Monday, October 10, 2011

What is a chapbook?

Chapbooks were originally small, inexpensive books sold from street carts by merry olde English peddlers called chapmen. From the 1500s through part of the 1800s, these little books, on a variety of topics, were so cheap that once their owners read them, the pages were often used as “bum fodder” (toilet paper).

Today, modern chapbooks have risen in status (most certainly from bum fodder), and are a popular method for publishing poetry. Running only 40 pages or fewer, chapbooks are shorter in length than a perfect bound full poetry collection, and are usually saddle stitched with staples along a folded spine.

Many new poets who may not have written enough poems for a full collection might get more immediate exposure through a chapbook. Also, poets who write a series of poems that connect with one another, or are all on the same or loosely related theme may opt to get a chapbook published.

There are dozens of poetry chapbook contests each year offered by small press or university publishers. Many presses may opt to publish at least part of their output as chapbooks rather than full collections due to tight budgets or, conversely, to be able to publish more poets! Contests are often the vehicle toward chapbook publication in order for all entrants to help contribute toward the manuscript that will ultimately be chosen. This custom is very common and totally acceptable. Chapbook contests also offer presses a way to scope out new or original talent they may not have been exposed through the full collection submissions they receive.

Poets may also prefer to publish a chapbook themselves. With the use of page design programs, clip art, stock photos and speedy printers, a short run of chapbooks doesn’t cost much and can serve as a “calling card” for poets who seek featured readings at local venues, and finally have a way of sharing (and selling) a printed selection of poems with friends, family and fellow poets who’ve been asking, “Where can I find more of your poems?” ◦

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My favorite and recommended reference book on writing poetry: The Art & Craft of Poetry by Michael Bugeja

The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja (Writers Digest Books). When reading this book, chapter by chapter, how come I feel as if this fine-poet-with-a-funny-last-name is sitting right next to me, giving me a private study on ways of poetry. By the time you reach the end of this highly readable guide, you may feel as if you’ve gained an MFA in poetry writing, if you take what Bugeja (pronounced as if “bluejay-ah” but without the “l”) says to heart and apply his principles to your own writing.

He covers how to approach styles of poetry from love to nature, and from political to occasional. His guides and examples for writing form poetry are accessible and first rate. He puts a lot of himself in the book, which makes his experiences come alive to the reader as the “show” rather than the “tell,” of what could instead be a lecture.

There’s much to relish here, so I recommend taking it slowly and experimenting with your own poetry as you progress. Bugeja makes complicated subjects clear and easy to grasp, and helped me as he mapped out the vital differences between narrative, lyric and dramatic poetry that I now share with my own workshop participants, for example. ◦

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Where to Eat, Shop and Stay in San Antonio: Recommendations

I'm not a restaurant critic or a power shopper, but I am a published foodie poet as well as a bargain hunter. And surely someone with opinions. My opinions about places my family visited recently in San Antonio are no exception. So gather 'round for what to enjoy beyond the city's lovely and beloved Riverwalk.

Top of mind: Food! A dozen people you might meet in San Antonio will tell you the same thing I do: Rosario's has the best fish tacos in town. Even if you order something else, it will be good. Plus, the artsy atmosphere is a kick with overized contemporary paintings of famed latina beauties including Frida Kahlo and Rita Hayworth (a secret latina!) The flagship location is on Alamo in the historic King William neighborhood, but there are others at the Riverwalk and at the airport.

Also in King William within walking distance of Rosario's is the Madhatters Tea House and Cafe, a funky, hippy-style gathering place with good breakfasts and various rooms that offer eclectic decor and casual seating. Also try Taco Haven on 1032 S Presa, voted the best breakfast in the whole state of Texas by the Food Network magazine! Recommend the Torres Special, which is a taco that author Sandra Cisneros also favors, and includes bacon and guacamole right in the tortilla. My husband's Uncle Joe eats breakfast there every morning!

