Not In My Backyard!

For two months, there was a discussion in our community about opening a men’s homeless shelter. The building in which the shelter would be open is located exactly where there is the most need in the shelter. However, many people were opposed. In fact, I learned about this discussion from a letter from one of my neighbors who asked everybody to go online and vote against the shelter.
Granted, I clicked on the link to the Google form and voter in favor. However, I was still very upset that regardless of socioeconomic background, income or education, the argument stays the same: anywhere but not in our backyard!
I read several discussions on NextDoor and attended one more virtual meeting, and time and time again, the “nay” people were the loudest, and their arguments were the same old “property value” and “we already have enough services.”

And then, in her last newsletter, our alderwoman said that the majority voted in favor of the shelter.

Although I am happy with this outcome, it makes me wonder whether people avoided publically expressing their “in favor,” or those who were against it were louder, not more numerous.

More Thoughts On Volunteering

The more I think about volunteering, the more I believe that the most important part is not to expect thanks, neither from the people we serve nor the general public. I am not saying people are never thanked for their service; quite often, they are. But it’s important not to expect it. Recently, I was asked why that happens that many people want to volunteer for an important cause right after the crisis starts, but then later, they walk away. There might be several reasons, but often there is a realization that what you are doing is not something glamorous or even heroic, and you are not “a savior.” When you come to help a cause, it’s a job, often not most efficiently organized, with tons of idle time, but it’s a job that needs to be done to make a world a slightly better place.

Another thing that I only recently started to realize is that you should not expect a visible result immediately (or ever). I have thought about this since I attended the meeting with Toya Wolfe at Chicago Public Library.

When I asked her what she thinks an ordinary person can do, I meant something like what should we advocate for? What policies should be instilled? What can be changed in society so that young people won’t end up in gangs? How can we finally stop the shooting, stop the killing? Because it feels like whatever has been done so far, including the Ceasefire and the Interrupters, seems to produce no difference.

When she said: you are already doing a lot; keep doing what you are doing, I thought that she was just dismissive. And then she continued: don’t try to be a God.

I thought about this for a while. I am not a religious person, and I always thought that serving others has nothing to do with religion. But recently, I started to think that maybe it was something with nuns always being the ones attending the sick, running orphanages and schools … Nuns do not expect to be thanked for their services because they serve people in the name of God. And for the same reason, they do not expect to change the world through their service. They just do what they can, and they keep doing it.

And now I am thinking: what could and should be in place of faith for a non-religious person? And can you still selflessly serve others when you have loved ones who are clearly more important to you than the rest of the world?…

After The Meeting With An Author

Today, the Chicago Public Library hosted a meeting with Toya Wolfe, and my goal was to finish Last Summer on State Street before this event. (by the way, all library copies were taken, including the audiobooks, so I purchased it).

I am glad that I could attend and be a part of the conversation with the author. As someone who actively participates in the work of several volunteering organizations which service underprivileged communities, I was deeply touched by the events described in this book. Way too often, I see similar stories unfolding: no matter how hard we try to help the youth in crisis, in most cases, we can do nothing.

Answering one of the questions from the audience, Toya Wolfe made the following analogy: if you go to the war, you might return alive, or you might die; it’s often the question of chance. But if you go to war malnourished, there are higher chances that you won’t survive, although there is still a chance. In the same way, growing up in an unhealthy environment or in a broken home increases the chances of a youth getting into trouble, but at the same time, there are still chances for a good outcome. After today’s meeting, the book feels a little bit less depressing:).

I Want To Skip These Days

I had a really exciting day on Saturday, I took tons of pictures, and I wanted to share all about it. But after the shooting, I can’t make myself write.

On Sunday, I made a huge effort to deliver the first segments of my educational video. I successfully submitted them, but now I am waiting for feedback, and I do not want to proceed with more segments until I receive it.

Today was way more productive. Not only a very good day at work, but I finally submitted one of the four talk proposals which I promised to submit. Also, I released some new code to NORM_GEN. Although I have an accepted talk for Swiss PG Day, I need to make sure I have enough of this new material to present.

And the weather was outstanding – just another gift from Nature.

Chicago. The Bean. Saturday Night.

I was in the Loop on Saturday. I was in the Millennium Park. I passed the Bean at about 3-30 PM.

I am reading more and more details, and the more I read, the less I can take it in. Out of all places, Millenium Park seemed to be the safest place in Chicago indeed, with constant presence of security. It felt exactly as this article says – the safe place in the city, open for those who can’t find a safe place in their communities.

This article from Sun-Times is heartbreaking. I am copying it here because, after a while, it will disappear from the online version of the newspaper. Here is it.

Continue reading “Chicago. The Bean. Saturday Night.”

It Could Be A Perfect Day…

Yesterday was a perfect day. A perfect first-summer-day, a day when I know why I moved to Rogers Park and what I love here.

It started from the long bike ride, and the sun is now up early enough for me to start biking at 5-15. I entered the Lake Front Trail at 5-35, and it already looked busy with people walking their dogs and talking to each other, joggers, and biking groups.


I had breakfast on my balcony, and then I had a very productive workday. During my lunch break, I went to the beach, lay on the sand, listened to the waves, and walked in the crystal clear water.


And then, my neighbors messaged me that they could help me to pick up the plants, and I got on Uber and went to the nursery and picked the plants.

The evening was balm, and I worked until 9 PM and could plant everything and clean up almost everything. So now my summer life is going to be perfect.

It would be a perfect day, if not for one thing.

In the morning, when I stopped to wait for a green light at the corner of Broadway and Granville, I saw a neatly dressed older man picking in the garbage. When I started crossing, I saw that he had a bun in his hand, and he was hurriedly eating it while crossing.

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”

Fighting The Food Deserts

Friday was our company day at the Austin Harvest. On Tuesday, our HR sent out the driving/parking directions and asked to “let her know if anybody does not have transportation.” I messaged her that I would take the Green line (even if I had a car, why I would drive South-West at 4 PM on Friday?!). She replied – OK, but later when I passed her desk she asked me: so, you are going to take CTA?… Oh, I was sure she would ask! I laughed and said: I was waiting for that question! No worries, I know how to ride CTA! I know how to ride the Green line! I know exactly why you asked, but let me assure you, I know how to be in Austin! And I reminded her what I told her previously about Igor and Austin weekly. She asked hopefully: is he going to be with you? I told her: maybe just to help me carry the produce, but with him or without, I know

I had mixed feelings about this conversation: it was w=very sweet of her to ask, but it is so sad that there was a reason to ask. Actually, there were two reasons, and both are the sad ones: about the situation in Austin in general, and about “people who do not ride the Green Line.” 

In any case, on Friday, we met up with Igor and went to the Austin Harvest, and we were the first ones there. And I bought $30 worth of produce (partially for Igor), exceeding the required $20 minimum purchase. Two gigantic bags of produce! I was very happy to support the initiative, but I wonder why they even need that kind of fundraising – it’s not like their prices are high, and it’s not like there is much competition around. In fact, there is no competition, which is why they opened the market in the first place. 

Here is an article about how and why Austin Harvest started. Now, they are planning to build a permanent space for the market, which will allow them to operate indoors in colder weather. Until then, the market is outdoor only and will be open until Thanksgiving. 

On the way back, Igor and I talked about the ways of reviving the neighborhoods. Austin is one of those that have a potential, and I am wondering what could become a turning point.