Monday, November 27, 2006

You Tube

I can't believe entertainment like this is free. God bless America!

H & R Black

I have never been a big fan of the large tax preparation services.

In my humble opinion, their fees are outrageous.

A pound of flesh for preparing your taxes, a pound of flesh for electronic filing your taxes and another pound of flesh for an expedited refund.

I’ve seen some people pay as much as $600-$800 for these combined services.

While that may not seem like a lot of money if you’re getting several thousand back for a refund, if you’re getting $3,000 or less back that’s a significant amount of change.

Robber barons if you ask me.

While large tax preparation services have locations nationwide, I find it especially galling that these businesses pop up like mushrooms in financially underserved communities.

Neighborhoods where there are loads of people who will do your taxes (for a fee), but not a lot of federally or state chartered banks.

Don’t even get me on a rant about Currency Exchanges that offer tax preparation services.

Shit, we’d be here all day.

I was content to let the tax preparation services be---no on is putting a gun to the head of the people who use their services.

But this latest ad that H & R Block has placed on CTA vehicles and common spaces has crossed the line.

The print ad featuring an African American goes a little something like this:

“I got $1,500 back. Without a W-2. I got people.”

You got people, huh?

Now I hope H & R Block isn’t that stupid to run a grammatically incorrect print ad with an African American face with the hopes to solely market to an African American client base.

I would hope that their ad agency has several print ads with that "copy" that run on buses featuring people of all nationalities.

‘Cause I know that they have “people” too.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Can blacks not speak or understand the King’s English? Can corporate American believes that we're so behind the reading and comprehension curve that print ads have to stoop to the lowest common denominator?

I was so offended when I saw those ghetto ass ads.

So instead of firing off a letter to H & R Block where it may fall on deaf ears, I figured I’d do something a little off beat to fix their little red wagon:

I’d let everyone know that if you make $38,000 or less the IRS will prepare your federal return and electronically file it for free.

That’s right kids, free, gratis, nothing---nada.

Hard working people who earn crap money all over this great country of ours shouldn’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars to file their taxes.

Since this is a free service, you more than likely will have to wait a long time at your local IRS office.

Taking a day off of work to get this little task done may not be a bad idea.

Weigh the cost of losing a day’s pay (if you’re paid hourly) or a vacation day (if you’re not) vs. paying a tax preparation service several hundreds of dollars and you’ll have your answer.

When I was eligible to use the service, I found that after my long initial wait, the service was good and the process went smoothly.

I went on a Tuesday and had my federal refund in my account the next Monday.

Did I mention that it was free?

You got people too.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


If you’ve been reading this blog, you know by now that an unjust fine that was foisted upon us by the city of Chicago for our developer’s misdeeds.

I’ve chronicled the process of my condo association’s journey through the maze of city departments.

Usually when I sought assistance with this nightmare, I was usually told either by the state or the city that there was very little that anyone or any department could do for us.

Our association lawyer even told us that things didn’t look good.

If you’ve been reading for the past year or so, you know that the city did everything by the book. It wasn’t their fault that our developer, Carlton Knight, didn’t inform us of the impending legal matters before us.

If memory severs me correct, Mr. Knight said that an irresponsible employee was to blame for the miscommunication.


In a stroke of luck The Lord High Executioner put me in touch with an individual at the Department of Revenue that I’ll call Mr. Money Bags.

Mr. Money Bags lost the initial paperwork I submitted to him over a month ago.

While I was pissed, I still went ahead and resubmitted the paperwork again last Tuesday.

Mr. Money Bags called me back and was mystified what we had to do with this whole debacle and why were we worried about the consequences.

I referenced some of the paperwork that I sent and explained to him that we were listed as third party defendants to the complaint. Therefore we were liable for the initial debt, the interest and the court costs.

Money Bags vehemently disagreed.

He again stated that the initial fine had nothing to do with our building or condo association.

Once again, I told him that despite that fact that he was absolutely 100% correct, that had nothing to do with the fact that we named as third party defendants.

Mr. Money Bags said he needed to put in a phone call to the law firm that was charged with collecting our debt and would call me back in about 20 minutes.

