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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, June 24

Gapers Block

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Highland Park Faerie Festival

Hello, Blithe Spirits! It's your old pal Jenny Peaseblossom again, here to give my account of the Highland Park Faerie Festival held yesterday! Even though we lowly humans were not fortunate enough to be born with beautiful, shimmering, glimmering wings, we can still get together and fly high on our love of Faeries! Just after 10am, straight from a consultation (for you new readers, I create custom flower essences to cure anything that ails the body or the mind) I set out for the Faerie Fest. I stopped to pick up my friend Marigold. He had spent most of the morning working lovely lavender Magicks in preparation for a successful, happy Fest. We paid the admission fee, and set out to explore!

A lovely vendor made faerie wings while patrons waited, festooning the wings with jewels, glitter, and happiness. Marigold was particularly interested in a vendor selling magic eye pictures depicting unicorns and wizards. While he stood mesmerized in front of a couch-sized painting, I wandered over to a booth called The Meading of Life. Now, friends, the Goddess says to always be honest, so I won't fail to mention that the proprietor looked like Thor himself — sans thunderbolts, of course. His long golden hair was gathered into a neat ponytail bound with a leather tie, and he wore a long, sleeveless hemp duster with a Mandarin collar. I introduced myself, and he gave me his name — Hummingbird. And, oh, did my heart beat like a hummingbird! He showed me all the varieties of mead and wine he was selling, the whole time smiling straight at me. Marigold was nowhere to be found still. Hummingbird uncorked a bottle of mead, poured into plastic tumblers, and we drank deeply. Suddenly, there were no other booths, no Magicks purveyors, no pastries for sale, no "Blessed be" mugs or bumper stickers. Just Hummingbird.

We scampered off, leaving his assistant to handle the sales, and sat under a tree in a nearby park. We passed the bottle back and forth, quoting sonnets, and telling tales. And we kissed, Readers! Oh, did we. Our tongues, tasting still of mead, explored our faerie mouths, hungry. And then I heard someone approaching. I thought it might be the police, and I pulled away quickly, remembering that time I got hauled away in Berkeley when my ex and I succumbed to lust and a joint. But it wasn't a cop — it was Marigold, holding a picture and looking pissed as hell. He yanked me away from Hummingbird, who lurched to his feet. Hummingbird yelled at Marigold, who responded wordlessly, breaking the picture on Hummingbird's back.

So, I guess you could say that the Faerie Fest was, well, eventful. I don't know what else to say. I'm hungover from mead and surrounded by McDonald's wrappers.

White Ribbon Festival

Evanston's White Ribbon Festival celebrates the long-lasting influence of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) on not only this Chicago suburb but also the entire nation.

The WCTU was formed in 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio, in response to women's concerns about problems caused by excessive liquor consumption. The national headquarters moved to Evanston in 1900 to the former home of Frances Willard, WCTU's second national president, who died two years earlier. Members believed in complete abstinence from alcohol, and their organizational efforts and influence helped usher in Prohibition in 1919. Later, tobacco and other drugs were added to the list.

Festivities this year will again be held Saturday, June 25, in Centennial Park, at the corners of Sheridan Road and Clark Street along Lake Michigan. Booths, tents, and activities explaining the WCTU's messages of "For God and Home and Every Land" and "Agitate - Educate - Legislate" include:

• The Pledge Tent
Those interested in either joining the WCTU or abstaining from harmful substances will be awarded with a white ribbon, which symbolizes purity. Pledges are available for elementary-aged children, teenagers, women and men. Adults who bring a bottle of hard liquor and symbolically pour the booze on the ground also get a special pin.

• Childhood in the late 1800s
A mock 19th Century workstation highlights the terrible conditions for the child laborers of that time. Modern kids can sit in the cramped space, which has an hard wooden chair and is heated to a temperature to 120° Fahrenheit to simulate factory conditions, to get a feel for what their lives could have been like back then.

• The Fight for Learnedness
This booth provides information on how the WCTU pushed for the education of women and children, including the endorsement of kindergartens.

• 5K Bicycle Fundraiser
Frances Willard was a firm believer in physical education as well. She learned to ride a bicycle, and this noncompetitive race along Northwestern University's lakefront trail is a tribute to her. All moneys will go to the WCTU.

• Tools for Temperance
Cross-stitch your own sampler, sew an anti-drug throw pillow or make your own protest sign in this crafts area, which provides materials at cost. Also on hand: recipes and samples of snacks perfect to carry on marches and vigils.

• Ball Toss
Test your arm at this popular game, knocking over empty beer and liquor bottles. Double your score for smashing fifths or higher. Win small Bibles, tracts or hymnals.

Various churches and other similar organizations and sponsors will have booths dispensing information.

