Street Smart Chicago

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

Nothing but simple facts and plain truths

Independence Day, the time we set aside as a nation to commemorate our founding, remains a worthy notion, regardless of whether you think it’s degraded into nothing more than a long weekend of sweaty, boring barbecues, or an opportunity for the politically obnoxious to invoke the images of our revolution (patriots, tea parties, etc.) while trampling on all of its values. For no matter how you feel about our nation’s current course, America remains founded on ideas and that is worth celebrating. For some, that means whooping it up on our city streets with their newly liberated firearms; for us that means celebrating the aesthetic of conversation, the free speech, that sets our nation truly apart. And thus, our annual edition dedicated to its unfettered exercise. We hope it moves you, one way or another. (Brian Hieggelke)

Godiva’s Only a Chocolate: Skeptical reflections on Chicago’s Naked Bike Ride

Bridgeport Rising: The consequences of the whiteout of a neighborhood’s changing face

Bloggin’ in the Neighborhood: Making the hyperlocal hype a reality

Upward Mobility: A plea for escalator etiquette

Weather or Not: Nothing but blue skies from now on

Train in Vain: The new dynamic of CTA intimacy

Godiva’s Only a Chocolate: Skeptical reflections on Chicago’s Naked Bike Ride

Essays & Commentary 9 Comments »

The map from chicagonakedride.org

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

By Hugh Iglarsh

It was late and I was tired and cranky, as I rather reluctantly drove a stranded friend to her downtown hostel when my desire was for home and bed. I had just attended the opening of the Green Party’s new Chicago headquarters in Logan Square, and had been exhilarated by the energy and sense of community flowing in the humble storefront on Fullerton. But I had used up my finite supply of sociability, and looked forward to a quick trip to the Loop and then blessed rest.

It’s in your weak moments when the city turns against you. I and my even more exhausted passenger found ourselves in a hopeless gridlock at North and Damen; making a U-turn, I tried Division Street going east, but the results were no better. Ashland south—sadly the same. Grand Avenue east—finally, despair and surrender to fate. I had become an involuntary participant in the World Naked Bike Ride-Chicago. Motto: As Bare As You Dare. Once-familiar streets had turned into postmodern cattle crossings, blocked by a monster herd of flesh-baring cyclists, mainly but not exclusively of Gen X vintage. Most wore a little something—thongs, cardboard beer cases, body paint—but a significant minority were as naked as the gnats they resembled to my fatigue-heavy eyes, as they flashed en masse through the traffic lights. And as though possessed of some diabolical collective psychic ability, the snaking line of riders seemed to intuit my path and destination, foiling my every attempt to outflank it. Read the rest of this entry »

Bridgeport Rising: The consequences of the whiteout of a neighborhood’s changing face

Bridgeport, Essays & Commentary 2 Comments »

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

By Jeff McMahon

In the last decade, Bridgeport has emerged as one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods. But the rainbow blossoming there has gone largely unacknowledged, and may even be threatened, by purported egalitarians who continue to stereotype Bridgeport as the racist backwater it once was.

In 2008, a DePaul University study listed Bridgeport as one of Chicago’s four most diverse neighborhoods, characterizing its demographics as “extreme diversity.” That promising designation arrived thanks not to the hipsters who have pushed the frontier of gentrification south from Pilsen but thanks to a spiral influx of people of varied race, class and orientation, who seem to have imported not only difference, but tolerance. Read the rest of this entry »

Bloggin’ in the Neighborhood: Making the hyperlocal hype a reality

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

The blog is the medium of the modern age. Often and stereotypically it can be a highly individual form of expression—a single person laying out their thoughts, emotions, pictures, or what have you. But there’s another kind of blog, a community-minded organ of hyperlocal news and opinions: the neighborhood blog. In some cities these blogs are a dime a dozen, but unfortunately in Chicago they’re few and far between.

Neighborhood blogs are a great asset for those areas lucky enough to have them. They keep neighbors abreast of local goings-on that metropolitan newspapers can’t help but overlook, and they do it at a speed that community newspapers can’t hope to match. Some are partisan, like the inflammatory Hyde Park Progress, which posts both neighborhood news and tirades against local NIMBYs. Others are more apolitical, like Uptown Update, which sticks mostly to development updates, crime reports, events and other news of local interest. But they all help foster a community in what could otherwise be just a collection of people, streets, and buildings. Read the rest of this entry »

Upward Mobility: A plea for escalator etiquette

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

Copenhagen Metro/Photo: Stig Nygaard

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

In a diverse population like ours, we all want different things. Some people want to cast votes for a President Palin; for them, we have secret ballots. Some people want to eat restaurant food in their pajamas; luckily, there’s takeout. And while some people prefer to bask motionless on escalators, reveling in the thrill of this mechanical stairway to heaven, other people want to please keep moving.

