WBEZ | Culture http://www.wbez.org/news/culture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois regulators put squeeze on raw milk rules http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 <p><p>On a warm summer night on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side, the dusk brings out a chorus of loud cicadas. &nbsp;</p><p>It also brings out out a flock of enthusiastic raw milk drinkers. One by one, they pull up to a large corner house. They schlep their coolers on to the wooden porch and pack them with the ice cold jars of snow white liquid.</p><p>Based on national percentages, an estimated 400,000 Illinoisians--and I count myself among them --pay up to $18 a gallon for this stuff. Many drive more than a hour to get it from farms and pick up points like this one. And most believe it strengthens their immune system and improves their health.</p><p>But some public health officials believe just the opposite. Nationally, raw milk (or raw milk products) have been linked to more than 100 foodborne illness outbreaks over the last 17 years. And so this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health proposed new rules that could greatly restrict the distribution of unpasteurized milk produced in the state.</p><p>Raw milk supporters, however, object to proposed regulations that would require farmers to invest in costly new equipment, hand over customer lists to the government upon request and abide by the same rules whether they had one cow or 1,000.</p><p>This doesn&rsquo;t make sense to one dad who was picking up several jars of milk for his family. He says that his children&rsquo;s ear infections disappeared when his family started drinking the milk a few years ago. And he&rsquo;s opposed to any new measures to restrict his access.</p><p>&ldquo;Raw milk is a food that&rsquo;s vital for many people,&rdquo; said the customer who chose not to give his name. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also healthy and it&rsquo;s our right to choose what we want to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>But others are not so sure that buying raw milk should be a right in Illinois. Dr. Terry Mason is Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. That group&rsquo;s initial position, he says was &ldquo;not to have the sale of raw milk at all.&rdquo;</p><p>To that end, the department enlisted Illinois Representative Dan Burke (D-23) to sponsor a bill to ban raw milk sales in Illinois earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I was convinced they had a legitimate issue,&quot; Burke recalls. &quot;[So]I presented the bill and then the floodgates opened.&quot;</p><p>Those floodgates were thousands of phone calls to Burke and his colleagues from raw milk supporters all over the state.</p><p>&ldquo;They insisted that there are very significant health benefits from the consumption of raw milk,&rdquo; he remembers. &ldquo;I mean individuals who have children with epilepsy, with Down Syndrome, you name it, there was someone who called to insist that their child, family member, friend whoever benefitted from the consumption of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke said that in two-plus decades of politics he&rsquo;d never seen an issue galvanize the public like this. And so last April, even after the bill had survived committee, he did a 180 and dropped support for his own legislation.</p><p>This sudden change of heart didn&rsquo;t thrill Mason and his colleagues at the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, which Mason leads.</p><p>&ldquo;We were obviously taken aback by that position, that reposition,&rdquo; Mason recalls. &ldquo;But we understand and respect the Representative&rsquo;s right to do that sort of thing. And want to be consistent with what the Centers for Disease Control have already published and they do not support the sale of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, federal health authorities and the American Academy of Pediatrics &nbsp;largely oppose the sale and distribution of raw milk--a drink that can harbor many bacteria that would be killed through pasteurization.</p><p>But proponents of the drink argue that no food is risk-free and that many of bacteria in raw milk can be beneficial.</p><p>In response, public health officials like Mason point to outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;There have been 104 between 1998 to 2011 that we&rsquo;ve been able to keep track of and 82 percent of those have involved people under 20 years old,&rdquo; he notes.</p><p>These figures are accurate on a national level. But those who oppose the regulations point out that there hasn&rsquo;t been a single illness outbreak connected to Illinois-produced raw milk--the milk affected by these new rules--since 1998.</p><p>And for this reason, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance calls the proposed regulations, &ldquo;A solution in search of a problem. We see no recent history of foodborne illness related to raw milk here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>This lack of illness leads some to question why a cash-strapped state like Illinois would spend so much time and money on a product that is boosting the local small farm economy and hasn&rsquo;t caused a problem for more than 15 years.</p><p>Mason&rsquo;s department says that it&rsquo;s a preventive measure to avoid potential future outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to make sure that those rules did as much as they could do to adequately control the sale of raw milk and make it easier for us to identify where there may be breaches and or diseases related to the sale of raw milk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RAW MILK COW.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Most of the raw milk sold in the Midwest comes from cows that graze on pasture. Milk from pastured cows has been linked to better metabolic outcomes in animal studies. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" />But Illinois raw milk farmer Donna O&#39;Shaughnessy believes that the agency is acting on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which paid for some of the rulemaking process. She also believes big industrial dairy is worried by the growing popularity of raw milk as its own product sales decline.</p><p>&ldquo;The sales of pasteurized milk have gone down by 25 percent,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So rather than improving their own product it becomes easier to disparage farmers who produce raw milk.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Raw milk is currently legal for retail sale in 11 states but illegal in 17 others. The rest fall in between with policies that limit its distribution.</p><p>Similar battles are erupting across the country as authorities threaten to clamp down on foods ranging from raw dairy and wild boar to cheese aged on wooden boards. Journalist and author David Gumpert chronicled these trends in his recent book &ldquo;Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat.&rdquo;</p><p>Upon reading the proposed legislation Gumpert wrote to WBEZ in an email:</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s an exaggeration for IDPH to suggest, as it does in IL Register that, without some kind of law of this kind, raw milk sales are illegal under federal law. Raw milk sales/distribution are regulated by the states (and interstate sale/shipment is prohibited under federal law). Some states that allow raw milk sales do it via laws, others (like Michigan) do it via policy understandings.&rdquo;</p><p>So who are these hundreds of thousands of raw milk drinkers in Illinois?</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy says her customers are young mothers, body builders and Europeans who enjoy easy access to raw milk (even in vending machines) in their own country. Finally, she says, she gets a lot of business from seniors who &ldquo;remember how great they felt when they drank it as a child. And the one thing that unites all of them is that they drink it for health.&rdquo;</p><p>So what do officials say to Illinois&#39; thousands of drinkers who claim it has improved their health and chronic conditions?</p><p>&quot;Anecdote is not something we follow,&quot; says Dr Mason of the Cook County Department of Public Health. &quot;We like to look at the science and the science is overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that patsteurized milk is something that saves lives.&quot;</p><p>While many health claims for raw milk do remain anecdotal, at least <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875744">one 2011 study</a> of 8,334 rural children in Austria, Germany and Switzerland links raw milk consumption to lower levels of asthma and allergies. The children in the same environment who drank boiled versions of the same milk did not enjoy the protective effects.</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy agrees that raw milk comes with risks. But the Central Illinois farmer says that she doesn&rsquo;t know of any customers who make the long drive to her farm or pay the exorbitant prices ($7-$18 a gallon) without reading up on what they are buying.</p><p>She served as a member of the Illinois Dairy Working Group that helped draft the proposed rules last year. But she says the input of small farmers like her were largely ignored in the final process.</p><p>The proposed rules don&#39;t ban or criminalize raw milk in the state, but O&#39;Shaugnessy says, &ldquo;They are very clearly trying to make raw milk sales and consumption in Illinois impossible.&rdquo;</p><p>O&#39;Shaughnessy and King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance say that they know many farmers who say that they simply won&rsquo;t comply with the rules if they are passed.</p><p>&ldquo;Then it will just go underground and people won&rsquo;t be any safer,&rdquo; she predicts. &ldquo;People are not going to stop. And then what are they going to do? Are they going to start posting people at the end of the driveway? &nbsp;Are they going to start video taping our customers as they come up the drive? Are they going to start checking people&rsquo;s trunks as they leave our farm? The public is not going to stand for this.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Burke says that he expects the same flood of raw milk supporters who deluged him last spring to oppose these new regulations. But this time, he may be among them.</p><p>&ldquo;After that number of calls,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m convinced that the product is beneficial to this community and should be available...In fact, I drank some myself and it was pretty good.&rdquo;</p><p>Back on the porch in Chicago, another customer is picking up his bottles of raw milk. I ask him what he&rsquo;ll do if the new rules effectively dry up supplies to the city. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t drink milk anymore,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the simplest answer I can say. &nbsp;I just wouldn&rsquo;t drink the other stuff.