Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frying Pan Into The Fire

It appears that the battle was won but the outcome of the war is severely muddled.

While the Friday night Juke Jams were shut down, the Metropolitan quickly rebounded by booking a “for ladies only” strip show in its space last week.

How do I know?

Easy---I simply asked a few of the ladies pouring out of the cars parked on my street.

They were all too eager to chat about where they were going and the type of show that was going on inside.

As a matter of fact, it seemed that tickets could be purchased in advance so there had to be some type of publicity or word of mouth. If I wasn’t in so much pain from my knee injury earlier in the week, I would have limped down there to see if I could have bought a ticket and seen the show.

More on my personal reenactment of the ice capades later.

These latest incidents reinforce my belief that whoever’s in charge at the Metropolitan is making some questionable decisions regarding the rental of their space.

Furthermore, I have serious questions about proper licensing and zoning issues.

Now I haven’t thoroughly checked everything out, but I believe our little piece of paradise is zoned residential, not commercial---but then of course I could be wrong.

Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to run an party space in the same building as a substance abuse recovery program so what do I know?

Interestingly enough I did manage to find out that when one throws a large party or one where money an admission is being charged; it is the responsibility of the promoter or the host to make sure that the venue in question has all of the proper permits, licenses, safety features and apparatuses.

If the venue doesn’t have all of its ducks in a row, a responsible promoter would be crazy to stage his or her parties at the venue for fear of a possible lawsuit.

So caveat emptor when buying your ticket to these events. The party may be poppin’ but a panicked crowd of people in a venue that may or may have its permits, licensing and inspection by the fire department is a place that I have no desire to be.

Frankly speaking, that scenario is quite a possible with a novice or negligent party promoter.

I know what you’re thinking---Let’s not even talking about security and parking.

So while it would be easy for me to piss and moan about an impending disaster across the street, in actuality I don’t really know what’s exactly going on.

I don’t know who’s running the show.

I don’t know who’s promoting and hosting most of the parties.

I don’t know what type of setup the Metropolitan has or if our little hoody hoo is zoned for such a venture.

I don’t even know if neighborhood input would be welcomed or even considered.

But I’m sure as hell gonna find out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Phyrric

Calls were made.

Concerns were raised.

The Juke Jame situation was assessed.

Long story short, it seems that some law enforcement types were none too pleased about an ongoing party for 14-20 year olds that they hadn't been informed about.

Discussion flourished.

But in the end the party was called off. Go figure.

A small victory for the 'hood, right?

Wrong---dead wrong.

Goodbye Juke Jam.

Hello strippers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Many Times Can I Invoke The Name Of Jesus In A Week?

You know what? I'm going to go and get a drink.

While doing so, I'll ponder the possible impact of this latest development on the 'hood.

Jesus take the wheel.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Milorad

The hair should have been the dead giveaway.

I knew I should have trusted my first impressions. But, no---I waved it off.

Then came word about the near daily commutes between Chicago and Springfield.

Then the family feud and all of the ensuing ugliness. That’s when the world was first introduced to the term “testicular virility.”

Sweet Baby Jesus.

Then he was the “first Black Governor of Illinois.”

Do not even get me started on that one.

Now rampant greed and runaway ego will cause the entire nation look on as yet another Illinois governor is under federal indictment.

But the cherry on top of all of this foolishness is how the Illinois voter is shocked by the goings on of Governor Blagojveich.

He got me once---I voted for him in ’02 hoping that he could wash away the stench of Ryan administration.

Yeah, I know I was a dumbass but I can dream the impossible dream can’t I?

After I got wind of the commuting foolishness ($26 million over the lifetime of his administrations), I knew this wasn’t the guy you let hold the cookie jar.

Yet more than one dumbass voted to have him hold the jar once again in ’06.

Now everyone wants to wag their fingers and cluck their tongues at his behavior when they as a voting body tacitly approved such shenanigans.

So now the great cry is heard and clothes are being rendered.

All they had to do was ask me. I’d would have let you in on the secret.

Never trust a man who’s constantly fiddling with his hair.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The More Things Change...

Just a few things that have been on my mind lately:

Despite the Chicago Transit Authority getting ready to committ legal robbery without a gun (translation: fare hikes), someone up there FINALLY started thinking from a rider's point of view by introducing the bus tracker program.

I swear it was sent from heaven.

You go to www.ctabustracker.com, click on the "estimated arrival times" link, find the line that you want, choose the direction and pick the stop. And right there before your eyes you have about the next three buses for your stop.

And when you're online the bustracker counts down IN REAL TIME!

Sweet Baby Jesus.

If you're getting dressed in the morning or trying to get somewhere on time, this thing is a godsend.

You want to know what's better?

This handy little utility can be accessed from any web enabled phone.

Now be forewarned, all bus lines aren't on the bus tracker yet but the CTA keeps on adding more with regularity.

Finally a real use for GPS. My days of running for the bus are over

Seemingly the more things change, the more they stay the same.

While I won't have to run for the bus, it won't matter much as I'm sure I'll slip and fall on the sidewalk that Mt. Carmel is supposed to maintain.

Long time readers know that this isn't the first time I've had issue with the snow clearing on the north side of the street.

It took forever to finally get a nice sidewalk. Even longer to get it plowed when the snow fell.
We haven't quite worked our way up to getting salt, but eyes remain heavenward and heads bowed.

Most people are griping that the city will let their side streets remain snowy and slick. Since we're used to the streets turning into sheets of ice before the plows get to us I say to the rest of the city----welcome to the club. Welcome to being treated like the colored.

Now you know how the folks on this little two block strecth of Nirvana on the south side feel.

Now we're back to practically begging Mt. Carmel to do what they should be doing in the first place.

The salt---that once again should be voluntarily spread on the sidewalk---would be icing on the cake

But no here I am again writing about the maintenance, or lack thereof, of our neighbor across the street.

You would think that at an school that prides itself on instilling moral character in young men would show a little to their neighbors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Floater

While the turkey never slid off the table at my house, there were quite a few mishaps during my youth.

Don't ask.

Despite what's going on in the economy and this crazy mixed up world, here's to hoping we all have a safe remainder of the holiday season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

State Secret

Now let’s all put our heads together on this one.

Go to the Inauguration---nope, no way.

Freezing my ass off with a crappy view of the action is not my idea of a good time.

I would on the other hand, like to go to a state dinner.

So from now until President Elect Obama leaves office, I’m on a mission to get invited to the White House for a state dinner.

I’m pretty sure I can clear a Secret Service background check. And I promise to act like I have some home training.

Yet I’m not quite sure how I’m going to pull this one off.

Any ideas, folks?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yes We Can

I have yet to have children.

I do not know how it feels to give birth to another human being and to experience that life long love---that maternal bond.

My friends with kids often remark they'd do anything to protect their children.

Playing devil's advocate, I jump on the bandwagon and ask them if they knew that their child (or children)commited a crime, would they ever turn them in to the police.

Every last one of them has said no.

They couldn't bring themselves to turn their children in---no matter how horrific the act.

I counter with the statement, "So why do you bother teaching them right from wrong and taking them to church?

That one is usually met with icy silence.

I guess it's difficult to turn over one's offspring to the authorities.

