To view all posts made to date, please go home to Live from Allied Drive. Otherwise, all posts have been categorized into the topics below for your convenience. Enjoy your visit, and please share your thoughts. The beauty of blogging is that all of us can engage in dialogue about issues that concern us. Please let us know what you think!

Topics of Discussion

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Right Side of Town?

So this morning I was browsing You Tube and I found this video taken on State Street and my fiance walked into the room and asked me if this was Philadelphia in the video. As you can see, it is all State Street in Madison ... I guess it caught him off guard because when you look at our city onscreen, there is this appearance that there are so many things to do and it's lively and fun ... I guess when you are all the way in the corner of the city, festivals are somewhat inaccessible and over time, it builds into this notion that there is nothing to do out here.

We both decided that if we lived closer to downtown, we would likely enjoy Madison a little more. Right now, we eat at McDonalds more than any other restaurant in Madison (because it's right here), and when we want to go hang out somewhere, we really do not have anywhere to go that is close by. So if you live on Allied Drive, Madison consists of McDonalds and ... I can't even finish that sentence. That is sad. More often than not, we don't really go out and do anything out here. I used to go out 1-4 nights a week when I lived in Chicago because I was really active in the arts so I was always either performing or catching the show of one of my performing friends. I miss that and I wish our community had a "scene" ... the rest of Madison seems to ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Allied Drive Community Meeting Unveils New Plans, What?

The big meeting that took place this weekend to obtain resident feedback on the path of development for the Allied Drive city properties where I live was brought to my attention by my alder, Brian Solomon. I have to say, Brian made a very genuine effort to get the word out. I received a voice mail, a flier taped to my door, and I saw fliers plastered all over the apartment complex in which I live. When Sunday rolled around, I was thinking, damn, it’s Sunday! I have to work tomorrow, I still have laundry to do, I need to make a grocery list, the apartment’s a mess, my puppy feels neglected. But Brian said this was an important meeting. They all are.

There was a decent turnout. All the familiar activists were there. And some new faces. There was also one other city property resident whom I recognized that showed up. It may not have been the town meeting that many were hoping for, but until it is realized that city people speak a different language than us residents, participation will remain where it is.

First of all, we are not trained to read schematics so for some, the diagrams are all just a bunch of shapes. Many community residents at the meeting still thought that the diagrams reflected all of Allied Drive and did not understand that this new development will only impact nine properties. Even when it is all explained to us, we will still harbor on details that may not really impact the overall design because we are not trained in urban planning so we do not really know exactly what to ask. On top of that, nearly half of the city property residents do not speak English as their first language and some need interpreters to even communicate at these meetings. It’s kind of like when someone asks, “How are you?” What can you say? Uh - fine?

In these situations, maybe we have to rely on experts to do what experts do. When it comes down to someone talking about schematics, I get a little impatient. I guess I can afford to trust the experts because if the end result does not fit what I said I wanted a year ago at the community design meeting, I can afford to shop elsewhere for shelter. Many of my neighbors can also afford to shop elsewhere and that is likely why they do not feel the need to give up a Sunday afternoon to hear city people talk about plans. Most of us have faith that the city leaders will come up with a good solution based on the information they have acquired from us. There are some people who live in the 10th district that are next-to-homeless and need a place to live that is affordable and will accommodate a lack of income and they voice their concerns at all these meetings, however I am not sure if this specific Allied Drive redevelopment project of these nine particular buildings is supposed to solve poverty, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. Until it is understood what the Allied Drive redevelopment project is to achieve, I think that the confusion and communication lapses will persist.

Some people raised concerns about the affordability of the units. However the residents who currently live in the city-owned apartments were not the ones to raise that question. It’s a logical question that would come up if you were asking the world what they think. I wish this place would hold a public meeting for the entire City of Madison to attend and express their concerns about redevelopment. I’d be the first one to say my concern is that I don’t make the income to live here. I bet that if I consume the entire meeting with my questions about affordability, the actual residents that pay rent there would get a little irritated and after a while they will likely stop coming out to the meetings because their questions and concerns are not being addressed. That is precisely why I left the meeting early. I understand the city strives for a solution that will please everyone, so naturally, their job is to listen. They are definitely doing a wonderful job of keeping their ears open. Now that we have a listening ear, the line to express concerns is growing so long because our community as a whole has a lot of concerns to express. However when it comes to this specific redevelopment project for these nine buildings on Allied Drive, our meetings are filled with people who simply do not live here.

