Judith's Java
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Oct 01, 2014 -- 10:03pm

Scams happen every day, but rarely make the headlines. Many scams go unreported. Who wants to admit they were played for a fool? But scams can lead to mayhem. The scams cited here didn’t work, but they probably did somewhere. Take heed.

My husband and I took a walk last weekend. As we passed our neighbor’s house, he asked us if we could talk.  He stared at my husband, clearly confused, then asked, “Did you have a stroke?” Taken aback, my husband answered, “No. I’m fine.” Our neighbor explained that a young man came to his house, said he was our son and that his father, “Mr. __” had suffered a stroke and was in the local hospital. He then explained his car needed a tow and he needed $20 to get it towed and get him to the hospital. My neighbor refused but felt badly that he might have kept a son from his ailing father.

We explained that our son lives in a distant city and that we visited him last weekend. Further, my husband is training for the Chicago Marathon and feeling great. The only thing our neighbor did was deny a scammer some easy loot.

That started me thinking. A few weeks ago a young man wanted to come in to assess my home’s “eco-worthiness.” I don’t invite strangers inside. About two years ago a young woman rang my doorbell at 7:30 in the morning looking for “Bridgette.” When I told her no one by that name lives on our block, she asked to come in and look it up. I refused. She went to the next house. They also refused.

These were both scams, and being downright un-neighborly I saved myself from being robbed—and worse.  Better to say no, than to be robbed or possibly attacked, knowing that you were played for a fool.

My advice: don’t open the door. Scammers are never welcome.

from the desk of judithrae ross october View Comments (0)


Sep 25, 2014 -- 9:57pm

Dr. John Nicolosi, Nico for short, has an artist’s soul. Even as a child he loved to paint and draw. Born in Rockford, Nico’s now a Chicago treasure. But his story isn’t the typical starving artist makes good tale; a chance encounter with Lady Luck. It’s much better than that.

Nico, a practicing dental surgeon, has always kept painting—and at a professional level. Soon celebrities started coming to him to do their portraits. The late Rue McClanahan was among the first. Later, Madonna approached Nico to paint her daughter’s portrait; Lucie Arnaz did likewise.

Nico’s reputation grew. People magazine dubbed him “artist to the stars.” That’s no spin. Nico’s subjects include President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Frank and Barbara Sinatra and Lamb Chop. He has painted the scenery for the Oscars, Golden Globe awards and the Cannes Film Festival.

When Rue McClanahan’s foundation asked Nico for a contribution, Nico donated a painting. That painting raised a hefty amount when auctioned. Charities flocked to his door for his donations ever since…and Nico never refuses a good cause.

Lately, Nico has been involved in Chicago causes. Last summer he painted a bench in honor of the Cubs hall of famers, including Ernie Banks. The bench will reside in Wrigley Field. Currently, Nico is working to help the Chicago Pet Project raise money for their homeless animal shelter. In fact, he’s hosting an al-pacca. The two are getting along famously. Nico even cooks meals for his furry guest.

Nico also designs hand cancelled envelopes for the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate historical events and anniversaries. These include envelopes marking the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, with author Harper Lee attending, American Graffiti with Cindy Williams, and Carousel, with Shirley Jones unveiling the envelope. He’s also designed envelopes honoring General Patton; Verdine White (Earth Wind and Fire) David McCallum, and soon Tippi Hedrin.

Nico believes God gave him talent and he must use his gift to help others. That’s Nico’s gift to God…and all of us.

from the desk of judithrae ross september View Comments (0)


Sep 18, 2014 -- 10:10pm

Say Chicago and images of cigar-smoking politicians and gangsters with tommy guns come to mind. It didn’t matter where I was. Mention Chicago and someone would ask how the gangsters were doing. Poet Carl Sandberg put a lyrical gloss on it. Chicago was the “city of the broad shoulders,” and “hog butcher to the world.”

These images persisted. But times have changed. The stockyards are no more; U.S. Steel’s South Works is now a park surrounded by housing. West Madison Street has morphed into a fashionable neighborhood.  Grimy, decaying factories have been rehabbed into luxury condominiums.

Most astounding is the growth of Chicago’s and Cook County’s cultural scene. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is among the world’s great orchestras. It’s opening its 123rd season with a stellar performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Chicago’s Lyric Opera which began as a “good” company, (but not as good as New York’s Metropolitan Opera), now takes a back seat to no one. Their 60th season opens with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Chicago’s Art Institute hosts art exhibitions from around the world as well as its own collection of everything from ancient and medieval art to modern masterpieces. The Planetarium brings the heavens to generations of school children, but also has hands on exhibits for the pre-school crowd. Beluga whales happily swim at Chicago’s aquarium. It’s still exciting to go through the World War II Nazi U505 submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry or the jewel collection at the Field Museum.

Lincoln Park and Brookfield zoos sport animals from around the world, as well as great petting zoos. Many a child has learned up close and personal by visiting our zoos.

Lake Michigan shimmers. Beautiful parks stretch along the lakefront from Wisconsin to Indiana. Drinking water from Lake Michigan is better than most bottled varieties. There’s no more beautiful sight in the world than approaching Chicago at night from the air.