Thai food in San Antonio? Ya' can't always eat Mexican and if you head up to the north part of town, you can't do any better than Sawasdee Thai Cuisine at 6407 Blanco Road (the locals pronounce it blank'-oh). Our table mates thought the cashew chicken dish Aunt Stella ordered was the best. But pick out the hot peppers. It took Uncle Jerry about 15 minutes to recover after he bit into one to see how hot it was. All our dishes were good, accompanied with fresh, bright vegetables and served in an elegant atmosphere.

Any visit to San Antonio should include a shopping trip to Market Square/El Mercado. Shops bursting with Mexican and Tex-Mex treasures, along with ssidewalk restaurants and strolling mariachis to take you south of the border while still in the states. Unless you think of Texas, as many locals like to, as a country separate from the U.S!

Away from downtown are two shopping gems: For gift items and latino cook paraphernalia is Melissa Guerra at the Pearl Beer Factory center at 200 E. Grayson. I bought Mexican paper cut-out streamers for my son's upcoming graduation party and my daughter bought a chili pepper apron and hotpads. It's not cheap here, but has casuela flameware crockery items you may not find elsewhere.

For authentic clothing and decorative items, an indoor and outdoor mecca of choices await you at Fiesta on Main at 2025 N. Main Street. Among the hundreds of Mexican clothing items on hand, my daughter and I both found fabulous embroidered blouses which have garnered endless compliments. I have never seen as many pinatas as in this store's garage-like alcove: skulls, cupcakes, spaceships, some the size of golf carts. If I could return with a car, I would buy the dark wood room divider with colorful saints carved in relief.

The gift shop at the McNay Art Museum at 6000 N New Braunfels Ave is also a fun spot for more contemporary artsy gifts. And we did find some good towel and Bollywood-style file folder bargains at Stein Mart at 999 E Basse Rd.

One last recommendation: If you rent a car, a good place to stay is the Bonner Garden Bed & Breakfast, about halfway between the airport and downtown, in a lovely neighborhood filled with stunning vintage homes. Each room is unique, the owner couple are wonderful people and the long private pool invites you to relax and unwind. Our daughter and son-in-law stayed in The Studio room for five days (see photo above) and didn't want to leave, and my husband and I had stayed in the Ancestor's Room a few years ago.

BTW, the B&B is closeby The Foundry Coffee and Community, a volunteer-run, free-trade, green-living coffee house and the aforementioned Fiesta on Main market-style store. ◦

Monday, June 27, 2011

Caverns Across the Country/Recommended: Natural Bridge Caverns

I've been down to San Antonio about five or six times. Besides welcome and repeat trips to the riverwalk or to indulge in delicious fish tacos at Rosarios, I've always found something new to uncover.

For example, on a recent visit I found a "new" cavern. Over the years, I've taken tours of a number of established caverns. Some of the worst have been Meramec Caverns in Missouri, its stalactites picked over by tourists and thieves, and Ruby Falls in Tennessee, with its tacky music, cheesy light show and underground waterfall with the look and feel of basement plumbing that's sprung a serious leak.

I do hold a tender spot for Cave of the Mounds in southwest Wisconsin, which smaller formations are nonetheless impressive, lending an overall atmosphere both natural and enchanting. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, on the other hand, is indeed massive, but made up mostly of endless grey cave walls and few cavern formations.

Still on my list to see are the Luray Caverns in Virginia and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. And if I should venture deeply into Europe, the Postojna Caves in Slovenia would appear on my itinerary.

Until then, I have found a cave that one ups any cavern I've visited in the past: Natural Bridge Caverns near New Braunsfels, Texas. Though more wet and steep than other cavern tours, it is well worth the effort. Its graded pathways lead into one magnificent room after another, the size of cathedrals and just as awe-inspiring. Its multi-million-year-old, dramatically lit formations tower above and below in a variety of earth-crafted sculpture installations, true art without need for the human touch. Bats also once inhabited these caves, but no longer.

