Saturday, May 20, 2006

Go West(ern), Young Men & Women

Everyone wants to put a Chicago e-mail newsletter in your in-box, but Gaper's Block's is one of the few I actually enjoy reading. Written by Brian Sobolak, it's called the Party Line. It's nothing fancy. Just engaging writing delivered in a bare bones format. Here's a little sample below.

""Hey Brian -- what do you think the neighborhood is like at Sacramento and Lawrence? Would it be a good place to live?"

That's an email I got from a friend last week, and indeed, Sacramento and Lawrence is a FINE place to live. Perhaps it's me, or perhaps it's the company I keep, or shoot, maybe I'm just getting older, but I've been surprised to see how many people have been willing to move across the unofficial border of hip Chicago, Western Avenue. The masses are teaming out of Roscoe Village and Lincoln Square to settle in formerly uncharted territory: Avondale, Albany Park, even Jefferson Park.

It's funny what a mythical place Western Avenue occupies in the Chicago mind: the big great street that is so ugly that most of the time you just want to close your eyes and pretend you're about to turn. But once you cross it, everything seems distinctly more neighborhoody (cf. Devon east of Western vs west of Western; same for
Lawrence, Irving Park, even Division or North, too.)

Western still is a big border, an edge somehow. In our minds, anyway."

Sign up for your Party Line by scrolling a bit south and right once you click here.

Take a Peek: Evanston's FalconCam

It's baby peregrine falcon season. We know because we've heard mom and dad's screeches from their nest in St. Michael's Church here in Old Town. If you put your feet in the shoes of a little church mouse for even just one moment, it's a terrifying sound.

Evanston Public Library also knows the joy of peregrines as they have a FalconCam set up. Take a peek at their new baby falcon here. It was born May 17.

Listen to the peregrine falcon's call here, but it's not quite the screech I've been hearing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Winners of 2005 Curt Teich Postcard Archive Competition Exhibit in Chicago

The Curt Teich Postcard Archives (which I've blogged about before here) host a postcard design competition every two years.

The 2005 winning entries will be exhibited at Columbia College's Center for the Book and Paper Arts this summer. Priscilla Otani's digital print above called Manhattan Fairytale was a finalist and one of my favorities, but to the Archive's enormous credit a definitively non-nostalgiac work took first place.

You can find all the winners online here and more about their Chicago exhibition here.

Tracy May: Behind Walk & Roll Chicago

Several years ago, my friend, Tracy May (at far right in photo), left her publishing career to fight cancer. Cancer took her mother's life when Tracy was still in grade school. Now, she's helping to wrestle the bully disease to the ground, and she's not letting up.

She's the head of Chicago's Walk & Roll Chicago. It takes place next Sunday, May 21, along the lakefront, and is one of the largest walk-type fundraisers for the American Cancer Society in the country.

To sponsor Tracy and read about some of the people she's met along her journey, go here.

To sign up to walk in this inspiring event, to volunteer, or to learn more about sponsoring other participants, go here.

I'm so proud of Tracy for her amazing courage and dedication. No doubt her mom is, too.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Illinois Public Space & the 2007 Budget

Jonathan Goldman of the Illinois Environmental Council recently blogged about the proposed budget cuts to our funds for public and open spaces over at the Illinois Enviroblog. Thanks to some great fighting back by organizations like his, most, but not all, of the cuts were saved.

Here's an especially nice nugget of good news:

The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Fund (OSLAD) was slated to have $20 million raided, but this was fought off. In addition, the annual appropriation was increased from $20 million this year to $30 million for next year! Also, the Conservation 2000 program will receive a $12 million appropriation from this fund.

The full scoop here at Illinois Enviroblog.

Reviewing Chicago's Bike Plan 2015 - (It lacks mandatory banana seats, fyi)

Apparently, the fine folks over at Bicycle Magazine (link here) love us. We've consistently ranked near the top of the charts when they've doled out urban biking kudos.

