Tuesday, December 7, 2010

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Roger Pomerance

By Margaret Sheridan


In describing his many interests, Roger Pomerance uses the verb “dabbles”.

Hardly. Whether racing sailboats, researching a location or baking cookies, Roger’s concentration and attention to detail challenge that choice of word.

The financial consultant staffs the Information Desk on Monday evenings at HI-Chicago. He handles any interruption during this interview with graciousness. One teacher, leading a group of 20 students, asks for inexpensive dining suggestions before the group grabs a bus to the United Center for a Bulls game. He rolls off names such as Epic Burger, pizza, Thai food, Panera and Exchequer Pub.
Another mother and daughter from Kansas City tosses Roger questions about pizza (thin crust at Lou Malnati’s) and shoe shopping. “State Street will take care of that,’’ he assures the teen.

He keeps a stash of freshly made oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies in a plastic container and offers them to staff between bidding hellos and answering questions from new arrivals. He eases their anxiety about the city with street maps, a sharp pencil and a smile. “I’ve been volunteering here for four or five years. I like being an ambassador to Chicago, and introducing guests to the city’s highlights."

The native of Chicago was raised and lived in the suburbs of Elmhurst and Wheaton, but he returned to the city 15 years ago when he bought a condo near Addison and Lakeshore Drive. Now, he can ride a bicycle or take the 151 Bus to HI-Chicago.

These cookies are great. Are you a cook?
I like to bake. I’m a better baker than a cook because baking is so specific. You have recipes, and if you follow them, you’ll have success. With baking, there is less uncertainty. With cooking, there’s so much guesswork. A little of this, a pinch of that. I’m not good like that. But I do make one-pot meals such as chili and goulash. I enjoy chopping ingredients.

What are some of your favorite Chicago eats?
Cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather’s. Polish rye bread, my heritage, from most any bakery on Milwaukee Ave.

You say you dabble in sailing?
Yes. I’m a part-owner in a Tartan Ten (a popular 10-meter sailboat). We sail off of Chicago and keep the boat in Michigan City. I’ve raced the Chicago-to-Mackinac Race (the annual 333-mile sailboat race in July from Chicago along Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island, Michigan) 19 times. I got into sailing years ago through the American Youth Hostels. I took lessons and used their boats in Monroe Harbor. That organization held meetings in the same building where HI-Chicago stands today. So, I feel like home here.

What are some of your recommended spots for entertainment?
I enjoy the group-led outings to the Green Mill and Kingston Mines.

What makes being at the hostel rewarding?
I traveled around Europe when I was younger. I remember meeting strangers on the street or in the trains and they gave me advice about where to go or what to do or where to eat. Those people made my day. So, that’s what I can do here. I can make their day a little nicer. I like answering so many questions. I’ve been in Chicago all my life and when I first manned the information desk, I was stunned by what I do not know. I like the energy of being around travelers.

Any secret aid to help with curveball questions?
I rely on the RTA Trip Planner Website for some tough addresses in the suburbs.

How do you travel?
I enjoy the planning and the research of a trip as much as doing it. I like to stay in little pensions for the privacy. I backpack and use trains.

What do you miss about Chicago when you're away?
Lakeshore Drive, it’s the city’s jewel, and Lake Michigan. If the guests ask for best vantage points, I suggest viewing it from the Adler Planetarium and from Montrose Harbor. I also miss cycling along the lake, and along the Chicago North River Branch Bike path.

1 comment:

madpotter1 said...

Roger!
We are coming in for the boat show the end of January, any chance we can meet you?

Sandy Miller