One of my favorite neighborhood hang-outs is Jury’s – located at the corner of Lincoln and Pensacola. I have been going there for YEARS.  Jury’s is like the TV show “Cheers” – everybody there knows my name.

Well, after 30+ years in the restaurant biz, Dan and Pete have finally retired and sold the business to John – who I met for the first time yesterday. (The deal closed June 1.) John is out-going and gregarious. He seems perfectly suited and willing to carry-on the Jury’s tradition. He has made the decision to keep all of the staff. The menu has not changed significantly. All the old favorites are still there – particularly those amazing pub burgers – with a couple of new additions: Sloppy Joe’s and tacos come immediately to mind. (BTW: Wed is still burger day.) He has recently given the place a new coat of paint – changing the white walls to a more soothing Chocolate brown above the plate rail and a French blue below. Otherwise, everything remains pretty much the same.

In the spirit of supporting your local businesses, stop in and say ‘hey!’ to the Jury’s crew.

“All Things With Exuberance!”

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Unwanted Text Messages?

Do you get ‘spam’ text messages sent to your phone? If you are like me, you probably just get annoyed and delete them, right? WRONG!

Being spammed is bad enough. However, while reviewing my cell phone bill the other day, I noticed that there are $20 in charges for a couple of text message subscription services that I know nothing about. ?!? So I called the phone company. I don’t know if this kind of thing happens frequently or not – but the rep reversed the charges without any question. She told me that in the future, when I get these ‘spam’ text messages I should reply with the message “STOP!” That will prevent any charges from ever appearing on my bill.

I actually just received one of these spam messages just a few minutes ago. I followed the phone rep’s suggestion. Instantly I got a confirming text back saying that I was unsubscribed to their service.

How I ever got subscribed to these services to begin with is another question. I suppose there are unscrupulous people inputting cell phone numbers that they come across and are hoping to make money by virtue of the fact that:

  1. Most people never bother to review their bills – they just pay them. Or even if they notice the charges, they will not take the time to call and dispute them.
  2. Most people do not know that they should reply to spam with an ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘stop’ message. Until I talked to the phone rep, my thinking was that replying would be exactly the wrong thing to do – because that would confirm that it was a valid number and only encourage further spam.

On the subject of reviewing your monthly bills – it is really a palaver. And in this day and age when we are all so busy, who has the time? However, you would be stunned at how many errors appear on your bills every month! If I can just give you one tip that will NOT make your life any easier, but CAN have an impact on your monthly expenses, it would be to take to the time to review the charges on your monthly bills.

And if you do not have time to manage your bills, consider hiring an assistant that, once or twice a month, sits down and goes through all your bills, writes out all the checks for your signature and inputs the amounts into your money management software. The money you save not paying unwanted and unnecessary expenses will probably more then pay for the assistant.

“To Your Success!”

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Five Fun Things To Do This Weekend

1)  Free Ice Cream Tasting: Saturday 12-3 at City Provisions – 1820 W. Wilson.
Amaretto, chocolate caramel, pink grapefruit sorbet & ..?

2) Chicago Cycle Swap: More than 30 bike shops, non-profits and people will be offering great deals on bikes. Goose Island beer and bike gear will round out the offerings. Feb 26, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission: $10 (cash only) Kids 12 and under are free. Proceeds benefit the Active Transportation Alliance and Chicago Bike Winter. Pulaski Park Field House. 1419 W. Blackhawk St. 312-427-3325.  http://activetrans.org/swap

3) Ravenswood PinkWalk: Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM on Ravenswood Industrial Corridor (Ravenswood Ave from Irving Park to Lawrence). House Beautiful is giving away Pink Chairs this weekend in conjunction with Art Walk on Ravenswood Ave. (Follow HB on facebook and twitter for clues to find the chairs.)

