Christmas Tree Removal

I have always cut and chopped my Christmas trees and burned them in my fireplace for the past several years, so I didn’t need to think about their disposal. But I also knew that there was a certain day when I could leave a tree by the garbage containers, and the village would pick it up.

With this in mind, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to get rid of a Christmas tree while living in Chicago – I heard that there were a lot of free programs available. But when I checked on the first week of January, it turned out that you have to drop your tree off at designated sites. I couldn’t do it without a car, and no Uber would drive a tree for me. I looked and looked, and nobody was offering this service. A couple of websites indicated that they are sold out. Finally, I found one service called Tree Santa and signed for a tree pickup on January 10.
The night before, I stripped the tree of all decorations, and Igor and I carried it down and put it in the corner of our courtyard.

They were supposed to text me the day before about a more precise pickup time, so when there was nothing, I messaged them, and they replied that they had too many requests and staff shortage, and they extended pickups till January 21, and can they move me to the EOW. I told them I could only wait till Wednesday, and they promised to reschedule.

The new pickup time was set to 2:30 PM on January 12. At 3:15 I messaged them and asked what’s the ETA :). They said that they are struggling (which I completely understand!) and that they will update me. At 5:15 (since they are supposedly working till 5 PM only) I messaged that it’s OK, I understand, but tomorrow is absolutely the last day. They messaged back: are you sure the tree is still there? I replied – yes, because I would need to unlock the gate for somebody to pick up the tree!

Then, at 6:30, I went skating because I didn’t want to miss this opportunity again. And guess what – when I was skating, somebody called me: can you open the gate? Well, it was almost 8 PM, and I was 50 minutes away from my house!

I started to text my neighbors, nobody responded right away, but in 2 min the tree person called me and said that somebody had let him in. Well, it ended up being my neighbor :). ‘
All well that ends well, but that’s a very typical story of this COVD winter!

Things Evolve. Why Is It So Difficult To Understand?

Rex Huppke’s column in Monday’s Tribune was about the teacher’s strike and their fight with Mayor Lori, and there was a paragraph that I especially liked. I liked It because I always felt being in the minority when I tried to explain this to other people: public guidelines change not because all officials are stupid, but because our knowledge about the situation changes.

And also, because overall circumstances might change.

Here is this quote:

We need to do all we can to get back to a semblance of pre-pandemic life. And at this point virtually everyone agrees that a top priority is keeping kids in school for in-person learning.

But that desire for normalcy doesn’t jibe with the unpredictability of a virus. The problem we’ve had, almost from the start, is a lack of patience and an unwillingness to accept that sometimes our understanding of new things evolves, and circumstances change.

First we were told masks weren’t necessary, then we were told they’re crucial. That’s because scientists developed a better understanding of how the virus is transmitted, but many took it as, “Well, they don’t know what they’re talking about and I don’t want to wear one of those face diapers anyway!”

The vaccines were good at preventing the spread of earlier variants, but the omicron variant has proven better at infecting vaccinated people. So some see that and as evidence vaccines don’t work, totally ignoring the fact that vaccinated people who get COVID-19 rarely need to be hospitalized.

The pandemic seemed to be receding, but now, with omicron and the colder winter months, it has surged again. Some can’t handle that concept and say we just need to open up everything and live our lives.

That’s what many are saying about the public schools in Chicago: “How dare they shut down again! Open it up! Even if my kids gets COVID-19, they’ll be fine.”

The words “my kids” are at the heart of this country’s problem, and the reason we’re all but destined to continue struggling with this virus.

It’s an excellent article in general, but I find these paragraphs I cited especially important. For months now, I do not understand why many people can’t understand just that – that our collective knowledge changes, that virus evolves and that recommendations have to change, it does not mean that officials “do not know what they are doing/saying.” And I do not know why it is so difficult to understand.

A Couple Of Horror COVID Stories

When I heard from my friend in Russia that our other mutual friend is attacking people on public transport wearing masks, I thought it was as crazy as it could get. But a couple of days later, I talked to my hairstylist from Palatine. She and her boyfriend both got COVID right before Christmas. She was vaccinated and had a mild case, while her boyfriend was not, and he had it more severe. But the frightening thing is that the boyfriend’s parents do not believe in COVD, and they were shaming the poor girl for “being a baby” and not wanting to come to their house for Christmas!!! They actually insisted on them coming, although they were both sick, and guess what – these parents got COVID! 

She was also saying that in Palatine, many people reject masks and that in her hair salon, she has to ask whether the clients are comfortable with her wearing a mask!!! I don’t know what I can add to that…

Cultural Activities

I made almost all Christmas shows I would ever want to make this holiday season, except for the Nutcracker. The Christmas Carol closed for several because of the exposure in the cast, but they are back on stage.

The vaccination requirements for pretty much all indoor spaces go into effect on January 3, and I hope that it will go like this without closing everything. In Finland, they are closing theaters, pools, and gyms starting from Tuesday but still have libraries open, as my friend informed me.

I hope that in Chicago we will be able to keep things open with vaccine mandate and avoid massive closing and going remote!

November 8

I finally read the new guidelines for entering the USA for foreign tourists, which are going into effect the following Monday. I like that there are no more per country considerations, and the requirements are uniform across the globe. That is a huge plus. I am slightly upset that we still have to take a COVD test before returning to the US, but once again, that applies to both citizens and visitors, so I can’t complain. Besides, I completely understand the rationale behind this requirement.