In their March 2006 issue, they named us the second best city in the country for biking, and they were mark on with their city description and biking suggestions. (Although, I prefer the smaller-scale, personal service over at Kozy's Cyclery above the giant, chaotic scene of Village Cycle.) Here's what they said:

"Why Chicago?: Its stated goal is to be the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. and by 2015 it likely will be; Millennium Park Bike Station; 2004 BikeTown

Must-ride: Lakefront Bike Path
Cool event: Bike the Drive;
Hangout: The Handlebar;
Local info: Chicago Cycling Club;
Bike Shop: Village Cycle Center;

With a city leadership dedicated to cycling (including Mayor Richard Daley Jr., roadie), a remarkable network of bike lanes and racks, and an ambitious plan called Bike 2015 to add even more, Chicago's love of biking will soon outshine its drawbacks-dense traffic, bitter winters and ho-hum rec riding near the city."

Ho-hum? Fair enough. The rest of the article is here. San Diego was number one. Our Bike 2015 Plan (that I never knew we had) can be found here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

How do we build Healthy Places? May 20 Seminar in Chicago Explores the Issue

Via the Center for Neighborhood Technology:

How Do We Build Healthy Places?: Urban Planning, Food, and Health

05/20/2006 — 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N Central Park Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60624-1945

Registration Required

Join The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance for a provocative discussion with the community on how urban planning affects our access to food, our stress level, and our access to quality healthcare. The conversation will be lead by:

Janet Smith, Nathalie P. Voorhees Neighborhood Center (moderator)
Daniel Block, Chicago State University
Miguel Morales, Co-op Humboldt Park
Ben Helphand, Center for Neighborhood Technology

This event is part of Health as a Human Right: A Series of Community Conversations, co-organized by The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance on public health and access to healthcare. We will consider not only the challenges of an inadequate healthcare system, but also the way in which issues such as geography, demographic inequalities, food distribution, sexuality, adolescent access to healthcare, and the strains of war can and should inform our larger picture of public health.

Find out more here at the link for The Public Square.

The Feel Good Story of the Neighborhood: Bookstore Receives $75K to Stay Open

Gaper's Block reported on Tuesday that Transitions Bookstore, the new agey incense and yoga-ish independent bookseller in my neighborhood, received an 11th hour, no-strings-attached grant of $75,000 to stay open. The donor was Anonymous, the ubiquitous and most generous person in the world.

More via Gapers Block here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

University Village: What we got in exchange for the demise of Maxwell Street

Above is a photo of University Village near the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. It was taken by TPWWL reader Steve Vance.

As you may recall, this was built where the historic Maxwell Street Market used to sit. Maxwell Street's demise is a long story, but it was, in a nutshell, mayor-driven.

The Tribune ran an article on May 4 (link here) about how current neighborhood boundaries are shifting along with property values. The article quotes a lifelong resident who laments the arrival of the "Village." She said,

"I can't remember the name of the condo devleopment, but it's something completely ridiculous. South Water Market has such an incredible history,
and it's Chicago. It seems like they're trying to completely rewrite

Visit Steve's full photo tour of the village here. (Thanks, Steve!)

Link to Maxwell Street Heritage Site here.

Blair Kamin: Big Alien Saucer Soldier Field Gets What it Deserves

I know this is a bit late, but the Trib's architectural critic, Blair Kamin, did such a great job writing about the colossal aesthetic failure of the Soldier Field renovation and the subsequent fall-out, that I wanted to note it here.

As you may know, Soldier Field lost its status as a national historic landmark because its renovation robbed it of most of its historic character. Kamin's April 24 piece is a deliciously satisfying, finger-pointing read. Find it here.

A representative quote:
"(The stripping of landmark status) sends a message that resounds far beyond Chicago: Don't mess with the nation's most venerated sites, not if your design is going to make it look, as this one did, like the Starship Enterprise crash-landed atop the Parthenon. The feds won't let you get away with it, especially if they have the power to stop you in your tracks financially, which, unfortunately, they lacked in this case."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Headquartered in One-story Chicago Building

Kind of reads like an Onion headline, doesn't it?

