Blog Archive

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tattler Takes A Vacation, for Real

The Marshfield Tattler is on vacation. Happy Labor Day weekend and back to school, everyone!

Look for new posts here the week of September 8.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jumping Jim's Juice

On my way home this afternoon I was biking down Ashland Avenue and discovered Jumping Jim's Juice is now open. I've been watching this place get ready. It's a little juice stand at Ashland and 36th, on the west side of the street. It's got that tropical theme going--palm thatch roof and coconuts in the sign. They've taken over a chunk of the sidewalk with outdoor seating. There's still enough room to get by, though, so I can't complain. And when it's not busy you can walk your bike right up to the window, sit on a tall chair and not even lock the bike up.

The guy behind the window was hired two weeks ago and it was his first time there without the owner. He managed just fine. Someone else walked up after I got my order. The guy told me it does get busy around lunchtime, and that city workers have begun calling in orders as they come down Ashland and the orders are ready by the time they arrive.

I had the Liquid Gold smoothie: peaches, pineapple, mango, lemon, orange juice and banana. It was good. Good thing I had that, since dinner at Junior's ended up consisting of a few shreds of iceberg lettuce, but mostly cheese, chicken, beef and tortillas.

I sure hope these guys make it--it's the first thing with a menu of mostly fruit, vegetable and salad offerings I've seen in a two-mile radius of my house.

Junior Gets Organized

Well, I just spent the last three hours helping Junior get his Golder College Prep stuff organized. He had all his papers for all his classes stuffed into one binder. He gets a million years' worth of homework every night--that was the point, but now I have to help him. Thank God one of the older Brady girls came by and helped him with math. She's good at math; I wasn't.

They do have a system of office hours--teachers stay an hour after school ends (that's 4 to 5 p.m.) and make themselves available to help. Of course it is different teachers every day, but I looked through the list and starred all the ones I thought could help Junior. They do physics first at Golder, too, which may get a little rough for him as it goes on.

So far he likes it, he says. He's made six or seven friends already. He's not worried about getting in fights anymore. He says there are a couple of guys you can tell are gangbangers but they keep it on the downlow. He already got his first detention, which he has to serve on Friday. Older Brady Girl was giving him advice about the buses so he can make it to school on time--he was late the first day and then was late to class, which together added up to four demerits, one detention.

I read through all the syllabi and as many papers as I could find. One teacher gave her phone number and email on the syllabus, so I'll be contacting her. My worst fear is that they won't modify their curriculum enough for him to keep up and then throw him out for bad grades. I asked his mom if she had copies of his IEP and she said no but she would check with Chavez and Golder about getting them. I've never seen his IEP either and I'd just like to know what it says. His teachers seem pretty willing to help out but I know how swamped high school teachers get. His detention slip had a note from a teacher about the second tardy and the person used the wrong first name for him. That doesn't surprise me at the beginning of the year but I want to make sure Junior gets known as a nice kid who needs extra help before he gets frustrated or anything bad happens.

It took us three hours to do his homework, get notebooks and folders at Walgreen's and organize his stuff. He's going to have to go it alone again next week, but he gets that he needs to go to the office hours after school.

I went to his house to work on the paper organizing, and his parents invited me to join them all for dinner. We had quesadillas with chicken and some spicy beef dish. Then Junior came back to my house with me so I could get him some construction paper for a project he has to do.

On our way across the street, Yup-yup came by, kind of loud and frantic. "I'm hungry," he said. "I just need four dollars."

"I don't have it," I said, which was true. Junior's mom had given him $20 for school supplies but what we got cost $29. I paid for $20 and Junior picked up the $9. Between school expenses and child care for the younger two boys, this Golder College Prep venture is costing Junior's family an arm and a leg.

"But I can give you something to eat," I continued. "Just give me five minutes to take care of this guy," I said, pointing at Junior. Yup-yup went away.

"Man, I feel sorry for him," said Junior. "I bet he never even went to high school."

