Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Isn't Anyone Outside?

Alright here’s another topic of me still trying to adjust to suburban life, y’all know I’m proudly from the far south side of Chicago, it’s an urban environment but it was where I grew up and things are different there, so there are several things that I can’t understand now that I live in Will County in the suburbs.
This week is: Why isn’t there anyone outside?
Now that the weather is warmer and I live in a nice, safe, suburban sub division but I rarely see people outside and the few I do are old people (probably originally from the city like me), I can’t get my head around this.
I see a couple of guys in their garage, working on a car, fiddling around with tools, they have the radio on, but maybe one guy per block, back in my old ‘hood that was everyone’s old man and usually a few guys in there with him. Hell, we had old man Rick who would sit in his garage alone playing solitaire on a card table while sitting on a metal folding chair, if you drove or walked by, you’d stop and talk to him for a while and then he’d go back to his card game.
And I rarely see kids out, man for me (and my wife), our parents would put us out the house. I grew up across the street from a cul-de-sac (affectionately called the Circle), and it was maybe a car an hour would drive through there so it was perfect for games, baseball, football, basketball (we put a hoop on the turn around sign), street hockey, skateboarding, you name it, we played it and sometimes we just make stuff up cause our parents weren’t letting us back in the house.
But it wasn’t just kids out, our dads were in the yard or garage, our moms would be on the porch talking or reading a book, people were walking down the streets (we actually had sidewalks on both sides of the streets unlike the suburbs), and they were friendly and would stop and talk.
I don’t mean to make it sound like Sesame Street or Mayberry, but on days when it was warmer than 45 and definitely once spring came around like now after a tough winter, man everybody was out.
Once I got older, you’d either ride your bike to maybe Blue Island on summer days just hang out in someone’s back yard or once we hit high school age we’d work on a car or clean a car and watch the girls walk past, the smaller kids took over the circle and would play there, still the older folks were out talking or whatever, someone had BBQ cooking and this could be a week night.
My wife & I take an after dinner walk several times a week and throughout the whole subdivision and we see a handful of people, otherwise, don’t see nobody, but you see a huge TV on inside, a flat screen big enough you can see across the street.
Is that what this is, people sitting watching TV, online or playing video games? Hell when I had a working laptop, even in the city, I’d take an extension cord and headphones and go outside or charge the battery and go to the park. When I was in a beach volleyball league at North Ave beach ten years ago I’d go early and take the laptop (but watch the fine women walking past too), or have a walkman or now with iPods listen to some music.
Hell I take part of my lunch outside at work now and walk around the parking lot and then stay out for a minute looking at the internet on my phone. I guess  my parents just programmed me to go outside when the weather is halfway decent.
But maybe I’m different (or just an old city guy), I am an Eagle Scout so I’ve camped, hunted and still love to fish. Anything outside I’m good for and don’t get me starting on grilling and that’s something else I don’t see, people have Food Network TV worthy grills but you don’t smell food cooking. I have a several grills and BBQ pits and several times a week (even on work nights), I’m out there roasting some meat.
I just don’t get it but life is more than sitting inside starting at some TV or computer screen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will County Rant

