Blog Archive

Monday, April 28, 2008

School Spin on Community Violence

I'm taking a little time out today to give props to fellow blogger Alexander Russo
over at District 299, the blog about Chicago Public Schools. Alexander picked up an excellent point made by one of the many CPS insiders who comment on his blog, that the recent media coverage of youth violence has focused on the young people as Chicago Public Schools students even when the violent incidents did not happen on or near school grounds.

In an effort to support gun control, Mayor Daley and the Chicago Public Schools appear to have at least passively accepted, and possibly actively encouraged the media angle that links shootings and Chicago Public Schools together. Yet the gun control bills aren't going anywhere, and Alexander argues that the public image damage to the schools done by this association is much more long-lasting. Worth thinking about.

Scroll down the home page and check out the post "Why Is the Mayor of Chicago Destroying His Own School System? Why is the Press Letting Him?"

But I can't help throwing in a little local good news: looks like I have a second 8th-grader on her way to a high school other than Richards. She's got two options, Kennedy and the Perspectives Math & Science Academy. It'll be interesting to see which she chooses. She announced this over burgers at the Medici on 57th Street Saturday. Check back later this week for more, including our trip to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dorothy Returns

Time did not permit me to fulfill my non-promise to Dorothy about getting diapers or a 7-day el pass. I stayed at home today and worked until 3 p.m., then jumped on my bike and went to an event at Marquette Park, also for work.

By the time I got home it was nearly 8 p.m. From the earlier rains, my bike seat was wet and so was my butt. I sure wasn't going to the store now, but neither that nor the drizzle was going to stop Dorothy from coming back.

Maybe she won't ring if there are no lights on, I thought. So I ate my take-out falafel sandwich in the dark.

It was no good. Despite the pitch-black first floor, the doorbell still rang. I looked through the peephole. Yep, it was Dorothy. Go away, go away. a little voice in my head chanted. She rang the bell again.

Oh, hell. I dug my wallet out of my raincoat. I had broken a ten for the sandwich, so I gave her the five. "I didn't go to the store today, I was working. But at least you can get to your meeting tomorrow," I told her.

She asked me if I had stashed any diapers for her from before. I hadn't. Then she told me she soiled her pants this morning on her way somewhere.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I wish I had some to give you. This is a hard month for me."
I already forgot what she said as she was leaving. But I'm sure she'll be back again, well before any new income makes its way to my wallet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dorothy's Drop: It's Clean

The doorbell rang a few minutes ago. Thinking it was Dawn, I stashed my college beer mug full of freshly-poured Corona in the fridge and went to the door. It was Dorothy.

She didn't wait for me to get the outer door unlocked. "I went to my meeting. They dropped me today," she said proudly.

"Hunh?" It took me a minute, but then I realized what she meant. At first I thought she got thrown out or something, but she was saying she took a urine test. "And you came up clean?"

"Yeah." She smiled, face shining.

"Good job! That's great," I said, coming out the front door. "How do you feel?"

"I feel good."

She has to go back again on Friday. I think they'll test her again next week? Every four days? Something like that. The only thing she doesn't feel good about right now is her lack of reliable diapers/underwear. And she really needs a 7-day el pass to get around.

"You know that was my last five dollars, right?" I was lying. I cashed a check at the grocery store today and got some money, but this month is closer to more month than money than I have seen in quite a while, and I'm trying to hold the line somewhere. "Remember I said I was broke until May? I know my broke is not as broke as your broke," -she looked at me knowingly- "but it's trouble for me."

She took this pretty well, actually. Less crabby than yesterday, I think because she realized I wasn't thinking she was lying to me about how she was going to spend any money I gave her. The news of the clean drop did help my confidence about that.

By the end of our chat, I told her to stop by tomorrow night. If time and money permit, maybe I will get her a 7-day pass. "It's nicer now, I can ride my bike," I told her. But I didn't promise.

"You're doing great. Keep strong," I said as she was closing my gate.