Take the Discovery Tour, lasting 70 minutes and tracing 3/4 of a mile down, around and up the railed, and sometimes unrailed, paths.

Afterward, I had fun digging through a huge tray of polished gemstones in the giftshop, stuffing an array of solid, striped and marbled stones of every color into a small drawstring bag for only $6. Many may be destined for my upcoming earring and necklace jewelry projects. ◦

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Javelins Versus the Pink Ladies in Chicago

In my recent Chicago Reader story about the real Pink Ladies from Chicago's northwest side Taft High School of the 1950s, I talked about the school's popular, local hangout, Canale's Pizza. Located on Higgins near Harlem, the now-defunct Canale's along with nearby and still-thriving Parse's Red Hots and SuperDawg Drive-in served as models for the musical "Grease" Burger Palace, according to Jim Jacobs, "Grease" co-writer and Taft alumni.

The greater neighborhood also spawned an odd lot of celebrities from different ends of the spectrum, from Hillary Rodham Clinton from nearby Park Ridge, to John Wayne Gacy of Norwood Park Township, two blocks from the Chicago border, as well as Taftites, both famous and infamous, ranging from superspy Robert Hanssen, portrayed in the film “Breach,” to the lovely actress Donna Mills of “Play Misty for Me” and TV’s “Knots Landing” fame.

"The depiction of the Pink Ladies [in 'Grease'] is true to us,” said Rosemarie Doladee Marinelli, a former Pink Lady at Taft who now lives in Florida. “We acted tough, but we weren’t tough. In those days, You had to act tough in a public high school dominated by people who never went to a Catholic elementary school, as we had. You needed friends. It was survival.”

“There were the guys’ clubs [such as the Goombas, Imperials and Ravens], and clubs that had both guys and girls, such as the Javelins and the Knights, but we were the first all-girls club at Taft,” she said.

Marinelli remembers a particular confrontation with the Javelins at Canale’s Pizza. “Our friend Margie was a wild child. She stole a lot of girls’ boyfriends,” she said. “When Margie started flirting right there with one of the Javelin guys, the Javelin girls went berserk. In the confusion, they dragged me into their car and two girls held a knife to my neck in the back seat.” It took a guy in the front seat to convince the knife-wielding pair that they had the wrong girl. “They let me go,” said Marinelli. “Margie? She ditched out the restaurant’s back door.”

So much for needing friends to survive, huh Rosemarie?

Marinelli also thinks she may have inspired the "Grease" Pink Lady character “Frenchy,” though Jim Jacobs said he doesn't know and never met Marinelli, who left Taft the year Jacobs started. She said, “I wore glasses and was the geek of the Pink Ladies. I dropped out of high school my junior year to take care of my dad, who had cancer. But I wasn’t a beauty school drop-out.” ◦

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Secret Presidential Hobbies

Certain gossip remains juicy, even if decades or hundreds of years have passed. Case in point: gossip about U.S. presidents' secret hobbies. While these hobbies may not be quite secret, most are little known. Neither were they topics at Oval Office meetings or State of the Union addresses.

I had originally hoped to write a poem about these Commander in Chief pastimes, but instead decided on a blog post. My exposure to this topic started when I missed the 40th Annual Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival in Lincoln, Ill. I promise the story gets better. Instead, I wandered the nearby Lincoln Heritage Museum and found a series of museum cases devoted to personal and professional stats on all the presidents, including their hobbies.

The father of our country, George Washington, indulged in man's man pursuits: billiards, cards and fox hunting. Andrew Jackson had a penchant for cockfighting, which might reflect his reputation as a sadistic scoundrel. And did you know we had two exhibitionist presidents? Both Teddy Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams shared a preference for skinny-dipping, the later in the Potomac River, the former on safari.

James Polk claimed politics as his pastime. I sure hope so, prez. Conversely, Ulysses S. Grant's sideline was smoking. As unhealthy as that sounds, it might be what got him and the rest of the north through the Civil War, when he had bigger fish to fry besides mainstream "hobbies," i.e. the Rebels.

For Richard Nixon, his thing was "bowling." Somehow, it's hard for me to picture him eyeballing the head-pin at an alley poised with a big blue baby watermelon under his chin. I know someone suggested Nixon also try tennis, but he claimed, "I'm not the tennis type." He had a streak of self-realization.

Millard Fillmore, the president with the funny name and automatic stand-in after Zachary Taylor suddenly died, had an avocation as a book collector and dealer. I knew there was something to like about this guy!

Presidents get voted in, but even before they're nominated I think they should each be required to take reading, writing and public speaking tests. The public needs to know the results before it's too late, if you get my drift.

But the presidents who fortunately did not need such tests and naturally favored the word arts as passions included William Henry Harrison, who liked reading the bible; Abraham Lincoln who preferred reading, as well as his well-known railsplitting, early on, and also theater in his latter years (which unfortunately brought down the final curtain on his presidency), and our 44th president, Barack Obama, who finds lecturing, writing and playing basketball to hold special emphases in his life.

I wish I had more room to talk about what all the presidents did for fun, such as John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. On second thought, never mind about those two, at least as far as hobbies are concerned! ◦

Monday, May 09, 2011

Catch the fire of Tierra Roja Flamenco

Chicago has a new flamenco dance and music group, Tierra Roja Flamenco! Lead dancer and choreographer La Perla, percussionist and hammer dulcimer musician Julian X. Cumpian and dancer Raye Bemis make up the core of this fabulous flamenco troupe performing in various venues around Chicago, and beyond. Guest dancers and guitarists are also featured.

Make reservations to see their performances every other Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Tapas Gitana in Northfield, Ill. Upcoming Wednesday performances are scheduled for Summer 2011 at Carnivale restaurant in downtown Chicago.

"La Perla is a true star. She matches, if not exceeds, any flamenco performer I've seen in Spain."
~ patron at La Taberna Tapas on Halsted

Tierra Roja Flamenco can be contacted at 312-450-1332, or visit the Tierra Roja Flamenco Facebook page. ◦

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tsunami Poem

Another poem I wrote that's part of an "Earth Changes" series:


Some hoped it would stay locked in time,
like Hokusai’s “Great Wave,” its balance
“most beautiful, just before” its collapse.

This isn’t high-cresting art, but rather about reach,
which starts by scraping clean with watery knife,
exposing unseen shore,

Sucking sounds of hands on clay,
that push and prod fingers wet
with oceanic slip miles into land,

Grabbing what’s grown, built, born,
welded, nailed, poured,
prepared and painted,

To carry back to sea,
that roiling volcanic kiln
from where it all arose.

~ Cynthia Gallaher

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crossing Portages

A poem I wrote that expresses a theory of what might transpire in conjunction with the NMSZ:

Crossing Portages

Eagles soar over their namesake marsh only once a year,
in the state marketed as “a great place to sleep!”
to those on cross-country road trips.

When they roost, eagle eyes might connect dots
that draw carp fingerlings between raindrops,
across flooded portages to meander toward Erie.

Before long, their massive filets could back-flip over Niagara,
like divers who catapult from Acapulco cliffs
with all their strength.

Here in the lolling headwaters, it’s awfully quiet in Lime City,
where the old canal that carved its artifice next to the real
waits smothered under buildings and concrete roadways.

When I put my ear to the ground
close to the banks of the Little River,
I’m not sure if I hear

the splash of thousands of fins on approach,
or these rivers, angry, twice invaded,
scheming to split what George Washington sought,

right down the middle.

~ Cynthia Gallaher

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We Are All April Fools

“If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings.” ~ Welsh Proverb

The first of April,
ah, the day when we’re allowed to lie,
to say hello, when we mean goodbye.