"You're right," I said. "I bet he never set foot in one."

On his way out, Junior thanked me again, profusely. He's a really good kid. He's thinking about commercial art as a career possibility. I've never really seen him draw, though, so I don't know if he's good or if he's just picking up the bug from Picasso. I'll have to see if we can hook Junior up with Marwen next summer.

Oh, so after Junior left, I scouted around and found a nice peach for Yup-yup. I went outside with it and he came to the gate. "I have something for you," he said. It was a painting of four leopards. I believe he said he liked this because he himself is like a panther. Whatever. I handed over the peach, thanked him for the painting and headed back in the house.

Peace and Education Coalition Launches New Web Site

The new Peace and Education Coalition of Back of the Yards web site features many more photos, a signup for email alerts and links to schools, parishes and social service agencies here in the neighborhoods.

The new site was announced at today's Peace and Education Coalition meeting, the first of the new school year. About 50 people attended, including many new faces. 9th District Commander Eugene Roy noted it was the best turnout he had yet seen.

Some key news about neighborhood services:

The University of Illinois Mile Square health center at 47th and Loomis is now offering shots and physicals for back to school to all families whether or not they have insurance. The clinic is open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and hopes to start Saturday hours soon.

Neighborhood Housing Services has relocated to the new Park Federal Bank building at 47th and Honore. The building has a large community room where NHS will hold homebuyer education classes in Spanish. Foreclosure prevention counseling is also available.

All three Peace and Education Alternative High School campuses have space for new students. Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council is providing free shuttle service for students who have to cross gang lines to get to the campus of their choice. The Irene Dugan campus is now dedicated to service 15 and 16 year olds who are at risk of dropping out or have stopped attending their assigned high school. Dugan now has about 16 students on the books and has space for up to 30. Application forms are available from the Dugan website.

At Second Chance, 46 students are currently enrolled and there is space for 80. Second Chance continue to serve students ages 17 or older who have dropped out and want to finish high school. Call 773-535-1450 for more information and to obtain an application.

This fall, the Peace and Education Alternative High School is opening its third campus at 4946 S. Paulina. (They will be sharing space with Big Picture High School.) Right now 38 students are enrolled and they can take up to 50.

Last year, 36 students graduated from the alternative high school campuses. The school counselor contacted 32 of those graduates over the summer. One is attending Eastern Illinois University. A dozen are attending two-year schools, mostly City Colleges: Daley, Kennedy-King, Harold Washington and Wright. Two of those 12 students already have plans to transfer to four-year schools: one to the UIC College of Nursing and another to Chicago State. Three are in job training programs and one is working full-time, so just over half of the recent graduates are living out concrete postsecondary plans, most of them in some kind of college.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happier Joey News

I picked up a book in Borders last week, not knowing whether it was for Joey or Picasso. It's the first book in some Korean anime-style series (they have a different word for it which I no longer remember). This one was bloody and gory but left out the naked girls than were in some of the others I flipped through, so I thought their moms wouldn't get mad if they found it lying around the house.

Since I helped Picasso convince his mom it was OK to let him go do some graffiti over by 36th and Kedzie, he hasn't been as bored and antsy. Joey is still going batty even though school has started for him, so I gave him the anime book this afternoon. He was sitting out front talking on a cell phone when I came out and left the book on the step for him.

Later I asked him if he liked it and he said, "Yes" with the happy smile that reminded me my old buddy Joey is still in that teenage boy somewhere. This from the guy who told me a few months ago, "I don't like books." (I know you don't like most books, Joey, but I'm going to keep an eye out for that rare book you might actually like despite yourself.)

I might go buy a copy of Pride of Baghdad for him. If I give him a library copy it will probably get lost in their house and then I'll have to pay a gigantic fine, so I might as well buy it outright from the start.

Joey's birthday was last week and I missed it. Dawn's was earlier in August and I haven't even seen her. Jeez, that's pretty bad.