"Thanks to you."

She left before I could say, "Nuh-uh, it's all you," but I thought it. If all it's taking for her to get clean is this half-assed kind of help, it really is all her.

Warm Welcome Home

When I stepped out of the cab in front of my house last night, it was too hot for the jacket I was wearing. Everybody was out on the sidewalk enjoying the mild air. Seems like all the buds on the trees appeared last week, as did the white tulips in Dawn's yard next door.

"Maritza! Hi, Maritza!" the Bradys shouted from the other end of the block. Big Brady Girl came up to inquire about when we will be decorating cakes.

"Let me go put my suitcase down and I'll come back out in a minute," I said. Medicine Man was inside having dinner and reading the paper. I plopped my bags on the sofa, took off the too-warm jacket, and went back out.

I didn't spend time with that sofa again for about four hours.

First it was time to play volleyball with the Brady girls, get an update on the car wash (still in progress), look at report cards and decide when we are cake decorating. Saturday May 17 is cake decorating day.

Then Junior came out with a big folder of information from Golder College Prep. Most of it was in both languages but some things were only in English. We divided them up into things his parents could read and do on their own, which went in the right pocket of the folder, and things that were only in English or they might have questions about, which went in the left pocket. He has to go take a placement test on Saturday May 31.

"How do I get there?" he asked.

"Before then, maybe I can ride up there with your folks so you can all see where it is. Then you'll know the way."

Next, Angelito from next door paid a visit. We walked around the back yard. He liked circling one of the trucks on the parking pad. After a little while, his mom appeared in her back yard next door, unwrapped a lollipop and held it out to him over the fence. "Angel, ven!" she called.

He toddled over and took the lollipop. "If it falls out of his mouth, don't let him have it back," his mom advised me. Perhaps all my warnings about our lead-infused dirt have made a dent.

Then his mom asked if I would watch him for 15 minutes while she took a bath.

Sure, I agreed, knowing well it would be a lot longer than 15 minutes before I'd see her again.

We went back out front and Dorothy was there looking for five bucks for a one-day el pass so she could go to her meeting. "I've been sick. I missed the last four days," she told me.

"I'm almost out of money myself," I told her. (Although my kind of out of money is not like her kind, I'm closer to that kind of broke than usual.) We talked some more. I got cross. So did she.

It's warm now, I thought. I can actually get my bike out of the cellar and ride it places, so maybe I don't need that last five bucks for the bus after all.

"OK," I said. "Here's my last five bucks. Get an el pass."

She broke into a smile.

I looked around and Angel was gone. "Where did he go?" I asked Dorothy.

"Out back."

"Damn!" I said, running off. Angel was in the back yard wandering around again.

Later, when it was getting dark, Dawn and her boyfriend and School Lady's oldest daughter came back from checking out an early 90s Buick on sale for $300. I have finally come up with names for School Lady's girls--since there are four, they get the Little Women names. So Meg and I started chasing Angel around.

Then the ice-cream truck showed up and we went to check it out. Meg bought Angel an icie on a stick and offered to get me something, too. I took her up on it and had a small coffee ice cream cone. She got a red water ice in a paper cone.

Meg and I had a long chat about Lincoln's Challenge, a National-Guard-sponsored program that helps high school dropouts get a GED and a shot at college. It turns out Meg quit school a few months ago to work and help her mother. But she's not getting as many hours as she thought she would at her job--she's only working two to three days a week. Someone she knows from Chavez recommended she try Lincoln's Challenge, since you get done in five months and you can join the Guard afterwards to help pay for school.

This is all great except for two things: first, there's a war on and Guard units are getting called to Iraq; second, I've met quite a few kids who've tried Lincoln's Challenge but none who actually finished it. She says she did their taste-of experience with a lot of exercises and officers yelling, and it was OK with her. She promised she would ask a lot of questions about Guard service afterwards and how likely it would be that her unit would get called up. "I wasn't planning on that," she said of serving in Iraq.