The thing which I was upset about was the exclusion of Sputnik from the list of approved vaccines. Formally speaking, it is not targeted vaccine discrimination; it’s just that Sputnik is not approved by WHO yet. But the thing is that people in Russia who are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated still won’t be able to travel to the US.

And I am not talking about tourists. I am talking about people such as my mom’s friend whose daughter was working on her green card, and her interview in the embassy was scheduled for March 20, 2020… And I am not even talking about people from many other countries, including Mexico, that purchased Sputnik.

“Contagion” With Dr. Allison Arwady

Since the Siskel Center reopening in August, they screen so many interesting films that I want to be there every other day! One of the series is called Chicago Favorites, and last Saturday, they screened “Contagion” with special guest Dr. Allison Arwady. It was a little bit surreal to see her live after seen her on-screen almost every day for the past 18 months :), and the conversation was exceptionally interesting. At the time when this movie was filmed, she worked as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, just as Kate Winslet’s character in the movie.


People asked Dr. Allison how close to reality things are presented in the movie and whether at that time she thought that such things could happen for real (her reply: absolutely, it was not the question of if, but when). She mentioned that quarantining Chicago in the situation described in the movie wouldn’t make sense and that as for the movie’s food shortage, she said: we grow our own food! So although the supply chain disruption is real as we see it, it won’t end up in the food shortage and people breaking into the stores (that happened for different reasons!)
You know what I like about Dr. Arwady? She is in front of people almost every day. She is never falsely optimistic, but she also never panic, and her explanations of the Chicago Health Department policies are clear and making sense. That e-being said, she is very optimistic about our future, and she says vaccines work exactly like expected, and we couldn’t even hope for such an outcome, And we will get through it.

And I trust her!

The Crowds On The Streets

The crowds on the streets of Chicago during the past weekend were ginormous! It was not even pre-covid level; it was more than that! It was like being in New York on the New Year’s Eve.

Lena and I opted to wear masks outside most of the time because the crowds didn’t make it much better than inside. Who needs Lalapaloose with such crowds! (they said that Lala ended up not being a super-spreader after all). 

On Friday, our office building issued a mask mandate inside, and today, it was officially announced by the City. I am perfectly fine with that; as I already said multiple times, I would rather do things masked than not do things. 

Also, remember all these subscriptions I as purchasing in the past several weeks? Today, all the entertainment establishments sent out emails of proof of vaccination required to attend the event. It was decided by the League of Chicago Theatres. During the past several weeks, some of them even sent out surveys asking the patrons how they would react to the vaccination mandate. I was happy to answer – yes, I support it! 

Dr. Alyson Awdrey said during the press conference today, that the number of infected people per day in Chicago, although it has risen several times since June (from less than 100 to over 400), is still way below the 2,000 cases per day in winter. 

I hope that people will get vaccinated!

A Day Without Deaths

Today is the first day after the beginning of the pandemic when there were no deaths recorded in the state of Illinois. It does not mean that it’s all over. It does not even mean that there were no deaths. And we may wait for a while to see another day like this. But still – that’s the day to celebrate. To celebrate and to remember those who died during pandemic. That’s the day to multiply our efforts to prevent as many deaths as possible. That’s the day to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Oh yes, and the Crown Fountain is operating again 🙂

Chicago Reopening

Chicago reopening is happening in a non-obvious way. Most of the museums and attractions are moving slowly, and often, there is no way to find out except for some random announcements.

Just five minutes ago, I found out that the Bean and the Buckingham fountain are open! And I can’t find any information about the Crown fountain. I would love to know because my granddaughters are coming on Thursday, and I was so hoping that they will be able to splash in the Crown fountain.

Most of the Museums lifted the mask mandate for vaccinated people, but we might keep our masks on when going to the Aquarium because the children are not vaccinated. Honestly, I would prefer that they keep the mask requirements but open the children’s centers and cafes.

When I walk the street of the city, which I love so much, I see many places that are closed forever. I recall how in spring 2020, I wrote a post about the “wounded city.” And now I walk the streets and still see these wounds. Some of them still didn’t heal; others did, but the scars remain… God only knows how long it will take, but it could be worse…

That’s my city!
Restaurants running out of capacity

Half-pandemic May

Today, Chicago and the state of Illinois lifted most remaining COVID-19 mitigation-related masking and social distancing requirements and capacity limits. It isn’t quite the end of an era, but it is a step forward.

But when I wrote a decent chunk of this post (on June 7), many of those limits were still in place, and Chicagoland region was caught in an interesting half-way state that had as much to do with people’s attitudes as anything that was formally required.

I’ve been Chicagoland specifically because the United States, for better or for worse, continues to be a patchwork of restrictions, regulations and approaches. For the past 12 months, I’ve been able to sit down in coffee shops in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and Michigan City (Indiana), but not in Chicago and most suburbs. Masking has also varied – as I mentioned before, Kenoshans really didn’t mask much until the fall 2020 surge in cases.

In the past two months, we saw two major developments.

In late April, CDC issued a recommendation stating that people don’t have to wear masks outdoors – though it still recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Then, on May 13, it recommended allowing vaccinated people to go maskless indoors, except in public transit, government buildings, hospitals and some other congregate settings. Illinois and Chicago specifically adjusted their respective regulations accordingly – which meant, in practice, that businesses and public institutions such as libraries could continue requiring everybody to wear masks, if they so chose.

Continue reading “Half-pandemic May”