Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick
By Tony Fitzpatrick
I live in Ukrainian Village. Some of my neighbors don’t even speak English. They like being among themselves. They are suspicious, clannish and, at times, paranoid and unfriendly. This doesn’t surprise me. A great many of my neighbors are from the Ukraine and lived under harsh totalitarian regimes, under a czar or a dictator. Many of them are old enough to remember the scourge of communism in their lives. They don’t much trust strangers: this is Chicago, a city of tribes and bone-deep grudges.
My neighbors have begun to thaw a bit. After all, it’s been four years. One lady brought me a sack of beets from her garden and, noticing that I had several bird feeders in my yard, told me the secret to attracting hummingbirds–red flowers and sugar water. She told me that only she had hummingbirds in this neighborhood even though the city “is lousy with them– you have to know how to attract them.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Cesar Augusto
By Jeff Gilliland
The Kickstarter Chronicles is a series of profiles of Chicagoans holding crowd-funding campaigns on Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter allows for people to finance creative projects through individual donations, and seek new audiences at the same time. However, sometimes great projects still need an extra nudge into the limelight.
Cesar Augusto doesn’t take photography lightly. “I don’t take many pictures,” the Oak Park-based photographer and creative director says. “In fact, I hate taking pictures when I haven’t had the time to think about what I’m trying to achieve.”
Augusto has had plenty of time to think about what he’s trying to achieve with his most recent project, “The Soul of Cuba.” The hardcover book, featuring more than a hundred stunning photographs from Augusto’s native country, documents his return to the home which has been, in his words, “the place of my dreams and nightmares for the last twenty years.” In it, Augusto grapples with the fading image of the Cuba he still remembers, and discovers the birth of a new economy and culture in a country that Americans still associate with old cars, Communism and exploding cigars. ”The Soul of Cuba” captures this nostalgia, pain and wonderment in a sequence of black-and-white photographs that are at once haunting and uplifting, decayed and vibrant, aged and brand-new. “These photographs are exactly how my heart sees Cuba today,” Augusto says, both remote and always familiar, just like the tempestuous nation he fled more than two decades years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Bob Fioretti by the Dearborn protected bike lanes./Photo: John Greenfield
By John Greenfield
Second Ward Alderman Robert “Bob” Fioretti got a raw deal in last year’s ward remap. His district currently includes portions of several neighborhoods on the Near South and Near West sides, but in 2015 his territory will flip to the Near North Side, which means he has to win over a whole new set of voters in the next election.
Perhaps because he has an uphill reelection battle anyway, lately he’s had no qualms about going against the mayor’s wishes on issues ranging from charter schools to the renegotiation of the city’s reviled parking-meter contract. As part of a series of interviews with aldermen about their view on transportation issues, I recently had coffee with Fioretti downstairs from his law firm, a stone’s throw from the Dearborn protected bike lanes. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Maybe you’ve seen that meme circulating on the Internet: “My desire to be well-informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane.” If you feel that way now—and I suspect you might soon if you don’t already—you have cosmic permission, at least for a while, to emphasize sanity over being well-informed. Lose track of what Kim Jong-un and Kim Kardashian are up to, ignore the statements of every jerk on the planet, and maybe even go AWOL from the flood of data that relentlessly pours toward you. Instead, pay attention to every little thing your body has to tell you. Remember and marvel at your nightly dreams. Go slow. Lay low. Be soft. Have fun with unspectacular influences that make you feel at home in the world. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Irish poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan didn’t confine his lyrical wit to well-crafted poems on the printed page. He used it to say things that would advance his practical ambitions. For example, when he first met the woman who would eventually become his wife, he said to her, “Why don’t you come into my garden? I would like my roses to see you.” That’s the kind of persuasive power I hope you will summon in the coming days, Aries. According to my analysis of the omens, you should have it in abundance. So what’s the best use of this mojo? Is there anything you would really like to sell? What new resources do you want to bring into your sphere? Who do you want to convince? Read the rest of this entry »
Runnin’ With the Horses 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: Starting in the parking lot and finishing at the actual finish line that the horses cross at the Balmoral Park horse track in Crete, Illinois, the Runnin’ With the Horses 5K is one of a kind when it comes to Chicago-area races.
