Let’s Play “You Don’t Deserve It!” Chicago History

I was recently doing some research about a couple of fellows, John Kinzie and Cap’n Streeter. These are men I’ve researched and read about over and over, but for some reason, this time, something struck me: Both men were not such great men. And not just that, but these two men are given honor, big honor, in our history. So, it got me thinking, but first…

John Kinzie

John Kinzie was one of our first settlers, a fur trader at Ft. Dearborn. He acted as a liaison between the Indians and the government dudes at the Fort. He was respected by both parties and was a successful man by most accounts, but mostly because he did things under tables and not above boards – IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Mr. Kinzie is also our first murderer! On June 17, 1812, Kinzie stabbed and killed Jean LaLime. Kinzie swore it was self-defense, but LaLime was also working for the Fort. It was LaLime’s duty to find corruption. Well Kinzie is Kinzie and Chicago is Chicago, even in 1812. After claiming self-defense, Kinzie ran off to Milwaukee before anyone could really ask him about it. He returned home just in time to survive the Battle at Ft. Dearborn in August of that same year.

Cap’n Streeter

Streeter was his own brand of viciousness and is considered one of our more lovable characters. Cap’n Streeter has a fake story and a real story. The fake story goes that in 1886 Cap’n Streeter crashed into a sandbar near Chicago during a storm. The ship silted into place and Cap’n Streeter named the land the United States District of Lake Michigan and said it was separate from the city of Chicago. He starts selling deeds to the land while his wife, Ma Streeter, protects it all with her rifle. This fight continues all the way until Streeter’s death in 1921.

The real story of course is that there was no storm the night Streeter rolled into town. Streeter purposely set his boat there and purposely bilked the wealthy landowners out of their money. What Streeter did next was to start selling the land to people even though the land wasn’t his. There was no land and a bunch of people got screwed – Chicago style.

Streeter is adored around here, but he was a liar and a cheat and he ruined people’s lives. Not only does he have a whole neighborhood named after him, but he has a really decent sculpture – that seems pretty nice for a guy who did mean things.


This got me thinking, who else out there is a jerk and has something named after him? I asked on Twitter and got resounding and emotional answers.


The first first one to sound off was the estimable Gary Krist who wrote City of Scoundrels. He piped up with “Hoyne!!” I asked him why, he told me to turn to his book, WHICH I TOTALLY HAVE because I do the Disaster! Tour and Gary’s book is gorgeous for that particular topic – here’s what I learned about Hoyne:

Maclay Hoyne was the States Attorney for Chicago during the race riots of 1919. Turns out he was prosecuting riot cases and he was only charging black people, only black defendants. It got so bad that the all-white grand jury staged a strike until maybe even one white defendant was brought in. Hoyne even went so far as to stage a raid while the mayor was out of town. Not surprisingly, there were protests, 10,000 blacks met at The Armory to get Hoyne dismissed.

This dude? He gets a street?

Italo Balbo

Many cried for Balbo’s head when I asked this question and for good reason. Balbo Ave. used to be 7th street. During the 1933 Worlds Fair, a squad of Italian seaplanes flew over the Atlantic and landed at Lake Michigan. Mayor Kelly apparently thought it was so cool when Balbo stepped off the plane and commented on the view, Kelly named the street after him. The problem here, besides that just not being enough in my view for a street name, is that it turns out our good buddy Balbo was a fascist working under Mussolini, kind of his right hand, really horrible guy.

Honorary Hypocrisy

So who else? Who else doesn’t deserve their honor?




The War Zone

On Sunday morning, about 11AM. I walked to the redline platform at Lawrence Ave, where I live, in Uptown. It smelled like “away” in the neighborhood, smelled like travel. It smelled like India and Morocco and everywhere. I know what it is that smell, it’s the chicken stock from Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, but it makes the whole neighborhood smell like somewhere else.

The train pulled up and the black conductor leaned out the window to check that we’re all getting on ok. He sees me (I like to get in at the front of the train) and he smiles at me so big I can’t help smiling back. “A little better this week right?” And I recognized him from being the conductor last week during the Women’s march. We were laughing last week, I couldn’t fit on the train and we were bantering back and forth, he was apologizing and I was laughing – it was so great I couldn’t fit on the train last week and so great he remembered me this week. We laughed and as I waited for the doors to open, I notice a black girl, maybe about 8, looking straight at me through the window.

I smile at her big, she smiles back at me, big.

When I get on the train I sit right across from her, she looks at me shyly and I smile again at her, big. She smiles back, big.

Next to her is her father, tall and lean and stretched out in the seat, and next to him are 3 white teenage boys so clearly from the North Shore and the only way I know that is because that’s where I’m from and I can spot them a mile away. So obviously suburban kids coming into the city for the day.

I put on my headphones. The girl catches my eye and looks down at her sparkly shoes and shows them to me, I smile at her again.

