Street Smart Chicago

Chicago Manual 2015: Only at Chicago

Education/Training, Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »
Image from book titled Building Ideas, featuring architecture on the University of Chicago campus, published summer of 2013. (Photo by Tom Rossiter/The University of Chicago)

Image from book titled “Building Ideas,” featuring architecture on the University of Chicago campus, published summer of 2013. (Photo by Tom Rossiter/The University of Chicago)

I was a first year in the College in 1979, in my first quarter, taking Ralph Lerner’s Common Core social science course called “Political Order and Change.” A small class of maybe twenty students, we sat at desks aligned to form a large hollow rectangle, with Professor Lerner in the center of one end.

We were reading Plato’s “Republic” and I was fascinated, even though it was written thousands of years before the sci-fi novels ands sports biographies that had occupied my attention up through high school. Our professor really brought its ideas to light in our class discussions and I was in the early stage of a transformative intellectual awakening. I showed up one day and took a seat at the corner near the professor. Sitting between us was another older guy I did not recognize. Professor Lerner started the class by introducing our guest, a friend of his who’d been visiting him in his office and had decided spontaneously to join our conversation that day. His name was John Paul Stevens, then a relatively new justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Yes, there I was, all of eighteen years old, discussing the very foundation of justice with one of its most powerful advocates in the world. This, I figured, was the way my life was going to be from now on. Book chat with leaders of the free world and all that.

Only at Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Buildings Studies: Theory and Praxis

Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »
KA apt

The author and her friend Andrea outside her Hyde Park apartment, circa 2001.

By Krisann Rehbein (MA ’02)

I’ve made a career out of my own curiosity. Fourteen years ago this week, my interest in the lives of buildings began. It started with my own story but the university and the world changed my perspective a thousand degrees.

For the year leading up to graduate school at the University of Chicago, I ditched my apartment and relied on the good graces of friends to save on rent. It became a joke not to invite me over or I’d stay a month. Two weeks before the start of fall classes, my boyfriend moved me into a cheap apartment on 53rd and Blackstone and I finally had a space of my own. Days later, he broke up with me. Just days after that, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11.

My apartment was my refuge. Everything I needed was inside: a radio, a vintage red reading chair and ottoman, and books stacked on the floor. The only view was of a surface parking lot that didn’t bother me because it let in lots of light. Sometimes, I looked at the two windows of my apartment from the outside and thought of how nondescript they looked. My life was inside.

The World Trade Center building itself thrust architecture into the middle of an international conversation. Structural failures were analyzed. The cladding of the steel support beams and building codes of 1973 debated and technology of that day compared to the present.  Drawings of evacuation routes appeared in the newspaper. Section diagrams displayed the relationships between the floors and showed us how the elevators worked. Eventually, we learned what caused the building to completely melt into the ground.

The building’s design and the lives inside were unavoidably linked.  Read the rest of this entry »

South Woodlawn Avenue: Metamorphosis, Not Apocalypse

Education/Training, Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »

By Karl T. Muth, MBA ’10

The University of Chicago is one of the few American institutions that is better-known, better-respected, and better appreciated by those one encounters abroad; in Juba, South Sudan, in a sweltering football stadium on the day South Sudan became a country, the man next to me, spying the phoenix on my cufflinks, smiled and introduced himself, “I studied in Hyde Park, too.” Ironic, then, given our institution’s enormous reach, that my UChicago story happens over a seventy-five-year period safely within the ambit of a one-block radius. Our family’s history is inexorably intertwined with three times the world nearly ended while we watched, and adapted, on the 5800-block of South Woodlawn Avenue. It is where our family’s gone to transform for three generations, each graduate like a sea turtle clumsily flapping toward freedom after maturing in an egg buried in the sands of 57th Street Beach.

