Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peace & Education Fundraiser

This year's fundraiser was well attended. Mayor Daley made an appearance for the second year in a row. We honored 9th District Cmdr. Eugene Roy, who was very gracious and accepted the Arturo Velasquez award "on behalf of all the men and women who wear a star in the 9th district." Aldermen present included Willie Cochran, Pat Dowell and Rick Munoz. Cochran and Dowell bid on silent auction items and won.

This year we had remarks from local students, including scholarship winner Selene from the college students group. She just graduated from DePaul and is going on for her MSW at Loyola.

Oh, I especially enjoyed when Mayor Daley was talking about the scholarship recipients and saying, "They will go on to be elected officials." I happened to be standing next to Jesse Iniguez, who ran for the 12th Ward seat this February. He didn't win a lot of votes, but he's got many more years left to give it a go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Star Is Born

Dawn and some of her buddies took to the stage tonight at Big Picture's mentor appreciation dinner. They did a few short skits of student stories about Big Picture. Dawn played a friend of hers coming to school on her birthday. She was funny!! She projected!

The performance was directed by members of Teatro Vista,a company dedicated to sharing Latino culture with a broad Chicago audience and co-founded by Henry Godinez of the Goodman. In only 16 weeks of a pretty short after school program, the less than a dozen young people put together a short show that reminded me of the early plays done by the Albany Park Theater Project, one of Chicago's finest youth theater ensembles.

The dinner was cooked and served by Big Picture seniors who have studied at Washburne Culinary Institute. The chicken was amazing, actually, really tender and savory. Dawn's most recent mentor, of Washburne, came and was greeted with lots of applause from the many students he has taught. He was pleased to hear about Dawn's at-home Hollandaise sauce making.

Big Picture is putting together a proposal to become a Renaissance 2010 contract school and serve more students. As sophomore Arlette pointed out tonight, "It's really sad that Gage Park is overcrowded by 1000 students and we can't take in any freshmen next year."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Flower Follow Up

On my way home from work today, I saw Joey and Mr. Chavez T-shirt (he wasn't wearing it today, of course) and their buddies on the street. Chavez T-shirt lobbed something from the street up to and through an open second-floor window. His mouth hung open in shock and the boys all laughed.

I laughed, too. "Good job--I saw that!" I yelled over from across the street.

Chavez T-shirt turned around and said, "My mom says thank you for the flowers."

Monday, May 14, 2007

First Water Fight of 2007

It was mighty hot today in Chicago. All of 86 degrees--unheard of in May. I remember snow in late May in the middle 90s.

Evidence of global warming aside, I opened my back door about an hour ago and found Joey and five of his friends sitting on my back steps eating popcorn and drinking Hawaiian Punch. "We'll clean it up," promised the boy in the Chavez t-shirt, whose name I've already forgotten.

I wanted to plant the tomatoes from Seeds of Hope Farm. They got here yesterday. So I planted while the guys threw a football around. Chavez T-shirt was especially helpful. "I saw tomatoes somewhere else and they had more room," he observed, while I was putting them in less than a foot apart.

"You're right, they need more space," I replied, and went three to a box, in a row. Hope that's good enough.

"Do you have roses?" he asked. I don't. "My mom likes roses."

"Did she plant some?"

"She wants to grow some but she doesn't have money for flowers."

"Which is your house?" I asked him.

He pointed down the alley. They're renting in the big house on the corner, I think.

"Do you want to help me plant some flowers when I get the tomatoes done?" He looked shy. "You can just throw the football around if you'd rather."

Then I realized I needed to water my newly planted tomatoes. "Wait," I said. "Can you get the hose?"

Chavez T-shirt was delighted to get the hose. "Like this?" he said, but his finger was making the water jet too strongly.

"Make it like rain," I said, "like this." I took the hose, turned it up toward the sky and put my finger on the nozzle gently. Instant rain.

He tried it. It was still a little strong, but OK. Then Joey and the other boys wanted to get wet. I ran for my back stairs and watched them spray each other, cracking up.

"Your moms are going to kill me," I told them. They chased each other around, laughing. Joey took his shirt off, probably not in time.

The youngest boy, in Joey's yard next door, watched all this solemnly until the very last minute. I was going to the spigot when Chavez T-shirt yelled, "Wait--he wants to get wet!" I peeked around the corner and the little boy was sticking his head in the spray and shaking it like a Lab coming out of the lake.

When the last little boy was well and truly soaked, I turned off the hose and sent them home with some marigolds and zinnias as a peace offering to their mothers.

Mrs. Ribs Takes Over Chicago

My neighbor across the street, whom some of you know as Mrs. Ribs for her amazing barbecue, is also one of the unsung heroes of the recent aldermanic elections. She's a member of UNITE/HERE, who worked with SEIU on a number of aldermanic campaigns. Mrs. Ribs herself led a team of 12 people who knocked on doors all over the near west side in the Fioretti/Haithcock contest. She says she did some knocking for Joann Thompson, too, though I guess not on our block.

Apparently she was on Channel 2 and in the papers on runoff election night at the big party at Buddy Guy's. She goes by her maiden name for her political work, so if I saw her quoted I didn't realize it was her.

Apparently her whole ambition in this boils down to one thing--getting herself a dedicated parking space in front of her house. "I put in all that work for her, least she can do is do something for me," she said as we were walking down the street earlier today. (We were trying to go to the CAPS meeting, but nobody was there. What's up with that? Stay tuned.)

