Street Smart Chicago

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 21, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): James McNeil Whistler was an influential painter in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He advocated the “art for art’s sake” credo, insisting that the best art doesn’t need to teach or moralize. As far as he was concerned, its most important purpose was to bring forth “glorious harmony” from chaos. But the immediate reason I’m nominating him to be your patron saint for the coming weeks is the stylized signature he created: an elegant butterfly with a long tail that was actually a stinger. I think you’ll thrive by embodying that dual spirit: being graceful, sensitive and harmonious and yet also feisty, piquant and provocative. Can you manage that much paradox? I think you can. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Starved Rock Country Marathon (May 16, 2015)

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Entering Starved Rock State Park/Photo: Zach Freeman

Entering Starved Rock State Park/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Weather plays a big part in any race, but when that weather involves lightning, it can essentially define the race (as runners of the Illinois Marathon learned last month). And the storm that rolled in Saturday morning during the Starved Rock Country Marathon certainly did that. With a steady rain pouring and lightning striking, the event alert system was raised to black (Extreme) and the race was officially called off. The announcement was made at the aid station at mile 20.6, buses were sent out to collect runners and the race was over. Or was it?

Despite official announcements that the race was cancelled due to weather, many runners (this one included) kept running and experienced a waterlogged, post-storm course that was still heavily supported by volunteers and police officers alike. Buses did make the rounds but there was no forceful collection of runners—it was left to the discretion of the runner to decide what to do. Which made sense as the race wasn’t called until after the storm had already passed.

But aside from the race-defining storm, this still-new race (now in its second year) made a strong showing and a good case for growth and future registrations. Starting and finishing in downtown Ottawa, parking is easy, facilities are plentiful and locals are welcoming. The marathon is still small but the half marathon (which started fifteen minutes after the marathon) is much larger than the marathon. The views may not be as spectacular as advertised—the road through Starved Rock State Park is lovely, but greenery blocks most of the other scenery—but a small, country race is a welcome reprieve from big city marathons. As long as it doesn’t rain. (Zach Freeman) Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Untitled

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By Ben Marcus. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Dime Stories: The Scavengers

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The great Charles Bowden passed away last year. He wrote a great many articles and books about the border, the one we share with Mexico. In the years since NAFTA passed there have been hundred upon hundreds of women murdered in and around Juarez–a great many of them maquiladora workers. A maquiladora is an assembly plant, or factory, that hires thousands of women and pays them stoop labor, shit wages to do piecework–sewing, circuit boards, and other close work that require small, deft hands.

A great many women from as far away as Central America flocked to the border for jobs. So NAFTA managed to impoverish two cultures. The women of the maquiladora plants and the American union worker, and some big American companies outsourced jobs here to avoid paying a living wage to union workers: Levi’s, Motorola, IBM, Black & Decker, GM, Cooper Tire, among others. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: The Divvy Perimeter Ride

Bicycling, Bridgeport, Checkerboard City, Englewood, Green, Lawndale, Little Village, South Shore No Comments »
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New Divvy station outside Comer College Prep in Grand Crossing/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

This year’s Divvy bike-share expansion, beefing up the system from 300 docking stations to 476, is moving at warp speed. One-hundred new stations have been installed since mid-April, and the rest should be in by early June.

As Divvy grows, the city is also trying to make it more equitable. After the expansion, the portion of the population that lives in the service area will grow from about thirty-three percent to fifty-six percent, and several low-income communities are getting stations for the first time. Meanwhile, CDOT is working on a strategy to provide Divvy access for residents who don’t have credit cards, and they promise they’ll have a major announcement about this by early summer.

To get a sense of how the stations are working out on the terra nova, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, I set out to pedal the perimeter of the completed service area on a sunny afternoon last week. I began my quest at the southeastern-most outpost of the system at Rainbow Beach in South Shore, a mostly African-American community. There was an eerie fog on the shoreline, and the sound of the waves mingled with birdsongs as I undocked my Divvy. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 14, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The danger of resisting a temptation too strenuously is that the temptation might depart. I suggest that you prevent that from happening. Without throwing yourself at the mercy of the temptation, see if you can coax it to stick around for a while longer. Why? In my view, it’s playing a useful role in your life. It’s motivating you to change some things that really do need to be changed. On the other hand, I’m not yet sure that it should become anything more than a temptation. It might serve you best that way, not as an object of your satisfied desire. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 7, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Benedictine monks observe the Latin motto Laborare est Orare. The nineteenth-century abbot Maurus Wolter interpreted these words to mean “work is worship” or “work is prayer.” He was trying to impress upon his fellow monks that the work they did was not a grudging distraction from their service to God, but rather at the heart of their devotion. To do their tasks with love was a way to express gratitude for having been blessed with the gift of life. I propose that you experiment with this approach in the coming weeks, even if your version is more secular. What would it be like to feel contentment with and appreciation for the duties you have been allotted? Read the rest of this entry »

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By Kevin Budnik. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Race Review: Big Sur International Marathon (April 26, 2015)

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Big Sur International Marathon course/Photo: Zach Freeman

Big Sur International Marathon course/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: There are a few big marathons that the average person on the street could list off at a moment’s notice. You know the ones I mean: New York, Chicago, Boston. World-class runs, to be sure. And then there are those marathons that the average person is probably not aware of, and may even be surprised to discover exist, but that have been mythologized in the world of the average runner to a revered status that those on the outside can hardly comprehend. The Big Sur International Marathon, that epic Californian canter from Big Sur to Carmel along the winding, wide-open Highway 1, falls squarely in the latter category.

Though it sells out just as quickly and leaves hopeful runners just as frantic for a place at the starting line, with a registration cap around a tenth the size of Chicago or New York, Big Sur, which just had its thirtieth running on Sunday, operates on an entirely different framework than these massive urban events. “Spectators are outnumbered by grazing cows and horses,” boasts the race program, and it certainly seems possible, given the complete closure of the only roadway spectators could gather on. Still, an assortment of musicians (including the iconic betuxed pianist at a grand piano near the halfway mark) provide plenty of on-course encouragement. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Uptown Cat Girl

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

More than thirty years ago, New Orleans crept into my work and she never left. My heart is perpetually divided between my home of Chicago and my home of New Orleans. It is a place for which I have nothing but unconditional love.

When I first got there, it seemed everyone around me was a lot freer than I was, as odd as that sounds. It was a crazily sexy place with grownup women who were frank and forward about what made them happy. It was hot, so there was always a lot of sweaty skin and poetry and music. It was like entering one of those snow globes without the snow. It was Spain and France preserved in architectural amber. It was history. My friend Charlie Neville told me about Congo Square which along with Storyville, was the birthplace of jazz. He also had me read “Up from the Cradle of Jazz,” Jason Berry’s essential history of New Orleans music. Read the rest of this entry »