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Amazing stories not on Maui

By Staff | Aug 20, 2015

Chicago’s version of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, an outdoor venue designed by world-famous Architect Frank Gehry, gleams in the sun at a jazz concert on the columnist’s memorable day. 

(The columnist pledges that this will be the last non-Maui-related column for a while.)

CHICAGO, Aug. 12 – On rare days, the gods seem to be with you when everything goes right. Or for that matter, God himself or herself. All of this occurred on this single day.

Friends know that our family sold a small last apartment here last December during a hellish three weeks when everything was packed up and moved to storage on the coldest day of this year (minus five degrees.) Now the stuff is being sold or donated to charity – also a daunting project.

After sorting in the morning, some of the stuff went in an $8 cab ride to a nearby Salvation Army. Along with it were five “Voices of Maui” books, the first in the series, packed in a small bag to be taken home. All the books fell out on the sidewalk in front of the Salvation Army. A lady, Toni, about to get in her car, approached.

Toni: “What are all those books that are all the same?”

Columnist: “They are my books. I wrote them.”

Toni: “What are they about?”

Columnist: “Profiles of people in Hawaii from my column.”

Toni: “I always wanted to go to Hawaii. How much are they? I’ll buy one.”

She hops out of her car with a $20 bill – more than enough to cover the price – and buys the book. She then hands me her card, which says “PhD” on it.

Columnist: “What is your degree in?”

Toni: “I have two. They are in clinical psychology. I am writing a book. It is going to have text and multimedia links. But where should I go in Hawaii?”

Columnist: “Maui. We have the best, best beach: Kaanapali. If you go there, you will return again and again.”

Toni: “I don’t want a lot of tourists. I want to relax.”

Columnist: “Don’t go there; go to Lanai.”

Toni: “I have heard that.”

Columnist: “I don’t have my card.”

Toni: “That’s okay. Your name is on the book. I will find you on the Internet.”

Columnist: “Just Google me, and you will see many entries.”

The next stop is a place called Open Books, which turns out is eight blocks away. I had brought along a bag of old travel books and wanted to see the store and give them away.

Near the store was a picturesque fast food place. A blinking miniature signal, like ones you find on the Mainland at major railroad crossings on highways, was outside. Take a photo with the iPad.

Two minutes away, a cool sculpture appears. Up close, it is a 125th anniversary commemoration of the historically significant Haymarket Riot, in which striking union members clashed with police and were killed in a rally. Plaques on the base are from various unions, including in one in solidarity from France. More photos…

Hot. Need something to drink. On the next corner is Fulton Street, home of the old fruit and vegetable market. Oprah’s Chicago studies, since sold, were nearby. The once nondescript area west of the downtown Loop was a place the columnist had never visited in 40 years here. It is now lined with very fasihonable restaurants.

Turning into a French place called Avec; handsome all-wooden stools line a bar. Sangria is the drink of the day. The columnist loves Sangria, orders one, and in 15 minutes has written seven paragraphs of this column because of the funny book sale at the Salvation Army store.

Then it is off to the bookstore, which turns out to be a dropbox. Books duly deposited.

Already this has been quite a day, also including some wonderful Greek food for lunch. The storage area was four blocks from so-called Greek Town, lined with places with names like the Parthenon, Athenia and Muses (wonderful roasted potatoes as a side). Some 39 years ago, the columnist had a celebration lunch at the Parthenon the day our first child was born, after spending the morning at a nearby printer where the annual report I was responsible for coordinating was being printed.

It is 4 p.m. Tired; time for the bus ride back to where we are staying. A nap on the way…

Two blocks from the columnist’s last stop comes another interesting dialogue. Two people get on the bus, and an ample bus driver, black with blonde hair, gives out a shout, gets up and hugs the two people getting on the bus.

About to get off the bus, I remarked that I had never seen anyone hug a bus driver.

COLUMNIST: “Where is my hug?”

DRIVER: “You are not a regular.”

COLUMNIST: “Maybe I should become a regular.”

DRIVER: Okay, Baby. If you do that, you will get your hug, too.”

Only in Chicago.