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Circus takes final bows, becomes part of our history

  • Written by Joe Boyle

“The Greatest Show on Earth” has left the building for the final time. The Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus have decided to close forever in May. That means spectators that attended the shows in Chicago and Rosemont will no longer see this circus since they made their last trip here this past fall.

I heard about the news on Sunday while visiting some relatives. While I was surprised I was definitely not stunned. Times are changing rapidly. It was once big news when the circus came to town. Now news of the circus does not draw that much attention.

Of course, a lot has happened in the last couple of years. When Ringling Bros. decided to no longer have elephants as part of the show last year, a dramatic drop in attendance took place. Owners admitted that the elephants had been a large draw over the years because of their dance routine. However, animal rights activists have stated that these animals have been abused over the years.

Other factors played a role in the demise of Ringling Bros. Rising costs have become a burden, along with the fact that younger audiences who are wired to computer games and YouTube are no longer drawn to the circus.

Ringling Bros. employees were informed on Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami. Ringling Bros. have been holding two different shows this year – “Circus Extreme” and “Out of This World.” The final Circus Extreme show will be May 7 in Providence, Rhode Island. The final Out of This World performance will be held May 21 in Uniondale, N.Y.

After 146 years, the lights will go out on the big top at Ringling Bros.

I never attended a circus as a youngster. Like most Chicago neighborhoods, the carnivals would come in with assorted rides and a cast of peculiar characters. Our family would go to a Kiddieland that was located somewhere on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Family trips to the Museum of Science and Industry was always a big deal. I always liked walking down the Old Main Street and getting our picture taken on the old car.

Trips to Riverview were fun during the summer. I remember it was a long drive from our home in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood. But I still remember the bumper cars and other assorted rides.

But Riverview closed abruptly with little fanfare in the mid-1960s. It had its time and I’m glad I can still recall some of those images. We will have those memories of the circus as well. It was a popular facet of American history that would travel by train and stop in small towns across America and large cities as well.

My first time attending a circus was in the mid-1980s. My wife and I worked for different newspapers but it was common in those days to receive passes from management to attend the Ringling Bros. shows and the Ice Capades. The tickets were part of an exchange that took place between Ringling Bros. representatives and the newspapers for free advertising. Some employees would receive passes to attend the shows as part of the exchange.

When we had children, we brought them to the shows and they were entertained. We were able to walk on the circus floor before the show and got an opportunity to meet some of the performers. We had a chance to meet clowns of all shapes and sizes and someone who was described as the world’s tallest man. He was over eight feet and could hardly walk.

But now that I have learned that Ringling Bros. will close, I don’t know if I will miss it. I’m not sure my kids will be sad. It is part of American history and is linked to another age. The complaints of animal activists have merit. Apparently, when the elephants were removed, that was the beginning of the end.

Heck, older residents talk nostalgically about Bozo’s Circus, but the once popular program has been off the air on WGN-TV Channel 9 since 2002. At the end of its run, the show was only on early Sunday mornings, replaced during the week by morning news that is cheaper to produce and more lucrative.

The circus will no longer come to town. They will be part of our past. But I still have memories of the produce man who would yell “strawberries” as he walked down 100th and Michigan Avenue when I was a kid. The Good Humor Man used to drive down our block at night. The knife man would sharpen knives for moms who would greet him as he strolled through the neighborhood.

Those days are long gone, but I remember them fondly.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Plenty of time to make (and break) resolutions for 2017

  • Written by Janet Boudreau

I've been thinking a lot about New Year's resolutions. Since we are well into the third week of 2017, you might say I'm a little behind on this, or perhaps, early for next year. I've noticed that a lot of folks claim they don't make resolutions anymore. These might be the same people who have given up eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. Personally, I feel that's playing with fire.

I have, however, recently noticed new discussions on the whole idea of starting off the new year as if it were a clean slate. Resolutions are now called anything from aspirations to intentions but they mean the same thing. Whatever word we choose, people are focusing on making changes for the better. The new is old again.

Yes, the same people who touted the benefits of kale chips are now back to chocolate chips. Those who vowed never to have an iPhone are playing Rolling Sky in the grocery checkout line. The “new is old” is comforting and during these tumultuous times, we want hope and focus and success and above all, imaginary characters and games.

I'd like to help with some ideas for 2017. I did a little research into top resolutions and the success/failure factors. These can make or break your decision, so you can read on or just make a big pan of brownies.

The top three resolutions for 2017 are lose weight/eat healthier, work on self- improvement, and make better financial decisions. I think it’s pretty clear that if you have decided you need to work on any of these issues, then you just might just have a long history of sitting on the couch in your pajamas in the middle of the day, eating potato chips and calling in orders to QVC. Let's just change that in one swoop. It's not a path to success.

First off, research shows we can better attain our goals with specifics such as aiming to eliminate sugar and fried foods for six weeks, or setting aside $20 a week for the next six months. Now that sounds better, but I tend to make periodic withdrawals from my savings account in proportion with deposits.  