4) Free Concert: Ravenswood Community Orchestra is holding a Free Concert Sun Feb 27th @ 7pm. 2219 W. Irving Park – The Ackerman Center (at St. Ben’s)

5)  Dog Show: International Cluster of Dog Shows at McCormick Plan. More than 10,000 dogs will compete. Check the website for discount coupons. Feb 26 – 27, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.. TIckets: $18. Kids under 12 free with an adult. 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. 773-237-5100 http://ikcdogshow.com

And, of course, wrap up the weekend with Oscar Night. 83rd Academy Awards on ABC (Channel 7) @ 7:00 p.m.

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Baird Harper & StoryStudio Chicago

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Edgewater resident Baird Harper is the winner of the 2010 Nelson Algren Short Story Award for his story “My Thoughts While Cooling On The Hotel Veranda”.  Baird is an instructor at StoryStudio Chicago – a writer’s consortium located at 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave. as well as an instructor at the School Of The Art Institute. Congratulations Baird!

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Five Fun Things To Do This Weekend

1) Argyle Street Chinese New Year’s Parade: Saturday Feb 5th. Starts @ 1 p.m. at the intersection of Argyle & Sheridan. South on Sheridan to Lawrence. West to Broadway. North to Argyle. East back to Sheridan. FREE!

2)  Chicago Neofuturists: showing “Laika, Dog In Space” – the first mammal in space with puppets, dance, art and other non-traditional theater elements. Not a show for kids! Feb 5th @ 8 p.m. $15. $10 for students. 5153 N. Ashland Ave. 773-275-5255. http://neofuturists.org

3)  The Davis Theatre: 4614 N. Lincoln Ave.  Showing this weekend – “The King’s Speech”, “Black Swan”, “True Grit”, “The Fighter”  http://ffmgmt.com/dav/davshow.aspx

4)  Super Bowl XLV: Even if it’s just to see what a $3mm dollar ad looks like! On Fox TV Sun, Feb 6th @ 5:30 p.m. Packers are favored! http://nfl.com/superbowl/45

5)  Explore The Loop: WITHOUT going outside! “Explore Without Freezing”  A walking tour of secret shortcuts and underground passages. Starts at Chase Tower. See the cathedral in a skyscraper and other indoor city sights. Feb 5th & 6th. 10 a.m. – noon. $20. $18 for seniors and students. Free for children < 12. 10 S. Dearborn. 312-350-1131.  http://ChicagoDetours.com.


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Welcome To Lincoln Square, Mr. Wirtz

Crain’s reported today that Peter Wirtz has purchased 4717-29 N. Lincoln for $6.1mm from Tom Fencl, who owns The Davis at 4614 N. Lincoln. Mr. Fencl says he will use some of the proceeds from the sale to refurbish the theater. The sale closed on Jan. 4.

Peter Wirtz turns to real estate with Lincoln Square buy

By: Eddie Baeb February 02, 2011

(Crain’s) — A venture that includes former Chicago Blackhawks vice-president Peter Wirtz has acquired a retail and apartment building in the heart of Lincoln Square.

Mr. Wirtz’s venture paid $6.1 million for the property at 4717-4729 N. Lincoln Ave., property records show. Longtime tenants include restaurant and pastry shop Cafe Selmarie, Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts & Fitness and German tavern Huettenbar.

Property records show that Mr. Wirtz’s company, Chicago-based Bismarck Enterprises Inc., is both an equity investor in the property and a lender, providing a short-term $4-million loan. Bismarck’s partners in the deal include local investor Mark Timmerman and Michael Krueger.

A call to Mr. Wirtz at Bismarck, which for about 15 years ran food service at the United Center, was referred to Mr. Krueger.

“I was really drawn to the location,” says Mr. Krueger, whose firm LakePointe Apartments LLC has several apartment properties, including a recently completed one in Uptown. “When an asset like this becomes available, you can’t pass it by. When that opportunity presents itself and the numbers make sense, you’ve got to pounce on it.”

The building, about halfway between Lawrence and Leland avenues, has seven fully leased retail spaces totaling about 21,500 square feet and 22 apartments on two upper levels.

