Monday, December 10, 2007

Do the Dog! Don't Get Stalked Like Celery: Five Easy McGruff Rules with Commentary

I feel like a combination of George Clinton with an Atomic Dog McGruff coming on stage with him. Its the tempo, not the lyrics or basis for the tune. My hope is that Loyola University Students take reasonable precautions and consider what follows from a long time resident. This neighborhood is as safe as you make it. You need not break and fixate, like some, on those who may look to the CPD at the Twenty-Fourth District as the elixir to stop all crime. There are ways to blend in and avoid crime. Make friends and keep them around, among other things suggested, below.

There are the shortsighted or temporarily naive, who are tricked every day. Students are not the only victims. Hindsight is 20/20. You must approach people who you think you don't know, like you don't know them. True friends will forgive, but criminals and thieves don't care. Often, if you stop or open your mouth, then a crime may begin. All it takes is the wrong type of inconsistent eye contact with a perpetrator. Some people just look more willing to help anyone in need. Those with money who feel that they are on a mission can fall prey. The Guardian Angels are always in need of a few volunteers, like Miguel Fuentes, willing to train with them. Okay, its seems a bit radical to some, but CAPs needs a bit of a boost at times.

Rule one: At night, if uncomfortable, consider traveling in a group, close to groups, in lighted areas, or near others with the tactics, below. If you are uncomfortable, call a friend for a ride, Loyola University Security gives rides, take the bus, or a taxi. If you give a friend a ride, wait until they get in the door and close it.

Reason: Criminals don't want to be seen; someone will more likely get killed, witness the attack, catch the offender, or even more easily identify the criminal.

Rule two: If you choose to 'ever walk alone,' don't stop for anyone who you do not know and does not know your name. Don't let a friend walk home, alone at night, if possible, particularly if he or she was drinking [slight clarification].
Rule three: When alone, you are a target, when you are moving you are a more difficult bullseye. Keep walking or even ride your bicycle, where you cannot take transportation. If a thief cannot tell you what they want, you are not going to get robbed.

Rule four: If you must be alone, then look and act as if you have lived there all of your life (e.g. act as if you are 'packing a piece,' friends or police are nearby, etc.). Putting on earbuds can be both a blessing and a curse. An iPod can simultaneously comfort and impair at night.
Your state of mind has a significant affect on repeat offenders. If you keep looking back and forth scoping the neighborhood, then you demonstrate insecurity and may even encourage someone 'to fake it to make it.' (Thank George, for the thought provoking photos). Direct eye contact is good when someone is walking directly towards you on the sidewalk, but use some common sense as you sense your surroundings.

Brief Comments on Common Sense: It is good to be open minded and objective, but do so in the proper forum. If you feel charitable, then help out at a soup kitchen, among other places. Don't let down your guard; if you feel like you need a Zen moment, ignore those around who you do not need to recognize. They may not recognize you, either. Don't be a busy body, who needs to know everyone's business in order to help the world.
Ultimately, I don't know what to say about random acts of ignorance, whether they be a criminals or one who opens up to a perpetrator. It is easy to lose a cell phone to a thief.

Rule Five: A person can have thirteen dollars in their pocket billfold as 'an anchor' for that rare moment, when you have to 'heave and go.' Keep a billfold with a ten and few ones to discard in an emergency. The non-shiny metal billfold makes noise when it hits the pavement and attracts a thiefs attention. A petty thief wants quick money. However, in fifteen years, I have never had to throw mine, because the other rules have worked.

Segway Dos: A scam artist/petty thief may start with conversation. The criminal may try to pretend that he knows you, is your building's security guard, janitor, has some bazaar badluck story or action to get your attention. Then, when you let him or her borrow your iPhone, the dude runs off with it.

Perhaps, you open your wallet to give a dollar but the thief wants more, so he pulls out 'a piece,' knocks you down, or simply grabs your wallet. Again, if you are unlucky enough to find a few messed up kids on a power trip, who struck out at getting beer or need to get a rise, then do what you can to stare them down with direct eye contact and if you need to draw attention from others, then do it.

Try to act as if you do not notice unless impossible. You snooze, you lose. Again, only in those rare situation will you have to dump your anchor with a Hamilton, three Washingtons, and run. If you know your surroundings, or particularly if you don't, use discretion and take a cab if no one is around.

If more of us are out and about in the neighborhood, then the more forceful or violent criminals are intimidated. They did not call it, "Take Back the Night" for nothing. If we avoid making ourselves targets, then there will be less crime. More witnesses brings less crime. If you travel in a pack, you chase away the strangers looking for 'an easy mark.' If you follow these tips and act on your options, then you give Rogers Park T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. [or for those who forgot, The Awesome Power Of A Fully Operational Mothership]. By the way, did anyone see George Clinton take Country Club Hills on June 23, 2007?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Condos at Rogers and Touhy - First Six Months Free

I live within a hundred feet of this recently gutted building about to convert to condos. I appreciate the neighborhood favorites, which include 'The Alley Guy,' among others. When I saw the above for sale sign go up at 7213 N. Rogers, I had to say something. First, it is an incredible offer until December 31, 2007. Second, this neighborhood is changing for the better. Get it while its cheap. Most of us who have lived here for the last ten years know it. Seniors are outside, Volvos are parked in driveways, and that is a good sign to us. Our property values have doubled, but we aren't selling. We have even resolved to educate the kids in CPS magnet and selective enrollment to the extent possible.

There may be a few digressions. The corner of Ridge, Rogers, and Touhy is worthy of a left turn only arrow from both east and west. However, for the first time, a restaurant has survived its third year anniversary. That Mexican entry on Touhy is worth a stop if you don't want to cook and order before nine or ten depending upon the evening. The Lamp Post is a sports bar fixture. Its tailgate party is complete with grill on the side of the building, which creates some sense of neighborhood for a mainstay traditional sports bar.

Although a few houses have been removed and replaced by upscale condos and townhomes, the blocks are integrated with an assortment of housing. At least six houses were featured in an RP Historical Society or Garden Walk on either Touhy or Ridge. Every place has its ten percent, but the regulars are as good as it gets for Chicago. This condo is within walking distance of St. Margaret Mary's and St. Scholastica. More than one neighbor has an Annual Glogg Party every January.

Without naming names, because the locals know, this is Chicago. Whether it is the Irish or the Japanese guy who regularly parks themself in the summer lawn chair to greet neighbors on the sidewalk or the guy who gardens, there is enough to justify the location. We are seeing a few twenty something dog walkers and joggers down Rogers in the summer. We have neighbors who you can trust to water your plants and watch your animals while you vacation.

This evening, I got so tired of the comments about our neighborhood, that I walked past the townhomes to Damen and Rogers at 11:30 p.m. Yes, me and my whitebread self. I started to take night photos of the former site of the Pulse Garage, which is for sale by Kritt away from the videocameras. Like its former neighbor, the Chinese Buffet, it will likely be demolished to become townhomes or condos. While en route, a neighbor in a garden level condo saw me taking photos to the left. She had to be wondering what the hell I was doing. Perhaps, my concerns were spurned by The Broken Hearted comments about the Ho a few weeks ago. I am skeptical, but it was an extreme aberration to me.

If I did not want to take the blood thinner, I would have hit the Ho at 11:38 p.m. this evening, but did not bother to walk in or see if it was open. Frankly, I never drink alone. Perhaps, CG is too lame to go over there, but I'm not because I live here. I think that it needs the business to stay in business. Recently, the Laundramat got a new coat of sky blue paint. Perhaps, the owner is getting serious about taking care of the property. I am just not experiencing the same wrath and an isolated incident or two is not going to change me or my habits.

I know that there are ignorant people. You have to treat people with respect, anywhere. However, if someone disrespects you, you need to give them space and let them think about it on their own time, not yours. Whether they are folks who criticize African Americans, Hispanics, other groups, don't know how to treat their kids, want a dollar, or talk abnormal in public, most of us don't comment or necessarily pull out that look of righteous indignation.
The rarely disrespectful visitors that I pass or pass by on the sidewalks or streets are gone in seconds, not minutes. That is when things return to significant calm, when compared to Ridge Avenue in Evanston. This proximate place that we call West Rogers Park makes life bearable. For those who live in the suburbs, I pity your commute. We live smack dab in the middle of the life of the city and suburbs. We can move from north to south by plane train, bus, or automobile. We can reach just about any restaurant, grocery store, or shop in a half an hour. We can walk to the golf course or bike to the south loop.