Next to me on one side is a white Hasidic woman and her 4-year-old boy. He’s leaning so far over the seat he’s actually almost sitting on my lap. I laugh and smile at him and then smile at my girl across the way so she can smile at the boy with me too. She’s looking and she smiles at the both of us.

On my other side is a older white Polish woman, she’s reading her news in Polish.

I take off my headphones because the teens are talking about the Trump travel ban. They’re arguing with their parents talking points I’m sure, but they’re good points and they’re having a full-on discussion and they are damn passionate about it.

I close my eyes, open them, a few stops go by and a Latino guy gets on, a white middle-aged lady sits down next to me and a young Asian lady sits next to her on the other side.

The Hasidic boy is giggling about the ride and his mom and I catch eyes and smile at each other and at him and his joy. The teens are arguing and my girl across the way has retreated into her hood and is resting on her dads arm.

I rest my head back and rest too, listening to the teens and the roll of the train. I perk up because my stop is coming up, I’m getting ready to get off and I can’t get my girl’s attention. I wonder if I should tap her on the arm, I know she wants to say goodbye because I do too, but I certainly don’t want to freak out her dad. I get up and go to the door. My stop is right there. I give her one last look just in case.

And she’s looking right at me. She looks me straight in the eye and gives me a wave and a smile, I give her a wave and a smile and walk off.

The conductor is smiling at me, leaning outside his conductor window. He’s saying something to me and I have no idea what it is, it’s too loud, but he’s smiling the biggest smile I have ever seen and he’s saying something that I know is supposed to make me smile too. I wave and laugh and walk up the stairs to the city. I give some tours, educate some people, tour is sold out even though it’s cold – everyone is in the mood to learn something about their beloved city.

The Truth

Don’t believe it. Don’t believe that Chicago is a war zone. It isn’t. There are a few parts that are rough, parts that are unimaginable. We know this.

But Chicago is the same beautiful, diverse and loving city it has always been.

Don’t believe everything you hear.


Pedway Project Day Eight & Beyond

An idea conceived and an idea finished and that is enough. That and fresh air!

I can’t tell you how the air feels, it feels really good. It was perfect and cool and gray and quiet and lovely. And the light, the light felt really good. I think what drove me the most insane inside was the light. Natural light was fleeting, something I passed by here and there. The cool air too, so strange to be the same temperature (mostly) for a week. I like getting cold and warm and cold and warm. And the choices! I can go left or right or forward or back, any direction I WANT! I”M NOT HELD IN BY ANYTHING OR ANYBODY. Don’t fence me in Pedway!

I almost cheated and went out for the sunrise, but I followed the rules and waited for my tourees to show up, I got downstairs really early. Normally we go to the lake last on the Winter Tour but today we went to the lake first. Isn’t she lovely? 

But an overview is what is called for! A postmortem!

First, we raised FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Fine work everyone on that, that is really glorious. Thank you.

What I Did:

  1. Two lunch dates
  2. One rehearsal
  3. I gave blood (YES I DID!)
  4. I met Cheryl Scott
  5. Met by brother for coffee
  6. Went to the movies
  7. Swam in the pedway pool
  8. Went to a meeting at The Cultural Center
  9. Including the free tours, I gave 9 pedway tours
  10. I had lady drinks!

What I Learned – Technically:

  1. There are a lot more people who care about and love the pedway than I thought. The free tours were FILLED with people who were excited and nervous. Some were experts, some knew nothing, but each tour was different and awesome and the energy was so great. I’m so pleased.
  2. There is an elevator in 225 N. Michigan that will get one down to the scary elevator to the South Shore Line station. That is a specific piece of information maybe only I understand, but one I’ve been looking to find for a very long time. 🙂
  3. I learned that 33 N. Dearborn is not on the Pedway map and that the connection to 1 N. Dearborn and 1 N. State is not open anymore but no one is sure where it went.
  4. I learned there are 3 ways to go through the Hyatt – you can stay on the underground level, you can go up to the main lobby, or cross through the skyway (my favorite part.)
  5. You can get to the Park Grill (the restaurant in Millennium Park) by taking the pedway and then parking garages (HUGE SCORE THIS).

What I Learned – Philosophically:

The project, above all else, was to prove that the Pedway could sustain itself as a neighborhood.

And I feel that I have absolutely proven that this is the case.

I talked to Stephen, he’s the Streetwise guy that hangs out under Macy’s. Stephen is awesome and friendly and excellent and if you don’t know him and you pass under there a lot, give him a hello and maybe pick up a Streetwise. I asked him if he thought the Pedway was a neighborhood and he didn’t pause for one second before he said “Absolutely it is,” he said “I’ll see people all winter and then not so much during the summer. And then in winter everyone I know comes back and it’s really great to see them.” Stephen knows A LOT of people in the Pedway, so I trust his instincts. Just the fact that Stephen and I were standing there talking philosophically about the pedway – just THAT means that it’s a neighborhood to me. There are lots of us down there shooting the shit with each other.