The question asked over and over again was "How much will the rent be?" We talk about displacement and we talk about all these programs that would allow residents to remain here, and ideas come forth at these meetings asking the city to consider 100% Section 8 housing in the new development. I know that my household would not qualify for Section 8 because my household income is too high. Would that mean that I would have to move out? My next-door neighbor has made clear to the city that she would not qualify for Section 8. Would she have to move also? My upstairs neighbor would also not qualify, and neither would my neighbors on the second floor, and my friends over in the 2345 building also would not qualify because their incomes would be too high for Section 8. Would they also have to move out? That sounds like displacement to me.

I raised a question at the meeting in the midst of an argument between some community members and Mark Olinger over whether the new development could be 100% Section 8 or just 80% or 70%? There are 32 households remaining in the city properties. "How many of them are Section 8 recipients?" I asked. Mark indicated it was something like 2, maybe 3. That is less than 10%.

The properties that the city acquired are probably among the nicest apartments on Allied Drive, which I know does not say a whole lot, but I know that the criteria to get into these buildings included an income requirement of three times the rent. Rent here is between $550 and $725. Do the math. Our households can afford a mortgage for a first home if we had some help. One of the households in the city properties is paying for two apartments to accommodate their family. I know from sitting on the CDBG Commission that the City of Madison has some great programs for first time homeowners and there are a lot of people in these buildings that would make great candidates for such assistance. Within that prospective, I think that the city properties striving for at least 50% owner-occupied units may help move our community forward (and not out) if the assistance to obtain one of those units is connected to us residents.

It really pisses me off when people talk for me, and many of my neighbors share that sentiment. I live here in the city property so ask me what I can afford and ask me what I want. Ask my neighbors what they can afford. Ask them directly what they want. Don’t rely on an organization or a survey to speak for us and then interpret that turning Allied Drive into projects is the solution. There are only 32 of us left, how hard could that be? There used to be 80 of us, and more and more residents are leaving the city properties, and they are not all moving into substandard conditions. They are moving into better areas of the city into nice properties. If we had comparable properties out here, maybe some of us would not move out of this neighborhood and maybe we could help provide the stability that the city is looking for in this community.

I would be interested in an owner occupied unit that has 3 to 4 bedrooms (with a basement?), and I would like down payment assistance and some counseling to help me with challenges with my credit. If I do not get that here, I will get it elsewhere and that would mean that I will not stay in this community. I do not want to live in the projects.

That’s all I have to say about the meeting this weekend (at least for now!). I’m not going to write about how some Fitchburg residents are so impassioned about fighting the concept of streets opening up Allied Drive into the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s all for another day, but I will say that the Berlin Wall comes to mind.

New Johnny Depp Movie Hits Theaters

Johnny Depp has some serious fans and in my opinion, his best movie moments were not in Pirates of the Carribean. One of my favorite Johnny Depp movies is Secret Window. Perhaps because I love to write, but also because it tells the story of the inner struggles of a man which many could relate to, whether you are a writer or not. There is a scene with the man who accuses Johnny Depp’s character, Mort, of stealing his story that had a line that I liked. Johnny Shooter, who is really Mort’s subconscious in character, questions him about his smoking and Mort says he just picked up on the habit for his health. Later on, he says “I don't care. I'm just gonna smoke. I'm just gonna totally smoke. I'll finish these, go to the store and get a brand new pack, and smoke the shit out of that one.” That was the part of the movie where I was cued that Mort and Johnny Shooter were possibly the same character (because Johnny smoked). It was all very interesting and the movie was very engaging to me.

Johnny Depp was also in Blow, and I don’t know what it is about drug dealer movies that get me so worked up. I’ve never sold drugs and everything I know about selling drugs came from second-hand experience or the movies. Still movies that draw an entire economy around drugs that expand globally, I guess that all intrigues me. Johnny’s character in that movie was named George who goes over to his friend Derek’s house with 100 pounds of blow asking him to sell it. Derek says it will take a year and the scene shifts over a few days later counting stacks of cash to Derek saying “36 hours. I can’t believe I sold it all in 36 hours!” And then George says something about it taking longer to count the cash than it did to sell it. Blow was a good movie too and this movie moment was definitely my favorite Johnny Depp movie moment.