Where can you go from here?
Ridge, Rogers and Touhy are true crossroads! The Potawatomis' probably had a trail tree around here at one point pointing to the big city to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Philosophical Diatribe on the Present Potty Politique

Deeply embedded in the human psyche is the desire to do right for some moral imperative. The challenge is that the political mind sometimes warps into contortion and neglect from those with an undying agenda. This strategy may be to gain attention and eventually amass power for themselves or a group to the angst or prejudice of others. Whether it is some preacher or teacher, some pervert or politician, Democrats or demogogues, Republicans or Public G-ds, there are some who claim to act with a clear mind and good will towards men, but others with an undying desire to cheat, divide, conquer, and prosper. Behind every proposed privilege, right or responsibility is a plan rarely envisioned with moral precision.

For some, their digressions and oversights may arguably be unconscious. Nevertheless, they are too blinded by greed, ignorance, or privilege to enjoy their abilities and passions. There are some, no doubt, who take advantage of the incompetence and flaws of others. Call them power brokers, whether they are neo-nazis or nincompoops, nationalists or nihilists, but they still ride in the same souped-up limousine in a different decade. Each carries a different level of ferocity depending upon the status quo. This power elite feeds on the moment whether it appears passive, predatory, but preferably more tempered by law, order, and (G-d forbid) common sense. They come from all regions in a variety of ideologies, religions, shades, shapes and sizes. They set up their tents and sell whatever snake oil the public will buy to make them king.

To all, the consequences of anger and ineptitude are the same; man-made conflict with the eventual garnish of ingratitude. If you question new authority, will the next set of subliminal stormtroopers attack with subtle disgust or seething violence? Can man, an animal, create peace on earth without beaching the species like a school of whales on the horizon of some self serving armeggedon seeker on a misdirected power trip?

Eventually, some of us become engaged only when mediocrity and meddling rules, while confusion, fear or loathing pools among those within the critical mass. Why do we wait for chaos to set in? Political correctness, poorly contemplated is an excuse for the obsessively polite; it does breed contempt. Call us liberals, radicals, reactionaries, White Roses or the green gladiolas, the hope is to prove ourselves. Sometimes we must challenge the seemingly irrational convulsions of the body politique in need of Depakote or Kaopectate. Perhaps, our average Joe needs social detox from the common man with a sixpack of Berghoff's and a few reasonable neighbors.

With that in mind, have I been too subliminal about my opinions about Rogers Park Politics or the rest of the world for that matter? Is there any hope for this philosphical diatribe? Where's Harold when we need him?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cell Phones and "L" Trains

The curly brown Garfunkel haired white bread twenty-something entered the red line train at Belmont. To his left walked a veteran commuter. The pleasant voice from the new northbound ingénue asked, “Do you mind if I sit down next to you?” The veteran replied, “no” with restrained politeness. Unfortunately, the neophyte had an agenda.

After a half a dozen lines of small talk, the newcomer’s intentions erupted. At what appeared to be an appropriate moment for poor social skills followed the inappropriate appeal to the Samaritan, “Can I borrow your cell phone, again? “No,” said the veteran with the same graceful tone.

The conversation ended, but they remained together. Nine stops later, the respectful thirty-ish veteran disembarked at Granville. The neophyte was now ‘almost’ isolated in the northbound red line train with about four other passengers, who were pre-disposed with their books, newspapers, or other diversions. One of them was me.

I sat in the double seat directly to his north. Hooked up to MobiTV, I struggled to listen to a newscast with a pair of hard plastic ear buds inserted into my ear canals and PDA/cell phone. My three day free introductory subscription had yet to run out. However, the news cast periodically lost its 3G connection and the ear buds failed to find a welcome spot in front of the passages to hearing if not comprehension. When the buds eventually held, I had to remove them. Why?

Well, as we reached Granville and the veteran passenger was history, The stress of driving down LSD is no longer a threat to my piece of mind. However, the conversation or music of another life could easily take hold on the Red line north.

With what I hoped was the last charitable cell phone owner gone, the question breached the silence like digital interference or cell phone tones blasting during your favorite film, lips moved, but I could not hear, so my ear buds were removed. “Do you mind if I use your cell phone?” I looked in disappointment. The rookie was undeterred. Upon answering with my matter of fact reply, he changed seats.

A cute Asian looking woman was now accosted, but she felt obligated. She had not heard all of ‘Garfunkel’s’ previous greatest hits. With that, her cell was exposed and his cell call began. The candid one-sided conversation now began to emit into the atmosphere and pierced the silence with its sounds. He had to leave a message just to let us know that the call was not a lost cause. Perhaps, he had just left voicemail on the Belmont platform, but that message apparently was not recent enough.

What is it about cell phones that make people behave so badly? Why do commuters want other restricted passengers to hear their most personal moments? With the calm that often pervades a CTA “L” ride, why do people persist with communication that can wait until arrival? What is it about “L” etiquette that these cell phone users just don’t get? I understand meeting the friend that you have not seen in a month, but cell phones calls are another story.

These are not the words of prophets. “Fools” said I, you do not know, cell phone use like a cancer grows. Read my words that I might reach you. Pay attention to other commuters so that they may teach you. There is an excellent article in the Red Eye on cell phone etiquette in CTA trains.

Okay, I admit that if my cell goes off, I may answer. However, the first thing out of my mouth is usually, “I am on the train, can I call you back?” Or “Can you call me back in forty-five minutes, I’m on the train?” The phone is next promptly turned off or put on vibrate. I have likened use of cell phones to smoking a cigarette; it is unnecessary noise pollution and being held captive is no “ode to joy!”

It is so simple. Who wants to be bombarded by clients, customers or confidential moments in front of others also restrained in the same public place? Do you think that commuters appreciate being held hostage to a personal soap opera? Yet, it happens too often. Sometimes, the conversations are beyond bizarre and don’t belong in a public place in front of children!

Often, it is clear that those who are calling even instigate the call. They can’t wait until a private moment that can occur by departing to an oncoming platform. How many of us have lip sync-ed the “L” conversations of an unrestrained passenger? Perhaps, we have given that stare of infamy, only to receive less than graceful insensitivity and another ten minute ‘yelping’ of a new episode of ‘Desperate cell phone flies?’

Does anyone recall some of the best or worst experiences? Perhaps we can be amused by or simply discourage use by posting memoires of other subway commuters’ tender, yet public moments. Are there any other abused and/or amused commuters? Okay, I admit that it can be simultaneously hilarious, yet pathetic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Decatur Classical Parent Syndrome

Somewhere between or after my child’s homework, my Decatur Classical School kid will get the chores done. Repeat after me, somewhere between or after homework, my child will get their responsibility chart completed, hopefully. Somewhere between or after my child’s homework, I will come up with a good excuse for their sibling and I why Decatur child did not get their chores done. Hopefully, acceptance to Young Academic Center or the next plateau will justify the challenge.

For those who don’t know, Decatur Classical School is the grammar school diamond in the Chicago Public School system. It is located in West Ridge. There is no Illinois grammar school that tests higher in the State, and perhaps, the nation, provided there was a national test. Children test annually for an invitation to get into Decatur Classical. My other child is on test number four. However, the honeymoon ends at sixth grade, where your child gets accepted.

You cannot make educational options an excuse for moving out of Chicago. There may be a classical, gifted, or magnet school willing to eventually let your child attend provided you help educate your child, as well. If there were exceptions made to waive the Decatur Classical entrance test for just one child, journalists would have a field day. Arne Duncan would likely not deserve it, but he would need to put any arguable scandal in order and this could prove fatal.

Now, back to my mantra. . . .Somewhere, some way, I will find another reasonable excuse why my son did not get to baseball, basketball, scouts, soccer, swimming, and etc. on time or at all. As I work into the bitter depths of the evening on laundry, life, and leftovers, the hope is that we will eventually appreciate the effort. Eventually, all of our tweens groans and grunts from the previous evening will be forgotten.

