The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Mystery neighborhoods in Chicago

Historian John Schmidt reminisces about looking for southeast-side neighborhoods that turned out not to exist:

As I poured over Grandpa’s Rand McNally city map, I was particularly intrigued with the area just east of Lake Calumet. One group of streets was fronted by Chippewa Avenue, a curved thoroughfare that skirted the edge of the lake. To the south, another group was clustered around a river channel, near the Chicago border with Calumet City. Most interesting of all was a tiny, two-square-block group on the lake’s northeast corner. The streets there were totally isolated from any other streets.

I finally got a car and could get around on my own. Now I could play all the public golf courses that had been too far to reach on the bus. After one visit to the Burnham Woods Golf Course in Burnham, I decided to check out those three subdivisions.

All three were totally vacant. There weren’t any streets to be seen. Just empty, undeveloped land.

It turns out, they were map traps:

Those were fake towns that map-makers would intentionally put on their maps. That way, if a rival map later came out with the fake town on it, the original map-maker could prove plagiarism. Were these streets Rand McNally’s version of trap streets?

Most likely. Here's one of the examples he points to:

Here's the same area today. Note that Lake Calumet got significantly filled in during the post-war years, and the city eventually pushed South Stony Island through:

A tale of two realities

Indiana University history professor Rebecca Spang compares the world's response to Covid-19 to the conditions that led to the French Revolution in 1789:

Fear sweeps the land. Many businesses collapse. Some huge fortunes are made. Panicked consumers stockpile paper, food, and weapons. The government’s reaction is inconsistent and ineffectual. Ordinary commerce grinds to a halt; investors can find no safe assets. Political factionalism grows more intense. Everything falls apart.

This was all as true of revolutionary France in 1789 and 1790 as it is of the United States today. Are we at the beginning of a revolution that has yet to be named? Do we want to be? That we are on the verge of a major transformation seems obvious.

An urgent desire for stability—for a fast resolution to upheaval—is in fact absolutely characteristic of any revolutionary era. “I pray we will be finished by Christmas,” wrote one beleaguered member of the French Constituent Assembly to a good friend in October 1789. In reality, of course, the assembly took another two years to finish its tasks, after which another assembly was elected; a republic was declared; Louis XVI was put on trial and executed in January 1793; General Napoleon Bonaparte became “first consul” in 1799 and emperor in 1804; Europe found itself engulfed in wars from 1792 to 1815. In short, life never went back to how it had been before 1789.

People sometimes imagine yesterday’s revolutions as planned and carried out by self-conscious revolutionaries, but this has rarely, if ever, been the case. Instead, revolutions are periods in which social actors with different agendas (peasants stealing rabbits, city dwellers sacking tollbooths, lawmakers writing a constitution, anxious Parisians looking for weapons at the Bastille Fortress) become fused into a more or less stable constellation. The most timeless and emancipatory lesson of the French Revolution is that people make history. Likewise, the actions we take and the choices we make today will shape both what future we get and what we remember of the past.

Keep that in mind as you read these indications that Republicans have entirely incompatible views with the rest of the world about most things:

  • Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt yesterday, calling the CO he removed last week "stupid," among other things certain to endear him to everyone in the Navy.
  • Conservative propaganda news outlets continue to repeat the president's lie assertion that no one knew how bad the pandemic would get, despite ample evidence that it would.
  • It looks like the Federal government is seizing protective equipment en route to Democratic-leaning states, but no one seems to know (or will admit) why.
  • Three academics who specialize in health policy warn that when, not if, Covid-19 starts hitting rural areas in force, it will get much worse, owing to the older populations as well as a general lack of hospitals and supplies outside of cities.
  • This week's New Yorker takes a long look at Illinois' response to the crisis, which is different than, say, Georgia's.
  • Wisconsin governor Tony Evans issued an executive order earlier today postponing the state's primary election until June 9th. The state was to hold its primary election tomorrow, despite the Democratic governor and Democratic minority in the state legislature demanding postponement or universal mail-in ballots. The Republican-controlled legislature refused even to take up the proposal, perhaps because, as other Republicans have admitted, more votes means Republicans lose. The state's top Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), said the governor "cave[d] under political pressures from national liberal special interest groups" like, one must assume, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a known hotbed of partisan Democratic thought.

Finally, ever wonder about the origin of those creepy plague-doctor outfits from the 17th century?

Self-absorption

I suppose, given how long I've lived in the United States, the inability of my fellow Americans to understand anything not happening directly to them should no longer surprise me. And yet it does.

Even as Illinois passes 10,000 known cases of Covid-19 (1,453 new ones just yesterday), with 300,000 cases nationwide, the president cares only about his TV ratings. People in rural areas are dying too, but not yet in the same proportions of population we're seeing in cities.

I had a conversation yesterday with someone who echoed what right-wing propaganda has said for a while. He thinks that we're over-reacting. Essentially, he thinks the damage to the economy from our "medically-induced coma" outweighs the few thousand deaths likely from the coronavirus. To these folks, because no one they know has gotten sick or died, it can't be that bad. Or it's no worse than (pick one) the 34,200 influenza deaths we had in 2019, or the 38,800 deaths from car accidents. Of course, those 72,000 deaths happened a few here and a few there, not all at once, and not all in the same place.

People seem not to understand is how contagion and incubation works. With a 5-to-9 day period between infection and symptoms, a single person could infect dozens of others before coughing even once. Or at all, since we know that this virus sometimes doesn't cause any symptoms at all. We can also demonstrate to some degree how many deaths we have prevented by stopping the economy for a couple of weeks. Had we done nothing, we may have had 2 million deaths. As it looks now, we might get out of this with only 200,000 deaths. And that's only from Covid-19; other diseases are still killing people. Hospitals in some places have maxed out, so many people can't get the medical attention they need.

