Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: It’s Spring

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Well, it’s over, the fat lady has sung and the kinder, more sensitive Rahm has won another term. Chuy Garcia ran an honorable, honest campaign and honorable and honest gets you shit, and shoved in it—when it comes to Chicago politics.

No big deal. Baseball season started and it is still colder than a nun’s ass on Good Friday. On opening night the Cubs forgot that, after all of that Old Style, people would need to take a leak and started filling their beer receptacles with the personally brewed amber fluid. Jesus, shut it down to one bathroom and the whole park turns into “Lord of the Flies” in a blue ball cap.

Such are the pleasures of spring in Chicago. Not that my White Sox had it any better. Jeff Samardzija and the Sox bullpen got shelled in their first game in Kansas City 10-1, therefore making it hard to harass Cub fans about the rivers of piss over at the friendly confines. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Rickshaw Republic

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Wrigleyville No Comments »
Darren Hilton outside Wrigley Field. Photo: Peter Mueller

Darren Hilton outside Wrigley Field/Photo: Peter Mueller

By John Greenfield

“Some people think pedicabbers are nuisance, but we’re really only here to help people,” says Darren Hilton, forty-two. A former bicycle messenger, he’s been in the bike taxi business for five years. “As pedicab operators, our job is to give visitors red-carpet service and keep them coming back to Chicago.”

Hilton says Chicago’s pedicab ordinance, which passed City Council about a year ago, is too restrictive, and has led to some of his colleagues being slapped with thousands of dollars in fines. He has received a few $500 tickets himself.

The purpose of the local ordinance was to regulate what some officials saw as a somewhat anarchic industry. The law was introduced by 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, whose district includes Wrigley Field. Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly pushed to include geographic restrictions: pedicabbers are now banned from State and Michigan, between Congress and Oak, at all times. They’re also prohibited from working in the Loop during rush hours. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 16, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The California Gold Rush hit its peak between 1849 and 1855. Three-hundred-thousand adventurers flocked to America’s West Coast in search of gold. In the early days, gold nuggets were lying around on the ground in plain sight, or relatively easy to find in gravel beds at the bottom of streams. But later prospectors had to work harder, developing methods to extract the gold from rocks that contained it. One way to detect the presence of the precious metal was through the use of nitric acid, which corroded any substance that wasn’t gold. The term “acid test” refers to that process. I bring this to your attention, Aries, because it’s a good time for you to use the metaphorical version of an acid test as you ascertain whether what you have discovered is truly golden. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 9, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Uitwaaien is a Dutch word that means to go out for a stroll in windy weather simply because it’s exhilarating. I don’t know any language that has parallel terms for running in the rain for the dizzy joy of it, or dancing through a meadow in the dark because it’s such nonsensical fun, or singing at full volume while riding alone in an elevator in the mad-happy quest to purge your tension. But in the coming weeks, you don’t need to describe or explain experiences like this; you just need to do them. Experiment with giving your instinctive need for exuberance lots of room to play. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Reading

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By Jon Marchione. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)
readingmarchioneWEB

The Parking Game: There’s Lots of Competition in Wrigleyville. Lots and Lots.

City Life, Sports, Wrigleyville 2 Comments »
Photo: John Moss

Photo: John Moss

By John Moss

To check the pulse of the Chicago Cubs during any given season, you can take in a game at Wrigley Field or follow the team on television, through the box scores, or in the standings. You can glance up at the flag flying above the center field scoreboard as you pass by on the train, white for a victory that day, blue for a loss. Or, a less obvious yet still effective method, you can simply go by what the lots around the stadium, most of which are owned independently of the team, are charging for a place to park during a game.

Unlike at U.S. Cellular Field, the United Center and Toyota Park, where Chicago’s other professional sports teams play, no great sea of parking space exists outside Wrigley Field; instead, it is more like a cluster of small ponds. One-hundred years old last April, Wrigley is famously situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood. One moment you are walking north on tree-lined Sheffield Avenue past a row of three-flats, then all of a sudden there it is—an overwhelming burst of concrete and steel dwarfing you and everything in its shadow: a 40,000-plus-capacity baseball stadium.

