I’m beginning to think that no one in my neighborhood has heard of Salvation Army. In case it’s a new concept to anyone reading, Salvation Army is a place where you take clothes or housewares when you don’t want or need them any more. It’s also the place you take your skinny pants when you realize you’ll never fit into them again.
Instead of dropping off clothes at the good ol’ Salvation Army, I’ve noticed that people often abandon them on the street or in alleys. True story. I saw these things happen within a 24-hour period.
Strolling across Damen and Division, I noticed bleach-stained flair pants and cut-off white jeans with a few other friends. If only a shirt had been on this bench, you would have had a complete outfit.
The next morning, there was this treasure chest in the alley behind my apartment building. It looks like someone had already gone shopping by the time I arrived.
I’ve definitely also seen random t-shirts here and there, hanging out on the sidewalk. You’d be surprised. At any rate, I don’t understand, if not Salvation Army, why not have a yard sale instead? Who couldn’t benefit from a few extra bucks?
It seems that everyone is sporting 80s-inspired fashion these days. Especially the kids in my neighbors.
Even the mannequins are doing it. Yep, you read this correctly. I said mannequins.
These are two quite fashionable mannequins. It's hard to make out, but notice the bright colors and Max Headstrom-style shades.
Pardon the glare. I was trying not to be creepy with my photo taking. I think I failed.
I’m no longer surprised by the oddities I see in my neighborhood. It really is a Bermuda Triangle of Weirdness. I was surprised, however, to learn that the movie Mannequin grossed $42 million in theaters. Who would have guessed?
It seems too often that we hear about people acting like jerks.
I complain, you complain, friends complain, co-workers complain…about the annoying things people do, like failing to clean up dog poo, talking too loudly on the phone, using bad driving/biking/parking etiquette, littering, screaming drunken profanities down the street…the list continues.
I’m here to report that, despite what you hear, people out there do amazing things as well. I’m a believer, starting today.
I arrived home this evening to find a mysterious letter addressed to me inside the mailbox. It was from someone who also had the last name Davis at a Chicago address I didn’t recognize. Inside the envelope were tickets to the Blondie and Pat Benetar show at Ravinia I’d ordered a few weeks ago. Apparently, Ravinia inadvertantly sent my tickets to the wrong person who did the right, kind thing by mailing them to me (my address and name were printed with the tickets). She even included a handwritten note with her phone number.
A real note on Notes on Urban Behavior
I was immensely moved by this kind gesture. That Ms. Davis could have easily played the part of this Ms. Davis and three friends or forgotten to mail the tickets for months…cut to me yelling at Ravinia over the phone for not receiving my tickets…But she didn’t.
High fives for my good samaritan and all the others out there. I plan on calling mine tomorrow to say thank you. I don’t want to be a jerk.
Admit it. You’ve done it…briefly look into other people’s apartments. You do that too, right? Right?
Before you think I’m a huge perv, I want to clarify that I’m not a Peeping Tom. And I don’t study neighbors like I’m Jimmy Stewart in a scene from Rear Window.
I’m talking about those tiny moments, when walking down the street, you catch a glimpse into someone’s apartment. You might notice a bold wall color, painting or other item that gives you a snapshot of someone’s personality or style. Or you may catch a flash of action that you wouldn’t be privy to otherwise. In these moments, you’re not meaning to be nosy, but it’s hard not to notice since it’s in plain view.
I attended a dinner party last night. The host lives across the street from one of the high-rise apartment buildings that trickle down Lake Shore Drive.
The view from the balcony
Standing on the balcony, which faces this building, a few other guests and I couldn’t help but notice a woman doing aerobics across the way. Directly to the right, a couple was eating dinner. As someone pointed these neighbors out, the host explained that he often reads on the balcony and has observed some strange behavior patterns as a result. Some of which should never be seen by others.
We probably don’t have as much privacy in our apartments as we think. This is especially true for my friend who recently bought a fantastic loft space that’s parallel with an El platform. She can see the commuters, so that probably means they can see her. My situation is not exactly the same, but I can see my neighbors across the street when their blinds are open, which means they can probably see us.
I don’t ride the El that often anymore. I’m generally ok with that, especially after what I witnessed last night.
Heading toward the Loop to meet up with some friends, I took my seat on the Purple Line. I noticed a gentleman in front of me, and as I got comfortable, I observed the pleasant, clean scent he emanated. Passengers got on and off as the train made its way around the Loop. Watching carefully for the Washingon/Wells stop, I was interrupted from my iPod listening by a hacking sound. I look up and noticed that the man in front of me had spit on the floor. Really? Is that what we’re doing now? I was repulsed and regretted thinking that he smelled nice.
The culprit. I was close to posting the spit picture, but I decided to spare you.
Luckily, I didn’t have to look at the puddle of spit for long because my stop came up. As I walked off the platform and down the stairs, I almost stepped in an unrelated puddle of spit. Gross. Just makes me wonder how often we step in others’ spit without noticing.
One day, it can be 65 and sunny, only to reach a high of 25 degrees the next day. I know this because it happened last week. I wore heels and a light jacket one day and was sporting winter boots and a coat the following.
Take note of the lack of boot or sock. Happy day of weather.
It was 56 degrees today, according to my widget. Taking advantage of the warmer temperatures on a leisurely stroll, I saw something I hadn’t seen in Chicago in months—kneecaps.
I also witnessed the following:
One man wearing a tank top
Two people wearing shorts
One brave lady in a skirt, no tights or leggings
A dozen or so short-sleeve-shirt-wearers
Winters here are so bad that by the time March rolls around, Chicagoans will look for the first excuse to expose their bare skin. It’s funny. When the weather peaks above 50 degrees, that seems to be when clothing is shed. It’s the opposite of what happens in fall. The same temperature in September or October warrants the addition of layers and the adoption of jackets and scarves.
