food booths and beer booths.  You might find a seat outside, but the fall weather is not always accommodating.

Cannstatter Volksfest
Cannstatter Volksfest

One year a friend who lives in France tried to organize a trip to the Munich Oktoberfest, but the reality is you must plan a year in advance in order to get in.  So we made the best decision we could have made.  Together we went to the second largest German Fest which is held in Stuttgart, Cannstatter Volksfest.  Yes, it was crowded and the weather was not the best, but we got into beer halls, drank and ate with people from around the world, stood on our benches and sang songs we barely knew.  It could not have been better.

Like many European cities, the public transportation in Stuttgart is excellent.  Although we were not particularly close to the fair grounds, we took the train and got off right at the entrance to the festival.  When we left, we found an old German sitting across from us on the train.  Since there are many beer halls featuring a different beer each, my friend asked the gentlemen what is the best beer in Germany.  “Frei bier,” he exclaimed.  That will remain one of our favorite travel moments.  We repeat it often.

Perhaps the best part of the adventure was sharing in the fun with one of my best friends.  Yes, we seem to have fun wherever our journeys take us, but we would not have found an atmosphere quite like that Oktoberfest anywhere else in the world.

Note:  Click on the Stuttgart picture for a larger version of the fair grounds.  We did walk around in the rain, just like everyone else.