At the time Wrigley was built, its location, a few steps from the El and within bustling turn-of-the-century Lakeview, made it ideal, Margaret Gripshover notes  in her essay, “Lake View, Baseball, and Wrigleyville: The History of a Chicago Neighborhood.” Most fans back then would have traveled to the game on foot or by train.

Wrigley Field is so old that only after automobiles became prevalent did its location become problematic. To say nothing of today, back in the early fifties the ward’s alderman cited parking and congestion as the main problems in the area, with the area around Wrigley, later to be known as Wrigleyville, being the worst. Any chunk of space could help ease the parking burden. A convent that once stood on the 1100 block of West Grace, a few blocks north of the stadium, allowed Cubs fans to park there on game days for a donation (though the operation later came under investigation, the Sisters having since contracted out to a private firm, for parking without a license). Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Long Cruel Line

Dime Stories 1 Comment »
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The Union Stock Yards have been closed since 1971. The century of suffering, human and animal, still bears much  historical currency. We are still thought of in literature as “Hog Butcher for the World.”

Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” brought great change in the meatpacking industry—until this great novel, nobody inspected the meat we ate. Six months after “The Jungle” was published, the U.S.D.A. started inspecting the slaughterhouses and the meat being issued by them. It was a grimy, filthy business; the Armours and Swifts built threadbare shanty-towns for their workers, mostly Czechs, Poles and Ukrainians. The conditions were so unsanitary that workers often brought home blood-borne diseases on their clothing and skin—there were no wash stations or showers. At one point the infant-mortality rate was so high that one out of three children did not live until their first birthday.

It was a cruel life imposed upon generations of immigrants, all the while building great fortunes for the Armours and Swifts. I write this because I realize this has always been a city of great cruelty—to people, to animals—and somebody always profited from this suffering. It’s a little late in the game to be surprised by this yet, still, I am. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 2, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Choconiverous” is an English slang word that’s defined as having the tendency, when eating a chocolate Easter Bunny, to bite the head off first. I recommend that you adopt this direct approach in everything you do in the coming weeks. Don’t get bogged down with preliminaries. Don’t get sidetracked by minor details, trivial distractions, or peripheral concerns. It’s your duty to swoop straight into the center of the action. Be clear about what you want and unapologetic about getting it. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Transit Platforms

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, City Life, Dime Stories, Green, News etc., Politics, Transit 4 Comments »
Rahm Emanuel and Chuy García. Photos: John Greenfield

Rahm Emanuel and Chuy García/Photos: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

As I’ve discussed with noted Rahm-hater Tony Fitzpatrick, the talented artist and storyteller whose column occupies the other side of this page, there are many issues to consider when deciding who to support in Chicago’s April 7 runoff election. These include jobs, education, crime, privatization, transparency and ethics, to name a few.

However, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of transportation when choosing whether to reelect Mayor Emanuel, or anoint his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García. The need for a safe, efficient transportation system is a huge factor in quality of life for all Chicagoans.

With that in mind, here’s a comparison of how the candidates differ on key traffic safety, walking, transit and biking issues. Note that this article does not represent an endorsement of either candidate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: School of Bike

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
Stan Treger bikes to class on the DePaul campus. Photo: John Greenfield

Stan Treger bikes to class on the DePaul campus/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

I kind of hate the phrase “bike season.” Thousands of Chicagoans get around on two wheels all year ‘round. Even in January, there’s still something of a bike rush hour on the Lakefront Trail and Milwaukee Avenue. And all you really need to keep cycling through the Chicago winter is a bike with fenders and lights, and more-or-less the same clothing you’d wear to stay warm while waiting for the bus.

That said, it’s been fun to observe how, following another cold, gray, snowy winter, this month’s sunshine and relatively balmy temperatures have inspired countless people to drag their dusty steeds out of basements. Like rivers swelling from the vernal thaw, the city’s bike lanes are starting to fill up with riders once again.

As part of this spring awakening, a dozen different higher learning institutions will be challenging their students, faculty, and staff to try bicycling to school. The second annual Bike2Campus Week takes place from April 20-24, highlighting cycling as a green, cheap, healthy and fun way to get around. Read the rest of this entry »