Strange Travels, Part 9: Statues and Candidates

Note: I’m just skipping an entire week in my reverse chronological travel series here; glossing over the dull days spent between my trip to Chicago and my trip to NYC. It more or less went like this: clean, pack, launder, fill in paperwork, speak with old friends, acquire school items, clean, pack, launder...etc,. In other words, you’d rather I skip to the travelling parts, as the title suggests. There is a point during the week where I watch others describe their experiences at YearlyKos, and I’m actually relieved to see a guy from Pajamas Media feeding the controversy about a solider in uniform. I watch the entire 20 minute video. I’m not in it. I’m happy. But that will come later... in the series, anyways.

My adventures in NY Chicago, continued: First weekend of the month


I awake in Chicago, with views of the city and Lake Michigan outside my window. I slept fine, but know I’ll soon be walking all over the sprawling Hyatt convention center again, just to hear the presidential hopefuls have a debate.


The debates get off to an interesting start as Bill Richardson (my choice for president) admits to making a mistake regarding his choices for the supreme court. The look of surprise on his face as people cheer for his honesty is priceless. Unfortunately, others go back to presenting us with the usual party line pretense. The rest of the debate is interesting, if not predictable. Check it out for yourself:

And the second part:

As soon as the debates let out, I decide to take a stroll around Chicago. (There is a series of "breakout forums" with the individual candidates, but I can’t get in to see Richardson or Obama, and so decide not to bother.) At first, my plan is to visit the fountain that was made famous by the introduction to Married With Children, but I soon discover that it is blocked off. I stop to check the map, just to make sure. Sure enough, the path is blocked, but another landmark catches my eye: The Havlicek statue. This might take a bit of explaining.


I was born "Karmen Havelick", a name that won me quite a bit of mockery during my youth. According to our family history, four Havlicek brothers came to America from Bohemia in the mid-nineteenth century. Three of the brothers were forced to change their name, "Havelick" being the surname bestowed upon my lineage. So, now, I’m pretty curious about the Havlicek statue. Could it be a memorial to a relative of mine? I set out to find the statue. When I walk up, I’m a little surprised... the statue looks a lot like one of my uncles. Even more surprising is the story behind the statue.

Karel Havlicek was a writer and civil rights activist in Bohemia, around the same time that my ancestors came to America. Karel never made it to the US. After being slandered by the government, and nearly forgotten by his readers and countrymen. He died alone of tuberculosis. Later, the town he grew up in, Nemecky Brod, would be renamed in his honor to Havlicek Brod. I’d always seen that town on maps of the Czech Republic, and wondered if that was where my family had come from. Now, I learn that my ancestors came from a village, about 50 miles away, called Ponedraz. (I will make it one of my life’s mission to visit that village... it looks like paradise.) I wonder if Karel was a distant cousin, or if he helped inspire my ancestors move to America. Apparently, it was nearly impossible to leave the country at the time... and I’d always just thought that those four brothers were just farmers. Thanks to the statue of Karel "Martyr of Bohemia" Havlicek, I now suspect otherwise.

In another delightful surprise, I find a series of painted globes scattered around near the Shedd Aquarium. Each has an idea for saving the environment. Prior to coming to YearlyKos, I had the idea for an interactive art project, where I’d put up a large map of the world, and have people fill in their ideas for saving it, using green or blue marker. I never got around to arranging it, so it is pretty cool to find the same idea, implemented in 3-D sculptures. Here is a globe suggesting we ought to conserve water:


As soon as I return to the convention center, it’s time for a BBQ with the teamsters. As I arrive, Bill Richardson is speaking. The food is pretty good for a BBQ, and the views of lake Michigan are incredible. I make a few new friends, including an interesting liberal blogger, Cedywyn, with whom I feel an instant rapport.

Sadly, we realize the convention is nearly over. Not wanting to see the end just yet, I drag my husband Alan and our friends Paul (creator of SoapBlox) and Eva on a walk back to downtown Chicago. On the way, we pass Lollapalooza, the event that had blocked the fountain I’d tried to find earlier.


I went to Lollapalooza in 1992 and 1994 in Denver. Now, seeing the same crowd, but well over a decade younger, I feel a little old. Then again, when I see the "activists" on the corner crying out for revolution and handing out hand-printed fliers, I realize I’m happy to be a little more mature about things... We’re crying for change, just the same as the kids on the corner, but the presidential candidates are actually listening to us.

Eva, Paul, Alan, and I eventually find our way to a bar serving tequila. We catch a cab back to the convention, rather than trying to walk.

Colorado blogger, JohnE, joins us as soon as we return, and introduces me to Carolyn Dulchinos, one of the planners behind YearlyKos (and Gina Cooper’s main source of assistance). It turns out that she’s from Colorado, as well, and shares some similar interests. We make one final toast to YearlyKos, before turning in for the night. The next morning, we drive back to Denver, full of happy memories and inspirations.

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