Ray Hanania's Grapevine: Watching Wallenda's 'death watch' in the city was not worth it

  • Written by Ray Hanania





More than 50,000 people crowded Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago to watch Nik Wallenda walk a tightrope across the Chicago River, and then one between the Marina Towers blindfolded.

 It was irresponsible, of course. There was no catch line or net to save him if he fell in the cold winds  that swept across the river walk where gawkers stood and Chicago Fire Department rescue units and scuba divers waited, “just in case.”

And it was the “just in case” that drew everyone --  the death watch -- just in case he fell. A terrible thought but without it, what made the daredevil stunt worth it?

Wallenda was more than 90 minutes late, so by the time he walked the first wire from Marina Tower to the Leo Burnett building, half the people were already leaving to go home before he began his second walk, blindfolded, across a shorter wire between the West and East Marina Towers buildings.

As I waited in the chill with my son, I could only wonder why I had to drive downtown and risk Chicago’s rising murder rate, the unbelievable high cost of parking and food at overrated restaurants. Chicago reeks with excessive taxes. So why are we downtown and not someplace in Chicago’s suburbs?

Where is the suburban version of Nik Wallenda entertaining crowds?

Political Grapevine

Who can predict the outcome of a tough Ad War between Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner? Regardless of who wins, the two real election winners are House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who breathed life into Quinn’s candidacy, and Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, who gave Rauner the chance he needed to make this an election to remember. Four years ago, voters dragged themselves to the polls and Quinn defeated Bill Brady, with no one paying attention to the Southwest suburbs of Cook County. This time, Gorman made the suburban county the focus of the battle.

Are you tired of the bias on TV News? I watched Laura Washington and Roosevelt professor Paul Green lamely pretend to be objective analysts on WLS TV. Are there not any objective commentators who can offer the public insight rather than self-serving political insight?

November is Arab-American Heritage month in Illinois. The most disturbing aspect is the revelations recently that several leaders of Chicago’s leading Jewish Community organizations lobbied newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 to close the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs. Emanuel then pulled the rug out from under the popular four-year-old Arabesque Festival, which was also unfairly attacked by the same groups. Mayor Daley stood up to the critics but Emanuel has a personal agenda to see the racism through. Shame on Emanuel’s phony pretense of racial diversity and cultural pride.

Here is some controversy as solid as Oak (Lawn): With the state elections over, the focus shifts to suburban and Chicago elections. The 10th Ward will have a showdown between neighborhood activist Samantha Webb and Ald. John Pope, a protégé of former 10th Ward heavy and convicted political boss Al Sanchez … Many people in Oak Lawn are hoping former two-term Mayor Dave Heilmann gets back involved and runs again in 2017. Oak Lawn is turning into an economic disaster. Everyone’s watching the vicious war of words between longtime Trustee Bob Streit and Mayor Sandra Bury in dueling online blog posts.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )



The Grapevine-We’re just better off singing the wrong lyrics

  • Written by Ray Hanania

GRAPEVINE-PHOTO-FOR-PAGE-6-rayhananiaheadshot300dpiThe one thing about technology today is you don’t have to lean into the transistor radio to understand lyrics of your favorite songs.
  Nowadays, the lyrics of nearly every major song from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are online, and decades later, I’m shocked by what the real words are.
It can’t be as bad as a lot of today’s new music, offering lurid details about sex and murder. For many of today’s songs, it’s better to get the lyrics wrong.
  It’s been a rude awakening for me as social media technology displays the real lyrics. The words just don’t match what I thought they were as I’m singing in my car driving down Harlem Avenue. (Yes, you may have seen me and thousands of other baby boomers driving with songs blaring loudly, our heads bopping like we’ve gone off the deep end).
  Was I that whacked out when I heard them the first time? Or do rock singers from my generation mumble a lot?
  Here are some of my favorite lyric screw-ups:
In the first verse of the Grass Roots song “Midnight Confessions,” I was always singing “your soft tail macutcheon; babe; brings out a need in me nobody hears, except …”
  What’s a “soft tail macutcheon”? I don’t even know how to spell it. But that’s what I’ve been singing for 44 years. The real lyrics are: “Your soft gentle motion babe; brings out a need in me that nobody hears, except…”
  Of course, if my mom could understand those words, she might not have let me buy that transistor radio with the little plastic earphones, for $5.
Even when the lyrics are the names of the songs, I couldn’t get them right. Like the 1969 song by the Sir Douglas Quintet which starts out: “Well, she was walking down the street, looking as fine as she could be.”
And then the chorus comes in “Shinabouwamover. Shinabouwamover.”
The real lyrics are “She’s About a Mover,” which makes even less sense.
  Even the Christmas songs are like that. I wished I had a relative named “Majoula” who was very generous in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Maybe she’d give me a turtle that could fly? Of course, it was “My true love gave to me,” not “Majoula gave to me, two turtle doves …”
  One of the most famous is Manfred Mann’s 1977 song singing “Blinded By the Light,” a Bruce Springsteen re-do, with the garbled lyrics, “wrapped up like a duzin in the rubber of the night.”
  What the heck does that mean? It makes more sense than the actual lyrics, “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.”
  No wonder our parents thought we were all on drugs.
Email me your favorite lyric screw-ups, and if they are PG, I’ll run a few.

