50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 35th Ward’s Matheno Cook-Bey lives in ‘neighborhood of the globe’

May 22, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Matheno Cook-Bey first moved into this apartment complex in 1982.

"I was born in Cook County Hospital back in 1956,” Matheno Cook-Bey says. “And it is very ironic that [years later] I was driving a truck to dig up the foundation for the new Cook County Hospital…I helped build the new hospital that’s there now.”

Cook-Bey spent 25 years on the road, driving all over the country, he says. But when he'd return to Chicago, he’d come to the Logan Square neighborhood.

“I moved to the neighborhood back in 1982 after divorcing my first wife,” Cook-Bey says. His second marriage also ended in divorce. “I’m thinking about trying it again for the third time. I think I might be right and get it right that time…I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to make sure I – like they say – I dot all the I's and cross all the T’s.”

Spouses sometimes change, and so do street corners. When he first arrived, the corners had alcoholics hanging out, drug dealing, gangs.

“The quality of life has been very upgraded here,” Cook-Bey says, allowing that the gentrification has priced some residents out. But diversity remains, he says, in this “neighborhood of the globe.”

 

“It’s been cleaned up,” he says. “Now you can practically go to bed at night and leave your back door unlocked. I don’t have any problems. It is a highly policed area. It is a working - I would say a middle-class to lower-rich class neighborhood.”

("Lower-rich," he says, applies to folks whose real estate is valued at $250,000 or more.)

Cook-Bey, as you can surely hear from the audio, is a mellow guy. I asked him three or four different times if there was any issue he wants the city’s leadership to focus on. He’s got no complaints.

 

“A mayor of a city, he can make it work for him or he can make it work against him," he says. "And right now I see Rahm Emanuel as trying to get everything to work for him, and trying to work for the citizens of Chicago."

“I can’t just [judge] the man right now, because he’s only been in office for one year.”

A highlight of that one year, for Cook-Bey, is this past weekend. The NATO summit in Chicago is an “educational experience” for him.

 

“You know, after living down being the number one gangster town organized by Al Capone, now to a world city being considered for economic values and other things – culture, you name it,” Cook-Bey says. “I think Chicago overall is a good, beautiful place to be right now at this time in the world.”