Joey's IEP

Well, it's only taken the better part of a year, but this afternoon Joey's mom told me she had gone to Chavez today and then produced a copy of his IEP.

It's a rather faint copy and not always easy to read the handwriting. Worse, it really doesn't tell me a whole lot I didn't already know. They gave him reading and math tests in English and a reading test in Spanish. On the English-language reading tests he scored on a beginning first grade level in letter and word recognition and a late first-grade level in reading comprehension and spelling. (I'm shocked he did that well in spelling, to tell you the truth.) In Spanish he scored early second grade in reading comprehension.

On the math tests (given in English) he scored in the third grade range, higher in computation than in "concepts and applications," which is probably a fancy way of saying "word problems."

There's a short paragraph under the heading "General Intelligence" which appears to have something to say about testing but I'm not sure if it refers to the same tests or to others not described in detail here. At the end it says a bit about his strengths and weaknesses as observed by the psychologist who gave the tests (I gather). "Strengths were noted in visual motor and perceptual organization (drawing/artistic). Deficits were observed in short-term auditory recall, verbal abstract reasoning, word and general knowledge."

No s--t, Sherlock. How much did they pay you to figure that out? I got that far without a degree in psychology, just by hanging out with him and not even for very long before this sort of thing became apparent. I expect more from someone who makes a living at writing IEPs, like what's at the root of this? Dyslexia? Something else?

Of course, as a friend of mine who's written a good bit about reading and has seen her fair share of CPS IEPs says, "It's a pretty standard CPS IEP: it doesn't diagnose anything and it doesn't tell you how to fix it."

It sure doesn't. It doesn't even tell you whether or not he met the academic targets they set up for him last fall--I wonder if anyone has bothered to check up. (I mean, besides the fact I'm pretty sure he didn't meet them. Somehow he got out of 6th grade, but I'm not totally for sure how. Not that holding him back would have been a better option--he'd probably have just felt dumber, been mad about being separated from his classmates and acted out more than he already is.) He's supposed to spend nearly half his week in a self-contained special ed classroom. Last year he told me there were fights all the time in there, he wasn't learning anything and he kept getting pulled out of his English class to go, then he'd miss the homework back in the regular class. (His last year's English teacher was smart and nice, too. She seemed genuinely concerned for his academic welfare and we tried to work together on some of his assignments.)

All right, enough already. After she gave this to me earlier tonight and I read it, I biked out to Bridgeport's Scoops for an ice cream cone. You could call it a consolation prize, I suppose.

Holy Cross/IHM's Letter to McCain and Obama

The immigration committee at Holy Cross/IHM Parish is in the midst of a letter campaign. Committee chair Jose Alonso wrote a letter on the topic of immigration which was read by another committee member during announcements at the 10:30 Mass at Holy Cross yesterday. Parishioners had the opportunity to sign copies of the letter after Mass ended--a bunch of us stood around with clipboards and copies of the letter in English and Spanish. Copies will be sent to both presidential candidates; I just got an email saying over 300 letters were signed and returned. The letter drive will continue next weekend at the 9 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Here is the English version of the letter:

“This country does not care about liberty when there are immigration raids taking place.”
- A teenager from the Back of the Yards, Chicago, IL

Recently, several Mexican-American youth from our parish, Holy Cross/IHM, in the Back of the Yards traveled to Philadelphia with our pastor, Father Bruce Wellems. During the trip, the group visited one of the greatest symbols of this country: the Liberty Bell. One young man stood near the Liberty Bell, but he would not look at it. The rest of the group was busy taking pictures, while he stood apart with his head down. Having visited several historic places, our pastor thought that perhaps he was just tired. He then approached the young man and asked if he had seen the Liberty Bell. The young man then made the comment stated above. How can there be true freedom when the government is rejecting the poor and those who are oppressed? How can this be a nation who cares about the freedom of others when they unjustly chase immigrants?

