Urbs in deserto. Since 1980, Chicago’s Bureau of Forestry has removed approximately three trees for every one it has planted, according to Terrain (June 1987), newsletter of the Open Lands Project, which has launched a volunteer program called “Neighborhoods” to combat the trend. The city’s tree population has dropped from 495,040 in 1979 to 451,187 this year.

What do women want? The Chicago Catholic Women’s Woman-Gram (June 1987) sarcastically applauds Bishop Franz Hengsbach’s ban on altar girls during Pope John Paul II’s recent visit to the German diocese of Essen. The bishop’s rationale–being an altar server is “a first step to the priesthood.” CCW suggests that organizers of the upcoming papal visit to the U.S. adopt similar plans: “In addition to kicking out the legions of power hungry altar girls, we could also place a ban on all the other women who perform churchly duties. Just to be safe, let’s do away with the seamstresses who mend and make ready the vestments, the laundresses who wash them, the elderly cleaning ladies who scrub, dust and mop the sacred premises themselves. Who knows what nefarious hidden agendas lurk within the hearts of these seemingly innocent women?”

“Asking someone to dance at a barn dance is just a friendly gesture,” writes barn dance caller Eric Zorn in Expressions (Winter/Spring 1987), the Urban Traditions newsletter, explaining why a city person would take up his avocation. “The unwritten rule is that one changes partners after each dance and that age, appearance and social status are immaterial in the choice of partners. To refuse a dance for any reason other than fatigue or prior commitment is considered rude, and to be refused is rare. People have the chance to get to know one another over weeks or months; romances take months, not hours, to develop.”

And if all the VIPs vanish–so what? Importance, writes Fred Reed in Harper’s (July 1987) “varies inversely with the damage that would follow upon one’s loss: when the plumbers strike, chaos results, but if the National Security Council ceased to come to work, nothing would happen.”

“Substance abuse has become a national epidemic among infants” reports Northwestern Memorial Hospital–not because they’re snorting coke on the changing table, but because their mothers used it. Nationwide research by Northwestern’s Dr. Ira Chasnoff indicates that one of every ten babies born in the last two years was exposed to cocaine in the womb.

Jesse Jackson’s rainbow problem. “In April 1986, at the Rainbow Coalition’s founding convention, an avowedly gay delegate proposed that lesbians and gays be included on the group’s list of constituents in its ‘statement of purpose,'” writes Salim Muwakkil in the Progressive (July 1987). “It quickly became clear that all those in opposition to the proposal were black while all the proponents were white.” The proposal did pass, but Muwakkil observes, “The core culture of the black community is conservative, based in large part on a strict reading of Judeo-Christian codes of behavior. The secular, cultural-relativist spirit that gave birth to modern liberalism and its socialist variants has never been a strong force in the African-American community.”

It takes a while to learn to spot the homeless, says Chicago-based Salt (May 1987), in profiling Money copy chief Sukey Rosenbaum, who visits those living in New York’s Grand Central Station several evenings a week. At first, she admits, she found herself at times “offering a sandwich to a very rumpled and tired commuter.”

Good taste in politics award goes to Trumpeter (Summer 1987), a publication of the United Republican Fund of Illinois, which headed its front-page “Newsworthy” column as follows: “SCANDALS! Have we got scandals! The Miami Herald reports that JIM THOMPSON has been boating around Bimini with the entire Illinois Roadbuilders Association . . . AND the Illinois Education Association! (C’mon Jim, let’s cut out the monkey business with these bimbos and practice some monogamy with Illinois’ taxpayers.)”

Press releases we were afraid to finish, from the Chicago Heart Association: “Did you know that although man has existed for thousands and thousands of years, and to some degree survived, we have been eating by trial and error?”

“While teachers, clerks and administrators in the schools often try and make do with broken copying machines and a dearth of everything from typewriters to textbooks, virtually every desk at Pershing Road [the central office of Chicago Public Schools] now has its own computer,” reports Substance (June 1987). “Unlimited high-speed photocopying is also available to virtually everyone in the central and district office bureaucracies, while teachers in most schools are forced to pay for the duplication of student lessons and lesson plans or use hard-to-read and obsolete ditto facilities.” Central office costs have risen over $33 million since September 1984, “enough to have reduced elementary class size by four in every classroom.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.