Mr. Krueger wouldn’t comment on the price, financing or his connection to Mr. Wirtz, who stepped down as vice-president of the Blackhawks in October 2007, just a week after the death of his father, Bill Wirtz. Mr. Wirtz’s older brother, Rocky, instead became team president and Peter Wirtz left to focus on Bismarck, a company he founded in 1983.

According to the firm’s Web site, Bismarck focuses on foodservice, merchandising, consulting and “has ventured into real estate investments” in recent years.

Peter Wirtz has largely been out of the news since leaving the Blackhawks. In spring 2009, Bismarck announced it had sold its concessions contract at United Center to Chicago’s Levy Restaurants and would focus more on foodservice consulting.

The 4717-29 N. Lincoln Ave. building was sold by Tom Fencl of Fencl Properties Inc., which is based in Lincoln Square. Mr. Fencl bought the property about seven years ago and says he plans to use the sale proceeds to help pay for an overhaul of another notable Lincoln Square property he owns: the four-screen Davis Theater at 4614 N. Lincoln.

The plans, though in early stages, call for rehabbing the almost 100-year-old theater’s interiors and exteriors and converting from film projectors to digital. Work probably won’t get under way until next year, Mr. Fencl says.

“It’s not an easy project to finance at times like these,” he says. “Every single bank we would go to would say, ‘We don’t lend money to movie theaters or bowling alleys.’”

Property records show Bismarck’s $4-million loan to Mr. Krueger’s venture matures June 30, suggesting Mr. Krueger is in the market for permanent financing.

Mr. Krueger says he plans to make modest changes and upgrades to the building.

The sale has raised some concerns that the property’s local flavor could be endangered. The building also includes a kitschy gift store, Enjoy, an Urban General Store, a Chase bank branch and Planet Access Company Store, a clothing boutique run by a non-profit that helps disabled people.

“We hope the new owners keep the building up and keep a mix of locals and independents,” says Melissa Flynn, executive director of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, who also noted that concerts and public events are held at the adjacent Giddings Plaza. “It’s really just a cornerstone in the community.”

At least some tenants, of course, are anxious that their rents could be going up.

“I hope they’re not thinking of fixing the place up a little and then think they’re going to raise the rents,” says Fred Degerberg, owner of the prominent Degerberg Academy, which has been at its Lincoln Square location since the 1980s. “We’ve got hundreds of students there, but we’ve also lost hundreds in the recession.”

Andrew Schroedter contributed to this report.

Welcome Mr. Wirtz!

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“Citizen Musician”

Do you remember back around the holidays the You-Tube video that was making the rounds? It was a seemingly spontaneous – though obviously planned – performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus by a chorus at a shopping mall. In case you missed it, here it is:

WELL!! Yo-Yo Ma, now “Creative Consultant” with the CSO, staged something similar at The Millenium Park Station this past Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reports:


From the stage to the streets

Yo-Yo Ma and a kids choir take over a train station, and the Citizen Musician movement is launched

January 30, 2011|By Mark Caro, Tribune reporter

An unusually large number of teens were milling about Metra’s Millennium Station before noon Saturday when one of them started singing the old spiritual “Run Children Run” and was joined by another. And another. And another.

Soon 85 members of the Chicago Children’s Choir were in full voice, performing a South African chant, a Cuban folk song and a classical a cappella tune while seizing the surprised attention of passersby, retail workers and uniformed officers. When Yo-Yo Ma strolled out from the adjacent Starbucks and into the crowd with cello in hand, someone in the audience gasped, “Oh, my goodness!”

The iconic musician promptly corralled the onlookers to stand among the singers to perform the Latin canon “Dona Nobis Pacem” with his accompaniment. The audience and performers had become one.

The folks behind the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra-led Citizen Musician initiative would love for this happening to be a microcosm for how their movement plays out across Chicago and beyond, starting with a core of musicians and spreading in a way that’s planned yet spontaneous, until it envelopes anyone who has any contact with or appreciation of music.

Which, in theory, is just about everyone.

“All of you are Citizen Musicians,” CSO Association President Deborah Rutter told an overflow crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Saturday afternoon at the official Citizen Musician curtain-raiser, soon adding: “We consider you our foot soldiers in the movement.”

