Street Smart Chicago

Presents: Have Yourself a Local Little Christmas…

Holidays No Comments »

We’ve long espoused the importance of supporting the shop around the corner, but never more so than now. As we listen to the daily drumbeats of doom in these waning days of the Bush economy, expectations proliferate that some retailers will see their last Christmas this December. So if you value that creative little shop on your street, if you appreciate the friendly chats with the owner when you stop in, show your support by spending your holiday gift money local. In doing so, you’re helping yourself, since studies show that locally owned businesses keep much more money in the local economy than the big national chains. If Newcity readers spend just $100 each locally this holiday season, that will contribute more than ten million dollars to the local economy. Just consider the possibilities. We have, and that’s why we’ve joined with more than seventy alternative weeklies around the country in a coordinated “buy local” campaign this holiday season. Read the rest of this entry »

Here Come the Dead: Pilsen’s somber Dia de Los Muertos celebration

Holidays, Pilsen No Comments »

A large crowd has gathered for the face painting portion of non-profit Pros Arts Studio’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration and children all sit patiently while they are quickly transformed into skeletons by simple swipes of black and white paint.   “Death is viewed more as a part of life in Mexican culture,” explains face-painter Krystin Grenon. “Face painting is a fun thing—a way to laugh in the face of death.”  There certainly is no shortage of laughter in this crowd, despite the fact that tragedy seems just behind the celebration.  “The altars in this room,” shares Raquel Garcia, a veteran Dia de Los Muertos volunteer and Pilsen neighborhood expert, “are made by children in the Pros Arts programs. They are often dedicated to other neighborhood children who have lost their lives to gang violence.”   Later in the evening, on the march through the neighborhood to El Casa Aztlan (“the heart of the Pilsen community,” according to Garcia) for the last of the evening’s activities, it is difficult to believe that such violence exists here.  Families all pour outside their homes to wave at the Dia de Los Muertos procession, which is made up of children and adults holding colorful, hand-crafted banners and papier-mache skeletons.  “Where are the gangbangers here?” Garcia asks. “It doesn’t seem like there are any at all.” (Meaghan Strickland)

Big Bang: New Year’s Eve 2007

Holidays No Comments »

As Chicago celebrates another New Year’s Eve, we not only bid farewell to 2007, but also to smelling like freshly used ashtrays when we venture home from the bar. As part of a highly publicized state-wide ban—the Smoke Free Illinois Act—smoking in a public indoor facility is strictly forbidden,and, yes, that includes bars and clubs. It’s a polarizing issue. Most applaud the new law, for health reasons, as the restriction obviously protects patrons and bar employees from secondhand smoke. Read the rest of this entry »

NYE 2007/LA Ex

City Life, Holidays No Comments »

To better understand the impact of the impending public smoking ban, it is worthwhile to look at how it affected two other major cities that have passed their own bans in recent years, New York and Los Angeles. In the case of New York, a study conducted by Zagat found in surveying 29,361 people that ninety percent are eating out the same amount or more often after the passing of the law. Moreover, twenty-three percent stated they were eating out more often because of the public smoking ban.
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NYE 2007/Still Burning: Wicker Park’s smokers’ haven

City Life, Holidays, Wicker Park No Comments »

It’s 11pm on a Friday night and the place is empty. Well, not exactly empty. Two women who look like they’ve wandered off a David Lynch set sit side by side on an orange couch. They’re not drinking. They’re not even talking. They’re just smoking. Four men stand behind the bar. Three of them come over to attend to our drink order. They get it wrong. Twice. Near the back of the cavernous room, a DJ is seemingly unaware that the party is elsewhere. Reverberating unchecked throughout the length of the space, the throbbing music serves only to exacerbate its emptiness. I shoot a quick look of apology to the girl I’ve dragged here and she laughs. “Whatever,” she says gamely. “At least you can smoke.” At that last word, one of the four men snaps to attention, producing a glossy, tri-fold menu from somewhere beneath the bar and launching into a well-rehearsed sales pitch lauding the benefits of artisanal tobacco. When he finally finishes, I ask the question. “Smoking ban?” he repeats, smiling. “Nah, we’re cool. We’ve got it covered.” This is Marshall McGearty’s Tobacco Lounge on Milwaukee Avenue and to say that they have it covered is an understatement. They’ve got help in some very high places.
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NYE 2007/Smoked Out: The hour Chicago gives up puffing