20 minutes later he was back on the phone.

“Woody, I just got an education in how these things work. You were right.”

“I’ve spoken with Wexler (the law firm) and they are starting the paperwork right now to vacate the judgment. Everything should be cleared up by Christmas.”

Who says gentle persistence won’t work?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No Indians or Jews For Me

Sadly, family and duty are pulling me away from the much hyped Indo-Jew Bowl in Skokie.

Naturally I'm heart broken.

I am hoping my brown brothers can open up a can of whoop ass on the Jews. But I don't mean that in a Michael Richards type of way.

Apparently the Indos have been getting taken to school for the past couple of years. It seems like it's about time to start evening out the series out with a win.

Gentlemen, it's time to run the table.

Go Indians!

An Open Letter to Jay-Z or How To Cater To Your Aged Fan Base

Mr. Carter,

I’m sorry that I missed you this weekend at the Rivera.

My friend and I tried to get in to the Crobar listening party. Allegedly you were going to drop in on last night but apparently everyone else heard that rumor too.

You see Mr. Jigga Man---may I call you Jigga?---I’m a full fledged member of the first national hip hop generation. That means those of us who were amazed by “The Breaks” or “Rapper’s Delight” are now approaching 40.

While I can’t speak for the others in my generation, I can firmly state that when the party gets started at 10:00 PM (on a school night no less) more than likely you will see me quietly sleeping in a nook against the wall.

It’s not that you bore me H.O.V.A., in fact the opposite is true.

You’re one of the few rappers that make me listen to not only the beats and the flow but your lyrics as well.

I actually take the time to look up your lyrics on the original hip hop lyric archives.

But I digress.

While I’m a devotee of your stylings I have to drop a bug in your ear regarding those of us who may not be in our twenties or early thirties.

I know it’s not cool to start a show early---let’s say 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock but gosh darn us 9-5 working folks would sure appreciate the gesture.

Is it also possible that we could relax the dress code a tad? High heels on Chicago pavement and standing in a packed club does not lend itself to overall good foot health.

Plus wearing a skirt cut up to there and a top cut down to there gives me a sinus infection just thinking about it.

A cute but Chicago practical outfit (slacks, v-neck sweater, scarf, wool coat) along with comfy shoes---mine were Coach trainers---should be acceptable attire for almost anywhere but the opera.

Mr. Carter---Jigga Man---H.O.V.A, I’m a 38 years old woman who works two jobs and has tremendous responsibility on my shoulders, I can barely afford to wait on line in cute but uncomfortable footwear past my bedtime.

Consider it a compliment that I even tried to attend the function last night. It was everything I hate about the “club” experience but I really did want to catch one of your shows before you retire again.

Attitude was everywhere. People under 25 were everywhere. The lack of a noticeable security presence was glaringly absent. The door policy was questionable at best and don’t even get me started about the door staff.

Is this too much to ask from one of rap’s most heralded MC’s?

I will try to see your show if you come through Chicago again provided your not touring with an alleged child molester.

I promise when I get in I won’t fall asleep.

Highest Regards,

The Woodlawn Wonder

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Chronic

When I moved to my home five years ago, I purposely chose the top floor.

I had lived on the second floor in my last condo and despite the fact I absolutely loved my neighbors, there is something to be said for having someone walking over your head.

On the south side, that wasn’t a problem.

I was also fortunate to not have hard core smokers for neighbors either.

Sure, someone might light up a cigarette here or a clove there; on occasion something stronger would make a special guest appearance on the weekend or during a party.

But it wasn’t a chronic situation.

That all changed with the departure of two of my neighbors to continue their lives with their new mates.

Because smoke rises and I live on the top floor, when you so much fry and piece of bacon in our building the aroma comes my way.

Hell, I can probably even tell you when you had that bad boy in the skillet.

When I don’t have some type of cold or sinus infection, the sniffer is dead on.

Unfortunately this can be a draw back when you have people that live below you that have a difference outlook on recreational pot smoking.

