Local: B’nai Zion Synagogue

January 15th, 2011 by matt

So I’m going to try a new addition to the blog. Before moving to London, I had bought an apartment in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago. It’s the farthest north neighborhood in the city. Coming back after a 3.5 year hiatus, I find myself looking at it differently. I’m curious about the history around it and so I thought I’d try a little bit of educating myself about what’s around here.

With that in mind, there are some interesting buildings and goings on in the area and I thought I’d try writing about them. Let’s begin right around the corner from our home. One building north of us is the remains of an old synagogue. It’s a rather large building but it just sort of nestles into the scenery:

It ceased to serve a religious purpose in 2002, around the time I first moved to Chicago, so it’s not been a house worship for a decent chunk of time. But, it’s a beautiful building on the outside.  As Roger’s Park was absorbed by Chicago, it began to grow along with the rest of the city. Among the new groups of people arriving in the area was a decently large sized Jewish community. It peaked at around 20,000 Jews after WWII. B’nai Zion was the first Conservative Jewish synagogue in Chicago and this building opened it doors right before the Great Depression. It’s quite large, the picture above is only about half of it (there’s a second section to the right).

This is the main entrance to the building showing some of the nice decoration.

After WWII, Chicago began a slow decline and Roger’s Park began to see the changes as well. The Jewish population moved to the suburbs and the need for a synagogue in the area became less important. There is still a rather large orthodox community, but they live in points west of East Roger’s Park. The end finally came in 2002, when B’nai Zion merged with another synagogue and took up residence in a different home (at least that’s the address they advertise). The synagogue has been replaced by the Lake Shore Schools, so it’s still able to serve the community, just in a different way.

Roger’s Park has seen a lot and been through a lot of changes over the years. This building simply stands as evidence of one of those waves of people who came through, established a community here and was replaced by other groups.

**Some credit for the information above: Much of my information  about the synagogue came from an article about it’s demise and this nice article from the Roger’s Park Historical Society.**

A Holiday House

December 10th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’re back in our home and it’s the holidays, so we decided to have our first tree together. Behold our Christmas tree!


We had a lovely assist in the decorating by our friends Dave and Melissa and their daughter Leili. Leili did a lot of the  work:


I don’t know what we would have done without her. Thanks Leili! 🙂

Chicago is a Winter Wonderland

December 4th, 2010 by matt

Today winter finally hit for real. We’d had a week of horribly cold weather (yeah, yeah, 20F isn’t cold and I’d best get ready for worse), but we were rewarded this morning to a nice white morning. I walked out of our bedroom (which was nice and toasty and dark) to see nothing but white out our living room window! How nice. We spent a lot of the day walking around doing various things and it was a pleasure to be tramping through the snow. Unlike London, Chicago keeps on doing what Chicago does.


Here’s Carolyn standing outside our lovely home with lots of pretty snow around us.


Here’s the view down our street from our front door. I hope for many more of these. Life’s much better if it’s snowy when it’s cold. Cold for colds sake is far less fun. 🙂

Scenes of Home

November 8th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’re still in a bit of limbo. We have a home, it has some furnishings, but most of our stuff is a week or two from arriving and we have no bed (the futon for guests is quite comfortable). But it’s all coming along smoothly, which is great. Thought I’d share a couple of scenes from life in our new home.


I missed the perfect light on this by about 5 minutes, but as I was eating breakfast in our nice big dining room, I realized how nice the leaves on that tree looked. It’s nice that our place has such a nice view out back like this. It feels peaceful even if we live in a city.


Well, Chewy might have had a crazy adventure back to his home, but here he is, clearly quite settled in. His favourite spots seem to be any bathtubs, sinks and any place where the sunbeam is living at the moment. 🙂

Scenes from Our Neighborhood

October 22nd, 2010 by carolyn

So we have spent this week exploring the neighborhood in between doing fun stuff like getting phones, getting a new drivers license and organizing our stuff.  It has been beautiful autumn weather here and its been nice getting out and exploring our new (old) home.

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The lake, art, funky buildings and what American neighborhood would be complete without 7-11 and McDonalds?  So for those of you still reading, a poll……..

Is anyone interested in hearing a bit about our observations as we move back to Chicago?  Is it interesting or just annoying?  When this whole blog started out 3+ years ago, Matt was writing a lot of “wow, this is really interesting about London stuff”.  Is it time to do a bit of this in reverse?  Let us know what you think.

