Chalk Howard

This annual event took place yesterday, and I went there for the first time. The festival was great, the chalk art itself, and the music, and the food (we didn’t try any, because we chose completely wrong time for it, but it looked fabulous, especially Senegal food.

However, I felt sad seen an excessive number of police and security staff, and knowing that on regular days, this area is experiencing not the best of its days. I want to find a way how I can contribute to making it a little bit better.

But for now – enjoy the pictures!

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A Very Eventful Weekend

I had grand plans for the past weekend, which ended up being realized for at most 70%. If was a long weekend, starting with our monthly Wellness Friday. I went for what I hoped would be an enjoyable semi-long ride. On my way back, near Montrose Harbor, an older gentleman decided to cross to the exit from the pedestrian lane right in front of me. I had no time to brake, and I did my best to make a sharp left turn so I won’t knock him off. I still touched him, but slightly, so he didn’t fall. As for me, I ended up falling off, although not very bad.

My chain had fallen off, the handlebar turned sideways, and my knee was scratched pretty seriously, but at least I didn’t get a concussion! 

Still, it was a bad start to the day. I lost a lot of time fixing the chain, straightening the handlebar, getting back on the Trail, and then taking care of my knee at home. 

And then, I could not return to my original plans for most of the weekend. The heavy rain most of Saturday didn’t help either. To be fair, I planned a little bit too much for this weekend, and it is possible that I would have to abandon many of my plans regardless of this bike accident, but I still blame those who do not look to the left and the right before crossing!

The list of good things that happened:

  • I swam in the lake on the only day when it was possible (Friday)
  • Recorded an hour-long podcast with Hasura (should go live tomorrow)
  • Went to the Bridgeport Art Center Open House with Igor
  • Went escorting
  • Saw a part of the Chicago Air and Water show (and figured out how I am going to do it next year)
  • Visited the Glenwood Art Fair
  • Baked a pumpkin pie and a blueberry pie
  • Gave a lengthy interview about MAC hosting
  • Finished one of the five presentations for my fall conferences
Bridgeport Art Center
Bridgeport Art Center
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The story behind the mural that got painted in Austin, Chicago last summer

I ended up doing this article because, back in November, a week before Thanksgiving, I was taking the bus past the intersection of Chicago and Laramie avenues and noticed a large, bright mural on the building at the northeast corner intersection that definitely wasn’t there back in June. I noticed the name of the artist – the iconic Chicago muralist Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes – and tried to reach out to him. It took a few weeks to successfully pitch the things and get in touch with Barnes, but I filed the article December 9.

A very truncated version of the article was published in print, in the December 15 issue of Austin Weekly News, but, as of this writing, it never showed up online. Since I thought that the print version lost some pretty interesting parts, and since it doesn’t officially exist online in any form, I decided to post the article as submitted.

A bit of a side note. When I was trying to take a picture below, the group of Black teens who were hanging out nearby weren’t exactly happy to see a white guy with a camera. But when I persuaded them that I wasn’t there to photograph them, they offered me weed.

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Kenosha after the Rittenhouse verdict – calm in the eye of the storm

The day after the jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges related to him killing two people and wounding a third, I took the 12:51 PM train to Kenosha, not sure what to expect.

I wasn’t expecting the kind of rioting and looting that rocked Kenosha in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, which inspired Rittenhouse to drive to the city and play vigilante. I agreed with several other journalists that mentioned on Twitter that the weather was way too cold for this kind of thing. But I figured there might be protests. And, honestly, I was curious if we might see something like the mass painting of murals on the plywood I saw when I went to Kenosha on Aug. 28, 2020, three days after Rittenhouse shot three people and five days after Blake was shot. That came as a complete, albeit pleasant surprise to me at the time.

