Monday, March 09, 2009
Toto, were not in Kansas anymore!
One of my favorite Saturday/Sunday activities when I lived in Chicago was going to the Pancake house in Hyde Park with my sister and various other members of my life cast. The restaurant is at least 25 years old (probably older) and has never moved locations of expanded or even changed its layout. I remember one particular Saturday we were waiting patiently with our number for a table amongst all the other hungry south siders. The waiting area is not very big and you really get to know people while you wait for a table. At some point the manager came into the waiting area and asked us all to make a path, now my sister and I thought perhaps something was wrong and they were going to bring someone out. Much to our surprise it was the opposite and someone was coming in. It was R. Kelly.
Now anyone in my age group who grew up in Chicago especially on the south side R> Kelly sightings are no big deal. My sister in particular loves to tell he stories over she and her girlfriends making fun of R. Kelly on the red line coming home from school in the afternoons when he would sing on the train. Well the groups of people waiting in line with numbers were less then impressed the R. was gracing us with his presence, even more so that he was taking a seat of someone who had actually waited in line. But what was one to do, in Chicago this is a way of life.
Well this past Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting up with my local councilwoman for breakfast in a restaurant called Pete’s. It was not the design of the establishment as Pete’s is a lot smaller than my well remembered Pancake House, but that same feel of neighborhood was very present inside. I imagine not much has changed in the setup in years and I can honestly say every Saturday I have passed by and looked in the window it has been running over with people.
Back to my point, I had emailed Mary Pat Clarke earlier in the week about some questions I had about my new neighborhood and new city and she emailed me back with an invite to meet her for coffee. This alone was impressive as you don’t really get that response in Chicago, if you get an answer it is usually a form letter. Even more refreshing was that when I arrived she was there and she was talking to people. The folks in Pete’s actual knew her, and more importantly she knew them. In fact I was very impressed but all she knew, for example when I gave her my address she knew the house and the former tenants.
As we waited (yes there was not weight being thrown around, she waited for her turn at the counter) we got to know each other a little. We sat down and she bought me breakfast (I know right!) but here is the thing. This is when I knew I was no longer in the Windy City. Our waitress came over to confirm that she was indeed Mary Clarke and told her the manager was taking care of the bill. Mary Pat thanked the young woman and the manager and told her that she would be paying the bill just the same. (What??!!!!!!!) I said nothing but this for me was a huge factor into who this woman was. Seems the law for gift giving is taken very seriously around here and Mrs. Clarke was not having any funny business.
Now I know that R. Kelly is an entertainer and Mary pat Clarke is a politician but again in Chicago influence is influence and it is used like capital.
I know there are things going on with my new mayor Sheila Dixon, but as I have not been here quite a year I will keep my own counsel on her until I can make a more informed opinion, but it was just refreshing to meet someone who seems to generally be in politics to help people and make a difference.
We ended our breakfast with the promise that Councilwoman Clarke would put me in contact with some of the neighborhood leaders and a promise that if I needed any information or had any questions on other city stuff I would get in touch.
As I made my way home to make French toast for the family I felt something that I realized had been missing since the first time I moved away from my grandmother’s house. A sense of community and a feeling of ownership for the neighborhood I live in.