On it’s face, I really don’t give a damn if you want to blaze it up---just don’t let your smoking affect my quality of life.

In short, I don’t want to smell it---at all, ever.

Some of my other neighbors are so circumspect that I had no idea they “smoked” until they mistakenly opened their door to answer my knocks.

I was mildly shocked.

Not because they smoked but because they were so good about concealing the fact.

Ever since my downstairs neighbor moved out, my place has smelled like varying degrees of bad bong water.

The first set of neighbors weren’t that bad with their smoking but you did notice the uptick of the pot smell in the hallway.
At first I thought they were bad but now, I truly know what bad is.

My current downstairs neighbors smoke so much; it’s easier for me to tell you when they don’t smoke as opposed to when they do.

I get up very early in the morning and on most days either my living room or dining room smell like a blunt.

Don’t even get me started about the smell when I come home from work.

Words cannot describe how vastly unhappy this makes me.

Can you imagine if someone in my building tries to sell and a prospective buyer comes in with the hallway smelling like a college frat party?

This ain’t good.

Friday, November 17, 2006


He can’t find it.

All the paperwork I put together for my Department of Revenue contact has magically disappeared.

We spoke briefly two days ago about the situation and I was assured that I’d receive a phone call back before the end of the day.

In all actuality I didn’t expect him to call me back so it was no surprise to me when he didn't.

No sweat, I’ll call him the next day and see what’s up.

Naturally he’s not in the office.

Alright, no worries--- I’ll try again tomorrow.

So I call today, leave a message and I receive a prompt phone call back.

“Hello, this is XXX from XXX’s office.”


“XXXX would like you to fax all of the information along with a cover letter to his attention so he can review the matter.”

“Ummm I already did that almost a month ago. Are you telling me that all of the documentation that I submitted was lost?”


Can you believe this shit?

I do the research, I fill out multiple freedom of information documentiation requests, I lay out the whole issue from beginning to end, I make the copies AND I walk it over to my contact’s office all for it to be lost?

Not only is it lost but it took a month to have enough time to tell me that you don’t have enough time to keep the paperwork I dug up safely tucked away.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marshall Fields

I have such a love hate relationship with this time of year.

I hate the cold and snow.

The dry weather wreaks havoc with my skin and I hate the fact that it's dark when I go to work and come home.

But I love Christmas and holiday parties.

As a matter of fact, I've started bringing up the multitude of ornaments I've been able to collect over the years.

I have so many that it will literally take me the rest of the week (at one trip a day) to get the rest of them out of my storage unit.

Or if I wanted to make it a one shot deal, I would spend the better part of a day schlepping up and down three flights of stairs.

If you saw my tree you would think that I spend goo-gobs of cash on ornaments and the like.

Nah, I'm just the daughter of an elementary school teacher who learned that you have to pinch pennies and cut coupons where you can without sacrificing quality.

It took a long time for that message to sink in as I tend to have some expensive tastes.

My late mother would often remind me that I was not of the ruling or leisure classes. A message I often dismissed cavorting around in Lake Forest, Illinois.

But that's another story for another time.

Speaking of my mother, both of my parents died at separately within a year of each other around the holidays.

Not too long after my mother died in late 1999, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Charles Schultz passed as well.

It was such a hard time for me. My life had been turned upside down.

The person who had raised me (my mother) was gone and now the man who seemingly as much a part of my family as anyone else was gone as well.

The man created Snoopy and revolutionized the way cartoons were brought to children. From what I read about him, he was deeply religious and moral but not in that preachy fake ass way.

In short---and you will rarely hear me say it, much less type it---he's the type of conservative I actually like.

One that walks the walk and talks the talk.

The mourning for my mother was deepened by Mr. Schultz's loss. So much so that at one point during that winter of early 2000 I just couldn't get off of the couch.

Thank god I had an extremely understanding boss.

So whenever I hear the opening strains of "Christmas time is here" I just tear up. If I'm having a bad day I just fall apart.

That song represents my happy childhood, my mother, her love, our small little family and the happy Christmases.

All of the things I took for granted in my rush to become an adult.

