One of the great joys of being retired with a good income is travel. Noel and I like free-wheeling road trips as much as structured guided tours to “exotic” foreign places. Needless-to-say, the pandemic has put the kibosh on all our travel plans until there is either a proven vaccine and/or an effective treatment for the disease. However, we love our house and small garden and have discovered the great pleasure of mini sightseeing by watching the succession of plants and creatures inhabiting our backyard as the spring and summer seasons advance toward fall and winter.
We have a perennial garden that we embellish with potted annuals. This year for the first time I planted zinnias from seed. My mother always grew zinnias because she liked to display them in the house. I picked up a packet of zinnia seeds at a memorial service for our friend Mark Rogovin in March just before everything shut down. Apparently, Mark was particularly fond of zinnias. This summer I have discovered a great fondness for zinnias myself, not only because they are kind of funky and unruly, but because they attract wonderful insects and even goldfinches.
For the last few years, I’ve planted different types of milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and herbs like dill and parsley for black swallowtails. These efforts were modestly successful, but this summer the zinnias have been a butterfly magnet, enabling us to sightsee by just sitting on our patio and watching the drama of butterflies and plants unfold.
One memorable afternoon we watched a male and two female monarchs cavort around the zinnias with sidebars over to the milkweed and phlox. They were followed by two black swallowtails who were later chased out by the male monarch. Having secured his territory, he flew to the garden next door. His exit was followed by the arrival of the larger eastern tiger swallowtail. I had noticed a few of these yellow beauties flitting high up in our neighbor’s crabapple for several days, but finally the zinnias drew one down to eye level.
As these mini dramas were unfolding, I suddenly spotted a large, odd-looking bee in some phlox. At last, the bumblebee moth I had seen a few weeks before had come back.
Sometimes called a hummingbird moth, this amazing creature is neither a bee nor a bird but a moth with the requisite long tongue curled up under its chin that it uses to suck the nectar out of long-necked flowers like phlox. It can hover in front of a flower like a hummingbird. Its caterpillar offspring pupate in leaf litter which is one reason I have our landscapers blow the fall leaves into the garden rather than into a yard waste bag during the fall cleanup.
Our afternoon garden adventure ended with the male and one of the female monarchs in a tight embrace while in flight. Apparently, they remain like this for several hours. I am in awe.
The Communist Plot in Forest Park
We live in the village of Oak Park, Illinois. Next door to us is the village of Forest Park. Our late friend Mark Rogovin, the zinnia lover, lived in Forest Park. Although Forest Park has evolved into a town with a vigorous downtown shopping and dining area that attracts folks from all the surrounding villages, it is best known as the “Village of cemeteries” with more dead “residents” than living ones. Forest Home Cemetery with its Haymarket Memorial honoring the Haymarket Martyrs attracts visitors from all over the world, possibly more foreign visitors than American.
Although the Haymarket Affair is mentioned in American history classes taught in the US, its significance is downplayed. Not so outside the United States. On May 1, 1886, as many as 80,000 workers in Chicago marched peacefully up Michigan Avenue in support of the Eight-Hour Day Movement. There were marches all over the country that day, but the largest was in Chicago. One of the slogans was “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for What We Will.” The average non-farm work week at that time was about 60 hours, roughly 10 hours a day with Sundays off for religious worship. The 8-hour day was not such a radical demand, but the sheer numbers of workers on the street with their unions apparently shocked some of the larger employers fearful of a workers’ revolution. The next day, May 2, 35,000 workers staged another peaceful march.
Meanwhile, the workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago were on strike demanding an 8-hour work day. On Monday, May 3, the Chicago police attacked the strikers’ picket line and killed one of the strikers. A call went out for a mass meeting on Tuesday evening, May 4, in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality.
The mass meeting was a bit of a flop with less than 2500 workers in attendance. The meeting was just about over with only 200 stalwarts left when 176 Chicago police armed with Winchester repeater rifles arrived and demanded everyone leave. At that point, somebody threw a dynamite bomb. The police panicked and started shooting in the dark. Seven policemen and four workers were killed. To this day, no one knows who threw the dynamite.