For those of us who understand, we want our child to have the aptitude and grades to convince Dr. Joyce Kenner at Young Academic Center, among others. We know that our children have gone through enough trials and tribulations to justify admission. Decatur kids, as well as their parents, have proctored enough to earn a CPS pension on their educational road to perdition.

I accept that it is a choice to send a child as well as your family through the Decatur Classical experience. However, parents have to also realize that there is no seventh or eighth grade at Decatur, only the academic centers with more testing and the point system to garner possible acceptance. There is also the possibility of new found isolation between former classmates at in one of the gifted or magnet programs. Decatur Classical students are ultimately and unfortunately broken up into a new bundle of adolescents in some other universe of Chicago Public School Academia.

The Francis Parker’s, Latin’s, Roycemore’s and Archdiocese private schools of the Chicago area exist. However, many of us will not look for excuses to spend the last bit of savings before their kid even gets accepted to a University without a full tilt private school scholarship. The options are a new residence or an objective rehash of the teaching staff in all viable alternative options at CPS. Ultimately, only 25 children are admitted in this region of a potential 110 Young Academic Center spots. The statistics for admission to the Academic Center are humbling.

Traditionally, both Skinner and Decatur Classical Schools fed into Young Academic Center. Decatur and Young High School share the same dolphin mascot. However, over time, the demand for the Academic Center exceeded the number of spaces and excessive competition set in. Now, the one thousand point scale scares Decatur parents, who are totally uncomfortable with “grade inflation” at other schools. The Young Academic Center Scale cannot consider grade deflation.

There is no grade inflation, but grade deflation at Decatur Classical of Chicago. At Decatur, I understand that a Decatur grade A ends at 93%, a B ends at 87%, and a C ends at 76%. This means that a Decatur Classical Child who is performing at honor roll level in any other CPS Grammar School is treated as performing lower. This means that the 300 points allotted to grades drops them excessively in contrast to others. Decatur teaches a year above grade level in math texts, among others. Test scores are another story and most are at the 99th percentile in math at a minimum.

This means that even if my child performs at the 99th percentile in ISAT math and the 86th in Reading, they are still subject to denial where grades do not reach a 4.0 g.p.a. at the academic levels set by Decatur Classical. Ultimately, our child gets an excellent education from K to 6th, but what’s next is unknown.

I suppose that this may mentally condition us for the next competition for Northside College Prep spots. It may give our child and us the character to appreciate how to avoid or encounter the next set of point spreads and scales. You begin to feel like ‘Jimmy the Greek’ playing the odds in the CPS Educational System. The Clash lyrics from “Should I Stay or Should I Go” Clash seem to hit your chest like a ‘half ton of bricks,’ while you wait for what seems like Godot for an answer or the next score.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Breaking Away on the Lake Shore Trail

It can take an hour to bicycle from Northwest Rogers Park to the South Loop. It takes 43 minutes on the Elevated Purple or 1.33 hours on the Subterrainian Red line going South from howard. Bicycling is healthier; the trail is buffered by enough green space to keep LSD from tripping you out. I have never felt threatened by traffic contrary to some commentators. I suppose that I should give it time, but there is not much traffic once you hit Devon and travel down Ridge depending upon your timing. It surprises me that so few commute by bicycle on a regular basis. If can't store your bike at the office or the street, then the city has a lock up, lockers(to rent) and showers at Millenium Park. If you can only go one way, take the bike on the subway home.

The route going south runs from Ridge to Devon, Devon to Winthrop Avenue, and Winthrop to Ardmore. Winthrop is the street where most Loyola students will be walking from their dorms to campus. If you are unmaried, then it is a bachelor or cougar paradise. You cycle one way Winthrop Street going south through Edgewater. On the way, you pass a grammar school. How threatening! Although there are some potholes, the bright yellow paint left by the Bike Federation makes it easy to spot the few pits on the trip south. Some you can ride over without much frustration.

Cycling and watching for Ardmore can be a challenge for some, but the green trail signs are visible. Once you turn east (left) on Ardmore, you are two to three blocks from the Lake Shore Trail. It is about a nine mile ride from Ardmore and Sheridan to Congress Pkwy. I usually make it to Columbus and Congress in about an hour unless I am taking snapshots along the way or stop for a water fountain or friend en route. I also ride straight south, rather than turning left at Lake Pointe Towers. Stay on the east side of the street or you will have to return to Lake Pointe. The trail continues south from the East side of the bridge.

The Trail is not as frustrating as it would seem. I have taken the ride without water, but keep a bottle in the backpack in case. In order to keep comfortable, I store a suit at the office and usually manage to avoid too much of a sweat to make a mess. The internal difference in my frame of mind is night and day.
I have even rode back as late as eleven in the evening after I got the urge. The globe lighting around Lawrence needs some bulb replacement or electrical work, but by the time that I had a chance to think about it, I hit a new set that was functional. There are some challenges on the trail with potholes, but they are marked. You return down Ardmore to Kenmore, which runs one way going North. Some may be intimidated around Sheridan, Broadway and Devon, but it really is not that difficult when you approach the street, traffic, and intersection with care. Of course, I never bike without a helmet.

To get out of the suit and into my shorts or sweats before leaving the office is a transition worth undertaking. I am not out to beat the clock, but I keep up with it and if it looks like I can't do it, then I make the trip home on another day leaving the bicycle at the office.

If you bought your bicycle at Roberts on Clark, then his staff is more than willing to blow up the tires and check out the bicycle. Robert may do it, anyway, but you may want to look at his supplies where you get a guilt trip after repeated trips. Usually, I avoid Clark, because it is much busier than Ridge.

My hope is that a bicycle trail suddenly appears on Ridge Boulevard and runs down Devon to Winthrop both east and west. Its time has come and Moore probably knows it, but Carol Ronen needs to allocate the funding in Springfield, as well. There are way too many cyclists coming from the north to cycle the Lake Shore Trail from Evanston and Wilmette. It is almost amusing seeing those from the suburbs heading south on something other than a car. I'd rather cycle on my own, than by proxy. I wonder how long it will take for someone to get the guts to start an RP cycling group for the morning commute?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Backside of Bakers at Midnight, Imagination, Chicago Magazine Digressions, and Other Distractions

Bakers Square ends service at midnight each evening. Tonight, I missed the 11 p.m. cut off for U unLucky Dawg U, so I headed north. I lacked the cholesterol raising craving required for"The Fish Keg" on Howard. This meant that I ended up in the friendly confines of Bakers Square. I swear, it's all a blur!

Our local Mexican Bistro near Ridge and Touhy closes shop earlier. Tonight I did not imbibe nachos and "La Fea Mas Bella" complete with Leticia Pedilla Solis and her Telemundo company. Bakers Square is standard fare after 11 p.m., when The Diner at Clark and Devon does not yield parking spaces and the fridge is nearly bare. Besides, the parking lot at The Diner is a bit seedy compared to Bakers, even if Bakers is a mainstay franchise relishing in Pop N Fresh Pie's Glory. P&S Cafe closes at 3pm, so where do I go? Any ideas? Cuchina di Donatella is closed, as well. Morseland is farther east; again, no parking, too loud, no time to unwind.

I arrived at Bakers to be immediately seated by the host, manager, and cashier. The crowd was down to earth and local. Two fifty something blue collar workers chatted about their experiences directly north. Another feature is a campy dressed red head with unique glasses, who I glance at a few times. She looks like a junior high classmate may have looked in her late twenties. Tonight, she will serve as my 'what Sara T. would look-like, if I saw her in her late twenties before she married a same sex partner, night.' Okay, I got overly creative and Sara rejected my shy seventh grade practice run. The red head amuses me for a moment.

The thoughts serve as more of a diversion to relieve my hunger and "distraction" over a curious internet search three months ago for former classmates. Congrats Sara! Now, maybe I understand.

I imagined a sudden, 'do I know you from somewhere' conversations. How does a guy approach a woman at Bakers Square without looking like he is asking for a date? Blog? Who wants to walk out in that parking lot at midnight at that point until much later. Meanwhile, a mother and daughter combo parks in the booth directly east of me. To view this character of an imaginary first impression, I have to carefully move my eyes east to northwest. Therefore, I have no other choice, but to lose interest in the redhead. Otherwise, I will look like a cradle-robber.

