Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, July 16

Gapers Block

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The city I know, the city I grew up in, is rapidly changing; every day brings new development, both commercial and residential. So many buildings with history, mom and pop shops with soul are, sadly, disappearing. While the city changes daily, luckily a few things seem to remain constant. And as my son grows and explores, there are three things I absolutely want him to know about the city.

Be familiar with public transportation and its routes. For 13 years, I was without a car or driver's license and had it not been for public transportation, life would have been hell. Early in my life, I knew how to get from point A to point B, thanks to CTA. Knowing where and how to get places, fast, is going to be key in his exploration of Chicago. He can take the train or bus to places which will stimulate his creativity, make him laugh, make him think -- or even just to visit his friends. Or fast forward 16 years and he's driving with some friends who begin acting stupid. He can either stay in the car with them, or take the bus or "L" home. He knows how to get home -- and, as many of you may remember, without the hassle of the A and B trains.

Elote carts rock! You don't have to travel to a state farm or wait until summer cook-outs for corn on the cob, it's waiting for you with your local elotero. Smothered with margarine, mayonnaise, sprinkled with cayenne powder and cheese, it's hard to pass up their tasty corn treats. With their limey fresh fruits, corn-on-a-stick and fried flour chicharron, eloteros have an enterprising spirit that can tide you over until your next meal.

There's more to the city than just the North Side. Parts of our city have a rich history that many people ignore or are unaware of. Venture south and southeast and you'll discover there is Bronzeville, which once welcomed Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks and Louis Armstrong into its arms; the Pullman area, which is a national historic landmark; Sunday dim sum in Chinatown; Pilsen/Little Village, home to the Mexican Fine Arts Center -- all this and more can be discovered if you remember Chicago does extend past Madison. (However, the kid shouldn't forget that we are Cub fans and not Sox fans!)

Eventually, my son will discover the city on his own and carve out memories and experiences, and while these three things may seem small or insignificant, they will provide him with some truths I hope he will always follow: 1) Don't be afraid to travel on your own, since you are your best guide; 2) Never turn up your nose on someone trying to make an honest living for their family; 3) Explore the world, and don't just stay in your little corner -- you'll see there is so much more out there waiting for you.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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