Monday, July 25, 2005

Block Party

Saturday dawned gray and drizzly, not a promising combination for this summer's block party. People weren't the fastest movers at getting their cars off the street, either. Mr. Married next door was no help--he's moving out, and he and some buddy of his with a big blue truck kept backing down into the street, scattering the children on bicycles. I pointed this out and they blew me off with a polite smile. Sigh.

I did a little trash-picking but everything was wet and muddy so it was nasty work. Junior's little brother tried to help me out a little, but when I grabbed a soggy piece of plastic out of the gutter, he said, "That's disgusting!" Yep.

Eventually everybody got the hint and got their cars off the street. The girls from two or three houses down on the other side of the street were riding bikes, jumping rope and running races. I only remember the name of one girl and she might be moving to California Avenue. They took the sidewalk chalk from last year and used it up.

We did play some running bases for a little while, like last year.

I'd say the party really started to get going around 3 or so. The DJs showed up at like 2--they weren't expected until 5, but having the music going was OK.

A few friends of mine showed up to help out and see the sights. A big muchas gracias to all four of them for helping out! We grilled a bunch of burgers and turkey sausages and a swarm of little boys came and ate them. The kids were using my hose out front for water balloons and squirting each other, but with the grill in the back it was hard to see the party out front. Later we took chairs out front and sat a spell and watched the kids play.

Perhaps the best thing was that the folks in the pink house down the block had enough advance notice to get ice cream and give free cones out to the kids. They liked that. I saw Junior and D. on a bike with their ice cream cones--Junior steering and D. standing on the back wheel axle, eating something that looked like orange sherbet.

Around 5 or 6 p.m. more of the grownups came out. I sat with Junior's mom, who was reminiscing about growing up in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and how she would spend 2 hours getting her clothes and makeup ready to go out with a boy and hold hands and chat. We agreed it's a different world today.

At the very end of the night I had a beer with the folks on the first floor next door, a young couple in their 20s with a darling two-year-old girl. They want to speak better English, so they asked if they could come and practice, English for Spanish. Of course I said yes/si. They took me up on it last night and we all practiced Spanish and English ordinal numbers while eating ham, mushroom and pineapple pizza on my front step (they provided the pizza, I provided the drinks).

So, do I remember? primero segundo tercero quarto quinto sexto septimo octavo noveno decimo--I think I'm right, hey! If I'm wrong--check me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Baptism Party

Well, it's time to discuss happier things. Last Saturday I went with Junior and his mom and dad and little brother to St. Joe's for the baptism of their mom's grand-nephew. There were six babies total getting soggy for Jesus that morning.

Junior's mom had a very nice digital camera along to take pictures. I meant to bring my little disposable but I forgot it. It was blazing hot outside, and through some miracle of divine intervention it was cooler in the church than it had been at daily Mass earlier in the week.

Our little angel did not cry during the proceedings. Unlike plenty of other Catholic churches, where the babes only suffer a sprinkle or two, Fr. Ed is a dunker--if he baptizes you, you get wet! Everyone took the babies out of their finery so Ed could plunk them in the font and use his super-sized plastic spout to give them a good drenching from behind (not in the face, of course). The infants all got three showers and got lifted up between each one. There was a three year old who got to stay in her dress and only one ride up over Ed's head. I guess that's his Saturday morning workout!

After the ceremony, which ended with everyone up around the altar for an Our Father--it's the first time I've ever been at a Catholic christening that wasn't a full Mass--all the immediate families got their pictures taken with Fr. Ed. Junior's mom managed to get Ed to stay still for a second photo with her in it next to her niece. I'll call her Judy because that's what it sounds like, but to my horror it's not how you spell it, so I screwed up the card. At the church everybody gave some relative a few bucks--I got a card and stuck a $10 in it, so I figured it was time to hand it in. Later, at the party back at their house, people showed up with gift bags, so I still don't know whether I did it right, but oh well.

