Monday, July 31, 2006

Paradise By The Dashboard Lights and the Big Box---The Reality

From what I’ve been able to surmise Woodlawn has jack shit when it come to retail.

And no, fast food restaurants and chicken places don’t count.

Since there is no grocery store, dry cleaners, hardware store, or Laundromat within walking distance of my house, I spend 99.9% of the money I earn outside of my neighborhood.

Bus ride to Hyde Park to the Co-Op shopping center are pretty much the norm.

Note: That’s a full ten city blocks away from my home.

Quite frankly as a urban dwelling south sider, I’m lucky to have that option.

At least a grocery store, hardware store and drug store are in a tight grouping which allows me to save on time and in most cases money.

I honestly can’t think of anywhere I can do that in Woodlawn proper.

Moreover the existing retail that I’ve had the opportunity to patronize is piss poor.

The few Mom and Pop stores that managed to survive are now run by folks who live outside of the community. That in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker.

What chaps my hide is the fact that people who live outside of the community not only offer substandard goods and services but they in turn barely support the community with charitable efforts.

A for-profit business has no obligation to participate in any type of goodwill, charitable or not. Nonetheless I was always under the impression that creating goodwill often meant creating and keeping new customers.

Now I’m sure what I don’t know about the business community in Woodlawn would fill volumes. But as I’m reminded at work from time to time perception is reality. And from where I stand dusty cans of clinged peaches and rotting cabbage do not a quality store make.

Don’t even get me started on which large Chicagoland grocery store in my neighborhood just started carrying olive oil.

Moo and Oink has olive oil and you mean to tell me this particular grocer can’t get a bottle of basic olive oil on the shelves until 2006?


Bullshit.

One of my neighbors who shops at the store on a regular basis was shocked when she didn’t have to go to another store to find her cooking staple.

So when you combine the lack of commerce, the abundance of need along with faltering competition, our little hood is ripe for a big box retailer.

After all south siders spend money too.

Oh before I forget---Paradise my friend if I didn’t have to take public transportation, trust me I wouldn’t.

The fact that I have to walk everywhere has nothing to do with being concerned about the environment or some high purpose---I simply can’t afford a car.

I’ve had enough shitty CTA service, indifferent train operators and bus drivers while rubbing elbows with shady characters to last a lifetime.

Personally if I could afford a car and driver at my beck and call you bet your boots I’d be hightailing it to Target on 87th Street in a quick hurry.

Paradise By The Dashboard Lights and the Big Box---The Theory

Frequent reader Paradise left a comment about my last post concerning the new Walgreens that opened around the corner from my home.

While his (or her) theory is sound and very well thought out, unfortunately the intent of my post was to illustrate the lack of goods and services in my immediate neighborhood and throughout Woodlawn.

In short P., if a Target or Wal-Mart plopped down in the middle of Stony Island right now, I’d do the happiest of the happy dances.

Normally I don’t shill for the man. Both superstores are well oiled corporations that know how to squeeze a buck out of everything they do.

But Woodlawn, and in my opinion most of the south and west sides of the city, are in an entirely different situation than the north side and most of the suburbs.

I think it’s nice to wax on about the “unsustanibility” of big box retailers and how their car dependent focus affects everything from the “walkability” of a city to the effect on mass transit. The truth of the matter is that affordable quality shopping options are few and far between where I live.

I used to be the biggest Wal-Mart hater you could find. From what I’ve read, they are not the best corporate citizen and they tend to treat their workers poorly.

I railed against the machine until Wal-Marts started plopping down in and near my hometown of South Bend, IN.

I continued to rail as my sister found her way to their doors and started to shop there.

I held my nose aloft until my sister put it in terms I could understand:

“I can’t feed three kids on principle. Unless you’re going to start buying my groceries, shut your cakehole.”

Whomp there it is.

I know P. is right. I’m smart enough to see the forest through the trees but corporate disdain is for those of you who have options. When you have none (or fewer than most) those absolutes aren’t so absolute.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Commerce, Finally

Praise Jesus.

The Walgreens has finally opened up near my house.

Now I won't either have to trek to Chatham, Hyde Park or the Loop in order to pick up medicine or take advantage of the great weekly sales.

Because I don't have a car trying to get to Walmart or Target is troublesome. What's even worse is carrying my purchases home. Only so much will fit into a grocery cart.

So I sat down one day with my Sunday ads and did side by side price comparisons of the sale goods that Target and Walgreens offered. It turned out that the prices were either a wash or there wasn't that much of a difference.

The bright light popped on and I came to the conclusion that instead of schlepping to Target or begging for a ride, that I would simply hit the five Walgreens near my work to get my household items.

