So You Want to Be a South sider?

Someone I know recently re-located to the south loop to be closer to work. She exclaimed, “I’m officially a Southsider now!”

Slow your roll girlfriend-I have devised a number of tasks one must complete before joining this special group. Some of these may sound crazy, but you wanted to live here. Until these missions are completed-you are just a visitor.

  • Visit 3 different carry-out Barbecue places. South of 26th Street
  • Go to Lumes on Western at least twice
  • Find the “South Chicago” neighborhood on a map
  • Be able to explain what the “IC” is.
  • Explain why there is a diagonal hump in the terrain just south of 76th and Jeffery
  • Eat two full size Chico-Sticks.
  • Identify at least 2 films that were shot in whole or part on the south side and identify the intersection where at least one scene was filmed. OTHER THAN THE BLUES BROTHERS.
  • Buy a slice of pizza with grape or “red” pop.
  • Start using the word “pop” if you don’t say it already.
  • Attend a barbecue hosted by someone who grew up in the south. You must stay at least 4 hours.
  • Have a slice of 7-Up cake at said barbecue.
  • Have someone’s Frappe (frap-pay) also at said barbecue. If you drink the whole cup, cheers! I can’t stand the stuff.
  • Eat a sauced wing dinner from Harold’s. Minimum of four wings, sauce is of your choosing but mandatory.
  • Explain the historical significance of Pullman.
  • Identify the location of the Civil War era Camp Douglas
  • Identify the location where H.H. Holmes’ “Murder House” stood
  • Name at least two films where shananigans took place on or in “L” cars. All activities will be considered-Shootouts, chases, canoodling….
  • Visit a business, get offended over the cleanliness, product selection or fact that you are being followed, then announce there’s no way in hell you’re going back to that business/location again.
  • Find Winneconna Parkway. Take a selfie when you get there.
  • Identify the difference between a “Chicago” bungalow and a bungalow.
  • Explain why some houses have small bridges connecting them to the sidewalk
  • Get a car-you’re screwed if you think you can depend on the CTA. Hahahah! Evil laughter….

A determined soul should be able to complete this in a few weeks. Good luck!



If you don’t know what this means, Google it or go to Urban Dictionary-better yet, skip Urban Dictionary-they probably have a much sinister definition.

Anyway, I wandered over to Powell’s on 57th street Monday and found a gem. I suppose it has been 20 years since I held a copy of Devereux Bowly Jr.’s “The Poorhouse: Subsidized Housing in Chicago, 1891-1976.

My first meeting with this out of print study was at the library at Northern Illinois University where I was studying (if that’s what you call it) Interior Architecture in the late 1990’s. I wish I noticed the subtle hint I should have switched to Urban Planning instead.

Anyway, the book combined my interests of Chicago History, South side history and housing issues that I began to notice as I got older. During my college years, the Lake Park Homes on the south lakefront were imploded live on television, kicking off the CHA’s Plan for Transformation. Bowly profiled the evolution of subsidized housing in the city from its beginnings as an interest of philanthropists to full involvement of local and Federal entities. Bowly also described in detail the successes and failures in housing efforts during this time.

Continue reading “SSDD…”

All Apologies

Dear (probably the only 2 followers I have):

I haven’t posted in almost 2 years-I am so sorry about that. I had an unexpected job loss in 2015 that turned things fairly upside down. I did start a separate blog I did not publish and used as a journal for the associated anguish and frustration I experienced. I think I am back though. I will be better.

What’s The Best Side?

Last Saturday, I went on a sound walk led by my brother, Norm. He is a sound artist; I think he may provide a better explanation of it than I can, so I’ll let you do the Googling. Anyway, he goes to different spots around the city to record as he walks. He has been to the Indiana Dunes, Jackson Park, Washington Park, the Near West Side and the West Side.

I decided not to do much last Saturday and was looking for some evening entertainment, so I agreed to go out on an East Garfield park sound walk. It was a muggy day, but overcast and breezy. I zig-zagged my way west from Bronzeville. I took Cermak to Ashland, then Ashland to Roosevelt and took that west to Kedzie. I saw some interesting things along the way. Two guys running in front of a parked police car with their lights on; I was afraid I was in the middle of an “incident” but it was a false alarm. At the same corner, a man was carrying what looked like a ten year old boy upside down. He didn’t appear to be in distress, but there wasn’t much I could have done-plus the cops were across the street.

I then headed north on Kedzie, it looked pretty bad. I am well aware of the reasons why, and I was happy to turn off it. Telling my mom, an old-timer about it, her reply was “Kedzie’s always been scary”. My destination was on Franklin Boulevard. Now since I claim to know so much about Chicago, I was surprised that I was not aware of this street. It appears to only exist between Sacramento and Central Park Avenues. It is quite a wide a green Boulevard, but the buildings on it are not very old. I arrived at the address I was to meet my brother at. I beat him there and discovered it was home to a white couple who also used the house as a gallery.