These questions reflect one of the most pressing concerns of the Back of the Yards today, a community comprised predominantly of Mexican-American immigrants. Even now, more than 100 years after Upton Sinclair documented the struggles of immigrants in this small neighborhood on the southside of Chicago, the immigrant spirit of hope lives on. However, the hope that our great country represents is endangered when our community is threatened with tearing apart its families, depriving its children of the right to an education in this country, and losing the opportunity to earn a dignified living.

Admittedly, there was anger in the young man’s statement. Our pastor responded to his statement by reminding him that the Liberty Bell is cracked. It is not perfect, and so too, with freedom – we are still a people who are not completely free. We are still searching for a way to respect the rights of all people and healing is needed. It will take time, but it can only happen with the efforts of those who truly care and believe that freedom, safety and respect of all people is possible. He represents the next generation of Americans and his statement represents the need to reaffirm the values that this country was founded upon. Our pastor was able to point to the following biblical quote inscribed on the Liberty Bell, to comfort the young man, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto ALL the Inhabitants thereof.

We are asking for you to be courier of the values reflected in this quote by supporting just immigration reform. This country has a history of compassion towards immigrants and we are now asking you to continue that tradition. We are asking that you be an advocate for our community by: (1) supporting the unification of our families; (2) defending the opportunity to have our children educated in this country; and (3) preserving our chance to earn a dignified living. Thank for your time in reading this letter. Good luck and God Bless.

For more specifics on the kinds of situations many of my neighbors and fellow parishioners are facing, I highly recommend this 2006 article from U.S. Catholic.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pride of Baghdad takes Marshfield Avenue by Storm

Last Tuesday I took a timeout in the middle of the work day to return a pile of books to the Back of the Yards branch library and peruse the shelves for my next big haul.

At the last minute, I stumbled across the graphic novel Pride of Baghdad and just thought the premise--that the bombing of Baghdad set a pride of lions free in the middle of a war zone--was so mind-boggling I had to take the book home and see what my Marshfield buddies would make of it.

I walked back from the library just in time to catch the end of the day pedestrian traffic at Chavez. One of the Brady families was walking home with their mom. I caught Middle Brady Boy, showed him the book and asked if he wanted to borrow it. He said yes.

On Thursday afternoon he was done. "Do you want your book back?" he asked.

Wow, I thought, that was fast. He either loved it or he hated it. I was on my way out and knew he wouldn't catch me until the weekend, so I told him to hang on to it for a couple more days.

This afternoon I caught up with him. His little brother, Brady Bughunter, was in front of the house and I asked if he could go tell his brother I was there. Middle Brady Boy promptly arrived with the book.

"Did you like it?" I asked.

"Yeah!" he said.

"What happened to the lions? I didn't read the whole thing."

He proceeded to walk me through the ending, reading me parts and flipping around in the last section to explain everything. I'll try to keep the spoilage to a minimum, but let's just say it's not a happy ending for the lions. Middle Brady was super-enthusiastic in the retelling, and I got a great chance to listen to him read out loud. (Teacherly note: He and Sarah both just mumble their way through words they don't know and keep right on going. It's cute and I don't want to break the flow, but I've been trying to figure out sneaky ways to pronounce and/or discuss the words that are unfamiliar to them in hopes the information will stick surreptitiously.)

So he really liked the book. So did his big brother. Oldest Brady Boy rode his bike past my house just after I had walked in my front gate. "Hey, did you read this book, too?" I asked. He said yes. "How did you like it?"

"I liked it," he said. "It was cool."

These ringing endorsements led me to offer it to Sarah, who is interested in all things animal, too. "The ending is really sad, though," I said. I felt like I had to warn her. The illustrations do not pull their punches in terms of warfare, blood and guts. I'm back to the same inner argument I have with myself all the time: the inner kid who loved to read and still thanks the universe regularly that her parents had the wit not to censor her reading fights with the inner grownup who worries that the neighbor parents might think badly of her for bringing their children bloody tales of warfare and death or whatever the hot button the reading selection pushes is.