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health will take <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/rulesregs/proposedrules.htm#FirstNotice">comments on the proposed rules </a>for the next 45 days. After that, the fate of Illinois&rsquo; raw milk will pour into the hands of Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking which will also take 45 days of comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 Ty Segall: Prolific but brilliant http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/ty-segall-prolific-brilliant-110755 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tysegall_manipulator_01.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The problem with most prolific home-recording heroes is not the inflated ambition, but the batting average: The mere fact that Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices), Nick Salomon (the Bevis Frond), and Will Oldham (Bonnie &ldquo;Prince&rdquo; Palace, etc.) put out lots and lots of records just ain&rsquo;t enough when only a third of the material on each new offering was really worth our time. The amazing thing about Southern California lo-fi garage-rock hero Ty Segall isn&rsquo;t that he gives us a truckload of new songs every year; it&rsquo;s that so many of them are great. In fact, he keeps getting better, and song for song, the new <em>Manipulator </em>is the strongest album yet in his long discography.</p><p>In part, Segall and his now steady and reliable band are synthesizing sounds they&rsquo;ve explored before on individual discs&mdash;filligreed Beatles psych-pop, Syd Barrett madcap acoustic-folk, Standells-style garage-rock snarl&mdash;all in one place, while also adding some new flavors to the mix, including glam-rock style and sneer and hints of Love/<em>Forever Changes </em>orchestration. Mostly, though, the success of <em>Manipulator </em>comes down to the songwriting and the musicianship: The inescapable hooks of &ldquo;The Clock,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Faker,&rdquo; and the title track and the absolutely ferocious guitars and pummeling rhythms of &ldquo;The Crawler&rdquo; and &ldquo;Feel.&rdquo;</p><p>Seventeen tracks, seventeen wins, and a beginning-to-end joy ride that I just can&rsquo;t stop repeating. Hot damn, this boy is good.</p><p><strong><em>Listen to the review of </em></strong><strong>Manipulator <em>on </em>Sound Opinions <em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/458">here</a></em>, <em>and catch Ty Segall&rsquo;s live performance and interview <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/360/#tysegall">here</a>.</em></strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ty-segall-manipulator.jpg" style="height: 460px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ty Segall, <em>Manipulator </em>(Drag City)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/ty-segall-prolific-brilliant-110755 Chicago’s Lyric Opera hosts costume sale http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago%E2%80%99s-lyric-opera-hosts-costume-sale-110751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Image6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Already on the lookout for a Halloween costume? Or possibly your next Comic Con or Renaissance Faire outfit? The Lyric Opera of Chicago has got your back.</p><p dir="ltr">This Saturday marks only the second time in Lyric history that the company will be selling some 3,000 pieces of their handmade costume collection to the public. Costume Director Maureen Reilly said the Lyric doesn&rsquo;t have enough room in their storage for all of the costumes - some dating back almost 100 years.</p><p dir="ltr">Some costumes, she said, have even become a bit repetitive.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think our Madame Butterfly and our Boehme are really gorgeous, but they&rsquo;re 30 and 40 years old. So if you&rsquo;ve been a season subscriber since you&rsquo;ve been 20 or something, you&rsquo;ve seen the same Boehme every 10 years or 8 years, so you want something new and different,&rdquo; Reilly said.</p><p dir="ltr">Prices range from $1 to $200, but Reilly said most garments are actually worth thousands of dollars. Some of the costumes come from as far away as Europe, while others were made in the United States. Shoppers will find items from operas like Pirates of Penzance, Voyages of Edgar Allen Poe, Anna Bolena, Otello, Flying Dutchman, Rigoletto, Don Carlo and more.</p><p dir="ltr">The last and only other time the Lyric held a sale like this was in 2004, when the company&rsquo;s warehouse in Pilsen was sold. They sold around the same amount of costumes, and brought in nearly $77,000. All the money goes back to the Lyric Opera.</p><p dir="ltr">This weekend&rsquo;s sale will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Grand Foyer of the Civic Opera House.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p><p><em>Andrew Gill is a WBEZ web producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/andrewgill">@andrewgill</a></em></p></p> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago%E2%80%99s-lyric-opera-hosts-costume-sale-110751 How America's most plentiful bird disappeared http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725 <p><p>It is hard to imagine what a big part of American life the passenger pigeon once was. By some estimates it made up 25 to 40 percent of all the birds on the continent. The Native American Seneca tribe viewed the bird as a gift from the gods because they were so abundant. There are 13 towns named after them in Illinois alone. When Charles Dickens traveled to the states, we fed him passenger pigeon.</p><p>But in just a few decades the bird vanished. On the 100th anniversary of its extinction, I wanted to understand how a bird could go from being the most plentiful bird in North America to non-existence. So I met naturalist Joel Greenberg at his house just outside Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Joel%20Greenberg.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Author Joel Greenberg poses with his stuffed passenger pigeon, Heinrich. Greenberg is author of, “A Feathered River Across the Sky, The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.” (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>Greenberg is perhaps this species&rsquo; biggest fan. A stuffed bird named Heinrich sits on Greenberg&rsquo;s kitchen table and a bumper sticker on his car says &ldquo;ask me about my passenger pigeon.&rdquo; He authored the book, <a href="http://passengerpigeon.org/newbook.html"><em>A Feathered River Across The Sky, The Passenger Pigeon&rsquo;s Flight to Extinction</em>. </a></p><p>Greenberg must encounter a lot of misunderstandings, because he wants to make it absolutely clear that Heinrich is not the same kind of pigeon you see flying around the city, nor is he a carrier pigeon. Instead Heinrich has a shimmery pink breast, and bluish back. He is a pretty bird.</p><p>But what made this species really special&mdash;the thing I find almost incomprehensible&mdash;is the huge numbers of them that flew together.</p><p>It must have been an incredible sight to see millions of birds fly across the sky together. The famous naturalist <a href="http://www.audubon.org/john-james-audubon">John James Audubon</a> observed a group so big, it eclipsed the sun for 14 hours. Another naturalist, <a href="http://www.wilsonsociety.org/society/awilsoninfo.html">Alexander Wilson</a>, was on a river trip. Greenberg says Wilson pulled ashore to buy milk from a farmer and &ldquo;suddenly there was this huge roar, and the sky turned dark. He was terrified. He thought a tornado was coming and he looked at the farmer and said what do we do? And the farmer said, &#39;just the pigeons&#39;.&rdquo;</p><p>The birds did not just travel over forests and fields. They also flew over big cities like Chicago, turning buildings white with their poop.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_hunting.png" style="float: right; height: 249px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p>Greenberg recounts a famous story from Columbus, Ohio in the 1850s.</p><p>&ldquo;People reported being cold by the downdraft of the beating of hundreds of millions of wings,&quot; he said. &quot;And people who had never seen it before dropped to their knees in prayer thinking the end time was near.&rdquo;</p><p>The bird sounds like a nuisance. And it was. But it was also a source of food. Early settlers credit it with sustaining them until crops came. Like buffalo, the passenger pigeon was a symbol of America&rsquo;s abundance, a resource so big, we thought it couldn&rsquo;t run out. &ldquo;Sometimes they were so abundant they were worth nothing,&rdquo; Greenberg said. &ldquo;They were fed to hogs. One eyewitness account says they were used to fill potholes in the road.&rdquo;</p><p>So how does a species go from an estimated billions to non-existence?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Killings</span></p><p>Humans hunted the passenger pigeon for many years and some of the methods were downright strange.</p><p>Greenberg says some people filled a clay pot with sulfur, set it on fire and placed it under nesting birds. The birds would topple out of the trees. Greenberg says one commenter observed this method was good for the ladies, because it didn&rsquo;t involve too much exertion or guns.</p><p>Some farmers in Ontario kept it more simple: when the birds flew over their fields, they just threw potatoes at them.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s good to know they lost more potatoes than they got pigeons, but every so often a pigeon would fall and you&rsquo;d have most of a stew fall at your feet,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>The pigeons were also used in shooting tournaments. One trap, called a plunge shooter, would catapult live birds into the air. According to Greenberg, sometimes people blinded the pigeon, or ripped out feathers and put cayenne on their skin to make the bird fly in circles.</p><p>Chicago was a major center for shoots and Captain Bogardus, one of the most famous shooters, was from Illinois. He was said to have shot 500 birds in a single practice session, just to stay sharp.</p><p>But Greenberg says the real tipping point for the birds was the growth of two new technologies: the telegraph and the train.</p><p>The birds often nested in huge groups. The telegraph made it easy to spread word of the nesting locations and attracted big crowds of hunters&mdash;some working full time to track the bird. With the growth of railroads the meat could be shipped to city markets, where newly industrialized communities were hungry for cheap meat.</p><p>The birds flew so closely together that a single shot could kill multiple birds. But even more efficient were net traps. Hunters would attract birds using a live decoy&mdash;blinded and tied to a stool&mdash;hence the term stool pigeon.</p><p>&ldquo;With a single release of the net they could catch hundreds of birds, sometimes 1,200 or 1,300 at a time,&rdquo; Greenberg explained.