Before you start cleaning out the fridge, counting loose change, or signing up for hot yoga, here are some cold, hard facts that might make you rethink things. Research shows that 72.6 percent of Americans maintain their resolutions through the first week. Jump ahead to six months and we are down to 44.8 percent.

But let's not be hasty in throwing in the towel. There are so many variables. Your goals are your own and very personal. For some it may be as simple as cutting out the skydiving. For others, that means learning another language in spite of flunking English. Aiming for something personal is not only a challenge, it can open doors to new endeavors, like parasailing, knitting, growing beets or taking a vacation to Northeast India.

Eliminating bad behaviors is not only good on its own, it leaves time to try all of these new and crazy adventures. And then it's almost a cumulative effect...running a mile a day turns into training for a 10K. Many lose 115 pounds in 31 days, color their hair blonde, and open their own fitness center. True success stories.

I happily made my resolutions for 2017 after a lot of deep thought. I really do think of my health so I've vowed to stop drinking pickle juice from the jar. I have a huge fear of needles but I'll consent to getting the flu shot every leap year.

And I'd really like to become a better person so I am no longer going to push my grocery cart into the back of the person lallygagging in front of me in stores.

Money issues are difficult. I guess you need to have money first and foremost. But I'm not really worried. I have 349 days to think about it.

Janet Boudreau is a longtime resident of Evergreen Park. She is a writer, blogger and enthusiast of inappropriate behavior. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We come up empty looking for logic after violent acts

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

I recall a few lines from “The Dark Knight,” the second installment of the Batman movie trilogy that seems somewhat pertinent this past week.

Michael Caine, who portrays the loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, listens as Bruce Wayne, portrayed by Christian Bale, complains about The Joker. Wayne angrily question what his motives are as the demonic figures terrorizes Gotham City. The older Alfred listens and then has this to say about The Joker, portrayed by the late Heath Ledger.

“With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man you don't fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of the tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.”

Wayne, who is also Batman, looks puzzled and asks, “So why steal them?

Alfred’s response was that “he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

The dialogue summed up Ledger’s Joker, a maniacal, evil character whose main purpose was to create chaos. The film was almost representative of the times we are living in. We try to find some sort of reason why random acts of violence take place. But just as frightening is people who shoot and kill for no apparent reason. We have seen accounts in newspapers or online. We have seen some partial footage on TV.

Esteban Santiago was deployed in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard. He spent a year with an engineering battalion, according to published reports. He has been living the past couple of years in Anchorage, Alaska. This past November, Santiago told FBI agents in Alaska that the government was trying to control his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos. The FBI agents notified the police after the interview with Santiago, 26, who took him for a mental health evaluation.

What happened after that is not clear. His brother said he was aware of his treatments until just recently.

But we all know what happened since. Santiago is accused of pulling out a gun in baggage area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Friday and just started randomly shooting. Five people were killed and eight were injured. He was taken into custody peacefully.

This is just another reminder that people need to remain vigilant. On the other hand, you can’t live your life in fear. And these random acts of violence take place more often. It kind of leaves us numb. According to published reports, the offender took a flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis last Thursday night. He then flew into Fort Lauderdale Friday morning.

One witness told to a TV station that the offender just kept coming forward and randomly shooting. He added that he was “shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”

For the relatives and friends of the deceased, they must still be in shock. The families and friends of the eight injured as well. Anyone who was near the scene must be in a state of shock. And the reason for this man’s actions is not clear. One report states that Santiago planned this route. No reasons are given. We only have more questions.

I suppose there will be questions of how the alleged gunman Santiago was able to check his gun in a bag and was able to retrieve it and stroll through the baggage area and begin randomly shooting people.

Some changes at airports could be made to tighten security. Perhaps some laws will be passed. I’m not so sure about that.

But it is hard to defend against random acts of violence. We can live our lives as best we can and be careful. And then there are people who revert to violence. And there is no rhyme or reason for it. Logic has no place when someone or a group just wants to watch the world burn.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Getting rid of clutter and making life decisions in new year

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

My 2017 is starting off clean!

I’ve spent the previous two weeks hauling donations to various charitable organizations. A huge bin of books went to the Evergreen Park Public Library. A trunk full of household items went to the Thrift Store on 91st and Western, and two carloads of toys went to the Salvation Army on 87th and Cicero. Yes, I’m aware of several charities that would’ve scooped these donations right from my doorstep, but I had zero desire to schedule a pickup, I wanted everything gone -- straightaway!

I’ve since found myself migrating about my house, admiring its tidiness. “Thank you Lord for my home!” I’ve repeatedly whispered that in prayer accompanied by deep inhalations of the refreshing fragrance coupled with having a clean house. I didn’t just get rid of stuff, I emptied every drawer, cabinet, tote, and bin; only choosing to put back what I’d take ‘if’ I were hypothetically going to move. That was the only way I could rationalize whether I truly wanted to keep what I kept.

I’d ask myself, “Claudia, if you were moving into your dream house, would you take this?” I only wanted to retain items that were useful and needed regardless of their value. The things that weren’t being used had become clutter, mounting in areas I found myself too busy to address, until now.