Tonight Sarah read me some of her favorite parts of a book she picked up at school. I don't remember the title or the author, but it is a comic writer's memoir, done so it looks like a lined journal. The book mixes short narratives with mini-comics. It's all about the miseries of elementary school, and it is keeping Sarah in stitches even though she's mumbling her way through some unfamiliar words as she goes. I'll get the title from her sometime soon and let you all know. Her report on the planets is pretty far along--she got up to Uranus on her own and her teacher said they could have time in class to finish tomorrow. She did a good job picking out the interesting bits for her summary. I gave her one spelling word of the day: distance.

If you're curious about Pride of Baghdad, this link will take you to Amazon.

After the Deluge

Well, I finally faced up to the soggy boxes in my basement this weekend. Yesterday afternoon and this morning I surveyed the wreckage. It was worse than I thought. Pretty much everything directly on the floor was wet and moldy. I've tossed most of it. There was one dry patch toward the basement windows where some boxes survived wet-free, and boxes atop other boxes seem to have fared OK.

I lost one suitcase full of clothes-mostly t-shirts, a few seem salvageable and are drying out in my back yard, but mostly it was a lot of old papers and journals.

They say if you haven't opened or looked in a box in over a year, you should throw it out sight unseen. Although I peeked in a couple of them, many were so far gone I didn't bother looking. Perhaps getting rid of that stuff is the silver lining from those crazy rain clouds.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brighton Park Shout Out

OK, since I'm still kinda on vacation, let me encourage you all to hit the warehouse over on Talman in Brighton Park tomorrow and pick up some yummy cheese. The warehouse folks' email also lists some other cool places to check out in the neighborhoods, so I'll pass on to you what they passed on to me. I may have to head out to La Palapa at 34th & Damen for some ceviche myself. Here goes:

Cheese at our Warehouse !!

We are back. Our warehouse is open to you this Saturday.

August 23rd

September 6th

September 20th

And then every other Saturday

What time: 9 am to 1 pm

Where: At our warehouse

4727 S. Talman , Chicago 60632 ( between Western and California

Avenues )

Parking: Lots of free street parking

Taste and then cruise the racks in our warehouse for much more. All for sale at “wholesale” pricing.

What Else !!

Leah Zeldes suggested that I tell you what else there is to do in our area when you come out to our warehouse for cheese. So here it is:

La Palapa

2000 W. 34th Street


This little concrete block structure is about the size of a garage. Nestled against the south slope of the Damen and Archer underpass it goes almost unnoticed and when it is seen most think it is part of the Huck Finn’s donut shop. Get closer and you’ll see that 34th street is like a border. In this instance you have to change the expression to “north of the border” when you walk into the gravel lot in front of La Palapa and amongst the shaggy umbrella tables. Mexican music , a sunny afternoon, cool wine stowed in the cooler at your feet, some of the best Mexican seafood around. Shrimp cocktails, shrimp empanadas, grilled calamari with garlic and chiles, fresh oysters, seviche and so much more. You can’t eat everything you’ll order but you’ll order it all anyway. The waitress won’t mind that you’ve “snuck in” your own wine because you’re discrete. You’ll be amazed at how much delicious seafood $30 buys for two people in this remarkable cantina.

Tom Tom Tamales

4750 S. Washtenaw

Chicago, IL 60632


Chicago’s most famous tamale. Since the nineteen-fifties these are the tamales that have been served in every Greek hotdog and hamburger stand in the City as well as from just about every pushcart. Back then the vendor kept the tamales in the steaming compartment with the buns. This “secret” gave the buns that little extra mysterious flavor.

You can pre-order by calling in or stop in and order from two sign boards which also list other Chicago food treasures such as: Mary Ann bakery buns, chili, hamburgers, hotdogs, Italian Beef and condiments. This is where to get your green day-glo hotdog relish known as piccalilli. All you’ll need to supply is you own pushcart.

