Cultivating In The Midst Of West Town

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Cultivating in the midst of West Town, between the intersections of West Chicago Avenue & Grand and Ashland & Augusta Boulevard lies the Ukrainian Village. A quiet city-hybrid suburb with a peaceful population and empty shops, filled with nothing but memories of the booming town before. How did I wind up here? The detour was about 45 minutes out of my regular commute. I was following this man; wait, hold up, it was for a class assignment. “Go around the city and observe an individual, transcribe their defining traits to create a character for a fiction film.” So, basically it was my homework to around the city and stalk someone. When I found him he was sleeping, contorted in a small wheelchair, residing between a small hipster coffee shop and the building where someone had tried to solicit money from me the night before. The man had long grey hair and wore a large oversized camouflage jacket; he seemed interesting enough. I tossed five bucks into the sixty-four ounce Seven-Eleven Slurpee cup wedged in the spokes of the wheel. I observed him through the tinted glass windows of the coffee shop while drinking some shit, overpriced pour-over they offered me. I was on my way out of the door, he woke up just before I had given up. I watched as he tried to solicit money from passing citizens. The craft, he nailed down to a science, he only confronted the business men and the groups of women; they seemed to be the only ones to give into his tactics. From the looks of it he made around twenty to thirty dollars in the span of an hour. The time was getting late, the sun began to make it’s blood-orange descent into another day. He tried several times to get onto the 66 bus towards Oakley. I pushed him onto the bus and paid the two dollar fee for his transit. He didn’t seem to appreciative, considering he yelled at me for assisting him with his wheelchair. Another thing to write down, a defining character trait: Independence. I rode past several bus stops, glancing out the scratched-up vandalized window of the bus, I noticed a few interesting shops and restaurants. By now, it was around eight. The homeless man I assisted onto the bus was asleep and I had enough textual information to script a fictional character. I requested the bus stop around the LaSalle Station for the Blue Line. From the moment I stepped foot off the bus I was attacked by the rich aroma of chocolate and fresh baked bread; It was the type of smell that could bring cholesterol to your nose. The sun had finally drowned below the horizon, leaving only a pink pastel borealis in the evening sky. I proceeded to walk up and down the streets, trying to discern where the sweet smells were residing. Chasing the aroma lead me to a bakery called Ann’s, a brushed grey cobblestone exterior welcomed the hungry customers. I had walked into the belly of the beast, when you open the door the scent of sugar and pastries puts you into a hypnotic diabetic trance. The disrespect displayed from the owners of the bakery towards their employees and customers was somewhat rectified by the deliciousness of their baked goods. I left the shop and started walking West, through the rest of the Ukrainian Village. You would think that the streets would be empty around 9:30 at night, but the Village couldn’t have been more alive. Young children, romantic couples, senior citizens, and the business type were all brought together by the same commonalities; friendly intimacy and the love of food. I ate at a small table near the center of the restaurant. The waitress had a beautiful scandinavian accent, which felt a little odd considering I was dining at a Ukrainian Kitchen, Tryzub. Without looking at a menu, I asked for her to bring me the Chef’s Special. What a risky move on my part, I have only had Ukranian food only a few times, I had no idea what I had just asked for. Twenty minutes later, she serves me a small soup platter with two chicken legs protruding from the lid. I uncovered the dish, Chicken Paprikash. You’re joking, right? The Chef of a Ukrainian Kitchen’s prize dish is of Hungarian descent. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that it was the best Paprikash that I have ever had, in my life. The Chef’s ample use of paprika, subtle hints of onions and eggs, made it an incredibly well rounded dish. I sent my regards to the Chef and went on my way towards the Blue Line trains back Home. I had an amazing caloric filled night, riveted with laughter, good food, and connecting with plenty of nice people from the Ukrainian Village. If you ever find yourself on the Blue Line trains towards O’Hare, or just wondering where to spend your night out; Visit the nice people of the Ukrainian Village, laughter and good food awaits. (Jonathan Ochocki/ CoS Student)

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