Usually this blog is about me explaining something or discussing politics but today I will vent so just hear me out. This is for my neighbors, that’s right Broken Arrow subdivision & the city of Lockport, this one’s for you.
This is all about being responsible and common sense (or the lack there of), you hear people talk about having values, we hear it at work constantly, you hear politicians say it (but not live it), I don’t buy it, values my black foot, call it what it is, being a responsible adult, here we go.
So today is trash day, now remember I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in the city of Chicago, so this whole thing of rolling out a trash can to the curb and having a second can for recycled stuff is new to me.
See in the city we have these things called alleys, little streets in between the blocks and that’s how you get in and out of your garage and where your garbage can is permanently located and the garbage men come down the alley and empty the garbage cans (plus you can leave your bulk items out there and the scrap man will come get it), nothing for recycled stuff (it all goes in the garbage can), just one or more cans filled to the rim with trash, sometimes your neighbors run out of room and put their trash in your cans, that’s fine, you’ll do the same to them the next week, the south side way.
Now I’m sure the reason suburbs don’t have alleys is because although no one lives in alleys (well unless you count rats, bums, stray dogs and cats), they are nasty, dark, smelly and nothing good happens back there but at least your garbage can stays out there and isn’t like mine, stanking up the garage while I wait for trash day to take that disgusting thing out. Because of course in our subdivision there are rules about only having the cans out on trash day or the night before.
So last night it stormed like hell out by us and some of my neighbors (yeah I’m talking to you, the Hoffmans who live next door to me), put the trash out last night and of course the storm whipped their garbage all over my lawn and down the street. Not to mention that old couch they put out there as well.
See where we live there is bulk pick up for trash (it was only once a year in the city, you could find some good stuff out in the alley that week), but you have to call to arrange a bulk pick up. I doubt if that dense, music blasting moron with his three wild kids and constantly screaming wife that lives next door to me did that. So now there’s an old nasty couch in his driveway bring down my property value, thanks idiot.
But they weren’t the only ones who didn’t think and put out trash, boxes and bags out and then a windy thunderstorm hits, hey genius, check the 6 P.M. news, look at Tom Skilling on Facebook, check your phone, there’s weather updates everywhere, that way the next morning the rest of us don’t have to drive through an obstacle course of rubbish through the subdivision, bunch of bozos.
And now we are gonna get deep in the crap, literally. I don’t own a dog, never have but maybe later on but how hard is it to pick up after him? The golf course we live on is not your animals toilet, granted I don’t play golf but I know some of the guys up there (its where we had our wedding reception), but I eat up there (the food is awesome and a good deal), we also vote up there and have homeowners association meeting there too.
Look, just take a Jewel bag with you and pick up after your dog so my back yard isn’t a mine field of dog droppings. Some people just walk their dog around the subdivision (or let him run free), and let this animal drop duces the whole way out and back to their place and the rest of us have to smell it and deal with it. Really is it that hard, group of jackwagons.
Back when I lived in the city I had someone use my front yard for their dogs commode, it was messing with my lawnmower & wrecking my boots. Finally I caught her one day and told her, if I saw her and the dog in my yard one more dagone time, I was gonna go to her front yard and use the bathroom myself (number 2), right then & there. That ended that problem.
But people are so sensitive where we live they’d probably call the cops on me.
And on to the homeowners association (HOA), so this is a new concept to me too, in the city you have block club, a few concerned people and they put a silly sign at the end of the street but throw a great summer party where we all bring out our grills and cook in the street and kids play everywhere and then play music late into the night, pretty cool.
HOA not so much, first no one goes to the meetings (granted I missed the last two), and we have 87 units in the HOA and usually 4-5 people show up and of that, 3-4 are just there to gripe about what I spent the last page ranting about. That’s not what HOA meeting is about, you have beef with someone or something, call the property management  company who will relay it to the HOA board, call the cops, hell call me I’ll go over there and whoop someone’s behind but don’t bust up HOA meeting because of some okey doke that should be handled some other time. HOA meeting is for serious homeowner business, it’s not your sounding wall for your neighborly issues, as my dad says “Take your problems to the Lord”.
Okay this last part is for our town, that wonderful fair city of Lockport. Its town motto should be the “Village of Deferred Maintenance “. I don’t know why we even have a public works department, they define “city worker” (Streets & Sanitation guys in Chicago could learn something from these guys), a few street patches here, but street lights out, pavement all busted up and the worst water in Will County.
Have you been to my place and seen that liquid coming out of the faucet? You should see how my dishwasher looks and the dishes in it. The dishes go in cleaner than they come out, man spots for days, a pack of Dalmatian Dogs has less spots than my dishes. That water is country bad, see coming from Chicago (who has the best water in the world,) and then coming to this. I had to be told about salt and the water softner, I’m still trying to figure out how that works and water is so bad in our area, every gas station, convenience store and grocery store sells salt for the softner.
But the city didn’t upgrade the wells (one went out a few months back), and now they are in EPA violation and have to upgrade and our water bills have doubled. It would be cheaper to buy Lake Michigan water from Oak Lawn or New Lenox but our city likes to keep it cheap and do things themselves. Hence they didn’t do maintenance because it was cheaper not to, they actually admitted that.
Try that with your own house, don’t fix stuff because its expensive and then what, when you do have to make repairs , its than much higher. I don’t know how the city leaders feed and clothe themselves with that intellect or lack there of.
Thanks for hearing me out, next time we’ll get back to serious issues. Hey by the way, if I haven’t convinced you how great my area is, the house next door to me is for sale (no not the clown with the couch in the driveway and the garbage in the street, this is on the other side of me), then you get to hear me rant all the time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day

Top of the Morning To Ya !