I’ve blogged about that visit, and the visit in October of the same year. Since then, I’ve been to Kenosha in March of this year and in the end of May. I saw more and more plywood come down. In March, I read an article in Kenosha News I got at Kroger’s about how the city really wanted businesses to take the plywood down, and saw in the end of May that, while most did, a few didn’t. In those two times – it wasn’t as if the events of last summer, of the then-upcoming Rittenhouse trial, weren’t on people’s minds, but it wasn’t what people focused on. I was curious how people were feeling now, when at least one chapter of this saga is over.

Some words about my feelings on the verdict. I wasn’t able to follow the trial as closely as I would’ve liked – I still have work, and writing of the creative kind – but, from what I’ve seen and read, I thought the prosecution didn’t make the best case. And there the fact that Wisconsin law, like the law in some other states, allows people to brandish firearms who have no business brandishing firearms, and gives too much leeway to people claiming self-defense. Two people died, one of whom was unarmed. There have to be consequences for that. Maybe not life in prison type consequences, but consequences nonetheless.

I’ve heard some variation of the statement that this would have played out differently if Rittenhouse was black, and I think there is something to it, in the sense that, one of the things covering majority-black neighborhoods taught me was we as the American society more readily assume danger when it comes to Black men, even Black kids, the way we don’t necessarily do with white kids. An African-American teen brandishing a rifle would’ve gotten more concern, I doubt police would’ve been allowed him to just walk away and I think the jury would’ve been less inclined to see him as a scared kid fighting for his life.

I wanted to go to Kenosha on Friday, when the verdict was announced, but Metra Union Pacific North Line schedule, which already didn’t have that many trips to Kenosha, only got worse since my last visit. The only way to get to Kenosha now is to take an early morning train, and the only evening train returning to Chicago is earlier than ever. But Saturday schedule, which was restored at the end of May, is still more flexible in that regard. I still managed to miss an earlier morning train, but at least the Saturday schedule had a noon option.

Like I said, I expected that there might be a protest, maybe a rally, maybe a handful of protesters at the courthouse. But that’s not what I found in Kenosha.

Continue reading “Kenosha after the Rittenhouse verdict – calm in the eye of the storm”

Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest

Another interesting event that happened last weekend was Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. Since that’s my first year in Rogers Park, I was not aware of the scale of this event. Next year, I will be better prepared and will allocate more time to attend, including enough of night time! Granted, I had tons of things happening that weekend, but I still could plan it better! (FYI – I still ended up going twice!)

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Loyola Beach Wall Paintings

Last Friday, I was so busy going things with Anna’s family that I completely ignored the event that was happening very close to my home: the Wall painting at Loyola Beach! Fortunately, Igor documented it pretty well, so I am going to use his photos and comments from his Flickr album, so I am copying his description here:

Rogers Park’s Loyola Beach has this structure right where the park ends and the beach starts. I’ve always called this structure “the steps,” because it looks more like a step on a staircase than a wall, but it is officially a sea wall.

Since 1993. Rogers Park residents have been invited to paint that wall. Loyola Park Advisory Council started the whole thing because they didn’t like the graffiti (gang and otherwise) that used to cover it. While I’ve heard it described as sort of pure expression of creativity, but because one has to pay for the right to paint at one of the 160 slots, the whole thing is really more a fundraiser for Loyola PAC that happens to involve making the wall look pretty.

Normally, the wall would get repainted once a year, but the COVID-19 obviously kiboshed the 2020 session. I honestly kind of assumed that Loyola PAC would leave the 2019 murals up until 2022, so I was surprised when I stopped by the beach three weeks ago and saw the wall completely bleached. I checked the Loyola PAC’s website and discovered that, yep, they will be repainting. While normally, it would all be done in one day, it was split over three days, on June 18-20, to give artists room to socially distance.

This isn’t a perfect before-and-after set, because I lost my photos of 2019 murals to a corrupted SD card, I kind of rushed through the beach on Friday and I didn’t check the past photos on Saturday and Sunday. But, at the very least, this will give you a view of this year’s painted murals and some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I’ve been visiting Loyola Beach for the past 11 years or so, so I got to see many versions of the wall murals, but I never got to see it painted, so that was kind of neat.

