Short on days, February long on fun in Chicago

From the Saturday, Feb. 7, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

Botanical-Orchids-3-10-131The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

February may be a short month, but in Chicago it’s long on fun. So, if you’re considering a trip up to the Windy City and looking for something to do, here’s the long and short of it.

Tonight: The Ultimate ’80s Prom

Do you miss the ’80s? Do you miss Prom? Do you miss the ’80s and Prom?

If you answered yes to any of those questions and are still looking for something to do tonight, consider a last-minute trip to Chicago’s House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.), which is preparing to relive Prom with a throwback twist.

Featuring popular cover band Sixteen Candles, HOB will host the “Ultimate ’80s Prom” playing all of your favorite hits from the decade, along with drink and food specials and a costume contest. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the performance beginning at 9 p.m.
For more information, visit

Feb. 14: Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

If you’re fed up with the snow and cold, the Chicago Botanic Garden – located north of the city at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe – has a way to put a little springtime in your step.

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Illini Football Needs To Draw More Local Talent

TBToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) It’s been a week of daffy tantrums, quarterback defections and assistant coaching suspensions for Illinois football.

But it’s also been a week of recruiting.

Pretty solid recruiting, at that – especially by recent Illini standards.

With a late flourish on Wednesday morning, Illinois climbed the rankings to snare the Big Ten’s sixth-rated class according to Scout, 247Sports and Rivals. Those three recruiting services also had the Illini rated at Nos. 36, 45 and 46, respectively, on a national scale.

There was another noteworthy development too, from my vantage point: a quote from a local product that stood out the most this week amid all the signing day hubbub.

After becoming one of Illinois’ late signees early on Wednesday, three-star defensive lineman prospect Jamal Milan of Chicago Al Raby was asked by the Champaign News-Gazette why he picked Illinois over Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa State.

“Why wouldn’t I want to play for my home state?” Milan told the newspaper. “That’s pretty amazing for me.”

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Chicago’s heartiest exhibit for Valentine’s Day

Wireless_Station_Last_NightFrom the Saturday, Jan. 31, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


What is love?

According to Chicago’s Newberry Library, that was the question Googled most frequently in 2014, while “how to kiss” topped the list of how-to queries. So, if you’re among those pondering that elusive question – or kissing – as we approach Valentine’s Day (that’s in two weeks, fellas), you should take comfort in knowing that you’re far from alone.
In fact, you have history on your side.

At the Newberry (60 W. Walton Street), located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, a new “Love on Paper” exhibit shows that love indeed does come in all shapes and sizes, spanning the centuries and the globe – especially when it’s expressed on paper.

Displaying the likes of heart-shaped maps from the early days of printed cartography, elaborately constructed Valentine’s Day cards, and even 13th century missives from Dante swooning over his Beatrice, “Love on Paper” features an eclectic array of items ranging from proclamations and pictures to cynical put-downs and comical send-ups of love.

“We knew we had this fabulous collection of historical valentines,” Diane Dillon, interim vice president for research and academic programs at the Newberry, recently told the Chicago Tribune. “That seemed like a natural thing to show around Valentine’s Day. But we wanted to contextualize them.”

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Illini Basketball’s One Silver Lining

GroceToday’s column from CBS Chicago

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) Right now, when it comes to NCAA Tournament bids, the Big Ten is looking a little small.

In ESPN’s latest edition of “Bracketology,” Jim Delany’s 14-team conference had only six schools in the projected 68-team field. League leader Wisconsin was listed as a two-seed, and Maryland held a three-seed. But behind them, Indiana could be found clinging to a seven-seed, while Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State all stood together as a trio of mediocre nine-seeds.

Illinois wasn’t included in the bracket, not at all surprisingly considering that the Illini are currently 13-8 overall and just 3-5 in the Big Ten. However, when it comes to NCAA Tournament hopes, John Groce’s squad does have one silver lining – none of Illinois’ eight losses are truly “bad” setbacks.

Unlike Michigan and Nebraska, there are no New Jersey Institutes of Technology or Immaculate Words blighting the Illinois loss column. All of the Illini’s defeats have been against teams from major conferences with winning records, and seven of the losses have come on the road or at neutral sites.


Unveiling Chicago’s best shortcuts and tricks

From the Saturday, Jan. 24, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

pedwayThe WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Chicago can be a tricky place to navigate.

When I moved to the city nearly a decade ago, I quickly discovered that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about living there until, well, I knew it.

For example, during my first week in town I learned about parking. When the city sweeps one side of the street on one day ($50 fine), it’s going to sweep the other side of the street on the following day ($50 fine).

No, I was not fine.

Since then, however, I’ve learned a few things. And last week, Timeout Chicago shared many of the Windy City’s best shortcuts and tricks in an article entitled “27 Chicago hacks to make your life easier.”

Some are particularly helpful for visitors, which I thought I’d share with you today along with my own two cents.

Timeout says to use the Pedway system. When slush, bitter cold or rain plagues Chicago, the underground system of tunnels allows pedestrians to move between CTA stations, City Hall, Macy’s, the Aon Center and more – all without going outdoors.

I add: Chicago’s Pedway is largely unknown to outsiders. You can actually take a tour of the 40 blocks of subterranean corridors through

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Welcome To Chicago’s Golden Age Of Coaching

Chicago Cubs Introduce Joe MaddonToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) One of them has already won two titles. Another has been to two title games. A third has guided a team to a championship series, while a fourth has designs on getting his squad to one of those this season.