It's St Patrick’s Day which is a big deal here in Chicago, we dye the river green (in contrast of the dark brown it usually is), and as my wife says “Everyone is wee bit Irish on St Patrick’s Day”.
See of all the immigrants that came to Chicago and worked their butts off, the Irish are who gained power and to this day run Chicago.

The south side especially is the heart of the Irish, areas like Bridgeport (around US Cellular Field, home of the White Sox), Canaryville, going far south to Mount Greenwood and of course Beverly are home to the Irish.

I went to an Irish Catholic high school (Brother Rice), and it was a microcosm of the city of Chicago, there were many different ethnic groups, yet the Irish ran the place, the Irish Christian Brothers taught us and with the campus on the end of Mount Greenwood and just outside the lines of Irish suburbs Oak Lawn & Evergreen Park, I got a good feel early on of how things go and how this holiday is no small potatoes.

The crown jewel of St Patrick’s Day on the south side USED to be the south side Irish parade, always held the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day, going south on Western Ave (the heart of Beverly), from about 95th Street to 115th Street and then it overflowed a few blocks as well.

This parade was considered the real St Patrick’s Day parade by southsiders (in contrast to the downtown parade the weekend of St Patrick’s), and for most of its 30 years it was a tradition held high by all the politicians who walked in it and people who went to celebrate Irish culture.
However in its last few years it became a rowdy drunken fest by outsiders who came to drink, trash the area and misrepresent the south side and Irish tradition.

I know this because I grew up about a mile & a half off the parade route and near the end of the parades’ life, we couldn’t head west near the route because of the congestion and debauchery on parade day.

The parade has since been replaced the last two years by a St Patrick's weekend fest of culture (based at the Beverly Arts Center, 111th & Western), that is more family friendly in the day time with a more adult atmosphere in the evening but not as popular as the old parade.

But I know of some other St Patrick's celebrations, the first weekend in March is the Manhattan St Patrick's celebration with a parade (which my wife's family takes part in in Will County), and there is music, food and drinks all weekend.

Also Plainfield & Tinley Park have parades and fests to celebrate St Patrick (I believe the Plainfield fest is the first weekend in March and Tinley Park is the second weekend in March), both are more controlled than the old South Side Irish parade and seem to have really gained popularity in the years since the south side parade has been gone.

But here's some more info about St Patrick, March 17th is actually his death day, he lived back in the 4th Century AD and this day is a holy day of obligation back in Ireland because he was guy who fought for Christianity and taught religion to many and basically kept Christianity going in a time of war and wide spread paganism.

Here’s a prayer he composed, called St Patrick’s Breast Plate:

I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.
I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices.

To also celebrate St Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, check out some good Irish Literature (I studied British & Irish Literature as part of my English Degree from DePaul University), my favorite modern (living) author is Shelagh Delaney, check out her short novel “ A Taste Of Honey”, great story you can read in one afternoon and a nice little independent movie that was made as well.

And then there are the two greats of Irish Literature, William Butler Yeats & James Joyce.

William Butler Yeats has such great poems but if you want a great romantic read, check out his letters to Maud Gonne whom he was infatuated with, the writings they had back and forth are as good as any love literature you will find.

Lastly, the great James Joyce best known for his retelling for Ulysses but for a shorter and more powerful read, check out his collection of short stories called Dubliners and the last story is called “The Dead”, and the great filmmaker John Huston made that into his last film, its an excellent dark work, read the book first then check the film, you won’t be disappointed.

