The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Today in your apocalypse

Actually, things seem to have quieted down. Bars and restaurants in Illinois closed last night at 9pm, and my company has moved to mandatory work-from-home, so things could not be quieter for me. I'm also an introvert with a dog and gigabit Internet, meaning I have a need to leave my house several times a day and something to do inside. (I'm also working, and in fact cracked a difficult nut yesterday that made today very productive.)

Outside of my house:

Finally, I was able to get everyone on board with a new date for Apollo After Hours. That only took five days...and 80 emails...

Penrose Brewing, Geneva

Welcome to stop #22 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Penrose Brewing, 509 Stevens Street, Geneva
Train line: Union Pacific West, Geneva
Time from Chicago: 67 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: 1.4 km

Geneva used to be the end of the line. It's two counties over from Chicago, and on the western edge of the world. But the historic district around the train station has tons of cute houses and two pretty good breweries (with another one coming soon).

Penrose opened on 9th March 2014, when a guy from Champaign and a guy from Geneva realized that Geneva's reverse-osmosis filtering makes the municipal water supply one of the purest in the region. Penrose is the first dedicated brewery in the city.

They produce "Belgian-inspired" ales, and I found them all pretty tasty:

I started with their Dryft Morraine IPA (6.3%), a bright, hoppy, Mosaic-filled very good beer with a crisp finish. Then the Taproom IPA (7.1%), not quite as bright but tasty enough, quite good. The Clear Eyes DIPA (8.7%) had an initial sweetness from the alcohol that I didn't expect, with almost juniper-like notes in fact. And finally, the Pancake Robots Imperial Stout (13%), a blast of flavors, including maple syrup and vanilla, that I absolutely loved.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? No
Serves food? No, BYO or delivery
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Screeching to a halt

Illinois governor JB Pritzker has closed all bars and restaurants (except for carry-out and delivery) from the close of business tonight until March 30th:

“There are no easy decisions left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis,” Pritzker said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. “Every choice now is hard, and it comes with real consequences for our residents. But as your governor I cannot let the gravity of these choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe.”

Effective end of business Monday, bars and restaurants will be closed to dine-in customers, with options of delivery, drive-thru and pickup through March 30, the governor said. The state is working with bars and restaurants across the state to ensure they can keep kitchens safe enough to continue home food delivery.

The closure of bars and restaurants goes a step further than an earlier announcement by Chicago officials that the city would limit any establishments that serve liquor to 100 people, or half their regular capacity.

This quite obviously suspends the Brews & Choos project, at least until April. Fortunately I've already written the next four posts and I've got a fifth one ready to go. I'll just space them out a little bit more. So after tomorrow's post, expect to see a new one every three days instead of every two.

How not to engage in crisis profiteering

Some dingleberry from Tennessee thought he'd make easy money by stocking up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Now he's got a garage full of things Amazon won't let him sell. And he's whining about it to the New York Times:

On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver S.U.V. to pick up some hand sanitizer. Driving around Chattanooga, Tenn., they hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples and a Home Depot. At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.

Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes, mostly from “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods,” his brother said. “The major metro areas were cleaned out.”

Matt Colvin stayed home near Chattanooga, preparing for pallets of even more wipes and sanitizer he had ordered, and starting to list them on Amazon. Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each, multiples higher than what he had bought them for. To him, “it was crazy money.” To many others, it was profiteering from a pandemic.

The next day, Amazon pulled his items and thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks. The company suspended some of the sellers behind the listings and warned many others that if they kept running up prices, they’d lose their accounts. EBay soon followed with even stricter measures, prohibiting any U.S. sales of masks or sanitizer.

Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.

Let me suggest other things he can sit on.

Closer to home, my own foraging yesterday turned up odd gaps in supply chains. The Trader Joe's in Evanston ran out of dairy and frozen food; the Whole Foods closer to my house had lots of dairy, but no frozen food or dried beans. They had tons of bulk rice, though, so I wonder what people are eating their beans with. Other friends reported Jewel stores having no produce, and Mariano's having no working escalators, which I suppose is less a problem for the public than it sounds.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Chicago has just announced a cap on bar and restaurant patronage at the lesser of half the establishment's capacity or 100. Why they didn't do this yesterday, before massive crowds went out to St Patrick's Day celebrations, astounds me.

