Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Primer on Getting Scammed in Hyde Park

posted by chicago pop

So a little while ago there was a buzz about a new scam in the neighborhood, and given my summer lassitude I waited awhile to post anything about it.

But scams in Hyde Park are like an eternal spring overflowing its source in ever-changing rivulets. The creative well of scamming mytho-poesis is astounding and infinite. So there was no need for this post to follow the 24/7 scam cycle. The subject is not going away. More likely it will be coming to you again soon. There will be more of them, I assure you, so it's good to get your anti-scam freak on now and test it out.

A scam is usually recognizable for what it is, especially when you've been scammed once or twice, no matter how inventive and unfamiliar it may seem. Which is why it is curious that so many people seem to have been fooled when someone began going door-to-door asking for money to save the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

All I can say is: who, if any, are the suckas' who gave this guy money? Whoever the scammer is/was, I have no doubt he read the Herald closely, and quickly figured out that the way to part fools from their money is to invoke the pending death of a neighborhood institution.

The best advice when it comes to not getting scammed is: don't give your money to people you don't know. Even more so if there is a story involved. The longer the story, you should consider asking them to give you money for wasting your time.

I don't mind giving cash to people who perform a service. I classify this as only a quasi-scam, one frequently practiced by street-poets such as the one who approached me in Borders last spring and asked if he could compose a poem on a topic of my choice. I suggested "fatherhood," and the poet orated a rhyming and more-or-less on-topic verse on what it means to be a dad. For this 45 -60 seconds of labor I rewarded the bard with $2, which I pointed out was compensation roughly equal to a fee of $120/hour, more than my trained and licensed plumber, but less than my lawyer -- i.e., not bad, and not nearly the astounding rip-off that his suggested price of $20, or $1,200/hour was.

The point is, however, that we negotiated the terms of the transaction on the open market, and a good was delivered. It was a non-tradable good, to be sure, but a good nonetheless. Most scams are not negotiated openly and involve no real exchange of goods, tradable or non-tradable.

Of the scams that I have known within the Hyde Park quadrilateral, here are a few of them, ranging from the mundane to the truly original, for the benefit of the as-yet-unscammed:

A Nosology of Hyde Park Scams

1) [Open door]: "A classmate of ours at Kenwood Academy died and we need to buy him a coffin quick." [slam door]

2) [Open door]: "You like meat? I got some cheap meat, real cheap -- chicken, ribs, beef. [pause] You a vegetarian?" [slam door]

3) On 57th Street: "I just got out of the hospital and need money to get my prescription."

4) Six months later, same spot on 57th Street: "I just got out of the hospital and need money to get my prescription."

5) At Istria on 57th: "You know what, the cops towed my car and now I can't get home. I live all the way down at Blue Island and came up here for a conference on Gay Masculinity at the University. Now I'm stuck and need money for a Metra pass." [I'm ashamed to say that this one was so ingeniously PC I fell for it]

6) Anywhere: "My car broke down and I need bus fare to get down to [insert address]. Or maybe you can give me a ride."

7) [Open door]: "I'm collecting money to help kids learn how to dance and go to Broadway." [slam door]

8, 9, 10) Reader contributions

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fixing Up the Neighborhood

posted by Richard Gill

July 6, as I was returning from photographing the day's breaking news, (See July 6 post "Nearer, Dear God, to Thee?"), I happily noticed a lot of fix-up work taking place on older buildings around the neighborhood. This work included painting, tuckpointing, storefront renovations and so forth.

I thought it particularly noteworthy that MAC Properties was performing major work on the Kikuya restaurant as part of a project to modernize and coordinate the storefronts in their building on 55th Street, just west of Cornell. Recently, MAC completed structural repairs to the roof and parapet of the same building.

It's nice to see the older structures being maintained and improved, since almost nothing new is getting built around here. In addition to a weak economy, the absence of new construction in Hyde Park is attributable to a nasty dose of obstructionism. Yup, that last statement was gratuitous, but true.

(Free romantic dinner with chicago pop to the one-hundred-and-first person to identify all of these locations and the exact time of day, aperture setting, and shutter speed with which they were photographed)

Richard Gill is Famous

posted by chicago pop

Read all about it, but not first, here; and remember you read it first, here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mural Update

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Today I happened upon this scene at 56th and Lake Park. Olivia Gude is restoring her original 1992 mural, "Where We Come From...Where We're Going." I had previously seen a young man (her assistant for the summer) power-washing William Walker's "Childhood is Without Prejudice" (1977), just east of the Gude mural.

Ms. Gude is responsible for restoring both murals, using money she says the Chicago Public Art Group got from the NEA. (For a list of all the CPAG mural restoration projects in Chicago, see this link.) I'm pretty sure that the University of Chicago has contributed money for the 56th Street murals, as well.

She told me that she had restored Mr. Walker's mural once before, in 1993, and when she had contacted him to discuss it Mr. Walker said, "Why don't you just paint something else over it?" which was unthinkable to her. Mr. Walker's art is considered to be historically significant.

Olivia Gude
Ms. Gude is hoping that while she works on her mural (for the next month, she estimates), people will stop and tell her what has become of the subjects in the mural. She might even add an update about some of them to the text in the mural.

I know one of the models, the small-ish redhead in the tan coat. Her name is Rachel, and she was one of my husband's PhD students. She was not terribly fond of Hyde Park. She now works for the International Monetary Fund.

William Walker (b. 1927), "Childhood is Without Prejudice." The loose paint has been power-washed away.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Street Cleaning Progress?

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Signs of progress are appearing in Hyde Park...or at least in strategic spots on campus.

Ever since my year-long stint in Los Angeles, where these signs are the norm, I've wondered why the City of Chicago still sends Streets and Sanitation workers out to hang cardboard street-cleaning signs by hand. It can't be efficient. First, there are the man-hours involved in putting up and taking down the temporary signs (don't get me started on the workers who do this job by car, with the engine idling). Second, many car owners don't see the signs in time to move their cars. Third, on street-cleaning days parking is unavailable for six hours (9AM - 3PM), although it takes approximately 2 minutes for the machine to clean any given block.

The above signs solve these problems, and possibly two more: people will be less inclined to abandon their cars (operable or inoperable) for months at a time in one spot, and folks going on vacation will know to have a friend move their car.

As far as I can tell, the signs are so far only installed on heavily-parked streets (Drexel, Ellis, and Woodlawn roughly between 55th and 59th Streets), where having a mere 2-hour moratorium on parking every month, on a predictable day, will help to ease parking woes for University visitors and employees.

But I'd like to have them on my block, too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nearer, Dear God, To Thee?

posted by Richard Gill

A couple of years ago, at some Hyde Park meeting about the Point, some priestess of Hyde Park's intellectual superiority arose and took direct aim at residents of Lincoln Park and Lakeview. "Most of THEM," she huffed, "don't know who their Alderman is. They probably don't even know what an Alderman is."

If I'd had the stomach to ask her, she probably would have told me that only those who are close to God, such as long-time Hyde Parkers, can possibly possess knowledge of the name of their Alderman.

What BS, I thought. But now, I'm starting to wonder if maybe she had (pardon the expression) a point. I mean, just look around. Hans Morsbach himself is achieving heavenly stature. Inside his own restaurant. In a great mural upon the wall.

What convinced me, though, was Hyde Park's burning bush. Around 3pm, July 6, there was a burning bush (honest, really) at 55th & Lake Park, outside Walgreens. It is unknowable whether it was caused by a cigarette or by spontaneous combustion from on high. The fire department came and poured enough water and foam on it to drown the bush and probably kill it, were it a mere mortal bush. But, no doubt, this heavenly shrub will regenerate upon the morrow. Take a look and let us know.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Most Excellent and Truly Amazing Letter Ever Written to the Hyde Park Herald

posted by chicago pop

We reproduce, forthwith and herein, the above-said most awesome and amazing letter to the Herald ever written. The author is one Charles Stephen Thompson.

Note that you don't have to have a particular viewpoint on the issue at hand to recognize that this letter effectively demonstrates journalistic bias in the Herald's coverage of the issues. We'll also take this opportunity to note that this blog raised the issue, not of the 47th Street women's clinic, but of the nearby 47th Street pediatric clinic and overall UCMC administrative restructuring, A YEAR before the Herald decided to focus on the latest phase of this restructuring.

Because this letter is so excellent, it needs no further commentary, and we therefore pass on the the brief in full:

U of C Coverage Smacks of Bias (Hyde Park Herald, July 1, 2009)

To the Editor:

It amazes me that your newspaper can be so blatantly partisan. I have watched for weeks as the Herald has methodically torn the university apart for closing its women's clinic at 47th Street and for downsizing and outsourcing its emergent care operations to other, cheaper hospitals. In each instance, this was deemed front page news. Yet, when it was reported -- by the same reporter, mind you -- that the university was donating at least $5 million to Provident Hospital, an "underutilized hospital," to assist in facilities upgrades so that they could better serve some of the same patients that the university will be sending them, this was relegated to page 4.

Moreover, the Herald has routinely pointed out that other non-profit institutions are buckling under the weight of the economic decline ("Budget cuts threaten Hyde Park orgs," June 24; "McCormick seminary for sale," June 24), effectively giving those same institutions a pass as they cut back on service and support of the Hyde Park community. From what I have read, the university's endowment shrank by a similar amount; I fail to see why it is held to a different standard.

While I understand that the university is looked on suspiciously in whatever it does simply based on its past behavior, I think it is deplorable for a journalistic organization to so obviously disregard the facts in such a methodical and partisan fashion. If I wanted such biased reporting, I'd watch Fox News.

Charles Stephen Thompson