Ironically, I pull out a Chicago Magazine to be presented with another redhead complete with school books with headlines to perk my curiousity. Most of the evening is now spent reviewing this latest Chicago Magazine, which contrasts High Schools. Chicago Magazine can no longer ignore Northside College Prep, Payton and Young. It alludes to other CPS high schools with less applause and minimal recognition. The suburbs get the accolades, besides they buy most of the subscriptions.

My son is about to make that dive into the next level that follows Decatur Classical. That means that, I simultaneously gloat and glare at the stats for the selective enrollment high schools wondering what testing and grades will bring to this family's future educational plans, among other things. I also compare Jones College Prep, Lane Tech, and Lincoln Park, while wishing that they Sullivan found its place higher on the academic pecking order.

Chicago Magazine to me continues to become more of an expression of suburbia and its compulsions draw it into Chicago. There are the high end plastic surgeons, the upscale ambulance chaser ads, gaudy jewelry, and many of the things that none of us should go into debt over. The, 'I like to visit, shop, schmooze, but wouldn't want to live there mentality' looms large on the Northshore. Do they fear how their own pale complexion will fit in a Chicago neighborhood like Rogers Park? Do they think that the cars mow down kids any quicker in the low traffic areas? Does the FBI or media ever calculate the 'per capita crime beat in the suburbs?'

Perhaps, those in the suburbs fear riding their bicycles home on the lakefront at 11p.m. I repeatedly ride into downtown to work if I can time it out and am low on baggage. I have never been hit, grazed, or freaked out by cars; just careful. I admit streets and san need to make a few path lighbulb replacements on the trail by the Lake. Great ride, few cars, fewer bicycles, less pollution; all in one hour and nineteen minutes from 300 South to 7200 North via the Lakefront with three stops for over exposed photos and no hassles. I should bring my tennis racket and meet someone for a set on Recreation Drive en route. No news at ten!

Stay tuned. Okay, enough of my digressions and belly beating urban pride. We just fixed some things in the house and picked up a Museum of S&I Membership that we will actually use.

Back to the October edition and this month's chapter of Dennis Rodkin's "deal estate." I have overcome the educational blow by blow of High School Education. Now, I move to the aggravation, once again, over the Restaurant ratings. "Aruns" is given a recommendation but a bogus 3 stars, when compared the four given to "Tru." Trumonte and Montuano seem like Chicago magazines poster children to the average cuisine charlatan. I suppose to each their own; I suppose that all chefs have better nights than others.
"Avenues" is given four for providing "ecclectic" Altoids on Lamb. "Alinea" gets four catcalls for bacon glazed with butterscotch. What is next Mentos infused in Pepsi infused with flaming Pussers Rum? How do you spell indigestion? Maybe dessert will feature Tums soaked in Gaviscon? I'll take pad tai and curry with all of the art and circuses, when I can afford Sampanthavivat. I suppose that there is something on every menu to enjoy, when the chef is brilliant and on key for the evening.

By that time, I have gotten over my disappointments complete with the memories of Tru with its command to order from the left or the right side, only; its clear kitchy lollipops and that evenings questionable service supposedly unheard of at this Trumonte gem. It is at that moment that my Baker's lukewarm 65-70 degree heated chicken pot pie is served with semi stewed carrots and celery.
The proffered second glass of iced tea sans ice is not particularly refreshing; it is still pushing 85 degrees farenheit. My waitress is definitely paying attention to the subtle gestures, but the ice in the pitcher melted. This left the tea a bit too Lipton. At least, the rolls are piping hot! If you had to choose, don't you wish that the rolls are cold and the pot pie is piping above a hundred degrees! Well, I'll have to order the guacamole burger next week.
My waitress did well. My past experiences with Bakers service are sometimes service disappointments. The food is usually better; the pie is good. Today, Tsehayens earned her twenty percent just for being tremendously more attentive than the last fifteen servers. Believe it or not the thought-provoking redhead is still there reading her newspaper which is spread across the table and cascading to the floor, as well. The patroness reminds me of Sara, a junior high classmate who was a worthy conversationalist. Years later, Sara moved West and came out of the closet as they say. Good grief, Charlie Brown!

I now wait for the host to transform from manager into the cashier. The redhead continues to be absorbed in her newspaper and doesn't seem to notice me. The mother-daughter combo suddenly rises up for the sychronized swim to the cashier. Go figure. I wait briefly, pay, and leave glad that Bakers is open. It certainly puts McDonalds to shame even if it costs a little more. I take my blurred photo in the parking lot, look like a terrorist to the local Marathon gas station attendant, jump into the car, and drive off into the night. This lasts for about a block or so until I reach the computer. Everyone is asleep. It is now Saturday.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sire, the Wall Hath Bent; Behold or Perish - Beginning CPR on 2118 W. Touhy

Hark, ye marauding masses, attack! Errect thy fence or you shall perish! Be forewarned, your chattel will be plundered and thy dachsund ravaged by lusty pillagers. Well, it's been about three years and counting, but no plunder has occurred to the lord of this manor. This is what I learned from watching the Cubs on WGN TV in the seventies: TruLink Fence - 5440 Touhy Avenue -

The dim watt driver who left the bend in your fence long ago has yet to return for a repeat performance. No other uninsured drunk motorist has replicated such impeccably brain dead driving skills at Bell and Touhy. No one has taken much from you, other than pride. The fences condition has reached the neighborhood embarrassment stage, IMHO.

Brother, the war is over! The inebriated masses are in full retreat.* Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev. The neighbors fail to interpret the unnatural curves imposed upon it as anything more than an eyesore. Salvador Dali, it is not! But woe to the "Persistence of Memory."

Now is your chance to show that you care. Pay ye olde fence company down the road to eliminate this mess. Okay, I tried! 2118 W. Touhy to do the rest! "Rampart, we have lost the victim's pulse, beginning CPR."
*-Disclaimer - The photograph used to depict one of the inebriated masses, above, is part of the public domain. I believe that it was taken in Texas, not our beloved Rogers Park. I am told by a more sensitive viewer that there may be some confusion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How about those Real Estate Meetings? Anyone want to Complain to Betsy?

When will Alderman Moore have a meeting with an agenda based upon something other than some real estate variance?
If the meeting must focus on some variance that is already a forgone conclusion, why doesn't Moore just make it one part of an Agenda and invite residents to suggest reasonable issues within his power as alderman to have an impact upon?
How many residents showed up at the meeting on August 20, 2007 at 7pm? How many were deterred by the main topic? How many of us will let Betsy at Joe's office know that we need a more 'relevant agenda? Who decides what will be discussed; the real estate developers or the residents? Betsy?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Tale of Three Cats, Max, the Condo, Bowmanville, and finally RP

No dogs allowed; that was the law in 1989 according to the 535 N. Michigan Avenue Condominium Association. A choice had to be made. We were a year away from marriage, law school began in August, and something was missing. When you are a dog lover, these laws really rip at your emotions. The rationale becomes clear after you realize that residents wanted a quiet environment unpierced by the sound of barking. there was no place to walk the dog without pavement. "Olive" was the nearest park at that time. The few trees en route had to be navigated, discreetly, but the video cameras in the maintenance elevator and the rear halls nixed any hope of getting fido under the radar. In spite of my allergies to cat dander, I learned to love Elie and Max.

The nearby Anti-Cruelty Society's edifice just had its late '80s makeover. I knew that going to law school would leave me in the library for indefinite and irregular times. Before you begin school, you read about the horror stories; the first year, they scare you to death, the second, they work you to death, and during the third, they bore you to death. My fiance would be spending some time curled up in front of the tv without me. It begans to become clear that she needed another love interest. I did not want that to be one of my classmates or a co-worker. I put up no resistance and we did time in the feline section.

I had grown up with a Westie and a terrier, but mostly hunting dogs. I witnessed a sixteen year old with drivers permit hit our fleeing 'wired' terrier, Scampy, on a quite suburban street in 1966 after we moved away from our Winchester and Rogers two flat in 1965. This was quite dramatic, since we drove Scampy's remains to the Becker Animal Hospital in Glencoe. Scampy became a disappointing memory after he scampered out of our lives.

