Street Smart Chicago

Life Is Beautiful: Teen Dream

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By David Alvarado

Click to enlarge.Life_is_comic_7

Checkerboard City: Payback for an Allegedly Road-Raging Cop?

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James Liu, whom the CPD says was not actually arrested. Photo: Ben Raines

James Liu, who the CPD says was not actually arrested/Photo: Ben Raines

Picture yourself bike commuting downtown on Milwaukee Avenue, the city’s busiest cycling street. After you turn south on Des Plaines Street, the driver of a silver SUV starts edging into the bike lane as he tries to illegally pass other vehicles on the right in his rush to get to work.

The motorist is getting too close for comfort, so you knock twice on the door of his truck to alert him of your presence. Unfortunately, he turns out to be an off-duty police officer, and less than a minute later you find yourself sitting in the street with your hands cuffed behind you, and your orange fixie sprawled across the asphalt.

That’s what bankruptcy attorney James Liu, thirty-three, says happened to him on October 14 at around 8:15am, while he was trying to make his way to the office. “As soon as I tapped on his side panel, he immediately started chasing me, driving in the bike lane,” Liu says. “Around Fulton Street he rolls down his window and yells, ‘I’m a fucking cop!’ I just look at him and shrug my shoulders, and then we continue south at a normal speed.”

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Dime Stories: The Best Living Former Sun-Timesman, Dave Hoekstra, Writes A New Chapter

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3-26-07 Staff mug of Dave Hoekstra. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

Dave Hoekstra/Photo: Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

By Tony Fitzpatrick

In his new book, “The People’s Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the Civil Rights Era to Today,” former Sun-Times man Dave Hoekstra relates the histories of soul-food eateries in America and also winds up relaying a shadow history of the civil rights era. It is a fascinating read in that, from Ben’s Chili Bowl—the iconic Washington D.C. joint that boasts President Obama’s favorite chili dog to Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans, where Obama was scolded for adding hot sauce to his gumbo—all of the players of that tidal change in American History are present. From Martin Luther King to Malcolm X these restaurants served also as community centers in which the climate of change began to take shape.

If you were lucky enough to check out Hoekstra’s book on supper clubs, “The Supper Club Book, Cougars and Snappers and Loons (Oh My),” you have a little idea of what you are in for—Hoekstra chronicles the odd and almost always Midwestern histories of supper clubs, where you get a relish tray before your prime rib or pot-roast dinner. These places were all the rage in fifties and sixties small-town Midwestern America and hey! who doesn’t like a good relish tray or a deviled egg?

It is our good fortune that Hoekstra decided to take the forced buy-out from the Sun-Times. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 5, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield began selling their new ice cream out of a refurbished gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Thirty-seven years later, Ben & Jerry’s is among the world’s best-selling ice cream brands. Its success stems in part from its willingness to keep transforming the way it does business. “My mantra is ‘Change is a wonderful thing,'” says the current CEO. As evidence of the company’s intention to keep re-evaluating its approach, there’s a “Flavor Graveyard” on its website, where it lists flavors it has tried to sell but ultimately abandoned. “Wavy Gravy,” “Tennessee Mud” and “Turtle Soup” are among the departed. Now is a favorable time for you to engage in a purge of your own, Aries. What parts of your life don’t work any more? What personal changes would be wonderful things? Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 29, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): On a January morning in 1943, the town of Spearfish, South Dakota experienced very weird weather. At 7:30am the temperature was minus-four-degrees Fahrenheit. In the next two minutes, due to an unusual type of wind sweeping down over nearby Lookout Mountain, thermometers shot up forty-nine degrees. Over the next hour and a half, the air grew even warmer. But by 9:30am, the temperature had plummeted back to minus-four degrees. I’m wondering if your moods might swing with this much bounce in the coming weeks. As long as you keep in mind that no single feeling is likely to last very long, it doesn’t have to be a problem. You may even find a way to enjoy the breathtaking ebbs and flows. Halloween costume suggestion: roller-coaster rider, Jekyll and Hyde, warm clothes on one side of your body and shorts or bathing suit on the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Win It for Mr. Cub!