The annual Temperance March is another festival tradition. Women dressed in period garb proceed from 1730 Chicago Avenue to a local establishment that serves alcohol. Upon their arrival, the women sing hymns and pray aloud for the souls of the proprietors and customers, urging them to abstain from alcohol and sign a pledge "to keep thyself pure." This year, the WCTU has chosen Wolfgang Puck's. The women should arrive at the corners of Church and Maple Streets at 7pm.

Admission to the White Ribbon Festival is $5 for adults $3 for children, with a discount for each bottle of liquor brought by an adult. There is no charge for the Temperance March.

Taste of the Skies

We all know the Golden Age of Aviation is long gone, and we can kind of be happy about that when navigating Expedia, Travelocity and the like for dirt-cheap fares to far-off places. Nevertheless, once upon a time, air travel was something of an event, and it's hard not to miss that mystique.

Especially when a low-cost start-up gives you a bag containing just six mini pretzels and expects you to be grateful.

Since I'd experienced that sort of treatment just last week, I was thrilled to learn of the Taste of the Skies event that was to be taking place a few days later at both of our local airports. Yep, on my return to O'Hare from Denver, while walking by the gates of one of those "legacy carriers," I saw a flier, which, as much as a fluorescent yellow Xerox can, promised a return of the glamour so sadly lacking from the taxi-like plane ride I'd just had. Taste of the Skies, the notice told me, was going to take place on Saturday at Midway and Sunday at O'Hare, and it was to be sponsored by United, Delta, and American — perhaps not coincidentally, all struggling airlines. There would be food, prizes, music, movies — in other words, all the stuff that once made the skies so friendly.

Now, the subtext of this event hardly qualified as that. No, it was a boldfaced marketing effort to remind travelers like me what we'd been missing on our AirTrans, ATAs and Spirits. If only we would just allow ourselves to recall what it was like to get a full can of soda along with our multiple cookies, surely we would flock back to those airlines which had once held us in the thrall of their generosity. Surely we'd learned our lesson about what we'd taken for granted.

If only to make up for the six pretzel debacle, I was game. So, last Saturday, I rode the Red Line south, switched to the Orange Line, took a deep breath as I exited the train, and dreamt anxiously of treats not purchased at Hudson News. As I wove through the maze that is the Midway parking deck, it was all I could do not to imagine sleekly dressed flight attendants handing out wings that proudly announced the wearer's loyalty to the airline of his or her choice. Maybe they'd even be wearing hats. Ah, heck, who am I kidding? I would have settled for a uniform that didn't involve an Oxford cloth shirt.

Well, friends, there really is no going back.

When I finally found the Taste of the Skies, the main feeling it conjured wasn't of delight. Rather, it was of disappointment. There, amongst the seemingly interminable lines for the metal detectors, was the cordoned-off "event." As I'd imagined, it was a promotional ploy, but it was a doggone ineffective one. Three folding tables were set up, and they were primarily littered with brochures offering me branded credit cards from MBNA. That's right: instead of pinning on the United logo, I could flash it when checking out at Jewel, earning frequent flier miles that I might not ever be able to use. As for the flight attendants I'd hoped might be milling about, no luck there, either. In their place were bored looking kids who must have been interns in the marketing department and who were apparently told to dress in "business casual." Nor, for that matter, was there much excitement on the music front: somewhere, a portable CD player had an indistinguishable crooner singing "Fly Me to the Moon." Sigh... Talk about clever.

Everywhere I looked, there were more reasons to be depressed. Which isn't to say I had very far to look. Just over the partition was a Potbelly's, and it was starting to seem pretty darn appealing. Why, you ask?

Well, I happened to catch the attention of one of the folks staffing the American Airlines table. "Can I offer you a snack?," the fellow asked in a tone less obliging than the surliest stewardess of old. "Yeah, that'd be great," I said, figuring I ought to get at least something out of this. "What do you got?"

And, then, he handed me a red packet emblazoned with the name I'd learned to dread: Fisher. Oh, you can guess what I found when I opened it up. Uh-huh. That's right.

Six mini pretzels.

The Critic is Gapers Block's occasional series of "real reviews of fake things." The reviews are intended as parody and should not be construed as fact. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. No animals were harmed in the making of this article.


About the Author(s)

Jenny Peaseblossom lives in a lovely condo near downtown Highland Park. She has two cats, Sage and Cerulean. Jenny enjoys anything with quinoa, her Vanagon and Hempware by Judy on Main Street. Pax vobiscum, pals!

Dee Stiffler enjoys good beer, dry champagne, and tequila shots with training wheels (salt and lime) — sometimes all at once.

Matthew L. Peck contributes to Gapers Block and studies English at Northwestern University. As for the pretzels, they weren't even that good.

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