Chicago streets 2: The obscure western reaches

Every good Chicagoan knows exactly what this means: Halsted, Racine, Ashland, Damen, Western, Kedzie, and they can give you the number for each one. But after that things start to get a little fuzzy. Sure, a lot of people know that 4000 W is Pulaski, and 4800 W is Cicero, but most of us are hard pressed to name the rest.

For starters, 3600 W is Central Park - which is what Garfield Park, which it runs thru, used to be called. 6000 W is Austin, the western boundary of the neighborhood of the same name, which used to be a separate town that dominated Cicero Township until the other towns in the Township won an election to eject Austin (against its citizens' wishes) from Cicero and annex it to Chicago.

5600 W is Central, which is central to nothing at all. 6800 W is Oak Park, which keeps its name when it leaves Chicago and enters Oak Park. (What is it with cities around here naming their own streets after themselves?) 7200 W is Harlem, and I cannot explain why all the white folks living out there would have picked that particular name.

4400 W is Kostner, part of a mile of streets between Pulaski and Cicero that nearly all start with the letter K. This is the eleventh mile from the Indiana border, and K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet. The pattern continues with the twelfth mile named exclusively beginning with the letter L, which explains 5200 W, Laramie. The "M" mile breaks the pattern to retain Austin, but the "N" mile resumes it by starting with Narragansett (6400 W). Following that we have Oriole (7600 W) and Pacific (8000 W). The city stopped expanding just in time, ending the regular street grid at Cumberland (8400 W). Another mile further and they would have had to figure out a whole lot of "Q" names for streets.

Here's the full list in order:
4000 W Pulaski
4400 W Kostner
4800 W Cicero
5200 W Laramie
5600 W Central
6000 W Austin
6400 W Narragansett
6800 W Oak Park
7200 W Harlem
7600 W Oriole
8000 W Pacific
8400 W Cumberland


Chicago streets 1: The mystery of the South Side

Everyone knows that Chicago streets are numbered and every eight blocks is a mile. (Incidentally, the system was introduced only in 1908, before which there was street numbering chaos.) On the North Side you just have to memorize the numbering - Division is 1200, Lawrence is 4800, etc. But on the South Side, all east-west streets are named after their number, with a couple exceptions like Roosevelt and Garfield. You would expect the main streets to fall on the fours since there's a main street every half-mile. But as anyone who's taken the Red or Green Lines knows, the main streets instead land on places like 47th, 63rd, 87th, 111th.

The problem is not that the South Side has forsaken the principle of a main street every half-mile. It's that South Side streets near the Loop were already numbered when the street numbering reform went thru in 1908, and they didn't match up exactly with the new system. Instead of renumbering those streets, they were left as is, while the newer parts of the South Side were integrated into the 800-to-a-mile system.

Roosevelt (1200 S) is actually one mile south of Madison (1 N/S), Cermak (2200 S) is two miles south, and 31st (3100 S) is three miles south. After that the regular system resumes, which is why the main streets then follow regularly: 39th, 43rd, 47th, 51st, 55th, etc.


Best of 2008

1) Being in the same city as my girlfriend for a majority of the year.

2) Spending the summer reading Capital and Marxian theory.

3) Coming up with something like a dissertation topic, and taking satisfying grad classes.

4) Exploring Tokyo and Osaka, and Hiroshima, Nagoya, and Kobe. Kyoto was okay too.

5) Excursions to New York, San Francisco, Philly, DC.

6) Seeing incredible movies on the screen, many at historic theaters: There Will Be Blood, «色戒» (Lust, Caution), Броненосец «Потёмкин» (Battleship Potemkin), Touch of Evil, Vertigo, King Kong (1933), The Godfather.

7) Biking around Boston and environs.

8) Return to organizing.

9) Baseball! First trips to the original Yankee Stadium and Nationals Park (DC), return trips to two of the best newer parks, Citizens Bank Park (Philly) and AT&T Park (SF). Plus almost constant access to games on MLB's web service before leaving the country.

10) Living in Chicago again.


Whoa, Portuguese is messed up

I thought I'd look up how to pronounce Rio de Janeiro since I've been saying it lately when talking about the 2016 Olympics candidate cities. But it turns out that Portuguese pronunciation (at least in Rio itself) is so bizarre that if I said it correctly no one would understand what I was talking about. IPA from Wikipedia: [ˈhiu dʒi ʒʌˈnejɾu] (the footnote has variant Brazilian pronunciations, some of which are closer to the Anglicization). So it's something like "hew ji zhaneru". You can hear it spoken here.