The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ribfest

Parker has slept soundly most of the day after he and I walked up to Ribfest yesterday. The round-trip took us about 2 hours (not including stops) and 12.8 km.

We sampled five restaurants. Parker didn't give me any notes, so these are all mine, in descending order of enjoyment:

  • Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln. Tasty. Tug-off-the-bone, not too much sauce, tangy KC-style, good lean ribs.
  • Irish Bistro, 3905 N. Lincoln. An Irish pub with ribs? Yes. And not too bad. Fall-off-the-bone style, with a "whiskey marmalade" sauce that had a good bite.
  • Chicago BBQ (no address) certainly had the most entertaining sign (see below). Parker kept trying to bolt out of line because of the smoke their cookers put out. Tehir meat tasted good, and I liked both their "sweet and sassy" and chipotle sauces. Good smoke flavor. Apparently, though, I'll just have to wait for the next rib festival (Naperville this summer?) to try them again.
  • Fireplace Inn, 1448 N. Wells. This was my favorite last year. This year, though, they phoned it in. I still liked their sauce the best, but this time the dazed-looking kid at the booth just gave me some random meat and bones with way too much sauce.
  • Hickory's BBQ, 1234 N. Halsted. Not bad, but nothing special: tender but just OK meat, grilled dry with sauce added after. The sauce was tangy but not interesting. I couldn't tell what it needed, but somehow it just fell a little short.

Unfortunately, both Parker and I experienced some discomfort in fairly short order after leaving the festival. He had a tiny bit of every sample I had, so I'm pretty confident either one of the ribs wasn't all right or possibly a sauce was off. We are both undeterred, however, and we'll be back next year.

Coolest June ever, so far

Chicagoans: you haven't imagined it. This has been the coolest June on record, though the forecast calls for a warm-up this coming week:

The cloudy, chilly and rainy open to June here has been the talk of the town. So far this June is running more than 12°F cooler than last year, and the clouds, rain and chilly lake winds have been persistent. The average temperature at O'Hare International Airport through Friday has been only 59.5°F: nearly 7°F below normal and the coldest since records there began 50 years ago.

It's also been wet. Very wet. So far this year we've had 499 mm of rain, 35% above our normal 369 mm, with more falling as I write this.

Welcome to East Seattle.

Parking meter vandalism

The City is seeing more incidents of systematic violence against meters—this time in Andersonville.

I have a hypothesis, with some of the evidence to support it coming from my own head. Before the parking meter lease, people mostly accepted that feeding parking meters was part of our civic responsibility. We drive on the streets, which are a public good, so we should do our part and pay the $1 per hour or so for the privilege of parking on them. Now, however, a private company gets the money from the meters, which adds a profit motive (and, incidentally, up to $3 per hour) to parking meter collections. In other words, the mood has shifted from cooperative (it's our city, after all) to adversarial (who's getting the money?).

I should make it clear, I don't condone vandalism of any kind. But I understand, and even share to some extent, the feelings that cause it in this case. The proper thing to do, I think, is simply to boycott the parking meters. Starve them; don't beat them to death. But continue to let aldermen and the Mayor know why.

Because this time you messed with our cars, that's why

This morining Chicago's Inspector General released his official report confirming what everyone already knew: Chicago's parking-meter lease deal was, not to put too fine a point on it, galactically stupid. Apparently, though, Mayor Daley can't fathom why this scandal hasn't quietly disappeared like all the others.

Here's the Trib:

While Inspector General David Hoffman put an official seal on what critics have been saying for months, the scathing report comes amid public outrage. Anger over the parking meter meltdown has yet to subside in a rare case where a blunder is sticking to a mayor who has outrun many controversies during his two decades in office.

Though Hoffman declined to single out Daley for criticism, the report will resonate at City Hall, where the mayor's tight rein is legendary and aldermen almost always are expected to back his agenda with little scrutiny. The report takes the City Council to task for ratifying the deal by a 40-5 vote in December, just a day after Daley aides briefed aldermen on it.

... Hoffman's report calls the lease a "dubious financial deal," arguing the city could have raked in at least $2.13 billion if only it had kept the meters after raising rates -- minus the cost of collecting the money and maintaining the meters.