Off the Grapevine
Fire House Subs in Orland Park hosts a fundraiser for fallen firefighter Wes Peak on Thursday, Nov. 6… November is Arab Heritage Month in Illinois…The attacks and mudslinging is just going to get worse as we round the corner to the Nov. 4 elections. It’s nauseating… Why do I get the feeling that all that construction on LaGrange Road and Harlem Avenue are deja vu?…My son has a new iPhone App that helps him solve his math equations, “PhotoMath.” Is that a good thing?

 Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and now President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

After passing stones, Gonzales is now passing runners

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorStatistically speaking, the Chicagoland Area Running Association has found that only one percent of the United States population has completed a full marathon.
The race itself is challenging, I’ve run two, but exhilarating. Most of the people I’ve trained with have an incredible backstory. We get to know each other quite well over the 18 weeks of training. It originates with a modest 15 miles the first week, building steadily to a climax of 40 miles per week. That’s just for the novice.
While CARA has running clubs spanning across Chicagoland, I found an exceptional fit at Running Excels, unrelated to their merchandise. Due to the amazing comradery of their runners, I’ve been training with this group since 2012. My first year, I gleaned from their strength. Now that I’ve acquired stamina, the prior two years, I’ve tipped my cup to fill theirs by being a marathon group leader.
Two of my most memorable newbies were a married couple, Camilo and Jennifer Gonzalez of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. He’s a Chicago police officer and she’s a fourth grade teacher at McCormick elementary. They have three daughters, Stephanie (21), Grace (14) and Isabel (12). When they spoke of their girls, they’d light up. Though, one story about Stephanie nearly brought the group to tears.
At the age of 16, a mysterious health condition forced this social, active, athlete into a wheelchair. But, she prevailed and on Sunday, Oct. 12, she ran the Chicago Marathon. Nonetheless, she recalls a long journey to getting there. She said, “High school was a difficult time. I went from playing sports and hanging out with my friends to being doubled over on the couch, unable to move. I got depressed.”
Stephanie said, during her sophomore year at St. Ignatius College Prep, she felt a sharp pain on her lower right side during softball practice. She said, “I didn’t think it was anything at first. I took a break and went back to practice.”
That was the beginning of a mountainous climb to discovering the cause. Stephanie said over the course of a year, she had countless doctor visits and saw world renowned specialists before the source, kidney stones were detected.
Not exactly common for a 16-year-old.
As the kidneys filter, waste from our blood it creates urine. If salt or other minerals in urine stick together, they form kidney stones. It’s been said their size can range from a sugar crystal to a ping-pong ball.
I ran to the kitchen and chugged a half gallon of water after learning that!
To date, Stephanie said she thinks she’s passed about 80 stones. She said, “My doctor believes my body has an adverse reaction to how it breaks down sodium and calcium. I’ve played sports my whole life. I’ve eaten a lot of sunflower seeds and drank a lot of Gatorade. But not any more than my teammates.”
She said limiting her daily sodium to 1500mg with three to four servings of dairy helped minimize the stones but she’s not cured. The aftermath of passing so many has scarred her ureters, leaving her with chronic pain.
“I’m weaned now but I was prescribed Methadone twice a day to handle passing them,” she said. “I could feel them move through my urinary track as they were passing. It’d cause pain in my back, belly and sometime groin.”
Kidney stones have been known to cause frequent or painful urination, bloody urine, as well as nausea and vomiting. In Stephanie’s case, between the symptoms of passing stones and the side effects of Methadone, she was a mess. She recalled Methadone making her itch so she was prescribed another drug to counteract its effects but she said that drug made her sleepy. “I’d fall asleep talking, mid-sentence,” she said.
Stephanie is a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee. She expects to graduate in the spring with a degree in public relations.
Over the last five years, Stephanie has experienced health challenges she said she never expected at such a young age. But, she’s refused to allow her health to hold her back.
“I remember saying I wanted to run a marathon ‘one day’, when I was 15. But, I didn’t become inspired until I saw my parents do it last year. That was the coolest thing they’ve ever done,” she said, “The race wasn’t easy for me.
“I injured my hamstring two weeks prior. But, my entire family came out to support me. I saw them at mile 16 and mile 25.5. I couldn’t help but tear up when I heard them call my name. I couldn’t have done it without them and my running partner, Tracy. I’m just really proud of how far I’ve come.”
And now she is part of that one percent.