City Life, Holidays No Comments »

Be afraid, Chicago. Fear the law. Thinking of taking a few extra puffs of your cigarette as you celebrate past midnight this New Year’s Eve in your favorite bar? Then be prepared to taste blood on your palate as the city’s stormtroopers, donned only in black, burst through the doors, using their high-tech, Orwellian machinery to incite terror and to shut down your favorite adult establishment.
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Gnome for the Holidays: European travelers visit Lincoln Square

City Life, Holidays, Lincoln Square No Comments »

The gnome sports electric lime-colored shorts, chunky hiking shoes, binoculars and a rifle. He is an explorer, transported from Germany’s Black Forest to Chicago’s Lincoln Square. Like the garden gnome in the movie “Amelie,” he is sent around the world, proving that travel is good. The hiker gnome retails for $59.90 at the German import store, possibly proving that commerce is good, too.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Shop Stop

Bucktown, Holidays, News etc. No Comments »

Potential customers strolling down Damen Avenue in Bucktown last Friday were greeted by more than the typical trendy boutique: construction workers began to set up their bulldozers and other heavy equipment for the next six weeks—the prime time for holiday shopping—to fix a faulty water line. Naturally, the local businesses let their grievances known: how in the world could the city start tearing up the street on the busiest shopping day of the year? It was an extremely tense situation,” says the cool-headed Steve Greenberg, co-owner of Red Dog House, who updated local entrepreneurs via email as talks went on with Tom LaPorte, assistant commissioner of the department of water. “We contacted everyone we could get our hands on.” LaPorte talked to the engineers working on the project, who determined the situation wasn’t an emergency, and the decision was made to delay construction until January, making business owners “thrilled.” Score one for democracy. Unless, of course, the water main breaks again (it has twice in recent months), which is the biggest fear of the local alderman, Scott Waguespack. “If the pipes break again, it costs the taxpayers,” Waguespack says. “But I guess that’s a chance we’ll have to take.”

Halloween Hideout: Weird Al, Rollergirl and a tree walk into a bar…

Events, Holidays No Comments »

Every five or six years, Halloween will fall on a weekend, but until then, the weekend before serves as the primary party and costume opportunity. Enter The Hideout around midnight on Saturday, and there’s a party, but the costumed crowd here is a bit arbitrary. Sure—you’ll walk past a shorter version of Weird Al near the front steps, and yes—the bartenders are dressed as a lumberjack and a tree (complete with large branches, leaves and birds in the hair), yet the general attire for the night is a mess of items never suitable for everyday wear, but obnoxious enough for this one day out of the year. The comfortably cramped crowd dances, gripping cans of cheap beer, a guy with a bra affixed to his hair bobs his head slowly and a waitress on actual roller skates skillfully slides back and forth.
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Requiem for a Dream: Marshall Field’s Last Christmas

Chicago History, City Life, Essays & Commentary, Holidays, Loop No Comments »

By Brian Hieggelke

“Marshall Field & Company, one of the world’s great department stores, is as legendary to Chicago and the good old middle west as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It’s as sturdy as the tracks on the Loop, as timeless as the Lake, and almost as vast as the westward prairie. It is said that Marshall Field’s is Chicago.”
—“Store” by Nan Tillson Birmingham, 1978

Marshall Field arrived in Chicago from New England and got a job in the retail business in 1856. 150 years later, in 2006, he’ll leave Chicago for good. In the interim, the store he created, Marshall Field’s, will have survived the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the advent of electric lighting, the automobile, the airplane, the television and the computer. But it will not survive the merger of two corporations from Midwest towns that once challenged Chicago for primacy in the Midwest and lost, Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, Ohio, and May Department Stores of St. Louis, Missouri.
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