But that may change with his new flick hitting theaters later this month. Sweeny Todd is another Steven King novel turned movie and is about a barber coming out of prison to avenge the death of his wife. An evil barber? I could totally see Johnny Depp rocking that role! See you at the movies!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thank You City of Madison for Plowing Allied Drive's Snow

I have had to go to the downtown MATC campus about 10 times in the last couple weeks, and the snow banks there are next to impossible to navigate around if you are on foot. Many people in the Allied Drive community are on foot and many of us have no alternative than to walk in order to get to the businesses close by, including Walgreens, McDonalds or Cub Foods. If you are walking with a stroller with multiple small children, the uphill walk to get to the end of Allied Drive is very cumbersome when you factor in snow and ice. I know resources were challenged with all the snow we got, and I am very thankful that the city has contributed to such a great job with the plowing of streets and walkways in the recent days. Thank you!!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why Mattresses Are Dumped on Allied Drive?

This was a question I have been asking for about a year now and from all those who I have asked, there are several different answers:

1 - When people are evicted, they often do not take their beds with them, so the landlords just dump them on the curb and I guess the sanitation department comes and picks them up.

2 - When people are moving, mattresses are the most common thing that does not get transported, so the owner of the mattress dumps it on the side of the road, again, waiting for the sanitation department to come and pick it up.

3 - This is one that I heard which I will share for all the conspiracy theorists out there, though let me preface, I have no idea if this is true or not. In order for WHEDA to put money into our neighborhood, there are a series of guidelines that must be met as it relates to crime and upkeep. The drug dealers dump furniture out onto our curbs in an effort to keep WHEDA out. Actually, I heard it is not the drug dealers, but rather the drug dealer's drug dealers. Could there be truth to that? I don't know, this is just what I have heard. In my opinion, there are much easier ways to keep WHEDA out of our neighborhood if that was the goal.

4 - Bed bugs are still a problem out here in the community. There are some landlords out here that do not really make an effort to maintain sanitary living conditions and angry tenants will throw their bug infested mattress anywhere to get rid of it. If it is thrown in an inappropriate place, the landlord may move it to the street curb.

The last one is confirmed to be true - one of my neighbors down the street has been trying to resolve a bed bugs problem for about a year now. The landlord is unresponsive. He was so mad, he threw his mattress out the window onto the courtyard. Eventually, it likely ended up on the street side.

I can't complain about the city being my landlord - they do a great job with maintaining things here. I am thankful for that, because I think if my landlord was unresponsive to any bug problems in my home, I am liable to do something just as drastic with my mattress.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Art of Listening

One of the responsibilities that accompany being a city commissioner for the City of Madison involves reviewing requests for funding and contributing to a voting process which determines if an applying agency is granted all or part of the funding they request. With any grant application, there is a need to identify a problem and articulate a solution that is associated with a dollar amount. As a group, we determine if the agency’s proposal is a viable and sound response to a valid issue, and if the majority is in agreement, the funding moves forward.

One aspect of this process that strikes me is how many agencies develop solutions without incorporating the contributions of the communities affected by the issue. Individuals affected by social ailments are not incapable of contributing or producing a solution.

I seem to have a slightly different prospective because in addition to being on two city commissions, I also work for an agency and serve on a board that responds to needs within the community that I live in. Through all this, I interact with a lot of agencies and a lot of providers, and overall, I have often witnessed people being told what their problem is and then subsequently being told what their solution is. As a resident of Allied Drive, I have often been told what to do to solve my problems. Go to the food pantry or fill out these forms for some other kind of assistance. As one resident, I am saying that is not the long-term solution. No one seems to ask me what I want. Partly because it is assumed that they already know.

You ever see the kung-fu movies where in the midst of a fight scene, two fighters jump kick at each other, but completely miss one another? That is the problem and solution here. As I see it, many community and government agencies, and many people, often fail to listen. When we are in a position of power and responsible for providing solutions, we often forget that we have a responsibility to listen. Really listen. Listen with the purpose of learning and understanding without any preconceived thoughts that you already know what is going on. What you may learn is that the real problem is not what you thought and therefore, the solution was not what you envisioned. This applies to all the leaders in Madison. There are never any waivers to listening and understanding. In other words, just because you are of the same race as those you are trying to serve, or speak the same language, or just because you know someone’s mother, or just because you have known the person since they were a child, does not automatically mean that you fully understand each other.