Finally, after Dawn's boyfriend left, she and I had some time to talk. It turned out she missed school on Monday and was late to work on Tuesday. She didn't go to school Tuesday because she figured she would just get yelled at, so what was the point? She also sounded pretty discouraged and seemed to think she couldn't make up her work. We talked about her credits--she never did talk to her counselor at school--but she cheered up when I said her counselor told me she was in better shape on credits than some of their seniors.

Her mom was out at the grocery store, so we talked about a lot of things. It was almost 10:30 when she got home. Dawn and I were both beginning to worry. I had called her about 10 minutes earlier. When she came in she was laden with bags and said she couldn't get to the phone because she had too many things in her hands. I think her Mother's Day gift will be a grocery cart. Maybe we can share it--I don't know where mine is and I need one sometimes, too.

I got a text message from Dawn's principal this morning saying she had made it to school today. It's the ACT part of the Prairie State exams, so it was an important day to be there. Whew.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tattler Takes a Vacation

Marshfield Tattler is on vacation until April 23. See below for the 400th post.

Home Away from Home

Saludos from sunny Davis, California, where we have had no earthquakes, unlike Marshfield Avenue and the rest of Chicago.

Medicine Man sent me an email about it and I thought he was kidding.

However, thanks to the blessing and curse of the cell phone, the Marshfield Avenue advice hotline is still in service.

Junior called me up a few minutes ago, while I was browsing for a birthday card for my sister.

"Hey, Maritza, I got a letter from the school, but it says college," he said. "I'm going to high school, right?"

The name Golder College Prep had confused him, especially since we first talked to UIC College Prep. Then he wanted to know where it was. I remembered the address was 14-something West Superior, and with that hint, he found it on the letter.

I had a similar problem making sense of things yesterday. While riding the Capitol Corridor train to Davis and enjoying watching cattle drink from the marsh and even a pelican taking off, Joey's mother called.

It was loud on the train and she was speaking Spanish rapidly. "I can't hear because I am on the train," I said in Spanish. "Por favor, can you speak really slowly?"

She did. One word at a time. And I got it. She was telling me Joey's dad could take him to Marwen so Medicine Man didn't have to. Message received.

With that, Marshfield Tattler is on vacation until Wednesday April 23. Happy spring!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Birthday Party

One of School Lady's daughters had a birthday today. Her big sister caught me just as we started the bike pump episode (see post below) to invite me over. "In about an hour and a half," she said. "We just put the meat on the grill."

The bikes got pumped, I did my shopping up by Roosevelt and Canal and the taxi driver didn't kill me on the Ryan coming back. (I'm in a hurry today so the taxi was worth it to get home that much sooner and go to School Lady's house.) Before shopping I thought I would stop at Barbara's Bookstore and find a book for her, but since I don't really know what she'd like, I decided to make a birthday card instead. When I got home, I made a birthday card by just drawing some colored balloons on a piece of white paper. Inside I wrote up my own gift certificate for one free book, which she gets to pick on a shopping expedition with me.

Over at the house, it looked like the gate to the back yard was locked, so I rang the front door. School Lady's youngest daughter answered and led me down the back stairs. That was the first time I'd been in past the living room. The room arrangement is a bit odd--living room, kids' bedroom, kitchen, back stairs. The parents' bedroom is to the right of the living room. The basement is rented out now; I don't know about the second floor.

When Iris read the card, she said, "Cool!" to the idea of going book shopping.
School Lady was out getting ears of corn at the store to put on the grill, but Mr. School Lady was grilling tortillas and the last bit of carne asada. There was a piece of meat left for me, with the last cebollita (little knob onion). There was even a teeny bit of spicy guacamole left and some rice. The oldest girl was with her mother at the store; the three younger ones, including the birthday girl, were playing soccer in the alley with their cousin. I talked a little with Mr. School Lady. He was surprised Dawn's mom hadn't come. (Later, School Lady confirmed she was meeting with people somewhere else. She has a lot of places to be these days.)

