All I want for Christmas is my “Dib’s Chair”.

With the first couple of snowfalls in Chicago I am reminded of a tradition called “Dibs”, which probably goes back to when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was a pup.

Even back then, when you shoveled out a spot for your horse or your horse and carriage,  you put out a piece of furniture to block another citizen from parking their horse in your spot. With the invention of the automobile the tradition continued, but the Dibs markers got shoddier.  Today, there is every collection of chairs, old table, stolen road-work horses and old refrigerators calling dibs for the treasured spot, hard won and hard dug,  out of the snow.

Dibs s a tradition that our current mayor and administration are trying to stamp out, but like patronage and the Chicago Hot Dog, Dibs will never be fully erased from the collective consciousness of the snow-shoveling, sore back,  Chicagoan.

I do have a suggestion:  make Dibs  prettier; maybe even make it a tourist attraction around Christmas and the New Year –and that is to decorate.  Yes, decorate your Dibs!

Buy a new Dibs chair or refurbish it, style it.

Maybe you get a 1950’s kitchen chair and place an Elvis figure in it.

Or maybe you go for something more contemporary and get a big old, used office chair, nice and plush, and put a Trump figure it it.  If you can’t find an exact likeness just get one of the many Halloween masks that were sold and stick it on a straw-filled dummy.  This will  work for all those who in true blue Chicago who think Trump is stupid and scary.   Adding the Presidential Seal is an option, but it does carry authority.

And Bingo!

The Chicago Tourism and Convention Bureau can sponsor a  Dibs Contest, and all the tourists who usually crowd Michigan Avenue and never go west of State Street will have a reason to go into the neighborhoods.  They can then vote by Dibs App on the best set- up to keep your neighbor where they should be — in their own  damned personal space.

When the winner is announced the award will be a Dibs Chair, so the tradition can spread across the United States to cities big and small – and even across the world, as the visitor from, say,  Russia –which could be the Dibs capital of the world– proudly put their furniture in front of their homes, daring anybody to move it.  Double-dog daring.


3 Things To Know About Your Travel Professional

Worth reading. Many people are surprised when I tell them my customers/clients are travel agents. “Travel agents?” they say. “I thought they were all gone.” Far from it. In fact, with the destinations that Ya’lla Tours USA sells any person who books on the info they see on the internet is just nuts. Ya’lla Tours does not solicit from the general public, and has been in business since 1993, in Portland OR. #YallaToursUSA

Romance Travel By Shannon

Back in the day (not that I am that old wink wink)  travel agents were basically the only way people were able to book airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, and vacations.  Storefront agencies were all over.  People would walk in, sit at the desk and tell the “agent” they want to go to (fill in the blank with your favorite destination).  Then the travel agent would get up and go to the “brochure rack” and  hand them to the client to look at. They would book airline tickets and PRINT them , call up Disney world or a Cruise line to book the reservations.  This was kind of like going to a “record” store and buying a new album.  Wow, have times changed.
Fast forward 25 years, the internet is here, there is an APP for everything.  There are people out there that have never heard of a travel agent!  There…

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What I Saw in Wichita

Wichita Locomotive

The Road, Again…For Now

When I found out I had to go, I was depressed.

Winter is not my favorite time of year, and the thought of battling to get to the airport, get on a flight (that’s probably weather delayed) and going to a small city that’s a dot on the map in southeastern Kansas, well, it set me off.  But I had no choice. It was for work.

What’s my work?

Even when I tell people they are confused, but I’ll give it a try: my work is to work with, sell and sometimes market tours to travel agents.

Travel agents? They still exist?  Yes, I get that too, usually after the blank stare and the decision by the person I’m speaking with not to press me any further on my job, because…because…. they just don’t really care what it is I do.

So, Southwest is my carrier of choice out of Midway Airport, Chicago.  The last couple of years the airline with the heart for a logo has stuffed more seats into their 737’s, making if an uncomfortable ride for anybody over five-foot one,  and the Southwest flights have been full to the point of overbooking, even to places nobody wants to go; but Southwest is the best of the worst, and most of the time their cabin crew actually pretends to like you.  A typical flight has me stuffed in a seat next to a wheezing business guy, who is appetite-enhanced and bleeding over the railings (so to speak) into my seat.