We went back to Judy's parents house afterwards, where the men had gathered to cook pig and goat in a huge cauldron out back on the concrete, next to the enviably large gas grill. Junior's dad, Senior, was in charge of the proceedings. I can say that the carnitas turned out great! We had nopales (cactus pads), too. Senior was telling me back in Mexico he used to eat nopales at every meal. I had nopales a few months ago for the first time. These were good, boiled or steamed with something spicy and maybe some vinegar--they were salty/spicy and a little sour, which I like. Underneath that they just taste like generic green vegetable--if I had my eyes closed I'd have guessed they were green beans or something.

They had two very young DJs who were OK but not great. I'll have to devote a whole separate post to the topic of dancing. Come again!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bike Stolen!

Dag! I knew this day would come. Sometimes when I get home I put my bike in the yard while I go in the house. I always say I'm going to go straight to the basement and unbar the door, but the phone rings, or I put the groceries away, or whatever...and I forget the bike.

I've left it outside overnight three times since I moved. Every time I thought it was a miracle it was still there, but every time it was still there it got me a little lazier, a little less vigilant, a little more trusting....

Wham! I was doing yoga with my buddy now from up the street Friday around 8, when my neighbor next door (the first floor people with the two year old) rang the bell. "They got your bike! They're in the alley!" I didn't even have my keys on me. I ran back but they were gone. So I ran in the house to get my keys and Dawn (my buddy's name for here) wanted to go get on bikes and go look for them.

"People get shot over bikes down here," I said, but there was no stopping her. So we ran. I used her parents' cell phone to call 911, and then we jumped on a couple of their bikes and took off.

All we knew from the neighbors was that two young-ish African American men had jumped the back fence to get the bike.

"Should we ask Mexicans or black people? Or, that's racist, right?" Dawn asked me. I said we should tell everybody two guys took our bike and describe the bike in detail, since we didn't have enough to give a real description of the guys anyway. As it turned out, we didn't ask anyone, we just rode around east of Ashland (the direction the neighbors said they were going). No luck.

This morning I went to the station in Bridgeport to file a police report. At least the officer was nice. So now I'll be in the crime report at the next CAPS meeting. Yahoo...not.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Movin' Out, not me. Worse, the great neighbors to the north. The Mrs. of North gave me the news when I got back from California.

"We wanted to let you know right away. We're selling the house and moving back to Mississippi," she told me over the fence. She was hanging laundry, I was poking at my sunflowers. She said they were having the house appraised and didn't have an asking price yet. "But if you know anybody who's looking for a house, let them know. We want you to have good neighbors."

"Thanks," I said.

So I turn to you, devoted readers, especially any of you who are Chicagoans. Drop me an email if you know anybody who wants to buy a house next door to chez moi. The roof still has some fire damage from the big blaze before I owned my home, but otherwise seems to be in OK shape. It's brick with a fake stone facade, gabled, has a garage.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

La Marcha--Mas Noticias

Friday morning, Junior and Junior's little brother came by with their mom. They were going to La Marcha and they asked me to go with. I asked their buddy, who was helping me weed my sunflowers, if he wanted to go, but he said no. So I sent him home and went off with them.

La Marcha, in case you haven't heard, was a joint effort of the two big FM Spanish-language stations here to protest the founding of a Minuteman chapter in Chicago. In case you missed the Minuteman mania in Arizona back in April, here's what LA Weekly had to say about it:

So, in short, the overhyped story of gun-toting vigilantes "securing the border" comes home to roost, with a group cofounded by a white suburban guy and a second generation Mexican-American woman. She's the one Hoy (the Tribune's Spanish newspaper) picked up to interview, and the interview so incensed two local radio DJs, El Chokolate and El Pistolero, that they put together a pro-immigrant, pro-immigration reform, pro-naturalization rally more or less in my hood. If you can read Spanish or you just wonder what El Chokolate himself looks like:

So I found out about it at church and then tried to read a piece about it in Hoy. I was planning to go Friday morning until my weeding buddy arrived and said he wasn't interested. But when my neighbors showed up and wanted me to go with them, I sent him home and we took off.

Highlights from the march: Tons of people! Organizers were hoping for 15,000 and maybe they got it. I'd put it at 10K at least based on some big anti-war marches I've been to in the past.

