Chicago Avenue is never more beautiful than it is at night. The workmanlike, bustling, endless hustle of daylight morphs into a fleet and sleek animal. Dressed in lights and stars, come-hither reds, yellows, and greens—the dirty-carpet sky leans back and reveals a sight of glittering skyscrapers, like gangsters dressed in diamonds.
On occasion, I ride the Chicago Avenue bus from downtown to Damen, the bus lurching like a tired old mutt ambling from one skinny tree to the next. This is my favorite street in the city, one where you are as likely to hear Polish and Ukrainian as English. It is a street about business: candy-colored storefronts, taco joints, nail salons, tattoo parlors, cut-rate furniture, cheap shoes, and good burritos.
It’s a no-bullshit proposition. Like the Loop Tavern sign says: “$2 Shot $4 Pints.” The grammar might be wrong but you understand the message—and if you don’t? Just keep walking, Lunchmeat. This slashie (a bar/package-liquor store) is for guys who want a shot and a beer and a six-pack to go. See? Because Chicago Avenue keeps moving. It’s like a shark that way—even at night when it goes slower, the signs continue the pantomime of perpetual motion. It is an avenue in a hurry.
It is also an avenue of tribes—the Mexican joints supported by Mexicans; the Polish and Ukrainian ones likewise. The hipster coffee spots do a brisk business with the influx of the nose-ring and man-bun crowd. Chicago Avenue is the new and the old city right on top of each other, yet not as mismatched as you would think. The colors and signage from half a block away dissolve into a babel of urban language—urgent, exigent, seductive, and unstoppable; these are my primary colors.
One of my favorite things to do is to walk my dog, Chooch, along this avenue late at night when I can’t sleep, when it is peopled by kids staggering home from the bars and old guys leaving for work or coming back from third-shift jobs. Chooch goes crazy for the food smells wafting up and down the street. Once in a while, one of the guys from El Taco Veloz comes out and throws him a morsel of skirt steak. When you give Chooch a treat, he doesn’t wag his tail, he wags his whole ass. This guy will laugh like hell and toss him another piece.
I sometimes get the idea while strolling this avenue that all of the old tropes about the melting pot and the American dream are true—it all kind of works here. There is no ruling population; it is a community. Everyone has a little piece of their own. And everyone has their own task.
There are mornings I wake up and hate this city for its petty vindictiveness, its bottomless cruelty, its idiotic and empty boosterism. It’s run by clowns, pygmies, and Chihuahuas and suffers from a lack of self-esteem so pernicious it makes one despair of the species.
But then there are the mornings I come down Chicago Avenue and see one neighbor shoveling another’s car out of the snow. Or a young Mexican woman helping an old Ukrainian lady navigate the slippery sidewalk on the way to the bus stop. Mornings when I see what is good about us. That is when I feel like we are triumphing. The big narratives may define a city, but the small kindnesses hold it together.
Loving all things Desi and American, seeing Karan on the promo spot piqued my curiosity so I found the video and Googled who was the actor.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards a.k.a. the Oscars are on this Sunday and I plan on putting the kid to bed early so I can not only watch the ceremony but listen to all the speeches and revel at the performances. It’s always exciting to hear how those speeches pull from current events and might influence pop culture. I’ve long been a movie buff and with the Oscars being the ultimate “who’s who” of actors and movies for the year, I make it a point to be at home, alone, to watch it every year. I’ve already told my husband that we’re getting take out and not leaving the house, lest I miss even a moment!
In anticipation of the show, ABC has been running promo spots with host Jimmy Kimmel. One in particular, inspired this post. Jimmy Kimmel walks us thru his guide on how to win an Oscar while actor Karan Soni is acting the steps out in the background.
Loving all things Desi and American, seeing Karan on the promo spot piqued my curiosity so I found the video and Googled who was the actor. Turns out Karan has been quite busy in Hollywood and is going to be in many upcoming, high profile projects. He made his mark as the nerdy tech in a series of AT&T commercials then played small roles in Deadpool and Ghostbusters. Currently he’s a series regular in Starz’ Blunt Talk. He’s also going to be in the next season of FX’s breakout hitFargo, due to be out later this year.
What a banner year with (my fav) Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel winning BAFTAs and hopefully Oscars too! I see good things for young Karan Soni as well.
I was not a “Bernie or Bust” bro by any means, but I did vote for Bernie Sanders in the Illinois primary this past Spring. When it was clear that Hillary was going to be the Democratic nominee, there was no question that I was going to support her. Not everyone felt the same way.
Living in Chicago, I’m lucky enough that we have the talent, space, patrons, and interest to cultivate South Asian arts. One of the most special artistic outlets we have is Rasaka Theater Company, a Desi theater company that performs “South Asian stories” by “South Asian artists”.
Rasaka was founded in 2003 by a group of South Asian artists who were looking to put on a production and worked together to bring their gifts to the community. Check out their mission statement:
Rasaka Theatre Company is based in Chicago and is the Midwest’s first South Asian American ensemble. Our goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience. We are particularly dedicated to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.
Our vision encompasses the production of theatrical projects – newly created, adapted and already established. We aim to broaden, strengthen and enrich the experience of the theatre going audience thereby enhancing the local, regional, national and international reputation of Chicago theatre.
“Rasa” means the essence or inspiration of a work of art, and adding “ka” behind a word makes it “of” that, as in “of the essence of art.” Rasaka’s goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience, with particular dedication to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.
If you’re interested in supporting their mission, I encourage you to check out some of their productions. They are currently running a play based on Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya adapted by Lavina Jadhwani. It’s playing at the Edge Theater in Uptown thru February 3rd and you can buy tickets here.
“Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya continues to be one of the greatest and continually relevant of plays – concerned with family relationships, broken hearts, and the rampant disappointment of midlife crisis. In this hilarious and sharp reinvention, there is great providence in the shattering of a teacup, time moves backwards, and our bored, sad Chekhovian friends have a tendency to lapse into singing American Indie folk tunes. What could be more Russian? Or American?”
Sampat Jewelers has created what they call a “modern mangalsutra” for the “millennial woman’s desire for a unique and versatile piece”.
My favorite part of the description is where they “throwback” to our mother’s way of storing and protecting family treasures in bank “lockers” (I constantly get into fights with my mother about this). I also like the “silver” look of the white gold chain because I’m currently in a years long phase where I don’t like the look of traditional 22K gold.
South Asian Bride Magazine has partnered with Sampat to give one lucky winner their own “modern mangalsutra” and you can enter here by February 1st! Chances increase the more you share and refer.
This post was not sponsored by any company – just my own opinion!