You see my friends I like to buy in bulk and I like to clip coupons. What can I say---I'll spend money on good hooch but shop for the best value for my dish soap.

Go figure?

Plus I don't want to be left stranded on the toliet when there's two feet of snow on the ground and I have no toliet paper.

Now that's a lonely and uncomfortable feeling.

The only drawback is I have to get to items from work to home.

At the worst it takes several weeks worth of trips. If I'm lucky I can convince a friend to come and pick me up after work and I just load up all of my stuff.

Now with a Walgreens three blocks away this process just got a whole lot less involved.

My big late summer/early fall stock up is in full effect, yo!

At least you guys know where to write if you need some cleanser or paper goods.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Refrigerator

I came home a few weeks ago to an unexpected surprise.

My cat Jack had somehow gotten into the refrigerator and pulled out a majority of it’s contents, ate and scattered them hither and yon, then proceeded to leave the door open so all of the contents inside warmed up to salmonella breeding temperatures.

Actually that’s not true---the contents and the open refrigerator themselves were down right hot. So much so that the closed freezer above started to warm up and its contents were mere hours away from turning into mush themselves.

Needless to say that all of my dairy products had to meet Mr. Trash Can.

I was not a happy camper.

One of the unfortunate results of Jack’s tumor is that more than likely it’s pressing into his stomach and making eating and digestion generally uncomfortable for him.

Since he’s not getting any nutrition his fur is falling out in droves.

He can barely keep any type of food down.

When his dry food became too much for his stomach, he simply stopped eating. I switched to a wet food and he ate it but quickly became disenchanted.

I truly don’t know if it was the food, the flavor or that he can’t eat as much as he’d like in any one sitting.

Throwing up is seemingly a daily occurrence for my friendly furry man.

He barely eats anything but still has an appetite.

That got me to thinking that he can’t be that far gone with this cancer thing if he still wants to eat.

So like the good cat mother I try to be I started feeding him people and baby food.

Cooked turkey sausage, Gerber chicken stix & meat stix, tuna---you name it I tried to feed it to him.

Now he’d eat his new meals for a day or two---just long enough to fool me into thinking that I’d found the solution. And then as suddenly as he’d start eating, he’d stop.

The last time he went to the vet a few weeks ago he weighed less than 10 pounds. I’m sure that number has gone down as well.
So imagine my surprise when I found steaks on the living room carpet.

Who knew a cancer ridden cat with one eye and mangy looking fur could pull multiple steaks out of the frig?

At this point you’re probably wondering how the cat got into the refrigerator in the first place.

Rushing to get out of the house one morning, I may have not fully closed the door as I grabbed my yogurt on the way to the train.

All Jack had to do was slip a well placed paw into even the tiniest gap and pop that bad boy open.

The rest you already know.

He may not be long for this world but at least he’s going out fighting.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Catwalk

Last night amid TGIF frivolity I receive a phone call from my neighbor.

Neighbor: “I have your cat.”

WW: “Excuse me?”

Neighbor: “I have your cat. I found him on my front porch.”

This is a conversation I have with my neighbors at least once every summer so I didn’t think it was so unusual.

Neighbor: “I’ll return him to you in a temporary carrier that I have but I have no idea
how he got over here.”

WW: “Oh he just got up and walked over.”

I could imagine the look of puzzlement on her face.

I live on the third floor of a one hundred plus year old building. If you saw the pictures of the flowers you know that I have a front porch. On occasion if I leave Jack unattended and he get bored, he just takes a little walk across to the neighboring balconies just to see what’s going on.

Oh yeah---the walk is about fifty feet off the ground on a narrow ledge. He’s a cat, apparently he can handle the stroll.

My question is how in God’s name did he get out on the porch?

I could have sworn that I did a visual check of his whereabouts before I left yesterday morning.

Then of course he probably followed me out as I checked the weather from the porch and I didn’t know he was out there.

That’s the only way I can imagine that this whole thing happened.

But I am referring to the animal that somehow got into my refrigerator and pulled food out to see what he could eat.

I wound up with a steak on my dinning room carpet. But that is another blog entry for another time.

For a cat that is very sick with cancer he still finds ways to amaze me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's a Hootenanny!

The association cookout is supposedly tomorrow. This ought to be a good one. Details to follow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Urban Sprawl, Woodlawn Style

One of my neighbors received the following letter yesterday:

Re: XXXX East 65th Place
Chicago, IL

Dear Property Owner or Resident:

In accordance with the requirements of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance specifically Section 194B-6.1(C), please be informed that on or about June 30th, 2006, the undersigned will file an application to the Chicago Plan Commission under the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance on behalf of XXXX East 65th Place, Inc. for the property located at XXXX East 65th Place, Chicago, Illinois.