There are a lot of people out here that want to contribute to better lives for all residents. There are also a lot of people here who want better lives. I don’t know exactly what the path looks like to get there, however I know there can not be just one voice guiding all of us which way to go. Please listen, and allow everyone to have a voice in our efforts to move forward.

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Community Services, For Us, By Us

Recently, Madison Voices reprinted an article that I wrote for India Tribune about my take on Community Services as it affects us on Allied Drive, coming from a multi-cultural prospective of an Allied Drive resident. My main point in the article is how I wish more agencies would listen to residents, and I wish more residents would take a more proactive role in the area of social services. We may not always be able to help ourselves, however we should always have a stake in it. My biggest pet peeve involves agencies that hand-hold residents to the point of paralysis. For example, if I had a driver who took me everywhere I wanted to go, after years and years of being chauffeured around, driving is going to be a very big deal for me. I am very proud to be on the board of the Wellness Center, an organization that offers a great example of how an organization that serves a neighborhood should function. About a third of our board consists of neighborhood residents, and I think it makes a big difference in how our organization functions. It may be frustrating for the rest of the board at times to have to deal with Allied Drama time to time, however the personal touches of our board members add the neighborhood flavor that I often see missing in community efforts that our driven by those outside of our community. Here is the article that was printed in the last Madison Voices:

Working for a non-profit that focuses on ethnic minorities, as well as serving as the minority representative for the Community Services Commission in my city of residence, I tend to view pretty much everything through a lens that identifies differences based on race, ethnicity and culture.

Perhaps Chicago has spoiled me. I am accustomed to our community taking initiative to address the needs of our people. Needless to say, it is annoying to me when I see outsiders of a culture attempting to address a need without fully understanding the cultural dynamics of a community. For example, I live in a small pocket on the outskirts of a capital city, and it seems as no coincidence that my entire neighborhood of about 8 blocks consists predominantly of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and low-income whites. I did not choose to live in this neighborhood. Various circumstances seemed to lead me here, as if the arm of our city’s capital ushered me to this neighborhood because this was where I belonged.

This small roughly 8-block community is fully saturated with a plethora of community organizations. Considering the lens I see things through, it is hard not to notice that most of the organizations are led and executed by middle-class white folks who have said, “I will not be afraid.” Despite the inflated rumors of fights, thugs, and prostitutes and gangs and whatever else the imagination can muster up, they decide “I want to save those people.” Yes, we really are often referred to as “those people.” Without really understanding our backgrounds and our various cultures, the journey to end social ailments proceeds.

They identify what we need. More disability checks. More food pantries. More vouchers for this and that. Can anyone say “crutch”? The Desi-scene in Chicago is not like that. There are still tons of services for our people. Apna Ghar, Indo American Center, and so many others are run by us, for us. If anyone unfamiliar with our culture wants to contribute, they are welcomed, but they have to conform to our culture. Not the other way around.

There needs to be a consciousness of the constant pressure placed upon us all to assimilate into one with some influences being stronger than others. Be conscious of the way you look at things and make conscious decisions that reflect our cultural values. Sometimes that may mean we have to stand up and be the oddball to say “This is how it is. Deal with it.” This voice is so important. We are in the first, second and third generation of Indians here. Our decisions will base how tenth, eleventh and twelfth generation Indians reflect our culture.

I recently visited an Asian-run organization that serves after-school programs for East Asian middle school girls in an effort to address self-esteem and foster self-image consciousness. They were addressing some performance that the girls recently made that was considered provocative. Maybe it was, I don’t know, I was not there. However, I wanted to know whose standard the girls’ performance was being based on? Nearly every Bollywood movie features a sexy, enticing dance scene, and we encourage our six-year old daughters to replicate those dance scenes on stage at our events. Those unfamiliar with our culture may very likely think we are exploiting our children. Were the young Hmong girls interpreting a cultural dance influenced by MTV and hip hop? I don’t know, but that question needs to be asked. Who knows, maybe Asian girls are a little more self-assured than they are given credit for. Is low-self esteem really an issue among Asian girls? Or are we attempting to treat another more predominant culture’s ailment without fully examining its existence within our own?

