Monthly Archives: September 2014

American Indian Center of Chicago Powwow 2014

Grass Dancers from the 2007 National Pow Wow

Cookie and I went to a Powwow! It was mostly swell.

The Not-so-good

You weren’t allowed to drive to the actual powwow, which is held in Busse Woods Forest Preserve, so we drove to one of the satellite parking lots where—if the AIC web site was to be believed—a shuttle bus would arrive to ferry us to the event. The AIC web site was not to be believed. We waited 45 minutes  at Woodfield Lot B, and no shuttles appeared. We finally went to investigate and discovered that the Woodfield lot was set aside for overflow parking once the first lot filled up. There were really no plans to pick people up from Woodfield. So. What we had here was a failure to communicate. Hopefully the web site will be clearer next year.

But the main fly in our ointment was that Sis didn’t feel she could come, though she really wanted to. She has mobility issues. The confusion about the parking/shuttle situation exhausted her, and since the event happens entirely on grass (making wheelchair movement impractical), she didn’t know whether she’d be able to get around. Now we know what to expect. We may be able to work around the venue’s grassiness, assuming future powwows happen in the same place.

The Good

The nice part of the wait: we met a lovely family. Jeanetta, her husband, 3 daughters—I believe the oldest told me she was 6—a toddler son and baby Matthias. Baby Matthias was quite young—maybe 3 months old, if that. The children were charming. When first we noticed their family—apparently waiting for the shuttle as well—we went to ask if they had any idea when a shuttle might appear. One of the daughters, who was perhaps 4, greeted me by hugging me fiercely around the knees. She saw me talking to her mother and figured I must be a friend. It was adorable. Once Cookie and I finally arrived at the powwow, we ran into them and either the 4-year-old or her 5-year-old sister (just guessing at ages) ran up to us, exclaiming, “I didn’t know you were coming too!” just like we were old friends. Gotta love well-raised, open-hearted children.

The Day

The high was probably around 60. In a sweater and waterproof jacket it was either comfortable or a bit warm depending on whether the sun was out or had ducked behind a cloud. The day had started overcast, but by the time of the Grand Entry, the sun peeked through (according to AIC Director Andrew Johnson, who was emceeing). By the time we arrived (we missed the Grand Entry—grrr—because of the aforementioned shuttle snafu), it was mostly sunny with only a few intermittent times that a cloud hid the sun.


Cookie enjoyed the corn soup. We had our first-ever Indian frybread. Frybread is like a very lightly fried doughnut, sans hole. Okay, it’s also not round. The dough was yeasty and not too light; not, for example, like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and miles better than Dunkin’ Donuts of any variety. Cookie went for the basic version. I tried the cheesy frybread to get some protein. Mistake. They used that carnival nacho cheese on it, which other than being fatty and orange bears no resemblance to actual cheese, or even cheese sauce. The super cherry drink was delicious. Next time I go to a powwow I’m going to have sassafras tea. I regretted not having it at this one. I’m also going to check out the food booth with the vegetarian options; we just stopped at the first one we found, but there was at least one more, with more vegan/vegetarian choices.


Great drumming and singing. Several different groups took turns providing live music for the dancing, whether a dance was competitive or intertribal. The musicians played from under a large awning; each group had its own area set up, and when it was any one group’s turn to play, they would be miked.


The dancers’ regalia, for the most part, looked like something from Las Vegas. Lots of plastic and polyester. But it was colorful and interesting. The flashiest were the double bustles worn for boys/men’s dancing in the fancy category. They wore one down-trimmed bustle around the shoulders and another at about waist height. We saw:

  • tiny tots/first time dancers
  • Junior boys
  • Junior girls
  • Girls jingle
  • Boys grass
  • Girls fancy
  • Boys fancy
  • Teen girls jingle
  • Teen boys grass
  • Teen girls fancy
  • Teen boys fancy
  • Golden Agers


We watched a bit of the intertribal dancing. I even participated, joining Jeanetta’s husband, 2 of the girls, and their toddler brother. Often, though, while intertribal dancing was going on, Cookie and I visited the artisans and merchants who ringed the grove. Cookie bought jewelry, including a lovely turquoise and silver necklace.

Cookie’s new jewelry

I had my eye on a book called Native American Trail Marker Trees by Dennis Downes (he was there! I met him!), but I wasn’t willing to cart it around. I cleverly plan to order it on the internet later. Here’s the web site, if you’re interested:

The Daily Herald has an article and video about the pow wow here.

For Chicago area folks, there’s another pow wow September 20-21 at Naper Settlement, sponsored by Midwest Soarring. Can’t do it this year, but maybe we’ll check that one out next year.

