Civil War monuments are everywhere

Evidence that the Civil War is more than a fleeting memory in the American psyche is everywhere, such as this small historical monument located at a park in the sleepy Chicago outer-suburb of Saint Charles. Nestled by the lake and surrounded by leafy streets and well-manicured lawns, this little 1840s cottage is the former law office of Steven Sandborn Jones, one of the first lawyers to … Continue reading Civil War monuments are everywhere

It takes a village to be kind

The village town of Galena is on the outskirts of the Mississippi River, on the western edge of Illinois — a once prosperous trading post. Today, it is a tourist attraction with a curious combination of main streets crowded with modern cars next to historic old buildings erected at a time when technology could build nothing taller than a few stories. I have written a … Continue reading It takes a village to be kind


Never have I seen expressions of such unbridled joy by so many people at once, as when Chicago’s historic baseball team won the final game that sent it to the World Series on Saturday night. In this city with sharp separations along economic and racial divides, a diverse crowd was jumping, singing and crying for joy – strangers embracing and high-fiving each other. Cars honking in celebration – happily … Continue reading Euphoria


You can sometimes feel the most alone when you are in a crowd. In the waning days of summer, in mid September, I walked through a street festival in Chicago. It was warm and humid still. Winter seemed impossibly far away. And everyone was more concerned about the band on the stage, the arts and crafts being sold by vendors, and navigating around baby strollers and dogs … Continue reading Solitude

Christmas in Vienna

Christmas somehow makes more sense in Vienna. That’s the conclusion I reached in a visit this winter, when I happened upon Vienna’s “Christkindlmarkt.” The outdoor market and festival is located in the city’s Rathausplatz, which is basically their city hall… never mind that it looks like a Gothic church or palace. Actually, do mind. The building is only 150 years old, designed in the Neo-Gothic style. But, it is a … Continue reading Christmas in Vienna

A library that’s more than books

Walking on a pedestrian path near Denver’s downtown late at night, I almost walked right past this little gem of community art. It is a birdhouse-sized library of free books. The project started in Wisconsin in 2009, when a man simply put up a miniature wooden school house filled with books on his lawn as a tribute to his mother who loved to read. But … Continue reading A library that’s more than books