I learned that those of us who love it, those of us who really love the Pedway, love it in spite of itself. That Pedwayers feel the same way about the pedway that some of us feel about the city – it’s got it’s problems, it’s a little rough and tumble in spots, but we love it with a passion that’s maybe too much for the situation.

There are people who want to fix the Pedway and I am all for this. I cannot wait to see new way-finding devices, an app, some actual nice spots to sit, but I also love it the way it is. It’s like any neighborhood that needs improvement and the fear of gentrification, can we improve the pedway AND keep the best parts of it?

Thank you’s

A major thank you to the Fairmont Hotel, they were generous and helpful and have always been so.  Since I started my tours there a few years ago, they are game for whatever weird tour idea I have and it’s been a really glorious relationship. It’s also a beautiful hotel with great views – here’s a little variety of the beautiful days I saw outside my window:

Also the Environmental Law and Policy Center deserves many thanks for starting the actual process of helping the pedway be a better pedway. This is no small job for them to undertake and I’m really happy to be a part of their process in any way.

And finally, I am so thankful for the Pedway. I’m as thankful for it as I am of Ravenswood, my neighborhood of 20 years. Not only has the Pedway been my primary source of income for seven years, it has protected me – physically, financially and mentally. I’ve made countless friends in and out of there. It’s hallways have become like the city streets to me, a place I can move through without seeing anything and seeing everything all at the same time. I’m as familiar and comfortable moving through it as I am weaving in and out of people on Michigan Avenue.

I have different memories for different parts of it – oh that’s where that lady spit out her water because she was laughing, oh that’s where I tripped and jammed my finger that day, oh that’s where I met and made my new pedway friend.

It’s intricacies and character flaws make it complicated and hard to understand and honestly, I resemble that remark. It has different moods – torn up walls sit next to Tiffany windows –  and those moods match my own, changing from minute to minute from light to dark, from the logical to the ridiculous. As I move through the Pedway and see people getting married, having fights, cleaning floors, drinking coffee, talking to their lawyers, asking for money, hugging, kissing, crying laughing – I know for certain that the Pedway is as an important part of this city as any other.

Thank you Pedway for being another part of the city where I feel belong. Thank you for making me feel safe and warm and dry. Thank you for being weird and complicated. Thank you for being troubled.

And a thank you to all of you for reading.





Pedway Project Day Seven

This #PedwayProject is sponsored by the most awesome ever Fairmont Hotel, connected to the Pedway and to the WORLD.


Oh my gosh.


Day Seven. I arrived one week ago and here I am, about to emerge one week later. Did I get it all accomplished? Did I get what I wanted out of this week?


I really did. I am a lot more intimate with the Pedway. I’m so intimate with the Pedway, I’m meeting it’s parents next week! Maybe we’ll get married? I absolutely have new pedway friends I didn’t have before. I absolutely found and discovered new things. I’ll do one big post about it on Monday, but for now, here’s my Day Seven, here’s how it rocked:

My husband came last night and we went for dinner at The Columbus Tap in The Fairmont, we got the Bacon & Egg salad and the pretzels! LOOK AT THAT PERFECT EGG. Yum.

This morning I had my regular Saturday morning Pedway Tour and we just had a good time. Nice group and I think I might be starting to lose my mind a smooch – so it was fun. Then I RAN back to the Fairmont to pick up my private tour of 20 high school kids. AAAAH! They were so glad when they fully realized they were inside the whole tour. That got them on my good side right away and my Mrs. O’Leary impression really sold ’em….

I was right by Block 37 when I finished, one of my goals was to go to the movies. Right after my tour, I looked at my watch and Sleepless – the new Jaime Foxx movie – was starting in minutes! It’s set in Vegas! I love Vegas and Jaime Foxx! (Don’t go see the movie though, really don’t.) I got into the theater just in time and settled into my fancy recliner.


This is one of the fancy movie theaters where you get food delivered to your seat! There are waiters and waitresses running around, so weird. And yes, the answer is yes, it is a little disturbing in the beginning. But it’s also AWESOME. I got pretzel bites (I like hot pretzels today OKAY?) and a coke and it was yummy. And like my buddy Doug once noted, when you get popcorn, they bring you the huge tub of popcorn, one size, with EXTRA BUTTER and salt! So smart.

And then, I’m going to be honest with you, I came back to the hotel and watched terrible TV and got delicious room service. I did take a walk to see my quiet, dark and lovely Pedway one more time:

I leave tomorrow! I’ve got a nice group for my 9AM Winter Tour and we are going to enjoy the hell out of ourselves and I’m going to look out at that lake and I’m going to cry and weep and kiss the ground and the sky and the air. And what I love about this, is I don’t have to leave the Pedway forever, I’ll be back on Monday!

A full recap on what I learned and new things and new ways and everything else, that’s on it’s way, but what I learned today is – the Pedway is as much a part of this city as the Riverwalk, or Union Station or Marshall Fields. Bam.

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