Martial law was declared throughout the whole country. In Chicago union leaders were arrested, their homes searched without warrants and labor newspapers shut down. Eventually, eight male union organizers and radicals were indicted, tried, and convicted of murder, seven sentenced to be hung and one to fifteen years of hard labor. The two-month trial was one of the most notorious and unfair trials in American history. National and international pressure to commute the death sentences was intense and forced the Illinois governor to change the sentences of two of the condemned to life imprisonment.
The night before the remaining five condemned men were to be hung, one of the men, an anarchist named Louis Lingg, was found dead in his cell with his head half blown off by a dynamite cap. The other four, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Albert Parsons, and August Spies, were hung on November 11, 1887. Along with Louis Lingg they became the Haymarket Martyrs. Five years later in 1893 the progressive governor of Illinois John Peter Altgeld granted clemency to the three remaining labor radicals, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab.
The Haymarket Affair and the struggle for the eight-hour day became an international cause célèbre. May 1 was set aside as International Labor Day and is celebrated in most major industrial nations. In the United States the date devolved into Law Day with the first Monday in September set aside as Labor Day.
The only cemetery in the Chicago area that would accept the bodies of the hanged men was Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park. At that time and well into the 20th-century Chicago cemeteries were segregated, not only by race, but by religious and fraternal affiliation. Immigrants were also unwelcomed, but not so at Forest Home. As a result, Forest Home has some of the most interesting burial sites.
The burials near the Haymarket Memorial have become known as “the communist plot” and include the buried remains of revolutionaries like Emma Goldman, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Lucy Parsons (the wife of martyred Albert Parsons), and William Z. Foster (General Secretary of the Communist Party USA). One of my favorite grave markers is the one belonging to Franklin Rosemont. It reads “Franklin Rosemont, Surrealism Forever.” Rosemont was a latter day beatnik in the style of Jack Kerouac and went on to found the Chicago Surrealist Group after meeting André Breton in Paris. Our zinnia loving friend Mark Rogovin is also buried near the monument.
I should mention that it was Mark who took on the preservation of the Haymarket Memorial as a major project. He edited both editions of “The Day Will Come,” a booklet about the Haymarket Martyrs. For years he offered a tour of the monument each month and helped restore it after some of the metal ornaments adorning it were stolen.
In addition to the political radicals buried in Forest Home you will also find many fascinating graves near the main entrance that belong to the Roma people (Gypsies), another group denied burial at most Chicago cemeteries.
A Restaurant Sidebar
In these last few months, we have seen some of our favorite restaurants close for good or at best offer very limited take out menus. We were lamenting the loss of our favorite taco joint with a Mexican American friend at Al’s Grill one day when he suggested we explore Melrose Park where he lives. When I think of Melrose Park, I used to think of the now demolished Kiddieland Amusement Park and the closed Maywood Park horse racing track.
I had never been to “downtown” Melrose Park proper. Melrose Park used to be primarily Italian American, but now it has evolved into a Latinx community. There must be 3-4 taco stands on every block of downtown Melrose Park and they all look pretty good. However, we wanted outdoor dining. We turned south from Lake Street onto Broadway and, lo and behold, just north of the Metro track appeared Cuisine de Jibarito with an attached open patio. It’s not a taco joint but a wonderful Puerto Rican restaurant. The exact address is 6 N. Broadway, telephone 708-288-3918.
We were there for brunch, so we ordered the breakfast jibarito, the restaurant’s name and specialty. We have traveled to Puerto Rico extensively several times and never had a jibarito before. A jibarito is a sandwich that substitutes fried plantains for the bread.
I ordered mine with fried eggs over easy and steak. It also comes with cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion. It’s a little messy with the fried egg, but, man, is it yummy! You can choose white or yellow rice as a side. Why settle for white when you can have yellow?! It’s really a lot to eat and I couldn’t finish mine, much to my regret. I later learned that you may actually order a half jibarito. That’s what I’ll do the next time.
Cuisine de Jibarito is owned by a young Puerto Rican woman named Tina. She was the first person in her immediate family to go to college and she has an MBA as well. She helped her parents in their food truck business while she was growing up. After a few years in the corporate world, Tina decided she wanted to be back in the food business but in a more stable way, so she sold her large house and bought the property on Broadway, converting the ground floor into a restaurant.
The restaurant has an extensive lunch and dinner menu and the bar is open for extended hours on Friday and Saturday nights. We know Cuisine de Jibarito is a great brunch place. We’ll give it a try for dinner one of these evenings.