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By Tony Fitzpatrick

As I write this, the Cubs have gone down two games to nothing to the hated Mets.

I surprised a great many of my diehard Sox fan friends by wishing the Cubs well in the playoffs. “Traitor”! they squealed, “turncoat,” they inveighed, Blah Blah Blah.

I honestly couldn’t find it in my heart to hate on this team; they play the game the way the game ought to be played. And as much as I love my White Sox, it was a good deal more fun watching the Cubs this year because they honestly looked like they were at play, rather than grinding it out at work. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 22, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): According to the online etymological dictionary, the verb “fascinate” entered the English language in the sixteenth century. It was derived from the Middle French fasciner and the Latin fascinatus, which  are translated as “bewitch, enchant, put under a spell.” In the nineteenth century, “fascinate” expanded in meaning to include “delight, attract, hold the attention of.” I suspect you will soon have experiences that could activate both senses of “fascinate.” My advice is to get the most out of your delightful attractions without slipping into bewitchment. Is that even possible? It will require you to exercise fine discernment, but yes, it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Beautiful: Dynamic Stories From Another Dimension

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By David Alvarado

Click to enlarge.Life_is_dynamic_comic_6_updated

Dime Stories: Memories of a Caddy

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

When he was in his thirties, my friend Vince Solano could hit a golf ball 300 yards. He was thick, had huge arms and the strength of a weightlifter. Now, thirty-five years later, he is trim, much slimmer and still loves to golf.

I’ve known him since I was twelve years old and possibly the worst caddy in the history of golf. Oh, I knew my yardages and carried the bag well enough–often two bags–and I actually had a great deal of acuity reading greens; planes made sense to me because I drew a lot and this helped. I just didn’t give a fuck about golf.

I liked caddying because it was cash money, right now; because golfers told dirty jokes, bitched about their bosses, wives, kids and politics and, in a very real way, exposed the secret life most men live. On the golf course, guys didn’t have to keep their guard up or be polite. They could gamble with abandon, drink, swear and, in four-hour increments, be free men. They could walk out in nature without their phones ringing or their bosses carving on their dicks. It was a place to shut out the noise. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: The Rebel Transportation Commissioner

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Gabe Klein (left) toasts the new riverwalk with Active Transportation Alliance cofounder Randy Neufeld/Photo: Steven Vance

Ex-Chicago Department of Transportation chief Gabe Klein says that when he returned to Chicago earlier this month for his first real visit since he resigned almost two years ago, it was a highly emotional experience. He was finally able to see the Bloomingdale Trail and the Chicago Riverwalk extension, projects that he spearheaded as commissioner, filled with people enjoying themselves. “It reinforced to me that there’s such a huge demand, particularly in urban spaces, just for great places to hang out.”

Klein was in town for a conference on “shared mobility” tools like bike-sharing and car-sharing. He was partly there to talk up his new book “Start-Up City: Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, & Having Fun” (Island Press), a primer on how to quickly make improvements to cities in the face of grinding bureaucracy. Disclosure: I contributed a photo for the pint-sized paperback, of the commissioner striding diagonally across Jackson and State during the ribbon cutting for the city’s first “pedestrian scramble” intersection.

Klein came to CDOT in May of 2011 as part of the Rahm Emanuel administration, following a stint as director of the Washington, D.C. transportation department. During his two-and-a-half years in Chicago he also launched the (highly controversial) speed camera program, built dozens of miles of buffered and protected bike lanes, created the Divvy bike-share system, and planned the Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor. He says he quit the job to move back to D.C. for the birth of his daughter Simone, whose name was partly inspired by noted Chicagophile Simone de Beauvoir. Read the rest of this entry »