Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hyde Park Herald Profiles Local Tomatoes

posted by chicago pop

"Mr. Stripey"

I love tomatoes. I can't stand having to go 8 to 9 months between growing seasons for fresh ones. I'm also a FREAK about heirlooms. I eat them like apples.

Which is why I was delighted to read the Herald's discussion of the tomato attraction at the 49th Annual Hyde Park Garden Fair.

It's such a charming piece of journalism, I'd like to share it with you:

Tomatoes were a major attraction. There were indeterminate types, for those with large back yards. Indeterminate tomatoes grow in vines and generally need staking or cages. The determinate, or compact pot-grown varieties, were available for apartment or condo dwellers.

Tomato varieties ranged from the basic Early Girl to another early variety, the Soldaki, which yields a meaty, 14-ounce fruit. Another usual suspect was the ever popular Roma, or plum tomato, with the bold flavor needed for sauces and canning.

Some unusual heirloom tomatoes were especially enticing in displayed photos, helping customers look forward toward summer. "Mr. Stripey," a low-acid fruit with a mild flavor is actually striped orange and red.
In other news, Charlotte Des Jardins made it clear in a letter to the editor that she still doesn't get that no one cares about Harper Court not being an artists' colony.

Which is funny, because there's a lot of art going on in Hyde Park, just not at Ms. Des Jardins' shelter for wayward dinosaurs: the Hyde Park Art Center, the Experimental Station, the Little Black Pearl, the Renaissance Society, and the Smart Gallery.

But Ms. Des Jardins wants an art colony right there, because that's what they meant to do 45 years ago, so it must have been a good idea, and it's still not too late to try to make it work.

Sort of the way they meant to dock blimps on the Empire State Building.

Anyone know how that worked out?

And finally, and most newsworthy of all, the name of Sharonjoy A. Jackson made no appearance whatsoever in a letter from newly-formed East Hyde Park Action Committee, which apparently is distinct from the Lake Front Task Force of Super Hero fame, and seems to be making a point of conducting itself in a rational manner that does not involve being persecuted by the Alderman. This is, of course, to be commended, even if the letter informs the readers of a meeting that took place one month ago.

That's another week of local news, folks. So, in the spirit of the low-acid Mr. Stripey, we'll leave you with a photo of the man who brings you low-acid news, every week.

"Mr. Stripey"


Elizabeth Fama said...

We also have The Little Black Pearl among our arts-related organizations.

chicago pop said...

Hey, great point -- I'm going to add that to the list in the post.

gogomama said...

Usually I am in your corner, but this time, baby, shame on you. Intended to be humorous? Perhaps, but your post just comes off as snide.

There are neighborhood residents who, back in the day, purchased $100 bonds to help build the court. Some of these donors are still around. Now the HC "arts foundation" will be paid some $6.5 million for the property. Your post fails to characterize an important section of Ms. Des Jardins's letter in a fair manner. In her letter she asks if the $6.5 million will be distributed to neighborhood arts projects, and if the distribution of funds will be public and open. If the process Ms. Des Jardins describes in her letter (applying for grants, awarding funds,) were to be put in place, then presumably any of the organizations you mention in your post (the Hyde Park Art Center, the Experimental Station, the Little Black Pearl, the Renaissance Society, and the Smart Gallery) might be able to apply for a piece of that $6.5 million. Did you skip that part of her letter? Her letter also suggests that the process be made public and open, which is a good point, unless you want more "Orisha"-style disasters (public art with inadequate maintenance funds) in your neighborhood. I think it is only fair for the original bond purchasers to ask where the $6.5 million will go, and to suggest that it be distributed to arts organizations. And will we ever know how much of the $6.5 million is available for grants after deducting "expenses"? Although I am not one of the original HC bond purchasers, I think it is fair for them to ask about their investment, and to suggest that it be distributed to neighborhood arts organizations.

Sheez, C-Pop, where do YOU think the proceeds should go? To buy out the owners of the condo parking spaces at Indian Village, who seem hell-bent on controlling their personal property?

chicago pop said...

the most gracious gogomama writes that my: post fails to characterize an important section of Ms. Des Jardins's letter in a fair manner.

Yes, I ignored the "hard questions" framed by conspiratorial insinuations at both the beginning and conclusion of the letter, because they simply prolong an old, pointless, and often unsubstantiated argument about whether the University of Chicago is a bogeyman out to sink Hyde Park.

Whatever the University's intentions, Ms. Des Jardins certainly has a right to her concern. She does not, however, have a right to the satisfaction of keeping things as they were in 1965. She wants an art colony, and her queries concerning finances are simply directed to that end. Yet surveys have shown that folks in the neighborhood have other priorities. If anybody is ignoring anything, it is Ms. Des Jardins, who gives no hint of having paid any attention to these surveys in her letter.

Perhaps her letter was an unfair characterization of how community interests and desires have changed in half a century? If HC had been sold to a private developer for a similar amount, who then executed the grand Aaron Cook plan for a Roman Piazza, would she be making the same demands, accusing the developer of a "land grab", and claiming that they are a conspirator?

But keeping to the technical points you raise: The "community" and Ms. Des Jardins have no proprietary rights over Harper Court, and no more say in what should be done with it than anybody else. Sure, they can get ticked off that the HC mission has evaporated, but they can't call the shots on this any more than they can over any other transfer of property.

The original bonds were not donations, as you describe them, and they have since been repaid. It should also be noted the the University itself purchased over half of the original bond issue, the sales drive for which was led by the then-wife of the University President. The rest were grants from the Federal Government.

Perhaps the conspiratorial rhetoric of the letter, therefore, was an unfair characterization of the complex web of interests that ties the University together with its surrounding neighborhood and metropolis? I'm tired of the "University-as-Death-Star" mentality and this letter was a classic example.

As for what I think should be done with the proceeds of the HC sale, that was covered in one of the earliest posts written for this blog:

Whatever assets belong to the Foundation should be liquidated and transferred to a Hyde Park Trust for the Arts. These monies could then be used to fund juried, competitive, competitions in the arts, which would sponsor projects in the neighborhood and throughout the City. By being juried and competitive, but based in Hyde Park, it would bring the best of the City and the nation here, instead of making public art the object of public committees devoted to local clients.

I agree that this kind of thing would be nice (though it's not an "artists' colony") but in reality the University now has a pile of old buildings (including a theater that would cost more than $6.5 million to renovate) that it needs to make marketable so that we can fill a hole in the urban fabric that now extends for several square blocks.

If they can set aside some seed money for arts grants, great, but what I want is a neighborhood that I can and will use on a daily basis.

deep throat said...

So gogomama, I'm trying to understand your reaction to c-pop's poking fun at Charlotte's reiteration of her desire to maintain an artists colony in the Harper Court location. I didn't interpret anything that he wrote as snidely ridiculing Charlotte's request for more transparency as the HFAC moves foward. The transparency issue is very legitimate, in my opinion.

Maybe he didn't even bring it up because Charlotte has a valid point about transparency, and there was nothing to take a jibe at on that front. It seems to me that he really limited his "joke" to the "resurrection of the artist colony" issue.

I have a hard time with the equation you've suggested: mere omission EQUALS snideness. I'm not quite that quick to draw your conclusion. It's premature to surmise what c-pop thinks about the transparency issue since it doesn't look like he's even hinted at his perspective.

Having said that, c-pop what do you think about the transparency with which the HFAC apparently operates?

LPB said...

If it's true that the bondholders have been repaid, then it does seem like the Harper Court Foundation has ultimate control over what it does with the property, within limits of the law, and the former bondholders have no claim on the entity and its assets.

Clearly, it would be community-minded if HCF and HFAC were to inform community members, including those interested former bondholders, of its plan for the $6.5 million, but it is under no obligation to do so.

I chalk this up to the privilege of being a private group. How I approach the HFAC is similar to how I think about the Boy Scouts -- even if I don't agree with some of their practices, there isn't anything I can do about it as an outsider. Perhaps Ms. Des Jardins should work toward getting appointed/invited to the HFAC board. As an HFAC insider, she might have more opportunity to influence how the organization operates.

chicago pop said...

veteran HPP blogger deep throat asks: c-pop what do you think about the transparency with which the HFAC apparently operates?

Set up a trust or foundation for the arts, staff it with professionals, let them award grants, run competitions, and fund existing worthy organizations. The organization will only be as good as the talent on its Board and staff.

Let everyone know what's going on, within reason. Hire pros to do the work. Then step back and let them do it.

chicago pop said...

I left out the link to the August 2007 essay on Harper Court, quoted in my comment above.

gogomama said...

Well, unscrew my head and dip it all out!
C-Pop, I owe you and your readers an apology. Where ARE my manners today?

C-Pop, I share your notion that the notion of an art colony here is, well, goofball.

C-Pop, you are right that Ms. Des Jardin's most recent letter probably has at its root a host of assumptions about today’s relationship between the University and the Neighborhood that are not accurate.

Why didn’t I acknowledge these points in my comment? Well, I guess I was guilty of something like “picking and choosing.” (Surely someone around here trained in rhetoric knows the correct term for this.) Deep Throat can see plainly that my logic is not what it oughta be.

C-Pop and lpb, you say that all the bondholders have been paid off, and it’s not their call anymore. Fair ‘nuff. (Ignorance on my part.)

Furthermore, unbeknownst to me (a careless reader who just wants to eat her waffle now), Hyde Park Progress has already published C-Pop's opinion proposing that
"Whatever assets belong to the Foundation should be liquidated and transferred to a Hyde Park Trust for the Arts. These monies could then be used to fund juried, competitive, competitions in the arts, which would sponsor projects in the neighborhood and throughout the City. "

I like your idea, and that’s precisely why I commented that it seemed somehow nasty for you to blast Charlotte, when her letter contained what I thought was a good proposal. (Maybe she lifted your idea?) It just seemed like you were a-pickin’ and a-choosin’. How could I have thought that about you?

My point was that this proposal has some merit, and didn’t deserve derision. Turns out that this has been your position all along. No wonder you got your hackles raised.

And even though you were courteous enough not to mention it, C-Pop, I now reproach myself because I kinda-sorta implied that you might be sorta-kinda inconsistent about "some people" telling "some other people" what to do with their money (HCAF) or their property (Indian Village condo parking lot spaces.) Like butter wouldn't melt in my own mouth. That was just so, so wrong.

C-Pop, I regret that I said you were snide and not funny. It was ungracious of me, and if I could take it back I would. You are not snide, you're snarky! (That's good! Wear it proud!) Hyde Park Progress is an asset to the neighborhood, and you know I am a fan.

My own gogomama repeatedly admonished me to "listen carefully because you never know where a good idea will come from." The point is that even people with bad ideas once in a while get a good idea. ('Course, the inverse is also true.)

C-Pappy, please, I am saying I'm sorry . . . Can we be friends again?

chicago pop said...

C-Pappy, please, I am saying I'm sorry . . . Can we be friends again?

Hey, of course. That little round was far, far, far from a bridge-burner, believe you me. :-)

And yes, you're right that Ms. Des Jardins has some legitimate points to make, and good ideas come from all directions.

Something to remember ... might take the edge of my snarkiness. For a little while. Maybe.

gogomama said...

You the man, C-Pop. Keep it comin.

bornatreese said...

It isn't really about "telling other people what to do with their money." It isn't "their" money. The Harper Court entity selling to the University is required by law to use the proceeds in a way related to its purposes (C-Pop's suggestion works). Charlotte's error in logic in her Herald letter was in trying to pin this requirement--or at least a moral obligation--on the buyer of the property as well.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Ten points to C-Pop for incorporating the Star Wars reference (University-as-Death-Star) into his comments!

Richard Gill said...

I really doubt that the University of Chicago is happy about assuming a major role in real estate acquisition and development. It seems to me that the University's off-campus real estate ventures are mostly defensive. They have stepped in and bought sites such as the shopping center, 53rd & Harper, Doctors Hospital and Harper Court only after it became clear that nobody else with much money or sense was going to do anything with them.

Hyde Park has been viewed as anti-development, and outside developers have been loathe to wade into the pit of naysayers and obstructionists that lurk within the community. The University, with an established stake in Hyde Park, has stated that it needs to ensure that its community is compatible with a first-class educational institution and attractive to faculty, staff, students and visitors. I would add that this, in turn, makes for a community that's equally attractive to non-university-affiliated people. That was not happening, so the U of C had to make it happen. It was time for somebody, anybody, to urinate or get off the commode. Maybe, if things start to happen around here, other developers will test the waters.

The world continues to turn, even if Ms. des Jardins and those of like mind command it to stop. The dumpy Hyde Park of derelict properties and Shabby Chic is So 20th Century.

EdJ said...

I believe that it would be in our interest to go back to the vision for Hyde Park circa 1901. It seems to me that the neighborhood has been going downhill since that Oak Prk interloper, Frank Llloyd Wright brought in that so called prairie style Robie House and other abominations nto our neighborhood. Architecture in this neighborhood should either be Gothic, Victorian or Lego-based.

In fact, we should go back to 1890 before there was the university in Hyde Park or even the Columbian World's Exposition. All that did was bring a lot of outsiders to the neighborhood who made a lot of noise and never amounted to anything. I don't care if it's represented by one of the stars on the Chicago flag. It's been downhill ever since.

Richard Gill said...

Item 1): edj is right - it's been all downhill in Hyde Park for at least a century and a quarter.

Furthermore, THEY REALLY ARE out to get us. The street lights have NEVER worked; the garbage has NEVER been picked up; and as far back as 1940, the Illinois Central, the Chicago Surface Lines and the City of Chicago plotted to turn Hyde Park into a wasteland by choking off access to the neighborhood. Then later, the City plotted destruction by trying to improve access to the neighborhood.

And look at the privileged North Side. They have always had more of everything than we do. Why, even in 2008, north Lake Shore Drive has fifty times more potholes than south Lake Shore Drive.

You think I'm kidding? Look at that nasty, evil, slimy, disgusting, throbbing tomato on the original post. You think that's a close-up photo of a normal tomato on a vine? Uh uh. It's ninety feet tall, and it's consuming Nichols Park. It's growing at the rate of ten feet per day, and C-Pop barely escaped its clutches when he took its picture. And who planted it there? THEY did, of course. THEY hate Hyde Park. Watch out, people, it's getting ready to reproduce!! aaaAARRGGGHHH

Item 2): C-Pop, I researched some archives about the plan to tether a zeppelin to the mast of the Empire State Building in 1933. It failed for two reasons. First, nobody figured out how to get people on and off the thing, way up there in the wind. Second, the mast wasn't strong enough. They sent a big ape up there to test it out, and we all know what happened to the ape.

chicago pop said...

And look at the privileged North Side. They have always had more of everything than we do. Why, even in 2008, north Lake Shore Drive has fifty times more potholes than south Lake Shore Drive.

Having just "biked the Drive" this AM, I can testify to that!

Whether biking on the Drive, or on the path, on the South Side it's smoooooth sailing!