Archives for posts with tag: Chicago

Andres Villatoro, thank you.

Andres sent the link to a photo essay from this week’s Atlantic.

It reminded me of my first days living in Chicago. Arriving on a Greyhound bus. Staying a week at the Y hotel that used to be on South Wabash. The L just outside my room. Going through the cafeteria, asking the serving lady if it was Cream of Wheat and her smiling answer ‘grits’. And the adventure of becoming a Chicagoan that has followed me for decades.

I remember something of this Chicago of the 1970s and what it felt to be a young man from northern Minnesota marveling at urban life.

Photos are from John H. White, formerly of the Chicago Sun-Times who along with its entire photographer staff was fired two months ago.

Here is one photo that really moved me with aching memory of our years’ work with young people.

basketball in Stateway Gardens 1973.

basketball in Stateway Gardens 1973.


You know, I prefer a paper held in my hands.  And while in Chicago it is the Chicago Tribune.

Today, two things.

Actually one is from the Friday Trib.  John Kass’ column on “a beautiful and wonderful tradition” of young lovers in cities such as Paris. Kass

The other is that when I googled my way to a link of that column I was halted by the Chicago Tribune digitalPLUS.  For an additional 49 cents a week I was offered access to articles such as the John Kass column.


Clever, I checked the John Kass Facebook page.  Sure enough, Kass shares a link to locks of love.  I am not out $ .49 this week and you can see what the City of Chicago is doing to make our city less romantic.

[I just tried locks of love link and the digitalPLUS blocks access.  moutza!  So just go to the Kass Facebook page and scroll down a couple posts to “city has cutting response to love locks on bridges”]

8 hours.
11 people.
1 boy, nine years old.
2 dead.
All in one day in one city.
Chicago yesterday.

A few years ago the Salvation Army held its annual regional gathering, we call it ‘Congress’, in Schaumburg IL.

It is suburbs, but it is Chicago.  When you travel and people ask where are you from you don’t say ‘Schaumburg’.  You’d only get a polite uninterested ‘uh huh’.  So anyone from the Chicago suburbs with any sense says ‘Chicago’.  It sounds better than ‘Berwyn’.

During Congress part of my job was to stick close to one of our visiting dignitaries who, as often happens at these events, didn’t have a chance to eat lunch.  Busy greeting people.  A good thing, but it leaves you hungry.

Nearby the Schaumburg Convention Center he had spotted a place advertising Chicago hot dogs.  He asked if we could go there.  We did.  He got a hot dog.  He was happy.  I had done my job.

Tonight I remembered that hot dog and we visited Frankly Yours.  It’s at the corner of Algonquin and Thorntree Lane, just east of Meacham.

Frankly Yours

A nice warm evening.  We sat outside at one of the tables.  Serenaded by going-home traffic along Algonquin.  Bathed in the evening sun and wafting zephyrs.

Frankly Yours 4

Why hadn’t we stopped before?  The fries are hand-cut and [rant warning] do not have that awful coating so many places use.  Someone’s told me it’s cornstarch with whatever else the fry cook/restaurant chain thinks is a good idea.  It’s not.

Frankly Yours was good.  Hard to get to the hot dog while the fries are hot, crisp.  The sun’s shining.  Warm breezes.  Vehicles hum along the street.  This is a good moment in America.

Frankly Yours 5

Hidden by the styrofoam cup are her fried mushrooms.  They were okay.  But the fries.  And the hot dogs … the way they were meant to be.  And Coke is served here.  It’s taken me years to realize that Coke rules.  Pepsi drools.

I brought our trays inside, discarded the cups and wrappers.  An old guy was sitting in a booth near the door.  The boss.  I thanked him, told him the hot dogs were great.  He grinned and said of course they’re Vienna.

Of course.  Vienna Red Hots.  With neon relish.  Red tomato slices.  Yellow mustard.   A piece of art.

Frankly Yours 2





Our son Matt claims Gene and Jude’s as his favorite out in these parts.  He might be right.  I know that when we are in the city we gravitate to Byron’s on Irving Park, close to Sheridan.  But I rate Frankly Yours fries superior.  Sorry, Byron.

don't shoot

I laughed, and I’m sure I shouldn’t have, when I read what Jaylen Price’s great-uncle had to say about whoever’s bullet hit his 10 year old nephew a few days ago here in Chicago.

In some parts of our city you expect to hear gunshots.  See bullet holes in walls and windows.  Talk with someone about who got shot.  Chicago’s story is full of bullet holes.