As far as my grandmother knew, the world might have ended by the time she reached Hyde Park. An Anglo-Chinese refugee after Japan invaded His Majesty’s Overseas Territory of Hong Kong, she came to live in temporary immigration and refugee intake facilities constructed on the Midway and on Woodlawn itself by the U.S. military. Later, she moved into International House. She made the most of this time, studying for a graduate degree (like many studying during the war years, she received her AM after the war), integrating into the wartime immigrant Chinese community, and finding new romance in a new country with my grandfather, a polyglot diplomat-turned-entrepreneur. Read the rest of this entry »

Go South: Finding eta Creative Arts Foundation and Finding Myself in the Process

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Heidi Coleman teaching "Staging Desire"

Heidi Coleman teaching “Staging Desire”

By Robert Eric Shoemaker, AB ’14

Hyde Park can become a very small place if you let it. Especially when you’re an undergraduate student, when you’re just learning about the city and your place in it, when the other parts of the city that people tell you to visit are just so… far away on the Red Line. Hyde Park can be suffocating, when your homework is calling and you wake up from a drooling nap at 8pm in the Reg, and realize you almost (or did) miss your rehearsal for this/that/the other. You feel like you never leave—if you let it happen.

The South Side can also be a place of discovery, just like Lincoln or Wicker Park, Logan or Lincoln Square, insert-any-North-Side-neighborhood-here. Not only campus, which is one of the densest bits of arts-rich land in Chicago, but the rest of the South Side, too. That big blot on most Chicago maps labeled just with that moniker is peppered with important arts venues and hotspots, which are waiting to be found by an intrepid hoofer (or motorist, should you be so lucky as an undergrad).

As an undergraduate theater major and writer for the then-Newcity-affiliated Chicago Weekly (now the independent student publication South Side Weekly), I was looking for a “scoop” when I researched South Side theaters. I thought there had to be a story hiding somewhere just out of reach, where no other student would think to look. I discovered a theater that had been on the South Side and flourishing for many, many years before my “brilliant” idea had come to me: eta Creative Arts Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Doing it For Themselves: Age and Class Insularity Among the U of C Crowd

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By Michael Workman

It’s not long after the start of last year’s academic year. Another cold night, another slog out into the autumn chill, then a long ride cross town to check out a new art and performance space in Hyde Park. I’d heard about it through some mutual U of C friends that overlap with the North Side DIY youth spaces I’ve been frequenting, like Slag Palace and Kill Your Demons (KYD collective) and tonight, sitting on a Green Line, still slightly stoned, then slogging out on the pavement and the haul east across the park until I end up at Transit, yet another new art-slash-performance space that I have to take three buses and two trains to get to and it’s a long slog from my perch in the Lincoln Square neighborhood south to Hyde Park. Still, the feminist folk punk lineup is in my wheelhouse, and I’m interested in checking it out. Eventually, I locate the address through some iteration of turning around and around, staring at the little blue GPS dot flashing on my phone, trying to figure out what direction I’m facing because I honestly can’t tell, and after walking a few blocks around in their entirety, I end up roughly back where I was when I started out, except I’m standing in front of the address I’m looking for. Somehow. Yep, I double-check, this is it. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Manual 2014: Who Wants to Have Some Fun?

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092214ChicagoManualSometime after I left the College, back in 1983, the phrase “Where Fun Comes to Die” attached itself to the University of Chicago in the zeitgeist. Funny thing, that, since I used to tell people that if I’d had more fun in college, I’d be dead, what with all the fraternity parties, Lascivious Costume Balls, “study breaks” and god-knows-what-else we used to frequent, where we’d lament our inability to have a good time at the University of Chicago compared to, we assumed, other schools. There’s no question fun reshapes its contours in Hyde Park, where play, foreplay and mindplay all have their place. Where that guy boasting about all his big ideas at the kegger might, in fact, have big ideas. After all, this place is ground zero for the atomic bomb, the Heisman Trophy and improv theater. How fun is that?

Newcity was founded by UChicago graduates right out of the College, so we’ve always had a special connection to the Grey City, and lots of time to think about it. Accordingly, this second edition of Chicago Manual is not like other Orientation guides you might see around campus. For one, it’s not chock full of recommendations for the best pizza in Hyde Park, or the social dynamics of study carrels in the Reg. It’s meant to be savored, to be studied, to have fun with. And it’s not written primarily by undergrads—though we do have a fine piece written by a fourth-year herein—but rather a mix of those of us who’ve graduated, and offer our perspective with the seasoning of time. (Plus a couple of writers also consider Hyde Park from the perspective of outsiders looking in.) Some are recent grads, some of us thirty years or more.  But the message is the same. Here is the perspective of “what I know now, that I wish I’d known then.” So now you know, and it’s your then now. (Brian Hieggelke AB ’83, MBA ’84) Read the rest of this entry »

What Will Become of WHPK? The College Radio Station Unlike Any Other

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My first connection with the station was when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago,” says Marta Nicholas, “in 1957 through 1960.

