It’s been fun, but I have to say Audi-os

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Bobs Column - The B SideAudi 5000.
The name of the 1980s luxury car morphed into a slang phrase to describe leaving a particular place after the car was plagued with a problem characterized by unintended acceleration.
Drivers complained that the car would lurch forward while their foot was on the brake. It turned out that the accelerator and brake pedals were unusually close together. But the slang stuck. “This party is boring. I’m Audi 5000.”
You don’t hear the term much anymore. Today, people “bounce” when they depart.
Times change and so does the lingo. But I’m writing this column—one of my favorite tasks each week—to tell you that I am Audi 5000.
About 18 months after joining the Reporter, I’ve decided to take another position in the publishing industry. This is my last issue. I have no doubt I’ll miss the work because nothing is quite like community journalism.
Want proof? I’ve come back to it twice after my full-time first stint in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve also free-lanced for local newspapers throughout much of my career, and I’m likely to do it again. Don’t be surprised if you see my byline in this newspaper now and again—I figure to be available to pinch hit here and there if needed.
And, my agent and editor Jeff Vorva are negotiating a deal to keep the B-Side going in some form or fashion. So look for more of my thoughts and musings in this publication down the road.
I thought I’d use this column to thank or recognize several folks who made the job easier and more fun. Many of them I’ve known long before I started at the Reporter in August 2013, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have a column at other points in my career.
So, since I mentioned Vorva first, why not start with him.
I’m a better writer and reporter because him. I say that about few other people in this business. Jeff had an influence not only on me but on the paper as well. We started at the Reporter at about the same time, and I’m proud of our body of work.

Why not block the cheating rooftop owners?

  • Written by Ray Hanania

Hanania-GrapevineEven though I am a South Sider, I have been a Cubs fan all my life, since the very first day I realized girls my age loved the “Cubbies” and Wrigley Field was a great place to exploit for a first date back in high school.
(Yes, high school. I was a late bloomer in getting my heart savaged by the opposite sex.)
Still, I came to love the Cubs. Wrigley Field was always so much more fun, tightly packed in a gentrified neighborhood with lots to do before and after the game. And, the neighborhood was always safe, something I can’t honestly say about the White Sox ball park.
It doesn’t matter to me that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 108 years. I honestly love the game. I love the atmosphere. I love the food. I love the neighborhood. Maybe I don’t love the carefree “we don’t care where we urinate” fans. And most of all, I still love how women love the Cubs. (Maybe the Cubs should market a men’s cologne or something?)
I can accept the fact that the Cubs always fall short. But I can’t accept the demands by the owners of buildings adjacent to Wrigley Field who claim they have a right to profit off of the backs of the Cubs baseball team.
The building owners have renovated their rooftops so they can charge exorbitant entrance fees, and sell high-priced food and booze to the public, so the public can enjoy the Cubs games from across the street.
What right does a building owner have to sell the baseball team’s performance to their rooftop customers? That’s cheating.
Now that Wrigley Field is renovating, they also want to erect a larger scoreboard. And why not? The building owners argue the new scoreboard will block their view from their rooftops into Wrigley Field during the games.
I am sure Wrigley Field is as much as hassle to the Wrigleyville neighborhood as it is an economic boon. The businesses in the neighborhood profit enormously from the team, even if they haven’t won a World Series in more than a century.
The Cubs are a $1.8 billion franchise, the nation’s 5th most valuable baseball team, according to Forbes Magazine. I know homeowners and even local churches and organizations profit, too, from the games selling parking spaces because I have laid out the $40 for the parking privilege to be near the park. I have even shopped at the stores after the games.
 I also know that having a bustling, busy baseball park smack in the heart of the neighborhood has its problems. But most of those problems come from the drunks who fill the local bars that surround the ballpark.
In truth, Wrigley Field was there before much of the residential development, built in 1914. The Cubs are the oldest sports franchise located in the same city in the country. They set a record when they played in the World Series three consecutive seasons, beginning in 1906, winning in 1907 and 1908. A century of losses doesn’t change that record.
Tell the rooftop owners to find someone else to bully and exploit. Build out that stadium, Mr. Ricketts. Make it a better park. Do whatever needs to be done to create an enjoyable atmosphere for the park attendees, not your greedy next-door neighbors.
Let’s Go Cubbies!

Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Enjoying a new communion, community

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorTo be acknowledged is a beautiful thing.
I visited Worth United Methodist Church on assignment during their Sunday worship service a few weeks ago. I was there to probe into their members’ reaction to their pending church closure. Upon my arrival, I settled on the back pew hoping not to draw attention to myself.
But, I didn’t go unnoticed at all.
Ramona Paulumbo of Bridgeview was in the pew in front of me. She moseyed over to help me find my spot in the hymn book. She was like a one-person hospitality committee. She saw to it that I took part in communion. I hadn’t intended to. My plan was to inconspicuously snap a few photographs of the congregation while they took communion but she beckoned for me, so off I went.

At my church, The Apostolic Church of God, we take communion in individual tiny, sealed plastic, hourglass cups. The wine is in one end and a nibble of tasteless cracker in the other. The congregation remains in the pews as ushers pass them down the aisle until everyone has been served.
I can recall being horrified by my daughter, Donae, offering an explanation of communion one afternoon. She was four at the time.
“Church was good this morning.” she said. “I like community day because we get juice and a snack!”
She got a thorough Bible teaching on communion after that!
At Worth UMC, everyone strolled to the altar and stood in a single-file line to receive communion. Their pastor, Sung Kown Oh, literally broke apart an entire loaf of fresh baked bread and proceeded to pass out doughnut-hole sized portions, which we dipped into a wine filled Chalice.
I’m no wine connoisseur, I don’t even drink socially, but, if I had to guess, I’d say theirs was the good stuff.
A couple more dips of that, and I might have gotten tipsy.
At the conclusion of service, I was quickly approached by Patricia Hodges of Palos Hills.
“Uh oh,” I thought. “I better hurry to explain why I have a notepad and camera.”
It had been my intention to inform Pastor Oh, I’d be visiting when we spoke earlier that week, but I’d forgotten. Before she could even speak, I reached to shake her hand. “Hello. My name is Claudia Parker. I’m a reporter, for the Reporter newspaper.” I said.
With a warm smile and a tender touch she replied, “I know exactly who you are.”
I was thinking to myself. “You DO!?”
She continued. “Come.” She waved for me to follow. “We’re going to have refreshments in the fellowship hall.” she said.
Then, it happened again. I introduced myself to another person and I heard.
“Yeah, Claudia Parker, I knew I recognized you.” a voice from behind me said, “She looks different with her hair pulled back doesn’t she?”
It was a pleasant surprise to be recognized. I hadn’t expected that at all.
I said, “I take it many of you subscribe to our paper?” I heard a resounding “yes!” One lady said, “I read your column all the time.”
Helen Kristufek of Worth chimed in. “I used to be a columnist for the Reporter too.” she said. “But, that was many years ago. I’m old, I’m 86. Back then, they were a different paper.”
I felt an instant connection to the group.
Their affiliation to our paper and to me as a writer made it easy for me to talk with them. They treated me like they knew me and made me feel like I was a part of their church family. I walked out of there with pep in my step.
It felt good being acknowledged for my work by a collection of people I had never met.
I began purposefully looking for opportunities to acknowledge good qualities and behaviors I recognized in people each time I encountered them.
I’m not naïve or arrogant enough to believe Worth UMC treated me well because I work for this paper. I believe it’s their common practice. I hope we can all strive to be more open in receiving people we encounter.
Let’s all look for ways to acknowledge the good in people while choosing to show kindness to strangers as if they were family.
After speaking with my new friends at Worth UMC, I learned that many of them are uneasy about the imminent closing of their church.
After 130 years, they’re closing due to rising cost and low membership. Several members expressed anxiety about where and how they might fit into a different church setting.
However, I believe wholeheartedly that the seeds of good they’ve planted will produce good fruit. Good luck to you Worth UMC. Regardless of where you go, I pray you will be met with the same warmth and kindness you’ve shown to others.

  Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.

Emanuel isn’t great but Chuy would be worse

  • Written by Ray Hanania

Hanania-GrapevineHanania-GrapevineI pity the people of Chicago. On Tuesday, they must choose between the lesser of two evils:  Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Which will pull Chicago out of its growing financial and social abyss?
The ad campaigns of both are disappointing. All they do is bash each other. Neither tells anyone what they plan to do about Chicago’s problems.
It’s one reason why I am glad my parents fled Chicago in the 1960s. I didn’t have to experience the deteriorating school system, the rising crime or have to ride the crime-ridden CTA system to and from work.
As a suburbanite, I enjoyed more of life. I still found work in Chicago’s downtown, rushing out before sunset.
Yet, I recognize that Chicago is the economic engine that drives northern Illinois and the suburbs. And if Chicago collapses like Detroit did, Chicago’s suburban communities will suffer, too.
The relationship between Chicago and its suburbs is a lot different than Detroit and its suburbs. There’s no comparison. We’re much tighter, and the powers that control Chicago in Springfield control the fate of the suburbs, too.
So, I care about who wins. Personally, my favorite candidate in the Feb. 24 election was Ald. Bob Fioretti. Fioretti had a stronger handle on Chicagoland issues as a member of the Chicago City Council, which deals with $8.9 billion in spending. In contrast, Garcia was a lackluster former Chicago alderman manipulated by slickster Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Garcia is now a member of the Cook County board, dealing with a budget of only $3.9 billion.
I always found it hard to believe that Gutierrez wasn’t playing both sides when he backed Emanuel. Gutierrez and Garcia were always attached at the political hip.
Ironically, looking back, if Gutierrez had endorsed Garcia, Emanuel might have done worse and Garcia would have done better.
But Fioretti was never popular with the leftwing movement that surrounded Garcia, and he couldn’t cut away at Emanuel’s base. Fioretti couldn’t compete with Emanuel’s campaign cash, more than $14 million. But, had Fioretti made it into the runoff April 7, I know he would have won.
 But Fioretti is tragic spilled milk at this point. On April 7, Chicago voters will have to choose between Emanuel and Garcia. As an American Arab, I am no fan of Emanuel, even though I endorsed him four years ago believing that he would be fair.
 Instead, his first act was to abolish the Arab Advisory Commission, then pull the rug out from under the Arabesque Festival. He shut out most American Arabs from his administration and prefers to work with non-Arab Muslims instead.
Garcia has catered to the disenfranchised American Arabs, promising to restore the Advisory Commission, the Arabesque Festival and treat American Arabs like human beings, something Emanuel has not done.
But the future of Chicago is about more than Emanuel’s discrimination against American Arabs. It’s about which of the two is more qualified to run Chicago.
Emanuel isn’t great but Garcia would be worse.
I’d rather see Emanuel win and continue my campaign to convince him to recognize American Arabs rights, rather than see Garcia win and drag the city down. There’s somewhat of a future with Emanuel, but little hope with Garcia. 
Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