Citizen Musician is the CSO’s and its Institute for Learning, Access and Training’s response to the call of CSO music director Riccardo Muti for the orchestra to get out into the community — “to go places we haven’t been before,” as Rutter put it. Numerous Chicago-area music institutions have since boarded this bandwagon, with the driver’s seat occupied by a musician known as much for his ambassadorship as his virtuosity: Ma, who joined the CSO a year ago as its first Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant.

Before their joint appearance at the Cultural Center, Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax and clarinetist (and South Side native) Anthony McGill spent the morning putting Citizen Musician to action. Ax dropped in on a kids piano class taught at DePaul University. McGill visited Woodlawn’s Parkway Community House, where kids who had been playing basketball were treated to a talk and performance (“I let them know that I came from where they are,” he said later), before he played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the Chicago Public Schools’ All-City Ensembles rehearsal at the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy.

Ma’s day began at Children’s Memorial Hospital, where he and two teaching members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Gray and Sarah Ponder, engaged a sky-lit, brightly colored room full of patients and parents, plus anyone in the hospital watching the live broadcast of hospital chaplain Jim Manzardo’s show, “Morning Jam With Jim.”

All three guests made a point of approaching every kid in that room, Ponder and Gray coaxing them to sing and clap along to a heart-tugging “This Little Light of Mine” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and Ma taking his cello up close to infant and teenager alike. When a girl named Maddie phoned in from her hospital bed to reveal that she plays cello too, Ma stuck his face right into the camera and had a one-on-one chat with her.

Later, while waiting in a car outside the underground Millennium Park train station entrance, the 55-year-old cellist stressed the unique power of live music performance to touch lives and to connect people and their imaginations. The Citizen Musician initiative, he said, is meant to reinforce music’s central role in our lives, particularly at a time when public funding of the arts is at risk.

“What we don’t want to lose is really the glue that holds people together,” Ma said.

With a black-and-gray scarf wrapped under his chin and a gray wool hat on his head, Ma entered the train station unnoticed and stood in a taco restaurant’s doorway watching the Chicago Children’s Choir’s flash-mob performance unfold.

“This is something that they’ll remember,” he smiled, referring to the singers. “This is so cool.”

The performance was having the desired impact on casual observers too. Louie Pavlovic, a Metra inspector, said he popped up to the lobby between train departures to be surprised by the sound of music. “They’ve got a whole choir singing and dancing and moving around,” he said. “It’s making the rest of my day pretty joyful.”

Soon Ma was out among the singers, prompting Police Sgt. Joe Cistaro to marvel, “I’ve seen him perform many times. Closest I’ve ever been.” When Ma and the choir finished their canon, Cistaro exclaimed, “Beautiful!”

The Cultural Center event was bookended by performances — Ma and members of the CSO and other ensembles opening with the Mendelssohn Octet’s first movement, and Ma, Ax, McGill and CSO concertmaster Robert Chen performing John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts” at the end — with Rutter leading the discussion in between. The musicians testified to how the act of sharing has sparked some of their most gratifying moments, and Ax spilled the beans on the CSO’s previously unannounced plans for a piano festival next year, Keys to the City.

Among those taking this in was Gov. Pat Quinn, who was sitting fairly far back and off to the side. “I like Yo-Yo Ma,” the governor said from his seat. “I like Citizen Musicians. I’m into movements. This is a great movement, a grassroots movement. It brings together young and old. It makes Illinois a strong state. We can do anything.”

Afterward, Quinn approached Ma in the kitchen/backstage area and told him the state should support this movement and establish a Citizen Musician Day.

“I want to help you,” the governor said, and the Citizen Musician circle grew a little wider.



I am excited by the synergy of what our new music director, Ricardo Muti, and Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma will accomplish together! It reminds me of the admonition by anthropologist Margaret Mead:

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Obama is our president, Bill Daley his new chief of staff, it looks like Rahm will be our new mayor. Perhaps the parochial days of Chicago are finally behind us and Chicago can finally take it’s rightful place on the world stage.

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