Thursday, February 28, 2008

I’m Down With HPP

That’s Hyde Park Produce.

With six months of unemployment and semi-exhausted financial resources I have to be a tad creative with critical necessities.

Read: Food

With the Co-op closing and Peapod becoming un-affordable, I turned to the semi-new kid on the block, HPP.

HPP just moved to a new space in Kimbark Plaza on 53rd Street. I had gone in previously with friends and was duly impressed.

But be being impressed doesn’t keep money in the bank account.

So when I rolled up to them on Monday, I made sure I brought along my Peapod list and kept the receipt for a fair price comparison.

Behold the tale of the tape:


8 oz. Package of Mushrooms $1.99
5 oz. Organic Salad Greens $3.49
5 oz. Organic Spinach $3.99*
1 Green Pepper $ .99
1 Yellow Pepper $2.49
1 Red Pepper $1.99
1 Bunch of Broccoli $1.99
4 Bananas $1.16
1 Bunch of Cauliflower $2.49
20 Head of Garlic $8.00
16 oz. Package of Strawberries $4.99

8 oz. Package of Mushrooms $1.49
5 oz. Organic Salad Greens $2.99
5 oz. Organic Spinach $2.99
1 Green Pepper $ .33
1 Yellow Pepper $ .69
1 Red Pepper $1.25
1 Bunch of Broccoli $1.10
4 Bananas $ .69
1 Bunch of Cauliflower $1.78
20 Head of Garlic $3.29
16 oz. Package of Strawberries $2.99

Totals Peapod: $33.57
HPP: $19.59

Difference: $13.98

Note: The price for the Peapod spinach is for a 6 oz package and the HPP package was 5 oz. But what’s an ounce between friends?

Obviously this is the subtotal without the ridiculous Cook County Sales tax. Naturally it won’t seem ridiculous if Mr. Stroger has his way and we’re due for another hefty tax hike---again.

Oh I’m sorry, was that out loud?

And yes, I like garlic. It keeps a sister healthy.

Savings and affordable fresh produce? Sign me up for the Christian jubilee.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Woodlawn’s A Poppin’

Despite the snow outside, things are heating up in Woodlawn.

The city is seeking a developer for the vacant lot on the southwest corner of 63rd and Blackstone.

Rumor has it that since the property abuts Mt. Carmel High School they’ve been trying to purchase it for years. The Alderman at the time (Arenda Troutman) put the kibosh on the whole gig. Apparently that parcel was to slated for housing, not an extension of the Mt. Carmel real estate empire.

Well now it appears that the city is moving forward on developing the land.

This ought to be interesting. I’ll keep an eye on this and keep you kids in the mix.

And speaking of development…

Some lovely foundations “are creating a multimillion-dollar fund to protect South and West Side neighborhoods from being overlooked or overwhelmed in the city's pursuit of an Olympic Game.”

I don’t even know what that means.

According to the Chicago Tribune article, “They may be used to canvass residents and fund research on jobs, business development and tourism opportunities. Later grants may support community planning, affordable housing, education and job training.”

Jobs? Business Opportunities? Shouldn’t the alderman already be searching for those opportunities?

As a matter of fact, don’t we also have groups and foundations that have already done community planning, affordable housing studies as well as job training?

Personally it sounds like the beginning of business as usual around these parts.

Grants will go to “community groups” who beat a big can but can’t take out the trash.

Money will be funneled, good intentions will be promised, studies will be “issued” and job training programs will be “funded.”

And a dime of money won’t reach the people that need it most.

Or I could be wrong.

But the last little Woodlawn caveat is the best.

Guess what kids, it’s Displacement Week at the University of Chicago.

As in Woody’s ass will be displaced from her home if she doesn’t get a job.

No seriously folks, the University is searching its soul concerning displacement and to created a dialogue “about the University’s responsibility to global and local communities.”

The minute I got this e-mail from a loyal reader I started to giggle.

You know I’m all over Understanding Your Role In Gentrification tonight at 8:00 PM. Hell, I might turn the Forum on the University of Chicago Hyde Park/Kenwood/Woodlawn into a friggin cocktail hour.

But don’t expect me to furnish all of the vodka, you boozers.

You’ll know it’s me by the peels of laughter in the back of the room.

This one ought to be interesting.

Monday, February 25, 2008


While on the bus today running errands, I noticed a young man with what appeared to be a natty looking bag.

Naturally I was confused.

When did the male urban hip-hop set start carrying murses?

Is this the latest thing? Is some rap star translating a “look” from the runway? Were Kayne and Diddy photographed with the latest carry all?

I had to know what this kid’s deal was.