But surprise!  Really, I mean surprise: the flight is only two-thirds full, if that.  Oh, happy day.  I seated myself on the aisle and had the entire seat row to myself.  So what the pitch of the seats (how jammed together they are) was probably 29 inches, and my knees were brushing my chin: the sky god was smiling upon me.

And we arrived early.

Wichita had temperatures in the 50’s during the day.  Not bad.  In Chicago, it was in the 30’s and gray and cold and snow was on the ground.

What I saw

I’d been to Wichita — the one in Kansas, in case that was in question– before, but only on quick runs down from Kansas City, Missouri.  Now I had some time here. I had travel agents to see, and, as I try to do, soak in a little of the culture, if there is any. Or that I would know what culture is.

Wichita looks bigger than it is.  It has about 387,000 residents, and is the 49th largest city in the US.  I just really didn’t know that.  It has every major chain of hotel, restaurant, auto repair and big box store that there is.  But there is still a smallness about Wichita that is appealing.

Wichita bills itself as the “air capital” of the world, or at least the US.  Wichita brags about it being a trading center for thousands of years, obviously longer than most of the travel agents I would see have been around.  It was part of the “Wild West” — yes, Wichita. It became a cattle center, and  then, as if people wanted to get out of there: it became a center for the manufacture of small aircraft, like Beechcraft.

The downtown is small and compact and has some bustle to it, and the older center of downtown, is preserved in the Old Town Area.  After I was finished for the day, I walked it from one end to the other, and took the picture of the old steam locomotive.  The Old Town area has trendy shops and pubs and restaurants.

What I did in Wichita

My real reason for going to Wichita was to get people out of it, but only temporarily.  I was working with travel agent Bonni  who booked a group with my tour company, for a trip to Turkey.  I was to talk to the group, in the church basement, on a Wednesday evening.  I have spent a lot of time in churches, but not to pray. Usually it is to sell.  I talk to people who are going to Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and more.

Every Wednesday the P Church of Wichita has a dinner.  People come, families come, and they eat.  And they drink, drink wine and beer.  In most churches this is not the procedure.  I met some of the people committed to going on the trip and some who were thinking about it.  I also met Paster O.  All were friendly, and the Mexican Buffett (catered) was really good.

I did my best to answer questions, and not one person questioned me about the safety of going to Turkey.  Not one! I did mention it by way of saying that we and travel agent Bonni love repeat customers and we would never put anybody in harm’s way.  For danger, I suggested coming to the south-side of Chicago, where I live and many people die.

The Way Home

When I got to the airport to get Southwest to get home, I found out my flight was delayed.  But somehow, it arrived at the gate on time. Once again, I got an entire seat row to myself.  And tomato juice, a double. It was a choppy flight, and for some unknown reason we circled Midway Airport back in Chicago at least once. It was a slow circle and I could see from my seat over the wing that they seemed to be spraying out more fuel than necessary.  There was mechanical groaning and moaning,and I began to think that maybe there was landing gear trouble and they were dumping excess fuel over Lake Michigan.  But no.  We came in for our approach; the plane dropped like a rock onto the runway, and the brakes and thrust were applied hard, and we got to the gate — early.


The house was dark and it was cold inside when I finally got home about 9:30pm.  I hate coming home sometimes, because the house is empty; not even a friggin’ goldfish.  Part of the reason is because I live a lot of my life on the road.  Have for the last 30 years.  It’s not glamour; it’s not torture (most of the time); it just is –to get the job done.


Requiem for Joe’s Italian Villa at Clancy’s Pizza Pub: slices of pizza and reality to the Joe’s Italian Villa at Clancy’s Pizza Pub, with a side of Irish Spring Rolls.

I don’t do restaurant reviews or talk much about them, because I eat garbage, basically.  My plates do not come out from the kitchen of any joint “presented”; they just come out, food usually centered and hot — or cold– depending on what I’m eating.  No matter what I am eating, it is never okay with Michelle Obama, but ask me if if I give a rat’s ass?  Okay, I do. This stuff is probably killing me,  but her stuff does not taste good.  Millions of school kids are discovering that every day.

I digress.  Back to the reqium for a little neighbood Italian restaurant,Joe’s Italian Villa, in business for 45 years.

