Over the past few months, I’ve been profiling the lives of different intersections in Chicago for the American Institute of Architects.
Now I need your help: I’d like you to look over the list below and then tell me which corner you’d like me to profile.
Send along your suggestion to me via Twitter with the hashtag #onthecorner
Here are your choices:
1) State & Division
2) Michigan & Congress
3) Clark & Fullerton
4) North & Halsted
5) Harrison & Plymouth
Walk out your front door, go to the nearest corner and ask yourself ”What’s going on?”
That’s what I do every day and for me, it never gets old. It’s a bit of history, architecture, sociology, geography, design, planning, and more all rolled into one.
I love to explore new corners and I recently started a new column for the American Institute of Architects titled “On the Corner”. It’s a great way for me to revisit some favorite intersections and to learn about some lesser known crossroads.
So what goes on on the corner of Damen & Ainslie in the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago?
You can read about it right here, kind visitor.
The Internet facilitates all kinds of marvelous interactions: the ease of commerce, a conversation with a loved one far away, and sharing trenchant thoughts on the state of international relations.
It also gives people the ability to comment on any number of news stories, high and low, interesting and banal. It’s fun to see what people have to say, but let’s face it: most people commenting on news articles are what I like to call haters.
Say there’s an article about a grandmother knitting sweaters for paraplegic refugee orphan children. You might expect some huzzahs and kind words in the comments area, yes? There will be a few of those remarks, offered by kind souls.
The rest? All haters, just doing what haters do best. Hate, hate, and more hate. You can expect nasty remarks about her appearance, her socioeconomic status, and other meditations that never rise about the level of a common, garden-variety troglodyte.
Personally, I love haters. They inspire me, as do their commentaries.
Recently, I was profiled by the Boston Globe for my work on the Boscago campaign. I love Boston and Chicago and in a bit of fun, self-promotion and celebration, I ran for mayor of Boscago. (Spoiler alert: I won.)
The article went up and the haters came out. But as I say, they inspire me. I took a few of their comments and crafted a few haikus out of their erudite and pensive observations.
Here are those original comments followed by my own new creations.
Haters, these haikus are for you.
- JimDwyer111/06/13 07:52 AM
Can I get boston.com to refund that minute of my life I just wasted?
- My life, I wasted
- Refund my minute Boston
- I can get that now
- LogicalLarry11/06/13 07:02 AM
…And you thought this was newsworthy in any way because…..? My 8 year old has an imaginary friend…would you like to come and interview him?
- Friend, interview him
- Imaginary this way
- And you would like this
- JoeSmith41111/06/13 10:26 AM
- "curious explorer of of landscapes, sights, sounds, and the human experience within a place." Anyone who describes themselves like that sound like a loony. I don’t read boston.com for journalistic integrity, but this takes the cake.
- Human experience
- Curious sounds, sights, landscapes
- Explorer within
As some of you know, I recently decided to run for mayor of Boscago.
Sure, Boston & Chicago are separated by over 800 miles, but why not bring them together?
They are both fascinating places and I love them both. That’s why I started my campaign a few weeks ago. I wanted to celebrate these two great American cities by talking about their history, architecture, culture, arts, and people.
Two days ago, the people spoke and I was elected the mayor of this fine conurbation, this magical urban agglomeration, this new conglomeration if you will.
The Boston Globe wrote about my campaign here and I hope you’ll take a look.
Be well and let’s start celebrating Boscago together.
"You definitely don’t want to move into this building."
The words of my father come back to me as I think about the Inez Apartments.
I was coming to Madison for grad school and I was on the hunt for a place to live. I had grown up there in the 1980s. We lived miles away from campus in a charming tiny white house surrounded by other charming homes. Almost twenty years later, I was looking at less than charming apartments in neighborhoods fairly pulsating with thousands of young people who had crossed over the threshold into quasi-independence. No doubt it was exciting for them.
I was 26 and I felt old. I had spent the last eight years in Hyde Park, surrounded by thousands of cerebral scholars, who in turn were surrounded by the intensely aggressive poverty that was just a few blocks away from the University of Chicago. That city was my oyster, the place where I had become my own man. I am sure the students living at the Inez felt the same way about Madison. Or at least I hoped they did.
At the time, I was living in a tall and narrow 1920s apartment building in Chicago. There was a lovely pool. A friendly doorman. An aged, but well-kept bank of elevators. My apartment had a fine view of Lake Michigan and Hyde Park. It would be hard to match such a fine property in Madison.
I closed my eyes as I heard my dad’s words. “No, this place isn’t for me”, I said. We had looked at almost a dozen buildings around campus. A few single-family homes cut up into oddly shaped apartments, a coop, and several buildings that made no impression on me at all.
The Inez made an impression right away. It was not a favorable one. This squat four-story dirt-brown and tan colored building would have been at home in East Berlin. It had elevators that smelled like like an aggressive mix of lite beer, industrial cleaner and sulphur. The laundry room smelled the same way, just swap out the sulphur and add a faint aroma of bleach.
The property manager (who lived on site, I might add) showed us around with a certain cheer that was completely suspect. He listed some of the building’s highlights, which included a monthly newsletter, a picnic area and the laundry room. The in-house broadsheet was largely used to remind the forgetful 19 and 20 year old residents to pay their rent on time, the picnic area was a lonely strip of grass in the back littered with beer cans, and the laundry room was as previously described.
In the end, I took an efficiency apartment in this building. It was a last choice that rose to the top based on location, location, location. This proximity to campus was not a good thing. The young people around me were eager to sow wild hops-flavored oats on every day of the week, without cease. Each little cell in the Inez was a temporary home to dozens of friends and family every night of the week who wanted to grab a spirtious libation or three before going out to another bar, a hockey game, another friend’s house, another part of campus, and so on. I don’t blame them and good on them for having fun. It was an eventful three years there and I don’t regret any of it.
As my dad and I walked away that day, he said “Maybe you should take a picture? Just for reference?”
I didn’t take the photo. I wish I had, but I do remember one other thing that caught me eye.
It was a sign in the laundry room garbage written in black marker. The words “Welcome Home to the Inez Apartments” were there in a slanted typeface surrounded by a cheery border comprised of dancing cacti.
I never spotted a single cactus on the property.
It also never felt like home.
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