A Safe Passage to America

October 18th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’re back! So far, all is smooth, we are getting a lot done and beginning a jetlagged adjustment. On a happy happy note, Chewy behaved like a professional traveling cat and arrived this afternoon at O’Hare. After about 30 minutes of curious, spooked poking around, he’s finding his old hangouts in his old home and following me around like he hadn’t spent 16 hours in a box. Way to go Chewy! Here he is having his first US meal:


Lots to do and next week, I start work again! Sweet! 🙂

Time for Some Big Changes

July 10th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’ve not made mention of it on the blog, so I thought it was time. I started writing here in January 2007, a few months before I moved to London. Now, in the next 2-3 months, our time in London will come to an end. I’m going to transfer back to Chicago, same company, back to the same apartment. And yet, in the last 3+ years, nothing is really the same. It’s been a time of so many change for Carolyn and I, that this is just another one of those. Weddings, deaths, new friends, a million new experiences. But now it’s time to move back. We’ll keep updating here. Originally, it was mostly just for a few people (particularly Carolyn while and I were apart). It’s remained that way, but it’s also become a chance for us to make a semi-permanent (we’ll download all the entries and print them) record of what we’ve done here.

Anyway, that’s some big news! More fun to come. 🙂

A Quick Trip Through Chicago

April 14th, 2008 by matt

Well, my wedding season is upon me. Four weddings in 5 weeks. This includes my own. Yikes. In the meantime, I’ve got a bunch of postings which will I’ll hopefully put online soon. Alas, Carolyn won’t help me (*cough* *cough*) so I’ve got to do it myself.

Anyhoo, the real point of this email isn’t passive aggressiveness, but to mention that, as phase one of my month of weddings, I will be passing through Chicago! For 12 hours! Since Cleveland, which is where wedding one is located, has no direct flights from London, I thought I’d spend a night in Chicagoland. I’ll be arriving on Thursday 17 April and be free by hopefully 7 or 8pm. I’m hoping to catch up with folks. I don’t know where to eat yet, but if you have any suggestions, lemme know as I’m torn between a number of places. Also, if you’re in town that night and free, drop me an email and I’ll send you the details of the plan. Hope to be able to see folks, even if for a brief moment! My flight to Cleveland leaves the next morning, so I’m not around for that long. Sniffle.

Chicago News

January 19th, 2008 by matt

I’m back in England again and just getting back into the flow of things. I’ll be posting some stuff over the next few days. In the meantime, here’s some Chicago news for you:

  1. Looks like calling Cook County Hospital (where ER takes place) Stroger Hospital is no longer so creepy. The man they named it after, former Cook Country Board President John Stroger, died yesterday. He suffered a stroke a few days before a hotly contested primary almost 2 years ago in which his family used some shameful tactics to have his son put in his place.
  2. After many years of political bullshit, the Illinois legislature has actually passed a funding bill that’ll stop the CTA (local public transit) from whinging every year or two about not having enough money. I bitched about this late last year when they yet again dodged a doomsday situation.

Another Link to Chicago Leaving

November 17th, 2007 by matt

Well, today is officially Carolyn’s last day in Chicago. She had a little gathering a bar called the Globe (and English style bar, I might add). Tomorrow morning, she and her friend Mehreen, will be loading up her car for the trip to NJ, leaving Chicago after three years. It’s very bittersweet. I’m sad she’s leaving Chicago (for herself and because it’s one less person I know there), but it means she’s closer to joining me in London, which is nice.

Everyone wish Carolyn a safe drive and good luck on her next round of adventures!! 🙂

Chicago: Doomsday for Real?

November 1st, 2007 by matt

So it seems like every year, the CTA does their usual song and dance in which they threaten to cut service to such a level no one could actually use it and raise fares so only someone who could afford a limo can pay. Then the legislature, instead of looking at the larger picture issues with funding, passes a stop-gap bill that pays for things, until next year.

Well, this year, it looks like the game has come to a head. In four days, if the legislature screws around some more, there will be major cuts to buses and massive fare increases. Hell, the fares in some situations rival Londons tube fares. Yikes!

Well, to all the lovely people in Chicago, I hope this goes the way it normally does. Personally, I think the CTA needs major work to run better, but they should get a shitload more funding. But I’m a huge fan of public transit and people need to remember that public transit is SUPPOSED to be subsidized and not make money. It’s an infrastructure cost that makes a city more liveable and desirable. And it more often benefits the people that might not be able to afford a car. Stop blowing money on highways and fix the trains!

A Trip to the Friendly Confines

August 5th, 2007 by matt

So I have a post about my previous day on my Chicago trip, but I checked the news this morning and saw some baseball related info that seemed relevant to another activity I partook of whilst in Chicago.

The previous evening, I went out with a whole lot of people and braved the rain and lightning to see the Decemberists play in the Frank Gehry designed bandshell. Our friend Sof was there and, as we were leaving, he mentioned that he had a free ticket to see the Cubs the following afternoon and hinted that they were pretty freaking good seats. With everyone else having to work and stuff, I gladly took him up on the offer.

The day started out beautiful, but kept looking ominous and cloudy. They called for rain, but all that happened in the end was a little sprinkling of rain and some nice cloud cover from the sun.

Welcome to Wrigley!