My grocery shopping was over, so I naturally wanted something to eat. I left the chicken and eggs in the plastic sacks to the mercy of the warm weather in the car and walked forty feet over to Oak Lawn’s Clancy’s Pizza Pub. Clancy’s, opened a year,  is located in a burb about 15 miles southwest of Chicago’s Loop, and is getting a good reputation. It is owned by a  hot-shot chef, named, Kevin O’Kennedy, who owns two Irish pubs in Hawaii, named Mulligan’s.  Yes, Hawaii.  I’d been to Clancy’s twice before, got my stuff and left.  Tonight it was crowded and I squeezed in between two pretty beefy guys.  One of the guys was named “Al”.  He is a big guy, so I’m calling him “Big Al”.

Al and I got to talking.  We did so because I was bumping up against his elbow, and he wasn’t playing with his smart phone.  Against the Irish music playing a few feet away, which sounded like cat being tortured (no grief here: I’m half Irish and never could stand the music), Al and I talked about neighorhood restaurants, and how they were usually better than ApplebeeChiliOutbackLoneStarTexasRoadHouseFridays.

Big Al then mentioned that he built the bar back and the bar itself. At first, it was like “right”, but then all the bartenders and servers knew him like an old lost uncle, one they liked.   Unlike most “American” bars, which are usually straight affairs, where people stare at the back of the bar, this one had curves, or rather “knobs”, where people ended up facing each other, and sometimes having to talk, despite the smart phone hogging most conversation.

Big Al told me about his best friend, the former co- owner of Joe’s  Italian Villa.  Seems his old bud had been forced out of the strip mall location that he had occupied for decades. The strip mall owner allegedly wanted to upgrade the mall and put in a “bistro” of some sort.  Just my opinon, but Bridgeview is not “bistro” territory.   Big Al eyes watered up a bit, because his old friend died soon after. Joe’s Italian Villa could not find a new, suitable location, and I guess it broke his friend’s heart and resolve.  I’d driven past Joe’s Italian Villa for years, but never stopped in.

Then my order came out, a pizza called the “Southsider”, with extremely thin crust, covered with pot roast and giardiniera.  Yeah, I know, but it works and tastes good.

That’s it: a slice of reality and pizza at a neighborhood place one night, when one guy and another guy weren’t lost in their smart phones.  I’m hoping Big Al does not sue me or anything for this story, but there are lots of stories that go on outside of Facebook and Twitter that never get told.


Foto Friday – Ya’lla Groups 2

Shots of various Ya’lla groups having some fun in different places, compiled by Kyna Perry. I’m even in some of the pics…

The Ya'lla Blog

More random shots of Ya’lla travelers enjoying themselves:

Abu Simbel, Egypt Abu Simbel, Egypt

Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo, Egypt Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Trinidad de Cuba Trinidad de Cuba

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, Dubai

“Jesus boat” on the Sea of Galilee, Israel

off road in Wadi Rum, Jordan off road in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Kom Ombo Temple, Egypt Kom Ombo Temple, Egypt

Oman Oman

Oman Oman

Pergamum, Turkey Pergamum, Turkey

Pergamum, Turkey Pergamum, Turkey

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Foto Friday – Ya’lla Groups

Time to get out of town. Why not? #YallaToursUSA

The Ya'lla Blog

Happy Friday one and all! Thanks for stopping by.

Here are some shots of Ya’lla group travelers enjoying some of our destinations.

at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

old Stock Exchange building, Plaza de San Francisco, Havana old Stock Exchange building, Plaza de San Francisco, Havana

Even if you agree on a price before hand, some camel guys will demand extra money to let you off the camel. This is one of many reasons why a guide is highly recommended. Even if you agree on a price before hand, some camel guys will demand extra money to let you off the camel. This is one of many reasons why a guide is highly recommended.

tea on the Nile tea on the Nile

outside the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in Istanbul outside the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in Istanbul

walking the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem walking the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem

in the Roman theater of Amman, Jordan in the Roman theater of Amman, Jordan

in the Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman in the Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman

at Bait Al Safah, a renovated house in the old village of Al Hamra, Oman at Bait Al Safah, a renovated house in the old village of Al Hamra, Oman

riding through the streets of Trinidad de Cuba riding through the streets of Trinidad de Cuba

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M.A. Kleen

Writer & Traveler with a passion for history, photography & the unusual

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