I live in a community that attempts to convene to address the needs of our neighbors, however our efforts are often seen by others as inefficient and ineffective, and it is often thought that all we do is argue and fight and we don’t get anything done. When you have a dozen or so people representing two generations and cultures encompassing four continents attempting to resolve a problem as something like, oh I don’t know, poverty? Disagreements are bound to occur. However looking at the results of our actions through a different lens, you may see that we all love one another and we do make things happen. We may not hold meetings that are called to order via motions and Roberts Rules. However, is that the only way to make an impact and serve needs? They say Rome was not built by having meetings. Maybe, just maybe, there is some truth to that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Dog Ate My Rent, I Swear

So we were getting ready to go pay some bills and as we were getting everything together to walk out of the house with our puppy Max, I told her to go lay down for a minute. Well she did go lay down ... with our check! After having a dog for just a short amount of time, you get to know their facial expressions, and this is the face that my dog makes when she KNOWS she did something she was not supposed to do. I could not believe it! Thankfully, Dane County Credit Union still let us deposit the check because getting a new check from our employer would have likely taken another pay period. For the record, as long as the pertinent information is still intact on the check, it could still be cashed. I wonder if Meyer Management would accept that as a valid excuse for not paying the rent on time?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kids Playing Football In Courtyard

This was a picture I took after allowing the kids playing football in our courtyard entertain me for a bit. As you can see, there was a variety of ages and both boys and girls playing together, and what I found amusing is how the girls would hug each other after scoring any points. How is that for totally feminizing a testosterone fueled sport? The two oldest looking boys looked like they were so desperate to play, they got anyone and everyone together who was willing to play in order to make a full team. They were calling all the plays and trying to explain to the younger kids exactly what to do in order to execute a play - it was fun watching, especially knowing snow is going to hit any day now ... better enjoy these nice days while they last!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Halloween on Allied Drive vs. State Street

I found Halloween to be unbelievably quiet out here - I remember it was like that last year too. There were a few costumes here and there, not a lot of people out on the streets, and all around, the aura was not consistent with children's frenzy and excitement. It was fine for me because I was not all that up for going out or dressing up this year anyway. An interesting conversation I had with a neighbor who was going out to State Street for the first time ever, revealed that she was actually scared to go out to State Street. She said that she is petite, and she has heard it was crazy out there and she just does not know about the whole plan. Ironic, because I hear that all the time about people being scared to come out to Allied Drive.

Last holiday season, I was was selling really heavy on eBay where all my spare time in November and December involved making my share of 4th quarter retail profits. During those two months, it made sense to hire someone to do some light housekeeping for eight weeks, once a week for one or two hours. Would you believe that I had three different businesses tell me no, they will not come out here? One of them I remember after telling them my address starting asking me a LOT of personal questions about my living situation, why I need a maid, and I was thinking, aren't I the one that is doing the hiring and supposed to be the one asking the questions? One of them said they needed a deposit because of the "risk" involved in cleaning my house, and since I was an eBay pimp that month, I had the cash flow, so I agreed, maybe a little too fast because he called me back to tell me he can't do it because of some other lame reason. Then there was one woman who had an ad in the State Journal classifieds who finally said she would do it for $14 an hour and a two hour minimum. Fine. eBay was consuming all my time and the two extra hours to help me sustain all my other responsibilities would have helped me not kill myself from sleep deprivation.

The day she was supposed to come out, she called early in the morning to ask me if my apartment building is safe. She said her boyfriend told her Allied Drive was a bad neighborhood, so she wanted to make sure. I told her that I have never had a problem here. Then she asked me how dirty my place was. "I mean, is it really grungy?" Ok, now I was getting irritated, but I maintained my composure and said, no, not really. She said her boyfriend was going to come with because she just did not feel safe. Again, I am a little irritated because I really was not wanting all these people in my house snooping around and lifting my valuable eBay secrets. So she comes out, I hear a knock on the door, by the time I get to the door, I see a woman practically running out to the parking lot. The naive part of me thought, oh, maybe she forgot something and she's coming back. About 15 minutes later, the phone rings, and it was her. She said she can't come out here. She was here and she just did not feel comfortable. There was a car in our lot with a broken window and she could not afford to allow her things to be stolen. You know, whatever.

Let me tell you about things getting stolen from here. I had accidentally dropped a Visa gift card that fell out of my lap while I was getting out of my car in the parking lot. The next day, one of my Latino neighbors approached me and gave me the card saying they found it next to my car. Now this was a gift card that anyone could have just used without getting in any kind of trouble. I thought the card was lost and I really didn't care because it only had about $8 left on it, so it was no big loss. However the card was returned to me by one of my neighbors who saw it next to my car and assumed it was mine. I really didn't want to hear about this lady thinking that everyone on Allied Drive was out to steal the junk in her run-down car.

