Friday, April 29, 2005


Yesterday afternoon one of my best buds from the block got jumped after school. She was harassed last summer by the same girl, and had to go to the emergency room at that time. My bud has a scar along her right cheek, back toward the ear, as a souvenir of that encounter. She and her family did not press charges at that time.

Since then, I think this other girl has been verbally harassing once in a while, but there hadn't been any fighting until yesterday. I got home last night and there was a trembly message from my friend: "Hi, Maureen. This is ______. Can you call me as soon as you get home? Thanks."

I called and she and her mom came over. I didn't even look at their faces until they were on the living room sofa. "So, what's going on?" I said. Then I looked at her face. This time the girl really scratched her up--a nasty red cut along her nostril, a thin red line from the cheek across her upper lip and a weird X mark near her temple. "God, honey! What happened?"

She only cried a little. They showed me the police report but said they didn't know whether this girl had actually been arrested, and asked me to come to school with them in the morning to find out. She wanted to know what to do to prevent more scars. Today a coworker told me buckwheat honey is an ancient scar remedy, and she even found some research that explained why, so I'll go look for some.

This morning I thought they would ring my doorbell before they went to school, but they thought they were meeting me there, so I was late. They were just talking with the assistant principal when I arrived. He explained that if the girl was in school today they could press charges right away. He went to look for her and we waited in the office while my friend wrote up her account of the incident. She wrote "Beach" for "b-tch" so I spelled it for her. It's always hard spelling because I'm never sure whether she thinks in Spanish alphabet or English first. "Stupid b-tch" is what the girl called her, apparently, before breaking out the talons.

Her mother is afraid the school will not do justice to the situation. I asked my friend what she wanted, and she said, "For it to stop."

There's two months to graduation. I can't wait until she gets out of a 1000 person school and into a 100 or so person school. Crap like this is much less likely to happen there.

Two Shorties

I've been meaning to post these pithy reflections on mi barrio nuevo for a while now. First, a little humor with a big debt to Tom Lehrer. Perhaps you recall his "National Brotherhood Week" song. Here's a site-specific version, updated for the new millennium:

Oh, the Mexicans hate the black folks
And the black folks hate the Mexicans
And everybody hates the Polish
Until some of the Mexicans marry them

I must add the observation that as a generic white person I get to hear my neighbor to the north refer to his Mexican neighbors as "Taco Bells" and I get to hear my neighbor to the south comment on how much he dislikes his black neighbors because they don't keep the place up. This comment was made in a car that within minutes passed through gentrifying, majority-black Bronzeville. I could not help pointing out that really, Bronzeville looks a lot nicer than Back of the Yards does.

If that was just straight-ahead sarcastic, this one is mordant:

They crossed la frontera
So their kids could have a better life
Not crossing Ashland

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pizza Party

Daniel has been waiting months for me to get it together to make pizza. About 10 days ago I promised we would do it last Saturday. "That's what you always say!" he complained.

"This time I'm serious, Daniel. We're doing it this weekend."

Friday night I made a special trip to the Dominick's up at Belmont to get Boboli pizza shells and pepperoni. I was up north anyway, and I knew if I waited until I got all the way back to my home Dominick's at Ashland and Archer, I would blow it off. Daniel likes pepperoni and mushrooms on his pizza.

I told him he could come over early and make dough from scratch--he finds yeast dough rising an interesting sight--but I told him we were not having Fernando and Oscar over until the pizza was ready for toppings and going in the oven because they didn't care about watching the dough.

After we got the dough started, Daniel mentioned he was hungry. I whipped up a quickie 'za in the toaster oven with a Boboli shell to keep him from starving during the hour the dough rose.

The dough didn't rise as much as we expected, and it was a little work to get it to stretch to fit two baking pans. But it covered the pans in the end. I would also give it a little less baking time next time--it set off the smoke alarm (of course) and one pizza crust was burned on the bottom. But the other was OK. Daniel's mom wanted some pizza, so I sent a lot home with him. Fernando and Oscar took some, but they didn't like mushrooms and they ate more at my house, so there was less for them to take home.

The great thing about spring vs. winter is the kids can go outside and play basketball on the parking pad. Frank and Glen next door loaned me their portable hoop--it's a Fisher-Price hoop for their six-year-old grandson, Damien, but the older boys were happy to have somthing to shoot at. I was grateful that I could just cook pizza. Oscar helped me by throwing a dish towel at the smoke alarm to get it to shut up. "You are King Oscar, Sardine Man and King of my house," I told him. He thought that was funny.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Remember Four-Square? Or two-square, three-square, or blockball? When I was a kid, my neighbors across the street, the Trachtmans, used to play with me and my sister and brother on their driveway, which was concrete and had big squares with thick black lines bordering them, making a perfect game surface. Later, when we joined Windybush Pool in a nearby suburb, blockball was the thing to keep us occupied during adult swim. If you've forgotten or never knew this game, here's a link to show you how to play (or at least one guy's version--I don't agree with all his rules):

Well, my new house doesn't have as cool a driveway as the Trachtmans'. In fact it has no driveway, but it does have a big concrete parking pad in the backyard with one big line down the middle. And I have a box of sidewalk chalk. So, for the last two or three nights running, the parking pad has been four-square central. Daniel, Fernando and Oscar have been over to play. They are 10, 10 and five. Daniel's the best. He's learned a few tricks already, some from me: to slam the ball into the far corner, to tap it just over the line, to keep opponents running until they're exhausted and they miss. The boys like to talk trash but stop immediately when they mess up and can't back up their words. They have yet to master the strategy of ganging up on the ace to get him/her out.

When Fernando and Oscar aren't around, Daniel and I play 21. He beat me the other night when we played with a tennis ball in the small sidewalk squares out in front of my house. That was a great night, summer-warm in mid-April, too early for the drug dealers to have resumed operations, so the families and kids had the block to themselves.

I beat Daniel last night on the parking pad. We use his basketball out there. Note to self: get a red dodgeball or other ball not as hard on one's hands as a basketball is. It's pretty funny that now, more than a quarter-century after I first started playing four-square with the neighbor kids across the street, I'm doing it again. It's just a different neighborhood, and this time I'm older than they are. Some things you just can't shake.

Tony's Vacation

Tony's back. I thought he might have absconded with my only clue to humidifier plates, but no, he just took a week off in the Big House--Cook County Jail. And he hasn't lost the box the plates came in, so there's a hope in heck of getting some new ones someday.

Tony is one of the kings of the alley that runs parallel to Marshfield. He celebrated his 43rd birthday with some chocolate chip cookies from me back in February. When Tony isn't keeping company with females, which has landed him in the slammer on more than one occasion, he washes cars to make a few bucks. He was grateful his gear hadn't vanished during his unexpected time off away from his business. I don't have a car, but Tony has picked up some yard work from me and has figured out I'm a softie who's willing to float him a few bucks when he's broke. That was probably an error on my part.

In hopes of getting a return on the singles and fives he wangled out of me, I asked him to go to the lumberyard down at 58th and get me some more humidifier plates. I handed him a $20 and told him to keep the change. Then he vanished. It was hard to decide whether to be happy that he might have decided he was too embarrassed to hit me up for cash after blowing the errand or angry that I had no clue how to get new plates any more. Well, now maybe I can get the plates. For sure I'll be losing small bills to Tony.

In Jonathan Lethem's book, Fortress of Solitude, the lone white boy on a block in Brooklyn gets "yoked"--put in a headlock--repeatedly by black kids. This is a yoke I don't know how to get out of yet.

Windy Citizen Share