Be safe this St Patrick's Day and if you are in the Homewood area on Saint Patrick's evening the Illinois State Police will be doing road checks on Halsted right off of 294, so be careful.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NCAA Men's Baskeball Tournament AKA Brackets

Welcome to NCAA Basketball Tournament 101
So for the past few days and for the next three weeks you will hear all about the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), College Basketball Tournament and people will talk about their “brackets” and on Thursday March 17th & Friday March 18th, CBS, TBS, TNT & Tru TV will have college games on non stop and your reguarly scheduled programming will be on hiatus.
So what is all of this?
Okay it’s the playoff system for Division 1 College basketball (the largest schools), for which there are 346 schools and which the exception of a handful (four), they all play in a conference (Big 10, Big 12, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, etc), thus the best 68 teams are selected and basically they are rated from top to bottom and spend the next month playing one & done (no best of 3, you win your game you move on to the next round, you lose, your butt goes home), games in neutral sites to see who the best is.
So how are they selected? Well if you win your conference, for which there are 32, that’s an automatic invitation (to what people call the Big Dance another name for the tournament), otherwise you need to be one of the best remaining teams for which a committee at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis (it’s a huge and nice facility), decides by secret vote on Selection Sunday (today March 13th), and thus they also decide the match up of who plays who, when and where, thus your bracket. You can get online or in your local newspapers.
Now new this year is the “First Four”, basically an expanded version of the “play in game” that we’ve had since 1999, hence how we are now up to 68 teams from the 66 & 64 of the past 20 years or so. Usually these are very small schools that won their conference championship and are basically cannon fodder for some behemoth like Duke or Kansas.  These games are Tuesday the 15th & Wednesday the 16th.
See the bracket goes like this, the better you are, the higher your seed, so if you are Duke and are the top seed which is decided by your wins & losses, the strength of schedule (also called SOS, if you played tomato cans like Eastern Missouri Welders Institute or good schools like North Carolina), and RPI (which is an overall number of your season, good wins, bad losses, everything).
So the lowest seed is 16 and the highest 1. That’s just for one quarter of the bracket (remember 68 teams), there are four regions, all filled with teams ranked 1 through 16. And for the record, a number 16 seed has never beaten a number 1 seed (but two number 15 seeds have knocked off number 2 seeds), but Slippery Rock College is hoping one day to knock off Syracuse, it will happen eventually, so will the Cubs winning the World Series.
Anyway, the first group of games is this week (after the First Four), the 17th & 18th, that’s the first round, by Saturday morning we will be down to 32 teams left standing and then Saturday & Sunday another round of games, and by Sunday night they will be 16 left, thus the proverbial “Sweet Sixteen”. Games then resume the next Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th  and another round Saturday the 26th & Sunday the 27th and then you have 8, hence  the “Elite Eight” and another round of games on Sunday and you have four, which aptly called “Final Four”.
Got that?
Then on to your championship round the next weekend April 2nd & 3rd a game each day until there are 2 left and you then have your championship game Monday night April 4 and that’s the winner of all of this.
You still with me?
Yeah it’s a lot of basketball and a lot of betting, you will see online pools, contests and everything else for your bracket with all kinds of prizes. ESPN now calls this “Bracketology”, its not really a science, the key to having a good bracket is knowing how teams match up against each other, there will be upsets of good teams and some surprises, its not just filling out the best four teams to go to the final four only happened once I believe in 2006 and I think in 2004, only of the top seeds made it. Its part luck, part knowledge but a lot of fun games.
I love the college game because these are kids playing their butts off, no million dollar contracts (at least not for the players, the schools make tons off of this), just good, hard basketball. Though lets be honest most of these kids playing will never get to the NBA, a few will, quite a few may play over seas or in the NBA Developmental League (minor league), or some other lower level professional basketball.
Unfortunately for my Alma mater DePaul University has a bad record (well bad memories), in the NCAA tournament, our Final Four appearance in 1979 was marred by Indiana State and Larry Bird playing one of the best performances by a college player ever.  And then in 1981 when we were a top seed, St Joe's took us out in the second round (back when there was a first round bye) and we’ve never been past the Sweet Sixteen since. We has several appearances in the NCAA Tournament in the 80’s and a few in the 90’s but only two this century. In 2000 we at the tournament long enough to have a cup of coffee and played one game and was gone and in 2004 we stayed around for the second round (after being Dayton in OT in the first round), and was sent home by Kansas.