The sign I remember best was created by my teenage girl friend of the Nearly Evicted family: "The immigration judge said it won't hurt me if my dad is deported. :-( How is *that* possible?"

My rally Spanish served pretty well: "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencino" and "si se puede" were shouted full force. People sang the Mexican national anthem. I saw a number of folks from St. Joseph's and from Holy Cross/IHM. Some guy started his own cheer, "Give me a J... Give me an O..." Jose thought he was funny.

The march ended in the Swap-O-Rama parking lot near 43rd, where speakers blasted music and the words of everyone from radio stars to little kids whose parents may yet be deported. The icie vendors were making a killing. Somewhere along the way in the midst of the march, someone actually had their chip/ice cream stand set up in the thick of the crowd. They got business, too.

I still have yet to see a news article with a guess at the crowd in it. And I'm not holding my breath for an English-language story that explains the purpose of the march in any detail. The Chicago Tribune's Saturday paper carried a small photo in the lower right-hand corner of the metro page, which on Saturday doesn't even get a section to itself. I don't know if the Sun-Times even carried anything. Hoy's weekend edition is mostly wire services and is clearly prepared in advance. The Trib carried a decent enough story last week about the Minuteman dustup and the radio stations--one of the DJs had her on the radio and debated her.

In a way, it's nice to know El Pistolero and El Chokolate aren't any better than scraggly anti-war protestors at grabbing the English-language dailies' ear in this town.

Update: At least one March organizer said 50,000 turned out. I never heard a police estimate. Usually I split the difference between the organizers and the cops and figure that's accurate--usually they're pretty far apart. But it's a good bet they really got their 15,000 and probably more.

Plus, I forgot my favorite cheer from that day: "Bush! Eschuca! Estamos en la lucha!" (Bush! Listen! We are in the struggle!) The thing that was hilarious to me was I couldn't figure out what they were saying at first because they were pronouncing Bush with a long u "Boosh-eschuca!" and I could not for the life of me figure it out. Another day I'll have to write a post about the joys of trying to learn Spanish....

Peacemaking, Local and Global

OK, guys, I started this last week and thought it was even more scattered than usual, but here it is anyway.

Between George Bush talking about Iraq on Monday (June 27), the Senate voting on foreign appropriations on Tuesday, and a shooting two blocks from my house on Tuesday afternoon, I've had a lot of food for thought about peacemaking this week.

Last Thursday around 5:30, the CAPS office sponsored a rally/vigil in the parking lot at the northwest corner of 50th and Hermitage, where a 20 something named Pierre (yes, his real name) took two shots point-blank, one to the head, and died two days earlier. The killing was in revenge for a stabbing that took place earlier that day east of Ashland Avenue, I was told.

Frankly, and sadly, because the young man who got killed was African-American and lived a few blocks away from where his brains spilled all over the pavement, nobody would have done a damn thing about it if the local CAPS liaison hadn't decided the gangbangers need to be put on notice. I think that doesn't make any difference to the gangbangers, but since I gather this police district has been suffering from lack of leadership until very recently, I want the new commander and the old footsoldiers put on notice that they have to respect this neighborhood--neither ignoring requests for help nor assuming every kid on the street is a gangbanger. The only reason I put my shoulder to the wheel on this was to get my face and as many faces of neighbors as possible in front of the commander's very eyes and let him know we're watching him.

The reaction I got from neighbors while passing out flyers for the event was very interesting. A couple of people suggested the young man got what was coming to him for being a gangbanger. A middle-aged man said he doesn't even like to come out in front of his house, it's too dangerous, so he mostly stays inside. Another guy asked me to give some info to the cops about a concern of his because he works nights and his wife watches their four kids, so making a CAPS meeting is hard. A few people thanked me.

The next day, I only recognized two or three other people from my block itself at the rally. Many more came from the 4900 block of Hermitage--we have a good contact there. I was also impressed to note that people came up from south of 51st--I met a lady from 52nd and Paulina. They were people who knew the young man or knew what was going on. It's hard to build connections across 51st--I find it even harder to cross 51st than to cross Ashland.