Fronczak Hardware

2606 W. 47th Street


Three store fronts wide, front to back, side to side, top to bottom, two full basements and two garages. Hardly enough space to walk. This old time hardware store is the real deal. They have just about everything and Edward Kowynia and his wife know everything there is to know about their stock and trade. Just a few blocks away a Home Depot opened recently and now this Mom-and-Pop is struggling a bit. They say they have “good days and bad days”. Check this old fashioned hardware store out while you still can.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pride on Marshfield Avenue

..and no, I don't mean everybody's all jazzed about the new landscape in the traffic circle. Tonight Mrs. Ribs was hanging with her new neighbor and enjoying photos of him and his partner at the Gay Pride Parade.

Yes, that's right, everyone, Marshfield got its first gay couple. (And they bought their house for about eighty grand more than I paid for mine, I hear. Even in this housing market. So I really like them.)

I've been very hesitant to write about this just because I wanted to see how they would be received. They've actually been here a few months now, and you know what, it's all pretty much been fabulous. Not perfect--I've heard a few guys over by Mr. Worrisome's house muttering about "those gay-ass neighbors"--but not bad.

There's a little network of three or four of us homeowners who smiled real big when we saw the For Sale sign go down, and smiled even bigger when we saw the new owners. I ran into Bob the Builder in Dunkin Donuts one Sunday in June, a few weeks after they arrived. His reaction was one I had wondered about--he seems like a Mr. Macho kind of guy. But his business is real estate, so he's way more interested in what those fellows might mean for our property values than whether they sashay down the street, so to speak.

The other reason you've heard so little is I haven't figured out names for them. But one of them is going to be Green Thumb if he follows through on his offer to help me keep the plants in the traffic circle looking nice. Given the state of my yard and indoor plants, my own handle should switch from Maritza to Black Thumb.

I think now it's time for Barack Obama to come and do a campaign commercial on our block. We've got the Mexican evangelicals next door to the Irish Catholic across the street from the African-American union leader who likes to hang with the gayboys next door. Who own a pit bull. He's really a sweet dog, too.

Tattler's on HuffPost Chicago

The Huffington Post is coming to town, and Marshfield Tattler got in on the ground floor.

Check out the beta version here.
Arianna promises more local HuffPosts to come and waxes enthusiastic about Chi-town here.

I'm pretty sure I owe my front-row seat to Alexander Russo over at District 299. Thanks!

Oh, and last month the Tattler made a list of digital-diversity bookmarks compiled through a Poynter Institute workshop. (For readers unfamiliar with the inner workings of journalism, Poynter is the professional training and industry resource.) That's thanks to Wendy Turner over at vocalo, where they've been more than gracious by reading some of the posts on air.

Although all this buzz is certainly a spur to blog more often, I've been pretty knocked out since the block party and have taken a big mental vacation. I work during the day, often away by choice from Marshfield Avenue, and I've been taking some north side vacations on the weekends. If I'm lucky August will remain a bit slow here at the Tattler, but here are a few quick updates:

The traffic circle still looks good--I just watered it this evening. Beautiful night--everyone was out. Peter Pan's mom got on a bike and rode up and down the block with her younger kids. Mrs. Ribs hung out with the new neighbors next door to her. Mr. Worrisome had a real lady friend of his to attend to, so I wasn't bothered with marriage proposals while hauling a two-gallon watering can back and forth. Although there was some bustle at the corner and the unmistakable smell of marijuana in the air, I'll fess up that I didn't call the cops for once. Why mess up a mellow evening?

Junior starts high school tomorrow. He called last week for help with math--he was calculating the perimeter of squares and rectangles. He caught on pretty fast, by phone, for how to do it.