Now I normally don’t have conversations with people I don’t know on the bus. To do so is to open up the door for crazy to walk right into your life.

But I had to know.

So I asked him if he had a carry all.

Unfortunately he stated that he was on his way to drop off what I thought was his murse. It turned out to be a soft sided train case that belonged to a lady friend.


I was so looking forward to seeing saggy pants wearing, corn rowed young men roaming the south side with teacup dogs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pity Party

Smelly and unemployed is not a dream combination.

With my extended job hunt sucking the life both out of me and my bank account, a crisis in confidence was sure to happen.

Well it did.

And as I related in the last post, reality gave me a swift kick in the ass.

No matter how I felt about this little change of fortune or how bruised my professional ego may be, Mama has bills to pay and a fuzzy gray cat that needs to be fed.

Moreover, why am I gonna let a small thing like unemployment stand in the way of my milestone birthday celebration in August?

Plus I have yet to win the Chicago Tribune’s Glorious Gardens contest. Admittedly it would be a difficult to do so if I don’t have enough money to put a garden down this year.

The pity party is gonna have to wait for another day.

One day you’ll find yourself patronizing one of the many fine restaurants in the Hyde Park area and thinking to yourself, “That woman doesn’t fit the mold of a typical waitress and her ass is too big to be a co-ed’s. I wonder if that’s my favorite blogger The Woodlawn Wonder?”

That would be a yes.

I start training next week so I can sling food and libations. While I haven’t waitresses in quite some time, I think it will be a good departure from the corporate grind that I’d experienced for over ten years.

Plus I really need to get my ass off the couch and stop watching Lifetime.

Did I mention QVC has crept into the rotation?

I also wanted to really get my hustle on and substitute teach for Chicago Public Schools.

Despite the fact they have a desperate shortage of substitute teachers, applications are not being accepted from those of us who do not have an education degree.

Can you even fathom how asinine that policy sounds.

Risking life and limb as a substitute is a job so few people obviously want to do. Apparently in order to sit and take guff off of students, the powers that be at CPS feel that you need to have taken education courses to do so.

So as schools desperately scramble for a warm body and a heartbeat, I who is willing to risk daily peril cannot even offer my services because I choose to get an English Literature degree.

And no, I don’t want to teach. I spent a lifetime watch my mother doing it so speaking from the perspective as a teacher’s kid---I’ll take a pass.

But seeing that the schools have a need for subs and I have a need for cash and an overwhelming desire to keep the heat on, I thought it would be a perfect fit.

That would be a no.

its on to running pub grub and rum and cokes for the Hyde Park crowd.

Remember to tip your wait staff generously the next time you’re out enjoying a meal.

I don’t expect George Clooney to invite me to the villa on Lake Como for a few days to celebrate my birthday so it looks like if I’m going to have a fantastic milestone, I’m going to have to work like a mother.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The proverbial straw fell about two weeks ago.

It broken the camel’s back concerning the futility of my ongoing employment search.

Like most people in the market today, I thought I’d have a job within a month or so. The reality of the my job search is no where close to my battered expectations.

The job fair was absolutely the worst. A complete waste of time for every person who schlepped to the Holiday Inn Merchandise Mart.

As if job hunting for nearly six months isn’t demoralizing enough, the hundreds if not thousands of other job seeks at the fair truly let me know how rough it is out there.

I’m not bullshitting. The line of job fair attendees wrapped around the entire floor of the hotel.

And that was within the first hour of the doors opening.

When I got to the end of the line, I should of known something was up as it moved fairly quickly. From the time I got to the end of this long line to the time I signed into the door it took about 35-40 minutes.

There had to be at least 600 people ahead of me in line.

That should have been my second clue. Then the Monster representative not having a location map of the employers should have been the dead give away as well.

The third clue should have been the size of the room.

Now if this had of been a legitimate job fair with a variety of potential employers, the space would have been much larger.

The room was the size of my dining room.

And while that’s huge for a dining room, it’s quite small for a job fair.

Once I got through the line, signed in (first name only please), dropped off a copy of my resume and entered the room I quickly assessed that this ridiculous waste of time.

Now I’m not slamming the employers that were there but let’s just say that the fair wasn’t exactly geared toward those of us who didn’t want to work for Crunch Fitness or be a salesperson on commission.

And by the way, with that little dustup in Middle East enlisting in the Army didn’t seem to be the right move either.

I threw on my suit and trotted out my Crest smile for this?

It broke me.

In the last few weeks the only reason I left my condo was to take out the trash with the stinky cat litter and to check the mail.

Being in my robe for a couple of days and watching QVC probably didn’t help matters either.