How true: Each time I roam Chicago is calling me home.

from the desk of judithrae ross septemberView Comments (0)


Sep 04, 2014 -- 10:25pm

‘Twas a quiet evening in Javaland. My husband and I were enjoying dinner while watching The Jazz Singer (1927 version) when our phone intruded. A representative from our local party was dialing for volunteers. I said I don’t phone bank. No one likes to be called during dinner by someone reading off a script. He went to “plan B—canvassing.” I answered that I oversaw wards for their party during past elections. End of conversation.

But, this young man kept referring to the election as ‘his’, or ‘his party’s’ election, condescendingly. I’ve been voting in “his” elections for 48 years. Alas, elections have merely become party elections. They’re just allowing us to participate.

Today, mostly party advocates, candidate’s friends and special interests vote. With each candidate spewing venom, most citizens’ tune out and stay home. So this minority elects candidates who make decisions which affect us all. When voters take a pass, Democracy takes a knock-out punch.

It takes big money to run for office. Prospective candidates must either have party backing, can self-finance or represent a special interest group which bankrolls them. That cuts out some of the best and brightest…and what’s left may not be appealing—yet another reason why voters sit out elections.

But we can still outvote the party hacks, millionaires who are ‘Honorable’ wannabees, and the one-issue wonders. On November 4th voters will elect federal and state officials. Consider these issues; then vote.

On the federal level, will your choice work to end Congress’ stagnation? How will your choice vote on entitlements, immigration reform and education? Forget sexual exploits. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin out-slept them all.

On the state level, how will your choices work to trim the pension fund deficits, shore up Illinois’ share in education funding, and create more jobs while designing an equitable state taxing structure?

Democracy needs us on Election Day. The hacks and the interests will be there; outvote them…and let’s end phone banking.

from the desk of judithrae ross september View Comments (0)


Aug 28, 2014 -- 9:02pm

Each of us thrilled over the Jackie Robinson West’s Little League Baseball team’s victory, making them the United States champions. Chicago paused Wednesday to honor our champs with a ticker-tape parade, which they richly deserved. Now that the cheering has slowed, let’s look at what this team really accomplished—so far more than out-slugging their Las Vegas opponents.

They brought us together. This team is largely African-American, and located in south-side Morgan Park. But these young men played for all of Chicago, for all of Cook County, and when they won, we all cheered. For an instant we lived without bigotry; they lifted the hate monkey from our backs…and it felt great. Thank you, Jackie Robinson West for giving us a glimpse of a better world.

These champs showed us the meaning and importance of true sportsmanship. Kudos to Coach Darold Butler for making sportsmanship as important as learning how to hit the opponents’ slider.

Here’s why. In 1983, the Sox got into the playoffs by “winning ugly.” It didn’t matter who got hurt or how it happened, just as long as the team won. Yes, they won, but the joy of a good clean victory was lost in the process. Our new champions gave that good feeling back to us.

In the final game, Nevada threatened when one of their team hit a home run. He got hand slaps aplenty as he rounded the bases. But between third and home, this kid got special hand slap from one of our players. That’s sportsmanship, and that young man made us proud. With sportsmanship came cooperation. We saw that in the next inning when our champs clinched the title with a big league double play. Now that’s cooperation; Cubs, Sox take notice.

Jackie Robinson West’s team showed us baseball’s true importance. They displayed the strength of character that will help them when they enter ‘real-world.’ Baseball’s a great teacher, and it’s fun.

Congratulations Champs. You taught us more than you’ll ever know.

from the desk of judithrae ross augustView Comments (0)


Aug 21, 2014 -- 7:10am

It’s sickening. Item: Police officer, Darren Wilson murdered unarmed Michael Brown, 18 apparently for jaywalking. Is jaywalking now a capital offense? Item: 16% of Cook County’s resident shop at the Chicago Food Depository--watch out Whole Foods and Jewel.  Item: Pity Cook County’s working poor. They can’t afford supermarkets, but aren’t poor enough to shop at the depository. They’re subsisting on salt, sugar, grease and caffeine, caffeine being the healthiest item. That’s more calories; less nutrition. But look at the bright side. It boosts the economy. The need for plus size clothing is busting out all over; so are diabetes and heart disease.

Some sugar-coat this as “the new normal.” Unemployment has declined, but wages have stagnated.  Few of us are “better off” now than we were ten years ago. Many middle-class Cook County residents now go “thrifting” at Salvation Army Thrift stores.  No wonder we’re stressed out and angry.

That anger boiled over in Ferguson, MO after August 11th when Officer Wilson killed Michael Brown. Ferguson’s largely African American community exploded at Ferguson’s largely white Police Department—with reason. Brown’s hands were raised in surrender mode when he faced Wilson, who then shot him 6 times.

Ferguson’s residents and sympathizers have been demonstrating ever since. The police, saying there are agent-provocateurs among the protestors countered with tear gas, rubber bullets, press restrictions and arrests. One arrested “provocateur” was a 90-year-old female Holocaust survivor. Déjà vu? Congratulations officers, you’ve violated the rights to free speech, free press, free assembly and redress of grievances—80% of the First Amendment. Where did you get your badges, the Heinrich Himmler Academy?

Ferguson is in our homes, hearts and minds day and night. It’s sparked sympathy demonstrations in Daley Plaza; has awakened old grievances against Chicago’s police. Remember when the Grant Park police rioted in 1968? Reverend Jesse Jackson is in to Ferguson to show solidarity.  Revolution’s fires simmer; we’re all Ferguson residents now.

from the desk of judithrae ross august View Comments (0)
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