You never realize how much those memories mean to you until you pass them by and catch them becoming smaller in the rear view mirror of your life.

That's why cats and kittens, it's the little things that mean so much during this time of year. Give me change from January to Halloween but the holiday season is sacrosanct.

Unfortunately change reared its ugly head last year and dashed one of Chicago's venerable institutions.

When Macy's bought Marshall Field's they made many improvements. Keeping the name was not one of them.

It angered me as well as a great many other Chicagoans.

Happy memories pissed away because of the corporate bottom line and synergy.

What complete bullshit.

So until now I like many others have quietly boycotted both Macy's and Bloomingdales (also owned by Macy's).

Money talks, bullshit walks.

Even the best bartender knows that it's not the infrequent customers that keep your bottom line afloat but the regulars.

Apparently the New York interlopers are just starting to figure that out.

So when you're thinking about your gift giving this year, cross Macy's off your list. Send a message.

With so much out of your control, wouldn't it be nice to take back a small measure of power?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Done Deal

My neighbor has sold her place.

Rumor has it that she has already closed on the deal and may have already packed up and left.

I'm curious to see who my new neighbor will be. Now this ought to be interesting.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chocolate Lady

I’ve been lurking in the blogs of my fellow Woodlawnites recently.

I’m always amused by the inevitable fish out of water stories I read about being a minority in a minority neighborhood. For most white people, this is a strange concept and I’m sure it takes some getting used to.

In my experience, negotiating two different cultures is almost like speaking a second language. It requires you to be well versed in both vernaculars as well as having the fluidity to seamlessly move between the different worlds.

All this blogging along with my recent entry about Young Mr. WhiteFolks reminded me of a funny college story.

You see my friends, I had the privilege, nay the honor to earn my undergraduate degree at a little piece of paradise called Lake Forest College.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Chicagoland area, Lake Forest a city situated near the northern end of the very tony and exclusive north shore.

The north shore roughly starts right outside the northern Chicago city limits in Evanston and continues up the Lake Michigan coastline to Lake Bluff.

Some very well off people make their homes along the north shore. And when I say well off, I mean the people who have so much money that they don’t like to talk about matters concerning the green stuff.

That my friends, is considered poor taste.

So it was with a super awesome carefree curl and wide curious eyes I entered into this world in the fall of 1986.

I had just turned 18 and had no idea that people actually lived that way.

This was during the era of Dynasty and 80’s excess. All of that was as accessible to the daughter of the elementary school teacher as a flight to the moon.

I honestly thought all of that was entertainment---no more, no less. A well off family to me resembled Dr. & Mrs. Heathcliff Huxtable, not Blake and Crystal Carrington.

Boy did I get a very well heeled reality check.

It took me the better part of the school year to honestly understand that a family could own more than one house.

“But why would you have a summer home?” I asked.

I will say that some of my new classmates were just as fascinated with me and I was with them. Then of course I guess that what’s college is about. Leaving your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries---meeting people who aren’t like you.

For as many questions as I asked about vacation homes, the social register and owning an island; they asked me if I tanned, about my hair and why all of the black students sat together in the cafeteria.

All in all it was a four year cross cultural learning session.

Now please don’t think that not everyone who went to Lake Forest was rolling in the big cash.

There were enough middle class kids of all stripes to keep an interesting balance.

Plus the school needed work study labor for the cafeteria and phys plant.

Being an industrious soul I not only had a campus job and typed papers as a side hustle, I also had a job off campus in a Haagen Dazs ice cream shop.

Side Note: To this day I consider it a blessing that the prep schools at the time either didn’t offer typing courses or the young men & women I typed for never thought they would need such a skill.

One day I was working when a small boy---about three years old---came in to the ice cream shop with his parents.

His eyes grew wide; he pointed and excitedly yelled, “Look, it’s a chocolate lady!”

The room stopped and his parents looked as if they wanted the ground to open up and swallow them whole.

The little boy didn’t stop. He kept on saying “Chocolate lady!” “Chocolate lady!”

It took his parents a few minutes to quiet him down. He seemed very happy to see me.

