Street Smart Chicago

Romance Profiling

City Life, Love & Sex No Comments »

The topic came up a few weeks ago, when a friend mentioned he met his last wife and current, very foxy girlfriend via online personals. I was stunned that the flirtatious, compelling, mischievous fellow who befriended me on the Metra platform would need or choose to sift through profile pages for a date. At any rate, the pump was primed, the process legitimized and the assignment timely. Sure, what the hell? I’ll give it a shot.

I logged in, agonized over a photo and headline (odd, considering this was just for kicks) and jotted a few notes on the personality test administered by the site. What struck me most was how clinical the whole process was; after determining my personality type—incidentally, a more accurate measure than my astrological sign or the free online Briggs-Meyers tests I was hooked on two years ago—I indicated the desirability of certain traits and habits on grids and slide rules. This was scientifically calibrated navel-gazing—even the color scheme of the site was institutional white. Read the rest of this entry »

The Perfect Match

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When my girlfriend came home almost an hour late from work one day last week, I greeted her by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m just signing up for a dating site.” She gave me a look of shock/confusion, like she couldn’t believe I was calling it quits—it was only the first time she was late and it wasn’t even her fault. But I explained it was for an experiment.

I’d never used a dating site before, unless you count making a fake Gay.com profile to trick my friend Kevin in college into thinking he had a stalker or helping my straight friend Sarah find a non-douchey “meat and potatoes” kind of guy in Bloomington-Normal (no luck).

Signing up for Chemistry.com was as excruciating as an actual chemistry test. It was high school all over again, but instead of multiple choice and equations, it was: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly agree.

Instead of straightforward questions, there were statements such as, “You enjoy the company of others.” I was stumped on whether to agree or strongly agree. Or maybe I should disagree? I mean, does it make me co-dependent if I like being around people? But I don’t want to be considered anti-social. I’m just selective. Read the rest of this entry »

Gone Fishin’

City Life, Love & Sex No Comments »

The assignment intrigued me. Hang out on a new dating site called Chemistry.com, create a profile, and write about my experience. In other words, waste a good chunk of time and try to make sense out of nothingness. Like “Seinfeld” and Sartre rolled into one. Cool!

So I signed up, took the personality test, and voila! I was live in the online flesh market, ready to be sold like a bag of clams to some lucky fish. Like Jodie Foster in a floppy hat and short shorts, I was thrust before the ogling eyes of potential male buyers. Only in place of Harvey Keitel, I was my own pimp—boosting my selling points of European breeding, international education, blah and blah.

According to the personality test, I’m a Negotiator/Builder. Like Bob the Builder. Perhaps I should buy a tool belt? Read the rest of this entry »

Chemistry Isn’t Science

City Life, Love & Sex No Comments »

I really dig taking online personality tests. You know, like the ones you can find on Facebook: “What kind of tree would you be?” or “What ‘Sex and the City’ character are you?” or “If you were a fascist leader, who would you be?” Because, well, they’re a joke with questions and answers that never really pertain to me.

So when Chemistry.com told me I was going to answer a few questions that would lead to my Prince Charming, well, I was ready to test it. Would I be paired with the athletic jocks because of my passion for kickball? Would I be joined with the intellectuals because of my infinite interest in “Star Trek”? Could my soul mate be just a generic answer away? Read the rest of this entry »

The Veil of Iron

City Life, Love & Sex No Comments »

Chemistry.com promises to navigate the tumultuous seas of dating for you. However, is online dating really that much easier than dating in the real world?

I decide to test the waters and sign up for an account. Writing my online bio is supposed to be fun, but instead it throws me down some sort of existential rabbit hole that I am yet to climb out of. Now I’m plagued with all sorts of doubts and nagging questions about moral relativism. Who am I?  Where have I been, and where am I going with my life? Read the rest of this entry »

Local News: Fight Big Media at a sandwich shop

City Life, Loop, News etc. 1 Comment »

Passionate discussion resonates from one of the tables Friday night at Cosi on Michigan Avenue. Five guys—Mike, Michael, Mitchell, Jerry and Jack—sit at the table with a small piece of white paper inserted in one of the card holders that says “Fight Big Media Meetup is Here.” Mitchell Szczepanczyk, the Chicago Fight Big Media group moderator for the past four years, has his laptop open so he can be ready to announce breaking news or to research more information on discussion topics.