“An oboist, I had put together a woodwind ensemble that got together weekly for our own pleasure. One of the pieces we played was being analyzed in the Humanities I class, so we were invited to come perform it live on the station WUCB, which was only five or ten watts and on only a few hours a day. It may have in fact gone through the phone lines rather than a regular radio transmitter—we used to joke that it went through the plumbing pipes and could be heard only by standing on your head in certain shower stalls. A couple of times I was on a listen-to-recordings-and-chat show hosted by our group’s French horn player.”

Soon thereafter, Nicholas “left the campus and the country.” When she returned in the early seventies, the station had morphed into WHPK, an acronym for Woodlawn, Hyde Park and Kenwood. “It was decided at that beginning to take the potential audience into account. Not only as listeners, but also as possible on-air participants.” Nicholas eventually served as the station’s international music-format chief. Read the rest of this entry »

Out of Place: The Neighbor Outside Looking (and Sneaking) In

City Life, Hyde Park No Comments »
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

By Scoop Jackson

I didn’t go to University of Chicago because I was not invited. Not sure I was ever welcome.

I grew up not in it, but damn sure around it. South Shore to Hyde Park  is what Cabrini-Green used to be to the Gold Coast: the neighbor(hood) on the outside looking in.

I was raised being told the history of Hyde Park. Of the racially restrictive covenants. Of the things that were done to keep black people out. Of the University of Chicago cosigning all of that. Money, race, ACT scores, socio-academic differences all played a role in why I’d look down on the kids that went to both Lab and the U of C the same way I assumed they were looking down at me. It was all fair game. The guys that went there were nerds to me, the girls weren’t cute and they never played hip-hop at Jimmy’s.

But as I got older I was able to see a different university than the one I grew up resenting. I saw the value, I saw the disparity. I saw the inner workings of an oasis of higher education that didn’t cater to or have any interest in someone like me (an outsider) but one that was serving a much greater purpose than educating or assisting in the plight of the ‘hoods and residents that encased it. Read the rest of this entry »

Train Yourself: Explore the City While You Can

City Life, Hyde Park, Transit No Comments »
Photo: David Wilson

Photo: David Wilson/Creative Commons

Take the train.

It sounds like a simple thing and it sort of is. Chicago is lucky to have the mass transit it does despite its nonsensical delays, the overcrowded cars and the omnipresent construction. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the credit it’s often given. Take advantage of it.

Chicago has so much to offer if you give yourself the opportunity to explore a bit. The Loop. Lake Michigan. The neighborhoods with their stunningly different personalities. For those of you who are students, by midterms of fall quarter it’s going to feel like there’s never a chance to leave campus, that there isn’t enough time, that there’s simply too much to do to stay ahead of the classwork. Don’t let the stacks and study rooms of the Regenstein and Harper keep you from enjoying the rest of the city. Make the time to get out. Find a coffee shop off campus to study at instead of your usual library spot. Go to shows. They’re cheap and plentiful. Bike the miles of lakefront paths. They’re endlessly beautiful. Spend a rainy afternoon in one of Chicago’s many museums. They’ll put you in other worlds. Get out. Learn the city that the university calls home. Read the rest of this entry »

Normal Life: Don’t Skip the Working Classes

Education/Training, Hyde Park 1 Comment »

By Jenzo DuQue (Class of 2015)

The look is always the same. It usually starts with a gaping mouth, and then the eyes swell out of their sockets, followed by an eyebrow reaching for a hairline. That’s assuming there is a hairline; most of the time the gawkers are pushing sixty or have stressed their locks away by grad school. But regardless of whom I’m telling, it’s the same old song and dance each time.

“You go to the University of Chicago?” they gasp, a fork poised precariously before their lips.

“Yes, I do.” I say, balancing two plates in my left hand and another on my forearm. “Is there anything else I can get you?”

It’s hard for some people to stomach that I’m a waiter and a UChicago student. Shouldn’t I be off making breakthroughs in the Pirahã language or in cancer research? Probably. But I’m not. I’m doing what I’ve been doing since before college—just working because I need the money and honestly, it’s kind of fun. And I know you’ve heard about what happens if fun and our campus cross paths. Read the rest of this entry »