The Westie, Mopsy, was eventually given up to an elderly couple, because he repeatedly ran away. He also would not get along with my dad's new hunting dog, Lady. The noble Labrador Retriever was the canine of choice in our family. Most of our dogs spent time in the cornfields in Richmond or Wayne, Illinois. However, the more recent canine editions tended to be less disciplined house sitters. Cats were never considered, because my dad and I had allergies to cat dander. However, I spent time with cats as a kid at a summer camp. I accepted that cat are just as affectionate and loyal as any dog.

We looked around at the walls of cages. All of these forgotten felines lives might be lost. Many of the cats were older. They had names and the sad story that led to their internment. Some of the owners were allergic. Others moved or were too old to take care of them. A few did not get along with other pets. A few probably went to nursing homes. We looked, but these cats weren't ready. Maybe, they would never be ready. We wanted a cat to grow into our family and the cats were both grown and seemed disappointed. We wanted a feisty, yet friendly youthful feline. We wanted spark and that slight smile. We had to look further.

One cage on the back wall housed a flurry of gray and white. Some of the cats drew our attention like a magnet. As we looked, personalities began to unfurl in the muted meows and purrs of another happier and untainted generation. A few were more dominant, some were cute; others had feature that were given priorities. Some seemed loyal to others in the litter. This group became a tribe and we began to experience the legend that was unfolding.

We were not looking for two cats, but there were two in that litter. They got along with each other. One was cute, lovable and snuggled with anyone willing to give it attention. The other wanted attention and consent to climb and explore all limbs and that which the front and back of a shirt had to offer; he was also a licker. There is a moment, when human and pet bond. You don't expect it; it happens. My desire for a dog was lost to kitten hugs and the affectionate rubbing of our chins and necks.

We wanted both. To my wife, they were inseparable bookends. They were nearly identical with subtle differences. Anti-cruelty had a rule; you cannot adopt two cute cuddly kittens, particularly from the same litter. If you adopt two cats, then one must be an adult. The rationale was unappreciated; it made for an uneasy decision and departure.

Adult cats should be cared for. I have always believed that when you adopt a pet, you do it for life. You don't abandon kit when cats get ill. You try not to get sticker shock with the vet bills and negotiate a plan if necessary. You try to make make plans for the unexpected; a cat gives unconditional love, but in exchange, it becomes completely dependent upon you. Plans for perpetual care deserve contemplation and closure. I did not know why the adult cats were abandoned; only what Anti-Cruelty was told. Yet, none of the older cats made it to the level of trust or mutual acceptance.

We committed to the more lively and cuddly one, who licked our ears, but we wrote down the tag number for the cute, naive, sweet one. We made it past the interview, later discussed the situation with my sister in law, and left with a plan. Two days later, Max was adopted by my sister in law, but also entered our lives and joined Elie in our northeast corner unit overlooking Lake Michigan and the Days Inn. The Days Inn is a story in and of itself, but I don't write a blog about Streeterville.

The cats found a way to get attention. They took to the white shutters that opened up from the kitchen. Climbing the shutters became an event during that summer. The dilemma over whether to declaw and neuter was not a controversy. The cats were scratching the new Homemakers sectional, among other items, which were beginning to show wear. Max and Elie ignored the scratching post. We had no intention of letting them out of the condo, but they found a way a few times. Max was more laid back; his secret weapon to sudden surges of energy.

Max and Elie got their names from two sources. In our tradition, we usually give names based upon the memory of a respected relative. Although this is not required for animals and perhaps is arguably sacreligious. Max is the name of my mother's deceased uncle. Max had a noticeable sense of humor, but his wife Edith 'arguably' mistreated him. Some claim that she abused him, but Max was a kind soul and dealt with his 'alpha wife' until he could not take it any more. In fact, Max is the guy in the center of the photograph at the top of the home page. I understand that Max lived in Rogers Park in from the '40s through the 60s.

Max the cat proved that condo associations have a mix of residents with varying peeves. Max loved to unpredictably, but rarely bolt out of the condo and into the hall way. He would run about twenty-five feet, realized that there was no place to go, and rolled over. This happened two or three times in one year. All we had to do was yell "Max" and one of our elderly neighbors let the Condo Association know that menacing gray and white kittens were prowling the halls eager to spray the walls. It was one of the last times that Elie or Max managed to traipse the hallway.

After a year, fears of law school were overcome and we moved to Bowmanville, which gave the cats had more space. Our three bedroom apartment at my in laws two flat gave the cats more room to roam. It also provided more window ledges and animal life to observe. Max had a detante with one of the local squirrels. The squirel would climb within five feet of Max's window and the two would chirp or scowl at each other depending upon their mood until one would relent.

Max was a bitter not a licker. He developed this annoying habit of nipping at your nose or toes at about two in the morning. This eventually stopped because Max prized his bedspace more than his nose or toe fetish. However, it was intermittant and this meant that Elie, who was the licker spent more time at the head of the bed, while Max might get an involuntary push that encouraged him to leave the feet of the bed. The line, Max be a licker, not a bitter was not pursuasive enough. However, Max could hug.

Max's hugs were unconditional, but always arrived when you needed them. All you had to do was pick him up and those two furry white paws wrapped around your neck in unison. The comfort of Max's nuzzling ears and head on your neck could calm anyone. Max was this loving and nurturing being that could always soothe you at the most frustrating moments. The trivial demands of life dissolved and you were left with emotional fulfillment. Max could rest on you chest with the tranquil effect of the most effective breathing exercise ever conjured by any yoga guru.

Max scared us on a few occasions. Once he found nutrition in rubber shower suckers, which afixed to his intestines, blocked his bodily functions, and made him throw up until there was not much left of him. Apparently, a barium milkshake at Dr. Hornings loosened it up and Max began to eat, again. Max also found serenity within the inner depths of an obscure closet. He disappeared for nearly thirty-six hours when the door closed and he remained hidden in the front bedroom. After hours and significant scrutiny of five square blocks of our neigborhood, Max reappeared and became part of the Rabbi's speech at our wedding.

Max's brother, Elie, passed away at the age of thirteen. He fought back diabetes, took insulin shots, but in the end his kidneys became obstructed. One day, he looked like he was having a diabetes type attack. It was at that time that we realized that his urination or lack of it signaled a more serious condition. He stopped eating. Animal 911 in Skokie discovered that his kidneys were obstructed in four or five places. He would have to get dialysis and might live a week with it. Elie passed away five years ago and is buried at the Hinsdale Pet Cemetery in a yet to be marked grave.

Recently, Max was showing signs, but we, again, did not pick up on it. We brought him into Riser Animal Hospital a year ago. Recently he was not getting all the way into the litter box and urinating outside it. We brought him on a Saturday and had testing done. Interestingly, an ultrasound showed no kidney obstruction; I was temporarily relieved. Max had test a year or two earlier, but tests showed nothing. On Sunday Max leaned on the upstairs wall, lost his balance and fell as he headed towards our rooms. Something was not right; I stayed home on Monday, called the vet, and they looked at his Saturday labs. Max had to be brought in.

The vetrinarian decided to run some tests and Max's heart beat was getting more unsteady. He decided to look at his heart on the equipment at Riser. It appeared that Max had three tumors on his heart. The vetrinarian suggested that we try to ease him out of his misery. I was not immediately ready for this, having witnessed Elie's end. Max was a happy cat and this photo was about as blue as he got; it was taken hours before his death.

I have heard quite a bit about those who are committed to dogs, but they often seem totally ignorant and prejudiced when it comes to cats. I was one of them. I know what a cat is capable of. If you choose wisely, you will find a cat worthy of attention and love, even if you put up with the puff ups. However, taking care of cat dander is a committment worth the effort. Responsibility is part of owning up to your pet. Your pet is more than property, it becomes a reflection of what values you encourage.

Over the years, it became difficult for Max to stay with us in bed. I needed to take better care of his dander and allergies could keep me up. He also occassionally and affectionately nimble at our our nose or toes, which woke us up. His long absence from our room made him drool in delight when he got to sleep with us. However, on his last night on this Earth, he came into our room, went under our bed and laid down.
I let him stay; I sensed something was wrong. In the morning, it was difficult, but I managed to get him out from under the bed. Max passed away five hours after the last two photos were taken at around 2:30 p.m. on July 2, 2007 in the Hospital. He was eighteen years old. He is buried next to his brother, Elie. Max is survived by his adopted sister, Phoebe, daughter of Snowball, sister to Charlie and the late Holden Nicolas, who were once owned by Nate Duncan, a friend from Maxwell and Halsted.

