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…”

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.



The ChiMaven Takes Some Pictures

Last Saturday, I hung my first grown up art exhibit!

My church has a visual arts committee where exhibitions are planned to display the artwork of parishoners. Last year I agreed to do a show with another photographer in the group. After some unnecessary worrying and one postal related snafu, I have four photographs hanging in our small chapel/gallery.

Coincidentally, I have been reading books on positive thinking and finding your true vocation in life. Kicking this project into gear has helped me with my mojo and has helped me see that art and creativity make me happy, something that has been missing for most of this year for me.

The title of my exhibit is “My Chicago” here is my artists’ statement:

I am fascinated with photographs from Chicago’s past and seeing the city at another time in history. I have been inspired by the photography of Vivian Maier, John H. White and C. William Brubaker. These photographers have opened the door to a time capsule showing the way Chicagoans have lived and the changes in the city’s built environment. I take photos on my travels as well, but I am most passionate about documenting Chicago during my existence, so future generations can experience my Chicago.

The photos will be up through mid-October at St. Paul and the Redeemer Church at 4945 S. Dorchester in Chicago. Sunday services are at 8 am, 9:15 am and 11:15 am.

Green Line at 33rd St


I was reading a few reviews of Downtown Chicago hotels this morning. One comment was regarding a sub-par breakfast included at a more budget-friendly hotel. What better opportunity to share some low to moderately priced breakfast destinations with travelers. In my opinion, just because something is free does not mean I will automatically take it. When it comes to a vacation breakfast, I will pay for hearty and filling-you may spend hours on your feet sight seeing and touring; you need a good breakfast!

Pret A Manger is located throughout the Loop. I am not a fan of their sandwiches, they are pricey and just don’t float my boat. However their oatmeal is great. I had not been an oatmeal eater as an adult until Pret came along. They offer two sizes, with the largest still under four dollars. A variety made with quinoa is available too. Brown sugar/cinnamon toppings are available as well at the counter. The drawback is that quantities are limited, as Pret’s concept is based on freshly made foods, so once the supply is gone-it’s gone.

If buffets are your preference, a gem called Delmonico’s may suit you. It is tucked inside an office building at 111 W. Washington street. Thankfully, a sign is on the sidewalk between A Loft and Hallmark store. The buffet charges by the pound, so the heavier the food is, the higher your bill. Luckily french toast is fairly light! Pancakes and omelets are available at the grill for a flat rate. Coffee, juices and pop are plentiful along with a large seating area. It opens at 6 am and I have been there as late as 8:30, with a good supply of food still being replenished. The cashiers can tell you when breakfast service stops if you are curious.

Further out of the way of the central business district is the Eleven City Diner at 1112 S. Wabash. Breakfast is served all day here along with Jewish deli specialties. Prices are higher than fast food breakfasts but less expensive than a full-service hotel breakfast. The atmosphere is festive with great music and a bar, but still family friendly.

If I come across more on my travels I will send an update. Yolk is another South Loop breakfast spot, but I have yet to visit, but have heard awesome reviews. Happy eating!

Should I Stay…

Is life getting harder in Chicago? A recent poll showed Chicago is one of the ten most miserable cities to live in. I thought that was a little abrasive. But then I began to think about our over-priced parking meters, dissatisfied school teachers, massive school closings and ever-rising cost of living. I began to think about my situation and wondered if Chicago is hurting me more than it is helping me.

Over the last twenty years, several of my African-American peers have left town for Atlanta, where the good life and good schools could be had for a fraction of the cost in Chicago. I have never been that excited about the place though, it just seems like a hot version of Chicago. I can see my self down-sizing, but not suburbanizing. A small city like Raleigh where I have family has piqued my interest. Surely, you would wonder why I would skip Charlotte, an urban, but cozier southern city. But alas, Raleigh has an NHL team, and yes while I would NEVER root for the Hurricanes, I can go to the games decked out in the opposing team’s gear-yes I am evil.

I like my neighborhood of Bronzeville, but development is SO inconsistent there. Myself and other residents who used to be able to openly gripe on before NBC shut it down had a forum to discuss what we wanted it to become. Many moved there fifteen or twenty years ago thinking development was right around the corner. The massive housing projects to the west were torn down and development came in fits and starts with new homes and condo-coversions, but new, significant major retail is still eluding the area. Some residents stated they were fed up and were moving on with their lives, and I cannot blame them. Many attest that a north side neighborhood that close to the Loop and the lakefront would not be ignored by developers for as long as Bronzeville has. Everyblockers were pointing fingers at the Alderman, the Mayor, Developers, or all three for the reasons why things have not taken off.

Depending on when you ask, I may agree as well that it may be time to move on, but they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I may leave town, and I may come back so fast you wouldn’t even know I was gone.

Greeter’s Dilemma

Many of you may not know I am a volunteer Greeter for the the Chicago Office of Tourism. I either take visitors out on pre-arranged neighborhood tours, or last-minute tours of the Loop. I give visitor’s a local’s perspective on life here, and show them someoff the beaten path attractions as well. I am a Bronzeville resident and have taken visitors to this area as well.

There is a challenge to a Bronzeville tour. While the neighborhood has many historical and well-known attractions, they are spaced far apart for someone doing a walking tour. While the Southside Community arts Center and the Illinois Institute of Technology are on the western edge near State street, the site of Stephen Douglas’ tomb is east of Cottage Grove. The Migration statue, on Martin Luther King Drive at 25th street is a whole 10 blocks from the area’s retail hub at Thirty-fifth street. For some, this is just too far to walk.

An innovative idea would be to use golf carts to get to these places quickly. The Loop has Segway Tours, which could be used in Bronzeville to manage the long distances between attractions.

Changing the subject-slightly, I will be getting together with another Greeter to walk  her version of a Bronzeville tour. She is focusing on the area near Quinn Chapel, a historical African American congregation. It is located around 24th and Indiana Avenue. Those familiar with the area know it was once connected to the city’s Black Belt, but cut off and  isolated due to the Interstate 55 extension to Lake Shore Drive. Being the life-long learner I am, I am excited to see how I can add a different twist to my tour or offer a shorter substitute.