Flossmoor Station, Flossmoor

Welcome to stop #21 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flossmoor Station, 1035 Sterling Ave., Flossmoor
Train line: Metra Electric, Flossmoor
Time from Chicago: 54 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 200 m

This unusual place took over Flossmoor's historic 1906 railway depot in 1996 (but, ironically, it's not directly accessible from the railway). Flossmoor natives Dean and Carolyn Armstrong rescued the building from demolition and built out a pretty decent restaurant. Inside they have a four-room restaurant plus bar, and outside they have a beer patio, mini dog park, and because of course, a caboose.

I popped down there two weeks ago, ordered a pulled-pork sandwich and a flight of beer, and got to work:

From top to bottom, I had: Zephyr Golden Lager (5.0%, 24 IBU), a light, slightly-bitter, slightly-citrusy lager; Rail Hopper IPA (7.0%, 67 IBU), a grapefruit, hop-forward ale with a long finish and good balance; Pullman Brown Ale (6.7%, 26 IBU), with chocolate, coffee, and molasses notes; and Shadow of the Moon Imperial Stout (8.6%, 85 IBU), a big, beautiful beer, with chocolate, toffee, coffee flavors and not as bitter as the IBU rating would suggest.

The pulled pork also tasted great, and the fries were perfect.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes, outside, in the summer
Televisions? Two, in the bar area; avoidable from everywhere except the bar
Serves food? Full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Yes

The hits keep coming

Last night I had the wonderful experience of performing Bach's Johannes-Passion with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra. I say "performing" because, recognizing that we had already cancelled our performance on Saturday and would probably cancel Sunday's as well, this was our one shot. Three months of preparation, hours of study and practicing German diction, gone. And I'm on my second half-personal-day at home dealing with the cleanup, which has included a few hundred emails, changes to the chorus website and ticketing system, consulting with the rest of the Board...and grocery shopping.

We cancelled Sunday's concert in part because Illinois Governor JB Pritzker ordered all events with 1,000 or more attendees cancelled, and recommended events with more than 250 people also be cancelled. Since we have 100 singers and 75 instrumentalists on stage...well, there you go. No audience allowed. 

This makes me no different than other performers and athletes all over the world right now. In Chicago alone, the list of local cancellations has dozens of items. Just now, the Chicago Teachers Union has demanded that Chicago Public Schools close as well. For parents and children who live with food insecurity, that could hurt a lot.

And yet, the thing that enraged me, and has generated near-universal opprobrium, was the President's speech on Wednesday night. Some reactions:

  • "Trump’s 10-minute Oval Office address Wednesday night reflected not only his handling of the coronavirus crisis but, in some ways, much of his presidency. It was riddled with errors, nationalist and xenophobic in tone, limited in its empathy, and boastful of both his own decisions and the supremacy of the nation he leads."—Washington Post
  • "This latest Trump speech was uniquely incompetent and inappropriate.... In my view it had three problems: how it was conceived; how it was written; and how it was delivered."—Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows
  • "At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse?"—David Frum
  • "Rather than focusing on what we need to do here at home, the president focused on trying to ward off the evil that he insisted was coming from abroad."—Chicago Council on Global Affairs president Ivo Daalder
  • "Donald Trump is panicky and clueless"—Kevin Drum
  • "Trump is singularly incapable of addressing this credibly or effectively, with anything like the right mix of realism and hope the crisis demands."—Andrew Sullivan

We live in really weird times. If only we had a leader to reassure us.

Statement from my chorus

We just sent this out:

Apollo community,

After much deliberation, and in consultation with Music Director Stephen Alltop, the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, and both of our concert venues, we have decided to cancel our concert at St Luke’s scheduled for this Saturday March 14th.

The ESO has agreed that tickets to Saturday’s performance will be honored on Sunday at 3pm at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church performance. If you bought a ticket through our online system for Saturday’s performance and provided an email address, we will also be in contact with you directly.

The health of our members, our audience, and our communities is our first priority. We will continue to monitor this situation, and abide by requests from CDC and other government entities. Tonight and on Sunday, we will have hand sanitizer available throughout ECRC, and church staff and ushers will be wearing gloves on Sunday.

Thank you for your support of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago during this difficult time.

Let me just say that the board meeting we had a couple of hours ago had surprisingly little acrimony.