</p><p>One newspaper from the time reported 7.2 million bird <span>carcasses</span> were shipped from a single nesting site, which gives you an idea of how plentiful they were. But Greenberg believes the bird usually laid only about one egg a year, and now those nestings were regularly disrupted. The massive killings caught up with them. People started to notice that it was harder to find the bird in the wild and eventually impossible.</p><p>&ldquo;People had so much trouble trying to wrap their minds around how it could disappear,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Food.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A passenger pigeon could hold half a cup of acorns in their two-inch head at one time. The pigeon stored the food in a special compartment for digestion at a later time. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>They came up with all kinds of theories to explain why it wasn&rsquo;t human&rsquo;s fault, like that the birds moved to South America and changed their appearance.</p><p>Greenberg says he worries he&rsquo;s seeing a similar reaction now.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a common human reaction that when confronted with an inconvenient truth to deny it,&quot; he said. &quot;You can see it today [with] climate change. If I own coal mines and want to put carbon into the air... climate change, could be bad, what do I do? Let&rsquo;s say there is no such thing.&rdquo;</p><p>It feels insensitive to ask, but it&rsquo;s hard not to wonder why the death of a species&mdash;no matter how fascinating&mdash;should matter to the general population.</p><p>Greenberg says other species have a right to exist, and it&rsquo;s immoral to prioritize their worth on human&rsquo;s needs alone. But he also says there completely selfish reasons to preserve a species.</p><p>He points to an analogy from Paul and Anne Ehrlich&rsquo;s book, <em>Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They give an analogy of an airplane and a rivet pops and the plane&rsquo;s fine,&quot; he said.&quot; But at some point enough rivets pop where the system starts to break down.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Beyond the Passenger Pigeon</span></p><p>The day after I meet Greenberg planes criss-cross Chicago for the Air and Water Show.</p><p>Like flocks of pigeons they fill the sky with a roar. You can even hear it inside the <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/">Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum</a> where I meet ecologist <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/about-us/senior-staff">Steve Sullivan. </a></p><p>&ldquo;This being the anniversary of the passenger pigeon we talk a lot about the pigeon,&quot; Sullivan said. &quot;But this story repeats itself again and again.&quot;</p><p>The museum has an exhibit called, &ldquo;Nature&#39;s Struggle: Survival and Extinction.&rdquo; The exhibit starts by showing what Illinois would have been like over a hundred years ago. Passenger pigeons fill the sky, but there are also more rattlesnakes, bears and beavers.</p><p>I ask Sullivan what animal is the passenger pigeon of today and he mentions monarch butterflies. Like the passenger pigeon, most of us think of it as common and plentiful. But because of a range of factors, including herbicides that kill their favorite food source of milkweed, the <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">monarch&rsquo;s numbers are plummeting. </a></p><p>In the museum&rsquo;s butterfly conservation lab, Sullivan leaned over and pointed inside paper cups.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh look you can see a couple of caterpillars that are crawling up towards the top of their little enclosures,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>There are no monarchs today, instead they are raising silvery checkerspots. Eventually the museum will release these butterflies into the wild to help boost their population.</p><p>Sullivan says you can track conservation efforts like this one back to the passenger pigeon. Despite all the wild theories, many people ended up acknowledging that humans drove that extinction. It was a big moment in history, one of the first times the general public realized they could have a huge and permanent impact on nature. It launched a conservation movement and led to early environmental legislation.</p><p>That gives Sullivan hope. He says beavers, otters, and even white tailed deer were at one time extirpated (in other words, locally extinct). But once we realized the harm we could do, we used conservation efforts to bring such animals back.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Martha.jpg" style="height: 528px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Martha, the last passenger pigeon. (Enno Meyer/Wikipedia Commons)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon</span></div><p>One of the reasons the passenger pigeon story was so motivating is because we actually knew about the very last bird.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s rare that we know with virtual certainty the hour and day that a species ceases to exist,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>That last bird&rsquo;s name was <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">Martha. Unlike her ancestors, Martha didn&rsquo;t spend her days migrating across the country. The only time she ever flew was first class on a plane</a>.</p><p>She most likely came from a captive flock in Chicago&rsquo;s Hyde Park. It was the only group ever studied by scientists. If you&rsquo;ve seen a photo of a pigeon in captivity, it was probably one of them.</p><p>Martha was sent to the Cincinnati Zoo. As the species became more rare, huge prizes were offered to find the bird. But it was too late. Martha eventually became the last of her kind. As she grew older, she became slow and still. The zoo moved her perch lower, so she could reach it.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a story on weekends that big crowds would throw sand on her to get her to move,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>Martha died 100 years ago on September 1. The zoo froze her body in a 300-pound of block of ice and mailed her to the <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/martha-the-worlds-last-passenger-pigeon-67196038/?no-ist">Smithsonian. </a></p><p>Martha lived her last years alone. Pigeons were famous for traveling in gigantic groups, but John James Audubon remembers seeing one flying through the forest by itself. It moved quickly, darting through trees.</p><p>Audubon says it passed like a thought.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725 Is it time for the 'Immigrant Diet'? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723 <p><p>At a little Asian grocery store on Chicago&rsquo;s north side, Douglas Cheok studies the produce as he shuffles down the aisles. The Malaysian-born communications consultant, carefully selects small amounts of ginger, garlic, leafy greens, and soba noodles.</p><p>Then he stops at a shelf lined with fermented bean curd.</p><p>&ldquo;This salted bean curd soaked in vinegar and oil adds a more solid taste to the noodle soup or whatever you cook,&rdquo; he says sharing an Asian secret to inexpensive flavor. &nbsp;</p><p>Cheok adds the pungent curd to his cart, grabs a few fresh shrimp and heads to the check out line to buy groceries. It all costs less than $15 but he says it will last well over a week.</p><p>Once back in the kitchen, Cheok chops, minces, boils and stir fries his ingredients into a large feast of soup, greens and noodles. In the process, he demonstrates what might hold the key to affordable nutrition for all.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s the working hunch of public health professor Adam Drewnowski, who is researching folks who upend conventional wisdom by achieving high levels of nutrition on tiny budgets.</p><p>Drewnowski stumbled upon the phenomenon last year when he was examining data on nutrient dense foods. Much of it is fairly expensive, but there were a few exceptions. Among a small group of Mexican American adults Drewnowski found consumers who were achieving high levels of nutrition at a low cost.</p><p>&ldquo;So maybe the secret is being able to transform those real foods, the raw ingredients which can be obtained cheaply at ethnic markets, into tasty meals&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe, if you know how to cook them and transform then you&rsquo;re going to be OK.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Douglas Cheok show how he cooks healthy on a budget</strong></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XKVFUFgUWUM" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Drewnowski is the Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington and he&rsquo;ll be looking at a different sample of data later this year from Seattle. There he also expects to find Asian immigrants like Cheok.</p><p>So what is it about these immigrants that allows them to pull off this feat? &nbsp;</p><p>The folks at Oldways believe it&rsquo;s about sticking to traditional diets. OldWays is a nutrition non-profit aimed at improving health through heritage. And it urges folks to adopt many of the healthful tenets of Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian diets. This month they are launching classes on the African Heritage diet as well. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Traditional diets are not expensive diets,&rdquo; says Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott. &ldquo;The longer that immigrants are here in the US and become acculturated, the less likely they are to continue their traditional way of eating and therefore their health statistics decline. They become more obese. They have more hypertension. They are overweight. And by following traditional diets, it&rsquo;s not a very expensive way to eat and it&rsquo;s a healthier way to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>These diets can be especially affordable in cities like Chicago with abundant, low-cost ethnic grocers. While limes can cost 50 cents apiece at mainstream stores, they can often be 12 for a dollar at ethnic grocers.</p><p>Kenny Moore is a produce buyer for Pete&rsquo;s Fresh Market which serves heavily ethnic communities. He says that he&rsquo;s able to offer bargain prices because he sells such a large volume.</p><p>&ldquo;On a whole Hispanics and Asians do buy a lot of produce and so it helps our volume and our buying,&rdquo; Moore says. &ldquo;They like cooking and use a lot of herbs and vegetables to do so.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ethnic%20grocer%202.jpg" title="Ethnic grocery stores can offer incredible deals on produce because they sell so much of it, store reps say. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The situation in these ethnic neighborhoods would appear to be a public health professional&rsquo;s dream: affordable, accessible produce and lots of folks who know how to cook it. So does that automatically equal great health? Not always. &nbsp;</p><p>While Asian-Americans suffer less obesity than the general population, Latinos check in with more. In fact, 6th grade Latino boys suffer from the highest childhood obesity levels in the nation, despite generally robust access to fresh produce. &nbsp;</p><p>Public health researchers are still trying to sort it out why this happens.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;</strong>There are plenty of grocery stores in the neighborhood but buying healthy food. It gets tricky,&rdquo; says Erica Rangel a coordinator for <a href="http://enlacechicago.org/">Enlace, a health and education non-profit</a> in the Little Village neighborhood.</p><p>She recently gathered a group of women enrolled in an Enlace healthy gardening program to talk to about what&rsquo;s contributing to poor health in their community.</p><p>Graciela Contreras is a school lunch lady, gardener and grandmother who suffers from diabetes. Ironically, she blames some of the health problems in her community on traditional Mexican foods.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re used to the way we were taught to eat by our parents in Mexico &mdash; to eat tacos and enchiladas all that,&rdquo; she says in Spanish. &ldquo;That comes with more fat. So we are teaching our children and grandchildren to be healthier by eating vegetables. I steam the vegetables now.&rdquo;</p><p>Rangel believes the health issues have more to do with genetic factors, assimilation and little time for scratch cooking.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s easier when you&rsquo;re trying to feed a family and you feel that pressure to just buy in bulk things with higher sodium that are processed foods,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You find it everywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>The other ladies offered similar sentiments. But I also chatted with local 6th grader Victor Marquez. While he doesn&rsquo;t have a weight problem, he says he know a lot of boys who do.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;d have a problem if they ate good food but they eat bad foods,&rdquo; Marquez says. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>They eat junk like frozen stuff, chips, pizza, candy chocolates, lollipops, whatever.&rdquo;</p><p>But what about the fresh fruit stands that operate on nearly every block in Little Village? Don&rsquo;t his pals buy their fresh cups of mangoes, corn, melon and pineapple?</p><p>&ldquo;I always see kids get the chicharrones and the raspados and those aren&rsquo;t good because they&rsquo;re like ink,&rdquo; he says &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Those chicharrones are deep fried artificial pork rinds and the raspados are snow cones drenched in inky sugar syrup. One vendor told me they&rsquo;re her No. 1 seller with kids.</p><p>But there may be hope for these kids off the street and back in the home. Drewnowski has some new research coming out that suggests the longer folks spend cooking, the better they eat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That certainly seems to be true for Douglas Cheok.</p><p>Back in his kitchen, he&rsquo;s chopping vegetables and boiling water for his stir fried greens and shrimp noodle soup. In less than an hour he&rsquo;s turned out enough dishes to last him all week. &nbsp;</p><p>As Cheok finally sits down to his his meal of shrimp soup and tofu with greens, he shares a startling secret.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know how to cook before I came to the States,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In Malaysia eating out was cheap so I didn&rsquo;t have to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the retiree says that if he can learn to cook, &ldquo;Anyone can learn. You don&rsquo;t need a college degree to know how to cook. But it is always good to know how to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>And it might not hurt to live near an ethnic grocery store.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723 Tiny religious sect thrives in Chicagoland despite cultural clash http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain%202.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community in greater Chicago take part in a sacred pageant to celebrate the birth of a great teacher, Lord Mahavir, 2,600 years ago. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div><p>When Hemali Shah was a girl, sometimes it was hard to be a Jain. She wanted to run in the grass with other kids, but had to worry about accidentally stepping on an insect, and killing it.</p><p><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/jainism/">Jainism</a> is a tiny Indian religious sect in Chicago. Jains believe in nonviolence, to the point of not harming any sentient being, through action or even thought.</p><p>&ldquo;I was an athlete, so I played softball a lot, and obviously if you&#39;re playing in the grass, there&rsquo;s lot of bugs, so I ended up playing in the infield,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Shah is 24 now, and said she&rsquo;s happy to avoid the grass. But she still struggles with Jain teachings about not being possessive and accumulating stuff.</p><p>&ldquo;Everywhere they&rsquo;re showing mega scenes of the newest and best thing that everyone wants and I guess that&rsquo;s how it works in like, Hollywood. That&rsquo;s one of my impulses, getting something just because somebody else has it, which is I guess not good at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Shah said she filters these desires through Jainism: &ldquo;I end up not buying it because my Dad tells me not to, because my Dad is completely non possessive, he doesn&rsquo;t like things. And I feel like I&rsquo;m just going to be on (the TV show) &lsquo;Hoarders&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said with a laugh.</p><p>These Jain beliefs seemingly clash with some of the most powerful forces in American culture. Yet Jains are finding ways to adapt and even thrive here in the U.S. They&rsquo;re passing these beliefs on to the next generation during their holiest holiday this week, called <a href="http://www.jainworld.com/jainbooks/images/31/PARYUSHAN_PARVA.htm">Paryushan</a>, at their temple in Bartlett.</p><p>To celebrate Paryushan, Hemali Shah&rsquo;s been fasting for almost a month. She hasn&rsquo;t consumed anything but boiled water since July. The time she used to spend preparing food and eating, is now spent reading religious materials.</p><p>&ldquo;It does get me closer to my soul, &lsquo;cuz I know that&rsquo;s what the whole process is for. It just takes away all the other distractions like television, or music, or food,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Unlike previous generations, Shah grew up surrounded by Jains. She has Jain friends, and even Jain bosses. That&rsquo;s because she lives in the northwest suburbs, which you could almost call Jain central. That&rsquo;s where many families settled, near the temple in Bartlett.</p><p>A bell rings out at the temple. A dozen men and women in colorful Indian robes and dresses sit on the gleaming white marble floor of the Jain temple. They&rsquo;re praying and reading scripture.<br /><br />Several wear cloths covering their mouths to prevent insects or other organisms from getting swallowed and dying.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain-temple.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community pray and read scripture in their Bartlett Temple. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /><div class="inserted-credit">&nbsp;</div><div class="inserted-credit">&ldquo;What we are celebrating is known as Paryushan, and what that really means is staying close to your own soul,&rdquo; said Dr. Mukesh Doshi, a trustee of the <a href="http://www.jsmconline.org/">Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago</a>. &ldquo;It is a time of reflection, it is a time of observing austerities, it is a time to get engaged in religious activities and to get our soul as close to its own original-in-heaven pureness as possible.&rdquo;</div></div></div><p>Along with embracing nonviolence and non-possession, Jainism also tries to respect multiple viewpoints. But the religion wasn&rsquo;t necessarily an easy sell to Jain children back in the &lsquo;60s.</p><p>There were only about 20 families here then. Dr. Doshi said they didn&rsquo;t have a temple, a guru, even a place of worship. They met in a doctor&rsquo;s home.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time it was a challenge even to find a vegetarian food when you are going out. And many of us have spent time eating nothing but the corn chips during the day because here is no other vegetarian food&hellip;only corn chips,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Times are different. The Jain Society in Bartlett now numbers 1,700 families, and has the largest Jain temple in the U.S.</p><p>Vegetarian food is easy to come by.</p><p>Still, Dr. Doshi said, &ldquo;We have to make some changes which are appropriate for the Western world. Like for example, devout Jains should not be eating anything, consuming either food or water after sunset, and it is very difficult to observe.&rdquo;</p><p>Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat at night, because they believe preparing food can inadvertently kill insects or organisms.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat garlic, onions and root vegetables, either. Onions and garlics are believed to increase desire, while harvesting a root vegetable kills bugs and uproots the entire plant.</p><p>But avoiding these foods has been nearly impossible in the U.S., so many don&rsquo;t follow that requirement.</p><p>Paryushan is based on the lunar calendar, but so many people work Monday to Friday, Jain officials here had to shift the dates so people could come.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said the Jain Society also translates texts and prayers into English so youth can understand what they&rsquo;re saying.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our main goal at this time is since our kids are exposed to the Western culture, where a meat-eating population is the norm, to keep them vegetarian. Another biggest challenge is to keep them free of drugs, free of liquor, no smoking and we try to insist on no premarital sex,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The Jain Society teaches these traditions with religious education at its temple and community center, and through giant gatherings like the Paryushan observance.</p><p>Nearly 3,000 people sat in the audience at the Jain community center in Bartlett Saturday, watching raptly as a man dressed in gold robes led them in religious songs.</p><p>Several Jain families paraded around the stage and the auditorium, each led by a young woman carrying a gold object on her head. They were part of a sacred pageant celebrating the birthday 2,600 years ago of a great Jain teacher called Lord Mahavir. Many modern Jain teachings flow from him.