Top Daley aide Paul Volpe immediately fired back at what he called a "misguided and inaccurate" report.

"Misguided and inaccurate?" Dude, you guys messed with our cars. This is America. If you'd sold the CTA for 25 cents[1] the outrage would have ended in a few hours, but this—this is parking, fer crissakes.

[1] It's hyperbole, Richie. Please, for the love of all that's holy, do not sell the CTA.

Perfect day to fly

I took a combination sightseeing/cross-country flight today down to Valparaiso, Ind., 56 nautical miles away. I also stopped at Lansing, Ill., for good measure. (Actually, I stopped so I could get three full-stop landings in, which I try to do every time I fly for (a) practice and (b) convenience. You have to have three full-stop landings every 90 days to keep current at my flight school, and to carry passengers according to the regulations. It's very likely I'll fly again in less than 90 days, but I just like to keep my scorecard full.)

No Google Earth track yet—I expect to have that tomorrow morning, when I get around to it—but I do have art. This is the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Ill.:

Battered dispenser to be rescued from dugout

After suffering multiple beatings at the hands of Cubs players, the Gatorade machine in the Cubs' dugout will finally be rescued:

The machine, which replaced the decades-old water cooler that dispensed Lake Michigan water to thirsty Cubs players from Joe Pepitone to Mark DeRosa, lasted only two months. It was brought in this season as a way to enhance advertising revenues through a sponsorship with Pepsi, which owns Gatorade.

The Pepsi service technician who came out to fix the dispenser twice last week -- after a wayward punch by Ryan Dempster on Monday and Carlos Zambrano's bat-whacking episode on Wednesday -- will be glad to hear the news. He thought he might be on call the rest of the season.

Poor thing.

Parking-meter scandal investigation begins

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced an investigation of the parking-meter lease:

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the "transaction and implementation" of Chicago's parking meter privatization deal, according to a Madigan spokesperson. On May 19 the attorney general's office sent subpoenas to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, LAZ Parking, and Chicago Parking Meters LLC--the three entities that now control the meters--said Robyn Ziegler, who represents Madigan. She wouldn't say what specific information was requested.

Also, the New York Times has picked up the story of our awful parking-meter disaster.

Economics 201 and baseball

Via my college friend D.M., the New York Mets and Yankees have discovered the Intro to Microeconomics lesson of the effect of higher prices on quantity demanded, a.k.a. "overcharging:"

OK, so neither the new Yankee Stadium nor its counterpart in Flushing can handle the capacity of their predecessors. Fine. But where are the 53,070 people who came nightly to the old Yankee Stadium in 2008, and where are the 49,902 who showed up every night in the final season of Shea Stadium?

So far, the Yankees are averaging 44,636 in their new crib, the Mets 38,806. If baseball is so popular in this town and Yankees and Mets games truly are must-see events, as both clubs insisted throughout the offseason, why aren't there 10,000 people milling around outside their ballparks every game night, trying to buy up every last ticket in the house, and the rest going home empty-handed and disappointed?

One of the reasons, of course, is simple and self-evident. It's the economy, stupid. But in a metropolitan area that certainly has more than 83,442 people - the combined average attendance at both parks - wealthy enough to buy their way into these exclusive clubs dressed as ballparks, there has to be something more to it.

So how high are the prices at Citi and Yankee? High. But hard to break down easily. For today's game against the Marlins, fans have 29—yes, twenty nine—price levels, from the $19 "Promenade Reserved" section near LaGuardia, up to the $375 "Delta Club Gold" section sitting on a diamond-encrusted golden throne in the Mets' dugout. The seats I would look for, upper deck box seats in the infield (Citi sections 406-428, the "Promenade Box") are $35.

Wrigley, today, has three price levels left (because the park is nearly sold out), $56 for upper deck box infield up to $90 club box infield. (Good seats, though--the $56 seat is right above home plate.)

I should point out, both the Mets and Yankees are in first place today, and the Cubs...well, they're not, but they are at least one game above .500.

So is it just the price of going to the park that is keeping people away from New York baseball parks? Or is it something else?