Thursday, March 29, 2007

Missing Whitney Young student

Today's Sun-Times has a very sad story about a young man from the neighborhood who vanished without a trace last week. Fr. Ed Shea led a prayer vigil for him. It sounds like he's been gone for about a week. He was a quiet kid who just got accepted to UIC. Let's hope he comes home and becomes the only one of the family's six children to graduate from high school. He is the youngest in the family and everyone's hopes were on him to make it.

New Tenant

I don't think I've written much about my new tenant. We'll call him Alex, which will be the first tropical storm of the 2010 season. This seems appropriate as he's not very tempestuous now, but I wonder what he could grow into.

Alex is an engineer from Guanajuato, Mexico, turned third grade teacher. He likes to play soccer in his spare time and celebrated rather heavily when his team won the league championship, arriving home at 5:30 a.m. Good thing I was getting up early. He is very neat and quiet otherwise. So far, so good, and a welcome change from Hurricane Alberto, especially in the neat department. Now I'm the house slob, a position I much prefer. Any house is in trouble if I'm the neatest person in it.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dawn Makes Hollandaise Sauce

Tonight Dawn called around 8:30 asking if I had any white wine in the house. She was making Hollandaise sauce to put on broccoli. She tried at her internship--a cooking class at Washburne Culinary Institute--and wanted to try making it at home.

I was out of wine. So I walked up to the corner liquor store on 47th and braved the scary clientele to find a bottle of California Chardonnay and bring it back. Yup-yup tried to sell me a wheelie backpack but I have one already. When I got to their house, Dawn's little cousins were playing in the front yard with Diana. Marisa, Adriana and Dawn were in the kitchen. They were teasing Dawn about how long her project was taking.

"She's been cooking three hours already," Marisa told me.

"She can't work in a restaurant yet," I teased.

She gets a copy of the new edition of the Culinary Institute of America's textbook, The Professional Chef. It's gorgeous! Marisa was copying recipes when I got there and asked me to help translate them. After a couple of hilarious minutes of me miming dicing and slicing, I went home and got my dictionary to advance the effort.

Then we got into a big discussion of what is basil, what are peppercorns, and what are shallots. I actually had some of all these things back at my house, and Dawn needed the whole pepper and shallots for the sauce, so I went home for them, too. Some days it's good to be a yuppie--how many people on this block have shallots in their house, I wondered.

While we were watching Dawn boil water and stir sauce endlessly, Marisa asked me if I believe in extraterrestrials. I said, "Sure. The universe is really big. We can't be the only people in it, right?"

Then she asked if I'd ever seen any and I said no. Adriana said she saw some unusual lights once--somewhere between Zacatecas and Ciudad Juarez, I think she said. Then Julian Sr. came in with his hands all silvery-grey from working. "See, here's an alien," I teased. Marisa cracked up.

Julian washed off, picked up his youngest son and got in a little weightlifting with him. I'm worried about the guy. Things at his factory sound difficult--a new boss is cutting wages and raising hours. It may be time for the workers to rise up again out there.

Dawn's Hollandaise came out a bit thicker than the CIA's would have been, I think, but it was still mighty tasty. There were a few substitutions--hot sauce for cayenne pepper (easy), lime for lemon. Mexican Hollandaise. We had it with broccoli. Dawn gave her brother Joey a little on her finger to try. He tasted it, made a face and ran. "He's teasing me!" she complained.

Her big brother, Junior wouldn't even go there. "I'm OK," he said. I laughed at him.

All of us females over age 10 in the house chowed down on it, though.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Curie Youth Radio on McKinley Park

Though Marshfield Tattler's world is a little south of McKinley Park--it's the nice big park people here go to to get out of the hood, if they're not going to the lake--this morning Curie Youth Radio has a piece on WBEZ's 848. It tells a story about an experience all too commonly faced by young men in my neighborhood. They're minding their own business when a bunch of gangbangers show up. Check it out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dawn Helps Win a Grant

Congratulations to Dawn and her friends at Big Picture, who wrote a grant to Mikva Challenge asking for money to expand Big Picture's after-school program. Currently, Teatro Vista has been doing after-school theater workshops for Big Picture students. With the Mikva grant, they will be able to add art and sports, and invite more students from other schools. They titled the program "Crossing Boundaries" because part of the point is for young people from different neighborhoods and different turf to have safe common space.

Go Dawn!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Girls Night In

I took a break from writing this evening and went next door. Julian and his friend and his friend's girlfriend were hanging on the front doorstep. "Are you looking for my family?" Julian inquired.

