Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Frame of Mind 8/16/06 Love. Blood. Kryptonite

The production crew for the movie "Love. Blood. Kryptonite" was trying to make some difficult wardrobe decisions.

"You need to figure out what you want her to be wearing when she's doing it with him," Gaby Arruda, responsible for wardrobe, told Co-Director Matt Mitchener.

She pointed to the couch where Alex Goode, playing the lead Jimmy, sat. The crew was talking about costume for an intimate scene between Goode and Allison Henry, who plays Brooklyn.

The costume conversation continued — school girl outfit, button-down dress or a slinky black dress — and just about everyone had an opinion, except for the actors. Goode headed to the make-up chair, and Henry tried on a few different outfits.

"Love. Blood. Kryptonite." was in its second day of shooting Wednesday. The film is written by Oak Park-River Forest High School senior Matthew Mitchener.

The story focuses on Jimmy, a teenager who drops out of school and sells drugs to support his mother, Mitchener said. The money he makes also goes to keeping his little sister in school.

"It's kind of his whole story of struggling to stay above water," Mitchener said.

Some of the movie's themes may be more adult, Producer and OPRF teacher John Condne said, but it is a movie. And most of the people working on the movie are already out of high school.

"If you think some of these things are not going on in teens' lives ... you'd be kidding yourself," he said.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Frame of Mind 8/9/06 Constant Gardener

Finding the head gardener in Cheney Mansion's acre and a half of land is easier than it sounds. Simply follow the garden hose.

Charlie Ruedebusch was at the end of one Wednesday, the hose trailing from the front of the mansion to the north side of the Cheney property. The head gardener was kneeling on the ground, watering the base of the zinnias in a potager garden.

He guided a gentle shower of water along the base of the plants, the dry dirt turned moist, small pools of water collecting before absorbing into the ground.

Moving his way around the garden, Ruedebusch stood, dirt on his knees, his once white sneakers dark with soil. He was dressed light in the already warm and muggy morning, a gray Park District of Oak Park T-shirt, dirty shorts, torn at the edges and a baseball cap atop his head.

From the zinnias, Ruedebusch moved on to his "world famous tomato patch," which this year includes eight varieties of tomatoes, down from last year's 22 varieties.

"People were sick of me when I'd come around in August and September because I'd have a bowl full of tomatoes," Ruedebusch said.

The head gardener is available in Cheney's gardens every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to answer gardening questions. The gardens are open during daylight hours everyday for the public to tour.

"People sometimes bring in pieces of plants from their own garden and say, something is eating them, what is it?" Ruedebusch said. "I'll try to do a little CSI number on them and take a guess."

One person wanted to know how many kinds of poisonous plants there were. Ruedebusch was about to answer, he said, before wondering why the person wanted to know.

"So I said I couldn't remember," he said.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Frame of Mind 8/2/06 Kitten Kindergarten

Timmy was fast losing interest in the lessons at kitten kindergarten.

The eight-week-old kitten, sitting in the lap of owner Kathy Novy, looked up backward into her face and yawned. Then he looked back into the room, his eyes wide, his ears up.

Dr. Jennifer Malin ran the class in the reception area of The Cat Practice, 323 Chicago Ave., explaining to the three owners gathered together how to best handle their kittens and how to enrich their home environment.

"With cats early on, you want to expose them to as many situations as possible, including people who are not members of the family," Malin said.

At this point, Timmy's attention was drawn to the floor, where there were a variety of items a curious kitten could get himself interested in.

An unused box of litter was stationed in one corner, a tall scratching pole and cat scratchers, one inclined and one flat, in the middle of the room. There was an empty paper bag and a couple of pillows to lie on.

Timmy, stretching out one paw, began a tentative exploration of how to get down to the floor. Novy, not ready to let him go just yet, repositioned him on her lap. But it wasn't long before he was fidgeting again, and eventually, on the floor, sniffing first at the litter box and then around the rest of the room.

June 11 was the first kitten kindergarten class offered by Malin, three owners and four kittens on hand.

"I think, historically, people have always assumed that cats are going to do what they do regardless of anything that people might want them to do," Malin said.

"We sort of see that there's a great need for people to learn about cat behavior and what cats need in order to be kept healthy and properly socialized and to fit in with the family that happens to be caring for them."

Malin offered such lessons as how to trim cat toenails, how to place cats into carriers and how to properly handle kittens. The course lasts two weeks, but Malin plans on offering other classes to people once the first session finishes.

"We really are also teaching the owners just as much as we're trying to teach the cat," Malin said.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Frame of Mind 7/12/06 Gay Games

With "The Electric Horseman" echoing out over the ice, Oak Park resident Dana Ginsberg glided backward, preparing for a jump.

The figure skater was outfitted in black velvet butterfly print, her skirt fluttering in the breeze generated by her speed, flesh-tone tights on her legs. She jumped, two singles one after the other.

Ginsberg shared the Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge with 14 other people, figure skaters and coaches running through their routines. She glided around and past each during her long program practice, the one she plans to perform at Gay Games VII in Chicago this month.

The music wound up, and Ginsberg hopped forward, both skates off the ice, stepped twice and finished with her arms in the air, her head back. She slid on one knee to the arena blue line and bowed to the audience, though the arena was devoid of applause.