Now this is a sign of good communication

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorMy seven-year old daughter, Donae, and I just finished a Mommy and Me American Sign Language course!
That wasn›t the official course title but that’s what we called it. 
Balancing the needs of my two little girls, Donae, and four-year old Rhonda-Rene, is an ongoing challenge. Donae’s a bright, confident, theatrical, orator with an actual speaking schedule. Rhonda-Rene’s a loving, happy-go-lucky free spirit with minimal verbal ability due to Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) caused by a mutation of the FOXP1 gene. Like many parents, my husband, Don, and I are faced with balancing their unique needs to ensure each child develops at their fullest potential. 
Taking ASL classes was a great way for our family to bridge the disparities in our girls’ communication. Donae was able to learn the fundamentals of a new language while helping to teach Rhonda-Rene an alternative way to communicate until she can become a verbal communicator.
We concluded the nine-week course March 17. It was offered by the Eisenhower Cooperative 5318 W. 135th Street, in Crestwood.  PAGE-12-with-Cluadia-col-Donae-and-Stephanie-Dustin-Interpreter-for-the-DeathDonae Parker, left and instructor Stephanie Dustin pose after a sign-language class. Photo by Claudia Parker.
We met once per week from 4:00 to 5:30pm. It was only $20 for everyone in our household, but it’s free for Eisenhower Cooperative and member district employees. Member districts include 125-128, 130, 132, 143, 143.5 and 228.
The class is co-taught by instructors Mallory McGreehin, a Hearing Itinerant who goes from school to school servicing deaf and hard of hearing students fully mainstreamed in their home district and Stephanie Dustin, an interpreter for the deaf. 
“Originally these courses were for families of our student’s that were deaf or hard of hearing and our teachers with deaf and hard of hearing students in their classroom.” Dustin said. “But, we expanded our offering as a workshop so teachers could get CPDU credit hours.”
Upon Dustin learning we weren’t affiliated with their district through any of those means she smiled. “How’d you hear about us?” Dustin asked. “We don’t get many people from the community. I guess they don’t know about us.”
“Oh, I can help with that.” I thought to myself. I can’t stand it when a good thing goes unnoticed. “My daughter’s elementary school principal, John Stanton gave me the information.” I told her.  
Rhonda-Rene attends half-day preschool at Evergreen Park’s Northwest Elementary in a Special Education classroom. The entire team of educators at NW have been incredible about offering additional support for her development. It’s a collaborative effort between the school district, private therapists and Don and I to get this little girl everything she needs to thrive.
There are more than just children and adults with disabilities benefiting from ASL.
Babies can gain an advantage in language when taught to sign. I taught Donae a collection of signs when she was about six months old. She gradually learned 50 signs from watching a Baby Einstein “My First Signs” DVD regularly.
It proved remarkably useful. One evening she awoke in the middle of the night crying. I expected to shush her back to sleep, but instead, I found myself adding a layer over her pajamas because she signed the word, “cold.”
At the time, she wasn’t able to verbalize that word. I was grateful for having given her the ability to communicate non-verbally before her expressive language developed.
We discontinued signing once she began communicating verbally. Not that it’s required but having basic signing knowledge helped Donae and I comprehend during the ASL course. We really enjoyed it. It’s geared towards individuals who are beginning signers who want to further their knowledge in sign language. They also have an advanced signing course designed for a signer aiming to become more fluent.
Donae and I aren’t quite ready for fluency. I’d get so nervous when our instructors would ask us to practice sentences; mine were in slow motion.
Donae let me have it one day. “Mom, this is embarrassing. You’ve got to practice more.” She said.
Agitated by her unintended insult I replied. “Excuse me? You’re signing at the same pace as me.”
Undeterred by my rebuke, continuing to practice she blurted. “But, I’m seven.”  
McGreehin and Dustin did a great job keeping us engaged and giving equal attentiveness to everyone in the class. The structure is broken into pieces, there’s a short verbal/signing lecture, group work, games and lots of on-the-spot practice. 
The course is offered twice annually, once in the spring and fall. Registration is handled online through the Eisenhower Cooperative website Contact, Kristen Kozik 708-389-7580 extension 221 for more information.
Donae began bonding with Rhonda-Rene while she was in my womb. Seemingly, at the most inopportune times, she’d come meddling with my pregnant belly.
“Hello? Lil sister, are you in there? She’d ask. “If you can hear me, give a little kick.” It was like surefire magic because right on cue I’d feel those tiny feet kick. Donae would get such a rise out of that. “I’m going to be the best BIG sister ever.” She’d tell me.
Don and I couldn’t be more proud of how Donae is handling being a big sister. She’s identified Rhonda-Rene needs extra help. Instead of allowing herself to be bitter about the extra time and attention focused on Rhonda-Rene, she looks for ways to be involved. She said, “Mom, I’m glad we took this class. Now I know how to help my sister communicate better.”

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.