That's why this woman not only gets my praise but my prayers and respect as well.

Instead of turning a blind eye, she made a huge personal sacrifice.

She knows that all of the best examples begin at home.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Post Election Reflection

While President Elect Obama’s historic campaign brought out the worst in his opponents, I will say that his election last Tuesday brought out the best in Chicago.

I have never seen that much order and love among a large diverse crowd at a public gathering ever.

Makes you kinda wonder what else Chicagoans could do if we overcame the bullshit and ugliness and came together.

And while we’re on the topic, nuts to those doom and gloom naysayers and scared rabbits that left the city with a quickness on Tuesday.

Those who said that no matter what the election outcome there would still be rioting on the streets.

It’s nice to know that we proved them wrong.

A small aside to my African American brothers and sisters:

While President Elect Obama is an impressive figure, do not place ALL of your hopes and dreams on his shoulders.

While he serves as an inspiration of what hard work and determination can do, he is not the only Black person who can achieve in this country.

Let me reiterate that point: He is not the only Black person who can achieve in this country.

I’m not sure why some of us need this stunning example to underscore this point but hey---whatever works.

You don’t have to give me that look---I know the deck is stacked but like President Elect Obama you’ve got to be three times as good (Read: Extremely Qualified) and run a tight campaign.

Oh yeah---and build a coalition.

On that note I just want to put a few things for your consideration on the table:

Can we start respecting each other and the places where we live just a little bit more? Picking up trash really doesn’t take too much time, really.

Is it possible that we could stop killing and poisoning one another? When I say poisoning I mean drugs and drug dealing.

Now here’s the tough one---Can we start holding community and elected leaders accountable for their actions?

Since Black people were usually on the short end of the stick when it came to inclusion in this country, it seems like we fell for the heady promise of someone who happened to look like us being in power.

From Hatcher in Gary, to Coleman in Detroit, to Barry in D.C.----dreams were realized but at a heavy cost.

Each of those leaders had the best of intentions, but reality was quite a different kettle of fish.

Black folks were a little new to the game. We didn’t know 40 years ago that you have to build coalitions in order to preserve the tax base which in turns pays for the cops, the fireman and the teachers.

But we know that now.

So the moral of my little tale is we have no permanent friends, we have no permanent enemies but we do have permanent interests that have yet to be effectively served by some of those in power.

To that end, call ‘em on the carpet.

Not only the politicians but the absentee land and property owners---one person (or a group of people) can make a difference.

Yes we can.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Teacher Teacher

I should have known what was coming when The Teacher not only knocked on my door one Thursday evening a few weeks ago, but also tried my doorknob.

I mean what’s so urgent that you have to try the knob to your neighbor’s door?

Especially during Ugly Betty.

I thought there might have been an emergency.

But by the time I got to the door no one was there.

“Odd.” I thought.

I proceeded to call my first floor neighbor while I knocked on The Teacher’s door.

I wanted to make sure everything was alright.

That’s when my neighbor, The Teacher, lost her fucking mind.

I have never---not even once----attempted to shirk my fiscal or personal responsibility to my condo association.

For her to accuse me of “being a bad neighbor” is absolutely ridiculous.

Moreover, it’s completely unfounded.

An employment and cash flow hiccup---well perhaps we can call it a burp as I was unemployed for 11 months---cannot compare to the benefits MY efforts have brought to this association and our neighborhood.

So apparently she didn’t consider that while she was bumpin her gums attempting to bully me into paying money I don’t have.

But I tend to call that the Janet Jackson consciousness---The “What Have You Done For Me Lately” attitude.

Furthermore her husband, our association treasurer, fell derelict in his duties by letting so many owners get so far behind in their assessments.

And when I say behind, I mean to the tune of almost $10,000.

That’s ten grand. Ten large. Or to put it another way, a dime to those of you who speak Soprano.

So I wonder what it was about the mounting arrearage that didn’t set off the alarms in his head.

One may never know.

But I do know that the both of them have been lobbying for some time to be paid for their efforts.

Then of course I performed my contributions to our associations while working two jobs. Never asking for, nor expecting one thin dime for my quantifiable results.

Nonetheless, I was the recipient of The Teacher’s rage that fine Thursday evening.

Despite my efforts to make this a civil conversation I was called and or told the following:
I am a bad neighbor.
I am a deadbeat.
I’m hurting the association.

But the last three comments in this bitch session were priceless.

This woman had the stones to question me about the packages that were being delivered to me. Her inference was that I had money to buy things so I must be able to pay my back assessments.

Not that it was any of her business but I did celebrate a milestone birthday in late August and decided to use some of the gift cards that I had received.

You know---the ones you can’t turn in for cash.

Oh, but she wasn’t done by a long shot.

“You know if I had a storage room full of things in the basement, I would sell them----sell anything I had not to be in debt.”
I looked at her like she had just spoken to me in Klingon.

I remember thinking that she had to have been smoking something to come up with that one.

Can you believe the audacity?

No doubt she saved the best for last.

After all of this (and missing the first 10 minutes of Ugly Betty) I asked her a simple question: “Do you think I’m the type of person who would leave my neighbors in a lurch? Do you really think that I would leave you guys holding the bag?”

Without missing a beat she said “Yes.”

Wow.

Well there it is.

All I was initially seeking was an accurate accounting of my back assessments. Instead of our treasurer sitting down with me and making me understand his numbers he left his duties up to his wife.

What more was there to say?

I bid The Teacher and her husband good night. I turned on my heel and went back to my program.

Yes there was another knock at the door and yes I saw my treasurer on my doorstep. The association’s books in his hand, but I had more pressing matters at hand.

Betty was trying to figure out who pushed her best friend down the stairs.

I was done.

Absolutely, positively done.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Bad Neighbor

I am a bad, thoughtless neighbor.

Again.

Or at least that's how my fellow board member who also happens to be my treasurer's wife sees it.

My 11 month unemployment jag was no secret.

And while I've been working for a little over three months, playing catch up on debt is a bitch. Frankly speaking, I knew that it would probably take six to nine months to get back to zero.

And yes, I am behind on my assessments.

Note: When I say behind I mean BEHIND.

I, of all people, know that good intentions don't pay a condo association's bills. Moreover I was one of several board members who voted for tougher rules on owners that fall behind on their assessments.

Irony is a motherfucker.

Like it or lump it I was (and am) behind in my assessments and had have limited e-mail conversations with our association treasurer about the actual amounts that were owed.

He said it was one amount, I disagreed and said it was another.

Because how can I start to formulate a repayment plan when I didn't have a starting out figure?

In all honesty our treasurer wasn't too swift about getting back to me and I was too busy trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head and my utilities on.

Then I got my current position and set about making nicey with ComEd, Peoples Gas & AT&T.

But guess what happened?

Our treasurer's wife, let's call her The Teacher, jumped in the fray.

At first she called and stated that a lien could be placed on my unit.

And while I assured her that I would pay up as quickly as possible, at least things were somewhat cordial.

That changed a few weeks ago.

'Cause The Teacher took it from business to personal.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Drama Continues

The letter finally came.

The City of Chicago Consumer Services Department has filed charges against that bootleg taxicab driver who wouldn’t take me home a few months ago.