The day to tape a quarter to the floor,
to see what fool will try to pick it up,
a day to place an apple core in sister’s drawer,
or plastic bug in brother’s cup.

A day when you can’t wait to get to school,
and find a boy or girl to fool.

But everybody’s thinking the same thing,
‘cause being fooled first feels like a sting,
it’s salt inside a wound, it’s green eggs and ham,
when it’s you who’s lampooned, when you fall for a scam.

Is now the time to reciprocate?
Sorry, Charlie, too late,
to tell Jack he’s got dirt on his face,
when he’s just one-upped you in the April Fool’s race.

But it’s a long day, give the clock some ticks,
then dish out the phony compliments.
Suppose you say, “That’s a lovely necklace, Annie,”
when Annie isn’t wearing any,
she reaches up to touch her neck. What the heck??
“April Fool’s!”

All day, you need keep on guard. You know it’s hard.
Just remember if someone yells, “Your shoe’s untied,”
keep on walking, put pride in your stride.

But there’s a moment that always makes fools of us all,
when teacher hard pitches a stunning curve ball,
and announces early on when the a.m. bell rings,

“Class, listen up, there is no school today.”
Then adds,
“April Fool! You’ve all got to stay.”

~ Cynthia Gallaher

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why record your dreams in a journal?

In the Robert Moss book, The Three 'Only' Things: Tapping the Powers of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination, he cites "The Nine Powers of Dreaming:" 1. We solve problems in our dreams. 2. Dreams coach us for future challenges and opportunities. 3. Dreams hold up a magic mirror to our actions and behavior. 4. Dreams show us what we need to do to stay well. 5. Dreams are a secret laboratory. 6. Dreams are a creative studio. 7. Dreams help us mend our divided selves. 8. Dreaming is a key to better relationships. 9. Dreams recall us to our larger purpose.

And when we journal dreams on a consistent basis, perhaps for a two or three-week trial period, we may see a pattern develop that can help give us greater insight into that "other" side of ourselves.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Off-The-Strip, Weight Loss Las Vegas Experience

While some prefer to be in the thick of the brilliant lights, over-the-top glitz and dizzying spectacle of the Las Vegas strip, I opted instead to settle a mile or so east at the Holiday Inn Las Vegas – Flamingo during my recent three-day stay. I enjoyed this vantage point from beginning to end! The five-story hotel is new, clean, quiet, away from the madness, and in an off-strip area of good restaurants. The lobby and rooms are HGTV-style in contemporary interior design and décor. Most of all it was convenient to the University where I attended a social media conference. UNLV is also an off-strip haven, with contemporary architecture in earthy adobe colors and airy walkways next to desert gardens.

My business associate, on the other hand, stayed on the strip. However, he said he couldn't sleep from the overstimulation of electricity and sound that surrounded him along Las Vegas Blvd. On the strip itself, you wait in line to check in your hotel, wait in line for cabs, pay up to $15 for wi-fi costs, wait in line to get into a restaurant.

But after each one of my conference days, I returned to my hotel and checked e-mails and social media at the Holiday Inn free business center. Hardly anyone else was there. Then, after a bite to eat, I took the hotel’s free shuttle to and from the strip to check out how Vegas has drastically changed since my last visit years ago. The hotel staff and shuttle drivers are friendly, authentic and couldn’t do enough for me. Since this hotel is relatively new, not many people yet stay there, so I received special treatment and quick service at breakfast.

Breakfasts, such as the garden and California omelettes were excellent. Enjoyed a nearby Spanish tapas restaurant called Firefly, around the corner on Paradise, with visiting relatives. Try their bacon-wrapped dates or veggie empanadas. And across the street from the hotel is Roy's Hawaiian Fusion. Entrees there are usually around $25 or so, but I stopped in during happy hour, weekdays until 6:30 p.m. and had two filling appetizers and a small glass of wine, all for $15. Try the lobster California maki or the beef tenderloin skewers with spicy vegetables.