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is located in Chicago (and here online), in one of the most famous single-story buildings in the world: Mies van der Rohe's S.R. Crown Hall at IIT (link here). Perhaps that's why they feel a need to emphasize that they're "not an advocate for tall buildings per se." For them, it's all about if you are going to build skyscrapers, make sure they're worthy ones.

Well, sure. Why not?

Perhaps their half-hearted mission explains their one-story hq and why they haven't updated their online journal, CTBUH Review (link here), since 2001.

Despite these signs of death, what led me to their site was a Wall Street Journal article by Alex Frangos from April 2006 about trends in skyscrapers. He quoted the head of the Council, David Scott, and described the group as "a sort of skyscraper-designer trade group."

I feel better knowing even the WSJ guy couldn't figure it out.

The Architectural Critic's A-ha Moment

John King, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, says that critics should do more than look at "New Works by Big Stars." I hope his peers were listening. . . Here's an excerpt below. You can find the link to the entire article here.

"An architecture critic isn't musing on a branch of art that is tucked away in a gallery or a bookstore or a multiplex or a television set. We're entrusted with the urban landscape that everyone shares, from museums to strip malls and sidewalks to skyscrapers. . . .That's a responsibility -- and an exhilarating one.

Developers aren't likely to lop 10 floors off a building or build the thing out of granite based on a critic's contempt. But as you build your case over time, readers might begin to demand more from the buildings and open spaces that frame their lives."


Be careful out there Ladies: Criminal Sexual Assault in our Ward

Via e-mail from our alderman's office today:

"The Chicago Police Department is investigating Criminal Sexual Assault that occurred on Saturday, May 06, 2006 between 3:30 and 4:30 A.M. in the 2600 block of North Wilton Avenue.

The offender is described as Male, White, in his late 20’s, around 5’9” and 200-215 lbs. Offender was described as heavier set with a large stomach, wearing a greenish color, long sleeve shirt and khaki pants. Offender had a ski mask covering face.

The victim was assaulted after offender pushed his way into her apartment. If you have any information concerning this crime, please contact the 19th District or Area 3 Homicide/Sex/Gang Crimes Unit.

For your own safety, try to be aware of your surroundings. Walk in pairs or groups and, if possible, do not open your doors to strangers. If you note any unusual activity in your area, do not hesitate to contact the Chicago Police Department.

If you have information – contact Area Three Detectives at 312-744-8261 or District 19 at 312-744-5574 and always call 911 to report ANY emergency or suspicious activity."

Now if they only had a quarter of a million windmills to go with. . .

Via press release:

"The Garfield Park Conservatory will host a tulip giveaway in conjunction with the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. Approximately 250,000 tulips, most of them from the medians around downtown Chicago, will be given away to the public on a first come first serve basis.

The huge giveaway will be held at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m. to approximately 11 a.m. Note that the event will run as long as flowers are available.

For more information, please contact the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance at (773) 638-1766 ext. 14 or visit its web site at:

The Garfield Market Place, a European open-air bazaar that offers greening supplies and unique products, is open Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m."

Thanks to Nancy K. for the tip.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Green City Market Returns May 17

Another sign of spring has sprung. The popular organic festival of fresh food, Green City Market, returns for its eighth season beginning Wednesday, May 17 at 7 a.m. It will run on Wednesdays and Saturdays through October 28. More info at the Green Market's link here.

Via Inside Lincoln Park.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sign of a Back Alley Time: Belmont Lounge

It may be Gunther Murphy's Irish Pub in the front (link here), but it's still the Belmont Lounge from the back. I love that the owners haven't torn this sign down.

You can get a great view of it by driving west on the 1600 block of Melrose, just past Lincoln Avenue. It overlooks an alley and the Lincoln-Belmont Library (where I'm blogging from live! right now.) Enjoy it while it lasts.

Return of the Big Red Ball

Kickball is making a comeback. Like with adults. As in for fun, not money. What could be more joyful than that?

