Monday, March 22, 2004

Spring-woo! Spring-woo!

Spotted on the northeast corner of Lawrence and Clark today: Ronnie Woo-Woo in full Cubs regalia, cleets tied together and strung over his shoulder.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Even though she wore an oversized top hat with green sequences and a shamrock shirt, the woman working in Navy Pier’s Irish Imports store looked a little forlorn this St. Patrick’s Day afternoon. I interrupted a daydream or maybe a worry, “How's your St. Patrick’s Day going?”

“Well, Saturday and Sunday were okay, but today I think everyone went back to work. They had to be in their offices.”

“Oh well, everyone kind of celebrated last weekend, I guess.”


Despite her slow day, the caricaturist down the hall attracted a decent sized crowd who watched as he airbrushed a drawing of a teenager’s face. The teeth and lips were exaggerated beyond those of the smiling kid sitting in front of him. He held the half-finished drawing up for the kid's parents to see. They shrugged and resumed waiting in skeptical anticipation. Or, maybe it was boredom.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Youse are the Machine?

So, I’m leaving my polling place at the Newberry School on Willow this afternoon, and there are two guys sitting in red, white, and blue stars and stripes lawn chairs on the sidewalk across from the voters’ entrance. One wears a fake toupee and the other sports a George Hamilton tan. They are smoking cigars and listening to Frank Sinatra songs cranked through the open window of their white, brand-spanking new four-door Ford pick up truck parked on the street in front of them.

As I pull out of my parking space, I roll down my window and ask, “Are you guys Democrats or Republicans?”

The toupee guy shouts, “Democrats!” But, as I pull away, he cackles wildly as if he had just gotten away with something.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Check out the orange palm trees lined up along the entrance to Arandas Tire and Rims on Ashland Avenue and LeMoyne. We’re talking giant, two-story vibrant orange plastic palms and two lime green companions. All four seem to revel in their tacky flamboyance and geographic preposterousness as they stand in front of a tidy, square building. Above the garage doors of the work bays, rows of hubcaps stand on edge behind lighted glass enclosures and provide a flying saucer backdrop. In a world where a Jiffy Lube or McDonald's sits on every corner and looks like every other Jiffy Lube or McDonald's in every other neighborhood in the country, Arandas Tire and Rims offers a welcome and important visual break. Let's hope they don't franchise.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Sign Posted Beneath the Expressway:

Limited Access Area The Illinois Department of Transportation announces this area is restricted and not intended for public and or private use. The Department will without notice perform needed repairs or discard unnecessary items when deemed necessary in continued interest of public health and safety.

The area IDOT refers to is the sloping "dead" space where Armitage Avenue passes under the expressway. They've blocked it off with a fancy iron fence, and there's no mistaking their intended audience. The sheltering nature of the underpass attracts homeless men, not toddlers or hotdog salesmen.

I'd like to think that IDOT's language suggests they didn't enjoy disrupting these guys' lives. The sign doesn't prohibit the area from use, and it says IDOT might have to throw some of the guys' stuff out if IDOT needs to work on the bridge or if it attracts rats, but nobody's getting arrested. IDOT seems to be saying, "Okay, it's cool if you're here, but we reserve the right to draw the line somewhere sometime if we have to. And, we're putting up a fence to make people who get pissy about your being here think we're doing something about it. Sorry."


This morning at North Avenue (where they've also posted signs and fences), I could see a few men tucked up under the expressway as rush hour crawled above them. They minded their own business and shuffled their shopping carts about behind the chain link fence. For a moment, they seemed safe from the passing world.

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Monday, March 01, 2004


Re: Yesterday's post about the razed YMCA building.

This morning I asked at the remaining Halsted YMCA athletic facility where the families went who were served in the blue building on North Avenue. The red-shirted employee standing behind the counter said that some of the families were incorporated into the Halsted facility, and the rest moved to a new Y on Fullerton. She said that many of the families who were served at the North Avenue Y live closer to the Fullerton one, so they were pretty satisfied with the move. The YMCA absorbed the administrators who used to be located there into other facilites across the city. She had no idea how much money the Y made off the sale of the building.

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