Until I moved to Chicago, I believed the escalator dilemma—how climbers of the moving staircase could possibly coexist with the exhausted, the contemplative and the lazy—had, like the challenge of cheap lo mein at home, been solved. Standers to the right, movers to the left. Sometimes, maybe, you have to say, “excuse me” to a wayward traveler, but you can do so with righteousness, because you have etiquette on your side.

Other cities get it. New Yorkers separate, the standers huddling to the right, the climbers marching, single-file and unencumbered, to the left. D.C-dwellers have got it down. Muscovites manage to wordlessly sort out their seemingly incompatible ascent styles, as do Londoners. The good people of Chicago, though—O, corn-fed, oblivious Chicago!—clump together in contented gridlock with alarming regularity, a perpetual human barricade barring forward motion. A single “excuse me” is powerless against this immobile crowd. Read the rest of this entry »

Weather or Not: Nothing but blue skies from now on

Essays & Commentary 1 Comment »

Photo: Tom Harpel

Common Sense for Chicago

As a native San Franciscan, I may be biased, but I doubt I’ll get many naysayers booing down this proposal: better weather in our beloved city. You may think the CTA, the public schools and the local government are a disgrace, and I won’t hesitate to agree with you there, but I say: let’s fix the problems we can solve!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I know my bus never comes in the morning, and the aldermen are corrupt by the dozen, but surely—surely!—those can’t be insurmountable problems, like wind and snow.” But that’s where you’re wrong. Wind and snow—and rain and tornadoes, for that matter—aren’t insurmountable, and I have the evidence to prove it.

Look to our compatriots of the well-earned reputation for corruption and crappy weather—the Russians. Last fall, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov wanted to stop snowfall in his city. The only thing stopping him was concern from neighboring towns. Moscow’s neighboring towns are called The Golden Ring. Some of the most picturesque in the country, they’re a favorite among tour guides. We’ve got Gary. Read the rest of this entry »

Train in Vain: The new dynamic of CTA intimacy

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

Common Sense for Chicago 2010

The CTA started introducing its new breed of trains this spring, bringing jarring changes to the typical morning commute. Passengers got to experience a much shinier and cleaner, smoother trip. But what changed most notably was that special type of cozy awkwardness that tends to accompany the ride.

The train follows a New York subway-style layout, which is said to allow for more standing room. Instead of the two-to-a-row layout, you’re lined up longitudinally. Now, you don’t have to sit next to someone you don’t know, intimately rubbing elbows, or experiencing terrifyingly loud snoring, with the potential that your shoulder could soon become your neighbor’s pillow.

But then again, not experiencing that is almost like not riding the El at all. The traditional seating arrangements allow for a special, albeit bizarre adventure. But with this new design, you’re sharing your discomfort with the person on the other side. And you’re doubly discomforted, sandwiched between your fellow passengers. Read the rest of this entry »

Cub Scouting: Surveying the field at the Cougar Convention

Love & Sex 1 Comment »

Miss Cougar America, Amy Roberts

A thin tan blonde in a sparkly top, jeans and high heels holds hands with a guy in shorts and a polo as they attempt to surreptitiously run through the Embassy Suites Rosemont O’Hare parking lot to the car. It is a moment right out of high school, but this isn’t prom. It is the 2nd Annual National Cougar Convention. This woman is probably twice the age she was when she went to the big dance. Her new date likely still gets carded at the liquor store.

If you stumbled upon the convention, you might think you were at a bar mitzvah: the DJ’s futile attempts at music that appeals across the generations, the awkward guys standing by the wall and the moms breaking it down on the dance floor. But then you would realize the guys aren’t quite that young, and while the middle-aged women might be moms, they aren’t dressed—or acting—like it. These are “cougars,” in all their red-stilettoed, tan-legged, leopard-print-wearing glory.

The event, with upwards of 200 attendees, aims at bringing together cougars (older women interested in younger men) and cubs (younger men interested in older women), but attracts a wide audience that also includes younger women and older men. While some cougars and cubs seem to be in their natural environment, most look curious, surprised and somewhat uncomfortable to be at such a unique singles event. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): How well are you capitalizing on this year’s unique opportunities, Aries? Since we’re halfway through 2010, let’s take an inventory. I’m hoping you’re well underway in the heroic task of conquering your past. It has been and will continue to be prime time for you to wean yourself from unresolvable energy drains. So exorcise irksome ghosts, please! Pay off ancient debts! Free yourself from memories that don’t serve you! You’re finally ready to graduate from lessons you’ve had to learn and re-learn and re-re-learn. The coming months will bring you even more opportunities to finish up old business that has demanded too much of your time and energy. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the Capricious Contours of Celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange No Comments »

This week’s biggest gainers:

1 Ozzie Guillen
Eleven wins in a row left you knocking on first place’s door, but we really love the audacity of breaking bread with Cubs bad boy Zambrano on the very day he flew apart.

2 Fred Anderson
When this giant of jazz passed away, the saxophones wailed more mournfully than ever. Read the rest of this entry »