Goodbye, Wicker Park

The fountain in Wicker Park.

“There is no such thing as bad change. All change is good.” — Igor, the maintenance guy in the building I live in.

This Friday will be my last day as a beat reporter for Block Club Chicago, followed by a staycation through December 7. ****

Reporting on Wicker Park and surrounding nabes Bucktown, Ukrainian Village and East Village has been the best job I’ve ever had and the most fulfilling and challenging on so many levels.

The time at Pipeline, DNAinfo and Block Club has flown by, thanks to an engaged ecosystem of residents, small businesses, schools, community groups, real estate development and drama that make up a neighborhood and make it so interesting to report on.

From 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, November 30, there will be an informal pop-in wrap/goodbye hangout at Lubinski Furniture, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Stop by the store, take photos in front of the holiday display, and enjoy tacos from Big Star, courtesy of reader David Dring and champagne donated by Rite Liquors and Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse (which is opening a second location in Wicker Park early next year).

After the store closes, there will be drink specials ($5 frozen margaritas/$3 Sauza shots/$4 Modelo drafts) at High Noon Saloon, 1560 N. Milwaukee Ave. Thank you to Ken and Sylvia Lubinski and staffers Jose, Jimmy, Fernando, Pepe and John for making the store feel like a second home over the past decade.

Ken Lubinski and Blu. A menorah was added to the scene after this photo was snapped.

Free neighborhood-focused giveaways will also be available, while supplies last.

Perhaps you want early works from Sir Gerald, the street artist? Or a copy of the just-released “LOOP: The Elevated Card Game,” which I ran out of time to write about? The ultimate stocking stuffer for transit geeks is designed by Tom LaPlante from the CTA-inspired Transit Tees. Read Mary Wisniewski’s review of the game in the Tribune, or Taylor Moore’s take on it in Chicago magazine.

This game will go to the first person who wants it! I did tear open the box but the cards are still wrapped up.

It’s about the journey, not the destination.

In 2009, Paula Barrington, executive director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, gave me the opportunity to take over writing her weekly member e-newsletter.

My first issue of the e-newsletter on April 6, 2009 featured the openings of Birchwood Kitchen and Cat & Mouse Game Store (the latter closed, was briefly replaced by something else, and will soon become Cebu Bar & Grill, and the former consolidated with its West Loop shop).

Lechon from chef Malvin Tan at Cebu Bar & Grill. The pork is dry rubbed for a full day to enhance the flavor before roasting. [Photo By Malvin Tan]

Prior to the chamber newsletter, which evolved into the independent and now defunct Chicago Pipeline website, newsletter and magazine, I worked at sales jobs while writing freelance stories for Chicago Journal, Chicago Reader, Chicago Parent and other publications. In 2001 and 2003 I also authored the text for two hardback photography books featuring adults with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.

In 2009, if anyone had asked me where I would be in 5, 7 or 9 years, I would have never expected to still be writing about Wicker Park almost a decade and three start-up publications later.

The stories kept coming! The neighborhood kept changing!

Old Pipeline newsletters headed to the paper shredder.

Thank you for reading. For supporting the existence of community-inspired neighborhood news. For sending news tips.

Thank you to Civil Media and Block Club editors and founders (Shamus Toomey, Jen Sabella and Stephanie Lulay) for keeping neighborhood news alive after DNAinfo folded and for making my stories better. Thanks to Pipeline and DNAinfo editors and collaborators Philin Phlash, Pat Daily, Joe Rubin, Andrew Herrmann, Lizzie Schiffman Tufano, Dave Newbart, John O’Brien, Angela Myers, Justin Breen, Lisa White, Bettina Chang, Alex Parker); former DNAinfo “bees” aka fellow reporters and current BCC beat reporters (Mina Bloom, Kelly Bauer, Mauricio Pena, Lee Edwards, Alex Hernandez), for finding unique stories and setting the bar high; and Block Club collaborators and freelancers (Heather Cherone with The Daily Line, Patty Wetli, Jonathan Ballew, Taylor Moore, Paul Biasco, Linze Rice, Howard Ludwig and many more).

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey! I have five days left, so please continue to send story tips to alisa@blockclubchi.org.

I will be starting a new chapter in Portland, Oregon next month.

Hello, Portsmouth!

-30-

Applications for the WP/Bucktown/West Town beat reporter position at Block Club Chicago are being accepted through December 17. Read more here.

Listening to a comment at a recent East Village Association community meeting to discuss the future of Happy Village. Photo by Stephen Rynkiewicz
The Block Club Chicago reporting team. Not pictured: Alex Hernandez
Believe it or not, I wrote a story about this bear. ^^