This took a while to post, because I was trying to figure out how Max fit in the overall scheme of this blog. I also had to locate and scan the older photos. I regret that some Rogers Park bloggers are ignorant that cats are affectionate and loving beings worthy of adoption. I am not one of them. Don't give up on pets just because a condo association won't allow dogs.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Damen and Rogers This Evening: Two Police Cars, a Hispanic in handcuffs, and a Few Gawkers. Any thoughts?

Just curious if anyone had any idea about the scene earlier today at around 7:00 p.m. I drove down Rogers, noticed a few African Americans, one of which had a black doorag on his head over by Summit Grocery Store. Just west, one or two Hispanic men were either stationary, walking or talking just east near the Laundromat in front of the boarded up store front. The storefront, by the way, that I love to complain about. A child was also in front of 'the Mat' with the blinking fluorescent lights.

Upon return from Dominicks about a half an hour later, one of the Hispanics was in cuffs at Damen and Rogers. One of the African American twenty-somethings with the Black doo-rag was chatting it up with one of the officers in the car parked in front of Summit. There were about two or three squad cars. Anyone know what happened? Just another drug bust? Reverse buy? Just curious.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Swallowtails in Rogers Park

I just thought that I'd add a bit of color and diversity. Rogers Park or at least West Rogers Park has some color and diversity. We have seen this visitor, a swallow tail butterfly, among several other varieties. If you plant butterfly friendly flowers and plants, they will come. We are seeing more and more return to our neighborhood.

Our recommendation once you plant the proper perrennials; don't catch or disturb them too much. They are starting to allow us to take close up photos of them. Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security does not deport these colorful visitors.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Howard Terminal Welcome - Introducing Gang Graffiti

I thought that I would give the graffiti busters about three days before I posted this. It seems that someone is too tired to paint the garage white. Does anyone want to call Streets and San? Will our Alderman's Office pay attention to the way that a few of our neighborhood wannabes want to welcome the 290 into the terminal, among other routes?
It seems like the owner of this garage could care less?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Howard Street Porta-Potties Temporarily End Stench; CTA Plays the Blame Game; Moore Accused

Has anyone noticed a difference? The parking lot elevators, stairway and terminal escalators have rarely, if ever, stunk of feces or urine in months! It is time for Joe Moore to seriously consider a small durable public bathroom or porta-pottie at the Howard Street Terminal. It seems that only union construction works are deserving of that luxury, not the CTA Ridership.

My discussion and e-mails with CTA authorities Darud Akbar and Craig Longhini, 'allegedly confirm' that Alderman Joseph Moore must introduce action in City Hall for public toilets. The CTA spokesperson insists that only the Alderman has control. Joe Moore may want to e-mail Akbar at and to verify his role. For those who want a public toilet or porta-potty at the Howard Terminal should continue to e-mail the above or contact Joe Moore's Office at to encourage his support of Terminal toilets.

I have heard Cosgrove and Land insist that all of those in need of a toilet should go to the private bathrooms at Dominicks and Marshalls. No one has admitted that those violators who don't care want immediate gratification and are unwilling to walk that far. The Police don't seem to have the manpower or interest to deter the public pissers. However, we have a temporary reprieve and need to do something about it before it returns.

For those who have trudged to the Dominicks, their bathroom is poorly maintained with wet floors and insufficient maintenance much of the time based upon my experience. Marshalls is locked and you must wait for a sales person to key in the code to let patrons in. I am sure that some are told that they do not have a public bathroom, but the Marshall's bathroom is significantly better when it is open. For those who are Bally's members, use your card and you can use their bathroom. However, some of us don't have the luxury or the time to trapse to distant toilets meant for patrons, not commuters.

As discussed, J. C. Decaux is already working with Chicago. With its reputation in public toilets in cities from San Diego to Toronto to Paris, I think that it is time that Chicago reasonably consider its options. Even highways have public rest stops. Terminals deserve toilets.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

MSI deters usage by Chicagoans? Resident Rates Nearly Same as Non-Residents

What follows, below, is an open letter to the Museum of Science and Industry from a resident. Our Museums and Recreation facilities give everyone except actual Chicago residents a good deal on admission. In most situations, there is no charge; the reverse is not true in the suburbs.

To see what the writer is referring to, go to

In most large Cities, residents get significant discounts to museums. Chicago Museums do little to encourage museum usage by Chicago Residents. The reason; they really don't want residents to go to the museums. Finally, the Rogers Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library RARELY HAS MSI or Field museum passes (as well as must others).
What good are museums when only the suburbanites and out of town tourists can afford to visit them on a reguolar basis. Our property taxes pay for this. If you don't like it, e-mail and Let the Alderman know that this is an issue of concern. Let MSI know the reasons few Chicago go to the Museums as frequently. They think that they can get free passes that are never available.

Here is an open letter to Alderman Moore. Feel free to cut, paste and e-mail to both MSI and Alderman Moore, with the writers permission. We have discussed this on more than one occasions. If you want to get creative look for the Chicago Tribune's article in its archive or go to the University of Chicago's web site and see if you can find the article on low use of Museums by Chicago Residents. I hate to usurp this appropriate correspondence. This sort of concern is long overdue.

Now, the letter.

This follows up the Chicago Tribune article from the University of Chicago’s Research on Museum usage by City residents. I told the U of C researcher that I thought that the query was flawed. We are extremely disappointed that as Chicago Residents, our taxes pay more than many suburbanites for the museum campus system. A one dollar discount for residents is a slap in the face. It does not add up. MSI Passes are rarely available in Rogers Park, as well.

Instead, we wait patiently for the Chicago Public Library to release free MSI passes, which is the equivalent of Waiting for Godot. Interestingly, there is no reciprocity and City of Chicago residents must pay unreasonably higher fees to use suburban beaches and pools. The suburbs, like Highland Park and Skokie, don’t care about Chicagoans. Those Chicagoans 'who can' travel get slapped by the suburbs for beach, golf and water park fees. Suburbanites and non-residents pay nothing to use our beaches. Some suburbs even have mutual reciprocity. This is sad and a political solution is long over due. We managed to get to use one MSI pass for one trip in the last six years.

The City should work on reciprocity with Museums like the MSI. Requiring non-residents who often have more money to pay a fee that is higher. Residents deserve a $4-5 dollar discount per family member, when the fee is more than $10 per person. When we use the Highland Park, Schaumburg, and Skokie pools, we never get reciprocity (like some cities) and must pay significantly more to use those beaches, greens, and pools. We hope that our Alderman looks into this situation, so I am cc-ing Joseph Moore the information.

We used to be MSI members, but avoid it for several reasons. First, the cost went astronomical for a Family membership. Now, residents have to pay the same as non-residents for membership. Second, we lost free parking rights in many of the memberships categories. Third, we don't go that often, anymore. Fourth, we remain disgusted with how Chicagoans are treated by MSI, when contrasted with comparable “resident fee” charges for membership or use of museums in other major Cities and the suburbs. Perhaps, the difference might come with contributions at fundraisers!

Furthermore, If your local Chicago Public Library runs out of passes, as most do, then you have to run around the Library System looking for a pass. This can prove futile since many are unavailable, lost, or always out. If you find a pass, then you must return to a Branch like Austin to return them. We live in Rogers Park. There are NO MSI Passes.

We will pay for limited exhibits, but how can Chicagoans pay for it if cannot get in the door at reasonable fee. Chicago residents would if they could, but many can't or are disappointed so they don't. We feel like the suburbanites run the museums. Perhaps, if you treated Chicagoans with more respect, they would show up to the MSI and volunteer more, as well. The current fee structure is a great disappointment.

Sincerely and Regrettably,

Rogers Park
49th Ward

Friday, July 20, 2007

Beat 2424 CAPs meeting this Thursday 7/26 @ 7pm

Next - CAPs meeting -

Beat 2424 CAPs Meeting

July 26 at 7:00 pm

Pottawattomie Park Fieldhouse
7340 N. Rogers


Murder of Evanston Resident at 2300 W. Jarvis - Any developments

Gooning and trespassing unanswered in spite of e-mail in early June. Inattentive Officer on cell phone.

better liaison for oversights and misunderstandings since OPS does not work

speeding down Ridge over the 25 mph limit

Loitering and concerns at J&K Rogers Pantry

DUIs and the dumpster crasher at Rogers and Touhy fork. Any way to better protect bldg at Touhy and Ridge?