If you stick around long enough you too will have your own shooting story.

Jaylen was hit by a ricochet waiting for a pizza delivery when men down the street started shooting at each other.  His great-uncle, Alvin Ponder,  gives it straight and simple about guns as reported in the Chicago Tribune

“They (politicians) won’t stop everything, I understand that,” he said. “They don’t have to ban the guns, but they have to do things for gun safety, background checks, big magazines. These war weapons don’t belong on the street. Anything that is a semi-automatic is an assault weapon.

“If you can’t hit a target with 10 rounds, you should be doing another hobby. You need another life.”

It’s that last statement.

do you all understand?  10 rounds?  you still can’t hit it?  you should be fishing.  scrapbooking.

Get another life.  Not mine.

Today was a beautiful warm spring day.  Something about the air and light, and the warmth, reminded me of a morning almost thirty years ago.

It was a summer morning in Chicago.  We were driving east on the Eisenhower Expressway.  At about Independence or Homan when I glanced up at the rearview mirror I saw a car, an older model, a hoopdee, moving fast, passing everyone.  I watched as it moved up on us.  Over a hundred miles per hour.  Weaving.  Fast.  It seemed like we were standing still.

And then he was going to hit us.  There was nowhere for us to move into the lanes either side.  I just watched in the mirror.  I warned Gail.

The car must have just grazed our rear bumper as it passed on the right.  It seemed to float past us.  And then it was ahead of us.  And then we saw it shudder an instant as the driver for some reason made a sharp turn.  The car turned sideways and rolled.  I slid past the car that seconds ago had rocketed past us.

I glanced up at the rearview mirror and watched the hoopdee roll again, this time the driver come out of his window.  The car rolled over him.

By this time traffic was stopping.  We continued on.  I exited at Damen, near Rush-Presbyterian.  Turned north on Paulina, east on Ogden.  We pulled into our corps’ parking lot.  It looked as it always did, like a World War One battlefield.  We started our work for the day.

I recall reading later that week about this accident.  I was surprised.  The man was still living after being rolled over.  Perhaps he even survived.

Driving today on this beautiful warm day, remembering that morning on the Eisenhower, I also remembered what I saw a couple weeks ago in Detroit.

Traveling west on I-96 I exited for the Southfield.  It’s a ramp that takes you up high, left lane south, right lane north.  I started down the south exit, watching for merging traffic off the entry from westbound I-96.  All clear.  Safe.

On the Southfield, picking up speed, I see someone.  Walking north on the shoulder of the southbound Southfield.  I watch carefully.  It is a man walking aggressively, swinging his arms, his shoulders.  He is tall, slim.  He isn’t wearing a shirt.  Bare-chested.  It’s in the upper 30s.  I pass him.  I look up in the rearview mirror.   He is shrinking in the distance. I exit at Joy Road and head west.

These are the ways of people who are high.

CT ColumnistsJK033.jpgToday’s Chicago Tribune.  John Kass’ football is dead in America column in which Kass says –

Fans have been led to pretend that the violence is merely ancillary. But to say that violence isn’t at the heart of football is a lie. Remove the violence, and you remove what is great about the game, what is awe-inspiring and guilt-inspiring at the same time.

ShteirRight next to Kass is Rex Huppke’s she stands by her slam about Rachel Shteir’s NY Times review of three new books about the city she works in.  The city home now to 2.7 million.  3.6 million in 1950.  The city of “incessant boosterism”.  Where “bloviating roars on, as if hot air could prevent Chicago from turning into Detroit.”

I see how this upset some people.

Chicago turning into Detroit.

Long before Huppke’s article, before Shteir’s review, before the books by Dyja, Coen, Chase, Steinberg … I have wondered.

I have wondered when I began to see parts of Chicago which have necrotized.  I compare with the Detroit I have seen.  Chicago neighborhoods which will soon see their schools close.

Chicago is far from being in the same condition as Detroit.  But parts?  I can see it.  Perhaps Chicago as a whole will never.  But perhaps Detroiters of the 1950s would never have believed what their city is now.

moltmannI’ve mentioned in recent posts Jurgen Moltmann’s Ethics of Hope.  Moltmann is a theologian with a special focus in eschatology, dealing with last things.   But his way is a way foreign to TV and radio preachers who talk about the last days and how things will grow worse and we all better find a survival place to huddle and wimper while the world goes to hell.  Bloviating.

