Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Northsider's guide to White Sox nation

If you are reading this, you most likely live on or are from the Northside of Chicago. Things like electricity and computers haven't reached our friends down south. But the Southside is the home of the current Major League champion White Sox. Despite the success, very few people venture to US Sell Field; in fact, I think they've only had one sellout so far this season.

Perhaps we here on the Northside are afraid of the neighborhood surrounding White Sox stadium--reportedly, Black people live on the Southside. Most likely, however, we fear that the White Sox play in an impersonal stadium surrounded by parking lots, an interstate, and housing projects with no bars for the trixies and frat boys to hang out at before and after games.

In fact, the Dan Ryan is under construction, the projects have disappeared, and a thriving neighborhood sits waiting to be discovered just west of the ballpark. I checked it out a couple of days ago, and today I'd like to take you by the hand and show you what I saw.

Our tour begins at the Chicago Political Machine's headquarters, where the man himself, Rich Daley, learned that politics can be rewarding: the 11th Ward Democratic Party office. You'll need to stop in, register as a Northsider, and pay the new city tax of $1 for being a Cubs fan on the Southside. Bring a photo ID and your voter registration card (as well as your dead grandmother's).

Before any Cubs game, you can walk into dozens of bars surrounding Wrigley Field, drink overpriced Miller products, and get laid in the bathroom with some hottie from the University of Iowa. Things are not so easy on the Southside. You have to be persistent. On my visit, I checked out the action at three Sox bars: Schaller's Pump, one of the oldest bars in the city, was absolutely packed ... with people who were probably at the bar's grand opening. I quickly exited and headed to Catcher's Inn. The customers there were younger, and fewer. Five middle-aged guys with mustaches chatted excitedly with a trashy bartender who was loudly proclaiming that she doesn't need to play with herself because she gets laid every single night. Beers were only two bucks, so I stayed for two, but left shortly after some old guy came in with a giant trash bag selling white socks. My final stop was at Puffer's. After a guy and his son left, the bartender came over and said, "Well, it's just you and me." She proceeded to tell me about all the times her car (a '92 Buick!) has been stolen and later booted. She asked if I was hungry and picked up a phone to order a pizza. She asked me what the address of the bar was. I didn't know, but figured it out for her, but then didn't stick around for the pizza. There were more things to see before the game.

People say that there is nothing to do on the Southside. I don't know if that's true or not. I mean, there is an old theater, the Ramova, on Halsted just south of 35th. It is shut down, but you can stop by anyway to chat with the ticket guy.

Like a Cubs fan, I next looked for a place to relieve myself on someone's property. A walk through a gangway and into an alley found this garage. You have to admire the support and artistic talent Bridgeport residents have for their local team.

Before heading off to the ballpark, I looked around. Where could I return to after the game? Would there be more people hanging out? Was there anything to be afraid of? I wasn't sure, but I did appreciate how welcoming the entire neighborhood is. I don't know when, but I will return.


Anonymous The Mom said...

My son bought rental property over there and what a business they have! Oh, not the rental itself; that sucks. But all owners and renters get a removable permit for parking. They rent those out during Sox games! If a person is extremely needy, they'll let them park in their yards along side their beat-ups. (not wives, cars!) I'll bet you didn't realize the lack of garages is NOT due to the lack of money!! (Well, not in all cases.)

9:32 AM  

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