Drinking and trashing of Pottawotomie Park on weekends; any options?

Any other concerns? Post before Thursday!

Anyone want to hit the Lamp Post afterward?

Monday, July 16, 2007

DevCorp Mural Dropping; Local Proposals, Anyone?

For those who have not read the Broken Heart, apparently DevCorp suddenly had this brilliant idea. It would encourage what appeared as some to be an Afrocentric mural in one of the more blighted viaducts. The mural was to be allegedly created and designed by artists and children from other areas of the city. Some claim that the work ignores the message of "diversity" that many neighbors hold near and dear.

A valid point is that there are likely a lot of kids who want both recognition and praise in our community. They see these murals day in and day out, because they live here. Giving them a chance to admire their own work is a good idea. Armstrong, Gale, Jordan, Sullivan or some other local school should get a chance to help design and re-do the mural just east of Pottawatomie Park, as an example. That is all. Any objections?

I am not suggesting that all murals be products of RP artists or children. However, I think that 'Deadcorpse' could have solicited ideas rather than dropping this brilliant conclusion of theirs on locals foreheads. What appears to some as poorly announced knee jerk projects feels like the Chinese Water torture dripping suddenly, slowly, and uncontrollably.
The meeting and a mural is made to appear as a done deal. Perhaps, some regularly maintained, calm less than busy walls are not such a bad idea either! Will Moore or Streets and San pull out the paint to make the pigeon plastered peeling painted walls a more inspiring yet acceptable solid color? When murals peel they just don't look that attractive, anymore.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jay Medicar@7204 N. Rogers, Mitzvah unfufilled?

The Jay Medicar garage at 7204 N. Rogers used to house Pulse Ambulances. Now, the building is nearly a graveyard by comparison. During the week, the garage doors periodically stay open. As the neighbors know, the Jay Medicar parkway is full of garbage and rising weeds. The seed pods open and exact their toll on neighborhood yards for blocks. Those who walks or jogs the north side walk of North Rogers know that it is a mess that invites an allergic reaction or criticism.

The building hosts two video cameras that focus on the weeds and garbage below. A sign requests that neighbors not litter, among other things. Yet, no one at Jay Medicar bothers to reasonably clean up, cut the weeds, or maintain the grass. It is likely that months, if not years, of trash remain in the weeded space between asphalt and sidewalk. Who knows how many dogs have left their business in the weedy knoll. Maybe there is forensic evidence waiting for some CSI. When will Jay Medicar respect its neighbors?
A few photos help to refresh those who pass by. This area is next to three homes, one of which looks like the owner has lost hope or found dementia in my opinion. The balcony on that home is without railing and it looks like it begs for a Chicago Building Inspector. This is disappointing, since we need more single family homes in this area. Each time a home is lost, condos or townhomes replace them. In in doing so, there are fewer parking spaces, among other disadvantages.

It seems like some want to hold onto the properties until there is no value left in the neighborhood. These examples, among others, keep me wondering, where are the building inspectors? Where is Streets and San? Where are we as neighbors? Do we expect the City to act on clarvoyance with its rendition of the Mod Squad? If they do not react, what are our options? The more who know about a situation, or begin to think about it and do something, however small, the more likely that these situation will be eliminated.
I can only wish that a few politicians really give a crap and their purpose as community representatives given that there is not much of an alternative.

For those who want to follow up on the Jay Medicar complaint, it is 07-01307503. Add your name to the complaint at 311 or 312-744-4000, as well. You can also try to reach Jay Medicar at the last known number is 773-287-0440. The internet telephone number leads to the Torah Network, so don't bother using it.
No one will bite the handset that complains. If something happens, it is likely that it is a random act, so there is no need to be paranoid. Perhaps, if enough complain, someone will do something about it, including Jay Medicar; G-d won't forbid it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

7308 N. Rogers - New shade of brown, but no facelift.

This is an update. Perhaps, someone paid a little attention to a recent post. Perhaps, there was a tag team effort by Craig Gerhardt, a formal City complaint, and an attentive civil servant or two. Maybe the landlord decided to do something or Joe decided to put some pressure on a conceivable campaign contributor. There is now a consistent shade of 'diarhea brown' on the wood paneling with two particle boards that cover the plexiglass excuses for windows. The pepto bismol pink is gone, but the useless telephone numbers remain. You still can't rent from these folks; the number is disconnected.

The new particle board panels obstruct the view into the world of the decrepid office space at 7308 N. Rogers. However, this rehab/teardown still lives and empty Malt liquor and Budweisser cans enhance the weeded landscaping job. What will it take to create some accountability or attention? I admit that the Jay Medicar Garage just west of Damen is not much of a view, either.

I wonder whether the landlord would allow this to happen in his neighborhood? Would his neighborhood, perhaps in the suburbs, launch a lawsuit to enjoin what they consider a nuisance? Would the Chancery Court in the Daley Center consider the complaint and enjoin? Does the city have an interest in the indoor property or care? I hope that the landlord begins to care. Does the landlord really want to rent the space or are they landbanking for an unreasonable buyer to pay more than its market value?

How much longer will it take for this building to be rehabilitated or removed? The next door neighbors probably wonder? What does it look like next door? Here is a photo to show the contrast. This is a photo from where the razed Chinese Buffet once had its parking lot. As some of us know, the restaurant owner's son was unable to attract enough customers, so the property is now a series of townhomes, photographed below.

Does the landlord at 7308 N. Rogers live in some posh corner of the universe near Ravinia Park or the Wilmette Lakefront? What would this landlord think if someone allowed a home or commercial property near their residence to remain in this pathetic condition for an extended period of time? Do they have any sense of the effect that they may have on the people who comment as they drive or walk past 7308 N. Rogers? There is likely brick or some sort of tile under the warped wood paneling begging to be pulled off the exterior and cleaned up. This paint and particle board job looks like a reaction to a city warning.

The nearby graffiti can be removed with a little elbow grease. The boarded up windows have been the victim of layers of paint, so what is another coat of paint or a call to Graffiti busters? The challenge is likely a combination of the landlord and some tagger. Many of us in the neighborhood will clean up our property, perhaps clean up others property, as well. Yet, we appreciate that there is an inconsistent mix of landlords, some more vigiliant than others, some of whom troll lower than others for tenants who really don't care.

The city claims that it needs money, yet it refuses to work with or fine those who create and tolerate blight in the community and violate the law, perhaps unintentionally, as stated. Why ignore blight? Why not come up with reasonable ways to stop vandalism and indifference? How? Well, the city has video cameras, so it becomes a battle over vandalism versus privacy, among other things.

How can the city and its neighbors handle their challenged kid or neighbor's kid when they believe that they are tagging the neighborhood? How can we spend that extra hour setting an example for others? How can we change our surroundings and the attitudes around us. Property values will not spiral upward simply because a few people care. The grass will always seem greener in some other pasture and those who don't know the potential of Rogers Park will graze elsewhere.

Some of my neighbors have pointed out that some of our Alderman's better supporters rent property and live outside the neighborhood. We also know that some of his better supporters are union members who have chosen 'not to live' in the 49th Ward, but like to influence it. If the SEIU has members who can make a difference, then I can only hope that they make their presence known, not simply by trying to pursuade us to vote one way or another.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Maintaining urban blight – Commercial Neglect at Damen and Rogers.

The condition of the Damen/Rogers commercial strip shows how Alderman Joseph Moore and his 49th Ward staff and volunteers seem like inept bureaucrats. The Alderman's office has been on notice for many years about 7308 N. Rogers. This dilapidated commercial area sits less than a block from the Pottawatomie Park Playground. What kind of an example does this streetscape offer to our children, the community, or visitors? It is definitely a poor benchmark for a future Alderman.

