Street Smart Chicago

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

City Life, News etc. No Comments »

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

City Life, Events, News etc. No Comments »

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 »

411: Uncommon Garden

City Life, Edgewater, Green, News etc. No Comments »

Mayor Daley will participate Saturday in the Farm Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Uncommon Ground’s organic rooftop farm. The 2,500-square-foot farm, located above the Edgewater restaurant, is the first certified organic rooftop farm in the U.S. Uncommon Ground owners Helen and Michael Cameron use the farm to produce food for their Wrigleyville and Edgewater locations. “As a child we grew a vast array of fruits and vegetables. As a result, I’ve always enjoyed growing things,” Helen Cameron says. “The minute I saw this enormous, sunny space…I was like, ‘Oh my God, we could grow food up here.'” The farm was certified organic last October by the Midwest Organic Services Association. “To me, it’s perfectly natural to grow your own food in a small space,” Helen says. “We have a climate that works here in Chicago, and you can be very successful growing a great deal of food in the city.”

By the Dusk’s Early Light: Waving at Independence

City Life, Events No Comments »

fireworks-with-fuzzes-and-plane-lights-in-background-738921There is no gunplay from this vantage point, nor threat of it. The self-styled pirates captaining the boats moored in Monroe Harbor, just yards from the barge that launches the fireworks this Independence Eve, are more likely to plunder from the comfort of a trading desk. Just the annoying applause of foghorns bleating from nearby vessels when intoxicated enthusiasm is unleashed by the breathtaking spectacle of explosions in the sky so proximate that you see the ashes fall, and smell the smoke gathering on the water. And hear the thunderous booms of cannons in a historical distance; is this Francis Scott Key’s muse? Then the horn, and the reminder of what our Founding Fathers risked their lives for: so that once a year, the inner knucklehead in so many might be so freely unleashed. And then, as quickly as the premature show begins, it ends, and the quietude of the watery remove returns. On the shore, the millions move away, sirens and helicopter spotlights framing their retreat in a battleground of a twenty-first century. But, here, look, aren’t those kids on that boat over there getting in the water? They’re naked! Ah, freedom. (Brian Hieggelke)

Common Sense: At Full Incapacity

City Life, Essays & Commentary No Comments »

By Jill Jaraczcover

I’ll be on time for my appointment, if I can just get on this bus. Problem is, my bus stop is at Belmont and Lake Shore, the last stop before several routes go express. The express bus is a great timesaver, but it can be its own circle of hell.

In this scenario, which plays out on most express buses that run along Michigan Avenue or LaSalle at all times of the day (and plenty of other routes during rush hour), a bus will barrel up to the stop. As I and twenty other people mob the door, I don’t see anyone standing in the bus yet, so I should be able to get on.

We all slowly trickle on, but those of us at the end of the boarding line start getting smashed in up front. It looks like I’ll be playing “identify the perfume/cologne/deodorant (or lack thereof)” for most of my ride. When I look down the aisle, I see plenty of room in the back of the bus. The standers have decided they don’t want to move past the back door. Heaven forbid that anyone actually goes up the two steps to the back of the bus and stands in the rear. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Sense: A Plea for Less Whining Rich People

City Life, Essays & Commentary 1 Comment »

By Lisa Graysoninterior

Dear Petulant Investing Acquaintance,

I’m so sorry to hear that your portfolio is worth a fraction of what it was last year. Really. I can’t imagine the agony of watching the evaporation of all that spare cash. You were planning to retire at 50, and now you may have to put it off until 55. Pity.

Governor Quinn sends me money every two weeks to help me feel better, and believe me, I’m grateful. But call it a simple lack of imagination, failure of empathy, Schadenfreude, whatever you want: I am tired of rich people whining to non-rich people. I’m talking about non-rich Americans, and we’re still better off than ninety percent of the world, which makes your whining all the more irritating. Sure, some of us are desperate, but most of us are trying to maintain an optimistic attitude because anxiety can lead to high blood pressure and ulcers, and our COBRA ran out seven months ago.

News flash: Most of us didn’t lose money in the stock market. We never had money in the stock market. The closest we might come is a small 401(k) or union pension fund. You don’t hear us complaining about the hundreds of thousands (or millions) we lost—because we didn’t have much to begin with. I’m sure it hurts to have your investments lose their worth. But what about all those years when they were gaining insane value, when you were earning easy money? When everything you touched turned to gold, with little if no effort from you? I figure you’re probably still ahead of where you started. Which is more than a lot of us can say. So please accept my condolences and kindly shut the fuck up.

Common Sense: The Tyranny of Lists

City Life, Essays & Commentary No Comments »

By Rob Patrick

My girlfriend has a list of every guy she kissed from the time she was 14 until she was 22. I have no idea how many names are on that list (or if any are followed by an asterisk). She offered to tell me, but frankly I don’t want to know. And that’s pretty much how I feel about all lists: Keep them to your fucking self. So in the interest of a little Independence Day irony (and after all, what is the Declaration of Independence but a list, albeit a very well-written one), here is my list of lists I loathe.

1. “To Do” lists—I once read a children’s book about an anal frog and a toad who are best friends. One day the frog makes a long list of things to do—wake up, eat breakfast, visit Toad, etc. His whole goddamn life is that list, and he checks off each thing he does. Then the wind blows his list away, but he can’t chase it because chasing the list isn’t an item on the list. And without that list, he can’t function at all. I know people exactly like that frog. They wake up, sit with a cup of coffee, and write their “list of things to do today.” They even buy notepads with pre-printed numbers, which is typical of people who need lists. Not only are they forgetful and neurotic, they’re also lazy. Read the rest of this entry »