</p><p>But some young Jains like Hemang Srikishan didn&rsquo;t come for the pageant. Instead of performing rituals like worshipping idols, they were downstairs at a seminar on how to apply ancient Jain teachings to the modern world.</p><p>&ldquo;Rituals and practices that were very common amongst my parents&rsquo; generation and much more so among previous generations are simply not enough, I think, for people in my generation to connect to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Instead, Srikishan said some young Jains are pushing the principles behind the religion even further. Many are concerned about the living conditions of dairy cows and becoming became vegan. Others are careful about avoiding toiletries made with animal products or testing.</p><p>Srikishan -- who&rsquo;s Jain and Hindu -- practices the tenets of Jainism at work. He&rsquo;s a middle school math teacher, and students are good at pushing their teachers&rsquo; buttons.</p><p>&ldquo;I see it as not just as a process of failure, but a process of building up the kind of person you want to be and getting to continuously self improve,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the essence of the teachings of Jainism.</p><p>Rather than succumbing to anger, Srikishan said, he tries to reflect, and to change his actions and his reactions to help his students.</p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712 Chicago's urban farms have yet to harvest sustainable jobs, better health http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 <p><p>On a recent hot summer day on the city&rsquo;s South Side a group of farmers and reporters gathered to tour a new two-acre farm enjoying its first harvest in the shadow of the old Robert Taylor Homes.</p><p>Safia Rashid is growing a diverse crop of kale, chard, tomatoes, onion, zucchini and several peppers in hopes of selling the produce to the local Women Infant and Children feeding program.</p><p>She&#39;s one of the new agriculture entrepreneurs benefiting from a $750 thousand, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It&rsquo;s aimed at putting graduates of The Botanic Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest training program on track to start their own small farming businesses. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s urban farming movement has always held out the promise of sustainable employment. But more than a decade after it first took root, why aren&rsquo;t there more well-paying jobs? &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Thats not realistic,&rdquo; says Angela Mason the director of Botanic&rsquo;s Windy City Harvest, which trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment. &ldquo;Our intention in launching the incubator program, and what most family farms do now, is [provide] supplemental income. It&rsquo;s not their only income. A lot of people romanticize farming but that&rsquo;s very challenging in this day and age. We don&rsquo;t support local food in a way that makes it economically viable for a person to go out and only farm for a living.&rdquo;</p><p>The fact is, most of these programs can&rsquo;t survive without outside funding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store,&rdquo; Mason says. &ldquo;To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are &nbsp;a lot of people who&rsquo;ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don&rsquo;t know what to do with it.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, lack of demand and knowledge about what to do with the produce still hampers sales in these communities. In the produce business margins are slim and product that doesn&rsquo;t move can go bad very quickly. Even one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest retailers has run into snags.</p><p>At a White House meeting in 2011, Walgreens promised to build 50 &ldquo;food oasis&rdquo; stores in Chicago by summer 2013. &nbsp;By July 2014, the retailer had only installed fresh produce in 26 local food desert stores, according to Crain&#39;s Chicago. In the last month, however, the store finally met its original goal, according to a Walgreens spokesman.</p><p>Smaller projects have also run into problems. The much praised Farmers Best Market in Bronzeville opened in 2008 but was closed within a year. The Englewood Farmers Market on 63rd called it quits after a few tough seasons. And, last summer, the Fresh Moves buses that brought fresh produce markets to the people <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608">turned off their engines indefinitely</a>.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to successfully sell produce in Chicago&rsquo;s food deserts? Mari Gallagher is a researcher who specializes in food access.</p><p>&ldquo;You can have a great idea and you can put your whole heart into it, but you still have to figure out how to make it viable,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So there are lots of different reasons why some of these programs fail. But unfortunately, because people feel so closely tied to these outcomes, it&rsquo;s hard to get at the truth [to analyze what lessons can be learned].&rdquo;</p><p>Although they rarely speak about it on the record, several urban ag experts across the city confided that the demand for full-priced, high quality produce isn&rsquo;t strong enough to support the businesses that sell it. As Whole Foods prepares to open its Englewood store in 2016, it&rsquo;s counting on building that demand. But today, observers say, it&rsquo;s just not there.</p><p>So does that mean inner city farmers markets, mobile produce programs and viable urban farming jobs are doomed for now?</p><p>&ldquo;When we talk about [greening] the food desert we&rsquo;re really trying to keep costs down and quality high and that&rsquo;s tricky,&rdquo; Gallagher says. &ldquo;But I wouldn&rsquo;t write off any of these options. I would say that the market conditions need to be right and the operators need to be very, very good on a number of fronts to pull it off successfully.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the only urban farmers who seems to have figured it out, is the the tall, lanky and perpetually muddy Ken Dunn. The founder of the Resource Center and City Farm has practiced urban ag in Chicago for more than 40 years. The philosophy PhD also operates what he says are four profitable farms in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to start with what has always been the food cycle,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have a process where food scraps go back to the production of the next crop. We&rsquo;ve tapped into selling two-thirds of our crop to high-end restaurants, picking up the food scraps from all of their product and turning them into compost to bring back to the field.&rdquo;</p><p>Got that? First Dunn sells his vegetables to fancy restaurants. Then the restaurants give him back food scraps which are used to make compost. This ultra-rich growing medium, he says, produces 10 easy crops a year, and food so tasty that restaurants are happy to pay his high prices. And these premium prices, Dunn says, make it possible to pay a living wage, and sell cheaper veggies from kiosks on the farm.</p><p>Dunn believes this model could expand up to three times and still not saturate the high end restaurant market. But he hopes that by the time we reach that saturation, there will be other funding models in place.</p><p>His dream is for municipalities to recognizes the larger public benefits of urban ag on crime, health and education and to fund them as part of local budgets. These less tangible benefits are part of the reason Safia Rashid is out working on her quarter-acre plot nearly every day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the children are eating properly, guess what happens?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;The violence goes down. So if we continue to feed them whole foods without the pesticides and GMOs, we will continue to see real change in our community. So it&rsquo;s just really that simple.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DJ%20Cavem.jpeg" style="float: left; width: 161px; height: 206px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="DJ Cavem travels the country preaching the gospel of organic urban farming to inner city youth. (Photo Courtesy of DJ Cavem)" />While Dunn sells mostly to restaurants and Rashid hopes to sell to WIC, DJ Cavem has a different plan. &nbsp;He wants to grow food<em> in</em> the community<em> for</em> the community. He&rsquo;s a rapper, educator, midwife and urban farm advocate based in Denver. He stopped in Chicago earlier this year to spread his gospel of home grown organic produce for all.</p><p>&ldquo;The same way gangsta rap promotes drug dealing, I am an environmental hip hop artist, eco hip hop artist who promotes gardening,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been teaching for 11 years now. I teach young people how to grow food, how to prepare the food, how to create a green job. I&rsquo;m setting up gardens in inner city communities and showing people how to keep the nutrition in their food.&rdquo;</p><p>He says that urban youth have largely lost touch with their grandparents&#39; food and growing skills. Still, he knows that history can cut both ways.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of slavery and Jim Crow, a lot of inner city African Americans do not want to talk to young people about growing food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They really think that &nbsp;going to the grocery store is the best for them. And they felt that they were forced to have to do this work. So there is that neglect of young people having access to the inter-generational dialogue that needs to happen around food preparation.&rdquo;</p><p>DJ Cavem&rsquo;s goals may be lofty, but he claims his message can reach these young people. Last year he got a whole summer camp of urban youths to remix the popular ode to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk">&ldquo;Hot Cheetos and Takis.&quot;</a> They dubbed their version <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3zE2XqEUo">&ldquo;Brown Rice and Broccoli.&rdquo;</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/MO3zE2XqEUo?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;You can watch the video on YouTube and Tweet it and let your friends know that that&rsquo;s what young people really want: Healthy food, foods that are fresher than the shoes on their feet.&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Between Dunn&rsquo;s decades of urban ag experience and DJ Cavem&rsquo;s youth-friendly message, there may come a time when produce from urban farms will not only nourish local residents but also grow their bank accounts.</p><p>Beginner farmer Rashid certainly hopes so. Despite her optimism for her newfound occupation, she knows she&rsquo;s got a tough row to hoe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a lot to cover,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Especially in my case since I don&rsquo;t have a business partner. It&rsquo;s a lot to do alone. But I know that things are gonna change.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore contributed to this story. </em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 Chicago's shifting grocery landscape mirrors changing city economics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 <p><p>Once upon a time Jewel and Dominick&rsquo;s ruled the grocery game in Chicago with more stores than any other chain.</p><p>Now, Jewel, under its third new owner in 14 years, is facing stiff competition. And Dominick&rsquo;s? It doesn&rsquo;t exist anymore.</p><p>Today the most ubiquitous chain is a discount grocer that actually grew during the recent recession, attracting everyone from traditional discount shoppers to hipsters to middle-class families.</p><p>Aldi.</p><p>With 36 stores in Chicago alone, we wanted to understand what this says about Chicago&rsquo;s changing grocery store landscape and the shoppers who fill their carts.</p><p>To see what goes into Aldi&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret sauce,&rdquo; we took a trip to the chain&rsquo;s U.S. headquarters in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>Officials led us into a huge white industrial kitchen with tables full of various products. Aldi&rsquo;s main ingredient for success is its use of mostly in-house labels to keep prices down. No Betty Crocker or Cheerios here. But that only works if customers think those brands hold up to the national brands.</p><p>Like their national buyers do, we conducted blind taste testing with national brands and the Aldi brands. We sipped orange juice and Riesling, munched on blueberry muffins and party cheese, sampled yogurt and guacamole. In most instances, we could barely detect a difference between the national brand and Aldi&rsquo;s. Except of course, in price. The Aldi brand orange juice we tried cost 32 percent less.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alditestkitchen.jpg" title="Aldi's test kitchen in the west suburb of Batavia. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The grocery business is super competitive. Profit margins are in the low single digits. So Aldi&rsquo;s other recipe for keeping costs down can be found in the stores themselves. Aldi stores occupy a smaller footprint than other big supermarket chains. You might almost miss it if you&rsquo;re driving by.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no music, no frills. Customers pay a deposit to use the shopping carts. Grocery bags aren&rsquo;t free. Everything is calibrated to be as efficient as possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For example when we look at the product in the store, you can notice it&rsquo;s all stocked in cases. If I didn&rsquo;t point that out, you may not notice it,&rdquo; said Aldi vice president Scott Patton.</p><p>&ldquo;They match the label of the product. They&rsquo;re the same color scheme. It has the brand on it. So we&rsquo;ve made the case and the box an extension of the product, which we can now stock eight to ten units of potato chips in two or three seconds versus unit by unit.&rdquo;</p><p>The rise of a low-end grocer like Aldi isn&rsquo;t the only trend worth noting. More upscale chains like Whole Foods have also seen serious growth. In 2001, there were three in Chicago. Today there are six. And that doesn&rsquo;t include the former Dominick&rsquo;s spaces the organic chain is snapping up.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/tOq67/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We looked at the data for major Chicago grocery stores since 2001. In addition to Aldi and Whole Foods we tracked the numbers for Jewel, Trader Joe&rsquo;s, Mariano&rsquo;s, Pete&rsquo;s, Tony&rsquo;s, Save a Lot, and Food for Less.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#map"><strong><span style="font-size:16px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores</span></strong></a></p></blockquote><p>Ken Perkins, an analyst for Morningstar, said in some ways changes in the industry reflect changes in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;As the economy has really been difficult you&rsquo;ve seen people on the low end shift to discounters and a lot of people who are willing to pay for premium for in store experience and quality food. I think that polarization is what you&rsquo;ve seen not only in Chicago but across the country,&rdquo; Perkins said.</p><p>University of Illinois at Chicago researchers <a href="http://voorheescenter.wix.com/home#!neighborhood-change-project-/cjew">found much the same thing when they looked at income gaps in Chicago</a>. Higher-income households have increased -- so have lower-income households. But those in the middle have shrunk. Not unlike Jewel and Dominick&#39;s, the middle-of-the-road grocers that served them.</p><p>Food and retail researcher Mari Gallagher has a few theories about what happened to those grocers.</p><p>&ldquo;It used to be that the middle-market was about 30,000 sq ft. It was pretty ubiquitous in different neighborhoods. It might look a little different in Lake Forest than in it did in Roseland, a Chicago neighborhood for example. But it pretty much offered the same kind of cookie cutter thing and then stores got much bigger and as stores got bigger they tried to go a little bit upscale and they struggled with are we an upscale bigger store or are we a middle-market store. So they lost a bit of their identity,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p>She also noted other players have grabbed a big chunk of the grocery business, such as gas stations, mini marts, dollar stores and big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco.</p><p>But customer taste has changed, too. Organic is more popular and, for some, pushing a cart around a grocery store became more of an experience than a chore.</p><p>&ldquo;We see more and more customers now even those customers with means shopping at multiple stores,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not so uncommon for thrifty shopper to go to Aldi or Save A Lot for staples or key items and then go to speciality stores or high-end stores for organic produce. They might go to Whole Foods and Aldi&rsquo;s and two or three other stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Increasingly, that includes Mariano&rsquo;s. The fast-growing chain appears to be reinventing the middle-market grocery store. The stores aren&rsquo;t super premium, but there&rsquo;s also a focus on hospitality. The workers wear black ties, there&rsquo;s a wine bar, and on the weekends somebody playing a grand piano.</p><p>It&rsquo;s CEO, Bob Mariano, once worked for Dominick&rsquo;s. In fact, old man Dominick was his mentor. Company officials declined an interview on its strategy, but a few months ago the CEO spoke at a press conference to announce that a Mariano&rsquo;s was coming to Bronzeville. That neighborhood is a food desert and residents were excited by the idea of having a real grocery store.</p><p>After a round of applause, Mariano said: &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of pressure because I&rsquo;m just a grocer. People sometimes ask me what do I do for pleasure, what&rsquo;s my hobbies? I tell them I don&rsquo;t golf, I don&rsquo;t sail. I just open grocery stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Three years ago there were no Mariano&rsquo;s in the city. Today there are 10 with more opening up all the time.</p><p>In Chicago today there are more grocery stores overall than there were a decade ago. But not everyone is sharing in this abundance. There are still large parts of the South and West Sides that are left out.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699">Part two of our series The Check-Out Line</a>, will explore whether race plays a role in determining where grocery stores are built.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="660" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/checkout-line/" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></em></strong><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow Monica at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em>&nbsp;<em>or write to her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0">Natalie Moore</a></em>&nbsp;<em>is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter.</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://plus.google.com/104033432051539426343">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 The tale of the two-flat http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164044282&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The podcast version of the story includes an excerpt from a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-flammable-fire-escapes-109009#related" target="_blank">more extensive examination of Chicago-area wooden porches used as a means of egress</a>. To catch every episode, <a href="http://wbez.is/VIdLFv" target="_blank">subscribe to our podcast</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Most older U.S. cities have a signature kind of building. In Brooklyn it&rsquo;s the brownstone, one standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the next. In Philadelphia, newcomers and visitors are struck by the distinctive row houses.</p><p>What about Chicago? Well, it&rsquo;s a city known for its skyscrapers, for sure. Outside of downtown, though, you won&rsquo;t find soaring steel and glass. In the neighborhoods, it&rsquo;s wood, brick and stone. The real workhorse of Chicago&rsquo;s built environment is the modest, ubiquitous (yet fascinating) two-flat.</p><p>You know the building. Two stories, with an apartment unit on each floor, usually with bay windows greeting the street through of a facade of brick or greystone. Most were built between 1900 and 1920.</p><p>Two-to-four unit apartment buildings make up 27 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s housing stock, according to data from the <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">DePaul Institute of Housing Studies</a>. The rest is split evenly between single-family homes, condominiums and buildings with five or more units.</p><p>We recently got a question that returns some wonder to this everyday building. Our question asker, who chose to stay anonymous, is particularly interested in why the two-flat became so popular. And she wants to know who calls these buildings home. As she observes in <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">the question she submitted to Curious City</a>, they&rsquo;re somewhere between suburban houses and big apartment buildings:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Chicago-area two-flats straddle the line between apartments and homes. Who were they originally designed to serve? Has that changed?