If you haven’t noticed there is an emotion tied to college sports that you don’t see with the professional sports, first you have a bunch of screaming college kids, but people take their Alma maters seriously (I do, despite how bad they are 7-24 this year, ouch), in fact at most games, the students have a cheering section but most of the people there are not students. I know I used to have season tickets for DePaul basketball (after I graduated), it’s a lot of fun (though not cheap), and though you’re not trying to relive your college years (at least I wasn’t, I was commuter student working my way through college, nothing glorious about that), just enjoying good basketball. And reconnecting with people and meeting new alums.
The highlight of having my season tickets, which I had a full or partial package for three years was being able to meet one of the greatest coaches of all time Coach Ray Meyer (who after every home game would sit with alumni and talk about the game in his wheelchair in the concourse of Allstate Arena), who coached DePaul for 40 years from 1942- 1984 and it was his son Joey who took over the program and kept it up for a while but eventually threw it in Lake Michigan and its never had any substantial success on a consistent level since. 
I was DePaul when Joey coached (that’s using the term loosely), and it was bad, 7-23 my middle two years and man I can tell you some stories not fit for this public blog, that’s something I’ll talk about at a bar over some beer (which is also a great way to watch the NCAA tournament), anyway, you see the passion I have for NCAA basketball, its something that I’ve loved ever since the great DePaul teams with Mark Aquirre Terry Cummings, Tyrone Corbin & Dave Corzine, maybe one day we’ll get that back, maybe.
Regardless, for any sports fan, the next few weeks are some of the greatest on the sports calendar.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Once in a while as part of this blog I will talk about religion, my Catholic faith in particular, not trying to convert the masses, just do a little explaining but yeah, we gonna have a some church up in here.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and thus begins the 40 Days of Lent which lead up to Easter Sunday.
Now the best part of this is the day before Ash Wednesday which in Louisiana is called “Fat Tuesday”. Since Lent is a time of sacrifice (I’ll get to that later), you live it up (PARTY!!!), the day before, you may have heard or been to “Mardi Gras” down south in and around New Orleans or even experienced Carnival down in Brazil. Same thing, the party before the holy time.
The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus was in the desert as a means of self sacrifice and also being tempted by the devil. Check out the Bible book of John chapter 12, he tells it way better than I can.
Thus during this 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, Catholics are supposed to give something up, something substantial, like my wife plans to give up fried foods (man is that a challenge for me), one of her cousins plans to not to snack between meals and in the past he & his wife gave up meat. It’s supposed to be a personal challenge to sacrifice and be like Jesus and become a better person as we prepare for Easter, the holiest part of the Catholic calendar.
Now as a rule we are supposed to eat meat any of the Fridays in Lent, as well on Ash Wednesday, this goes back to the rule when there was no meat eating any Fridays all year long but this changed along with many other things back in the 1960’s under the Vatican II rules. Still we hold the meatless rule for Fridays only during Lent, hence why you will see churches, Knight of Columbus (a catholic mens group of service), American Legion & VFW Halls have fish frys on Fridays during Lent. We can eat seafood but no chicken, pork or red meat, trust me, it’s still a sacrifice and I love me some seafood.
Some people like my aunt completely fast and don’t eat on Good Friday (the last Friday of Lent, the day Jesus was crucified), but with so many workplaces no longer giving that as a day off and we have to work, its almost impossible to pull that off. That is the saddest day on our calendar, the church is not decorated, there is mass that day but its bare bones, no music, just quiet praying and reflection.
So basically Lent starts out with Ash Wednesday, and it’s a holy day of obligation which means you need have your butt in church. And we have ashes on put on our foreheads by the priest as a means of a sign to all that we have started our journey of Lent.
The ashes come from last years palms (leaves a palm tree like down south), that are given out on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), and they represent when Jesus came in to Jerusalem in a parade and the people waved palms as he came into town. Yes we receive palms in church that week and what are not passed out, are saved and burned by the priests the next year for Ash Wednesday.
So the point of Lent is to prepare for Easter which is basically Jesus was killed on Good Friday and then he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. His resurrection as it’s called, is what we prepare for, so we can welcome him back and become better Catholics.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I Love Chicago

