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Sen. Mark Kirk and other story follow-ups

Following up on Sen. Mark Kirk, grocery options on the South Side and the fate of a favorite open mic night.

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Sen. Kirk after his stroke. (AP/File)

So the cat is out of the bag and you all now know this is the last month for certain blogs here at WBEZ. I’ll go into the specifics of my situation later, in my last blog, but in the meantime, I wanted to continue doing updates on some of the stories I’ve been covering for the last three years.

* In June 2010, I wrote about Sen. Mark Kirk, our state’s junior senator, who said he’d “misremembered” the circumstances of his military service, the memory conveniently enhancing his resume. Kirk is something of an enigma, a Republican from a blue state, one of the Democratic president’s home states, and occasionally a line-crosser.

Kirk had a stroke in January 2012 and came back to the senate promising to be a better man. A little more than a year later, Kirk came out in support of same sex marriage. Not a huge surprise to some because he’d been one of the very few GOP senators to vote for repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But in many ways, it was still unexpected.

Kirk was only the second sitting Republican senator to take such a stand, and he seemed to be doing it out of sheer principle: At least publicly, he didn’t claim gay relatives or gay friends.

“Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back,” he said, which seemed about as pure a motive as any. A new, sensitive Kirk? Maybe not so much. Recently, Kirk proposed the mass incarceration of 18,000 Gangster Disciples as a way to fight crime in Chicago.

Rep. Bobby Rush called him all kinds of names and then they seemed to make up but Kirk hasn’t apologized or denounced his original plan. Rush is going to take him on a tour of the First Congressional District and show him “the worst of the worst.”

Just recently, Kirk surprised everyone by being one of 18 senators who didn’t vote for cloture on the immigration reform bill—a measure that would have merely sent the proposed law to the senate floor for debate. I am now waiting for Rep. Luis Gutierrez to call him all sorts of names, have a private meeting with him and promise to take him on a tour of his unwieldy district, in this case showing him “the best of the best.”

* That same month I wrote about Kirk, June 2010, I was pretty excited about the coming of Michael’s Fresh Markets to Kenwood, my South Side neighborhood. We’d recently lost the Hyde Park Co-Op and the Treasure Island which took over the 55th Street location had a great selection but was frequently more expensive—and sometimes by quite a bit—than even more than Whole Foods.

Michael’s promised good food at a convenient location at reasonable prices. At the onset, we were a bit surprised by the extensive Mexican and Indian food sections—delighted, for sure, but we couldn’t help wondering if they’d done any neighborhood focus groups, or maybe looked at a Census. Maybe they had plans to bus in customers from other parts of town.

Soon—and I mean within months—the produce was looking pretty wilted, shelves had huge holes. The Mexican and Indian aisles aged gracefully at first, then not so much. In a year and a half, the store, which was now being pretty openly neglected by management, had shut its doors. Curiously, though the Kenwood store wasn’t making a profit, the reason Micheal’s closed was due to a more complicated, and more company-through, bankruptcy.

Indeed, it later turned out the chain had problems before the Kenwood store even opened. Since then, it’s been a tough haul without a reasonably-priced full-service supermarket in the neighborhood, but between the dreaded TI, the very wonderful if limited Hyde Park Produce, the equally wonderful and equally limited (but in different ways) El Guero on West 47th Street in Back-of-the-Yards, and the South Loop Trader Joe’s, we make do. Yeah, it’s a food wasteland down here.

* In July 2010, I wrote about Pow Wow’s Tuesday night open mics in South Shore at the Jeffrey Pub, which may be the city’s oldest gay bar. The Pow Wow had been holding their raucous gatherings—where women and men read and performed sublime, raunchy, poignant and hilarious stuff—for nearly 10 years, including the notorious Five Word poem game I wrote about. But last December, Pow Wow founder C.C. Carter put an end to the open mic nights. Pow Wow continues with its community events, and a lot of the old timers still hang out at the Jeffrey on Tuesday nights, but it’s never been the same.

* On the other hand, Movieoke nights at the The Whistler happily continue the first Monday of the month. Next one up is July 1.

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