It would seem that I have a knack of running into drivers that won’t take me to the south side.

It’s kind of like a gift, really.

While it sucks in the moment, at least in my own way I’m rooting out crappy taxi drivers.

Like a scrubbing bubble, I’m doing the hard work so you don’t have to.

Nonetheless, the form letter from Consumer Services states that the driver could “demand a trial.”

I say bring it on, homeboy.

We could have avoided this whole mess.

Everyone involved in this rigmarole could be going with the countless other things they have going on in their lives had the driver simply taken me home.

Personally I can name about twelve other things I’d rather be doing than taking a taxi driver to task over refusing me service.

It really is just that easy.

Why didn’t my cab driver think so?

If history is any precedent, the night driver of 6215 will think twice before he pulls that crap on anyone else.

South side, represent.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tipping

Now that I’ve been on the hustle for about six months as a waitperson, I’ve come to recognize my favorite type of customers. This is in no particular order:

St. Ignatius Football Fans
University of Chicago Employees on a payday
Construction Workers
Groups of six or more---especially the ones who drink.

Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I closely monitor my customer’s drinking.

If I think you’re getting close to that line, you’re driving or walk in completely bombed, I won’t serve you. I don’t care how much money you’re going to spend. If you’re in a group I’ll at least limit you to 21 Jaeger Bombs (don’t laugh---that actually happened)

My least favorite types of customers:

People who start a conversation---“I’d like a (fill in the blank). How much does that cost?”
Demanding patrons who can’t ask for everything at the same time.
Anyone who treats you like and/or makes you feel like the help.

That last one would fall under the heading of asshole.

Now just because you or people like you may fall under the heading of “favorite type of customer” doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a big tipper.

What let’s me know that I may get a decent (read: 20% or more) tip is the graciousness of a person's demeanor.

Not all gracious people are great tippers but all of my big tippers are gracious people.

Those are the ones I love to see coming.

But make no mistake folks, I bring a lot of waitressing skills to the table.

The busboy drops your waters, shortly thereafter I come over to greet you again and take your drink order.

Once I bring back your drinks I take your food order(s), come back with silverware, condiments and any think else I may think you may need for your meal.

In short, I make sure you don’t have to ask for anything unless you actually forget to ask me.

Despite my best efforts---and the best efforts of many other servers---these actions sometimes do not bring reward.

Most people don’t care that I have to tip out my support staff.

I lose 7% of my money off the top.

Most people don’t recognize seamless service and a pleasant experience until you forget one water refill and they base their tipping on that one incident.

Believe it or not, I’ve made my peace with those types of people.

What can a girl do?

I can’t control the world.

And for every cheap ass---and there are many---there are people who are so easy to deal with you should pay them for sitting in your area.

I get that these are hard economic times but if you have enough to go out, you have enough to leave 20%.

If not, me and the rest of my serving brethren implore you to stay home.

‘Cause in the end, you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drumbeats

It’s nice to know that I’m not stupid.

That what I’ve been seeing and writing about since 2005 wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

And because people were too greedy or too clueless to see the warning signs all of us are paying the price.

Yeah I know that borrowing beyond one’s means for a home they couldn’t afford played a huge part in this mess.

But if that was the beginning of the end, foreclosures were the final nail in the coffin.

Basing business decisions on asset back securities that can’t be reliably verified is little more than a shell game.

But I think the powers that be kinda picked up the clue phone on that one.

And now the American public is left picking up a 700 billion dollar tab.

And the punch line is it may not be enough.

But the fascinating wrinkle in this whole mess is how Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has taken a stand against tenant foreclosure evictions.

A sense of moral justice and easy on the eyes? Like that happens everyday.

With Cook County’s foreclosures tripling this year to over 40,000, Sheriff Dart said that too many innocent renters were being evicted in a process not of their own making.

Now where did I hear that before?

Then of course a nice little community group from Albany Park neighborhood did their part by alerting the Sheriff to the fact of the innocents trapped in this foolishness.

And there’s the rub my friends.

While I’m a huge fan of personal responsibility, as a culture we’ve gotten away from the notion of looking out for the collective.

Or does that smack of socialism?

While potential subsidized housing and mortgage fraud may not necessarily be poppin’ off in
your ‘hood, it doesn’t mean that somewhere down the line it won’t affect you personally.

So while some people sat up and tisk tisked about the high mortgage defaults on the south and west side of Chicago, little did they know that similar situations were happening all over the country.

A financial storm was brewing and little was done about it in my humble opinion due to the fact of where it was happening and who was immediately affected.

That’s my nice way of saying racism and classism reared its ugly head in an incredibly genteel way.

NIMBYism at it’s finest.

Yes, some people made wrong choices in attempting to afford too much house and signing their name on the dotted line of a mortgage product whose terms they didn’t understand.

But it pretty much a foregone conclusion that the mortgage industry and a whole and the packaging of those mortgage backed assets---with little oversight or regulation might I add---was a time bomb waiting to happen.

And now it’s come to this my friends---my backyard is your backyard.

Too many foreclosures in too many neighborhoods have brought down some venerable and far reaching institutions.

Hell, the government of Iceland might have to go on Link.

So while we may not be our brother’s keeper, it may be on our best interests to listen to the far off drumbeats before they become deafening.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Grinding

You know what’s tougher than being out of work for 11 months?

Trying to play catch up on bills.

And when I say bills I mean the actual amount of money that I owe to friends.

If you’re thinking money and friendship is an explosive mix, you’re right.

That’s why I’m back to the grind at the restaurant during the weekends.

Do I like working six days a week---no.

Do I like being on my feet for seven hours after working a regular eight hour work day---no.

Do my feet hurt like a mother---yes.

And before you ask, yes the new job is going well, thank you.

But in these scary economic times, you have to get your grind on. Unless you have a war chest saved, you have to get on the hustle.

And that’s if you’re starting from zero.

But if you’re playing catch up, trying to make the war chest thing happen is a little tricky. It’s pointless to try to save money if you’re in debt.

And my job is a contract position so they could choose to let me go at any time.

So I’m on the hustle.

It’s tough to place a priority on who gets paid first. Frankly there are a great many people who have saved my ass over the past 11 months (and beyond).

But when I sit down to think about it, I have to whittle down my debt. And unfortunately that means I have to do that so in some type of order.

You gotta crawl before you can walk, right?

So if you happen to find me one late night a little blurry eyed at some south side dining establishment, don’t worry.

But I would very much appreciate you bringing in your non-demanding, cocktail drinking friends and their disposable income.

‘Cause I’m gonna rock it out and retire some of this debt before the end of this calendar year.

I’m a hustler baby.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Slinging Grub

If you happen to attend a Notre Dame football game this season and you’re a little hungry and/or thirsty, satisfy your cravings at booth 19.

You’ll know you’re at the right place ‘cause it’s next to the drunk tank.

That little stand is run by members of my hometown church, Olivet A.M.E.

In return for managing the stand and feeding the masses, the church gets a cut of the profits.

Or as I like to call it, hot dogs for homies.

But don’t tell them I said that.

So if you make it down to South Bend, say “hey” to everyone and pick up an extra item or two.