But yes, in Chicago, with everyone working from home, with the curve flattening (despite the 1,453 new cases yesterday), it looks like the cure is worse than the disease. Just like amputating a gangrenous foot might seem worse than dying of septicemia. ("But I never had septicemia! It was just a gangrenous foot, so why did you cut it off? Now I have no foot!")

Meanwhile, even though the CDC have recommended everyone wear masks outside for a few weeks, President Trump—whose malignant narcissism makes him incapable of understanding anything beyond his own interests—said he won't wear one. Good. Let that go to its logical conclusion.

Ten million unemployed

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (including 178,000 in Illinois), following the 3.3 million who filed the week before. This graphic from The Washington Post puts these numbers in perspective:

Hotel occupancy has crashed as well, down 67% year-over-year, with industry analysts predicting the worst year on record.

In other pandemic news:

Finally, unrelated to the coronavirus but definitely related to our natural environment, the Lake Michigan/Huron system recorded its third straight month of record levels in March. The lake is a full meter above the long-term average and 30 cm above last year's alarming levels.

Something to do when the sun's out

Chicago Tribune architecture critic offers an alternative to sitting on your couch and bingeing Netflix:

Here’s a suggestion: Go out for a stroll and take in some architecture.

Walks are allowed under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. You just have to be sure to maintain the social distancing that public health officials say is essential to halting the spread of the deadly virus.

If you know where to look, you might come across something fabulous. Not too far from where I live, for example, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frank J. Baker House, a Prairie style head-turner in the 500 block of Lake Street in Wilmette.

There are minor gems out there, too, like the Chicago Transit Authority "L" station in the 1000 block of Central Street in Evanston.

To get you going in the right direction on your walks, it helps to have a good guide. The one I highly recommend is the American Institute of Architects’ “AIA Guide to Chicago,” which, despite its 550-page bulk, is easy to tuck into your coat pocket.

I have this book, and I may go for a walk later today. Because my office, as entertaining as it is, has begun to feel cramped.

Your apocalypse today

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker extended the state's stay-at-home order through April 30th, which came as absolutely no surprise, as the state nears 6,000 total COVID-19 cases. Rush Hospitals predict 19,000 total cases in Illinois a week from now—far less than the 147,000 they predict would have shown up without the stay-at-home order.

In other news:

Oh, and the stock market suffered its worst first quarter. Ever.

Around the world in coronavirus today

Just a few articles of note today:

  • The City of Chicago urges residents to call 311 to report non-essential business remaining open.
  • President Trump admitted on "Fox & Friends" this morning that adopting common-sense election reforms would mean "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." (Unless, I suppose, they changed their policies to match the mainstream, right?)
  • The Times reports on General Motors' efforts to produce 2,000 ventilators a month (an order-of-magnitude change from now) even as the president slagged the company on Twitter.
  • Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's narcissism has never been more dangerous."
  • Richard Florida examines how society will need to change after the current stay-at-home phase of the pandemic passes.

And finally, London took advantage of reduced traffic on March 24th to give the Abbey Road zebra crossing a much-overdue paint job.

The next plague

Passover starts next week, but in no small irony, most seders have been cancelled because of plague. It would have been enough if we just had covid-19; but we also get thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes tonight:

Adhering to the stay-at-home order should come easier Saturday as the rumble of thunder began in the early morning hours and was expected to continue throughout the day.

In a hazardous weather outlook, officials warned of possible thunderstorms, large hail and up to 60 mph winds through Sunday.

The outlook for north central and northeast Illinois, and northwest Indiana, warns of a significant thunderstorm risk, golf ball-size hail and damaging winds up to 100 km/h. Officials also added a risk of flooding and fog for the region.

In other disaster news, today is the 41st anniversary—yes, forty-first—of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

I'm just excited that it's Saturday, so I get to go to the grocery store today. (Several of them, probably, depending on what Trader Joe's is out of.)

Always that one kid who spoils recess for everyone else

Because of Chicago's weather yesterday (14°C and sunny), a ton of Gen Z kids broke quarantine and headed to the lakefront. This has now had entirely predictable consequences:

Multiple aldermen along and near Chicago's lakefront have confirmed the closure of the trail along Lake Michigan, less than 24 hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened closure because of a lack of social distancing among trail and park users. Aldermen say the downtown Riverwalk and the 606 Trail are closed, as well.

Ald. James Cappleman, whose 46th ward borders Osterman's, confirmed the closures include the lakefront trail, all adjoining parks, play lots and field houses—which were already closed by the park district—as well as the 606 Trail and the Riverwalk. Ald. Sophia King, 4th, also says the Riverwalk and 606 are shut down.

Cappleman said the department of Public Health and the Chicago Police Department were in agreement about the necessity of the closure.

Remember: the stupid kids who think they're immortal aren't Millennials anymore. The Millennials are staying home with their own kids (Generation C?) and yelling at their own parents not to go out.

In other news, Andy Borowitz had one of his best-ever headlines this morning: "New Evidence Indicates Intelligence Not Contagious:"

In a controlled experiment documented by the study, a seventy-nine-year-old man with intelligence was placed in close proximity to a seventy-three-year-old man without it for a period of several weeks to see if even a trace of his knowledge and expertise could be transmitted.

After weeks of near-constant exposure, however, the seventy-three-year-old man appeared “a hundred per cent asymptomatic” of intelligence, the researchers found.

The researchers, however, left open the possibility that intelligence might be transmissible to other people, just not to the seventy-three-year-old who was the subject of the experiment.

Yes, there was.