I didn't choose Priceline name-your-own-price on this hotel like I usually do. That's because I was set on staying at this specific hotel: as I said close to the University, easy to get a cab (they call for you), the free shuttle to and from the airport and from the strip, new, non-smoking, cool décor and free wi-fi. Cost was far less than the strip. I found a $2 off coupon at the hotel for the nearby Atomic Testing Museum, which was better than I imagined, although quite an oddity. One of my relatives told me I must have been “desperate for something to do” to go there, but you never know when a poem might spring from such an unusual experience.

Living on appetizers and an occasional energy bar, walking mile after mile along the strip, taking in a session at the Breathe oxygen bar at New York, New York to keep me going, I actually lost weight while in Vegas, but never felt hungry. ◦

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Characteristics of the Creative Personality

In his classic book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, author and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines the characteristics of creative individuals. He wrote, “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.”

Some of the creative characteristics to look for, which he discusses in his book:
1. A great deal of physical energy alternating with a great need for quiet and rest.
2. Highly sexual, yet often celibate, especially when working.
3. Both extravagant and spartan.
4. Smart and naïve at the same time. A mix of wisdom and childishness. Emotional immaturity along with the deepest insights.
5. Convergent (rational, left brain, sound judgment) and divergent (intuitive, right brain, visionary) thinking. Divergence is the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas, to switch from one perspective to another, and to pick unusual associations of ideas. Convergence involves evaluation and choice. Creative people have the capacity to think both ways.
6. Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally.
7. Humble and proud, both painfully self-doubting and wildly self-confident.
8. May defy gender stereotypes, and are likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other as well. A kind of psychic androgyny.
9. Can be rebellious and independent on one hand, and traditional and conservative on the other.
10. A natural openness and sensitivity that often exposes them to extreme suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Despair alternates with bliss, despair when they aren’t working, and bliss when they are.

Does this sound like you or someone you might know? If so, keep up the creativity! ◦

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil
Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Weather Reporter Extraordinaire
Halfway between the dawn and sunset of winter,
it’s the high noon of the season.
Will old sol wear sunglasses today
and keep his rays of warmth and wisdom to himself,
or take Punxsy Phil by surprise?

Phil ascends with bleary eyes
from watching “Groundhog Day” over or over
again last night in his public library lair,
and looks as puzzled and ruffled haired as Bill Murray
as he pokes his head out of the tree stump, wondering,
“What did I get myself in the middle of?”

He stands on hind legs and raises his paws
you’d think he were Santa Claus the way the cameras flash,
causing artificial shadows of himself
to loom in every direction,
like a dozen enormous cut-outs of T-rex, vexed.

Halfway between Christmas and Easter,
between the solstice and equinox,
between a native ritual and a European tradition,
between a squirrel and a woodchuck,
Phil’s stuck,
here, with all these people.
He keeps looking over the crowd
for Andie MacDowell, but only faces strangers.

Then Phil sees the sun peeking out from behind
a billowy cumulus cloud,
and hears the sudden roar of the crowd,
because everyone finally notices his real shadow
is what’s on the ground,
and think he’s afraid when he looks where they’re looking,
then exits the other way back down the tree stump hole.

But he’s not scared at all,
just plain tired of all the fuss
and from staying up so groundhog, doggone late,
when any other rodent worth his fur
would know to hibernate.

~ by Cynthia Gallaher

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Night Before Snow Day

The Night Before Snow Day
It hasn’t snowed a flake
since Christmas Eve,
but that was weeks ago.

Clouds are thick above my head
on a school night here below,
it’s so hard to go to sleep tonight,
cause I fear that it won’t snow.

Sun Valley School could use a Snow Day,
it’s been mighty overdue,
I could almost eat a tray of ice
to make it all come true.

I wear pajamas inside out
before I go to bed,
do a snow dance
'round the table,
even shampoo my dog Fred.

Later, in the deep of night,
I hear scratches at my window,
and it's not the squirrels
but crazy whirls
of snowflakes hitting glass
real hard.