I didn't have the heart to explain that I don't think Joann Thompson can help her with that one, since nobody in her house is handicapped.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Street Cleaning

Well, the block looks nice now, since the street cleaners came yesterday and today. They did our side of the street yesterday. I picked up some trash this morning on this side in hopes that both sides would look equally nice for at least 30 seconds sometime today.

State Rep. Esther Golar keeps nagging me about the sorry state of my block. "Your block looks terrible," she's told me twice now. She's right.

Daphne just rang my bell. She's the lady who hangs with Yup-yup. Perhaps she's not going to hang with him so much any more. She just told me a story of letting him into the place she's currently staying. "He wanted five dollars and I said I didn't have it. He started acting the fool and stole 20,30 dollars. Now they're gonna jump me if I don't get that money back."

I gave her the five I had stashed for church on Sunday because I thought this info was worth it, among other things. "So, you're not gonna let him in any more, are you?"

"I'm not," she said. "You know, I'm telling you straight up he's using drugs."

"I know that."

Daphne must be staying in the same building where Mr. Dog Friendly lives. I saw him on Saturday and he said there was some new "riff-raff" in the building causing trouble.

There's been a lot of noise on the street. None of it has quite escalated to the point where I thought a police call was in order, but it's not good. Yesterday Yup-yup and Mr. Worrisome got into a shouting match in front of the guys from Peoples Gas. I'm not sure if it was a Yup-yup vs Worrisome WWF Shoutdown or if they were fighting on the same said against the new and rather challenging crew at the end of the block. I had to step out the door and look them all down, it got so loud. Fortunately it was ending by then.

As Daphne was walking away, I said, "So now that the street looks nice, would you try to help me keep it that way?"

"I'll try my best," she said.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dawn Bats .500, So Far

Great news--Dawn got accepted to the Road Less Traveled!! I think she's going on the Ridges and Rapids trip in late June. She told me while we were waiting for the bus this afternoon to go up north for a teen self defense class sponsored by Thousand Waves Martial Arts.

I asked her what her parents thought about it and she said, "It doesn't feel real yet." They are waiting to get their packet of info about the trip with all the details. (She and I looked at the viewbook while she was doing the application. I don't know how closely her parents have been paying attention.) The parent materials for the trip probably aren't in Spanish. Just getting her from here to Belmont with a permission slip for a two-hour class was a bit of a production. Well, hey, we'll figure it out. It will be so great when she goes.

The not-as-great news today was that the first event for the "Crossing Boundaries" Youth Innovation grant was kind of a bust in terms of bringing in students from other schools. Dawn told me they got a late start recruiting, and their efforts were rebuffed by some neighborhood schools, who had the attitude, "Why are you recruiting our kids when you're going to close?" Someone actually told them they couldn't pass out flyers on the sidewalk in front of a school.

Over the weekend hopefully Dawn and I can start to figure out this one, too. Just starting earlier and spreading the word among the right parents probably would go a long way toward solving some of those problems.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Second City No More, Not That You'd Know

Interesting that Chicago appears to have had the largest march in the country today, at about 150,000, which I think AP reported, but you wouldn't really know that from most of the coverage.

Los Angeles: 25,000. Everybody else: way smaller. Atlanta: zero, after 50,000 last year.

The national media are all saying the same thing: There have been more raids; people are running scared.

Why is Chicago different? We had a raid last week, and there were people today with signs saying, "I am not a criminal." There was also a guy in a foodservice outfit with a sign:

No More 'Illegals"
No More Fast Food
Think Again!

I have theories about why Chicago is different, but I'd like to hear other people's.

Farmers Market Sunday

I've been meaning to post about Seeds of Hope Farm, where lots of kids from Back of the Yards have been tending greenhouse vegetable seedlings.

There will be a farmers market Sunday in the Holy Cross parking lot where people can purchase vegetable and flower seedlings to plant in their home gardens. I ordered a boatload of tomatoes, flowers and herbs to kick-start my garden this weekend!

If you'd like to order, I'd suggest calling the rectory and asking them to fax you a form. I think there will be some for sale not pre-ordered on Sunday, but I didn't want to take the chance.

La Marcha, Again

So this year's march was a lot like last year's. Maybe a little smaller, but still in the six figures. Lots more signs about stopping raids. I think lots more U.S. flags, actually--they were the large majority of flags out there. Although there was a point early on when a parade of international flags, plus the Olympic flag, went by. There's Chicago's bid for 2016 in action!

Perhaps the funniest part was when we passed a speaker system set up on the sidewalk for 950 AM, a local Spanish radio station. People who had been chanting started singing along to the pop tune instead. Then we passed the El Guero free water truck and everyone ran for their freebie agua.

"If they do this again next year, it's gonna get like St. Patrick's Day," I predicted. My friend and an eavesdropper laughed appreciatively at that. Don't tell the Corona folks, OK?

I picked up a couple of great t-shirts and gave them to friends at the march. You can check them out at No Manches, which Dawn translates as saying, "Are you for real?"

You'll see "Elemento Frijol" on the far right of the first line and "The United States of Mexico" at the far left on the second line. Elemento Frijol got some especially big laughs.

Windy Citizen Share