In Chicago

On Tuesday, I went to Chicago, mostly to deliver cookies for several people in the city. I was surprised and delighted to see that they put up a Christmas tree inside the Palatine train station.

There is way less people n the train that in was in October, but still more than in March and April.

Continue reading “In Chicago”

About the Past Several Days

These past several days were not the best days of my life. On Wednesday, we learned about the stay-at-home advisory, first for Chicago, and the next day – for Cook County. The case numbers raised alarmingly. A couple of days before that, we already discussed with Anna their most-likely-not-coming for Thanksgiving. And the question was not even about what officials were saying, but about the number of cases themselves. It is evident that the tough decisions had to be made, and it was so sad.

I do not doubt the necessity of all the measures; it’s just devastating that we need to go in this direction again.

On Wednesday evening, I went to do my nails; there was no call for the nail spas to close, but still, I was the only client at 5-30 PM.

On Thursday, I went to the office, primarily because I wanted to take home some food which I left there. Also, I wanted to do one more tour of the city before we part for a while again.
There will be no activities in the ODS, and our forest preserve volunteering is also postponed till mid-December.

It took me a while to go through all of these emotions. Plus, I was so preoccupied with these emotions that I could hardly be productive; meanwhile, the work which was not done continues to pile up.

I feel better now, and I finally put myself through all these, “yet another time.” Hope-hope-hope, it will be better, I mean, I will feel better:). It’s just so hard…

For Our Victory!

Tuesdays ended up being the last day for many things. It was the last day of this unusual stretch of warm weather, and the last day of dining out – the indoor dining is banned in Chicago for now, and I do not thing it will be realistic to sit outdoors in winter.

I met with Vlad to celebrate the elections victory – since Saturday, we were talking about drinking champaign :). And so we did it on Tuesday:

After work, I went to the ODS. That was the time, when we weather started turning to the cold sharply, with tornado warning, and the winds blowing crazy, and the thunderstorm, and the temperature dropping 40F in the course of three hours. We cooked dinner, and had great conversations. Afterwards, I talked to the volunteer coordinator, and we shared our mutual feeling that we might go on lockdown again, with the cases being so hight. So we decided not to make any further plans, until we know.

We are not on the lockdown formally, but the Illinois Department of Public Health asks everybody to stay at home for the next three weeks, which I am going to oblige. I am going to the office today, just to pick up food which I left in the fridge, and then, I guess, next time will be only after the Thanksgiving. It is very sad, but you know what – I can’t say that I am better than others, and the ask is not related to me. It’s for everybody.

Summer In November

Last week, I wore boots and gloves, and just last weekend, I moved all outdoor furniture into the basement and folded the big outdoor umbrella. And then, the Universe gave us this incredible gift: not just one day, but three days of summer in November, and three more days to come!
Yes, I pulled my sandals back from storage, and I biked, and I had my kitchen door opened for the whole day. How much of summer those who above is going to give us, I will take it all!

Trump bridge stays open – a view from a distance
Continue reading “Summer In November”

On Indoor Dining Ban And The New Metra Schedule

It’s not because the indoor dining closer hurts Vlad; after all, his place is probably the least vulnerable of all in the city. But in general, I find it hard to agree with the governor on this particular measure. I truly believe (and he himself said it previously) that the infections spike comes mostly from the private gatherings (where nobody enforces anything!) rather than from indoor dining. And I think that the ban on indoor dining will make things worse because there will be more private gatherings, where nobody controls the number of people, mask-wearing and such.

Last week, a day before the governor banned indoor dining in the city, Metra announced that they increase the number of trains on our line, “adding more express trains and addressing the service gaps.” Which was good; as I mentioned earlier, as Metra enforces 1/4 of cars capacity, there were some days when I could hardly find a seat on a train on my way back from the city.

However, I was wondering – more people to the city and fewer places to have lunch? And just when the weather became colder! I was wondering what the situation will be at the train station in the city. I found it out on Saturday when I went for my clinic escort shift: the food court was open, and there were tables and chairs just as they were for the last several weeks: at 6+ feet distance, one chair per table. Which made me realize that the station has effectively become an indoor dining place, and it’s an option when I want to feed Igor 🙂

On the same note: on Saturday, I was leaving pretty early, and I had all intention to grab a coffee at the Palatine Train Station Starbucks. To my astonishment, they were closed, as we used to say, “without any declaration of the war.” It was a chilly morning, and I had to wait till I got to the city to get my first cup of coffee. The ad on the door said: temporarily closed, sorry for the inconvenience, with no reason provided.

I was wondering how long it is going to last, but last night when I checked the Starbucks app, I found that not only this location is open again, but moreover, they now operate insane hours: from 4-30 AM to 8 PM on workdays (Friday till 8-30), from 5-30 AM on Saturdays and from 6 AM on Sundays. Which again signals that the station will be effectively the indoor dining place.

We shall see. Vlad hopes that the ban won’t last long, and I hope the same.

Breaking the rules in private vs protesting in public and the Soviet mentality

Last week, my mom wrote about the seeming contradiction she’s seen with her Russian friends, who’ve seen even peaceful protests as somehow innately bad, while not minding violating laws on the sly.