You probably need to bank some “favor points” with God by supporting a church after you woke up handcuffed in the back of a police car---again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hey Astor Properties...

Cut the freaking grass already.

And while you're at it, pick up the trash in the yard. If you don't, 5th Ward Streets & San will do it for you and charge you for their time.






Can you believe I have to look at this shit everyday?

Now do you gentle readers understand why I'm not a fan of non resident owners?

Take the wheel Jesus.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Spoke Too Soon

Just when I thought the 'hood was taking on an air of respectability, the restless youth have slowly but surely returned to the corner.

Great.

Not only have a hand full of the original horde started hanging out on the northwest corner, but when people cast lingering glances their way they go across Stony Island and hang out in the bus shelter.

I noticed yesterday the bus shelter got tagged with graffiti.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

I wonder if the owners of the building on the corner will enforce the no loitering order or if it will take another shooting (and a fatality) before people get it?

At least it was nice quiet month. I was just hoping it would last.

(Sigh)

On a different note I found out that I'm a finalist in the Mayor Daley's Landscape Awards Contest.

While I'm excited, I figured that when you enter gardening contests and don't hear back from anyone in a reasonable amount of time that some Versailles inspired garden has kicked your garden's ass.

So imagine my surprise when I got a phone call last week stating that I was a finalist and that someone needed to swing by the flat to take a look at the flowers.

Who knew?

I'll keep you posted on both fronts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Epilogue

It’s been a little over a month since the last shots were fired at the end of the block.

And believe it or not I haven’t seen any of the restless youth that normally hang on the corner.

Now what happened, I’m not sure.

But I do know that this new addition has been made to the building:


‘Cause without the restless youth hanging out the likely hood of shots being tossed decreases dramatically.

Via records from the Cook County Assessors and Treasurer, I discovered that the owners of the building are WECAN (Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors). And while I had my doubts about their tenant screening process, my faith has been renewed.

Once again, I have no clue what’s going on down there.

I don’t know if the adults have reclaimed their households or if WECAN had a come to Jesus meeting with some (or all) of their tenants.

Somebody laid down the law.

All I know is that the bullets have stopped whizzing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Last Gasp of Summer

With the weather changing, I wanted to give you a last taste of summer. These are the flowers I planted for my friend's back porch.


Unfortunately all the prettiness will be gone as soon as the frost hits.










Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Truth Tellin'

It’s time for some truth telling.

I’ve been noticing some things while walking around the ‘hood and it’s time to call it like I see it.

Traditionally, we all know Black neighborhoods in Chicago have been largely ignored by local government.

This shouldn’t be news.

Yet the thing that chaps my hide is how some people just don’t respect their own neighborhood. How they’ll just throw trash just any which-a-way.

Frankly speaking it just pisses me off.

You practically have to pull teeth around these parts to get people (or institutions) to do right.

I’m sorry, strike that----my alderman is a rock star.

Leslie Hairston is a huge reason why our little stretch of paradise looks as good as it does. And truth be told I’d wager Alderman Cochran has chimed in a time of two to make the magic happen.

I don’t know for sure but I’m just saying…

Nonetheless, no measure of governmental involvement can lift people out of a “ghetto mentality.”

Hell, yeah I said it.

Because that’s only way I can explain why someone who actually lives on my street would turn the parkway into their own personal trash can.

I don’t get why it’s so difficult for some people to pick up after themselves.

Then of course these are probably the same people who think its okay not to know where their children are at any given time.

We all know how successful that philosophy worked out around here.

My point is that when something goes wrong in the ‘hood the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin.

Community activists come out of the wood work and “demand” governmental accountability.

Well I have a news flash for you.

Why don’t those activists as well those members of the community hold each other accountable?
Why don’t we speak out as voraciously against shitty landlords who don’t perform adequate tenant background checks and rent to anyone with enough money (or government subsidy) that can afford their rent?

Why don’t we take the fight to them in their comfortable neighborhood as they make money off of ours?

And here’s the tough one.

Why don’t we try to convince the nice lady who lives down the street that her no account grandchildren who live with her do more harm than good to the neighborhood.

You know what I’m talking about.

Despite the fact no one wants to publically admit it, there’s always a home (or homes) on the block that harbors those asshole, layabouts who leech off of a family member and single handedly contribute to rise of crime.

Who bring their bootleg ghetto ass friends along with them and their collection of bad habits.

And when I say bad habits I mean felonious behavior.

I’m not advocating being unnecessarily nosy in people’s affairs but when the situation warrants questioning the status quo, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to do so.

After all closed mouths don’t get feed and bullets seemingly never hit their itended targets.

Turning a blind eye to the blatant foolishness that’s going on may one day come back to bite you in ass.

I know it’s not easy.

Nobody wants to be labeled as the self righteous Gladys Kravitz of the block.

But in this “Stop Snitching” atmosphere, perhaps it’s time to go back to some good old fashion community standards.

No I’m no going all conservative on you.

Then of course I don’t think our conservative friends have cornered the market on values and standards.

And no I could give a shit what two (or more) consenting adults choose to do in privacy of their home.

As long it doesn’t attract a negative illegal element.

As you see it’s a slippery slope.

My negative element could be your set of best friends.

The qualifier here is illegal. That’s the whole shooting match---if you’ll forgive the pun.

Ladies and gentlemen we’ve got to do better.

We must either individually or collectively hold those who seek to continue to marginalize our neighborhood accountable for their actions.

We have to want better neighbors who mind their children, throw their trash in the proper receptacles and live law abiding lives.

It’s not enough to hold an anti violence march.

We have to do better.

So the next time you’re up in arms at a CAPS meeting or find yourself thinking that the police aren’t doing enough to keep your neighborhood safe you need to reflect on what you’ve done to improve or eliminate a problems that surround you.

At the very least, you should at least be truthful with yourself.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Hanging Gardens

Versailles?

Are you effing kidding me?

Lushly planted Ponds? Colonial Williamsburg? A floral patchwork quilt? Prairie grasses?

Fuggetaboutit!

No wonder my container garden doesn’t even raise an eyebrow at the Trib.

As usual I sent in my glorious gardens entry hoping that the love would come my way. Disappointment reared its ugly head before but I solider on hoping one day that I’d get that fateful call.

Yet year after year the call never comes.

I look at it as another learning opportunity---a chance to refine my gardening skills and to widen my knowledge base.

No matter how much I think I’ve grown or improved, a sister can only do so much with containers.

Perhaps my thinking is too limited

Unless the overall winner is a hellafied container garden (we’ll find out next week), how can an urban gardener such as myself ever hope to complete against a Versailles inspired garden?

That's like putting a soap box derby winner in the Indianapolis 500. Can the Trib throw us small space container gardeners a bone?

Short of recreating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon I guess I’ll toil away in gardening anonymity

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Sign of the Apocalypse

“They” say the south side is a ghetto and dangerous? There may be a sliver of truth to that but at least our flowers are real.

Jesus take the wheel.

Monday, September 01, 2008

They Kept Their Word

Mt. Carmel finally finished their turf installation for the annual Brown and White intra squad game last Saturday.

The pictures on the Mt. Carmel's website are much better than what I can take with my cell phone from my balcony.