I wrote three versions of the release, one for our members, one for the community at large, and one for our ticketholders. It's been a busy afternoon. And we're still rehearsing tonight for Sunday's performance, just with more hand sanitizer than usual.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

What an exciting 24 hours.

President Trump made a statement from the Oval Office last night about the COVID-19 pandemic that completely failed to reassure anyone, in part because it contained numerous errors and misstatements. By announcing a ban on travel from the Schengen area of 26 European countries that applies to non-US residents, he enraged our European allies while doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus for the simple reason that the virus has already spread to the US. Not to mention, having a US passport doesn't magically confer immunity on people.

But let's not question the virologist-in-chief at this moment, who has so far refused to heed his experts' advice to issue an emergency declaration until Jared Kushner signs off on it. And wouldn't you guess? Republicans in the Senate have balked at an emergency spending bill because it has the potential to demonstrate that government can help in a crisis, which is why they blocked prevention measures earlier.

A few minutes after trading started today, the New York Stock Exchange hit the brakes to hold the plunge in equities values to 8% for 15 minutes while traders pissed themselves. Trading seems to have stabilized as it resumed, but the markets have now fallen about 25% from their February records.

The National Basketball Association has suspended its season and the National College Athletic Association played the first few games of March Madness without audiences.

In Chicago, PepsiCo became the first company to close its headquarters building, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has halted in-person trading entirely. Following California's ban on assemblies of more than 250 persons, Illinois is considering a similar measure. (Scotland has banned groups of 500, and Ireland has cancelled St Patrick's Day events.) And local colleges have moved their spring classes online.

Finally, as a member of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago Board of Directors and as the co-chair of our annual benefit, I am in the position of having to make some of these decisions myself. In another post I'll talk about that. For now, I can say we've sent a few hundred emails around the organization in the past 24 hours because we have concerts scheduled for this weekend and a dress rehearsal scheduled for tonight.

And, of course, I'm working from home again, and I think I should vote today instead of Tuesday.

Updates as conditions warrant.

Updates

I spent an hour trying (unsuccessfully) to track down a monitor to replace the one that sparked, popped, and went black on me this morning. That's going to set me back $150 for a replacement, which isn't so bad, considering.

Less personally, the following also happened in the last 24 hours:

I don't have a virus, by the way. I'm just working from home because the rest of my team are also out of the office.

FEW Spirits, Evanston

Welcome to stop #18 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: FEW Spirits, 918 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Main St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Main)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 20 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 200 m (200 m from CTA)

Disclosure: FEW Spirits has been a contributor to the Apollo Chorus of Chicago for several years. I serve on the Apollo Chorus Board of Directors, and separately as the Chorus's Benefit Committee Chair. I personally solicited FEW's donations on behalf of the Chorus, and because of FEW's generosity, I directed that we will feature their products and branding at our Benefit next month. I also attended law school with founder Paul Hletko. Despite all of this, I have not received anything of value from anyone in exchange for posting this (or any other) review on The Daily Parker.

When FEW's founder Paul Hletko told me years ago he planned to get out of law practice and into distilling, I wished him a lot of success. Wow, did that wish come true.

Paul named his distillery after the 19th-century abolitionist and Evanston resident Frances Elizabeth Willard, whose house just up the road still serves as the headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. (This history also explains the name of an Evanston brewery that will not be on the Brews and Choos project because of its distance from Metra: Temperance Beer Co.)

The distillery gives tours on weekends and has a tasting room open during the week. They open up on the second Friday of each month from May through September, adding a food truck and a band to the mix.

On a recent Friday evening, I stopped by to the tasting room to get some tastings. The bartender had mixed up a delightful sazerac. She also shared a sample of their limited-edition Alice in Chains Whisky, a 101-proof spirit aged in tequila barrels, which, drunk straight, hits you with pepper and alcohol. The Bloodshot Two-Barrel (just a few bottles left at this writing) came out a bit smoother but still with the peppery notes Paul is fond of. I also recommend the Breakfast Gin, a complex, smooth, juniper-forward gin with a hint of bergamot that makes an excellent martini.

They also have excellent taste in swag. I've got a foursome of their super-sturdy and classic-looking rocks glasses at home, and I routinely give people FEW-branded Cairns glasses.

Beer garden? Alley is open in the summer
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? None
Serves food? Food truck in summer; BYO year-round
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes