City stickers

An annual Chicago rite.

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post to remind you to buy your Chicago city sticker. If you haven’t already, PLEASE buy your city sticker now. Or you will be ticketed and fined and charged a late fee AND you will still have to buy a Chicago city sticker if you live in Chicago. And don’t expect any mercy from the Chicago Police because they, too, have to buy city sticker for all their vehicles. If they don’t, they will be suspended for three days without pay. Their personal vehicles are policed by the police police. Someone has to police the police!

This year, I went to the Chicago City Clerk’s office on the first possible day to purchase my city sticker. I don’t want to be driving around without a valid city sticker and risk getting a ticket. It’s cheaper to buy a city sticker right away. Anyway, I couldn’t believe how long the line was at the City Clerk at 48th and Kedzie. And most of the people waiting in line were Mexican. I waited an hour and a half to buy my city sticker! But I was among the first Chicagoans to buy their city stickers.

Unfortunately, when I put the city sticker on my windshield, it fell off and landed on my dashboard. I had seen on the news how the initial shipment of city stickers didn’t stick, but I was hoping I would be spared a second trip to the City Clerk. But, alas! I had to return. And the line was even longer this time around. Luckily, Chicago extended to grace period to July 31, 2010, before they started ticketing and charging late fees.

I decided to go to City Hall the next day. The line was even longer, but I got special treatment because the replacement sticker line was very short. I was out of there in fifteen minutes! The City that Works! Sometimes Chicago lives up to its motto!

Domestic violence


Chicago Sun-Times, Saturday, February 20, 2010.

Domestic violence is a serious problem in many households. Law enforcement and public servants are required to report all incidents of domestic violence regardless of the victim’s wishes or fears. For example, if a woman is physically abused by a man, she should report the violence to the police in order to prevent future abuse. If the neighbors suspect that a woman is being beaten because of loud pounding sounds and her cries for help, they should call the police. If the police arrive and suspect that there was any physical violence involved, by either party, they must act to stop the violence. If the police observe any physical injury, they must investigate and determine the cause and perpetrator, and arrest the offender for domestic violence. If the victim refuses to press charges, the police must still arrest the offender if they suspect that the victim is in fear for her safety once the police leave. The police have the authority to make an arrest based on the physical evidence they observe for the safety of the victim. In the past, such incidents of domestic violence have resulted in death when the police did not act appropriately. In fact, most domestic violence calls are investigated very thoroughly by police to prevent further violence. And all public servants–police officers, paramedics, teachers, social workers, etc.–are required to report domestic violence.

When Tiger Woods had his “traffic accident” last Thanksgiving Day, I’m sure that police officers and paramedics across the country immediately suspected domestic violence based on their own personal experiences dealing with domestic violence on the job. This was a most unusual traffic accident. The timing was also suspect. On Thanksgiving Day everyone is supposed to spend time together as a family. But Tiger was driving at 2:30 AM. No one ever mentioned whether his home was his destination or his point of departure. Regardless of direction of travel, if you’re coming home or leaving home at 2:30 AM on Thanksgiving Day, you’re asking for trouble. And, why was Tiger laying on the ground unconscious and barefoot. Who drives barefoot at 2:30 AM?  How fortuitous that his wife Elin was there where his Cadillac crashed and at the precise moment that he needed help. Luckily, she had the foresight to bring a golf club with her to rescue Tiger from his metallic coffin. She broke a window to get him out. But why where there two broken windows?

Also suspect was Tiger’s cooperation with the police investigation. Why didn’t he just meet the police investigators immediately upon being released from the hospital? Why did he avoid the police and have his attorney present Tiger’s driver’s license and vehicle documents to the police. I’m sure the police would have noticed whether or not Tiger’s injuries were consistent with a minor crash in which the air bag did not deploy. Without physical evidence, domestic violence cannot be proved. Was he protecting Elin? Was he ashamed to admit that he was a domestic battery victim? Was he protecting himself from future violence by not accusing her? Well, in reality, male domestic battery victims are never taken as seriously as the allegations by a female victim.

Imagine if Elin was lying unconscious and barefoot under the same circumstances with Tiger standing over her holding a golf club. The paramedics show up and immediately suspect domestic violence. Elin appears to be the victim, so the police are called. Tiger is immediately arrested for domestic battery. All the evidence–whether circumstantial or not–points to domestic violence. The authorities would rather err on the side of safety rather than risk seeing the victim suffer more violence.

Let’s be realistic. A man can be arrested merely for an allegation of domestic battery. No physical evidence is necessary. It doesn’t matter if the offender is a high-profile celebrity or not. Charlie Sheen was arrested for domestic battery based on allegations. (Of course, Sheen also has a history domestic violence.) In the past, when allegations of domestic violence weren’t taken seriously, the physical abuse escalated to abuse. So, nowadays, law enforcement errs on the side of safety. The defendant will have his day in court where the burden of proof is on the prosecution in order to prove that a crime has been committed. But if the victim is a man, no woman’s group will ensure that he gets equal treatment under domestic violence laws. Domestic violence is not about equality.

You know you’re Mexican if …

La Virgen de Guadalupe en Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois.

You know you’re Mexican if …

  1. Your whole family goes to the laundromat.
  2. You grow corn in your garden.
  3. You have a birthday party for your son or daughter and you invite more adults than children.
  4. You beep your horn instead of ringing the doorbell.
  5. You go to McDonald’s or Burger King and you bring your own salsa and jalapeños.
  6. You took Spanish in high school for an easy A and got a C.
  7. You take your family on un paseo through the car wash and tell them that the ride is called “The Tidal Wave.”
  8. You’re married, but your mother still hits you in public.
  9. The police pull you over and you pretend not to speak English.
  10. You have a statue of la Virgen in a half-buried bathtub in your front lawn.
This isn't spicy enough!

Casa de Obama

Hyde Park, Chicago Illinois.

The other day, I had the strongest urge to visit Barack Obama’s house. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly I had this great desire to visit a famous place in the news. I told my sons, “We’re going to President Elect Barack Obama’s house!” At first, I thought they would they would look at me as if I were crazy, which is their normal reaction when I suggest any new and exciting activity. I was wrong! They actually thought it was a great idea. Only that they somehow imagined that his house was very, very far away. I explained that he lived less than thirty minutes from us.

So off we went in search of Barack Obama’s house in Hyde Park. I knew the security would be tight because I watched the news and I saw the concrete barriers around his house. There were many, many Chicago police officers around his house–a two-block radius around his house. I told my sons before we even set out on our trip that we might not even get close to the Obama house, but we could at least visit the neighborhood of the President of the United States of America.

Surprisingly, I was able to park legally at the corner right near a police car that was guarding the closed off intersection leading to his house. As we approached the corner, the police officer exited her squad car and asked if we lived on this side of the block. I said no and she said we would have to walk across the street. Before I left our house, I had no idea where Obama lived other than in Hyde Park, but I figured I’d find his house once I saw all the police cars blocking off the streets. I really thought we would have to walk several blocks. But we were extremely lucky to park so close!

There were multiple police cars and police officers standing out in the middle of the barricaded street. I saw a group of gawkers taking pictures of a house, so I asked, “Is that his house?” and they responded in awe, “That’s his house!” Lo and behold! We had arrived at Barack Obama’s house. As seen on TV! My sons couldn’t believe I had taken them all the way to the front of Barack Obama’s house, albeit across the street. I took some pictures and then we walked away. The police officer who directed us across the street smiled at us and asked if we enjoyed our visit. We said we did and walked back to our car.

As we were getting into the car, I realized that this was exactly the kind of trip my father used to take us on when we were little. He would see something on the news and then take us there. He wouldn’t tell us where we were going. It was just like, “¡Vámonos!” and we would all pile into the car and go. Once, my father saw a chess master playing 25 boards simultaneously at a restaurant in Little Italy, so off we went to play the chess master! The next day, my friends at school told me they saw me playing chess on the news!

When the plane crashed before reaching Midway Airport in 1971, my father took us to the crash site despite the fact that on the news they told everyone to stay away. We were less that a quarter-block away and we could see the actual fuselage and tail of the plane that crashed! However, no one saw us on the news that time. Many people saw my father on the news many times over the years. He just loved the limelight. On the IRS tax deadline day one year, I was watching the news and they showed all the last-minute filers going to the downtown post office to get that coveted April 16th postmark in order to beat the IRS deadline. They interviewed several last-minute filers and all the while I thought, “What idiots! Waiting till the last minute to file their tax returns!” Suddenly, I saw a familiar face. It was my father! He was being interviewed by the news reporter. Somehow he always found a way to get on the news!