Here are Chicago's three divisions:
  • Deep Dish who play at 4701 N. Ashland
  • Fire who play at 808 N. Lakeshore Drive
  • Thunder who play just west of North Avenue Beach

The latter two are still open for registration. You can find more here. Or, if you're really hankering to hop on board, you can find the World Adult Kickball Association's career opportunities here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Reviving Locally-Owned Businesses, Independents Week Festival to Run July 1 -7

Go to this link to find opportunities for your small business, community, community council or government under The Home Town Advantage program sponsored by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA).

From AMIBA's website:

"Community character is being threatened by increasing dependence on absentee-owned businesses with formulas that dictate everything from the look of the building to who does the printing to where the money gets deposited. It's not just the local businesses that suffer--our communities are losing their unique character and self-determination while becoming increasingly dependent on outside influences as a basis of support.

Local businesses are integral to healthy neighborhoods and strong city centers. They are human-scaled, impose less distress on the environment, and help create a distinct local identity. We are here to help. "

How to Speak Truth to Power

Comedian Stephen Colbert delivered a ballsy, brilliant example of biting satire to President Bush's face last week. You can watch it here in all it's satisfying glory. If you're like me, it's gonna make you holler: "Finally!"

Two Dot Orgs in One

The ubiquitous Illinois PIRG (aka Public Interest Research Group) announced that it will split into two organizations: Environment Illinois and Illinois PIRG. The former will focus on environmental issues (website here) and the latter on consumer ones (website here).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What would happen if you used a parking space for a party instead of a car?

That was the premise behind artist (and my friend) Jenny Roberts'event. She "rented" two spaces on Kedzie, just north of the Merchandise Mart last Friday afternoon for happy hour.

Most of us wore cocktail attire and mingled amidst the asphalt. Except for a chillier-than-expected wind, it was a lovely affair that turned a few heads. If not immediately obvious to those passing by, it made perfect sense to us: Why not plunge our quarters into parking meters and use the spaces for something entirely new?

The Tribune's Tempo section story here. See my previous post on another piece of Jenny's here.

Request-a-Hymn: Bell Towers as Participants of Place, Part 2

Last week, the Request-A-Hymn project debuted(see previous post here). The evening turned the bell tower into a clanging, hymnal jukebox.

At the heart of the logistics were two walkie-talkies. I used one down on the sidewalk in front of the church and the other was used by Matt and Cindy (and later John and Paul) who sat up in the belfry next to the computer.

The weather was lovely, and I posted some balloons and a sandwich board explaining the project in front of the church.

Then, like a somewhat sedate barker, I invited people passing by to pick a hymn from a printed list of the 2,000 musical jpegs stored on the computer.

When they chose a hymn, I'd radio up and the bell person would find the song in the computer (see photo at right), and they'd program the stereo to play it right then. It was pretty efficient. There was probably a 30-second delay max between the request and the beginning of the ringing.

Some people were intrigued. Some smiled as they walked by. Some thought I was proselytizing and couldn't get away fast enough. A few asked a ton of questions and were way into the building and the bells.

By the end of the evening, I'd say between 25 and 30 people requested hymns. Many climbed the stairs, past the choir loft, to see the computer and belfry. We played everything from the 12 toll strikes of the funeral bells to Good King Wenceslas.

Two women from the senior citizen's home around the corner came and parked beneath the belfry for the evening. They requested their favorite hymns whenever there was a lull in the action. Apparently, they had read about it in the local paper. They were great.

Another man, an opera singer, found out about the event through the art festival and was the first to arrive. He knew a lot of the words to they hymns and kept our spirits buoyed through out the evening.

Jackie and Ted, friends and bikers.

Paul Palmateer, friend and greeter.

Jenny Roberts, friend and artist.

This family lives in the neighborhood. They visited the belfry with their two young children and requested the 12-strike funeral toll. The kids counted to be sure it was done right.

Overall, the evening unfolded, I think, nicely. I'm just sorry it took so long for me to post about it. Many thanks to commenter Michael Allen for the nudge. It has just dawned on me that there is likely a correlation between the shrinking number of posts as of late and the date my daughter began walking.