If you have a story of inspiration, resilience, wisdom, humor etc. Claudia would like to hear from you. Visit and click the contact the author tab for a chance for your story to appear in her column. Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.

Kernels of wisdom can come later in life

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorHave you ever had first-day-on-the-job drama? That’s a YES for me. Back in the day, when I worked in corporate America, I found myself staring into the glares of an angry man, hitting me full speed with his tirades.
I’d just gotten a promotion within my company, a position many were vying for. I was eager to learn the new role so, I worked through my lunch. My appetite didn’t share my career aspirations. Hunger pulled my attention to a bag of microwave popcorn. First-day jitters got the best of me, because I couldn’t figure out their dated, complex microwave.
I’d stepped away from the break room after hitting a preset button for what I thought was two-minutes, apparently, it was 20!
Trying to be discrete, I expeditiously nabbed the burnt kernels and tossed them into an outside trash. I used an alternate door to re-enter in hopes of not being indicted for the nostril offense. Now back at my desk, a haze of smoke hovered above my cubicle, taunting me like a bully. I blinked a few times and became startled to find a large figure with glaring eyes. “Are you the woman that popped the popcorn?” A stern, male voice demanded.
He was dressed in a suit and tie, clean shaven, with a crew cut. He was all business, but I figured I could soften him with a quick admission. “Yes. It was me. I’m really sorry.” I had a big smile and pouty eyes that begged forgiveness.
With zero mercy, his lips fired insults like bullets on a shooting range. It was something along the lines of, me, being too stupid to work a microwave, being banned from popping popcorn again, and him having to send employees home because they couldn’t breathe due to the smoke.
Once he was done with his verbal assault, he walked away with a strut, as if he felt good about ripping into me. I was stunned and didn’t respond at all.
I felt victimized that day. I didn’t recognize the lesson I now know manifested as a result of that incident. Wisdom had placed me in a classroom that was foolproof in order to prove I could exercise restraint. Trust me that Claudia, (the hot-head I once was) had a hot temper and had it not been my “first-day” silence wouldn’t have been my selection.
However, as I grew professionally I also matured psychologically. Today, I would still choose not to respond but instead of feeling victimized, I believe I would feel empowered.
How do I know?
Allow me to usher you through a more recent scenario. After pulling into an alley off the parking lot of my bank, another vehicle rolled up from the opposite direction and we found our headlights beaming at one another. I needed to make an immediate right for the ATM. There was 20 feet on the left side, so I sat idle, waiting for access. Instead, the female driver proceeded to flail her arms, point her fingers and mouth what looked like a few words that rhyme with witch and possibly a compound word that starts with mother.
I felt an overwhelming sense not to react. No gestures, facial expressions and rap lyrics reciprocated, I just drove around. Two hours later, I was playing with my daughters in front of my house when this eerily familiar vehicle pulled up to my neighbor’s house across the street. To my horror, sitting in the driver seat was that same ‘bleep’ mouth driver. I don’t even want to consider what could have transpired had I chosen to escalate matters earlier with an equal exchange of aggression. However, because I hadn’t, there was nothing to be finished and our lives carried on peacefully without incident.
Let me challenge you to ignore the ignorant and belligerent actions of others. We choose to invite peace or chaos into our lives based on how we respond to situations around us. We have the right to remain silent. Wisdom is always present, if you cling to her, she will guard and protect you.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good bye