As for me, my absolute favorite is that one:

And some other I liked:

But I will come back to see the rest!

On The Positive Side: The Birthday Party

Believe it or not, but the presents arrived at 5-30, Anna and & Family returned from the beach at the same time, and Igor and mom came shortly after. I locked myself in my bedroom to wrap the presents while my mom tried to get in and ask whether the presents arrived :).
I’ve got a dozen plastic cups filled with cherries and made two fruit bowls, and secured the candles “1” and “4” in the respective bowls.

The party turned out amazing. I was just thinking about the water balloons, but the neighbor kids were ahead of me and had a whole bucket of them ready:)

There was a balloon fight, and I told them it’s OK to throw balloons at me (I needed to cool down:)). Igor also offered himself as a target, and John smashed water balloons in his fist and threw them back. Also, one of the party items I bought out of desperation appeared to be the greatest hit: the tiny tubes of sparkling body gels! The girls covered themselves in sparkles, and I let them paint all parts of my body not covered with clothes 🙂

Then, a neighbor who is a mother of three girls observed the battleground covered with tiny colorful pieces of rubber and suggested the contest: who will pick up most of the pieces will get the prize! The girls rushed to all corners of the courtyard, and in a matter of minutes, the courtyard was clean. We decided that the race was tight, and everybody got an extra cupcake 🙂

I Am Definitely In a Bubble

Last Wednesday, there was another birthday party in the courtyard – one of the girls in our building turned five, and everybody came down to celebrate. Again, there were cupcakes, and kids running around, and games, and conversations. I talked to the neighbors, telling them again how lucky I feel moving to such a welcoming community. They enthusiastically agreed, and one lady said that she feels like she lives in a bubble. I told her that that’s the word I used to describe my current situation to my friends: it feels not real, and I live in a bubble.

We laughed about it, but it’s true! I can’t say enough how grateful I am for all the neighbor’s help, pieces of advice, and for making me feel at home.

The same neighbor who called it a bubble said: you had to travel all the countries and places to find your home finally!

A Fabulous Weekend

It was a wonderful weekend. I feel like I am getting more things done here, and I am not sure why.

No, I didn’t resolve all the issues in my apartment. I still need to fix my ceiling lights/fans, and I am still waiting for the rest of my furniture for the dining room. Also, I need to change my driver’s license and mom’s State ID for new addresses. And I didn’t go to the local library yet and didn’t find a new doctor for my mom or me. 

The list is endless, but still, I had a fabulous time this weekend. Of course, it helped that we now have summer Fridays, so the weekend started at 2 PM on Friday. Here is what I did this weekend (in addition to the regular errands list)

  • I biked to Northwestern twice. The first time, I messed up a couple of times, and the second time was a charm.
  • I went to do my nails. I didn’t like the place that much, so I will continue to explore what else is around, but at least I have my mani-pedi, which were overdue.
  • I went escorting for the first time since February
  • After escorting, I took my mom to the Art Institute to see the Monet exhibit and a couple of other exhibits which will close within the next week
  •  I biked to the Glenwood Sunday Market (and bought tons of awesome stuff). I was not sure from their website whether they allow bikes on the market, and put a new bike lock in my backpack. But fortunately, they allow the bikes in, which helped to plan my purchases realistically :). I liked his market so much better than the Evanston market! I think I will be going there most of Sundays.
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  • I made sorrel soup (perfect for the hot weather)
  • Also, I made a rhubarb tart
  • I had mom and one of my friends over for coffee
  • And I went to the beach and even dipped myself into the cold water of Lake Michigan (I will show the pictures in a separate post).

And with all that, I even caught up on some work, these boring parts with paperwork, which you tend to push away beyond all the deadlines.

It feels so much as the life I want to ive!