Quite frankly, most of the time I think Mr. School Lady is a shiftless bum. He had on a full set of clothes today--usually I go over and he's hanging around the house in a t-shirt. But maybe there's more to the story than I know. I think I heard he is on disability; if that's even true, what the disability is for I don't know.

To his credit, he said something today that I agreed with. His point, if I understood rightly, was that too many people around here spend all their time mired in their sad stories. Sometimes it's OK just to have some fun.

After I ate and watched Mr. School Lady feed the dogs tortillas, I went out to the alley and ended up playing goalie with the girls and their cousin for a little while. I think having me on goal partially evened out the unfair advantage the youngest had playing on the team with their cousin--a guy in his 20s or 30s, I'd guess. I blocked a few shots, anyway, and I think the birthday girl herself scored once while I had her back on goal. We rolled out some garbage cans to mark the goals, and when cars came we would just roll the cans back to the side to let the cars pass. It was getting too dark to see when we quit.

I never did get to eat the corn, but I did make it through half a large pickled jalapeno pepper. Thank goodness for tortillas with spicy food!

'Wasting' Time

Here's to Zhou B. Cafe, where I spent much of the day getting work done. I can't work in the house in the afternoons because it would be much more fun to hang out with the kids on the sidewalk.

I got home around 5 today, and the first ice cream truck of the year was belting 'Turkey in the Straw' into the sunshine and still-chilly air. My next door neighbor to the south and one of her younger daughters were walking toward me when I got off the bus.

"It's too early for ice cream, isn't it?" I tried to say in Spanish, but I think I said the wrong word. I meant helado but I said hielo.

It didn't matter. She got the idea. "Yes, it's cold," she said. I had run into her late Friday night on the Ashland bus when she was getting off work and I was coming back from the North Side. She is still looking for college scholarships for her older daughter, who graduated with honors from Juarez but is a freshman at Harold Washington. (She applied for a UIC scholarship but didn't get it.)Anyway, when I saw her on the street I was reminded I had promised her contact info for Latinos Progresando, which has a group for students interested in college. I told her I would put it in one of the mailboxes on the gate in front of her house.

As I hurried home to take care of this errand on top of many others on my after-work list, I heard a voice behind me say, "Hey, can I use your air pump?" It was the kid from the block north of mine, the one who got in trouble when he came with us to the Museum of Science and Industry. We'll call him Tone-Loc, since he can get a little crazy.

"Ok," I said, inwardly sighing, "but I have to go to my house and go right back out again to the store, so it needs to be quick." Tone-Loc was pushing two bikes, one little green one and the other bigger with a giant stuffed teddy bear sitting on the seat. Somehow I ended up pushing the bigger one and the teddy fell off. A guy on the corner got us to look back. Tone-Loc got it.

I went in the house and got the pump. Tone-Loc's sister-we'll call her Alicia for no particular reason except it's not her real name--came over on her bike and started teasing her brother about the stuffed bear. Apparently he got it for some girl he likes but who won't go out with him.

"You can't just buy girls stuff," Alicia advised. "You have to spend time with them. He spends all his time with his boy friends."

"I do," Tone-Loc said. "Being cool." The two of them got into an argument and he told his sister to leave. Alicia went back to bike riding.

"Well, if you want this girl to like you, it probably is a good idea to spend some time with her," I said. "But you probably don't want your sister telling you how to do anything, right?"

"Right," he said, with a big grin.

I watched him carefully as he worked the air pump. He'd just done it the other day but I needed a review. I'm an idiot with mechanical objects and hadn't even tried to use the pump since a friend got it for me for my birthday. I held the wheel while he got the cap off one of the tires. Later I kept track of the caps while he pumped the tires full of air. We talked a little, but mostly I just watched and ran in and out of the house, getting the Latinos Progresando info from my computer and putting a card in my neighbor's mail box.