It’s time to sit back and smile, Chicago.

Because at this very moment, we’re living in the Golden Era of Coaching in the Windy City – or, at least, it sure looks like we could be.

That’s because with Joel Quenneville (two Stanley Cups), John Fox (two Super Bowl appearances), Joe Maddon (one World Series appearance) and Tom Thibodeau (gunning for an NBA Finals) handling the reins for the Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs and Bulls, I don’t think we’ve ever before been blessed with such a wealth of coaching brain power in the city.

Oh, and Robin Ventura? You’re going to need to step your game up.

After seeing way too much bad baseball, boneheaded football and injury-plagued basketball over the past few seasons, it’s exciting to now see so many gaudy coaching resumes spread across the city, all at once.

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Some conventional thoughts about the 2015 Cubs

cubsFrom the Saturday, Jan. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Five years ago, I attended my first-ever Cubs Convention in Chicago, and the team promptly went 75-87 during the 2010 season.

I haven’t been back since. And, really, neither have the Cubs.

Since that weekend spent hobnobbing with Cubs greats – and Ronnie “Woo Woo” – the club hasn’t enjoyed a winning season and has gone 346-464 overall. However, as the team’s 30th annual convention continues today and Sunday, hope finally has returned to the North Side.

Not coincidentally, it’s accompanied by talent.

In Joe Maddon, the Cubs again have a manager worthy of their stage, both in terms of leadership and personality (sorry, Rick Renteria, Dale Sveum and Mike Quade). They finally have a true ace in $155 million man Jon Lester. And if phenoms Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and others develop as hoped, they may soon have a team filled with true stars.

And as Theo Epstein & Co. fuel the fan fest excitement today, here’s some things that currently interest me the most regarding the 2015 Cubs.

Win now … and later

This week, while chatting with the Chicago Tribune about movies and baseball, Kevin Costner called the Cubs “a funny team – almost America’s team in a weird way. They need to win.”

And, yes, they do. But that doesn’t mean they have to win big now.

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Illini Fighting Way Back Into NCAA Tourney Contention

GroceThursday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Just when it looked like all was lost for Illinois basketball, suddenly, it isn’t at all.

Only nine days ago, Illini coach John Groce’s program was engulfed in both gloom (an 0-2 Big Ten record after a 77-61 setback at Ohio State) and doom (leading scorer Rayvonte Rice had been sidelined indefinitely after breaking his hand) as it prepared to face No. 11 Maryland down in Champaign.

But since then?

Well, you’ve really got to hand it to the Illini, because they didn’t just throw theirs up and surrender in the face of adversity. Instead, the Illini are living up to the “Fighting” in their nickname and have now given themselves a legitimate shot at actually making a run to the NCAA Tournament.

Getting there still won’t be easy — but it also isn’t impossible.

On Wednesday night, Illinois pulled out a gutsy 72-67 road win at Northwestern, giving the team victories in two of its last three games since losing Rice to injury. With a 12-6 record overall that includes 2-3 mark in the Big Ten despite playing four of their first five league games on the road, the Illini’s situation is now looking up.

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Warm thoughts about Chicago’s winters – really

WinterFrom the Saturday, Jan. 10, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

In Chicago, winter is about as popular as City Hall.

Both can be terribly taxing.

And last month, with the Great Polar Vortex still wintry fresh in our minds, Chicago Tribune business columnist Melissa Harris wrote a piece entitled, “The Mass Exodus of 2014,” in which she spoke to an Evanston blogger who claims to have had 48 friends flee the area for other states during the past 14 months.

“Every year people complain about the weather, but last year especially, it was just ridiculous,” said 36-year-old Saya Hillman, who surveyed 22 of her friends about their reasons for leaving Illinois. “I think most of these people, where weather played a part, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, I’ve never thought about moving before.’ The weather was the kicker. It was the thing that pushed them over the edge.”

Yeah, maybe. But I tend to think that anyone who leaves Chicago for that reason is a wimp. And as a different Tribune business columnist, Phil Rosenthal, pointed out this week, “truth is, we’re sweating bigger problems in this state” – namely, our avalanche of financial concerns, which is something that should really chill us to the bone.

And that’s likely the true reason why most Illinoisans are leaving.

But back to the polarizing – and polar-like – issue of Chicago’s cold, which last winter dumped a whopping 82 inches of snow on the city while also plunging temperatures below zero on 26 different days, more than the during previous five winters combined.

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Short-Handed Illini Just Can’t Get A Leg Up

rayvonte-riceToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Seemingly, it’s been years since Illini basketball last caught a break. And then this week, when it finally did? Well, it was completely the wrong kind.

Namely, the fractured-left-hand-of-your-best-player-during-practice kind of break, which seems so terribly cruel to a struggling team and a suffering fan base, yet also so terribly Illinois.

In terms of mood, Orange is the New Blue.

Worn weary after having missed four of the past seven NCAA Tournaments and whiffing in so many high-profile recruiting battles, Illini Nation on Tuesday didn’t respond with a passionate online uproar so much as a collective sigh of resignation when the news broke that senior star Rayvonte Rice had broken his left hand and will be sidelined indefinitely (likely around a month or more) following surgery Wednesday.

It was almost as if the reaction was, “Of course he did.”

And if ever a fan base, a basketball program and, heck, an entire athletic department was in need of a win, the University of Illinois is.

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