The nice wrought iron fence is (mostly) erected and everything looks sparkly and new.

Don't even get me started about that fabulous new sidewalk.

Moreover, the tall grasses and weeds have been cleared out. They also put down the grass seed as promised.

How that grass seed is going to grown on dry dusty ground that doesn't get any water is beyond me. Then of course, I had my doubts about the spray on grass that was put down last year with the other sidewalk installation.

What do I know?

The point is they kept up their end of the deal.

My question is will Mt. Carmel continue to do so when they don't have a lawn service picking up the trash on the parkway?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed but my eyes peeled.

Monday, August 25, 2008

65th Place

So what's up with the work stoppage on 65th Place?

The three buildings on the south west corner are mostly completed but haven't been finished. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen anyone on the worksite for months.

And while we're on the subject, not only hasn't Living Green lofts broke ground, but it's website has gone MIA. Oddly enough, a random listing or two can be found if you poke around searching real estate listings.

Everything seemed so promising just a scant year ago.

I believe that developers are feeling the heat from this real estate downturn. They very well may not be able to afford to finish and market new construction.

What ever the case, it would be nice if the buildings could be completed so they don't attract the wrong element.

That's all we need----higher end abandoned buidlings.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wonder Twin Powers

So there I was slinging hash and hustling drinks last night when one of my co-workers came up to me and said, “Do you have a blog?”

Damn, I’d been spotted---again.

I rarely talk about the blog in work situations---the restaurant is no exception---so when she asked me that question I knew someone out on the floor knew me.

The pleasant surprise is that I had been spotted by the infamous “Chicago Pop” of Hyde Park Progress fame.

He was taking a meal with his lovely wife and spotted yours truly dealing with a table of 4 adults and 4 small children.

Don’t ask.

In the interest of disclosure, Chicago Pop and I had previously been in touch and I invited him to come into the restaurant so we could meet.

I also sent him a picture.

Asking the man to identify me by the fact that I’m a tall, substantial, black woman is like me trying to find the “smart kid” at the University of Chicago.

I had to give the man something to go on.

Since that was some time ago, it was great to finally meet one of the people behind HPP.

Mrs. Chicago Pop was a hoot and a holler as well.

Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to chat as people seem to want their drinks in a timely manner on a warm Saturday night.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again in the near future.

God be willing there will be plenty of time to talk.

‘Cause there’s certainly is a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To The Market I Go

These are the sights I see when I go to the Woodlawn Farmer's market on Saturdays.


Once I hit Dorchester I pass by Apostolic Church. The flowers in the parking medians are just the living end.



As I keep on heading north on Dorchester, around 62nd Street, I was struck by how nice the lawn looked at this house.



So I keep on walking north until I hit 61st Street and the sign welcoming me to the Woodlawn Farmer's Market.


Yeah we don't have alot of booths---yet. Hope springs eternal for next year though.


Crepes in Woodlawn? Who knew?



Tomato Mountain Farms organic Habanero Salsa. If you like hot, I strongly suggest you pick up a jar. It's fire.



Bleeding Heart Bakery. I love them. Their Goat Cheese and Basil croissants are the shit. I wish they would come to the market every week.



Hopefully our little market will be teeming with vendors in '09. Woodlawn needs more fruits, vegetables and flowers too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So Much For The Peace and Quiet

These motherfuckers have lost their everlovin' minds.

The question in my mind is if you know that your presence on the corner might draw gunfire, why do you stand there?

When I went out to purchase detergent from the corner store (Dan Allan in the WGN piece is the owner) on Monday night, I reminded myself to get there before 8:50 as the store closes at 9:00.

Why?

'Cause I didn't want to be there during the last ten minutes of the business day---that's when stick up guys tend to rob places.

Of course I also passed the horde of teenagers and young people that congregate on and near the corner where the shooting occured.

I will start putting in calls during my lunch hour today to find out who's who and what's what.

If we don't get a handle on all of this violence, the only thing Chicago's gonna get is kicked in our overfed Midwestern asses, not the Olympics.

Motherfuckers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Corner

The sound of gunfire is unmistakable.

So I knew what I was hearing at 6:30 tonight.

I just didn’t know what direction the gunfire was coming from. If memory serves me correctly, about six shots rang out.

Believe it or not, I completely dismissed the whole incident. I figured if it was really gunfire I’d soon hear the wail of police sirens.

I kept on about my business---surfing the internet, watering the flowers and taking out the trash. Not really paying attention to what was going on outside.

It was when I was coming back up stairs from the alley that my next door neighbor (yes, the one who put out the fire) asked me if I heard the shots.

Great. Just fucking great.

I knew there had been two shootings or attempted shootings in the past month.

All shootings jumped off not even a block from my little floral paradise at the corner of 65th and Stony Island.

That’s where a group of aimless youth---some of whom I believe live in the building on the northwest corner of the intersection---tend to gather.

Now that’s definitely fodder for another post but let me go on record by saying that I don’t like any group of teenagers “hanging out.”

You know what I like even less?

Groups of young men “hanging out”---especially during a warm and violent summer that we’ve had on the south side.

It's been crack-a-lacking over in South Shore this summer. There's a reason why they call it Terror Town. Frankly I was hoping, if you’ll excuse the pun, that we had dodged a bullet.

Apparently that ain't the case.

Well that’s the assumption I made since I can stand on my front balcony and look at the pretty flashing blue lights on top of the police cars that are lining Stony from 64th to 65th.

Allegedly today’s shooting may have also involved an innocent bystander on the street, the passengers and driver of the north bound 6 Stony Island bus.

Let’s say it all together----Delightful.

Are you fucking kidding me?

You’ll have to excuse the language---I swear up a blue streak when I get agitated. Hell, I don’t think I said anything fit for family consumption for a month after September 11th.

But I’m sure you can understand.

Now I don’t know if the aimless youths are beefin with another group of aimless youths. I don’t know why after two years of their shiftless presence in our happy little hood is the shit is hitting the fan, but I can tell you this:

Those young men and women, their friends, whomever they live with and their landlord is now officially on my radar.

I make 40 in 13 days, I’ll be damned if I get shot over some stupid gangbanger shit that I don’t have jack shit to do with.

Motherfuckers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where's My Curl Activator

J.C. Penny, my ass...

God, isn't teenage angst sacred? I know I'm getting old, but come on.

Don't make me have to squeeze into my high school cheerleading uniform. Trust me on this---nobody wins. You, me or the seams on the doubleknit pleated skirt.

Friday, August 08, 2008

But Will She Name Names?

That sign ain't bullshitin'.

Ironically, it sits at the corner of 64th and Dorchester in the 20th Ward. Yes the same ward of the former Alderwoman Arenda Troutman.

You know the former alderman who just plead guilty to charges of mail fraud and tax evasion related to corruption charges of soliciting bribes from real estate developers.

We all know what the newspapers say.

And the Department of Justice's affidavit is enlightening. Note how certain banks got put on blast.

But what inquiring minds want to know is what other developers paid to play?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Clue Phone Is Ringing

A reality check (along with my translation) that tempers the celebrating of my upcoming milestone birthday:

Dear Woody:

This is to inform you of an upcoming change in your premium charge. As a result of the recent birthday (you old broad)for the above referenced member, your policy premium has been adjusted (cause your girly parts are gonna need more maintenance). Please note the new amount and date so that you may plan for your automatice payment withdrawal.