Since the middle of January, I’ve been fighting the urge to give up.

Getting up everyday, checking my e-mail account for Monster and Careerbuilder e-mails, networking my ass off, keeping up with my career counseling services and attending their various workshops kept me involved in my fate and more importantly it kept me busy.

Grasping at every lead, applying for every relevant job---keeping hope alive as Rev. Jackson would say.

It can be quite exhausting.

Wasting time at a half assed job fair with many other people just did me in.

I wanted to give up.

Luckily reality slapped me in the face. And by reality I mean keeping a roof over my head.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Legally Speaking

Boy oh boy do I get e-mails and comments.

While I read all of them, I rarely respond to individual requests or queries via the blog.

And by rarely I do really mean rarely.

But today is the day I diverge from standard operating procedure.


‘Cause if I get one more e-mail inquiring about reasonable and competent legal services, I’m gonna scream.

So kind readers, let me introduce you to John Elias, esq. lawyer extraordinaire.

John has represented me in two real estate transactions, is the lawyer for our condo association and is very experienced in the breath of condominium law in the state of Illinois.

And yes, he’s a personal friend.

Despite the fact I’ve know him for nearly ten years, I can honestly say this kid’s top drawer. Not only is he good but he also has a high work ethic.

Plus any lawyer who stayed with us during the foreclosures, liens and learning how to run our home as a business deserves a medal.

Child please.

So look to the left to find a link to his website.

If you tell him I referred you, your association will receive a free hour consultation.

Yes a free hour consultation----for your association, not you. So don’t go in there with a personal ax to grind. Remember, your unit is your home but the association is a business.

It wouldn’t hurt if you adhered to the following tips prior to making an appointment:

Make sure all of the members of your association board can be present

Have a copy of your declarations and bylaws at the meeting.

There is never a thing as too much paperwork. Executed contracts, turnover documentation and dates are extremely helpful.

If you feel this topic needs to be addressed, disclosure of your financial situation.

Prepare all of your questions and concerns prior to the meeting.

You’d be surprised at how quickly an hour can pass when you’re with a lawyer.

And no, I don’t know his hourly rate. He doesn’t ask me how much money I make (hint: That would be zero as I’m unemployed) and I don’t ask him how he runs his business.

I’m just saving you the trouble of asking.

But as with anything, please do your due diligence. Check (or ask) him about his education and credentials, how long he’s been practicing real estate law and any other thing that pops into your head.

Just because I’m giving him the thumbs up doesn’t mean you should follow me blindly.

‘Cause frankly speaking----isn’t that what got you all in your predicament in the first place?

Salting The Wounds

The school across the street finally shoveled the snow.

Granted it was a half assed only because they were practically forced effort but at least a majority of the snow was removed from the sidewalk.

Since I’m tired of begging the powers that be to meet their responsibilities, I simply started making my alderman aware of the issue.

Hey, I’ve tried to be nice.

All it gets me is trash strewn, weed choked hell hole.

So like my Mama said, “Time for talking is done.”

From what I understand the school across the street may have gotten a visit from the friendly local streets and san representative.

And while I’m not sure if there was a meeting, I can imagine if there was one it might have gone something like this:

Streets & Sans Rep: “Hi.”

School Across the Street: “Hi.”

Streets & San: “Apparently you’re not shoveling the snow on the south end of your property.”

School: “Yeah, so.”

Streets & San: “Well you might want to make an effort to shovel.”

School: “Why?”

Streets & San: “Besides that Woody screaming her head off, it is in violation of current ordinances.”

School: “Yeah we pretty much marginalize her and only respond to her bootleg concerns only when she calls. We figure we’ll wear her down. You do know that we don’t consider anything on the ‘other’ side of the fence our concern, right?”

Streets & San: “Well that very well may be, but it’s a new day in these parts. You have to keep up all of your property. Not just the parts your student, staff, visitor and fat cat alumni see.”

School: “So what if we don’t?”

Streets & San: “Let’s not get into a pissing match. I’m here as a friendly warning. You do know that I have the power to fine you, right?”

***Stone silence***

School: You know we pride ourselves in being a good neighbor.”

Streets & San: “Well then act like it---this is the only discussion we’ll be having on this subject. If there’s a next time, the fine notices will start showing up.

So after two weeks of having an impassible sidewalk, the school across the street finally shoveled sometime on Thursday morning.

Naturally since the shoveling was done with a minimum of effort, it didn’t go down to the sidewalk. This packed down the snow to create a even slicker walkway.

To keep to the theme of half assing their commitment to the ‘hood, the school didn’t even put any salt down to melt the snow left behind by the half assed shoveling job.

