What Your Card Can Tell About You

Chicago has some public transport, which makes it better than many other US cities that don’t. Chicago Transit (CTA) has several different types of transit cards.
I have the one which perfectly fits my public transit usage pattern: it is linked to my credit card and automatically loads additional funds in a $25 increment when money is running low. One of the best things about it is that several people can use this card on one trip – I just need to tap it for each person who rides with me. It’s always the easiest way when it comes to giving tours to the out of town visitors.

I often think about my CTA card like a perfect sample of my life, if you look at where does this card go with me, and who uses it with me. Within just one week, it was used to get on the train the Great Magnus, my friend who was taking CTA for the first time in her life, and a homeless man, for whom I tapped one more time 🙂

Open House Chicago -Part 2

Continue to be a tourist in my own city – the first post is here.

The next stop on our Southside tour was Windsor Beach Apartments Co-Op. It was amazing that people allowed strangers to visit their apartments for two days in a row, and I extremely appreciative of that. The building dates back to 1928. The building is shaped as Maltese Cross, and in each “line” of the cross, apartments are shaped differently. The most interesting part is that each apartment has a separate room (and a full bathroom) for live-in servants. They had access to the kitchen but were not allowed to enter the main part of the apartment, unless they were ringed for.

The rooms are 100% – noise isolated from one another. Everything inside is so gorgeous, I can’t even tell!

The apartments are very cheap, because of the location – the SouthSide has a stigma, which is so wrong it this particular case! The building has security present at all times, and it owns a large property around the building and private beach.

Continue reading “Open House Chicago -Part 2”

Open House Chicago – Part 1

Open House Chicago was taking place last weekend, and once again, no matter how busy I was, I wanted to go. And since the counter-protest took a big portion of my Saturday, we (Igor and I) decided to go on Sunday.

This year Igor planned for us to see the South Side locations. These days, people often think about the South Side as a dangerous place, which they would try to avoid by all costs. Meanwhile, historically, the center of Chicago was way more to the south than it is today, and the South Side has a very fashionable place (with no blacks allowed, of cause).

Unfortunately, I have no time to write in detail about all the places we’ve seen, but I am going to mention some highlights.

That was my first time visiting the Southshore Cultural Center, and for those who ever been there, it would be understandable that I was stunned.

Continue reading “Open House Chicago – Part 1”

Visiting Aquarium with my Girls

Better later than never:). We visited the Shedd with Anna and Nadia when they were last time in town, on September 21. And back then I said: I need to write a thank you letter to the Aquarium! And I meant to write a blog post, but never did. So here is it.

Shedd is one of my most favorite places, but out of all my children, only Anna shares my love. And when we were deciding where to go with Nadia, we both voted for this destination. 

I used to have a family membership to Shedd when I had kids at home, but now I have an individual one. Still, they gave me a free guest pass, including the show. 

We were all wondering, how Nadia will react to her first Aquarium visit (she saw the whales in the ocean when they were in Australia), and belugas and whales indeed enchanted her. 

The thing I wanted to mention is how much more toddler-friendly Aquarium has become since my kids were kids. The whole Polar Play Zone is designed just for kid’s play and exploration. And we were extremely grateful for the cafe staff. When we picked our food, we were asked multiple times whether we know that this kids’ dish is cold. When Nadia spilled her milk, four people rushed to our table, all reassuring that everything is alright, one mopping the floor, another wiping the table, yet another putting the “wet floor” sign, and another staff bringing a new mild carton (we thanked, but didn’t take:)) And while cleaning they were asking how are we enjoying the visit, aside of this spilled milk :). I thought it was so-so nice of them!

Food and Architecture of 1893 Tour

Last Saturday I went on the “Food and Architecture of 1893” tour, one of the hundreds of tours offered by the Chicago Architecture Center. I am a member, and I use my member benefits so rarely, it’s not even funny!

I loved a description of this tour and made plans to attend. These plans were challenged by a number of circumstances, but in spite of all of them, at 1-30 PM on Saturday I was in the lobby of the new CAC building.

I love our beautiful city and know quite a bit about its history and architecture. But still, any tour would add some new information. Also – it is always great to have an opportunity to pretend you are a tourist and take more pictures of your favorite places. We started the tour enjoying the famous view of the Wrigley Building. Not because we were nearby, but because at the time of World’s Fair Mr. Wrigley was promoting his chewing gum business at Fair Grounds. Nowadays, we are used to the promotions of new products by giving them away in public places, but it was a novel idea back then. And just think about it – there were over 10 million visitors from all over the world! (At this point all of us has received a pack of Wrigley gum:))

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Being A Tourist In My Own City

I love Chicago. I love this city at any time of the year, but especially in summer. It is a challenging task to talk me into going somewhere in summer. I like being here, and I do not mind the heat at all. There are so many things that only happen in summer, and summer is so short!

One of the reasons why I like summer in Chicago so much is that I can blend with the crowd of tourists from all over the world, and to take pictures of the same buildings for one hundredth and first time.

