50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 38th Ward’s park-loving, congestion-fleeing Yolanda Meza says Emanuel speaks his mind

July 5, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Yolanda Meza, with Isabelle, on their way from the Portage Park pool to Meza's air-conditioned bungalow.

Yolanda Meza is a lifelong Chicago resident who used to live in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood. It wasn’t the right fit.

“It got too congested with all the traffic and the ball games, and then – well – I got divorced, and I bought my house over here.”


A little bungalow, she says, in the Portage Park neighborhood on the city’s Northwest Side.

“I love the neighborhood, because – oh – you should see the trick and treat[ers]. The first year we ran out of candy. Second year, I bought lots of candy. I still ran out of candy."

I meet Meza in Portage Park's park by the same name. It's expansive and clean. And that pool – oh, that pool. She’s just come from visiting it with her granddaughter, Isabelle.


“It’s a little packed, but it’s okay. We went in, got a little cooled off. We feel great,” Meza  says. “Now I’m going home and I’m going to feed her and maybe we’ll just be couch potatoes.”

Cool couch potatoes, on this brutal day.

"I got central air. Thank God!”

A 53-year-old customer service rep for a sheetrock division of USG, Meza has this infectious laugh that ends most sentences. You have to check it out – just click any of the audio players on this page.

I’d order sheetrock from her, if I had any need for sheetrock.

“I walk [in the park] when the sun goes down,” Meza says, and she feels safe. “So far, knock on wood…I’ve never seen or had problems, because there’s people practicing soccer, people playing tennis.”

Meza moved here when she worked in Schiller Park. Her commute then was 10 minutes by car. But her office moved downtown, and now it takes her a little more than an hour, by bus and Metra.

But Meza is not complaining. She doesn’t have much to complain about. She really likes Portage Park – the neighborhood and the park. But, come on, everyone has some wants.

“We still don’t have recycl[ing]. I’m surprised we still in this area have not gotten any recycle bins,” she says, and then referenced a 2010 report about the city’s unused stash. “That warehouse full of recycle bins. I mean, hey, they’re there, bring them to us.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears to be granting Meza’s wish. Emanuel claims the entire city will have blue cart recycling by the end of 2013.


“I think he’s doing good. He doesn’t take, you know, I don’t want to say the word, but…” Meza says.

I urge her to go for it.

“He don’t take s---,” she says with a laugh. “He speaks what’s in his mind, which is good. You know. He just started, so you have to give him time. You know, they can’t fix everything overnight.”