Today is the City Of Chicago's Birthday, started in 1834 so here's an ode to it.
Having finished up with the mayoral elections its time to take a long look at the city of Chicago and not necessarily who will run it. But the first requirement for any mayor of my hometown is that you have to love this town, unapologetically, equally and with some serious pride.
In case if you wondered, yes I love Chicago, despite not living there for the past 3 years and yes I wouldn’t mind being mayor. There’s a lot of history, power & prestige with that gig. Most of us who follow and admire politics dream of ruling that great city from the fifth floor of city hall. Great men have ruled the roost from there, most larger than life, Big Bill Thompson, Anton Cermak, Martin H. Kennelly, Richard J. Daley, Harold Washington & Richard M. Daley.
But back to the city, to be a successful mayor you have to know that city, only then can you appreciate it and begin to love it. My love starts with where, my life started on the south side. I was born on a side street (just like the old Sam & Dave song), 58th & Maryland at the University of Chicago. If you want to start with a great Chicago neighborhood, none greater than Hyde Park, with the U of C, home hood of President Obama (well technically Kenwood), more diversity, culture, parks, beauty and just over all neighborhood goodness than any other area. It’s the ideal big city neighborhood.
The best sunrise in the Midwest is driving east bound on 57th street (coming up to Lake Shore Drive), around 7:10 on a spring morning and seeing the sun slowly get out of bed on Lake Michigan. Used to see that every morning driving to DePaul, never get tired of it, ever. That is Hyde Park and Chicago at its most beautiful.
Then there is Lincoln Park where I went to college at DePaul University, believe it or not, its most elegant in the rain, walk down Belden east from Racine all the way to the lake (yes I have an affinity for water), and see the droplets fall between the trees and the brownstones, urban artwork. But also eat at the Bourgeois Pig CafĂ©, study at DePaul, get stuck in that infamous Fullerton Parkway traffic or deal with the drunks up and down Lincoln Ave on a Friday night but also visit that world famous zoo and just sit on the rocks at the North Ave beach and you’ll start to see what this city is about.
But you really wanna learn Chicago, get on some mass transit, the Metra Rock Island train (affectionally called “The Rock”), and you’ll see it all, downtown, south loop, Woodlawn (where my parents came from), Brainerd, Beverly, Morgan Park and all in between. It’s not all postcard pretty like Lincoln Park & Hyde Park, but this city for the large part, ain’t pretty, but it works and the beauty in that is way more than skin deep.
The CTA Red Line train is the best single route to see real neighborhoods and real people since “The Rock” doesn’t make many inner city stops (though 35th Sox Park is coming), so start at one end at the Old Dan Ryan El at 95th Street, don’t eat at the Maxwell Street Polish stand on 95th & State, (the indigestion is unreal), and ride north. This train goes right down the middle of I-94, at times 8 lanes of traffic (local & express), on either side as you are powered by the 3rd rail down the tracks, 87th, 79th and all the way to 35th Street (US Cellular Field home of the White Sox), you usually roll faster than the cars (especially during rush hour). Then onto Chinatown, 22nd (Cermak ), and down into the subway into downtown, State street is the best stop, right out near Jackson at DePaul’s downtown campus, you come up like a coal miner right into the busy heart of the city.
If you stay on the train it doesn’t come up until Fullerton, and thats Lincoln Park, more DePaul University and then on Addison where the Cubs play, and then its past Ravenswood until the end of the city at Howard. Then you’re in Rogers Park, almost to Evanston, another diverse area, good food, good urban area but like with most of the city, watch yourself, life is fast on the street.
West Pullman is where I grew up, past the historical homes of George Pullman’s former company town, just north of the sleepy bedroom suburbs of Calumet Park & Blue Island and south and east of idyllic Beverly. Yeah Halsted Street is rough, has been for over 20 years at 123rd Street.  119th Street has a great new library and a planned new Salvation Army community center but its no joke around there and especially going east into Roseland.
Go west on 119th Street to Marshfield at 1-57 there is a shopping center with Jewel, Target and other shops. But that will always be the old Libby’s plant.
I grew up back east on Morgan Street, there was a steel mill at the end of the block, International Harvester’s plant was three blocks away on 120th and Dutch Boy’s operations were right at the Metra Electric (Illinois Central), tracks on 121st & Peoria. It was a true working class area, old Polish hood before the change in identity in the early 80’s to a minority based community, then down hill in the 90’s with violence, street gang dominance, drug sales and people not keeping up their houses.
Still on a clear summer day the sun comes through the maple trees on 123rd street from Green Street to Sangamon all the way to the Bishop Park Apartments on Ada, the birds sing and that established community still has some rugged brilliance, just be sure to watch your back as you check it out, homeboys will get you if you’re not watching your surroundings.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Politics vs Real Life