For example, to take pictures of mounted police

On Friday I took a half-day off, Boris came to the city by 12-30, and we headed to a quick lunch in the Pret, and then to the Art Institute.

This year the Nichols Bridgeway was closed way too often, for all sorts of events, like Pokemon Go! (I am trying very hard not to comment on the worth of these events, did you notice?!) This Friday it was opened, and so we’ve entered the Art Institute that way.

The city view from the Bridgeway
I am being a tourist
Continue reading “Being A Tourist In My Own City”

Is Using Public Spaces A Privilege?

Yesterday, I read a comment on Instagram about the homeless people gathering in the Main Branch of the Chicago Public Library. The past several weeks had been extremely hot. During the most scorching days, I would walk out of the office with a big water bottle and a stack of paper cups, so that if I saw somebody on the street, I would be able to give them a drink of water before urging to go inside.

Thankfully, I barely saw anybody – people were smart to find refuge in multiple public spaces, and I am so glad they did. Fortunately, public libraries in the big cities have always been dubbed as day shelters, both in extreme cold and extreme heat. And after seeing a movie Cooked , I could not be more thankful for that.

I am struggling to write anything else on the subject. I can’t wrap my head around this cruel comment about homeless people “contaminating” the beautiful building. Why do some people think that if they are “more presentable”, or pay more taxes, they are “more valuable” for society and thus are entitled to access public spaces more than others? When I commented that I am glad that people are in the library, not outside, I’ve got a reply that there are shelters. This statement sounded for me no better than segregation, when some people “deserve” to be at certain places, while others don’t.

Later the same day I was at the Open Door Shelter of the Night Ministry, where I volunteer regularly cooking with the youth. And after the meal was washed away (everybody loved my baked salmon), we had a great conversation. There were some young people whom I met previously, and also one more young man with whom I never talked before. I was so impressed by his intelligence and the dignity he carried himself. It just happened that we got into discussing racial profiling and stereotypes. I do not start this type of conversation by myself when I am in the ODS, but funny enough he said something to which I’ve reacted – this is a generalization! He laughed, and we continued talking.

As an immigrant, I did have my share of prejudgements towards me, and I learned half – not to pay attention, half – to accept it as a fact of life. And I have tremendous respect for people who do not become upset or bitter when they are faced with prejudgement and maintain the sense of their worth and self-respect.

I was walking back to the CTA station with the sense that this day was worth living:)

Cooked: Survival By ZIP Code

In these super-hot July days, when the temperature climbs to the 100s, I’ve attended the screening of the documentary Cooked: Survival By The ZIP Code. I watched it on Monday, unfortunately almost the only screening without any public discussion as a follow-up. That was my only option to see it, and I am happy I went, but boy, how much you want to discuss this movie after the final acknowledgments appear on the screen!

From the Siskel center website:

Inspired by Eric Klineberg’s book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Helfand (BLUE VINYL) takes a hard, personal, and often quirky look at the inequity of natural disaster, beginning with her family’s own experience of Hurricane Sandy. She ultimately zeroes in on Chicago’s shockingly inadequate response to the deadly July 1995 heatwave, during which the city morgue overflowed with the sudden deaths of 726 citizens, largely the elderly and people of color from the city’s impoverished South and West Side. This audacious look at natural disaster American-style starts with the stark premise that a zip code can be an accurate predictor of life or death when nature unleashes its worst. With increasing frequency and force, climate change sets the agenda for hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and such, but systemic neglect, deep poverty, and political expediency have already drawn the line between the survivors and the doomed, even before disaster strikes.

Cooked: Survival by Zip Code (2018) | Official Trailer from Kartemquin Films on Vimeo.

I do not even know how to describe this movie. It could very well become trivial – who does not talk about the predominantly black impoverished neighborhoods. Yet the evidence is striking. The footage of the news coverage back from 1995. Mayor Daley statement: “That’s why we love Chicago.” The refrigerator trucks storing the bodies awaiting autopsy outside the city hospitals. The life expectancy numbers – sixteen years difference between the North and the South.

The director takes a broader approach and poses very pointed questions to the officials: why we can’t address the issue preventively, before a disaster strikes? She also links the heatwave casualties with the overall state of the neighborhoods: the absence of affordable health care, inability to pay electric bills, the food deserts. If fact, one of the most striking episodes is the one in the mobile grocery store when the workers on the bus are trying to convince a teen to eat an apple – for the first time in his life!

The movie calls for action, and I can’t imagine anybody dismissing it’ s message.

Small Town Chicago v.2

Friday happened to be a FannieMay day. I was picking up the River Cruise tickets for my friend, and when passing a FannieMay store at the corner of Michigan and Waker saw a large sign in the shop window:

I’ve entered the store and looked around. There were all sorts of sweet activities going on. You could taste local coffees with FannieMay chocolates; you could see how the famous FannieMay turtles are being made:

Continue reading “Small Town Chicago v.2”