  • Written by Charles Richards

It is with mixed feelings that I hand over the ownership of the Regional Publishing Corporation to a new company. Though I retired almost 10 years ago, I still consult with daughter Amy when unusual problems arise. I am greatly hindered by the lack of knowledge of the new technology, especially the Internet.
Heck, I can’t even type!
Also, dealing with the many repressive government regulations is making me almost crazy or at least extremely frustrated. Even ordering basic printing supplies has gotten substantially more complicated. In short, the time has come to turn the company over to new managers who are equipped with both knowledge and money to move comprehensively into the digital age.
Happily for everyone, Amy Richards will continue as publisher. This keeps her busy handling the day-to-day management as she does now. More importantly, she continues the family commitment to the welfare of the communities which we serve. My wife, Gerri, has been very supportive of the time and energy I devoted to the Regional, but she is totally supporting the sale of my company.
There are two points that I want to make here. 1) I am
not selling for health reasons.
2) My wife and I have no plans to move away from Palos Heights.
We have visited Florida, Texas, Arizona and California and soundly rejected moving there or anywhere else. We may spend a few more weeks at our vacation home in northern Wisconsin but never in the winter.
My grandfather was a teacher in rural Missouri and every year or two the family was relocated to a new town’s school which offered higher pay. So Carl Richards promised me that he would not do the same to his family. Stability for me lasted almost 70 years. In fact, our family has retained the same published phone number for 68 years.
Some of our readers may wonder why I chose to sell to the Southwest company. 1) Their leader, Mark Hornung, worked for almost 30 years managing a number of different departments at the Southtown Economist so he knows newspapers and he knows this area well. 2) Hornung’s company wanted to buy our printing plant as well as our building. This was the clincher. I didn’t want to become a landlord. Their company was financially secure.
I will definitely miss serving the local area by providing the news that residents need to make good decisions for themselves and their families. And I’ll miss the happy thanks I get from parents when their son’s or daughter’s name or picture appears in one of my newspapers. I’ll miss helping local business owners run ads that bring in more customers. I will miss seeing the look on the face of the owner of a new newspaper which he has contracted with us to print and he admires the first copy that comes off our press.
It is so very important to sincerely thank all our advertisers because they provide 85 per cent of our newspaper income. Furthermore, thanks are due to our thousands of paid subscribers who read and respond to our ads. Much appreciation is deserved by the many publishers and schools who pay us to print their newspapers and class schedules on our presses. Many thanks to all of the above parties.
I must not fail to mention the scores of journalists, production workers, printers and many others who have served on our staff over the last half century. They made me a more successful publisher. I have also been blessed with a superb administrative support staff. Our in-house accountant has been with us for almost 35 years and our administrative assistant has labored here for nearly 40 years. Our average employee has been working for us for 18 years.
Kudos also to our many vendors of supplies and services. Over time they never let me down when I needed something delivered the next day, even in times of shortages. And I must confess that there were times, many years ago, when some of our vendors were patient in waiting a lot more than the standard 30 days to get paid. Thanks to the other printers and publishers who helped us out in times of emergencies like power outages or press breakdowns although such challenges were extremely rare.
I am proud to report that my company has recycled every single film negative and aluminum plate used since 1972. The same applies to our newspaper recycling program.
Finally, I must mention my thanks to the former Orland State Bank for providing financing of our new Goss printing press in 1970 at a fair interest rate.
Thanks are due to the Illinois Press Association in Springfield. They helped our firm in too many ways to list here during the past fifty years.
Last and perhaps most, I thank my dear wife for putting up with me for almost 50 years. She has been a saint. Perhaps because she is 100 percent Irish American, she could be so tolerant. High praise must also be given to my parents for the love and encouragement they gave me.
I assure you that I have every confidence in the new owners of Regional Publishing. Like me, they know what they are doing.
In conclusion, to paraphrase retiring Army General Douglas MacArthur, “Old publishers never die, they just fish away.”
So long folks.