They’ve just finished talking about Walter Cronkite’s death Read the rest of this entry »

Ride On: Tour de Fat comes to Palmer Square

Bicycling, City Life, Events, Green, Humboldt Park No Comments »

tourdefatWigs, hats and antennae; wings, fake mustaches and long socks; pirates, cheerleaders and ringmasters—it’s all part of the spectacle Saturday at the Tour de Fat in Palmer Square.

The event, part of an eleven-city tour, highlights biking, beer, creativity and sustainability. New Belgium Brewing Company, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, started the annual tour ten years ago to increase awareness and participation in bike transportation. The day seems all about being as creative and green as possible—on a bike. Read the rest of this entry »

Girl Power: Girl 360 gives young tweens life lessons

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By Ilana Kowarskidsc01214

This past December, women’s rights advocates Anne Ream and Randi Shafton introduced their new Web site to the blogosphere—Girl 360, a digital “safe space” for tween girls everywhere. Filled with advice columns, stories about successful women and empowering T-shirt logos, the site is meant to make girls feel good about themselves and to give them “hope,” says Ream, and “life lessons they can apply,” says Shafton. Ream asserts that advice and encouragement are particularly important for tweens, who are at “a vulnerable point in their lives,” a time when, as she puts it, “girls are getting a sense of who they are.” During this period, Ream and Shafton believe it is especially important that girls have positive female role models. Ream explains, “Every great woman started out as a great girl, one who often discovered her own ‘superpowers’ after encountering other super-cool female role models. Our mission at Girl 360 is to make encounters like this possible by bringing the stories of history’s and today’s most amazing women to the attention of a new generation of tween girls.” The goal of Girl 360, Shafton explains, is to provide a “shared dialogue” which “makes a girl that much stronger and that much smarter.”  According to 10-year-old Sara Alavi, that is precisely what the site does for her. “I am very inspired by the women on the site, so, if I need inspiration to do something that isn’t easy, I go to Girl 360.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Gypsy Trail: The history and legacy of Rom culture in Chicago

City Life, Northwest Side 2 Comments »

By David Wittercover

A neon sign in the window of the frame house flashes “Readings by Maria,” while a wooden marker on the roadside, lit by a small spotlight, spells out the same message in hand-painted letters. After a quiet knock a short woman opens the door. Her skin is olive and her hair dark brown, but her eyes are blue. She wears a dark house dress, a simple necklace and has a blue scarf wrapped around her hair.

“Are you here for a reading?” she asks. After a quick nod she leads you into the house. A chandelier hangs overhead, illuminating mostly white furniture, some covered by plastic. Black-and-white photos of dark-haired men in fancy suits and pictures of children with dark eyes line the walls. A man talks on a white phone, oblivious to the visitors.

The woman sits at a black and gold embroidered table and opens a box of tarot cards. “Come, sit down. I will read the cards and tell you your future…”

This is the home of a fortune-teller located on Harlem Avenue near Diversey. For many, whether in print, films or gossip, this is the image of gypsies. Others may include women with low-cut blouses dancing seductively, like the one portrayed in the 1970s pop hit, “Gypsy Woman,” or roaming bands of con artists, vis-a-vis the Peter Maas book and resulting movie “King of the Gypsies,” or Stephen King’s “Thinner.” Web sites like gypsypsychicscams.com allege gypsy fortune-tellers dupe unsuspecting customers out of thousands of dollars. Yet while some may fit this image, they are, like any other group, just a sampling of a race of people who have been around for more than a thousand years. Gypsies have been part of the Chicago landscape since the late 1800s, and today you can find them shopping, attending churches and working as musicians in jazz clubs, concert halls and European-themed restaurants throughout the Chicago area. Read the rest of this entry »

Backpacking Buddies: Chicago Adventure Social Club helps travelers find friends

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moxieA laptop, a Europe travel book and a few print-out maps sit on the table at Mercury Café on a Thursday night as Chris Kraj and Jen Petruska plan their two-week backpacking trip for August, beginning in Spain then going to southern France, Switzerland and Italy.

This is actually the first time the two have ever seen each other in person. They met through the online forum for the Chicago Adventure Travel Club, the local chapter of the Global Expeditions Club founded by Kevin Foley and Jeff Kelly. The first chapter of Global Expeditions formed a year ago in Boston and has since grown to forty chapters across North America.

“We found a lot of solo travelers looking for people to travel with,” Kelly says. “We thought it would be a good idea to start a club that uses social networking. You hear horror stories of people who go on group tours…we thought it would be good for people to get together first and meet each other.” Read the rest of this entry »