I definitely get where she’s coming from. Growing up in Russia, I’ve often seen grown-ups express the attitude that it’s almost virtuous to take advantage of loopholes, and there’s nothing wrong with violating the rules so long as they aren’t effectively enforced. Similarly, I’ve seen plenty of people take pride in following the letter of the law while violating the spirit. And it’s not even a solely Russian thing – as I got older, I saw the same kind of attitude in many other ex-Soviet countries.

I’ve already been thinking about this a lot during the pandemic. During the Illinois lockdown, people weren’t supposed to go outside except for essential reasons, such as buying groceries. But there were several professions that were exempt from that, including journalists. So long as it was in the service of performing journalism duties, we were allowed to go wherever wanted.

Which is where the gray area came in. There is only so much journalism one can do from behind the computer screen. Sometimes, one has to go to places, see things as they happen, take pictures, talk to people. And sometimes, you need to see conditions on the ground to figure out what’s worth writing about. And so, as those of you who followed me on social media know, I took trips to the suburbs, just to get out of the house and have a change of scenery. I took pictures and took notes that could be used for the article. A few times, I even legitimately got story ideas this way, or took pictures that were actually used in articles – but there were times that I didn’t. And there were some instances when I took pictures for fun and wound up using them in articles because it just happened to be apropos. But there were also times when I didn’t use them for anything.

My mom wasn’t amused by any of this, chiding me for doing non-essential travel, but I honestly didn’t feel bad. Who was to say that any given trip wouldn’t retroactively serve a journalistic purpose? To quote Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, it was a technicality I intended to hide firmly behind, if anybody asked (which nobody did).

Honestly, I was more confused why my mom took issue with that. She actually grew up in the Soviet Union, and i know for a fact that, back then, she did things that weren’t legal, and things that were on the gray side.

It was the same thing with my visits to the Chicago beaches during the summer. While the beaches weren’t closed, the closures weren’t enforced after 7:00 PM. I didn’t feel bad about not following the rules when they weren’t in any way enforced, especially when other people did the same thing.

Now, unlike my mom’s Russian friends, I have no issue with protests, at least not per se. Even when I don’t necessarily agree with the goals, I don’t have this common Russian reaction of “what are they doing, they’re just stirring up trouble.” Protests bring attention to issues. They make a statement that the way things are won’t be tolerated. What is so wrong with people risking arrest and injury to stand up for their beliefs?

(Now, people wanting to protest without being willing to risk anything is another story)

As I commented on my mom’s blog, I don’t think the contradiction she talked about is that much of a contradiction at all. She and her friends grew up in the Soviet Union. Protest actions get people in trouble – ergo, those who start trouble are trouble-makers. Now, exploiting the blind spots of law enforcement, exploiting the loopholes and the legal particulars, doesn’t get you in trouble (if you do it right), so that’s okay.

I think it relates to the phenomenon Suki Kim described in Without You, There’s No Us, a book about her time teaching college students from North Korean Workers’ Party elite. She was struck by how her students lied constantly, without good reason, and how lying seemed so natural to them, and speculated that it was the consequence of growing up in a society where being truthful was a liability. DPRK apparatus is basically Stalinism on steroids, and my mom’s friends weren’t old enough to experience Stalinism in its original form directly, but I do think that any society where expressing one’s opinions has severe consequences makes lying feel more natural, and makes concerns about self-preservation all the more overwhelming. And, as my own example shows, one doesn’t need to live under Soviet repression to absorb some of the lessons it taught its citizens.

And, thinking at it now, I think another factor that may play into this is that my mom’s generation came of age during Perestroika, when protests helped end the Kremlin Coup and end Soviet Union once and for all – only to experience the economic devastation, privatization creating a class of oligarchs and plunging so many people further into poverty, things like job guarantees vanishing overnight… Might put a few people off protesting,

I don’t think it’s necessarily one thing, but an interaction of all three, with perhaps some factors I haven’t considered mixed in.

I will end with one side note. As several second-generation Russian-American immigrants have observed on Facebook, it’s been kind of fascinating to watch the same people who cheered on protests in Belarus complain about BLM protesters, and the same people who’d complain about police brutality in Belarus excuse police excesses in United States.

But that goes to a whole different, albeit related, bundle of traumas.

Life In Chicago

Today, I asked Vlad to meet me for lunch because I needed to discuss several things with him. We didn’t plan very well, and I had a work emergency, so first, I ended up being late, and then he was late, although he texted me that he is already parking.

When he finally came in, he told me that he had trouble finding a parking spot and that he had to park at a very expensive place. But then he said that he feels good about it because it means that the city is getting back to normal.

I can second these feelings because yesterday, I felt similarly annoyed when I could not turn left from my subdivision to the main road. Annoyed, but also glad :).
Among the things I wanted to talk about was the future of the restaurant business. In Chicago, with our notoriously brutal winters, everybody is talking about this! Vlad thinks that people will still be heading for indoor seating when the weather will become colder regardless of the higher risk. I am not sure how he thinks our legislators will do, but even in Finland, they had to back up under the business demands. We shall see. I also hope that rapid testing will be more available. Last week, Vlad was hosting a private even with Abbott Labs, and since they developed this rapid test, they tested each and single participant and each and single server at this event. It would be cool if we could have this rapid testing everywhere!

Oh, and funny story. Today was the first time since early March that I was not alone in the elevator going down in our office building:)