Maybe around three-quarters through the job, I was sitting on the step watching Tone-Loc when he said out of the blue, "Am I wasting your time?"

Ouch. Busted, I thought. How to save this one? "No, honey, you are not wasting my time," I said. "I'm watching you and learning how to use the air pump. Thank you for teaching me."

Hope I remember how that pump works. It will be time to take my bike out of the basement soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Violence Prevention, Large and Small Scale

Obviously there's been a lot of buzz in Chicago lately about youth and gang-related violence. It's ironic to me that all these people, including the Mayor, are crying about what to do, when they know something about what to do and its funding was cut.

I refer to Project CeaseFire, a public health initiative out of the University of Illinois Chicago that has been working since 1995 to reduce street shootings. On the web site, the history runs through 2006, when CeaseFire was established or getting started in 15 Chicago neighborhoods, plus other sites around Illinois.

What the site doesn't mention is that CeaseFire itself became a victim of the budget shootout in Springfield last summer. The agency lost $6 million in state money, which cut 140 violence prevention workers. This ABC story gives details. Although some alternate monies were found and some of those people even kept on working for free (I heard), getting the work done became a lot harder.

CeaseFire's executive director, Tio Hardiman, hit the crux of the problem on the head in an MSNBC story about the current wave of shootings and efforts to stop the violence. To stop shootings, he said, petty arguments have to be resolved quickly and peacefully. "There's really a dire need for more conflict resolution training."

That's the big scale. On the small scale, Thursday afternoon I happened to be inside the Chavez Upper Grade Center right around dismissal, at 1:45 p.m. One of Joey's teachers had offered to give him a ride to his first class of the new session at Marwen, so I went to confirm arrangements. After we were done, I came outside and found one of the girls from the next block up from my house waiting around for her brother. We agreed to walk home together.

Her brother came out with a big gaggle of other boys. His sister and I talked about school--she's learning about Native Americans and she and her classmates are rehearsing for a performance of Native American stories. We got about half a block ahead of the guys. I, being a clueless adult, was pretty focused on our conversation. She, being a smart kid, kept slowing down and making sure we weren't too far ahead of her brother and the boys I took to be his friends.

When we got south of the viaduct on Hermitage, their noise reached a new height and intensity. We stopped and turned around to find them forming the classic fight circle and saw her brother putting his books down and handing off his jacket.

She and I took off running. I was still in a skirt and heeled boots from being downtown that morning, so I must have looked pretty funny galumphing toward them and hollering, "Hey! What are you doing? Cut that out!" The northern half of the ring turned and ran back past the viaduct, disappearing from sight.

Fortunately, we got there before anybody took a swing. Her brother told me those boys had been bothering him all day long in school and everybody had been waiting to get out of there so they could settle it on the street. I tried to ask him if he thought it was over or if the problem would be back tomorrow, but it started to rain harder and he ran for his house's front door.

"Thanks for walking with us," his sister said.

I think about this and I think about a question I asked the Marshfield Avenue boxers one day as we were walking to Medicine Man's car. Peter Pan was bragging to me and the two or three other guys present about how the oldest Brady boy had just won a fight. I asked all of them, including Big Brady, if they knew other ways to settle an argument besides fighting. They all said no.

"Would you like to learn some?" I asked. Peter Pan looked at me with the classic "how sissy is that!?" kind of expression. Joey didn't say anything. Big Brady Boy actually said yes.

If anybody knows of some big tough guys who teach conflict resolution skills to preteen boys, send them my way, would you? Or maybe we just need to get back to boxing. I trust those guys to teach my neighbors how to save their punches for the ring.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Professional Development Day

Today is a professional development day in the Chicago Public Schools, so all the students have a day off. By about 10 this morning I could hear Peter Pan and some of the Brady Boys playing soccer. At about noon I took a lunch break and as a result, my neighbor Daniel got a little pre-high school professional development, too.