The first quarter mile of the course takes place in the parking lot outside the track, but things quickly get more exciting as runners take a sharp left and head through the outdoor spectating area, passing through the middle of the crowd before circling the perimeter of the track and then entering the horse track itself for roughly the last mile and a half. The gravel of the track provides an ideal running surface and race horses warming up only yards away makes for a memorable racing experience.
After the run there’s plenty of water and Gatorade on hand, but the real treat is a voucher good for three beers at the Brewhaha Beer Festival, where an impressive selection of domestic and microbrewery offerings await, along with a live band and a chance to place a wager on the night’s races. Yesterday’s race marked the fifth annual running of the race and the largest field yet (around 250 total runners). I’m guessing the distance from Chicago is keeping entries low, but it’s well worth the drive. Read the rest of this entry »
By Kevin Budnik. Edited by Ivan Brunetti. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick
By Tony Fitzpatrick
When I was a kid, and in a hurry to assert my masculinity, I made stupid remarks about gay people and indulged in the unfocused and thoughtlessly cruel bigotry of my peers. In other words, before I actually knew anyone who was gay. What I did not know is that there were gay people all around me and these remarks, however offhand, said a great deal more about me than anyone else. The words callow and stupid come to mind.
Thankfully, I came up in the world of art where there was no shortage of gay folks who wanted precisely the same things in life that I did. It opened my eyes and made me regret the stupidity and ignorance I’d harbored. A good many of these people were heroic: Dr. Ron Sable, the Chicago physician who was one of the first activists on the frontlines of the AIDS crisis in the mid-eighties, Larry Kramer, who loudly refused to let gay Americans become marginalized as lesser citizens, Danny Sotomayor, the late cartoonist and ACT UP activist—these were brave people who I was fortunate enough to have known and, in the face of their struggle, they made the rest of America change with them. The gay and lesbian community still struggles with ridiculous and arcane and draconian laws that other Americans stopped having to address a long time ago.
The right to marry, really? The religious right claims that gay marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage. These bigots helped stall the vote for the Marriage Equality Act, just this past week in Illinois. Read the rest of this entry »
Rob Reid, Mike Filipski and Elisa Addlesperger on the 2900 block of North Elston.
By John Greenfield
I’ve walked the whole length of eleven Chicago streets in order to experience aspects of local geography, architecture and culture that I might have overlooked using faster modes. So when Rob Reid, who writes the history blog Avondale Time Machine, invited me to join him and friends to hike all 9.5 miles of Elston Avenue last month, I couldn’t refuse.
The street’s namesake was Daniel Elston, a London merchant who immigrated to Chicago in the early 1800s. By 1830 he’d bought a 160-acre parcel in River West, located along a crooked wagon road. The multitalented settler established several businesses—making soap, candles, bricks, beer and whiskey—he also served as a school inspector and alderman.
While Elston was first living by the thoroughfare that would later bear his name, it was a plank toll road owned by Amos Snell, who charged travelers two-and-a-half cents per mile to use it. Displeased with this, local farmers staged a Boston Tea Party of sorts—they dressed up like Indians, chopped down the toll gates and burned them. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): The longest natural arch in the world is the Fairy Bridge in Guangxi Province, China. Made of limestone, this 400-foot-wide span crosses over the Buliu River. No one outside of China knew about it until 2009, when an American explorer spied it on Google Earth. Let’s make the Fairy Bridge your metaphor of the month, Aries. Judging by the astrological omens, I suspect there’s a good chance you will soon find something like a natural, previously hidden bridge. In other words, be alert for a link between things you didn’t know were connected. Read the rest of this entry »