Instead, Moltmann sees the coming of God into the present.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

An ethics of hope sees the future in the light of Christ’s resurrection.  The reasonableness it presupposes and employs is the knowledge of change.  This points the way to transforming action so as to anticipate as far as possible, and as far as strength goes, the new creation of all things, which God has promised and which Christ has put into force.  The liberation of the oppressed, the raising up of the humiliated, the healing of the sick and justice for the poor are their familiar and practicable keywords.

This offers robust possibilities for us in the present time, in the city of Chicago, or Detroit.  Or anyplace where the people of God choose to act to transform our world and cities, in anticipation of a greater city (Revelation 21:10; 22:1-5).

Steve Lepse up on Marine Drive says

This Sunday evening (April 7) at 9 pm central time, MSNBC will present an hour long news special entitled, “Sex Slaves”  Windy City”.  Among other things, the show will document the work of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, which our Stop It program co-leads alongside the Cook County States Attorney’s Office.  I’m not sure how much Stop It will be featured (the focus is more on the legal and law enforcement side of things), but it will provide a good look at the work we do here in Chicago.  If you have time, give it a look.

Steve serves as Director of The Salvation Army’s Family and Community Services in Chicago.









This training institute in Christian community development begins Sunday evening, April 7 and will feature Dr. John Perkins, Coach Wayne Gordon, Noel Castellanos, Soong Chan-Rah and many more.

Immersion information and registration

Schools are being closed in American cities.

Philadelphia.  Newark.  Washington.  Chicago.  Detroit.

They say schools are being closed for good reasons.  Money.  Underperformance.  Money.  Shifting populations.  Money.

I’m $ure a good ca$e can be made for the$e rea$on$.

But what else is happening as urban schools close?Philadelphia closes schools

Schools in poorer and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately being closed.  Since 2001 Chicago has closed 100, all but two in poor neighborhoods.  88% of affected students have been African-American.

There is no arguing with the sharp pencils.  Population shifts.  Deficits.

A couple weeks ago we returned home to a pile of newspapers.  I hadn’t stopped delivery.  But I had some time today to catch up on reading.  Internet is good but I like to hold sheets of newsprint, to leisurely page back and forth through them.  Tactile satisfaction.  Newspaper also forms a nap inducing warm quiet micro-environment when placed over and around one’s head.  Try it.

At the top of one Chicago Tribune front page “CPS closes in on school cuts … anxiety grows as district offers preliminary list of 129 campuses that could be shuttered“.  It hardly seems news anymore to hear of large urban school districts closing schools, increasing the ratio of students to teacher.  We just accept it as a way of life.

But what caught my attention was the map showing areas of the city where schools may be closed.  I can’t get the Chi Trib graphics article to appear.  So here’s my elegant low/high tech solution:  an iPhone photo of the paper –

schools that could be closed  Chi Trib Feb 18  2013

Compare this map with Open City’s Chicago Public Schools Tiers  where areas of Chicago are identified as one of four Tiers.  Tier 1 are places where people tend to “make less money and have less education”.  Tier 4 would be where people “make more money and have more education”.

Guess which Tier will overwhelmingly lose more schools?  Tier 1 or Tier 4?  That wasn’t hard.

Okay.  The areas about to lose schools are areas with less and less children, according to the authorities.  But these same areas are also home to children living in the least educated and lowest income households in Chicago.

If most of the CPS school closings take place in Tier 1 neighborhoods, it will have an even greater impact than a closing in a Tier 4.  If a neighborhood school closes, parents do not believe it will mean a better education for their children.  My child may be assigned to a school with a better building, a greater concentration of teacher and material resources.  But she will need to travel farther.  Be in an unfamiliar place.  Increase the likelihood of running into hostility.  Gangs?  Regardless of promises, who is ahead when my neighborhood no longer has a school?

Distribution of wealth, of education resources, will be to the most populous neighborhoods of Chicago.  That seems sensible.  But it will also mean a more challenging, harder experience for the poorest children, for the children who already face the greatest hurdles in becoming educated.

I see this as an issue of justice.  In its desire to solve one problem by making the education system more efficient and effective, the solution will contribute to another problem.  Chicago will continue to offer swaths of the city where hopelessness is cultivated in an increasingly entrenched population of undereducated Chicagoans.

If Chicago continues to close schools in its poorest neighborhoods, is this justice?

Maybe Chicago will have more and more of its citizzzens who find napping to be the best use of a newspaper.

%d bloggers like this: