This here's our building, at least for the next four months or so. It's a little bittersweet to do this meme right now, since thaitea and I are vacating come August (her off on her own and me with my gal ninafarina) after over five years in the heart of Albany Park. We'll miss the place like hell; it's a great little neighborhood, a mostly-residential island just off the beaten paths of my beloved Chic. But it's all going condo now, and as much as I hate to admit it, we're probably bailing at just the right time. Our place is a six-flat brownstone -- or at least it used to be a brownstone until we got tuckpointed a few years back. Now it's more of a redstone.
How I know I'm really home: this here's the corner where I get off, folks. Irving Park on the northwest side, Francisco (just past California, in between Mozard and Richmond). I love the 'hood so much I'd steal the street signs when I leave, if it wasn't for the fact that you need a pair of industrial bolt shears to get the things off.
This is Irving Park, seen from the bridge that goes over the north branch of the Chicago River, which I cross every day on the walk to work. We're in a neighborhood called Albany Park; although most ________ Park neighborhoods in the Big Town actually feature a park that gives the neighborhood its name, ours doesn't. Not that we're lacking in parks; there's five in our immediate vicinity: Horner Park, McFettridge Park, California Park, and a couple of other tiny ones. But no Albany Park. Go figger.
The traffic island dead in the middle of Irving Park, right between the condos-under-construction that used to be the headquarters of Dart Cab Company and the Quick Stop Liquor store. We're right in the middle of the 33rd Ward; just down the street is Alderman Dick Mell's ward office, although he's never around since his son-in-law got elected governor. Irving Park, which is also a state road (Illinois 19) and a feeder to the 90/94, is one of the most fucked-up streets on the north side: too narrow, no parking, and broken up all to hell. So what did Streets & San do? They installed these traffic islands with pretty flowers and trees. Good work, Mayor Daley! (That's thaitea risking her life on the crossing.)
A life saver, stuck in a glass box over the north branch of the Chicago River just past Horner Park. 99% of the time, the glass is broken -- not because a lot of people fall off the bridge, but because teenagers in Chic, lacking the ability of rural teens to drive around shooting road signs with rifles, apparently have nothing better to do than to smash open the boxes that hold life preservers. Here's photo documentation that it's occasionally in there just in case someone takes a dive.
Underneath the bridge, across the street from I-Park and Cali, next to the condos-under-construction that used to be an artificial food flavoring factory, is a whole shitload of graf tags. The closest one, in yellow near the foreground, indicates that we're still in Latin Kings turf despite a recent influx of Viet bangers. They don't bother me, I don't bother them. Unless you consider buying marijuana from them bothering them. HA HA!
This brute is your hateful correspondent, spending time spinning his wheels and waiting for a bus, just like he used to do before he (a) got a car and (b) got a job less than a mile from his apartment. They've fancied up the bus stop at I-Park and Cali now; it's no longer in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken, so you don't have the constant temptation of fried bird, and they've put a cover, a nice bench, and etched glass around it to protect the Starbuck's advertisements. Man, do I need a shave!
Just across the street and down from Quick Stop (the Arab-run liquor store) is BEOGRAD meat market. They've recently expanded to feature not only homemade sausages, freshly-ground coffee and bootlegs of European pop star CDs, but also organic items, fresh produce, and unpronouncable dairy foods. BEOGRAD (Belgrade) is run by a hulking, open-shirted coke-dealer type named Dusko who probably has human bodies in his trunk. Still, they make a mean sausage. Which probably doesn't have people in it. Probably.
Bloodshot Records, producers of America's finest insurgent country and my very favorite local record label, is headquartered just a block west of BEOGRAD on I-Park. Not only do they put out records by some outstanding performers (including Sally Timms, Bobby Bare Jr., Split Lip Rayfield, Neko Case, and the Meat Purveyors), but their staff are swell, their HQ is homey, and their founder once gave me an outstanding interview that was highlighted by us hanging around his office for an hour and a half swigging honey vodka. That's niiiiiiiice.
You can't get very far in Chic without hitting a dog house. And they all serve 'em right -- pure beef, poppyseed bun, dragged through the garden, and no goddamn ketchup. Manny's was one of my very favorites, run by Manny, a sullen giant who nonetheless slung a mean dog. There's other dog houses in Albany Park, but Manny's -- now, sadly, closed -- will always hold a place in my heart. The signs are still up there, but not for long -- a notice on the outside says Manny's old place is being converted to what I hope isn't, but probably is, condos.
And yes, I'm sticking to TEN GODDAMN PICTURES! I'm following the rules. If that makes me a villain then I make the most of it.