Friday, July 27, 2007

New Kids on the Block: Not Nice

I have called 911 at least three times this week, twice today. There was a dispute this morning, then Yup-yup was running around all high, and a few minutes ago there was some domestic disagreement a couple of houses away. I thought it was at the corner but it was actually closer.

About six weeks ago a bunch of new people moved in a house at the south-central part of the block and it's been downhill ever since. They hang out yelling and cursing til all hours, my neighbors to the south say there are problems with drug dealing, robbery and prostitution.

Tonight my new next door neighbor on the other side--a nice guy with a family who bought the house next door and redid the back yard beautifully--came by to tell me people are cutting through my yard in the daytime when I'm not home. They're not kids either--they're adults. I will have to figure out how to lock my front gate and still get my mail. I've been thinking about getting a PO Box downtown for business reasons anyway. Jeez.

It's amazing how quickly a block can backslide. And it's easy to see how hard it may be to bring it back.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Julian Stops to Chat

I heard some noise out back this evening and went to see what it was. (Since last Monday afternoon, when I found someone I didn't know washing his hands in my yard, with my garden hose, I've been more jumpy about noises outside.) However, this was just Julian fooling around in his backyard next door.

I came out and he said hi right away. We had the longest conversation we've had in quite some time. He's been thinking about quitting school to get a job in a meatpacking plant up Ashland, north of Pershing. We had a long talk about how much more money you can make over the course of your life with a diploma than without one and how much easier it is to get your diploma by staying in school than if you drop out and try to go back or get a GED. By the end he seemed pretty convinced it was worth staying in school at least for the upcoming year, but who knows how long that will last.

He said a couple of very mature things in the course of our conversation. He says he is trying to straighten up and stay out of trouble. He's been bike riding out of the neighborhood, like biking to 31st Street beach, to be able to be outside without getting in trouble. (Maybe a month ago we had a conversation about the best way to ride to the beach from here. We agreed 35th is a nicer ride than Pershing.) Then he was saying he was having a hard time talking with his dad. "I can't talk to him the way we're talking now," he said.

"It's a lot easier to talk sometimes when you're not talking to your parents," I observed.

He grinned in recognition. Then he said, "I think I just have to chill and wait this out. Later on we will get along better."

Ad of the Day

There's a Bud Light billboard in Spanish above the railroad bridge facing Ashland Avenue just south of Pershing Road. My rough translation of it would say, "As good as finding mole like Grandma's."

Gotta say I think it would be a pretty big dis on your average abuelita to compare her mole with Bud Light!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Soccer Showdown

Shaun showed up at my door this evening. "Are you going to clean up again?" he asked me.

"I need to, don't I?" There was a styrofoam sandwich container sitting out front on the sidewalk, a couple of chip bags, some copies of Hoy's weekend edition in the street, etc.

"I'll help you," he offered.

"Let me get some bags." While I was back in the kitchen, James from two houses up came over and joined him. "Are you going to help clean up?"


"Let's all have blueberries when we get done," I suggested.

"I like blueberries!" James said. "I had them at camp." We cleaned up from my house to the traffic circle. First James held the bag and I picked up, then we switched. "Are you cleaning up for your barbecue?" he asked me.

"Kind of," I said.

"It's gonna get messy again."

"Yeah, but if we do this again Friday before the barbecue, they'll be less to do."

"Yeah," he agreed. Meanwhile, Shaun was jumping all over the traffic circle, digging under weeds to pull out trash.

"When you gonna clean my side?" asked Ms. Ribs, watching us from across the street.

"Maybe Friday, before the barbecue," I told her.

We went back to my house. The boys washed their hands in the bathroom. I washed mine in the kitchen and washed off the blueberries.

James found the mango on the counter and asked if he could have some. They took the blueberries out while I was still cutting up the mango.

When I came out, Shaun was done but James was still eating. He had some mango and then they started playing soccer. My new neighbors on the south side watched their one-on-one with interest. I kept score. They played to 21, then 32. No defense, but plenty of kicking--high shots, wide shots, lots of goals. Neither James nor Shaun speaks Spanish, but they know how to say "Gol" just like the Mexican kids. We were all hollering "gooooooool!!" and having a fine time.

My first crop of boys (Junior, Danny and Joey) are getting too old to play soccer in my yard, so it's nice to have some new sprouts coming along.

Making Dirt

Well, it only took me three years to get a composter, but there is finally an Earth Machine sitting at the bottom of the back stairs. It's about three feet high and two feet in diameter, made of black plastic.

"What's that for?" Joey asked me.

"It's for making dirt."

"What kind of dirt?"

"The kind like in my boxes, for growing stuff you can eat."

"Oh," he said, and went off to play.

Dawn's mother wanted to know if it would attract flies. It's not supposed to, if you do it right. Hope I get it right. There are enough flies in the backyard already.