Coming off the ice, Ginsberg panted and grabbed a bottle of water from an athletic bag sitting on a bench alongside the ice.

"I messed up a couple of jumps, but otherwise it was good," she said, sitting down. "I like it a lot."

Swallowing some water and putting on a pair of blue gloves to warm her hands, Ginsberg headed back to the ice, practicing jumps and spins in preparation for another long program run.

Ginsberg began skating as a young girl on a frozen lake in Twin Lakes, Wis., where her family had a summer and winter home.

"It was on this frozen pond on the lake, and I started out in blue, plastic double-runner skates," she said. "I used to watch skating on TV as a kid, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill and all the spinning stuff they could do and the cute little skirts that they wore. I wanted to be like them."

Until she read the book "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes," and discovered what it took to become a figure skater.

"They have to starve themselves," Ginsberg said. "They have to have just the right image, just the right amount of luck. There are horror stories of pushy stage mothers behind them."

Ginsberg dropped skating in high school, picking it up again after college. She has skated for the last 13 years, entering various competitions.

A "straight but not narrow gay supporter," Ginsberg will skate in the Gay Games July 18 and 19 at McFetridge Park, 3843 N. California Ave. in Chicago.

"It really makes me angry when people talk about banning gay marriages in different states and think it's a good thing when we could be focusing on more important issues, like universal health care."

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Frame of Mind 7/05/06 A Heartbeat, A History

Slapping clay onto tables, pushing and prodding it into shape, the artists formed the
pieces of their mural, completing the parts before they could construct the whole.

Flipping the clay over and over, Hannah Karcher and Keyone Sellers, stretched it into wide rectangles and squares at
one table.

“You stretch it out so it’s not so thick,” Karcher said. “It uses more clay instead of taking a whole chunk of it and trying to fit it.”

At another table, three others formed the clay into flowers petals, birds and leaves. “This is kind of a bird,” Oak Park resident Emily Whitehead said, shaping the clay with her thumb and first finger, a plastic cup of water before her. “The petals are turning into birds. So they’re semi-birds.”

The art is for a mural on the railroad embankment wall alongside the Oak Park-River
Forest High School south athletic fields. The project, titled “Off the Wall,” is a six-week teen summer employment program with the Oak Park Area Arts Council and Chicago Public Art Group. One of the lead artists, Carolyn Elaine, said the mural’s theme is movement.

“We’ll bring life to the wall,” Elaine said of the mural. “It has a heartbeat, a history. It tells a story.”

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Frame of Mind 6/28/06 Fruitful Discussion

The light was soft, reflecting off the yellow ceiling, shining from small candles on four tables at The Oak Park Abbey as customers tasted wines from Spain, South Africa and South America.

Tasters chatted as they sampled the white, rosé and red wines, sipping from one of the four wine glasses on the table before them. Some drank the entire sample. Others sipped and discarded the rest into a wine bucket set in the middle of each table in the wine bar and restaurant.

Instructor and wine distributor Aldo Zaninotto presented the 19 wines, describing the areas they came from and the flavors people could expect. As Zaninotto talked, more wine was distributed, bottle clinking against glasses, wine gurgling into them.

Zaninotto described the flowery fragrance of one wine from Argentina, and the smell of flowers was evident as the liquid swirled in its glass. He pointed out the spicy flavor from another, and upon tasting, the spices tickled the tongue.

Wine classes are scheduled for every other Tuesday this summer at The Oak Park Abbey, 728 Lake St. Owner Ellen Bettenhausen invites her wine distributors to host classes.

Part of the Abbey's original concept was to educate people, Bettenhausen said.

"I wanted people to come in and really enjoy the experience of wine, to not feel afraid to try something new or afraid to ask a question about this, or afraid to try this food with this wine," she said.

Zaninotto, an Oak Park resident, works for Distinctive Wines and Spirits in Chicago. He travels the world sampling wines, he said, visiting wineries in California, Italy and France.

"I love the passion and the enjoyment, and the beauty about this is, I do sell a product that has life," he said. "It has a meaning. I'm not selling plastic containers, something like that."

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frame of Mind 6/21/06 Dan Ryan Blues

Some people, when they see a problem,just say something ought to be done. Lance Brown of the band Archtop Brownie writes a song.

There is, for instance, one of the band’s latest songs, “Dan Ryan Blues.”

Jumped in my car at a quarter of 8, Got an early start, didn’t want to be late. Drove up on the ramp and rolled to a stop, Found myself sitting in a parking lot.

“When something strikes me as interesting, something says in my head, I ought to write a song about this,” Brown said. “The song, as I played it to the band members, they said, ‘We’ve got to record this.’”

Archtop Brownie, these sages of traffic wisdom, practice twice weekly in the lunchroom at the Oak-Leyden Developmental Services on Chicago Avenue. Bassist Dan Lopata is maintenance supervisor at the developmental center and was able to arrange for the band to rehearse there.

To cover their rent, the four-man band performs monthly at center social gatherings,
Lopata, a Chicago resident, said.

“It’s a blast,” Lopata said. “The clients get a real kick out of it.”

-Chris LaFortune