Premium rates are established for age and geographic location, among other factors. In keeping with the industry practices (so we can make a business case to jack you for more cash), we review premium charges assessed to each of our policyholders on certain birthdays. For future reference, it may be helpful to know exactly when our premium rate reviews take place; at ages 6, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65.

If you have any questions (like we care), or if we may be or assistance to you, (my ass) please call our customer service department at 1-800-538-8833.

Sincerely,

Membership Services
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

Industry practices. premium rate reviews. Bah---humbug. I better pile up some cash in the upcoming years. I can only imagine what would happen to my rates if I made a major claim.

Jesus take the wheel.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Second Report

The first report on the state of Carlton Knight’s Harvey rental properties painted some dismal conditions at the three buildings.

The second report finds that the receiver hired both an architect and a general contractor to inspect the property per a court order. “The basic conclusion from the reports is that the property, while structurally sound is in need of major repairs.”

Shocker.

As if things couldn’t weren’t bad enough for the folks living at the rentals named The Rose (indeed), they also had a little issue with their water pipes and sewers.

More specifically on December 26th, 2007 “two water pipes broke, the sewers backed up and waste was coming up the drains in the utility room in the 15144 building.”

Merry Christmas.

According to the report, the issue was immediately fixed (yuck!) and then the plumbers came back out on January 14, 2008 to complete a more extensive repair. “They noted that the sewer lines were old and some of the lines had extensive debris in them that was affecting the pitch of the sewers.”

I wonder if this is how Mr. Knight is “involved in all aspects of operations.” Letting the sewer lines get so backed up that his former tenants were swimming in shit.

The inspection reports read like a laundry list of repairs. I’ll save you the boring parts and get down to brass tacks.

The construction totals are as follows:

Misc. Exterior Work-----$28,600.00
Interior Work------------$326,500.00
HVAC Repairs--------------$15,000.00 to $20,000.00
Other Capital Repairs--$144,200.00

Yowsa that’s a lot a scratch.

At the time of the report, one tenant had moved out to a nursing home and three tenants vacated their units as of January 31st. So if I’m doing my math correctly that would of put the occupancy rate at 25 units that were unoccupied at the time.

Which would explain the dismal cash situation.

“As of December 7, 2007 the receiver had $6,770.98 in its account. From December 7, 2007 to January 23, 2008 the receiver collected $11,999.00 in rents and paid $17,862.23 in expenses. The case balances as of January 24th, 2008 is $907.75.”

That’s some thin margins to operate and maintain an apartment building.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Version

A lot of things got sacrificed this year due to unemployment but the garden wasn't one of them. Don't worry kids, I caught the end of the stock sales in mid June and put both the back and front gardens down for a steal.

Seriously.

We all have little things that keep us sane and grounded; gardening just happens to me mine. I shudder to think of the bundle of joy I'd be without watering and deadheading flowers.

Despite the fact it went down pretty late in the season, I think everything has grown in nicely.

For your viewing pleasure---the back porch.



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Suckers

Who in their right mind would allow me to voice my opinions on the radio?

Hey it's not Oprah, but it's a start.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The First Report

Gainful employment has rendered me able to get back digging through my developer’s court records.

Funny how not worrying about money frees you to pursue other interests.

And as you all know, Mr. Knight’s legal predicaments happens to be one of mine.

In an earlier post, I detailed the initial paperwork of the lawsuit filed by Inland Bank and Trust against Carlton Knight for $1,120,000.

At the time I first viewed the court papers in December of last year, Mr. Knight had fought the lender’s attempt to have the property put into receivership.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with receivership it’s when “a creditor can enforce security against a company's assets in an effort to obtain repayment of the secured debt.”

In other words a receiver “distributes the proceeds to creditors and can also complete the administration of the estate.”

Or at least that’s what Wikipedia says.

According to papers obtained from the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County that’s exactly what happened.

The first receiver’s report reads like a primer for mismanaging a rental property. Out of 40 units the receiver said that 14 units were “nearly uninhabitable,” 7 were in “inhabitable but in poor condition” and 20 are in “reasonable condition.”

Oh yeah, if the number 14 + 7 + 20 don’t equal 40 it’s because one of the units was used as an onsite property management office.

The report further states that “poor conditions stem mostly from damaged seals along windows/doors that allowed water to get under the tile and carpet and mold in the walls, damaged/broken appliances, damaged cabinets, broken sinks, etc.”

I wonder if this is the “hands on, proactive management philosophy” that Mr. Knight espouses on his website?”

Again the report states that 20 of the 41 units are unoccupied and that the vacant units are “frequently vandalized and the doors are kicked in.”

Nice.

“It appears that the portions of the structural features (masonry, walls, parking areas, etc.) are in fair condition while other features, such as roofs, exterior decks and stairs on the 15144 building are in poor to very poor condition Additional items needing attention include boarded up windows/patio doors, broken doors/locks, heaters, backed up sewers, missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, thermostats and other items. “

Broken heaters? Backed up sewers? Missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?

Those seem like slum conditions to me.

I’m also curious to know why a lender would make such a substantial loan on a property in poor condition. I doubt that a property could have gone so far south in only four years.

Doesn’t anyone do their homework before handing out over a million dollars?

Then of course I apparently I didn’t do mine before I signed on the dotted line so there you go.

“Preliminary estimates for building repairs amount to $175,000 - $210,000 with a majority of the costs for the roofs and stairs/decks.”

Well that’s what the report says according to the court papers. Don’t act like I just went out and made this stuff up.

But wait there’s more---at the time of the report the first installment of the 2006 property taxes had not been paid.

“The current amount due for all of the 2006 real estate taxes including penalties associated with the 1st installment is $49,567.96.”

So let’s sum it up----half the units are unoccupied, the property was (is?) in severe disrepair and the property taxes for 2006 were overdue.

Do not make me share the samplings of the tenant maintenance surveys.

I can sum it up in one word---chilling.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Almost Done

Mt. Carmel is getting close to completing their turf installation. I have to say that it looks really good---very high end.



Friday, July 25, 2008

Pretty

A few pictures of a lovely Dorchester garden to start your weekend off right.

Happy Friday!





Saturday, July 19, 2008

Here I Go Again

I went out last night to some of my regular haunts.

Hell, I just secured regular employment so I think I’m due for a little celebrating.

Like most Chicagoans out on Friday night, I made a late night food run to McDonalds.

I hailed a cab---cab 6215---heading south on Clark Street with the intent of going home.

Unfortunately for me, my driver must have missed that part in taxi 101 where he takes me to where I want to go.

Now I’d tell you his name but he wouldn’t reveal his name and he was a little less forthcoming about taking his hand from over his taxi license.

Nonetheless---the drama jumped off when I gave him my address and wanted to go home.

Immediately he told me that he had no gas.

I replied, “No worries, go ahead and find some gas.”

He pulled into the BP station at Wabash & Roosevelt.

At least he was heading south which was a step in the right direction.

That’s when he dropped the bomb.