For you newbies, White people did live on the west side that we see today as predominantly black. The flight from the area started in the 1950’s and the riots of the 1960’s cleared out even more. Small businesses and major industries abandoned the area at the same time, and the city appeared to do nothing to keep the area from becoming a wasteland. So imagine my surprise when I pulled up to the house. The atmosphere was festive, as another art happening was taking place along with the sound walk. I kept my eye on the neighbors around because number 1, I was worried about a drive-by happening, and number 2, I wanted to know how they regarded the White folks.

Franklin looking west
Franklin looking west

Things were quite chill, my brother arrived and we mingled with other arrivals. A number of police cars were flying west on Franklin, which tingled my Spidey-senses. It turns out the “boom” sounds I heard prior to their appearance were not firecrackers after all. We took a walk around the block, being quiet as my brother instructed us. We all quietly spoke or smiled at neighbors crossing our paths. One of which was a guy with a little girl and Pit Bull. The pup was cute, but it was on a leash so I felt safe. We were on Ohio and St. Louis; two police SUV’s passed us, with quizzical stares. One made a u-turn and told us about the gunshots to the west and to be mindful of any activity.

Conservatory at sunset
Conservatory at sunset

We returned to the house as the sun was setting more. We then walked to the Lagoons at Garfield Park, which was where the police were headed earlier. It was uneventful and I got a few sunset photos, but my camera was not cooperating, so half of the photos came out fuzzy. My back had finally had enough for the evening, but we were returning to the art house already. By then it was just plain dark, but my brother was taking questions about the walk. I was getting anxious, because how many times do you hear “shots were fired into a group of people” on the news. I got my brother’s attention to see if he needed a ride to the bus stop. He said no, and I told him I had fun but I was out of there.


Round and Round

Hello All!

I just finished watching the latest installment of HBO’s Real Sports. Urban bike riding in the U.S was a featured segment. While it looks great, being a urban biker scares me. Bike lanes and bike sharing are spreading across the country and many city officials are trying to find a balance for bikers and vehicle drivers to coexist peacefully. The segment highlighted several accidents in which bikers were killed by vehicles and pedestrians were killed by bikers. No one was ever charged or convicted in those cases, which just adds to the devastation felt by the victims’ families.

Gumbel and crew traveled to Denmark, where riding one’s bike is part of the daily routine. The post war decades brought automobiles and congestion and the people revolted, bringing about the “bike culture”.

Next stop was Amsterdam, where 60% of the population used bicycles for transportation. However, so many people ride bikes, that parking garages and barges are used for the bicycles of commuters.

The show concluded that as the U.S’s population grows, vehicle congestion will worsen, and solutions being researched to incorporate more bicycling to get around. Many experts noted that most Americans see riding a bicycle a recreational activity and not a daily transportation option.

Here’s my take-

I live and drive in Chicago. I don’t want to be anywhere on the streets on a bike. There are just a handful of neighborhoods where one could bike from home to stores and transit links without encountering major arteries carrying dense and fast moving traffic. And retrofitting some streets here to add bike lanes have rubbed me the wrong way. As a driver, nothing good can come from reducing a two-lane street to one lane, but that’s the only way. However, new, Master-planned communities can really shine from good planning.

I applaud the brave souls who do take to the streets, but it just does not feel safe enough for me yet. I hope things do change for those like myself and for those who have not thought about biking as an option at all.

Arts and Crafts at the Asylum

The last few months I have been using art to work out my issues. I was dabbling on Amazon and ordered a pattern coloring book and a six-pack of markers. Since then I have added one more book and become a regular customer at Blick art supplies on Kingsbury. I found some of my Prismacolor (expensive) markers from my college says fifteen years ago. However, I soon discovered that while they were full of ink the color no longer matched the description on the label. I’ve been off the chain with my coloring, so here are some samples:


So it’s evident I like Purple and Turquoise. I feel so centered when I am working on these, If you have the budget, Prismacolor markers are awesome, but I use the Blick Studio markers, about a dollar cheaper than Prismacolors. I also use Tombow Brush markers-which are water-based and do not bleed like Blicks and Prismacolor. Sharpies work, but they bleed and do not come in a big variety of colors, but are about a dollar less than the Tombows.

Fresh Ideas

I have been between jobs for a while, so I have tried to be creative with my time. Before Winter was completely over, I started snapping photos of the the Grand Boulevard and Bronzeville areas. I was getting my mid-morning coffee at the Currency Exchange Cafe on 55th street, and before returning home, I drove up and down Calumet and Prairie Avenues. You miss a few things if you stick to Cottage Grove and King Drive when traversing that part of the South side.

I took what I called the scenic route back home. Something about the Green Line tracks surrounded by vacant lots around 41st or 42nd streets intrigued me. I was heading north but took an alley to go back south. That alley runs alongside the embankment of the abandoned Kenwood “L” line. It could have the potential of being the South side’s version of the 606.



.Getting back to my urban exploration, I had my camera handy, a fairly small Nikon digital. I have always been intrigued by photojournalists and how they would deal with people watching what they were doing. In my case, my subject was a vacant lot. I was thinking about angles and composition and taking in the scene. A train was approaching southbound, which seemed to complete the shot, so I started snapping away. I wanted the photos to “speak” to me, but they did not for the most part, until I fooled around with some photo effects. I can spend hours searching photo archives of Chicago’s past, so maybe one day that site will be more than a vacant lot.