Joey is at Chavez. His folks couldn't get transportation together to send him to Perspectives Math & Science. He says the new school year is going OK. I don't believe him. His dad has been around the house a bit more of late-that's probably good for him but maybe or maybe not so good for Dawn.

The younger Brady girl who did Salud will join her older sister in high school starting tomorrow. They made her read a book over the summer-she came by last week looking for editing feedback on what she had written. The English teacher over there gave a great assignment and she did a pretty good job with it on her own, though there were a few things she improved after we talked. For someone who says she likes math better than reading, I thought she did a great job on the assignment.

I went to Home Depot after church this morning in search of plywood boards for our budding graffiti artists to spray without risking arrest. There are some in the $5 to $10 range, so I'm willing to spring. I didn't ask if they can deliver. When I'm ready to buy, I'll find out.

The Brady girl who was looking for a scientific calculator got one for $13, better than the $18 I saw it for up on the north side. I don't know where she picked it up, though.

Medicine Man stopped by last Thursday to get his stuff out of the basement. It mostly survived the deluge unscathed--a couple of boxes were a bit damp, I gather. I kept an eye on the U-Haul while MM, his mom and brother, my new tenant Shutterbug and Junior and Picasso (I think I called him Orozco before but Picasso is sticking better in my head, so that's who my buddy who likes graffiti and isn't Joey is now) all schlepped everything out of the basement.

About half a dozen people going by asked, "You're not moving, are you?" They were all relieved when I said no. I decided to start planning my obsolescence on this block by sending three other people to Rep. Esther Golar's block organizing seminar on Saturday morning. I went shopping at the Brown Elephant in Andersonville instead. It's August, people, and I'm as much on vacation as I can be and still make money.

SRO Crowd for "Salud"

I'm delighted to report the crowd was standing-room-only at the National Museum of Mexican Art on Friday night for the debut of Salud, Radio Arte's summer project in which youth explored issues related to health and the Latino immigrant community. You can hear some samples of their work if you click on the Salud link. The link will probably be pretty raw, since I gather those samples were from their first week on the job.

On Friday night I was impressed with their use of ambient sound, especially the tinkle of a bell to let us know the paleta man was coming down the street. Back of the Yards Latin ska sensation Los Vicios de Papa is sampled in another of the novelas. You can hear the sample used in the novela on the band's My Space page by clicking the link for "sentado en la banca."
The Brady Girls were there with their mom and at least one of their little sisters.

Latinos Progresando's Teatro Americano ensemble also performed the theater piece they've been working on all summer. Honestly, I found the piece a bit long and uneven--they're not in Teatro Vista's or the Albany Park Theater Project's league yet--but they also wrote and performed an hour-long show with a large cast in just seven weeks, so I'll cut them some slack. Two Big Picture 08 grads were in the cast, so it was extra fun to see Back of the Yards so well represented.

By the way, APTP made debut at the Goodman's Latino Theatre Festival on August 12. If you scroll down on the link you will find a synopsis of the work they performed and a video clip of Henry Godinez talking over stills from the performance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quick Hits

School Lady's oldest daughter, Meg, is going for orientation at Lozano Alternative High School tomorrow. Yeah! Her next oldest daughter, Jo, did Freshman Connection at Kennedy this summer and liked it. Hope that helps her get off to a good start.

The corner is still a problem. Bob the Builder wants to come to next week's CAPS meeting if he can. He may have a conflict. One of the guys up there stopped me in the street and asked if he could be my friend. "What kind of friend?" I inquired. We eventually settled on the idea that we'd talk another day and I said I was looking for help taking care of the traffic circle.

Junior starts school next week. He's been working on his math. His mom is going to see if he can get homework help after school. His little brother will go to an after-school program at St. Joe's.

My doorbell has been ringing nonstop for the last hour and I have a deadline. Mr. Worrisome appears to be drunk or high, and now Dorothy is at the door. I refuse to answer to either of them. These people are driving me crazy!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Deluge and a North Side Vacation

On Tuesday night the guy my mom once referred to as "the groundskeeper" asked me, "Did your basement flood?"