It was beautiful outside--a little breezy, noticeably warmer and sunnier, with bright blue patches of sky showing between shining clouds. The boys were playing soccer in the street, most of them in t-shirts. Joey had even rolled up his jeans into shorts.

Some Brady girls and the youngest Brady boys were on the sidewalk, and their mom, Peter Pan's mom and Joey's mom were out watching the scene. Mom Brady was with her kids; Peter Pan's and Joey's moms were chatting in front of Peter's house. Danny was talking with his dad in front of their house. His dad waved to me as he left, and I went across the street for a chat.

Danny went to Curie recently to register and begin the orientation process. This summer, all freshmen in CPS will spend four weeks at their new high schools, getting to know their teachers and classmates and doing a mix of teambuilding exercises and academic work. I asked Danny what he thought of the idea, expecting "yuck, summer school," but he surprised me. He said he was glad to get the chance to learn the building and get to know people before school started. "Otherwise, I might get lost," he said.

In a less happy surprise, Danny also 'fessed up today that his grades went down this quarter to all Cs. Since he got into Curie, he's been slacking off. He thinks he's in regular English for next year and I know he is smart enough to be in honors, even if his grades right now don't show it. I told him he needs to pull up his grades fourth quarter so he can make a case to Curie to put him in honors next year, especially in English. We strategized about how he could talk with his homeroom/English teacher about what happened in there. He thought he was getting a B. I told him when I taught high school, kids would come up to me and say, "Why didn't I get a B?" in a whiny tone and it got on my nerves. But when a kid said to me, "I don't understand what happened, and I want to do better next quarter," I would bust my butt to explain why they got the grade they did and talk about how to improve next time.

Danny wants to know what high school is like. We talked about honors and how it leads to AP classes and how AP classes can save you time and money in college. We also talked about Marwen, since Danny is a pretty accomplished graffiti artist. His ears perked up when he heard they help you think about colleges with arts programs and careers in art. I don't know whether their summer offering will conflict with the new CPS high school orientation--they probably will--but in the fall he'll be old enough to get around by himself so maybe that would be the time to get him signed up for an after-school class.

Then I asked him if he was reading anything for fun on his own, and he said no. "It's a really good idea to read on your own if you want to go to college," I told him. Then I went in the house and looked to see whether I had any good books. I had two contenders--one young adult novel written by a guy and left over from the book giveaway, the other Frank McCourt's Teacher Man. Danny wants to know what high school is like, and McCourt captures the feel of a high school classroom from the teacher's point of view better than just about anyone I know. So I brought it out.

Danny looked at the young adult novel first, read the jacket and handed it back. I wasn't surprised--it's kind of a white kid slacker-novel and I didn't like the writing style much either. While he looked that book over, I searched for a good scene in Teacher Man. I found the one where McCourt talks with Nancy, a Chinese student, about learning English, then segues into a scene when he worked in a restaurant kitchen and his fellow kitchen staff pressed him into teaching English. Danny thought that scene was pretty funny and guessed it must have taken place in the 50s based on how much money they were making. He was in the ballpark on that, for sure.

Then I let him in on a big secret. "You know, when you read a book for fun, you don't have to read it from the beginning to the end."

"You don't?"

"No. You can just skip around and look for things that seem interesting and skip the boring parts." He agreed to take Teacher Man back to his house and poke around in it for a week while I'm out of town. We'll talk about what he finds when I get back.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dorothy's Got Mail

Something from DHS and something that looked kind of personal. At least the outside was handwritten.

Of course, she's not staying on the block now, and I've been out of town, downtown, uptown, all over town. Anywhere but here. I may have to try to chase her down on 49th and whatever before I hit the road again next week.

Too bad she doesn't have Internet.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dorothy and Yup-yup have moved

They are not in the same place, I gather. Dorothy does not like where she landed and is trying to find someplace else.

It looks to me like Yup-yup is trying to break back into the empty house for the third or fourth time. He moved elsewhere about a week ago, but he was back on the block Friday walking toward his old digs with purpose.