The applicant plans to build a new four unit residential building on the subject property.

I am the attorney for the applicant and the contact person for this application. My address is XXXX West Washington Street, Chicago, IL and my telephone number is (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

Please note that the applicant is not seeking to affect or purchase your property. The applicant is required by law to send this notice because you own property within 250 feet of the subject property.

Sincerely,

XXXX

Naturally phone calls were placed and oddly enough the attorney declined to name the developer. I was told that he said that this person was a private developer with private monies seeking to build market rate housing on the lot.

I wonder what's up with the cloak and daggers?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Green Acres

Patience is a virtue when trying to work with the City of Chicago.

The school across the street submitted an application for the 50/50 sidewalk construction program on April 25th.

Up until last week, they had not heard a peep from anyone.

It turns out that the Department of Transportation misplaced the school’s application. A few phone calls from me to my alderman’s office and in turn to the Department of Transportation not only yielded the application but an application number to boot.

This happened on July 10th.

Yep, from April 25th to July 10th the application sat in oblivion. Never to be heard from again.

You really have to make your own luck in this town cats and kittens. As you can see, ain’t nobody gonna give you a break.

In fact, the day I received the phone call updating me on the application’s status I actually saw the surveying crew doing their thing.

Once the estimate comes in to the school, they’ll then decide if they have enough money to go forward.

If we’re lucky we might see a new sidewalk and parkway before the weather changes.

I will say that the school has held up its end of the bargain by picking up the trash and mowing the parkway.

They get major props as those simple acts have literally transformed the whole look of the neighborhood.

New sidewalks and green grass will make it look even better.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Good Night & Good Luck

Justice is for those who can afford such luxuries.

Unfortunately while our association is in a much better position financially, we aren’t at the point where we can shell out a $7,500 retainer for a lawyer.

A lawyer who would of took the case on a contingency fee might I add.

Every lawyer or legal person I’ve spoken to has said we have an open and shut case. Slam dunk, no question.

But as I’m sure you all know because you’re up on things like that---a judgment isn’t worth the piece of paper it’s written on.

Yeah, it’s great to be able to attach it on to a credit report but we’re looking for the cash.

Cold, hard, put it in the bank account cash.

Anything less---lawsuit wise---is pointless.

I mean we just got bitch slapped by the bankruptcy trustee regarding the almost $7,000 judgment against Maurice Cousin.

While I personally like to mix it up when I know I’ve been wronged, this isn’t my call. It’s the association’s call and I can’t see those kids willing to extend more energy for the probability of a less than stellar result.

Being fair has nothing to do with justice.

Personally I don’t want to get all Bart Ross on this issue either.

I’m not trying to make light of the pain that psycho cause Judge Lefkow’s family but rather to underscore that sometime you need to know when to when to let it go.

No matter how right you may be or feel you may be.

When you make an issue your number one priority it can consume your very existence until there’s nothing left.

Carlton Knight isn’t worth my soul.

God knows, if he believes in such things, he’s going to have a hard enough time saving his own.

As I’ve said before karma is a motherfucker.

Now don’t think I won’t be persuaded to get back in the fight if a cool $10K or excellent free legal representation drops out of the sky (wouldn’t we make a great pro bono case, hint, hint) but the chances of that are remote.

It’s not that the dog isn’t hunting anymore but rather needed to take a rest after all of that hunting.

I’m sure the scent will get picked up again in the near future.

Monday, July 10, 2006

97% Meets 3%

An open invitation to ChiKat.

It's time for you and the husband to come over and have Bloody Mary's and Vodka Lemonades on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I believe it's time for us to meet.

We can talk gardening, crazy neighborhood characters and Woodlawn.

You can throw me an e-mail. Let's make it happen.

Woody

Acceptance

You kind folks may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much lately.

Well quite frankly when I resigned from the condo board, most pipelines of information dried up rather quickly.

Then of course I do have my sanity back.

Unfortunately our grass is paying the price for not having someone else helping to look after it on a regular basis but a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

Seriously though---the weed choked lawn is really chapping my hide.

Nonetheless, a certain form of acceptance is settling over me with regards to my bootleg developer.

I still hate him and I still would love to see him nailed to the wall legally but reality has reared its ugly head despite all of my efforts.

We just don’t have to money to pursue that bastard legally.

Brother (or sister) can you spare a dime?

Friday, July 07, 2006

An Ill Wind

Our meeting started 20 minutes late.

The meeting that was confirmed mere minutes before I walked over to the office, the meeting that had been on the books for one month started 20 minutes late.