For those of you remember my blog starting in 2004, this is like the third reincanation of it. Just me ranting about stuff, now from a suburban and married man's point of view. And without further ado.

I'm passionate about politics, can't help it growing up on the south side of Chicago, when you can vote multiple times in a day and your dead relatives still have valid voters cards, it makes you interested in how "The Machine" works. I was born while Richard J. Daley was still in office and the first alderman I remember was Wilson Frost (34th Ward, first boss of Gery Chico), and I grew up in the second congressional district, formally represented by Gus Savage, Mel Reynolds and lastest by Jesse Jackson Jr. None of those cats could keep it in their pants.

Despite that south side upbringing, I'm not a straight ticket democrat, I vote for the best person running, as long as they are not in alliance with the Tea Party. Here in Homer Township (eastern Lockport), this is Tea Party Central, I wish those people would do their homework on political history, I also wish they would be fair and would have been half as hard on George W. Bush as they are with Barack Obama, I don't agree with everything of the current administration but understand the man has a tough job ahead and is doing what he can.

So my issue today is with the Wisconsin & Indiana lawmakers that have abandoned their states and are hanging out here in Illinois because they don't like what's being voted on in their home states.

Look my parents were union members, my mother was a union delegate for years and has been involved in the retired union board. I know the good, bad & ugly of organized labor. My mother walked the picket lines 10 times for the Chicago Public Schools in 35 years, that's dedication to your representation. So I don't question her loyalty, I do question if she got equal hard work from her union.

My father also 30 year union member said the union was only good if you got in trouble (which he did a few times), but I've never been protected by organized labor in any job. We tried to get representation for my work group with United Airlines (SAM, salary & management of accounting workers), but never had the votes to get organized representation.

Unions are important, sometimes they are all working people have against unfair work practices, we wouldn't have 8 hour works days, 5 days work weeks or any other perks without the tireless work of organized labor. Men like Samuel Gompers & Cesar Chavez gave their lives for the rights of labor and to have working conditions that we take for granted.

But when do unions cross the line and are more about power than protection? And when their costs are prohibitive of the tax payers whom support them?

This needs to be debated by law makers, instead of running from the fight. I think the Wisconsin Governor seems to be on an ego trip at best, a union breaker at worst. But he needs to be confronted by law makers. If the very union members that are affected by this new legislation walked off the job they would face consequences despite the union having their back.

Wisconsin lawmakers can't effectively represent the very people that elected them by hiding out in a Quality Inn in Rockford. They need to face the music and deal with this situation. We live in a democracy, I understand they may not have the votes to overturn this bad legislation but at least it can be debated and their citizens wouldn't be alone protesting in the Capitol where the lawmakers should be there on their behalf.

Same for the Indiana lawmakers now in so called exlile in Champaign. If I didn't show up at my job because its hard (and it is), then I'd be shown the door.

Life is no easy, jobs are even harder and to quote Chicago Black Esemble playwright Jackie Taylor "Sometimes life kicks you in the ass". You just have to be a strong person and deal with it.

Democracy has its flaws but it beats having a monarch any day of the week. But to have democracy in action, the people elected to office need to represent their people, in their state. Not showing up for the fight is just letting down the people who need them the most.