“You’re gonna have to pre pay your fare.”

I started to get that old familiar feeling.

Why do I keep on running into cabbies that won’t take me home?

Naturally, 911 was contacted.

And like the last time, the police took the side of the cabbie.

At least this time they seemed sympathetic but the result was still the same.

The cab driver told them that I because I was on the phone talking to someone about the situation, that he “Didn’t feel comfortable driving me.”

Implying that I was setting him up for some type of misfortune.

I explained to Officers Evans and Lee (Beat 133) that I simply wanted to go home and when I gave him the address of where I was going, all of the problems started.

First the no gas story, then the demand for prepayment---he clearly didn’t want to take me to my destination which is a violation of the municipal code.

If my memory is correct, the officers said that they couldn’t make him take me anywhere and that this was a civil matter.

Unbelievable.

They suggested that I get out and take another cab.

I got out and walked away but not before getting the bright idea to turn back and use the camera option on my cell phone. I have a picture of the placard that faces
the customer in the back seat but not much else.



It seems the driver was a little camera shy.

So here I go again.

I’ll file another complaint and wait till it grinds its way through the Department of Consumer Services.

All I wanted to do was go home.

A simple request, really. Why do some people have to make it so hard?

When It Rains, It Pours

...I finaly got a job.

That sound you hear is my credit card companies popping champagne corks.

Details to follow.

Praise Jesus.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And I Thought I Was Pissed…

Every time I turn around I continue to get love from the blogosphere.

This time it comes from a similarly themed blog named bewarethebuilder.blogspot.com.

Oooh whee----Mr. Thomas Doyle is one angry condo purchaser. He’s one pissed off brother.

And he’s my new idol.

Not only is he fighting the good fight against his developer, but his developer Bryton Development LLC and it’s principal Kevin Bryar is suing him for defamation.

Defamation----that gets me kinda hot.

Now I’ve been through Mr. Doyle’s blog and I see a great many similarities in our experiences and I feel for him

Beating your head against the wall when it comes to this condo thing ain’t no joke.

Questionable construction quality and apathetic neighbors will drive you to drink.

You went ahead and took the plunge and took part in the American Dream and threw down a chunk of money to purchase your own home.

I was shitty when I didn’t get my full condo value for my paltry $125,000.

So I get that Mr. Doyle, also know as Truth In Advertising, is beyond incensed where his $390,000 is concerned.

Personally speaking, I’d launch a full scale war if that type of cheddar was involved.

So I say to Mr. Doyle and those of you who may follow in our steps, call it like you see it----but with caution.

Documentation, documentation, documentation.

Let me make myself abundantly clear----make sure you can document your claims.

Oh yeah, no matter how tempted you are to call the people you write about names and offer your opinion, resist.

Well, mostly. Sometimes you have to slip in a "shifty" here and a "scumbag" there to make your point.

Yeah, I name my developer and write about Mt. Carmel but majority of my posts are based in fact and can be verified by court documents or pictures.

My posts about random neighbors and the Jenkins Boys notwithstanding.

Note: Woody + Cell phone camera = trouble. I’m a picture snappin’ broad. Don’t do anything dirty, I will put your shit on blast.

Anyhoo…

For those of you who have been reading from the beginning you’ll remember that at first I didn’t name names---it took quite a while before Mr. Knight’s name was mentioned. I didn’t even refer to Mt. Carmel by name until earlier this year.

My intent in starting my blog was two fold---As a form of therapy and to inform others of some of the pitfalls on condo home ownership.

Everything else just kinda fell into place.

But as you all know egregious acts call for egregious actions. Hence names were named.

But through it all I adhered to my number one rule---be able to prove it through documentation.

Ladies and gentlemen, avail yourself of secrets hiding in plain sight. The freedom of information act was made to uncover potential deception.

Or at the very least be able to prove a pattern of behaviors that will lend credibility to any future acqusations you may make.

Ladies and gentlemen those government links on the left side aren’t there because I needed space filler.

Hell, I think that the kids at the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office almost know me by name.

I find most if not all of my documentation right there.

You’d be surprised what you can find in legal proceedings in the Cook county court system.

Actually, you’d be surprised at what you can find when you start leafing through bankruptcy filings at the federal building.

But I’m sure you get the point.

It’s all right in front of you. Dig through, make copies and factually post your findings. Throw in your voice and you have a blog.

Now I’m not sure how this brouhaha is gonna turn out for Mr. Doyle.

But I would think that if he can properly document past behaviors and the current situation, he may stand a chance of defeating this lawsuit.

What do I know, I’m not a lawyer (even though I know an ass load of them).

This has all of the makings of a possible 1st amendment test case.

Time will tell if I’m right.

But I’ll tell you this; I’m running down to the clerk’s office tomorrow to get the 411. I’ll be the one at the copy machine.

Progress In Pictures, Part 2

More from the Mt. Carmel turf installation project.





Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ms. Viola

It’s rare that I meet a person and automatically feel their goodness.

Perhaps you could argue that people will rise or fall to your expectations; if you look for the worst in people, that’s what you’ll find.

Or you could argue that the world is full of assholes.

Whichever philosophy you espouse one thing is clear----good people tend to stick out in our modern society.

Such is the case of Ms. Viola.

Ms. Viola is the coordinator of the Angel Food Ministries program at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

You know, the Black Episcopalians who are feeding me.

When I discovered Angel Food and went to make my first purchase, Ms. Viola welcomed me like a long lost relative.

Not only was she warm, but when I didn’t have enough money to get one of the additional boxes she arranged to get one for me.

I didn’t know this woman from Adam and she was asking me what I needed.

Naturally I couldn’t impose on this nice lady.

I told her that it was okay, that I’d get an additional box next month. She replied that “Donations happen all the time. Just tell me what you want.”

It’s been a long time since a stranger has been nice to me.

I’m a “wait for the other shoe to drop” type of broad.

The defenses are usually up. The wall is set.

I know it’s not fashionable to say that you look for the ugly side of people’s personalities but I’ve always been truthful with you gentle readers and more importantly myself.

Nonetheless, I started to tear up at such sheer kindness.

I just adore that woman.

And because I adore this woman (and am in desperate need additional parental figures), I have a favor to ask.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church has been serving the needs of its worshipers and the Bronzeville neighborhood for over 120 years.

Their original church burned down in 1962 but they managed to carry on their ministry at the parish house until the new church was built near the intersection of 38th and Wabash.

The parish house is a beautiful but neglected jewel in a re-emerging neighborhood.

In fact, it’s next to the Margaret Burroughs house----you know the founder of the Dusable Museum of African American history.

The remaining old homes in the neighborhood are quite breathtaking and in various states of repair.

Such is the case of the St. Thomas parish house.

From what I’ve been told, this beautiful old girl was victim of some unscrupulous contractors and handymen.

In fact, part of the beautiful banister was allegedly stolen by a bootleg contractor around 17 years ago.

He took the banister from the first floor to part of the second floor and replaced it with horrible wrought iron fencing.

Yes, you read correctly----wrought iron fencing in a 100 plus year old house.

Don’t get me started on the dropped ceilings (Ick!) and other monstrosities done by “reputable” contractors.