"I was coming to talk to your mom."

"They're all at Marisa's with the new baby." I thought he meant his new cousin. I hung out with them for a while. Yup-yup was just being really loud, running around hollering. "We have a rooster on the block," I said. Julian's buddy Santiago cracked up.

"Be safe," Julian warned as I was about to walk down the block.

"Don't worry," I said, "I'll yell 'Yup-yup' real loud if I get in trouble."

Over at Marisa's it was girls' night in with the wee ones. Marisa has a buddy, Yadith, who has a little teeny girl, probably younger than Julian's baby brother, who was there with Dawn and her mom.

Marisa's daughter Diana is three and always has a lot to say to me. "Hi, Maritza!"
"Hi, Diana."

This can go on for about a dozen times. Diana spent her first year of life with her English-speaking auntie, so she speaks much more English than the average three-year-old. But she switches back and forth in ways I don't always expect, so sometimes we just talk past each other. She's a total ham--she was dancing for us and doing quite a few theatrical moves, looking especially tragic when I said I was leaving, etc.

Dawn's mom, Adriana, is game to go get a San Miguel application on Friday morning. She said the school hasn't called her about Julian. Some scary stuff happened on Monday, but I'll save it for another post.

Probably the funniest moment was when Adriana asked Marisa and Yadith how old they are. Yadith is 19 and Marisa is 22. Then we were talking about birthdays and when is everybody's. I suppose I'll have to throw my could-be-annual Memorial/Birth Day BBQ. I know Adriana is in her late 30s, so I couldn't resist pointing out:

"Voy a tener quarenta anos. Soy la vieja en este grupo"/"I'm going to be forty. I'm the old lady in this group," I said, which got a big laugh out of all of them.

Adriana, holding her youngest son on her lap, pointed to Marisa and Yadith with their girls. "Senora, senora," she said, then pointed to herself. "Senora."

More laughing as she and I pointed to Dawn and myself and said in the same breath, "Muchachas, muchachas." I heard somebody say, "Muchachitas" (little girls).

It's a trip being a spinster down here. But I forget if I said this before--a while back Dawn was over here and told me she and her mom were talking about me. "We were talking about the fact that you have your own house and you are out on your own. That is amazing!" she said. Dawn has said she'd like to have her own house and travel, like me. That's also amazing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

New Blog: City on the Make

For all the new fans I've picked up since I started blogging about Big Picture, here's a new blog for you to hear about city and school skulduggery: City on the Make

The second most recent post is an interesting and plausible theory about the LSC president at Curie High School, which has been in the news lately over the LSC's decision not to renew the principal's contract.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Birdwatching at Sherman Park

Dawn and I went to Sherman Park after school let out today. I was taking a break from housecleaning and freelance work, and stopped to talk to her mom. She told me Dawn cut school this morning to take a walk. She was home and wanted to go ouside Her mother asked if I would mind if she came with me. Of course I didn't mind, so out she came, still a little red-faced from crying.

We stopped by Su Casa and then went all the way over to Sherman Elementary at 51st and Morgan because I wanted to know what it looked like. They have a nice new playground--some kids were hanging around after school playing on it. Some of the kids sounded very rough--there was a lot of really foul cursing among kids who looked to be between eight and 10 years old. "Those teachers have their work cut out for them," I said to Dawn.

After we walked for a while and talked about nothing important, I asked what happened today. It was really what happened over the weekend--more struggles about free time and independence with her parents. I think she just felt trapped and decided to take a walk when she could take one more easily than she had over the weekend. It was also clear she felt like she was on top of her schoolwork--I didn't even try to take that one on right now. But she felt bad and was worrying that this would all hook back into problems last summer. We talked, walked around, got to the park, talked. Shortly after we got into the park itself, I stopped and looked at her and said, "I think maybe the most important thing here is that you forgive yourself for what happened last summer and let go of it. If you really believe that you have a clean slate, that might change things."

I saw in her face that she got what I was saying. I hope that sticks.

We saw quite a few interesting birds. Three red-winged blackbirds, who stood out strongly against the cattails and tall grass. And we saw parakeets! Apparently some have moved west of Jackson Park--we spotted three large nests, one with seven or eight squawking about. There was only one pair of mallards. Dawn was interested to know the male is the pretty one and mallard ducks mate for life. We also saw a male and female cardinal--another pair where the male gets the pretty colors. But Dawn asked me how to tell the difference between a male and a female Canada goose and I was stumped! If you know, please comment.

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