With warmer weather also comes a shift in behavior. People don’t look pissed off walking down the street. They walk at a more leisurely pace. You might even hear laughter.
I’m encouraged by this brave behavior. Spring (hopefully) is in the near future. Besides the wardrobe changes, I saw several previews of spring, shown below.
Ice cream headlined at local cafes.
Outdoor seating debuted on Division St.
A crowd of people who abandoned coats and sleeves. Some guy also thought I was checking him out since I was taking the photo. Oops.
There are two types of street performers in Chicago: performers such as Puppet Bike or the Bucket Boys who flank busy, tourist-filled streets and those who sing or dance, oblivious to the fact that others are watching. Or at least that’s what they want you to think.
Everyone has seen girlfriend on the bus who’s rocking out to the song on her iPod, singing loudly enough for everyone else to hear. To her, it’s fine tuning her American Idol audition. To you, it’s a rather annoying accompaniment to your morning commute.
I experienced singing-man-on-a-bike the other day. He was riding down Damen, confidently bellowing and pedalling. I was impressed by the flawless choreography of the performance.
Then, the next day, I witnessed the talents of moved-by-the-spirit-man. Walking down Franklin near Superior, the man was sporting ashes on his forehead still fresh from Ash Wednesday mass. He was singing a hymn jubilantly, as if he was continuing choir practice on his own. At least, I assumed the song to be a hymn. That was probably because of the ashes.
All of these recent street performances have caused me to wonder what my talent is. I’m starting to think it’s miming to the thoughts swirling around in my head. Either that, or talking to myself. Ouch.
What’s your street talent? (Keep it clean, alright)
I have sad news to report from the corner of Damen and Iowa. Elvis is gone.
Only a broken post remains where this infamous Elvis effigy once stood.
Where Elvis once seranaded me on my way to and from work, only broken wooden posts remain. Looks look new Elvis wins the staring contest.
In other Elvis-related news, the King is still stalking me. I think he really enjoys beer since he seems to frequent every drinking establishment that I’ve recently patroned. Either that or Elvis is the patron saint of dive bars. I went to Delilah’s this weekend, and low-and-behold, Elvis was there, singing and shaking those hips above me as I sipped a frosty beverage. I apologize that I didn’t catch the full name of the artist.
I’ve ridden the CTA almost every day for the past three and half years. When you add it up, that’s thousands of hours of priceless people watching and mental-note taking.
Most trips on the bus or train are rather uneventful and pass by quickly. But some days, I’d like to pull popcorn out of my purse and stay on past my stop to watch the duration of the show. I’ve seen my share of colorful characters and smooth operators on the CTA. I’m sure you have as well.
The cast rotates daily, but here are some characters that can be seen riding daily:
The Long Sigher: Undoubtedly, once it’s obvious that the bus is taking longer than usual to get to work, the Long Sigher begins his performance. It goes something like this: Soft sigh. Check watch. One minute passes. Check watch again, followed by a longer, louder sigh. Finally, the cell phone comes out and everyone on the bus hears: “Um, hi, it’s Jim. I’ll be in a little late.” We didn’t see that one coming.
The Loud Phone Talker/iPod Listener: Scanning the bus, you’re bound to see several folks chatting away on cell phones. But there’s always one person who is talking more loudly, so loudly that even the people in the very back can hear that her roommate ate all the sour cream or that he’s soooo pissed at his boss. I usually am forgiving of the loud talking until I realize the person is not in fact speaking to his or her 90-year-old grandma. The loud iPod listener comes from the same breed as The Loud Phone Talker. He or she is also oblivious to everyone on the bus can hear what is coming out of their personal electronic device. And the fact that the Santana/Rob Thomas song really sucks.
The Person with an Abusive Backpack: Have a seat, and you’re likely to get clocked in the face repeatedly by someone with a giant, abusive backpack. You’re probably too nice to say anything, so you endure the abuse for the rest of the ride.
The Aggressor: The CTA brings out the worst in some people, especially the Aggressor. I’ve seen grown men on packed buses engage in shouting matches and verr on the brink of fist fights over the lack of personal space. I’ve also seen The Aggressor get so angry at an annoyingly boisterous dude that he turned around and yelled, “Do you EVER shut up?” My husband actually witnessed a full-on fight on the bus the other day. Oh, the joys of bus rage.
The Weirdo: The CTA is a magnet and safe haven for weirdos. I’ve met a whole host of them. Some of the all-stars include woman-in-half-yoga-pose, nail-clipper-man and dude-carrying-an-opened-frozen-pizza. The weirdo that took the cake for me was man-with-a-cat-in-the-suitcase. That’s right. I once saw a man get on the bus with a cat in a carrier and a suitcase. The first assumption was that he was going on a trip. That was wrong. He sat next to a patient, young woman in front of me and began telling how he’d been displaced from his apartment due to a fire and had been living in a hotel with his cats. “Cats?” the woman asked. Yes, the man replied. There was a cat in the carrier and in the suitcase. But the man was sure the cat could breathe just fine because he was a doctor. The man coincidentally reeked of beer. To make a long story short, the horrified young woman in front of me eventually convinced the man to take the cat out of the suitcase and let it hang out on the bus. And…scene.
The Passive Rider: The most common and most popular patron of the CTA. He or she probably looks a bit like you and me. He or she usually successfully completes a bus or train ride without being labeled as the weirdo or any of the aforementioned characters. At least he or she thinks.
Look for the performance soon. Coming to a CTA bus or train near you.