</em></p><p>The answer to that last part? It&rsquo;s revealed in a story, one you&rsquo;d miss if you choose to focus on the city&rsquo;s skyline or crane your neck to see the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower. It turns out the advent of the humble two-flat mirrors the development of Chicago&rsquo;s middle class. And in many ways it still does today, but in the wake of the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, that may be changing.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A Bohemian building boom</span></p><p>Through the late 1800s, European immigrants made up almost half of Chicago&rsquo;s population. Hundreds of thousands of Polish, German and Czech people settled here, often making their first home in narrow one-story buildings usually made out of wood. Those came to be called worker&rsquo;s cottages.</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://wbez.is/1q1Znnk" target="_blank"><strong>Related: How the size of the &quot;foreign born&quot; population has changed in the city.&nbsp;</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>As Chicago&rsquo;s big industries grew &mdash; Sears, McCormick Reaper and Western Electric, to name a few &mdash; so did the population. Soon it made sense for developers and architects to build up as they built out. Hence two- and three-flat buildings, which offered denser housing, and gave the owners a shot at some extra income from renting out their extra unit.</p><p>We found several architects from the era who built two-flats by the dozens on spec, meaning they weren&rsquo;t designing for a specific client, but acting as &ldquo;owner-architect&rdquo; in the parlance of records from the era. Many of them were Bohemian. (Today, the former Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/czeckad.jpg" title="An ad for Lawndale two-flats steered toward Eastern European immigrants. (Courtesy Chicago History Museum) " /></p><p>In fact, along with Jen Masengarb of the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> &mdash; whom we partnered with on <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">this voting round</a> and helped us research this story &mdash; we found an old article from the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> that shows the connection between the city&rsquo;s booming Czech population and its sprawling housing market. A headline from <a href="http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/28540648/" target="_blank">Oct. 17, 1903</a> crows: &ldquo;BOHEMIANS IN LEAD AS BUILDERS OF HOMES.&rdquo;</p><p>At the convention of the Building Association league of Illinois, Bohemian Frank G. Hajicek boasted of &ldquo;$12,000,000 in shares in force&rdquo; held by the &ldquo;the Bohemians of Chicago.&rdquo; It was a point of pride for the 28-year-old resident of the South Lawndale neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Never in the history of the world, I believe, have people in a foreign land established themselves in homes so securely and rapidly as have the 200,000 Bohemians who make Chicago their home,&rdquo; said Hajicek in 1903.</p><p>In the heavily Eastern European Southwest Side neighborhoods of Pilsen (named for the Bohemian city of Plzeň), North Lawndale and South Lawndale, many of those homes were two-flats.</p><p>With Masengarb&rsquo;s help, we dug up some documents at the<a href="http://www.chicagohistory.org" target="_blank"> Chicago History Museum</a>, including a 1915 &ldquo;Book of Plans&rdquo; that enticed homebuyers to order away for all the materials needed to build a two-flat sized for a typical Chicago city lot.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/bookofplanslarger.png" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bookofplansinset.png" title="Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum. Click for larger view. " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;Our design No. 144 is a two-family flat designed for a money making proposition,&rdquo; begins one such ad. &ldquo;Anyone wanting a comfortable home and at the same time a good income on the investment will do well to consider this proposition.&rdquo;</p><p>Many, it seems, did consider it. A 1910<em> Tribune</em> article reported $38 million of flat building, &ldquo;a new high record in this field, exceeding by over $4,000,000 the figures of 1908, which also established a new record.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A &lsquo;workhorse building&rsquo; in a western paradise</span></p><p>Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that it often wasn&rsquo;t young first-generation immigrants buying Chicago two-flats. Instead it was those who immigrated to Chicago as children in the late 19th century, and by the early 20th century had built up enough money to graduate from renting.</p><p>&ldquo;What appears to have happened is that the Czech population was essentially moving further west, out of Pilsen and other sort of areas, Maxwell Street areas, to newer land, I guess you could say,&rdquo; says Matt Cole of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which administers the <a href="http://www.nhschicago.org/site/3C/category/greystone_history" target="_blank">Historic Greystone Initiative</a>. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the name California [Avenue] comes from &mdash; it was like their western paradise.&rdquo;</p><p>Jen Masengarb and I take Cole up on his offer to point out one such western paradise: <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Lawndale,+Chicago,+IL/@41.8582574,-87.7139721,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e328a692e8e51:0x26c3604dc3282d76" target="_blank">the part of North Lawndale known as K-Town for its K-named avenues (Kostner, Kildare, Keeler, etc.)</a> near Pulaski and Cermak Roads. In 2010 K-Town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of classic Chicago apartment buildings.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/masengarbktown.jpg" title="Reporter Chris Bentley, Jen Masengarb and Matt Cole with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago meet in K-Town to learn about Chicago's two-flats. (Photo courtesy Anne Evans) " /></div><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a microcosm of Chicago architecture,&rdquo; says Cole, pointing out stately greystones, single-family brick residences and flats in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Prairie to mashups of any and all architectural detailing popular between 1900 and 1930. &ldquo;The reality is that the two-flat and three-flat are the workhorse building of this period of Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>During our neighborhood walk, Masengarb points out that for a lot of early 20th century Chicagoans, the two-flat was a vehicle of social mobility.</p><p>&ldquo;This two-flat is that bridge, I think, between that older 1880s, 1870s housing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And then the bungalow which was the even bigger dream, and a bigger yard, my own space and nobody living upstairs, clomping around. &ldquo;</p><p>Consider Frank Stuchal. Census data shows in 1888 he immigrated to Chicago from Bohemia as a 13-year-old with his parents and two sisters. The census is taken every 10 years, and every 10 years as his income increased &mdash; Stuchal was first employed as a typesetter, then a print shop foreman, and finally business manager for a newspaper &mdash; he moved further west along Cermak avenue. In 1900 the 24-year old Stuchal rented an apartment at W. 23rd Street and South Spaulding Avenue with his two sisters. In 1920 he and his wife owned a two-flat, half of which they rented out to a German family. By 1930 he and his wife were raising their son in a bungalow they owned in the southwest suburb of Berwyn.</p><p>The 1920 census shows the street lined with two-flats occupied by second generation Czech, German, and Polish immigrants in their 40s and 50s, raising Chicago-born teenagers. Stuchal&rsquo;s neighbors included butchers, policemen, bookkeepers, bricklayers and librarians.</p><p>That two-flat Stuchal owned in 1920 was in K-town, near 21st Place and Keeler Avenue. It was built in 1916, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s still there</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/Capture_0.JPG" style="width: 610px; height: 234px;" title="Frank Stuchal's two-flat was built in 1916. (Google Streetview/Google)" /></a></div><p>Today it&rsquo;s owned by Arquilla Lawrence, whose parents moved in when she was two years old.</p><p>&ldquo;And I love it,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been my home all my life, ever since I was two we moved into the neighborhood. I&rsquo;ve been here my whole life except when I went away to college.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many African-Americans, Lawrence&rsquo;s father moved to the neighborhood from the South &mdash; Oklahoma, in his case &mdash; during <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html" target="_blank">The Great Migration of blacks to northern cities </a>during the middle of the 20th century. After World War II the neighborhood became the first African-American neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s so well kept,&rdquo; says Corey Brooks, who also grew up in K-town. &ldquo;Because most of [the property owners] migrated from the South. This is where they put their roots in, so they all know each other.&rdquo;</p><p>Brooks introduces us to his wife, Rita, who is on her way to check in on her mom. Both of them moved back to their childhood homes in order to care for their parents. Turns out it&rsquo;s not just the neighborhood&rsquo;s property ownership that has lasted all these years.</p><p>&ldquo;This is my childhood sweetheart,&rdquo; says Rita, pointing to Corey. &ldquo;He was my first boyfriend! Then he got married to someone else, I got married, I lost my husband, and then two years ago we found each other and got married.&rdquo;</p><p>Before we leave K-Town, Jen Masengarb surveys the mishmash of early 20th century architectural styles on display.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a metamorphosis or an evolution. We&rsquo;re gonna try this over here on this block, and then this is five years later we&rsquo;re gonna try this &hellip; You can just see it evolving in the way that we live and the decisions that we&rsquo;re making in terms of what our families need, what is stylistically impressive,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This architecture is us, it&rsquo;s a reflection of us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Losing equity: Is the workhorse getting exhausted?</span></p><p>So the form of two-flats was basically a response to economics and demographics, as well as the size and shape of a Chicago city lot. The buildings no longer house predominantly Czech and other Eastern European immigrants, but today&rsquo;s tenants share a lot with their neighbors across the decades &mdash; many of them used two-flats to build community and a little bit of personal wealth in the form of equity. The two-flat was a bridge to a better life for the families that built Chicago as we know it.</p><p>One hundred years later, however, it&rsquo;s not clear how much longer two-flats will be able to fill that role.