Archive for June, 2016

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

When Paul Gaszak and I started this blog 4 years ago, we did so with the goal of avoiding ‘controversial’ and ‘political’ topics. Of course, this has not always been possible.  Completely ignoring the aforementioned two topical realms pretty much closes off most blog possibilities.  Our blog’s discussions of race, education, food, history, science and pop culture can’t help but be political. These topics themselves are politicized in our culture.  Plus, would you really want to read this blog if those topics were never discussed? Our subjective viewpoints make this blog interesting; without them, our little venture would be pretty lifeless. All in all though, I think we have fulfilled our initial promises. We have kept out of many of the ugliest political controversies that seem to rock our world on an ever more common basis.

But, times change and so do politics. As anyone can see, this election year is unique.  I capitalhave been dying to write about it, but we have that whole ‘no controversy’ goal. What to do, what to do?

I’ve decided to start anew….kinda.  With this post, I am creating a new subsection of the Turtle titled ‘Politics 2016’.  ‘Politics 2016’ will be devoted to analyses of the coming November elections, and the state of American politics generally.  Of course, I will be voting and I have an interest in who wins the upcoming election. I fall on one side of the political divide, and I’m sure many readers fall on the other. Hopefully though, the posts that appear on our blog will not identify any Map_of_the_District_of_Columbia,_1835sort of partisan alliance. There will be no hyping of one candidate or the other. There will be no soap-box stances taken on any particular ‘contentious’ issues. This subsection will simply deal with the changing face of American politics, and our larger political culture.

This will be a challenge.  Can this challenge be faced without generating nasty political rancor?  I don’t know. But, I feel it is necessary to try, both for our few readers and for my own mental stability during this crazy election cycle.

So, join us, won’t you?  And, if you have something to add, please do!

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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

This weekend, I’ll be voLUNTerring, once again, for the Logan Square Arts Festival, in the beer tent on Friday night from 4:30-7:30pm—stop by!

Volunteering in my neighborhood is something I see as my responsibility as a civic-minded individual fond of building and enjoying the profits of a strong community, and it’s fun!

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“The monument” in the park in the center of Logan Square, where people congregate and enjoy life in our beautiful corner of the world.

I love my neighborhood—Logan Square—where I have lived since relocating to Chicago in 2007. I’m thoroughly at home in this place. Many of my closet friends live here, too, and we can walk easily to visit one another on weekends. The numerous joys of neighborhood living include running into friends on the streets, at cafes and bars, in the parks, and on the train.

Over Memorial weekend I encountered two friends who quickly and eagerly encouraged me to join them at the BBQ where they were headed. Just this week, I was pausing at an intersection to look at a rose blooming along the fence at the corner at Kedzie and Fullerton. My friend Joey was passing. He said hello and we stopped to catch up and we discussed the book he was reading. I could recount an infinite number of frequent and lovely encounters I share with friends and neighbors; we should all be so lucky!

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Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, a gift bestowed on urban citizens that yields incredible benefits; unfortunately, the plague of neighborhoods has always been and will always be gentrification.

When I moved into Logan Square, I paid a reasonable rent, $800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Without such a low rent payment, I’d never have been able to stay in the city and build a life here. That particular apartment’s rent was increased to $850 a month the second year. The third year, I was extended the surprising offer of $1050 per month, an increase of $200 in 12 months; I certainly hadn’t experienced a $200 increase in salary. I moved to another apartment elsewhere in the neighborhood. The rental company, the reviled M. Fishman, was able to rent out my far-from large or luxurious place for $1150 that year. Due in part to this unchecked and illogical increase in rents, the current going rate for renting a one bedroom apartment is a ludicrous $1400 per month.

M. Fishman has the distinction of being the worst landlord in Logan Square, perhaps all of Chicago. Anyone who isn’t in his pockets truly despises the man’s business practices. He was instrumental in driving rent prices up and hard-working low-wage workers (including college students and artists) and middle class (healthcare professionals, educators, lawyers) residents out. In fact, a local artist made artwork depicting the ways M. Fishman’s prices were forcing locals out of the area; the young woman’s art was selected for display in the local Art Fest a few years back. As a board member of I am Logan Square, one of the festival’s sponsors, Mr. Fishman objected. The artwork stayed. It was he who was asked to leave (he was asked to step down from I am Logan Square). I’ve heard a rumor that the man has chronic insomnia; trouble sleeping seems a most appropriate condition for him.

Despite my manifold connections to the community, I’ll have to leave Logan Square soon. Other friends and neighbors left long ago. Many young couples found the escalating rent too much to pay. The family who lived on the first floor of my current building was forced out due to a huge rent increase just last month. They had lived in their apartment for twenty years, raising a daughter who now attends RMU, where I work as a professor.

Meanwhile, terrible, and tremendously costly, building projects are invading Logan Square. In addition to being hilariously over-priced, the truly hideous “towers” condominiums projects are effectively ruining the view of the city visible down Milwaukee Avenue. I expect even the head foreman would confess that the buildings are ugly.

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Well, this corner used to be cozy. . .

I enjoy living simply, and I respect my neighbors, whether they have more or less than I do. Apartments are the happy households of countless Americans. Not everyone will have a house, but everyone needs a home. Neighborhoods benefit from the investments, both economic and intangible that contented neighbors bring to a community. Indeed, it is the diversity of a neighborhood that makes it strong, which is why building and renting to members of only one economic stratum strips a place of both personality and heart.

What is lost when truly rooted residents are forced out cannot be quantified. Perhaps that is why so many people have difficulty understanding the real value of a neighborhood.

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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Punctuality and productivity are crucial skills for a purposeful life, and I am a champion of reliability and consistency. My friend Hanna once remarked that if I say I’ll be somewhere at 11:00am, then that’s exactly where you’ll find me. I consider this a ringing endorsement of my character.

Nevertheless, a drawback to precision can emerge when I forget to relax and savor life’s little moments.

Recently frustrated by noncompliance with my desire to “press on” to the next destination because there was “no need to linger,” I was reminded by my wonderful friend Kris that waiting a few minutes would do no harm.

At Sunday brunch, I was urged by wait staff to “take my time,” since there was “no rush.” These messages are both slightly comical and abundantly necessary for a regimented individual like me.

Over the long holiday weekend, I was reminded to “relax,” which, ironically, always has the opposite effect. Relaxation simply must come from within; however, it can be summoned by a pleasant reminder.

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Thus inspired, I decided to slow down. Given the early arrival of balmy temperatures, the time is ripe to downshift into the slower pace of lazy, hazy summer days. Following Walt Whitman’s lead, I shall take time to marvel at a blade of grass while I “lean and loaf and invite my ease.”

I recall the absolute delight of meandering through the woods during my childhood. I had hours and hours to fill, no destination, no boundaries. Ian Frazier’s sweet essay “A Lovely Sort of Lower Purpose” discusses these same unintentional rambles; coincidentally he also grew up tramping through the woods of Northeastern Ohio. Certainly, a walk in the woods is a worthy way to invite leisure. In fact, I recently learned that the Japanese advocate healing through “forest bathing,” called Shinrin Yoku.

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A bottle opener also makes an excellent book mark.

These days, the way I achieve relaxation of the meaningless sort involves taking a blanket, and few beers, and a good book to the park to sit under a tree: reading, thinking, drinking, and soaking up the subtle beauties of Chicago’s neighborhood parks. Two weeks earlier, I’d done just that, and snapped a photo of my version of aimless contentment. Indeed, on any sunny day, Palmer Square Park positively overflows with layabouts.

With this renewed intent to behave less intentionally, I go forth into the summer months determined to do less and enjoy more.