During the aftermath of the shooting, I started musing about what it would take to do real peacemaking in this neighborhood. Why can't we get some UN conflict resolution going on down here? Of course an underlying question is why can't we get some real economic development going on down here so these guys could quit selling drugs to make fast money? What if we had real economic development in my neighborhood and in Colombia (yeah, the amendment to cut money for the useless Plan Colombia just failed but at least my rep voted the right way) --so the farmers there and the broke young men here could find themselves something else to do? I shouldn't blog, my thoughts are too badly phrased. But you get the idea.

If you want to know more about the Colombian situation, how the fighting may spill into Ecuador, and (if you scroll down), what some activists decided they learned from the unsuccessful fight in the House to cut money for the war on drugs in Colombia, check out this blog, which is smarter than I am:

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Prejudiced" Pendulum Swings

I've been meaning to write for days about Mr. Worrisome, who swung from telling me I'm prejudiced to professing his affections for me before I left town. It got worse when I came back, because I didn't tell him I was going away and the house was very quiet (and badly taken care of compared to other trips, oops), so he thought I was dead and called the cops. I've heard about this from several neighbors, all of whom were more or less convinced I just went out of town. Now I know who to tell next time to get the word to him so I don't have to tell him myself.

Anyway, the night I got home, my doorbell rang within 30 minutes of my arrival. Guess who? Mr. Worrisome launched into a long explanation of how upset he was, thinking I was dead, and let slip, twice, "I'm in love with you."

I'm thinking, "OK, two weeks ago I was prejudiced. Now you're in love with me. Great. Could we just be neighbors?"

The other night he made some noise like, "If I bought you a car, would you drive it?"

"No," I said, "and you're not buying me a car and I wouldn't accept it if you did."


Water Balloon Fight

Yes, even though it didn't break 80 degrees today, we still had the long-awaited water balloon fight. It was the North End vs the South End of the Block in a Titanic Tsumami del water bill is feeling the pain, I'm sure.

The leader of the pack from the south end of the block, whom I will call Izzy, went to the store and got 150 water balloons after we used up the couple dozen regular red party balloons I scrounged up at the Dominick's on Ashland. Fortunately, the South Enders only filled up about 30 of them, which took forever, and prompted my North End buddies to holler "Scaredy Cats! Scaredy Cats! Hurry up already!" about 500 times in the waiting. We North Enders, having shot our meager water balloon supply, were armed with a garden hose and a Super Soaker. General D. from across the street wisely suggested we lock the front gate, thus adopting the classic siege strategy...I began thinking of Masada, the Alamo, the Warsaw Ghetto, and other less-than-victorious military moments in siege history. Can anybody think of a situation where the beseiged outlasted the surrounding enemy??? I was drawing a blank. Does Sarajevo count?

Anyway, I think we'd have to call our situation a draw. Izzy was disappointed we locked the gate--he and his three or four pals would run up, hide behind the lone large tree and fire. When they got bored or wanted to get wet, they'd come out and take better aim.

Between rounds one and two, everyone came in the yard and played with the sprinkler and the garden nozzle, even Izzy's big sister and his littlest sister, who liked the "mist" setting on the garden nozzle. We all enjoyed that, and some of us pretended to take showers on the "shower" setting, the next favorite. I imagine Mr. Married and Mr. Worrisome both got an eyeful (though I took pains to wear my baggiest t-shirt, least interesting shorts and a grandma-worthy bathing suit underneath...I swear I need a burka on my block, and it pains me to say so).

Next posting, look forward to an account of the pro-immigrant, pro-amnesty, pro-legalization march down Ashland Avenue this morning, probably the largest demo my hood has seen since the last meatpackers' strike in the 30s and also, like some of the big anti-war demos I've attended, a shockingly large gathering of people that probably didn't make much news. I'd guess the crowd at between 5,000 and 10,000, yet as usual, it was mostly Spanish-language media in evidence. I'm sure the march made headline in all the local SPanish media: TV, radio, print (heck, it was two big radio station that cosponsored the march to being with, in response to a newspaper article), but I'll be very interested to see how much play, if any, it gets in the English-language media here or elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Windy Citizen Share