Oh yeah---The Lord High Executioner wasn’t even in attendance.

Lady Deathstrike, Bufford and I met.

It was, to say the least, not as productive as I had imagined.

I was hoping for a report on the city’s efforts to stop my bootleg developer’s real estate follies. Instead I was greeted with “there is no such thing as a developer’s license.”

Speaking verbatim, they were right---there is no such thing as a developer’s license.

There is such a thing as a real estate developer’s registry and an ordinance that any real estate developer must put his business license number on any and all advertisements, sales literature and contracts.

Six of one, half dozen of the other---I try not to get bogged down in semantics.

I even went so far to locate the press release from over two years ago on the city’s website to illustrate my point.

I was also told keeping track of my developer’s progress through the DCAP process might be difficult. Now I may be vague on the direct quote but it went something like “We have trouble getting answers in our own cases.”

I mentioned that financial relief from our developer seemed like a long shot as attorneys that would represent us on a contingency basis are still not within our budget. My main goals were to stop our developer from unsafe and safety riddled real estate development and to deal with the third party fine we now have in our association’s name.

While there wasn’t too long of a silence in the room, I had a feeling I was losing my audience.

Again I explained why what my developer was doing in the current context of his real estate development in my neighborhood broke several city ordinances concerning development and construction in the city.

Again, I got two sets of eyes that seemed to not fully comprehending why this was a problem.

I was told that perhaps it would be a good idea to put down these concerns in writing. So I did:

Folks,

I wanted to be clear why DCAP should not grant XXXX current request for a building permit for the XXXX project.

Referencing the e-mail I sent yesterday, XXXX falls short on several key issues:

According to my FOIA research at the Department of Business Affairs & Licensing, XXXX does not have a business license.

Without a business license XXXX should not be able to apply for building permits as a real estate developer with DCAP. Quoting the Mayor from the press release, "ensuring that only licensed developers can apply for building permits, this helps improve the quality of building construction."

Furthermore, according the Business Affairs & Licensing's website, XXXX is not registered as a D/B/A (doing business as) for the XXXX, LLC corporation. A name that he has registered with the Secretary of State's office.

Unless I grossly misunderstood the intent of the ordinance, XXXX has not satisfied any of the perfunctory requirements of the ordinance. Moreover, he or individuals under his direction have done significant illegal and unlicensed construction to the building at XXXX. This obviously is in flagrant violation of construction and permit practices. Lastly, according to the County Clerk of the Circuit Court's Website, XXXX still has outstanding monies owed to the city. How can a license for anything be granted to someone who owes significant revenue to the city?

The research that I've done provides a credible and traceable pattern of real estate management and development by XXXX. That along with his lack of familiarity of the procedures central to his livelihood I find it incredulous that he is still allowed to operate.

XXXX has left a paper trail of questionable business dealings and practices that is difficult to ignore. If he is allowed to continue in this manner I fear for the safety of the condo owners of his future projects.

In my opinion he is as much a menace as a common criminal with a gun. Shouldn't future tax paying home owners be afforded every protection the city's legal system can given them?

Respectfully,

The Woodlawn Wonder


How many more ways can I say that my developer’s practices are dangerous? How many more ways can I urge those who can act to do so before it’s too late?

Methinks I feel a definite change in the air and it ain’t for the good.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blown Off

I was so blown off today by the Lord High Executioner. This cannot be a good sign. Details to follow.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

On The Right Road

Per our monthly association meeting last week, it seems that the green grass is now on our side of the fence.

For the first time in our history all eighteen units will be paying assessments.

We’ve paid off over $14,000 of our loan for the back porches.

We’ve fixed the fa├žade, patched the holes in the roof and finally got the lights up.

It appears that the much needed assessment hike will pad us (*fingers crossed*) from any future special assessments. Moreover, the money will be there for us to embark upon capital improvements and maintenance.

In short, the outlook is sunny.

For the first time in a long time people weren’t on edge or snapping at each other at a meeting. It’s nice to enjoy your neighbor’s company from time to time

More importantly, the meeting was under two hours. An hour and a half if memory serves me correctly.

We even started planning our association cookout. We’re even going to try and invite other condo owners in the immediate area.

Things are going well.

It makes me think that a big cosmic kick in the ass may be coming somewhere down the line.

Sorry guys, I’m trying to control the pessimist in me but it’s so hard.
I’ll try to enjoy our vastly improved fortunes.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gardening Is Good


Another One Bites The Dust

Last week at our monthly condo board meeting, it was mentioned that the second of our four foreclosed upon units was scheduled to close that very week.

Yipee!

Our new neighbor---rumored to be a fireman---should be moving in shortly.

Two down, two to go.