“Enough is enough!” I told myself. “It’s ALL got to go!”

I’m not limiting this purging to household items. I’m looking to shed those extra holiday pounds I’ve packed on as well. So, I went back to Weight Watchers. I’m a lifetime member, but I haven’t been in eons. To qualify as a lifetime member, you must hit your goal weight and maintain it by weighing no more than two pounds over that goal for six weeks. At the end of that maintenance period you become a lifetime member. I only want to lose 10 pounds and guess what? Weight Watchers has a special through Jan. 16 where if you lose 10 pounds within your first two months, those two months are free! It’s a double reward. Lose the weight within a reasonable period of time and you don’t have to pay. That’s a no brainer!

I exercise regularly and it’s given me a false sense of security. I haven’t been monitoring my food choices. My school of thought has been, “I exercise so I can eat/drink whatever I want.” I’ve been so naïve. When I learned a 12-ounce can of soda was equivalent to a Weight Watchers entree I was bewildered. My workouts could’ve been far more effective had I not been self-sabotaging with poor choices.

Unfortunately, there’s more than fat to trim from my life. There are relationships I’m cutting loose. The dream killers are being eliminated. I find it exhaustive trying to maintain interactions with people who lack any ambition to move beyond the status quo. I’m sure some of you have a person in mind that lacks initiative to improve their own life, so they despise you for the progression you’re experiencing in yours.

Out. Out. OUT!

It doesn’t even need to be stated, no argument or confrontation necessary. Just make yourself less and less available until the communication and relationship has dissipated. We’ll have a better chance of reconvening with these people in a different life season if we recognize when a hibernation period is warranted.

I’ve found clearing the clutter in my life brings about new opportunities, fresh ideas and creativity. I desire to be my best self so that I can be a better wife, mother and citizen in my community. I dare not diminish my successes of 2016. There was much to be grateful for. Yet, there were also areas noted “room for improvement.” Let the dawn of a new day cast a ray of light on the areas you need to declutter. Don’t allow any area of your life to remain in disarray. Join me and confess your life clean in 2017!

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Let’s not forget old acquaintances in the new year

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The passing of the old year to the new marks a new beginning for most of us. At least we would like to think so.

But the new year has just begun and we have not noticed any great changes over the last few days. The Chicago Bears have proved to be as an inept in 2017 as they were in 2016. President-elect Donald Trump will continue to tweet as often as he did in the previous year.

And what about Mariah Carey? During her next performance in 2017, maybe she will actually sing. That would be one change.

The point I’m trying to make is that the new year is not like a light switch. Problems that existed in 2016 will most likely continue, at least initially, in 2017. Of course, we celebrate on New Year’s Eve with the hope that things will be a little bit better in the following year.

Many of us have made resolutions. The most popular is losing weight and getting in great shape. I wish everyone good luck with that. However, my suggestion is not to focus on this as your primary goal. Many of us become disenchanted. Losing weight can be hard work, especially when we get older. Getting a new job is something for people to strive for.

Perhaps the best resolution is not to make that many. Just try and be a better person. Perhaps some of the other things like weight and a new job will eventually take care of itself.

The year of 2016 was filled with chaos and the unexpected. It was in many ways an unpredictable year. My final day of 2016 was different. I attended a wake for a childhood friend that was held at my old church, St. Margaret of Scotland, 9837 S. Throop St., Chicago. Tom Carey was well known as a Democratic strategist for local candidates. He would call me often when I worked at another newspaper. We would discuss some candidates but we would always divert back to our pasts.

Tom lived a couple of blocks from me and we attended St. Margaret’s together. We were on some of the same baseball teams for the then Longwood Manor Baseball Association. Our conversations were mostly about those old days.

His wake was well attended. Many friends from my past were in attendance and it was good to catch up on how everyone was doing. That’s how life is when you get a little older. You often meet up with friends from your past at wakes and funerals. Fortunately, I have been seeing more of my friends from my past at more uplifting events the past couple of years. That is one resolution we should all try to keep. We should do our best to stay in touch with people we have known over the years.

I then had to leave to take some photos for our newspaper. My wife and I went out for dinner that evening in LaGrange and later saw the movie “Arrival” starring Amy Adams. Not to give anything away but this sci-fi film is about a new beginning. Somehow that was fitting to see this on New Year’s Eve. It is a great film.

We were home well before midnight and prepared to watch various New Year’s Eve countdown shows. At midnight, we celebrated like everyone else. We seemed to hear more fireworks than last year, maybe due to the milder temperatures.

I was in a good mood knowing that I would have couple of days off. It gave me an opportunity to think about the passing year and what to look forward to in 2017.

And what we can look forward to every year is hope. I don’t know if a new year is a new beginning or not. I suppose for some of us it can be. But maybe we can’t expect instant changes. Schools will be back in session soon and organizations will be gathering for meetings.

We know we will soon have a new president. The Bears will have the third pick in the NFL draft. So there will be changes in 2017. Let us hope that some of those changes will be for the better.

As for me, keeping up with friends and relatives will be my main goal.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .