Street Smart Chicago

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 »

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 »

What Rape Culture? A Conversation with Kate Harding and Anne K. Ream

Essays & Commentary 3 Comments »

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Rape is everywhere today. Pick up any newspaper, any magazine—the new issues of Rolling Stone and In These Times, a recent Time magazine cover story, this publication—and you’ll see high-profile coverage of the rape-culture crisis in America. From the alcohol-saturated dormitories of our citadels of higher-education to the shadowy confessionals of a pedophiliac priesthood to controversies over HBO’s top-rated “Game of Thrones,” gender-based violence is certainly not a new issue. But perhaps the amount of attention being paid, not just from the media but even the president of the United States, an outgrowth of the unwillingness of its survivors to remain silent any longer, represents its twilight, or at least movement in the right direction. Anne K. Ream and Kate Harding are both Chicago writers, activists and, both rape survivors. Ream is the founder of the Voices and Faces Project, a nonprofit committed to documenting the stories of those who have suffered gender-based cruelties, and the author of the new book “Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors.” Harding is a prominent essayist and lecturer on body image and rape culture and the author of the forthcoming book this December, “Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do About It.” We conducted a spirited conversation over much of a week via email on this most universal and urgent of topics. (Brian Hieggelke) Read the rest of this entry »

Hack Attack: In Taxi vs. Uber, the Drivers Are Sidelined Says an Ex-Cabbie

Essays & Commentary, Transit 2 Comments »
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Illustration: Dmitry Samarov

By Dmitry Samarov

A lot has been written in the last couple years about ride-share services like Uber threatening the livelihood of cab drivers. In most of these articles Uber, Hailo, Sidecar, et al are pitted against local taxi companies like Yellow and Carriage. What is rarely made clear is that none of these companies—ride-share or traditional taxi—actually employ any drivers. So while they fight it out in the courts about regulations and who can and cannot get what part of the transportation market, the people doing the actual driving aren’t being represented by either side.

In 1993—when I became a cab driver—calling a taxi was a simple business. You picked up your home or office telephone, dialed your favorite cab company, and waited outside for your ride to arrive. A cabbie had two choices for picking up fares: troll the streets for passengers or “play the radio,” which meant turning on the two-way and submitting to the whims of his company’s dispatcher. Picture Danny DeVito in “Taxi” for an idea of the types we had to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »

Walking on the Wild Side: A Former Prostitute Recalls Life on the Street

Essays & Commentary, Love & Sex No Comments »

 

Illustration: Kady Dennell

Illustration: Kady Dennell

By Anonymous

I am standing in front of The Closet, a gay bar on Broadway between Addison and Belmont. It is a warm summer night. I am twenty-four. I am going to get in the first car that stops. I am a sex worker, but right now, in the 1980s, we are called prostitutes and streetwalkers. If we do it in a hotel we are call girls. Interesting how long it took for people to realize this is a job and work.

Neither the johns nor the sex workers realize that in a few years a lot of our cruising will be online. We will be using Craigslist and cell phones to screen out nuts and psychos and cops. Hopefully. But the Internet has not been invented yet. Right now, if you are selling it or buying it, you have to rely on your street sense.

When you are out here, you don’t think about the danger. For one thing, I am high as a kite on meth. These guys are rude and repulsive, but I can enjoy myself because I am high. People without addictions don’t understand that there are three highs: the high; the high of knowing you’re going to get high; and the high of doing risky things while you’re high. Read the rest of this entry »

Change Your Life: Quit Smoking?

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

By Michael Workman

I’m trying to quit again and I’m not sure if I want to. That is to say, I know the why but not the how. How do I give up the longest relationship I’ve ever had? I first picked up a cigarette when I was sixteen. I remember walking through the neighbor’s yard next to my girlfriend Elizabeth’s house. I’d had sex for the first time ever with her a few months earlier, and she just now broke up with me to get back together with Lenny, the boy she lost her virginity to, and is chasing me across the yard, catching up with me just as I light one, and take my first drag. How appropriate that word, “drag.” I turn to look at her, curly red hair fanning out in the breeze at her shoulders as she lopes toward me, skin flush but pale, lips thin, determined. I manage to crack a grin just as she catches up with me, snatches the cigarette from my hand, throws it to the ground and wraps her arms around me. We cry.

That’s the tradeoff. Nearly thirty years later, I’m in Winnipeg, visiting my girlfriend Norma’s family for the first time. I’m sitting across from her at a table in the restaurant started by her father, a lush, converted train station. It’s the eve of New Year’s Eve. We talk about smoking, her curly black hair shudders as she gesticulates, studying me. Her sister, who owns the place, sits with us, and talk quickly turns to my quit attempt. “You have to let him do it when he’s ready,” says her sister. “How is it going to be different from when you tried last time?” asks Norma. “It’s not a process,” I try to explain, “it’s a struggle.” Everyone in my family smokes except my dad, I stammer. Aunts, uncles, grandparents. My mom sneaks occasionally. “This is the last generation that grew up when smoking was still socially acceptable, cool even.” I say. Norma’s dad died from smoking, and she starts feeling ganged up on. The conversation descends into an argument that ends in tears. I’m frustrated, leave to smoke. Read the rest of this entry »

Change Your Life: Bake a Pie

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

2013-05-19 18.34.06By Naomi Huffman

I’ve known how to bake my entire life, for so long, in fact, that I hardly remember being taught. Cookies, cakes, breads—oh, the breads: whole wheat loaves my mother would begin baking on Sunday mornings so that when we returned from morning services the entire house was filled with the aroma of it. I’d help her slice the loaves with the long, toothy bread knife we kept around for just this purpose, and we’d spread butter on the slices and eat them with pot roasts or white bean stew or chicken casserole.

But it was my grandmother who taught me to bake pies. She was known for her cherry pies, baked with the cherries she picked from the tree in her backyard; strawberry-rhubarb pies from the strawberry and rhubarb bushes grown in my family’s garden; sugar cream pies spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon; and apple and blueberry and blackberry and pecan…

I remember quite clearly the way she mixed the dough in a white Pyrex bowl with just a fork, and how she pressed the dough between wax paper to roll it out with a rolling pin. She taught me to coax the dough into a pie pan so it settled snugly against the curve of the glass. She taught me to flute the crust by pinching the dough between my index finger and thumb of my left hand, while using the index finger of my right hand to shape it. She taught me to keep the fruit from becoming too soft by placing slivers of butter on top of the fruit, beneath the crust. Works every time.  Read the rest of this entry »

Change Your Life: Acupuncture

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

By Burt Michaels

The afternoon before my son’s wedding, he said he was stressed out about the reception, and asked if I’d go somewhere with him. I figured he meant a bar or maybe a climbing wall, but instead he pulled up to an acupuncture clinic. I didn’t see what acupuncture had to do with his jitters, but figured it was just another side of Berkeley’s kooky culture, like organic tofu and Tibetan prayer flags.

Sure enough, the clinic was seventies redux, with subdued lighting, New Age music and cushy recliners. The acupuncturist asked what was ailing me. My first impulse was to reply, “Nothing,” but then the foot pain I’d suffered nightly ever since a less-than-stellar surgery a few years earlier popped in my mind. She said she’d work on it.

I anticipated needles plunging deep into my flesh like some sort of piercing Thai massage, but didn’t even feel them go in. I expected her to stick them in my foot, which she did—but also in my ear, wrists, belly, back-of-the-knee and other surprising spots. Laying there, I figured I’d soon get bored, but instead zoned out, and when she returned some half hour later to remove the needles, I felt like I’d had a great vacation. Read the rest of this entry »

Chronicles of Continuing Education: The Fable of the Lunchroom Lyceum

Essays & Commentary No Comments »

By Kenneth Preski

I had been seduced, and not with the care of a lover. Contemporary concerns, the practical circumstances of life, healthcare, bills, rent, everyday expenditures compelled me forward, salivating toward a paycheck dangled in front of me by a genericorporation. I shelved my education, my ideas for the future, my expectations, my goals, my preferences for my own existence. I stopped living so I could better my quality of life. At least I wasn’t alone.

Gathered at five plastic-coated tables, sitting atop scattered plastic chairs, were my compatriots in the corporate life. From the walls hung authentic art, prints with prices higher than our salaries, bland enough to match the dull decorative theme that encompassed the kitchen. An unspoken agreement was being acknowledged everyday of the week during the lunch hour: we were renting our time out to the highest bidder, though not toward any agreeable end. The business model was determined before our time, was beyond our control, and therefore not our concern. Ours was the inundated life, a wave of unreflective happenings to ride without end or care, so long as the bank account was padded, and we were paid to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

Change Your Life: Privacy Protection

Essays & Commentary, Technology No Comments »

By Emerson Dameron

According to MRI scans, the areas of the brain affected by social rejection are the same ones that process physical pain.

According to the webcomic Penny Arcade’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, “Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad.” There’s a lot of brutal rejection on the internet. And it doesn’t always stop there. There’s also invasion of privacy, character assassination and, occasionally, a threat of in-real-life physical pain.

In a long and highly confessional 2013 piece for the website Gawker, humor writer Jeb Lund describes returning from vacation to find voice messages from some people who obviously knew him through his posts on a then-popular comedy site. They included personal information, harassment, threats, and an offer to rape Lund’s wife. Read the rest of this entry »