Tag Archives: chicago

Mayhem in the Garden

In the summer of 1992, I wrote a short story titled “The Planter of Flowers.” Memory of its origin has long since faded from my mind, but the date hints at a possible connection.

Also in the summer of 1992, my wife, children, and I traveled from our home–then in the Chicago suburb of Streamwood, Illinois–to Wounded Knee, South Dakota for the annual Lakota Baha’i Conference. A do-it-yourself conference organized by adherents of the Baha’i Faith living on the Pine Ridge Reservation–one of the poorest areas in the nation–it offered locals a chance to meet and learn with a diverse group of Baha’is without expense.

“The Planter of Flowers” has no obvious Lakota connection. There is one mention of a character who looks like he could be native American, but that’s coincidental. The real connection is Baha’i. I’ve often wanted to work Baha’i elements into my stories, but seldom succeed.  I can think of only three short stories where I’ve done so. If you knew what to look for, you’d find them hiding in my first two Howard County mysteries as well, and the next novel, Ice on the Bay, will include Baha’i characters. But given the number of stories I’ve written over the years, these are a paltry few, and this story is one of them.

I did try to sell the story, but by and large editors didn’t seem to get it. I later modified it, but still found some readers didn’t quite get it. I wonder if you will?

Let’s find out. Without further ado, here is “The Planter of Flowers.” Enjoy!


Making Tracks

Kathy and I have been traveling by train with some frequency in recent years.  Kathy’s first long-distance train ride was 13 years ago when our oldest granddaughter was born.  The delivery had been difficult (to put it mildly) and grandma’s presence was required for a few weeks.  Upon her return, she waxed euphoric over the wonders of train travel.

I had ridden commuter trains for awhile, but my first Amtrak ride took place a couple of years later, when we attended the Association for Baha’i Studies conference in Calgary.  We rode the Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, and from there took the Empire Builder out to Shelby, Montana, where we rented a car for the drive up to Calgary.  (If you’re ever there, we recommend the O’Haire Manor Motel, a nice place and, if things haven’t changed, the only place in Shelby you can have a rental car delivered to you.)  The return trip featured the same two trains.  But this voyage wasn’t so smooth as Kathy’s previous; the train was late getting to Chicago, the Empire Builder broke down on the way back and was horribly late getting back to Chicago, and I learned that although like Kathy I do enjoy riding trains, unlike Kathy I can’t sleep very well in a coach seat.

For awhile, I thought maybe I was train-incompatible, because nearly every time I boarded a train, something happened to delay it, the people around us were strange, or something alarming happened.  On one trip, a woman who had spent three days on trains with her three young children had to get off with the help of paramedics when two of the kids got very sick.  I hope everything turned out okay for her and her family.

This past weekend, we took another trip to Chicago via the Capitol Limited, this time to visit my parents.  On the return trip, we spent the extra money for a sleeper, which made the trip even more enjoyable because it was quiet and I was able to actually sleep.  We met several nice people in the dining car along the way, including a couple traveling east to help their son’s family move to a new home and a teacher who had some very definite opinions on the test-driven paradigm of present-day education.  (Hint: He seriously didn’t like it.)

One interesting thing about train travel is that many of one’s fellow-passengers are veteran rail riders.  Amtrak ridership has increased significantly since 2001 and the increased hassle of traveling by air, but convenience and the relatively lower cost aren’t the only reasons people go by train.  Many truly love this form of transport, and it’s not hard to see why.  You don’t have to drive, you can get up and move around, you can see the country, and (if you’re a people person) you can meet lots of interesting characters.

There are downsides, to be sure, but that’s true of any form of travel.  For us, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

So long as I don’t put a hex on the train, anyway . . .

Header image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Although I’m originally from Sylvania, Ohio and currently live in the vicinity of Baltimore, I spent about half of my life in the Chicago suburbs.  Chicagoland is therefore one of the places I think of as home.   It’s always good to go back for a visit, however brief.

fieldmuseumWe spent this week visiting my parents and sisters, stopping at a few special places along the way.  We spent much of one day at the Field Museum of Natural History, where I saw my first 3D movie (believe it or not), shrank down to bug size to explore the world beneath our feet, and learned some things about Haitian Vodou.

portillosWe consumed some of our favorite Chicago foods, including Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs at Portillo’s and some really good pizza at Gigio’s in Evanston.  (Kathy and I used to order from Gigio’s when we were students at Northwestern University.  It’s still just as good!)

houseofworshipOn the way out of town, we paid a visit to the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette.  The only Baha’i House of Worhip so far in North America, it’s also the oldest extant Baha’i House of Worship in the world, the symbolic cornerstone of which was laid in 1912 by ‘Abdu’l-Baha (the son of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith).

Some of you might question visiting Chicago in January.  Yeah, it can be cold and snowy there, but we’re used to it, and even take some pleasure in experiencing real winter again.  In any event, we’re on our way back to Baltimore now, where it’s less cold and snowy . . . but more rainy.  Everything’s a trade-off.