And in my yard,
snow comes drifting up the stairs,
hiding all the flower pots,
'cause there is lots
and lots of snow.

Even TV says it’s so,
when I turn on early morning news
and find out

Schools are closed down on the south side,
up north schools are chained and locked,
schools 10 miles away are closing,
plus the one I go to down the block.

Sun Valley School is closed today.

Sun Valley School? What did the newsman say?
I yell Snow Day! Snow Day! Snow Day!
I can’t help myself from screaming,
I wake my little brother,
to tell him I’m not dreaming.

I make plans to build a snow fort
and sled down parkside hills,
fill our day with well-packed thrills,
make a snowball bowling alley,

Hold a no-school, snow-stoked rally,
cause our one-and-only Snow Day's
here, at long last, in Sun Valley.

~ by Cynthia Gallaher

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Gery Chico Has to Be Chicago's Next Mayor

Hey Chicago. It's time to take off the gloves and show Rahm Emanuel that he doesn't belong in Chicago. Chicago doesn't belong to him and Washington no longer does either.

Beyond the hoopla, beyond the numbers, beyond the hype, stands Gery Chico, an experienced, dedicated, highly qualified workhorse of an individual who is the most qualified person to take on the tough job of leading as mayor of America's City -- Chicago.

I spent time tonight with an old friend, Lenny, who worked closely with Chico while he was President of Chicago School Board. We were at an art opening making chit-chat. Lots of people work for bosses they don't like. This wasn't the case with Lenny. He greatly admired and respected Gery Chico when he worked for him, and still does. He's campaigning for him now. Why does he feel this way?

This is what Lenny told me. Gery Chico is a straight shooter who tells it like it is. He doesn't pull punches. He doesn't hide behind politics. He works with the people and cares for the city he works for. Chicago isn't a stop-off for higher ambitions as another candidate might imagine.

This story is about HOW Chico works. Lenny has seen other politicians give the same busy-work assignments to seven different people while spending their own time politicking and chewing the fat. Instead, according to Lenny, Gery Chico was hands-on, and used project management skills to make the most of the Chicago citizens' money on each project he was responsible for. He asked his staffers for reports, data, progress and kept close tabs on tasks that led to the desired end results, under budget.

Lenny told me that when someone reported to Chico, he empowered that person to contribute, prove and convince. He never dictated but wanted each person, including Lenny, to provide the data and proof if that staffer had a new idea or suggestion. Then Chico followed up on what was right -- versus dictating what he wanted, as some others might do who are running for mayor right now :) Chico, in contrast, believed in teamwork. He listened and responded to those who had hard evidence for their arguments instead of pushing any type of self-centered agenda. He backed good things that got DONE.

According to Lenny, Chico worked with the people of Chicago and his staff members to make the best decisions and pragmatic moves to improve the city instead of trying to "rahm" his way down the public's throat with his own wants and ambitions.

Personally, I watched the recent WTTW mayoral panel. When reporter Carol Marin asked which among the mayoral candidates was bullied in school, Chico was the only one who didn't raise his hand. My coworkers asked, "Does that mean he was a bully?" I totally thought the opposite: he was instead someone who wasn't a bully but who stood up for himself. The back story goes that his younger brother was being attacked, with someone was actually on his brother's back. Gery Chico ran to his brother's defense and knocked the guy down, clocking him. After standing up for his brother and himself a couple of times on the south side of Chicago, the goofballs laid off, respecting him and leaving him alone. We need someone like Gery Chico, someone who can stand up to all comers and keep Chicago strong.

Chico went to Chicago Public Schools and so did his kids. He walked into City Hall, by himself, while still a junior in college (UIC) and asked for a job. He didn't loll around the north shore, get extra privileges and connections, and turn wimpy getting knocked off his bike, needing to be rescued by his younger brother, like you know who. Chico is our man. Chico for Chicago. ◦