After a little bit of missing each other in the crowds, we met up with two of Sof’s friends. Their dad had managed to pick up some box seats from work for free and couldn’t go, so he passed them on to his daughters and, eventually, I ended up with one! Well, these seats were about 20 rows back and slightly to the left of home plate. Very very nice. See for yourself:


Very nice view of the game. Which just meant that I actually had to watch it. So, while I did imbibe some alcohol at the game, I can actually recall what happened. It was a high scoring affair, with the Cubs jumping out to a big lead and squandering it. The big highlight (or lowlight, depending on your perspective) was Barry Bonds hitting homeruns 752 and 753.

Which brings me to why I’m writing about this today instead of the Decemberists concert. I’m not going to try to go into the obvious fact that Barry Bonds has been cheating for many years in order to reach a milestone that is one of those records that has and should be hard to break. I just think it’s a shame that major league baseball has appeared to wash their hands of it. He’s going to break the record very very soon (now that he’s tied it), and it doesn’t look like, short of them catching him taking steroids or HGH, there’s not much anyone can do about it. Which is kind of sad. Hitting that many homeruns is an impressive feat, but it appears as though he repeatedly tried any means he could to take things to enhance his game while not getting caught in the act.

I’ll leave it to someone who knows better than I to say a little more about it. Bob Costas, while he can get on my nerves, has a great interview here where he lays out the (circumstantial) reasons why it’s pretty obvious that Bonds has been using steroids (or other shit to make himself a gigantic man). Ok, no more rant. I think, in the end, that Major League Baseball deserves a whole lot of the blame for basically approving of these kinds of actions.
Anyway, I was really happy to have a chance to enjoy a day at a baseball game. I am not the biggest sports enthusiast, but I always like to catch a game or two every summer. It’s always a fun time.

Back to London

July 25th, 2007 by matt

Well, I’m back in the UK now and only somewhat jetlagged. I had a wonderful time in Chicago and I’ll be trying to add entries about some of the more interesting things/days of the trip. For all the fine people I was able to see, it was tons of fun. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later! 🙂

A Very Carolyn Birthday – Part 1

July 22nd, 2007 by matt

Now, aside from wanting to propose to Carolyn, another reason for my visiting Chicago when I did was to celebrate her 30th birthday. It turned into more of a weekend long celebration, so I’ll write about each day separately. There might be a little overlap from other posts, but bear with me 🙂
The day started with a jet-lagged Matt, since he had just arrived the day before, waking up pretty much constantly from about 4am onward. Once I was up and about, it was time to begin a nice Chicago day. We first went off to Metropolis, which is home to the finest coffee in Chicago. I know it’s still an Intelligentsia town, but I much prefer Metropolis. They roast all their own beans in small batches and understand that making a coffee drink is an art. Once I was caffeined up, Carolyn and I did a little volunteer work. She has recently been spending her Saturday mornings at the Ginkgo Organic Garden near her apartment, so we went up there to help harvest vegetables (100lbs of it) and do some general weeding and maintenance of the garden. All the food grown there goes to local food banks.

After a little rest and cleaning, we began the first day of celebrations. We started by going to the Hopleaf. It’s an upscale bar with a wide selection of beers (on tap and in bottles). Their focus is on Belgian beer, but they have beer from all over the world. They also have food, but that wasn’t on the schedule this night. We met Dave and Melissa for a little pre-dinner drinks:


(That’s Carolyn and Melissa)

Eventually, we made our way a little further north to our dinner destination, Ethiopian Diamond where we also met up with Virginia and Carolyn W. We’d been there for Dan’s birthday the previous year and it was a fun group dinner. For those of you unaware, ethiopian food is typically eaten on a big platter with a sponge-like bread instead of utensils. This place is particularly tasty. We got a wide variety of food (chicken, lamb, beef, chickpea and okra dishes) and sampled the range of African beers they offer. Here would be the food:


And here is the birthday girl and her birthday ‘cake’:


After filling up on some good food, it was time to move down the street to Moody’s. It’s one of the more interesting bars in the city. The interior, unlike much of the city, is not air-conditioned, so in the summer, it’s very warm inside. On top of that, it’s got a very dark vibe and a fireplace which makes the inside a little scary. However, they have a gigantic beer garden (about twice the size of the inside bar) and is a great place for some beer and conversation. Their beer choices are limited but good (Anchor and Berghoffs on tap) and the price is ridiculously cheap ($9 for a pitcher of Anchor). On top of that, they have huge, cheap plates of fries and good burgers (people argue they’re the best in the city — I’m not convinced, but they are tasty). Anyway, we headed here for beer and conversation, as well as to meet up with some fine folks who couldn’t meet for dinner (Anne, Dan and Ryan). Here is an attempt at capturing the beer garden at night:


I personally started to crash after a few beers and fries and, thankfully, the night wound down. But, we all departed around midnight well fed and happy. For Carolyn, she still had more birthday fun to come the next day.