</p><p>K-town is well kempt, thanks in part to incentives from its historic district status. But two-flats are expensive to maintain. And since the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, a lot of two-flats in other neighborhoods around Chicago are sitting vacant or being bought by developers who don&rsquo;t occupy the units.</p><p>And sometimes the ownership moved in the other direction. Eric Strickland tells us he bought a K-Town two-flat in the 90s. When he purchased the building on 21st Place, it was divided into three units. Once he&rsquo;d saved up enough money, Strickland converted the two-flat into a single-family home. He lives there now with his wife and daughter.</p><p>During the housing crisis two-to-four unit properties were disproportionately impacted by foreclosure. And Geoff Smith from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a> says two-flats don&rsquo;t really make economic sense for new development, so they may well be lost to history in lower-income neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;What you see more commonly is a single-family home targeted for owner occupancy, or you see a larger rental building,&rdquo; Smith says.</p><p>He adds that, if older two-flats fall into disrepair, there will likely be no two-unit rentals to replace them. &nbsp;&ldquo;The concern is that in some of these more distressed areas, where there is a substantial stock of these buildings, there is a risk in some neighborhoods that this kind of housing could be lost,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>That prospect matters. According to data from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a>, today there are more than 76,000 two-unit apartment buildings in Chicago. In some neighborhoods &mdash; Brighton Park, New City, and South Lawndale &mdash; they still make up more than two-thirds of the housing stock, as well as a substantial proportion of the city&rsquo;s affordable housing.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://housing-stock.housingstudies.org/#13/41.8759/-87.6436" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/depaulmap.PNG" style="height: 300px; width: 620px;" title="Click to view full map from DePaul's IHS. " /></a></div><p>Prices for two-to-four unit buildings in distressed areas of Chicago fell roughly 70 percent between the pre-crash peak and current figures. That means many homes in those areas are worth less than they were in 1997, says Smith.</p><p>So if the &ldquo;money making proposition&rdquo; that two-flats once promised to working families is more elusive these days, what will become of the lower-income neighborhoods where these historic buildings are most prevalent?</p><p>&ldquo;Because of changing population dynamics, the changing nature of the city, in some areas you are going to see demand in decline. You may not see it recover, and there just may not be an economic value to some of these properties,&rdquo; says Smith. &ldquo;Hopefully some prescient, some really far forward-seeing investor can come in and say &lsquo;these properties have value for the long-term.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist and reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Follow him at cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research for <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">the Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> and contributed reporting to this story. </em></p><p><em>Correction: A draft of the text for this story misstated the time period during which the majority of Chicago two-flats were constructed. The correct timeframe is between 1900 and 1920.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681 Try to do something nice—and face a year in jail http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/try-do-something-nice%E2%80%94and-face-year-jail-110667 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DARREN ROBBINS 2.jpg" title="Darren Robbins (photo courtesy Darren Robbins)" /></div></div><p>Though he&rsquo;s been living in a small town in Southwestern Michigan for the last few years, Darren Robbins is a familiar face in the Chicago music scene. The 48-year-old musician was the long-time leader of <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-11-14/entertainment/0811120110_1_clive-davis-bomb-stage-fright">Time Bomb Symphony</a>, a band that flirted with major-label success, and he still handles social media for <a href="http://superiorst.com/">Superior St. Rehearsal Studios</a>, which means that a heck of a lot of local artists hear from him regularly.</p><p>Robbins also is a cancer survivor; the former owner of a successful T-shirt business who was profiled in <em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/business/smallbusiness/28sbiz.html?_r=1&amp;adxnnl=1&amp;pagewanted=all&amp;adxnnlx=1408302181-u007bJyWozAGdjeUUcUSYQ">The New York Times</a>,</em> and a popular street artist who, inspired by Shepard Fairey and using the name <a href="http://www.lemmycornhole.com/">Lemmy Cornhole</a>, does a booming business selling cornhole boards and T-shirts adorned with the face of Marty Feldman in <em>Young Frankenstein. </em>He admits he also on occasion decorates skate parks and other spaces&mdash;when he&rsquo;s specifically invited by the property owners.</p><p>What Robbins is not is a reckless, property-trashing tagger, much less a menace to society. Yet the police in Dowagiac and the prosecutor in Cass County, Michigan are doing their best to demonize him as such, and they seem determined to punish him for &ldquo;Malicious Destruction of a Building, less than $200,&rdquo; which he was told at arraignment carries a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines (penalties that are confirmed <a href="http://www.criminalpropertydamage.com/michigan/">by a state website</a>).</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MARTY_be_original.jpg" style="height: 432px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>The trouble started on July 23 when Robbins, with the best of intentions, sprayed the message &ldquo;I love you Jolene&rdquo; on the side of a vacant building that happened to be on the route his friend had to take to the hospital to receive treatment for breast cancer. Here&rsquo;s how he tells the story:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;I was not thinking of myself, but of the fear and loneliness that she must have been feeling in those early morning hours. As a longtime romantic at heart, I have long been a fan of grand gestures, and I couldn&rsquo;t help ask myself, &lsquo;What would Lloyd Dobler do?&rsquo; Dobler, of course, was the teenage protagonist in the film <em>Say Anything</em>...</p><p>&ldquo;Whatever I was going to do, I knew it had to be big&mdash;something that there would be very little chance of missing as she drove by. A cheap can of spray paint would have done the trick, but that would have been permanent. Instead, I opted to spend 10 times what a can of spray paint cost and procured a few cans of marking chalk. I then spent a few days spraying the chalk on a multitude of surfaces to determine which was the most temporary and easiest to remove. Of the three brands I purchased, Krylon came off with a water hose, or a bucket of water and a brush. Worst-case scenario, the chalk disappears in the first rain storm, or fades altogether in a few weeks.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Krylon.jpg" style="height: 1000px; width: 300px;" title="Says the manufacturer: Provides excellent temporary marking... easily removed from hard surfaces." /></div></div><p>&ldquo;Knowing my friend had to be at the hospital by 6 a.m., I left the message around 3 a.m. and promptly fell into bed around 4 a.m. with the intent of removing the message when I awoke. Of course, I never got the chance, because my slumber was interrupted by a visit from the police.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Robbins has had many a sleepless night since his arrest contemplating the ramifications of what seems like over-zealous small-town justice. All that <a href="http://www.casscoprosecutor.com/Prosecutor">Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz</a> will say on the record is that he cannot comment on ongoing prosecutions. But local law enforcement is doing their best to spin a very different story from the one Robbins tells.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Victor-Fitz.jpg" style="height: 408px; width: 450px;" title="Victor Fitz (Cass County Prosecutor's Office)." /></div><p>Officials portray Robbins as a &ldquo;stalker&rdquo; whose message to Jolene was most unwelcome; they add that the woman barely knows him, and doesn&rsquo;t even have cancer. They also say he&rsquo;s &ldquo;been tagging all over town,&rdquo; and that the punishment they&rsquo;re seeking is so stiff because he has a prior conviction in 2005 for tagging.</p><p>&ldquo;I was able to get the guy from the TV station to tell me what they told him and, believe me, it took me aback,&rdquo; Robbins says. &ldquo;But it did make me see exactly how comfortable they are in feeding half-truths to the media to scare off any press scrutiny.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, Robbins says the 2005 conviction actually stems from a traffic accident in a neighboring town, and that Dowagiac officials &ldquo;have credited me with every unsolved tag or act of vandalism in this town from the dawn of time in hopes of getting the big one&rdquo;&mdash;the Jolene message and malicious destruction of a building&mdash;&ldquo;to stick.&rdquo;</p><p>As for Jolene, whose last name is being withheld in this report out of respect for her privacy, stalking is the last thing Robbins&rsquo; message brings to mind, and she is indeed battling cancer.</p><p>&ldquo;All I know is that I love what Darren did for me,&rdquo; she told me. &ldquo;How can anyone see saying &lsquo;I love you&rsquo; as a bad thing? I was in such a bad place&mdash;some days I still am&mdash;but when I think of seeing that message, I still get goose bumps. He is someone I love having in my corner.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, Robbins is angry&mdash;and worried.</p><p>&ldquo;I have come to realize that there is no end to the strong-armed idiocy displayed by prosecutors and law enforcement alike across the country,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not a teenage gang-banger, but a 48-year-old business man, musician, and artist who never thought a simple message in chalk could send me to jail for a year.&quot;</p><p>Indeed, his crime, if it is one, seems more akin to what kids regularly do with chalk in the school yard. But this ain&#39;t child&rsquo;s play: Robbins is due in court in Cassopolis, Michigan for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 22, with his jury trial scheduled to start at 9 a.m. the next morning.</p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 06:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/try-do-something-nice%E2%80%94and-face-year-jail-110667