Street Smart Chicago

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 »

Towering Solitude and Pazuzu: Let the Beauty of Hyde Park Possess You

Hyde Park No Comments »
Rockefeller Chapel/Photo: Tom Rossiter

Rockefeller Chapel/Photo: Tom Rossiter

While earning my Master’s in Computer Science at U of C, I worked in the Harper Center as a member of the Chicago Booth staff. There I found myself in an architecturally impressive, award-winning building adjacent to two of Hyde Park’s most notable landmarks: the towering structure of the Rockefeller Chapel to the west and Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Robie House to the north. However, in almost three years of spending around fifty hours a week for work or class in Hyde Park, I never once ventured into either. They were only the backdrop of my day-to-day life. As graduation approached and my time working at Chicago Booth came to a close, I decided to rectify at least part of this situation. For the first time in three years, I trekked across Woodlawn Avenue on a lunch break one afternoon and slipped into Rockefeller Chapel. Read the rest of this entry »

That’s All Well and Good in Practice, But How Does it Work in Theory?

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

By Naseem Jamnia (AB ’13)

When I first set foot onto the quad—actually, it was the Ida Noyes courtyard, stone arches and grassy front—I was a goner. The Core’s opportunities thrilled me, even though the gym requirement totally blew; Northwestern, which I had visited that morning, sucked. What sealed it for me was when my tour guide paused by the Oriental Institute and asked which famous archeologist worked at the UofC.

If only the snakes were just the literal kind.

When we arrived, we were finally faced with our own worst enemy: ourselves. We looked around and saw not mirror images, but our murky reflection cast against the lake. How does admissions choose us, with applications starring perfect GPAs, dozens of extracurriculars, strong goals? We were all the same, though at the time, this was far from being a problem. Many of us felt that we had finally found where we belonged; everyone was like us and yet interesting! We had been the outcasts or nerds, the ones that either dominated class or didn’t speak up because it was too simple. We turned into the kids and the Scavvies; the techies, non-TAPS UT players, always-in-rehearsals; locked up in the Reg or Harper; ha-you-have-it-easy-you’re-not-a-science-majors; stop-complaining-about-crossing-the-Midway-Broadway-is-so-far away—by the end, we couldn’t even pinpoint where we had started because we had forced ourselves to go our separate ways. Read the rest of this entry »

The Green and the Green Line: Putting the Public in Public Transit—and Public Space

Hyde Park, Transit 1 Comment »
Photo: Jeff Gilliland

Photo: Jeff Gilliland

By Jeff Gilliland, MA ’13

All I wanted to do was go to the club. It was the day before my U of C Master’s program began in September 2012, and the Prince and Michael Jackson Experience was in town for one night only. Thinking that it would be a great occasion to gather some of my new classmates together before we had to dive into work, I sent an email to the program’s listserv. “Dance party for the ages this Saturday night!!” Not knowing the first thing about public transit in Chicago, I followed protocol and suggested a few routes that Google Maps said would take us close by.

Hours later, I received an email from one of the program’s staff advisors. “I might rethink taking the 55 to the Ashland bus. Ditto with the Green Line,” it read. “Neither is a paragon of night-time safety.” Farther down the email, I discovered that a faculty member had requested we change the travel route, so that no one would be “traumatized” the day before our program began. The emails were kind and tactful, and clearly stemmed from the program’s concern for the well-being of its students. But the message behind the words was clear: aside from the 6 bus and a few other exceptions, public transit on the South Side is not to be trusted. In fact, it is to be feared and avoided at all costs.

There is a spot on the Green Line, just north of the Indiana station, that will take your breath away. Read the rest of this entry »

Lonely in a Crowd: A Holiday at the Moomers

Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »
Photo: Ashley Meyer

Photo: Ashley Meyer

By Michael Workman

By the time we manage the hour-and-a-half El-train-to-bus junket from Lincoln Square to Hyde Park, we’re already gripped with that particular combination of fatigue and active nerves usually reserved for those nights we’ve spent snorting lines of crushed Adderall washed down with too much booze. But tonight. Well. It’s New Year’s Eve, after all, and there’s plain cause for our anxious jubilation.

Our shadows stretch up the walk ahead, slowly splitting and shrinking beside, then behind us as we make our way up the 5500 block of Hyde Park Boulevard to Moomers. Not the ice cream from Michigan, but the Hyde Park institution, named after a founding tenant’s beloved feline pet, a name passed down, same as the hideout that preserves its legacy, tenant to tenant, generation to generation.

I’m with Cinnamoan Smidge, who I’ve been dating-slash-sleeping-with on and off again between bouts of mutual, relationship-ending, suicidal indulgences for roughly the last nine months. We’re here tonight because a friend of Cinnamoan’s rang up about the party, with whom she keeps texting as we stroll, finally locating the correct house number. And there it is, marked right on the buzzer, “Moomers,” it says, plain as day. We buzz, I count half a dozen heart beats, and we’re admitted. Inside, we’re greeted by Tyrone (not his real name), a young, wiry-framed guy in suit jacket and fedora who administers the place. Hugs and handshakes, and we slip out of our jackets and scarves, depositing them on the already-crowded coat rack just inside the door, opposite the large, dormant Tesla coil. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of the Network: Give Before You Take

Education/Training, Hyde Park No Comments »

“It’s not what you know but who you know.” We all know this saying, and we all realize how important networking is to getting a job, changing careers and even being more successful in our current jobs. With few exceptions, my fellow alums from thirty years ago credit much of their success to relationships they have built and nurtured throughout their careers.

For those soon to launch careers with a degree in hand, what is the best way to build a strong network? A common practice is to target influential people in one’s industry, and try to connect with them with the thought of “what can this person do for me?” A better idea is to turn this approach on its head. In his groundbreaking book, “Give and Take,” Adam Grant presents compelling evidence that “givers,” or those who approach life attempting to help others succeed, in the end benefit far more than either “takers” or “matchers.” He points out, and backs up his claim with data, that the best networkers in fact do not think about how they will benefit from assisting others. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: If It Ain’t Fixed…

Checkerboard City, Green, Pilsen No Comments »
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Anderson, Mendez, and Lopez/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

The amount of biking in the U.S. more than doubled during the aughts, from 1.7 billion trips in 2001 to four billion in 2009, according to the League of American Bicyclists, a national advocacy group. One of the great things about this boom is that it has created a broader demographic of people who ride.

In a report published last year, the League found that cycling saw the fastest growth over the last decade among Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans, from sixteen percent of all bike trips in 2001 to twenty-three percent in 2009. The study also found that eighty-nine percent of people aged eighteen to twenty-nine have a positive view of cyclists, and seventy-five percent of them feel that improved conditions for biking would make their community a better place to live.

The recent trend toward fixed-gear bicycles and single-speed bikes with freewheels has helped fuel the growing popularity of biking among urban youth in Chicago and other big cities. These sleek, minimalist rides are affordable, fast and easy to customize, which makes them an appealing gateway to cycling for young people who, a decade ago, might have been more interested in buying four wheels than two. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: No Longer Marooned

Checkerboard City, Green, Hyde Park No Comments »
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The new promenade on 58th, across the street from Robie House/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

I’ve long thought that the gray, Gothic confines of the University of Chicago were designed as a fortress against the outside world. However, in recent years, the school has made an effort to physically open up its grounds to the rest of the Hyde Park community, as well as to connect various parts of the campus that had previously seemed remote, by creating better spaces for pedestrians.

Several construction projects have improved connectivity and made it safer and more pleasant to walk across the 211-acre campus. Meanwhile, sections of roadway have been converted into attractive walkways and plazas, which encourage spontaneous interactions between students, employees and neighborhood folks. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: South Siders Need a Sidewalk

Checkerboard City, Green, Southeast Side No Comments »
Lucas and Flemings at Rosebud Farm Stand. Photo: John Greenfield

Deloris Lucas and Victor Maurice Flemings Sr. at Rosebud Farm Stand/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

“Altgeld Gardens is really secluded,” Active Transportation Alliance community liaison Cynthia Bell recently told me. “It’s like its own city.” The area, which includes the housing project of the same name, plus the Concordia Place, Riverside Village and Golden Gate subdivisions, is located by a bend in the Calumet River on the Far South Side, surrounded by industrial land and isolated from other neighborhoods.

Bell has been assisting the local Safety Transportation Advisory Council, residents who want to improve conditions for walking, biking and transit use. “They have a lot of issues with the built environment, like missing sidewalks and crosswalks,” she said. “They’re really underserved.”

Deloris Lucas, a former Chicago Public Schools employee and longtime Golden Gate resident who’s spearheading the council, has been working hard to change that. In particular, she’s upset that 130th Street, the interstate-like roadway that walls in the community from the north, has no sidewalk. That forces people walking to Rosebud Farm Stand, the area’s only source for fresh produce and healthy groceries, from the west, to trudge along a narrow, muddy dirt trail by the side of the road. The store is located at 525 East 130th. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chinatown 5K (July 12, 2014)

-Neighborhood/Suburb, Chinatown, Running No Comments »
Photo: Zach Freeman

Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: “The show will go on!” the race director’s voice booms excitedly from the speakers as groups of runners huddle together under various overhangs and race tents, delaying their inevitable exposure to the pouring rain. It’s just before 8am on Saturday morning and it has been raining steadily for hours with no signs of letting up. And still, almost seven-hundred runners are gathered in Chinatown Square to tackle the Chinatown 5K. Briefly, the rain does lighten just before the official start, but then it comes back full force within a few minutes, making for a very wet street race.

But despite the weather—or, perhaps, because of it—a jovial atmosphere permeates the entire race, with more starting-line chatter and looks of excitement than I’ve seen at any race outside of an obstacle run (where the joviality is almost more important than the run itself). “Maybe we don’t even need to put water in the cups!” remarks the race director, describing the water stations along the course. She’s not far from the truth. I’m completely soaked within seconds of checking my gear (along with my precious umbrella) and approaching the starting line. Read the rest of this entry »