Love you, Mom.

Credit: Anya Briggs (1994)
Credit: Anya Briggs (1994)

A request: if you knew my mom, or even just met her once, would you mind sharing a story or an impression of her in the comments? (Multiple stories more than acceptable, of course.) The funnier the better, but we’ll take the heartfelt/serious stuff too.

Come visit historic Pullman, Illinois!

When a friend asks if you’d like to join her on a trip to a place as steeped in history and interest as Chicago’s Pullman District, you don’t turn her down, especially not on a day as lovely as this past Sunday was. We’re both nerds and we’d both always been curious about Pullman, which was, in short, the original planned corporate community, built for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, about a decade after the Great Chicago Fire. The backstory is fascinating — apparently Clarence Darrow and Eugene Debs both got their starts organizing in the Pullman rail strikes of 1894 — but what you can see today is a strange little shell of what was clearly a truly impressive town once upon a time. Continue reading “Come visit historic Pullman, Illinois!”

Good morning, Saturday

"This is happening."
“This is happening.”

I don’t actually know whose idea this was. I mean, I know I mentioned watching the sun rise on the rocks when I came to Evanston for geek camp in high school, but with the momentum of the night we were having, it just sort of became this thing we were going to do.

It was raining and humid and disgusting yesterday, but it seemed natural that it was so clear and perfect, once we got there. I didn’t question it, anyway. At that point it was a little after 5, and most if not all of us were coming up on having been awake for 24 straight hours. Someone asked if we were really going to wait here an hour to watch the sun rise, but in the end it wasn’t all that that hard. Continue reading “Good morning, Saturday”

The city and the city (especially Little Village)

One of the best things about journalism school has been realizing how little of Chicago I had seen or even known to seek out before I started learning how to report and find stories. My first quarter was spent tramping up and down Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park, on the city’s northwest side, which is less than two miles from where I live but which I’d only been to for its incredible eating (notably Noon O Kabab, which, if you like Persian food is a must-visit in this town). Even though I’ve lived here since 2002, my Chicago experience had really been limited to enclaves and bubbles like Hyde Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park and bits of Uptown.

Due south of Albany Park, with all the same cross streets, is La Villita, Little Village. I’m working on a feature story about the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, which is an incredible organization full of beyond incredible people. Just south of the church where CYBC lives in the basement is 26th Street. “Oh, you have to see it,” I was told by source after source. “Go eat at Nuevo Leon, it’s the best.”

My interview began at 9, and the gym itself was closed on the weekend, so once the interview was done, it seemed like a good idea to get a feel for the neighborhood. I didn’t know what to expect — I really had no exposure to Little Village beyond what people involved with CYBC had told me, plus one thread in the community gang resistance documentary The Interrupters.

“People only hear about the bad stuff, the gang stuff,” people told me over and over again. “Which means people outside La Villita don’t know what an incredible neighborhood it is and what good people live here.”

Now that I’ve been there a little bit (a very little bit), that’s a damn shame. Because they’re right: Little Village is truly something else. Continue reading “The city and the city (especially Little Village)”

Things I did on my first day of grad school

No one is surprised that I really take to approaching strangers, chatting for a few minutes and asking if I could take their picture. Our first assignment, in our first Methods class (where we learn both the skills necessary for today’s tech-wielding journalism and whether we have unexplored passions for new-to-us media creation), is to spend an hour in the Loop and come back when we’ve taken interesting photos of people. Along with two other girls, I head south and west, along Van Buren Street, across the river and down into Union Station. Nearly 70 shots later, I’ve talked with Ed, who works a newsstand behind the Chicago Board of Trade; the owner of a liquor store and bar that’s closing after 55 years in the same hands; Ellen, who insists she only takes good photos when she’s standing next to her brother-in-law; and a postman, pictured above, who says, “I’m just working, I’m just working.”

Turns out I’m super into this. Can’t wait until I get to do this and write about it too. Continue reading “Things I did on my first day of grad school”