Crisp, finally


It’s starting to feel like fall. We didn’t have what you’d call a warm summer, but the last week of August reminded me what “dog days” used to feel like. K. Tempest Bradford was in town—I spent a lovely evening writing with her and others, and another at a dinner party Mary Robinette Kowal held in her honor. I’m not the only person who remarked to Tempest that she arrived just in time for the hottest, most uncomfortable days we’d had all summer. Luckily it cooled off toward the end of her visit.


Anyway, I have Tempest (and Michi and Jen) to thank for the discovery of Just Write Chicago, which really eased the dog days for me. Just Write Chicago is a Meetup group that exists solely to offer writers some companionship and commiseration on their lonely journeys. I’ve sampled both the Tuesday night and the Friday afternoon groups. The members are passionate about writing, and friendly to newbies—a winning combo, you ask me.

I’ll still write with my local peeps (aka the Naperville Region of National Novel Writing Month) in November, of course, and get together with them during several months (January-June,and then again in September) when they morph into The Writing Journey. But the Chicago group has so many members that write all year long that I’m almost assured of finding a group that’s meeting when it’s convenient for me to attend. With time set aside both for writing and socializing/problem solving at each session, Just Write Chicago is a fabulous discovery.

So, for you other writers who are reading this: how do you find encouragement along the way? Do you use actual or virtual writing groups for company and/or advice?

And…does anyone have any suggestions about finding or forming great critique groups? Please comment below, because I think that may be the next step…

Ravinia 2014


Sigh. Ravinia season is almost over.

Every summer we trek up to Highland Park for at least a few shows, even though we don’t live that close. We didn’t go to many this year. I swear it’s getting harder every year to find Ravinia concerts we want to attend that aren’t in the middle of the week. Some of us have work the next day, you know, Ravinia folks? In case any of you are reading this, not everyone lives on the North Shore. I would have liked to make the New World Symphony concert you scheduled for a Thursday. And both BK and I would have loved hearing Buddy Guy with Mavis Staples (scheduled for a Tuesday); it almost broke my heart to miss that one.

Still, when we can manage to get there, Ravinia is mostly a good time.

The good? Picnicking on the lovely grounds. Arguably the best—and certainly the easiest—way to do that is to stop at Pita Inn in Wheeling and pick up delicious Middle Eastern food. That way all we have to worry about are drinks and utensils and the like. We might also bring fruit and cookies on those occasions, but we often make a trip to the Carousel for some Superman or Cappuccino Crunch ice cream for dessert. When the timing is too tight to allow for a trip to Pita Inn, I pack dinner. The timing was indeed tight for our most recent trip, so I brought bruschetta, a 3-bean salad, sandwich fixings, pinot grigio, water, grapes, and cookies.

Also good: the people-watching. Crowds vary, depending on the act. For the Moody Blues, the crowd was remarkable only in that they were even older than BK and me. That doesn’t often happen.

The bad? The ungodly racket.

BK, Sis, and I had pavilion seats, thank the Lord—and Larry, who gave us the tickets. One immutable piece of advice I have for anyone who attends Ravinia in hopes of actually hearing the music is that they’d better get pavilion tickets. Most of the lawn patrons are so rude that if you’re sitting among them, you can barely make out that there’s any music happening. It’s as if they’ve confused Ravinia with a forest preserve. The music might as well be coming out of their boom boxes and they feel it necessary to shout over it so their friends can hear their drunken witticisms.

It’s not necessarily a sure thing that you’ll hear the music even within the pavilion, but at least there are security people there who will shut the loudmouths up temporarily, and the ratio of security to audience is better in the pavilion than it is on the lawn. Also, once a concertgoer is in the pavilion, he or she no longer sucking down alcohol, so said concertgoer might have a bit more decorum.

I sound crabby. I really do like going to Ravinia; it’s just not a perfect experience. Often, though, it’s better than I expected. Case in point: last Friday’s Moody Blues concert. More on that later.

So whose shows did we attend this year?

  • John Hiatt / Robert Cray*
  • Willie Nelson / Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas* / Jason Isbell
  • Train* / The Wallflowers
  • The Moody Blues
Thanks for this photo, Sis, and the video (linked to below)

The Moody Blues weren’t tickets we would have bought for ourselves, but a member (aka heavy hitter) from BK’s company also happens to be a generous Ravinia donor. He knows we go to Ravinia every summer. He couldn’t use his Moody Blues tickets, so he offered them to us. I figured I would know one Moody Blues song, “Nights in White Satin”. I knew tons, like this one.

In addition to the music, there were fabulous slides of the Moody Blues through the years alternating with trippy psychedelic visuals on a bank of three screens behind the band. Another bonus: the other concertgoers actually listened to the concert! I don’t know if it’s because they were older, or because it rained on and off through the evening, so only really committed fans attended, but we could actually hear the show. All in all, we had a swell time.

We have one more concert this season—we’re seeing Poi Dog Pondering on September 12. Then summer will really be over. Sigh.

*Jaw-droppingly awesome.