Dawn is NOT pregnant

There was a scare, but it was only a scare, thank goodness.
'Nuff said for now.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Raining Rats and Dogs

Around 4:30 today I heard skates on the sidewalk and decided to take a break. Two Brady girls and a little Brady brother were out there. The girls had roller blades and the little boy had a Big Wheel-style trike.

Despite the slight drizzle, I was ready for some exercise. They wanted to play tag. We played something sort of between tag and cops and robbers. When you got tagged, you had to go to jail. Little Brady Boy grabbed my arm tight and kept a strong hold on it while pedaling his Big Wheel up to my house, which had been declared the jail. Once whoever was It had captured the other three of us, we were all released and the first one captured took over as It.

Eventually older Brady girl wore out. "I'm tired," she said. (Yay, I thought. I had been checking my watch. I don't run much any more.) We pooped out on my front steps, then I realized I probably had a tennis ball left in the closet with which to play two-square. So I went in the house and dug the last tennis ball out of the can in the bottom of the utility closet.

When I came back out, nobody was there. "Oh, where did everybody go?" I yelled, playing along. I went out back and Little Brady's trike was there. At first I thought maybe they had faked me out and gone down the block, but of course they were all crouched under the stairs, against the basement door.

So then we went back out front and played two-square. Brady Boy found a stick and wanted to try to hit the ball, so we switched over to baseball. I thought that would be a better game to play in the vacant lot at the south end of the block, so we all went down there. Now I know who fixed up the lot, thanks to older Brady girl--her family, Peter Pan's family and a third family down there went in and cleaned it up. They put some old carpets down to make goals for soccer. People still keep dumping trash in there, though. There's a little cluster of dumpsters up by the sidewalk, and further back somebody left their Christmas tree on the ground. But there was plenty of unobstructed room for batting practice.

We all batted and pitched. Little Brady Boy was the best batter. I was the best pitcher. Some of the pitches were pretty wild. Younger Brady girl almost hit me in the head! It landed on my shoulder instead.

Suddenly the rain started coming more heavily. "Let's get you guys under your porch," I suggested. We were about to cross the street and go back to their house when older Brady girl spotted a dead rat in the gutter. "Eeeuw!"

Of course her little brother went right for it with his stick. "No, let's not do that," I said, laughing.

He laughed, too, and stopped. Whew.

"You know when it's raining really hard, my teacher told us they say it's raining cats and dogs," his sister commented.

"I guess it's raining rats and dogs now."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

LiveBlogging: Medicine Man Helps with Homework

Thank God for Medicine Man! Junior has to do some science homework about the periodic table and atomic numbers. I have a deadline and I don't remember a thing about this stuff, so Medicine Mas has stepped up to the plate.

MM:What is that one?

J: 17

What's the name?


MM: Chlorine.

[Another one.]

Oscar: Chromium?

MM: Chromium. It's a heavy metal.

MM: What would the next one be?

Oscar: Cu?

Yeah, copper.

MM: Chemical symbol is just another way to say abbreviation.

MM: What if I told you alumnium is a metal? [He picks up a Coke can.] It's made of a very very light metal.

All these boxes, all these elements can be found in nature every day. We're made of elements.

Oscar: You said that's made of metal. Gold..that's kind of hard to squish. How come this is easier.

MM: Not all metals are hard. Some metals are harder than others. If this were made out of steel, it would be hard to crush. Aluminum is a softer, more pliable metal.

OK, now I have to get to work. Big props and a big shout out to Medicine Man!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Seen from the Ashland Bus

On Ashland Avenue just south of 57th, there's a billboard marking the spot where a development of senior housing will be going up eventually. The billboard features a photo of Ald. JoAnn Thompson and some happy phrase about partnering with the Mayor, if memory serves.

What struck me was the big yellow "Uncle Tom" spray painted over her face.

When she won, she was the opposition. My question is: Who's the opposition now?

Windy Citizen Share