By Leah Pietrusiak
So Mike and Heather paddled down the Chicago River as part of the Leinenkugel’s Canoes for a Cause event on July 9 — co-sponsored by Friends of the Chicago River — to bring money and attention to cleaning up the city’s bacterial cesspool. Mike slacked on his paddling duties to take photos (of everything but the floating garbage) and Heather got her purse all wet. “That’s why God created bleach!” she said. “Or matches,” said her significant other, who — along with myself — joined up with them at the after-party at Dick’s Last Resort downtown, right on the water.
Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, said that up to 70 percent of the river water is bacterial sewage from treatment plants. But Chicago doesn’t require that this bacterial hodgepodge be disinfected before its released into the waterway — even though cities like Gary, IN, New York and LA do. It’s been the crusade of Friends of the Chicago River to change that. And Leinenkugel’s is helping — and you can too: “Like” Leinenkugel on Facebook through July 31, and they’ll donate money for each click.
And who doesn’t like Leinie’s?! Their Berry Weiss is like alcoholic liquid-candy, and their Summer Shandy is like fresh-squeezed lemons topped off with lemonade and weiss beer. (Yeah, I have a sweet tooth, but they have more robust beers too, like 1888 Bock and Creamy Dark.) Check out Mike’s interview with Jake Leinenkugel below. Leinenkugel donates 80 percent of their corporate community dollars to events that care about water restoration and preservation (as their beer is, of course, 92 percent water).
The canoe outing coincided with the Dave Matthews Caravan fest weekend…which maybe they should’ve named the Dave Matthews Caravan of Crap. Remember that? Not-so-private defecation dump on the Chicago River? By their tour bus going over a bridge? That landed on a tour boat filled with people? Margaret had actually been on a canoe trip on the river that day, and had just passed under the bridge, missing the sh*tstorm. But one of Margaret’s neighbors happened to be on the targeted tour boat and he said it took them a full year before they could tell it as a funny story. He said they stood standing there — for longer than anyone one would like — because the land and marine police forces were arguing over whose duty is was to report to the scene, arguing about whether it was a land or water-based incident. Ugghh. Good thing Dave Matthews donated $50,000 to Friends of the Chicago River, and another $50,000 to the Chicago Park District.
But seriously, Dave Matthews will never live down that his tour bus took a dump on the people of Chicago and the Chicago River. With incidents like this, and the fact that our “river” is basically bacterial sewage, isn’t it funny that people are worried about dyeing the river green on St. Patrick’s Day? I think the only danger there is that some drunky might think the water is green beer, and drink it. (As a sidenote, Margaret did say that’s okay to recreate on the river — just keep your eyes and mouth closed if you fall in, and make sure you wash your hands afterwards.)
But speaking of green, on another note — I rode my bike to Dick’s Last Resort that day, and part of the trip was on the new green-striped bike lane along Kinzie, where Milwaukee Avenue forks into about three different directions by Blommer’s Chocolate Factory. It’s been a not-so-sweet intersection historically. Bikes blow through lights, and in all different directions because there’s no clear route, it’s like an explosion of bicycles and you never know where each one is going to land — which of course isn’t safe for cyclists, motorists or pedestrians.
But with this new lane system — which the city just announced on July 25 is complete — the path that bicycles are supposed to take across the intersection is much more clear. And once they get past the intersection, the bike lane becomes an area completely separate from the street, marked by flexible white posts. Check it out in my video below.
Oh yes, and I am humming to the Wicked Witch bike-riding theme from The Wizard of Oz. Speaking of green again, Heather’s guest joked that if she’d fallen in the river and her skin turned green, she could just get a job in Wicked. I’d wished that I’d gone on the canoe ride so I could’ve dipped my hands in and maybe come out with 20 fingers so I could type faster. (Ha, remember in the Simpsons movie, where the squirrel jumps in the uber-polluted Lake Springfield and comes out with like 20 eyes?)
But seriously, when it comes to cleaning up the Chicago River — disinfecting the bacterial sewage before its released — it of course comes down to money. And by the end of the day, we all decided that if you’re a good business person, you can make any venture profitable. So will someone out there do that already?