When Jimmy Li first moved to Bridgeport in 1984, he was one of the few Asian immigrants to live in the neighborhood. Over seventy-six percent of residents at the time were white, twenty percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, and less than one percent were African-American. The Asian population was all but unaccounted for by authorities until the 1990 census, which reported that they constituted 16 percent of the population.
A cold wind blew down South Gratten Street on a chilly November afternoon while Bridgeport residents outside stood in line for Benton House’s food pantry, donning jackets, scarves, gloves, and all. Seniors sat on plastic lawn chairs on the sidewalk with personal shopping carts in tow. Inside, toddlers bounced around the stairs while their mothers monitored them with hawk-like vision.
On the first floor of the Lacuna Artists Lofts, near the abstract floating reclaimed wood sculpture, past the neon Converse All-Stars wall hanging, around the eleven-foot-tall vintage cowhide couch-swing with USB port armrests, you enter a narrow room.
They, like the Club itself, exist to protect the children.
A stone’s throw away from Chicago’s downtown area, one might find oneself in this nondescript, inconspicuous neighborhood called Bridgeport. With its post-industrial sheen, one would never guess the historic significance it holds: thousands and thousands of immigrants started up their American dream right here. It was a start-up for throngs arriving from throughout Europe. Word spread that boundless opportunities and streets paved with gold would welcome you. Bridgeport was booted up to the thriving union stockyards and the central manufacturing district. Abundant back-breaking work was available for everyone hardy or foolish enough to partake in this new American way of life. Saloons on every corner took the edge off the drudgery. Newly built churches and schools catered to your ethnic origin, gave you community.
Please donate whatever you can into the alien pumpkin head on your left,” said the voice actor as he threw candy at the audience. “And remember, diabetes is the real killer!” Continue reading
Bridgeport on a Sunday morning: a seating queue winds snugly around the corner of the organic eatery Nana, its outdoor café space buzzing both with young brunchers and the bees that dive-bomb them from the planters. There’s a sidewalk sale assembled on the stoops of Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, attracting a crush of folks who are perhaps too cool for you. Continue reading
I don’t sit behind a desk and count all the money,” joked Ron Filbert, fourth generation Filbert and present owner of Filbert’s Old Time Root Beer and its additional twenty-nine varieties of pop. “Even though I’d like to be able to do that,” he added, on his way to bottling a batch of ginger beer in the back room. Dressed casually in a t-shirt and shorts, Filbert radiated boyish joy when talking about his products. With a contagious grin across his face and a look in his eye that could only be called a twinkle, Filbert doesn’t seem too let down by the absence of cash counting in his life. Continue reading
Rahm Emanuel noted in a 2011 press release that if Lake Michigan was Chicago’s “front yard,” then the Chicago River ought to be treated as the city’s “backyard,” and embraced as its “next recreational frontier.” In the press release, the mayor announced another step in the city’s decades-long attempt to completely revolutionize its riverfront: that is, to transform a vein of water so polluted that it has earned the nickname “Bubbly Creek” into a friendly and accessible destination for city residents. With $1 million in EPA funding, the city would construct four boathouses at various points along the riverbed, split evenly between the South and North Sides. Continue reading