I’m sure you’d be shocked to know that chocolate was near and dear to his blessed little three year old heart.

As I was serving the family, I explained to him that I wasn’t made of chocolate but I just happened to be the same color.

I explained that there were many other people who looked like me and we were commonly referred to as black or African American. I also told him that we also came in various shades of brown.

I’d never had such a rapt audience in my life. The kid hung on my every word.

I really freaked him out when I showed him the palms of my hands.

I would have given a million dollars to know what was going on in that three year old head of his.
As I handed the father the ice cream and took payment, the young man tried to lick my hand.

Now if he were twenty years older adjusted his aim and tried such a move, I might not have minded.

But three years old is beyond Mary Kay Letourneau.

I reminded him that I wasn’t made out of chocolate I just happened to be born brown.

Seeing that incident was almost twenty years ago, I’m sure he’s keeping his waspy Lake Forest parents hopping with a succession of girlfriends that happen to be women of color.

So when my while my white Woodlawn neighbors blog about being the only person who looks like them in their neighborhood(s) I completely understand.

I am so waiting for Chikat’s husband to get spinners for the Golf.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Honeycomb Kid

A small surprise awaited me this morning when the nice men came to lay down my new tile floor in the bathroom.

You remember the bathroom remodel I started, right?

The shower backsplash got replaced with the glass mosaic tile.

The bathroom has since been painted, giant mirrors and glass shelving has replaced the medicine cabinet, a new light fixture has been installed.

Now the honeycomb hexagonal new floor is being laid.

(**Insert your own inappropriate “laid” joke here**)

Nonetheless my tile guy calls me and says, “You know that your developer laid your current floor over the existing original floor, right?”

“Why no floor guy, I didn’t”

“The original floor is almost exactly like the tile that you picked out.”

“Really? So if my developer had left well enough alone, I could have had exactly what I wanted?”

“It looks that way. The floor could have been repaired had it not been tiled over. Naturally we can’t save it now as it was damaged when we lifted the other tile off.”

“Of course.”

He then mapped out my options and let me decide which was going to be a good fit for me and my budget.

I could of set the new tile over the original tile but the original tile was too “slippery” and the new floor eventually would of come up in a couple of years.

Instead I opted to rip out both floors and do it the right way so there will be no drama in a couple of years or in a couple of decades.

Naturally the right way will cost me an extra $200.00

But you know what? I partially blame myself.

I selected to live in this building because I love old buildings. A more savvy buyer would of gone in and done a complete and thoughtful assessment of what was there (original honeycomb tile floor in the bathroom, moldings & built in hutch) and put it’s restoration in the contract.

Moral of the story #1: Trust no one else’s taste but your own. Unless you’re hard up for cash and need the salvage money, there’s no reason to rip out built in’s or cover original tile. Well there is but I was always told its bad manners to point out other people's crappy taste.

Then of course, who says my crib is House Beautiful cover material?

Moral of the story #2: Check everything in the unit you’re going to buy---especially a vintage building---and make sure it’s inclusion or demolition is in the contract.

So the question remains, why am I still paying for Carlton Knight’s (or his general contractor’s) miscues?

God only knows what else I’ll find as I continue to remodel.

The Indo-Jew Bowl

I will consider my life an abysmal failure if I cannot (*somehow*) make it to this annual gridiron contest in Skokie.

I mean, seriously---who could (or would) pass this up?

I’m already scared that I won’t be able to attend as I have familial commitments to mind. But golly gosh darn I’m gonna try so hard to make the magic happen.

Personally I’d like to do a soul food tailgate with all of the classic fixins’ along with both beef and pork ribs. You know---for diversity’s sake.

Nobody wants to get a n Indo-Jew beat down on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Red Forman

These dumbasses deserve everything they get.

The intelligence of your average criminal in the Chicagoland area has hit the skids.

My Hometown

What can you say about South Bend, Indiana?

When I go home---which is often these days---the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's song "My Hometown" just run over and over through my mind.

The future for my old stomping grounds ain't looking good.

Some kids who went to Notre Dame believe that hope springs eternal and put up this website.

I hope they're right.