"No," I said, surprised. I hadn't been down there, but if it had, surely I would know, right??

"Everybody else's did," he informed me. Makes sense, given the Biblical deluge we experienced here in Chicago Monday night. This is why I should not be a homeowner.

I extricated myself gracefully from this conversation and walked calmly into my house, then bolted for the basement stairs to make sure I didn't have standing water down there unawares. Fortunately, it didn't look like Katrina had hit, but the floor was damp and capillary action had drawn wet up into some of the cardboard boxes down there. Ouch.

There's some cardboard on the floor that got soaked and it will be thrown out tonight. The boxes will have to wait a bit longer though; I'm taking a well-deserved North Side vacation tomorrow night, after a few days of hiding out at a client's office and avoiding the small fry. Since Chavez went back to school on Monday, Camp Marshfield is done for the summer and the Marshfield Avenue after-school program probably won't start until sometime after Labor Day. Shoot, SES providers don't start until October, so by that standard I'll be early.

However, I did have a conversation with one of my soon-to-start-high-school pals last night. As a result, I may be setting up some plywood boards out in the backyard for the two or three graffiti aficionados I know on the block to play with. I'd rather they do that than see them get busted with spray cans. My buddy last night told me he'd been caught once by the cops already but they let him off with a warning. I told him that Peter Pan had already been hauled into court, which stopped him in his tracks a bit. We'll see if he can keep himself out of trouble.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

'This is a GOOD block party'

So said one of the little kids to the lady who was giving out ice cream cones yesterday.

Yes, we all survived the block party, as proven by the few photos I managed to shoot near the end of the night, when I could stop running around.

We not only survived, but thrived. We had the fire truck (and the guys opened the hydrant for a little while), soccer, basketball, the jumping jack (Jay-Z's auntie rented one for an hour), water balloons and my hose in the street, a little art from the Chicago Children's Museum, plenty of hot dogs and burgers and drinks and ice cream. Holy Cross/IHM did send a group of marimba players. We had a short prayer service and three teens from the block read the readings in a mix of English and Spanish. Yup-yup made a point of himself praying.

The dinner was a little chaotic but eventually the common food got on tables and people ate. Mostly folks cooked their own (which was past practice) but some people traveled around and tried out different foods. One of the Brady Moms made the best pozole I have ever had.

The kids got plenty of back-to-school goodies, too, just in time for Monday's first day at Chavez. Thanks to 49th Neighbor, we got a last minute donation of 300 pens and a bunch of pencils on top of the notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers and crayons already assembled. Plus a small stack of Early Childhood promo t-shirts in preschool sizes. Hopefully that will be a little motivator for their parents to sign them up at St. Joseph's Early Childhood Center.

The only incident was a tiff early in the morning between Yup-yup and Bob the Builder, as I'll refer to this guy who knows a lot of building owners around here. Bob called the cops on him, but they didn't want to arrest him and I ended up talking him down and slipping him $5 to stop being a nuisance. (Some other day I'll write about the block party slush fund.)

My new tenant, whom we'll call Shutterbug because he's a photographer, is also a basketball player and spent much of the night out shooting hoops on the street and stopping problems among the kids before they started. Rock on, Shutterbug!

Ms. Ribs (who outdid herself on the grill) said it best: "The kids acted nice. The adults acted nice. The weather was good."

Thanks to the following people and organizations from beyond the block for their assistance:

State Representative Esther Golar
Commander Eugene Roy, 9th District
Ald. JoAnn Thompson/16th Ward Dept. of Street & Sanitation
Neighborhood Housing Services
Kevin Carroll, Chicago Dept. of Transportation
The Resurrection Project
In the Paint
Chicago Children's Museum
Holy Cross/IHM Parish
49th Neighbor & CPS Office of Early Childhood
Rick Cadena
Dion Miller Perez
Jeff Nichols

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