In short the good folks of St. Thomas and Ms. Viola need to find the funds to restore the parish house to its former glory.

And before you all start asking why can’t they pay for their own repairs, I have a simple answer----‘cause they don’t have the money.

As someone who lives in an older building, I personally know how tough it is to find the money to handle repairs much less make improvements.

Keeping the lights and water on is usually a task within itself much less trying to do accurate (and expensive) historical restoration.

I know one of you has to know something about securing grants for restoration.

I know someone out there can help.

Just tell me how.

News Flash!

Apparently Black people moving into your neighborhood isn't as harmful as once believed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Bargain and a Blessing

I’m being fed by Black Episcopalians.

Thank you Jesus.

Rather I should say Angel Food Ministries is feeding me by way of the Black Episcopalians.

The Ministry started in 1994 as a sort of a food pantry in Monroe, Georgia in response to plant closings in the area.

According to Angel Food’s website “Over the next few years, other churches wanted to get involved and Angel Food began feeding hundreds of families across the southeast. Now, Angel Food feeds over 500,000 families a month in 35 states.”

And boy am I ever grateful.

Say what you will about faith based initiatives but this one is allowing me to eat without spending insane amounts of money.

I’m sure you good folks have seen the effect of fuel prices on the cost of food.

You just wait until the effects of the recent Midwestern floods.

When you all can’t afford to feed yourselves or your families and beat a path to Angle Food’s door you can send me a note of thanks.

The concept is simple and quite straight forward---you pay $30.00 for a basic box of food (heavy on the meat) that is intended to feed a family of four for about a week or a single person for about a month.

Once you purchase the basic box, you can purchase one or more of four specialty boxes that range from a 7 lb. assorted meat grilled box to a fresh fruit and veggie box. In fact, check out what you can get for the month of July:

JULY SPECIAL #1
7 lb. Assorted Meat Grill Box - $20.00
(1.5 lb. New York Strip Steaks (2 x 12 oz.)
2.5 lb. Boneless Netted Boston Butt Roast
2 lb. Meaty Beef Ribs
1 lb. Mild Italian Sausage)

JULY SPECIAL #2
4.5 lb. Steak and Chicken Combo Box - $20.00
(1.5 lb. Kansas City Strips (2 x 12 oz.)
1.5 lb. Bone-In Ribeyes (2 x 12 oz.)
1.5 lb. Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Filet (4 x 6 oz.))

JULY SPECIAL #3
10 lb. Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders - $18.00

JULY SPECIAL #4
Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box - $16.00
6 ears Corn
2 lb. Carrots
2 lb. Yellow Onions
1 Cello-Wrapped Lettuce
1 Pineapple
4 California Oranges
1 Seedless Watermelon
6 Russet Potatoes

Not bad, eh?

And the best part is that there are no income verifications or forms to fill out. They don’t want your personal background---well at least the Black Episcopalians didn’t give me the third degree---all they want to know is what you want and how much.

Like I said, simple.

Now that’s not to say that there isn’t what could be described as tracts or at the very least inspirational messages placed in every food order. While I don’t have a problem with it, those of you who do it’s a small price to pay to be able to eat.

Plus the way the world is going today, perhaps we need to revisit our relationship with a higher power.

I’m just sayin’.

So to paraphrase the Blues Brothers I’m going up north to put the word in the street.

I’m giving you the hook up the same way I gave it to my friend and former co-worker who got laid off with me after getting it from my sister.

Now that I look back on how she and I got on the subject of Angel Food it’s quite comical.

My Sister: Yeah, I need to marinate my T-bones before I put them on the grill.

Me: (Sputtering) T-bones? Heffa, even though my income has been
severely cut, I know I still make more money than you. I can’t
afford a can of Spam but your trifflin’ ass is eating T-bones?
What gives? Did you get a better job?

My Sister: Oh, did I not tell you about the hookup?

Me: Hell no---spill it.

My Sister: Let me hip you to the deal---Angel Food Ministries.

And from that conversation I went to the website and found the Black Episcopalians.

Who, might I add, are a hoot.

More on them later.

Go feed yourselves.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Big Bad World Doesn't Owe You A Thing

A reality check and attitude adjustment courtesy of the Eagles.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Inferno

The inside of my oven was on fire.

I was literally watching my life go up in smoke.

Nearly paralyzed by fear, at least I had the presence of mind to turn off the gas.

Who knew that dripping margarine could cause so much damage in so little time?

In a quest to “get my life back on track” I’ve taken to preparing my meals at home; when you work in a restaurant you tend to get lazy about cooking.

I decided to make my variation of the Weight Watchers frittata recipe I found online about a year ago.

Except I add Milnot got rid of the skim milk and use smoked cheddar instead of part skim cheese.

I guess that doesn’t make it very weight watchery, does it?

While the frittatas turn out quite well, I do have a problem with them sticking to the bottom of the pans.

Despite buying new Caphlon non-stick muffin pans, the problem persisted.

So I thought if I added butter to the egg/milk mixture my sticking problems would be solved.

Except I used some margarine that was already open in the freezer.

Six of one, half dozen of the other---right?

So I melted the margarine and added it to the mixture.

I put together the frittatas, poured in the egg mixture and popped the whole kit and caboodle in the oven.

A few minutes later, I noticed that my oven was smoking. The margarine had bubbled over and had started dripping on the oven floor.

No worries----that happens all the time. Smoke adds flavor, right?

So I opened a few windows, disabled the smoke detector and took the frittatas out of the oven when they appeared to be done.

It was difficult to tell through all of the smoke rolling out of the oven.

I thought that if the source of the smoking were gone, the smoke itself would eventually disappear.

Wrong.

Then the white smoke that had been billowing out of the oven vents suddenly turned black.

There was a full fledged fire in my oven.

I froze.

My oven is powered by natural gas so fire reaching that gas line would have meant big trouble for everyone in my building.

I ran and turned off the gas and dialed the fire department.

I had a fire extinguisher but didn’t know how to use it.

I did on the other hand need to let my neighbors know that they might need to get out of the building.

I banged on my neighbor’s door across the hall and told them what was going on.

The panicked look on my face probably relayed the seriousness of the situation.

Thank God someone took action.

One of my neighbors ran back to their kitchen, grabbed the fire extinguisher, ran back to my kitchen and put the fire out in my oven.

All the while her husband stood there with a dazed look on his face.

Not to be anti-man or anything but I know who I’m gonna ask to hang cabinets when the time comes.

Way to “man up.”

Not soon afterwards, the fire department showed up.

While certain scenes in Backdraft play over and over in my head, I was hoping to meet hot firemen in a less taxing manner.

I.e., not professionally.

After they checked out the oven and made sure the fire was out, one of the firemen asked me why I didn’t put it out with baking soda.

I couldn’t give him an answer.

The firemen went away but the knot in my stomach didn’t.

The thought of another major thing happening in my life was enough to make me take to the couch until my queasiness passed.

I’m working very hard to keep things together but am barely managing to keep my head above water.

When I was telling this story to a group of people, someone mentioned that fire symbolized anger.

And it’s no secret that I’m pissed about this unemployment situation.

Here’s to hoping that all of the fires, physical and spiritual, have been extinguished.