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Best way to keep your balance on the El

City Life No Comments »

Stand sideways like you’re on a surfboard and hang on
As difficult as it is to give up the sight of tourists and businessmen falling over like drunken idiots whenever the El has a lead-foot conductor, the time has come to establish an easy method for maintaining balance while riding the El. Step one: stand facing sideways, parallel to the window. Step two: hold on to a standalone bar, or one connected to the back of a seat. Step three: wait until the train car stops and exit with dignity.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best-dressed artist

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Jenny Kendler
Artist and environmental activist Jenny Kendler is not only concerned with looking fabulous, which she does, but with how ethically her garments were produced. She mostly buys second-hand from eBay , handmade from Etsy, or from local shops featuring responsibly made goods. It might seem hard, but she promises it’s a breeze, and ends up scoring unique pieces with a history, like the pair of earrings made by a tribe in Afghanistan and a “Blade Runner”-inspired faux-fur cape. Being the new artist-in-residence at the Natural Resources Defense Council, she is not just talking. Her work covers the delicate relationship between humans and nature and is currently showing at the Salon Series Projects, 1319 West Wilson.
Jennykendler.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best single-purpose fake Twitter account

City Life No Comments »

@ChicagoVentra
Unlike Facebook and Google, Twitter does not penalize its users for adopting fake names or otherwise harmlessly misrepresenting themselves. This makes it a wonderful place for comedians to be what they’re not, whether a borderline-illiterate spokesperson for Burlington Coat Factory or an angst-ridden Roomba. Some of the most popular fake Twitter accounts aren’t active for very long—they plug into a current controversy and present a blunt or refreshing take on it. When the CTA began its excruciating transition to the much-loathed Ventra card system, local Twitizens took some comfort in the idea that a PR flack might Tweet things such as “Has your #Ventra Card been lost or stolen? Don’t worry! They won’t be able to activate it, either.” Or “Get on board with #Ventra! The new way to pay for some horrible crime you must have committed in a past life!” It seemed that someone out there really did understand the Ventra experience.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best way to squander $2.75 billion and defund public transportation

City Life No Comments »

The Illiana Tollway
On October 17, reps from Metra and Pace shot their own agencies in the foot, casting the deciding yes votes in a Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee decision on whether to move forward with this forty-seven-mile boondoggle. The Illiana would run south of the urbanized Chicago area, serving relatively few motorists and creating only an estimated 940 jobs over the next forty years, but it would compete with transit for scarce transportation funding. However, Governor Quinn and IDOT, which controls the flow of federal dollars to these agencies, pushed hard for the tollway. Metra and Pace caved in to the pressure, which means a darker future for regional transportation.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best way to anger a long line of commuters

City Life No Comments »

Stand on the left side of the El escalator
One of the few moments to be ashamed of abiding by Midwestern niceties occurs almost daily to commuters. Without fail, there is always that one, mindless, lazy individual who is camped out on the left side of the escalator, flying in the face of our unspoken social contract. Grit your teeth no more, increasingly impatient Midwesterners! Let us take a page from the East Coast and commit to being blunt in this circumstance. Do us all a favor and tell that idiot to walk or move to the right so we can be on our merry way.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best non-corporate neighborhood

City Life, Lincoln Square No Comments »

Lincoln Square
You could go almost anywhere in Chicago and not chalk up anywhere near the non-corporate island haven-like status of Lincoln Square. Truly unique in the Rahm Emanuel business-friendly landscape of in-your-face commercial madness splashed across every rentable surface in the city, this neighborhood boasts not one but three (two of which are local) coffee shops within a two-block radius, hold-out record store Laurie’s Planet of Sound (a shocker in and of itself in the age of iTunes), and the neighborhood-owned Davis theater. “Locally owned” doesn’t just do the fight happening here against the tide of cheap, corporate replacement options service. This ‘hood is sexy as hell, and knows it.
Montrose Avenue on the south, Ravenswood Avenue on the east and the Chicago River on the west

Best of Chicago 2013

Best memorial to heroic animals and circus performers

City Life No Comments »

Showmen’s Rest
On a warm June night in 1918, 400 members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus were in Hammond Indiana, waiting for their train to pull into Chicago. A troop train on the same track crashed into it, causing a massive wreck and fire. Before dawn, fifty-six circus performers were dead. The show had to go on, but the performers needed a final resting place. The Showmen’s League of America provided this area in Woodlawn Cemetery, known as Showmen’s Rest. As many of the crash victims were transients, some memorials are simply marked “Baldy” or “Young Male.” But even more heart-wrenching is the story of the elephants. Legend has it that their trunks were filled with water and they were used as “fire trucks.” Many of the elephants also ran into the flames, trying to save their masters. In their honor, five white granite elephants line the memorial. Local residents have claimed that they sometimes hear the cries of elephants in the night. Others say that on nights like Halloween, their spirits wander to the nearby Brookfield Zoo, where for a brief time they come alive again, running and playing with the zoo elephants before returning to their resting place.
Woodlawn Cemetery, 7750 West Cermak, Forest Park

Best of Chicago 2013

Best local transit app

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Transit Stop: CTA Tracker
There are several free CTA transit apps drawing from the stream of the CTA’s own tracking systems, include Chicago Transit Tracker, TransitGenie Chicago and Next Transit, as well as several $.99 to $1.99 offerings. But the clean design of Transit Stop: CTA Tracker pleases the eye and often has more accurate arrival times than the digital displays atop our city’s eternally, infernally beep-beep-beeping bus shelters. The GPS-driven maps of approaching transportation also earn top marks.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Transit Stop

Best of Chicago 2013

Best new perfume

City Life No Comments »

Herbal Essence
Anyone who’s lived in Chicago more than a few seasons knows that not only is it “the city that works,” but “it’s the city that stinks.” Take the first hint of autumn in Chicago: first, crisp brown dry leaves, perfume like rolled cigar, but also with vestigial scent of subway rot and side-alley urine. But this spring bore another aroma, as the nights grew warmer, on increasingly perfumed Chicago nights. On damp breezes, there was ample evidence in neighborhoods across the city that more and more citizens toke marijuana with impunity. (At Pitchfork, when the MH Girls, a dozen-girl Icelandic choir accompanied Björk, you had never smelt such the symphony of marijuana and hash under fantastic, brooding clouds.) Of course, it could quickly go the other way in our mercurial town if the mayor and police officials change their mind, and persist in adding to the 35,000 or so misdemeanor drug arrests in 2012 instead of addressing gang crime and street murder.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best city of Chicago department head

Audience Choice, City Life 2 Comments »

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein
You’d expect something different from a CDOT chief who went to middle school on an ashram with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. After coming here from D.C. with an emphasis on “complete streets” that serve all road users, not just cars, in just a few years Klein has racked up an impressive list of groundbreaking projects. We now have dozens of miles of protected and buffered bicycle lanes and thousands of Divvy bikes; Bloomingdale Trail construction and the Make Way for People public space program are in progress; and bus rapid transit and the riverwalk extension are on the horizon. Thanks to Klein, these are exciting times for sustainable transportation in Chicago.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Michelle T. Boone, Cultural Affairs and Special Events

Best of Chicago 2013