At least then the shitty shoveling job would of made sense.

See ‘cause then you would of thought, “Ok, they didn’t go down to the pavement but at least the salt will melt the rest of the snow.”

Apparently we’re not even worth salt.

Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable.

Because this institution let free money from the South East Chicago Commission go unused; because this institution needs constant reminding of their parkway & sidewalk responsibilities and more importantly because of this institution’s lack of serious commitment to Woodlawn they finally need to be named.

Mt. Carmel High School doesn’t live up to their commitments.

Perhaps they have a soup kitchen in the neighborhood or help the seniors down the street. Maybe they help locals with free tax prep services.

I may be wrong, Mt. Carmel may be doing tons of service oriented projects around Woodlawn that I may not be aware of.

Hell, I don’t know everything, right?

But a lack of true community involvement plus spotty sidwalk & parkway maintenance equals a crappy neighbor.

So to commemorate this auspicious occasion, every time Mt. Carmel doesn’t shovel the snow, or pick up the trash or cut the grass the Mt. Carmel Watch-o-Meter will go up somewhere on the blog.

That is if I can figure out how to tweak my template.

If their track record is any indication, I suspect the Watch -o-Meter will be going up very soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Neighborhood Watch

Sweet, sweet karma is starting to do the come up.

The rumor mill seems to think that Carlton Knight’s latest project at 32nd and Rhodes won’t legally start beginning construction anytime soon.

While he has all of his permits covered, he hasn’t broken ground.

The city has found out that he plans on commercially developing the property---ie: a for profit sale---if any construction activity commences, a cease and desist order will be slapped on the project.

As you should know by now, the city has a set of processes in place to monitor developers. The glaring loophole is that the city can’t possibly know if the developer is developing a commercial project unless he or she self identifies.

Or if eagle-eyed neighbors call the city.

Apparently they have kept the city abreast of any new developments.

At least that’s what I hear.

Good bless ‘em.

I can only assume that if Mr. Knight wanted to salvage the project, he’ll simply comply with the developer statutes laid down by the city.

Apply for a business license and fill out the paperwork for the developer registry---how hard is that?

Then of course he may have already done so.

Perhaps, he’s steeped in the middle of the process right now---who knows?

But I’ll tell you this, if anyone so much as takes a toy pail and shovel and moves a spoonful of earth, the shit is hitting the fan.

Big ups to the neighbors for watching over their ‘hood.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Getting It Right

Since the new school year started last August and I've been unemployed, I've had the unique opportunity to pay even closer attention to my neighborhood.

But you eagle eyed readers already knew that.

One thing I noticed is that there were no disaffected, baggy pants wearing youths wandering the neighborhood looking for a place to fire up their shitty domestically grown pot.

Curious, no?

I come to find out that Hyde Park Career Academy has a new ass kicking principal who shut down the open lunches that allowed the disaffected youths to freely roam.

And no, not all of the Hyde Park students are monumental pains in the ass.

As usual it's the small percentage of dumb asses that ruin it for everybody.

Plus the super swanky new McDonald's has banned students during school hours.

Nonetheless, I must give a resounding well done to Hyde Park's new principal and the Chicago Police Department. The officers and police cars that line Stony Island after school cut down on the usual foolishness from ocurring.

And because the usual foolishness has lessened, my quality of life has shot up.

Granted I don't have any income coming in but at least I don't have to deal with disrepectful brats.

Now if the new principal could find a way to address the student's behavior on the bus, he might be able to bring peace to the Middle East.

Good luck kind sir, you'll need it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Slow Burn

I so appreciate needing a dog team to navigate my neighborhood.


Because the owners of the many rental properties and vacant lots around these parts don’t believe in clearing snow from the sidewalks.

So I and the other pedestrians tend to walk in the street as most of the sidewalks are virtually impassable.

Can I tell you how fun it is to walk down Stony Island with cars whizzing past you wondering which one of them will hit a patch of ice and skid into you?

Especially a few days ago when their was so much fog, the ’hood looked like the movie set for Wurthering Heights.

Unfortunately, established businesses and institutions aren’t doing a bang up job either.

The gas station around the corner seems to think that they only need to plow out their parking lot and the sidewalk is the city’s responsibility.

Of course the school across the street is continuing to be a “good neighbor” by not shoveling an inch of snow on the sidewalk from Dorchester to Stony Island.

Not one flipping inch.

And that was the snowfall from last week.

God they’re so full of shit.

With today’s anticipated snowfall, we might not be able to use that side of the street until baseball season .

Methinks I need to jot off an e-mail to the alderman.