I guess by taking my sons to Obama’s house, I was keeping my father’s tradition alive. I didn’t get on the news during our visit to his house, but I realized that I did inherit my father’s thirst to go to where the news is. Ugh! I’ve become my father! ¡Ay! ¡Ay! ¡Ay!

South side dinner

El Gallo de Oro Mexican restuarant, Chicago, Illinois.

Well, now it can be told. First, you must admit that you have a problem before you can solve it. My problem? I like to retrace my steps all the way back to my youth.

So tonight, I went to El Gallo de Oro, bought a steak burrito, and parked in Marquette Park by the Rose Garden to eat it, as I am wont to do. I used to do it all the time, but tonight I compared scenarios.

The first time I bought a burrito at El Gallo de Oro, I lived down the block at 3006 W. 64th Street and I only paid $2.25 with tax. But that was twenty-seven years ago. Today, I paid $6.06 with tax. Today, I barely finished my burrito, but twenty-seven years ago, I would also order two or three tacos or tostadas on the side. I would practically inhale all this food and I ony weighed 140 pounds, compared to my 180 or so today.

And Marquette Park isn’t the same, either. No one cruises through the park like in days of old. This used to be the place to hang out, to see and be seen by everyone. I don’t think anyone even noticed I was there tonight. Not even the police car that drove past me driving the wrong way.

On the plus side? I felt very safe there in my solitude reminiscing about my days of old when I was young and naïve and wouldn’t realize that the grease from the burrito had dripped on my shirt until the person I was trying to impress would point out the grease stain. Okay, I don’t miss the dripping grease all that much. I’m much older and wiser now.

What a riot

2509 W. Marquette Road, Chicago, Illinois

When I lived near Marquette Park, there was a lot of racial tension. The neighborhood suffered from panic as the blacks moved closer and closer due to white flight. When my mother bought our house at 2509 W. Marquette Road, the neighbors said, with a sigh of relief, “At least you’re not black.” But we weren’t completely accepted.

No matter where you lived in Chicago back in the 1970s, there would be someone who resented you, regardless of your race. In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had marched in Marquette Park was greeted by whites who threw brick, rocks, and bottles at the marchers. We moved to Marquette Park in 1973 and people still talked about the Dr. King march. I was a typical teenager in that I wasn’t fully aware about the political events in Chicago or our neighborhood.

So, one Saturday in 1975, I was driving home from work at Derby Foods. When I got close to my house, all the streets were blocked off by the police and I couldn’t drive home. Helicopters flew overhead. I drove around until I found a side street that wasn’t closed. I managed to park my Firebird about four blocks from my house.  I had no idea why there were so many police officers in our neighborhood, nor why all the streets were closed.

As I walked home, I could hear people chanting in the direction of my house. When I reached Marquette Road there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people lining both sides of the street. Reverend Jesse Jackson had led a protest march, but I had just missed it. The street was littered with rocks and bottles. A black man and a boy drove up Marquette Road and people threw rocks and bottles at his car shouting racial epithets. The car sped off westbound where he was greeted by more projectiles.

I had a difficult time crossing Marquette Road in order to get home. When I got to my house, there hundreds of people standing in front of my house. I couldn’t reach my front door, so I watched until the march was over and most of the people left. My younger brother told me how he saw police officers on horses near California Avenue. Someone blew up a cherry bomb near the horse and scared it so that it stood on its hind legs. Someone kicked one of horse’s hind legs and the horse and police officer both fell down. The police immediately arrested the offender.

One of my friends told me he was standing on the curb watching all the action when a little old lady gave him a brick and said, “You throw it! I’m too old!” When I finally got home, my mother asked me where I was. I told her that I was at work and that I had a hard time getting home. When my mother asked my brother if he was at the march he swore he was at his friend’s house. My mother didn’t believe him. She didn’t want the neighbors to think we were causing trouble. Little did she realize that all our neighbors were out there throwing things. The next day, my mother punished my brother for being at the march and for lying to her. She had seen my brother on the news near where the horse was kicked down. They had more protest marches after that, but that was the only one I saw up close.