But it's great to have a way to keep the good stuff from the many tomato branches I've pruned in the last week or so. I must have two hundred tomatoes growing from six plants. Way to go, Seeds of Hope Farm! Also, I think it's the alfalfa or sprouts or whatever my friend Chuck was growing in his dirt before I got his dirt and garden boxes for my yard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CAPS Meeting Last Night

The best news from last night's CAPS meeting at Chavez was that someone was arrested on Monday in connection with the car break-ins that have been taking place near 50th and Wood.

Sadly, the great sergeant who came last time has been replaced. The new sergeant did not seem to have any grasp of what had gone on at the previous meeting and was much less cheerful and welcoming to the community. He didn't even introduce himself or the other officers before starting the meeting. I hope I have time to call the district and complain this week. It was pretty frustrating.

The 5000 block of Marshfield is having problems with fights, drug sales and prostitution. Two or three families who don't come regularly made a point to come last night and ask for help. It was decided this is the top priority from now until next meeting. Other hotspots are on Hermitage and up along 48th between Paulina and Hermitage.

Ald. Cochran's representative was there again. Ald. Thompson has yet to send a representative. I heard that Ald. Thompson will be at Holy Cross for a meeting at 7 p.m. this Thursday night. If you live in the ward and can attend, please do. I'll be working, unfortunately.

Next meeting for Beat 931 is Monday August 20th, 6 p.m. at Chavez. City services will be discussed at 6, and Emilio Carrasquillo from NHS will be speaking on home ownership. The police will arrive at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

CAPS meeting tomorrow

Beat 931 will hold its monthly CAPS meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Chavez Elementary School. Sure hope the person posting about car break-ins can make it!

Big Picture in the Reader

In the last week of June, a group of students from Big Picture attended "One Week, One Neighborhood," sponsored by DePaul Universitiy's Chaddick Institute. They learned about neighborhood planning by taking a close look at Back of the Yards. If you haven't seen Ben Joravsky's piece this week about what they learned, check it out here.

There's a suggestion in the piece that the city use some Loop TIF money to pay to buy the Goldblatt's building at Ashland and 47th and turn it into a community center. I believe I wrote a year or two ago about an effort to get the Chicago Public Library to buy it and use it as a branch. (That didn't get far, obviously.) I thought I heard a rumor that some big chain was going to move in there, but I haven't seen any evidence of that. Also, on the TIF point--Back of the Yards does have its own TIF. From what I've heard, there's not much money in it (surprise, surprise), but I just wanted to observe that it does exist. Some day I could write a long post on TIFs and how they've been abused, but Ben does that so much better than I do, I'll leave it to him. I would guess that a Back of the Yards TIF could be one of the better examples left in the city of what a TIF was supposed to be: a pot of money pulled from the general tax pool to help revive a struggling neighborhood. I don't know which alderman or aldermen control this TIF, either, which would be good to know.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Postcard from Oregon

For readers who've been looking for new posts, my apologies. I'm on vacation in Oregon and took a real vacation from everything, including this blog. But now it's time for a couple of comments:

First, to respond to the neighbor who commented back in June about car break-ins, thanks for your comment and for alerting others to the severity of the problem. The next CAPS meeting is Monday July 16, 6:30 p.m. at Chavez Elementary. I hope you can make it and talk with the officers about your experience. Right now there is a new sergeant, Sgt. Whitney (I think), and he took careful note of problems raised at the last meeting and promised he would report on what the police did in response at the next meeting. I believe that is standards CAPS practice and I've seen meetings in another beat (in Woodlawn) where they really did it that way, but this is the first time I've seen it in our beat.

Second, in honor of Independence Day, I just wanted to reflect briefly on a conversation I overheard in the Holy Cross parking lot before I left town. After Mass, two young men were talking about the USA/Mexico Gold Cup championship game and who to root for. One was for the US, the other for Mexico. Just a couple of quotes:

Mr. USA: "Don't we owe everything to this country? If our parents had stayed in Mexico, we would never have had all these opportunties."

Sr. Mexico: "Yeah, but don't we owe something to where we came from? Especially when this country has done so much to weaken Mexico?"

Here in Oregon, we toasted over dinner on July 4 to "the United States, still the best country in the world to live in despite everything." I've been reading a book out here about immigrants to the US, in which someone said, "America is everyone's second country." With the recent immigration debate, it seems like many people want to blow out the lamp lifted by the door at the same time we've made it even harder for people to live peacefully in their own home countries. It just seems to me we can't have it both ways--strong-arming countries to do our economic and political bidding, then complaining when their people leave for economic and even political reasons of our making and come here looking for a better life. Ironically, if the US were a more responsible world citizen, we'd have many fewer people sneaking over fences and overstaying visas to live here. Happy belated Fourth of July!

Windy Citizen Share