If there is no ordinance defining commercial blight, then Chicago Aldermen should enact one. If violations persist, then Aldermen are obligated to better manage and work with city services to overcome neglect. They can encourage citations to eliminate these neighborhood challenges. Alderman Moore can encourage Ward groups to embarrass landlords. He can issue PSAs to try to ‘bring in’ the media. Eventually, the Law Department can condemn and encourage eminent domain and forfeiture against reckless or negligent land owners. After years in office, both Aldermen Moore and Stone should act together to condemn a land trust; they can overcome commercial urban blight like that at Damen and Rogers. Chicago has a Law Department and Moore once worked in it.

Faded pepto bismol pink paneling hangs precariously from loosening screws. The decaying wood façade with jutting a la carte nails remain despite the Jamaican restaurant’s demise nearly two decades ago. BTU is knotted and hanging between warped and inoperable water stained wooden shutters and rotting window panes. White paint flakes detach into the wind. Pedestrians pass within inches of the edifice on the adjoining sidewalk. Someone recently dumped a computer desk on the weed infested squares that surround the rotting facade. The pink walls are occasionally touched up with ‘Graffiti buster white’ square accents.

The telephone number 773-851-4365 glares at the street as if to taunt neighbors to complain. This is a disconnected Nextel number. Another exchange, 773-539-4287, claims to be the number of the management company that orchestrates this opus of urban blight. The phone number rings, but there is no voice mail to leave a message. The management and owner seem to have little interest in seriously attracting long or short term tenants.

I believe that there is a mentality in the 49th Ward Offices that forces residents to endure real estate blight and mismanagement. We are now in our third year of numerous complaints; Alderman Moore’s staff continues to provide ‘lip service’ and vague claims of action through Cosgrove, Land, and Company. This dilapidated store front at Damen and Rogers remains in my neighborhood along with the Pulse ER and van Storage facility just west. 7308 is just one example of horrendously unmaintained real estate that is tolerated by Alderman Moore, City Services and questionable political and union leadership. Yes, civil servants are unionized, but should do their jobs out of committment, not because a union steward told them so.

Some of us get reasonably upset at inattentive civil servants and politicians, when we live in neglected neighborhoods. Those landlords who are responsible cannot remain ‘bulletproof’ from municipal prosecution and condemnation. A local bar called “The Ho” graces the east end of the Damen/Rogers strip. The bar is barely a quarter block from the Pottawatomie Park Playground. The bar’s next door Laundromat hosts dim flickering fluorescent lighting and a dank atmosphere to encourage laundry day procrastination. Of course, the rest of the strip is vacant other than Summit Grocery Store which features cigarettes and lotto tickets. What appears to be a struggling Jamaican diner is just north on Damen. Yet, even that storefront has been the host to many unsuccessful restaurants in need of an anchor business.

We don’t need ‘blue lights,’ we need someone who cares whether it is our alderman or a landlord it makes no difference. Alderman Moore may have ‘cared,’ but he seems more interested in promoting McDonalds or Starbucks. Of course, he has attacked geese husbandry and big retailers that flourish outside Chicago, but ignores the calling to revive neglected 49th Ward neighborhoods.

Rogers Park land banking and arguably predatory businesses are often undertaken by those with little personal stake in a ward. The owners, often suburbanites, ask for unreasonable rent, interest, or retail prices, which causes Class D properties to further decay. He, perhaps she, may let this commercial property at Damen and Rogers further disintegrate. The now polluted, but once distinct art deco store front has an artificial seediness that distracts and depresses ward locals.

Summit Grocery deserves a better home, but its landlord has little interest in cleaning off the peeling Jamaican National Crest that crowns its store front. Rather than encourage the tenant to comment about the inconsiderate landlord, effective pressure from City Services seems conspicuous by its absence. The City is without an reasonable agenda to eliminate urban blight or encourage whistle blowers. I await Alderman Moore’s campaign posters ‘wheat pasted’ onto the fading pink paneled wall during the next run off. Perhaps, the unnamed owner has already made a Moore campaign contribution.

This cityscape does not foster a feeling of safety among those who visit or pass by. You have to live in the area and think that you know Rogers and Damen like the back of your hand to spend evenings on these sidewalks. They say that if you act like you belong and ignore those you do not know, people leave you alone. However, if you walk like you just entered the Green Zone in Baghdad, then you invite curiosity, anywhere, and look like you belong in the suburbs. I see people pass this place in suits, which seems out of place, to some, but they live in the area, as well. When a commercial nuisance is this ‘out of place,’ it raises attention and scorn towards those elected officials that we end up supporting with taxes and votes.

Yet, if commercial property is neglected in Rogers Park, people shop elsewhere, which included the nearby Evanston Target. If Moore was so concerned about the Targets, Walmarts, and Sam’s in Evanston and Niles, then he would create enterprise zones and ensure that these zones were reasonably developed with businesses that neighbors will use. Moore seems to coddle those who prefer to pay into his campaign, even outsiders. Maybe, he believes that the locals fear a new alderman more than their inattentive incumbent. Moore, do your job, so that we can appreciate why you should to be our Alderman. Otherwise, go back to private practice, because your advocacy and legal prowess is not working with us.

Again, Alderman Moore et. al., if you really care about making life better for those in the forty-ninth ward, then start with those things that you can control, rather than being controlled by those things that are out of control. There is no excuse for inaction over long periods of time. There is no need to get upset with your neighbors and ignore them. As it is said, think globally, act locally.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

History that Cannot be Remembered

Some of us want to preserve the thoughts and concerns of a moment. We want to wake up that which is alert and coherent from within, now. We also want to record others, whose memories both positive and negative require attention. We want to present what we think before we cease to think.

Living and sharing time with those who struggle to communicate with Alzheimers is both challenging and disappointing. You want to encourage that one profound sentence that usually ends up, unarticulated. For the last ten years, I experienced a grandmother with self assurance devolve until her passing this evening. Alzheimers stole her memory and her loss of function followed.

Time spent with those who cannot speak, but seem to visually recall a momentary recollection of life through photographs has its rewards. The afflicted may regress into a shell of oblivion, but we need to make a connection and remove that person from the doldrums. When few others are paying attention, you have their attention and in that fleeting moment, there is appreciation, clarity, and purpose. It is subtle and certain, yet limited.

The physicians claim that all memory is lost with Alzheimers. The ability to eat, speak and remember are eventually forgotten, so that skills must be re-learned on a daily basis. If true, then memories seem temporarily revived just as the ability to swallow. I spent those visits showing my grandmother the photographs that she kept until she had no other choice but to leave her home. She had to be observed to keep her alive and out of harms way.

She told us about getting disoriented and seeking refuge in someone else's home. We heard about her episode with Miami's Finest, which led to the loss of her drivers license. We recalled as she began to do a few things out of kindness or desperation in an effort to seek some sort of recall or perhaps more visits. There was resistence to diagnosis. We remember the flood and the impact of her recognition of not knowing or sensing responsibility.
As time passed, she could not be left alone unless it was a safe environment free of too many obstacles. The physical manifestations that may have been unique to her struggle with Alzheimers became obvious and were accommodated, even if seemingly awkward to some.

Of course, we make decisions and each brings both opportunities and costs. Some of us spend so much time away that we forget that there is sense in our elders, even if it is limited. The feeling left after loss can be sudden and at times seem unforgiving. Yet, I spent hours scanning the images of her life, printing those images, and making them a more permanent part of my family history. I used those photos to refresh her memory by showing them to those amused pair of eyes that expressed both appreciation and animation.

I planned on bringing more items that might assist her in these last days. The menu from a spa that she used to keep healthy might have surprised her. Perhaps, a few items that might send her senses some isolated memory trapped in the tumbleweeds of congealed matter that we are led to believe once housed the images of her life.

I was not expecting a call, nor notice that it would end, so suddenly. The condition becomes so entrapped in your expectation that you know what to expect and continue to anticipate it. Yet, when life becomes lost, it almost appears as if those who are confused depend upon daily reassurance and without it, there is a lose of interest.

I don't know what to make out of Alzheimers, only that it takes lives in a manner that robs us of our need to know. We want to know more, but are grasping at the mind of someone who is incapable of remembering life, yet continues to exist. You speak, stare, revive, but cannot get the response or information out. You become their hard drive and if they can boot you up, you give their minds a thought or two.

I couldn't take photographs, because it wasn't what I wanted to remember. She could no longer remember how she took care of herself. Yet, I visited, saw, and spoke, so it seems like in doing so, this was the image of that person in those final days.