Anyway, back to this lady who looked so raggedy herself, I really don't know if she could've cleaned all that well anyway. First of all, if she would have taken the time to really look at what was in my parking lot, instead of just seeing what she wanted to see, she would have noticed a lot of really nice pimped out rides. I have a lot of Latino neighbors who work on their cars all summer and you can tell that they really love their cars - and they hook their cars up - there are some really sweet rides in our lot! We had a memo from Meyer Management telling us that we can only have a certain number of cars parked in the lot, likely because some of the cars that my neighbors work on are extra cars over and above what we are allowed to park. She said she was scared, what was she really scared of?

I don't know - it is probably the same thing that my neighbor heading out to State Street was scared of ...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interactive Reading Good For Kids

The few times I have read to children, I have made a conscious effort to be deliberate in my interaction with the kids I was reading to. I made sure I talked to the kids about what was happening in the story every few pages, or asked questions that would prompt them to re-tell what I read in their own words, or simply ask them what they think is going to happen next. I picked up on the fact that many of the kids in my neighborhood who I would visit or spend time with would ask me to read, not because they wanted to hear the same story read to them for the 20th time, but I think they just wanted the undivided attention away from the "grown folks" where the focus was on them. Just when I thought that I was so brilliantly insightful in the child's psyche, I saw a group of kids reading at the Allied Wellness Center open house last weekend, and would you believe that the kids you see in the picture reading was on to the same conclusions? She was totally asking the other kids what they thought was happening and why the story was going this way or that way ... I guess I really am slow. At least when it comes to children!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

WTF? How About Some Clear Direction?

So across the street from where I live, on the 2400 block of Allied Drive, these signs just recently propped up. The first thing I thought of when I saw the signs is the City. You know, when people say things that they have heard about Allied, especially the city-owned properties that I live in, they will often say, "The city says ..." I know from serving on two city commissions and somewhat following the actions on one or two other city bodies, it is very important to know who in the city is being referred to, and what role do they play in the actions being claimed? We are all subject to very mixed information on Allied Drive. Some time ago, the big news was that the city was going to put out all the city residents after they bought our buildings out. Then the word was that the city was going to give us all 30-day notices sometime before the end of the year. Then some people were saying that they are moving all of us to Avalon Village and giving us $300 if we stay. The truth of the matter is that the exact plan of action has not quite yet been determined, but we have all been promised that the course of action will be reasonable and that we will be given ample time to prepare (and I think we have made ourselves clear that we need a little more than 30 days to prepare for a move). If you live in the city properties and you want some real answers, talk to the right people, because believe me, even within the city, it is easy to get mixed information. Talk to people with authority:

Mark A. Olinger, Director of Planning and Community Development: 608-266-4635
Percy Brown, Community Development Supervisor: 608-266-6558, x311

Both of the above individuals have indicated publicly and privately that they are open to speaking with residents. If you live in the city-owned properties, don't freak out about anything you hear until you speak with one of the above individuals, because as the picture above reflects, information out here can be skewed. Be proactive and certain that you are acting on accurate information. In other words, don't pack and move because you think you are getting put out until you know for sure that you are getting put out.

And by the way, who is the brain-wizard who came up with the placement of the above one-way signs?

The Madness of Holiday Shopping

Shopping can be a crazy experience between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between lines and crowds and parking spaces, it can all be a very stressful experience. Though I heard all the ads on television about stores opening at 5am or having moonlight madness sales starting at midnight, I never thought that people actually left their house after Thanksgiving dinner to stand in line at a store, until one year when my cousin asked me after Thanksgiving dinner if I wanted to go out to Best Buy. “For what?” I asked. He told me about all these deals that they have and how people stand in line for hours just to get in the store. I guess he picked up a laptop for just a couple hundred bucks - I am sorry, but that is nuts. I like deals, and a new laptop for a couple hundred dollars sounds nice, but I still can’t imagine camping out in a cold parking lot after Thanksgiving dinner! There is a Black Friday Web site where you can get access to all the Friday-after-thanksgiving deals online, so for example, with Best Buy, it is a whole lot easier to see what they have available online. Plus, you can stay warm!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Brings Out The Nasty

What is up with Halloween candy? I remember trick-or-treating and eating Snickers and Kit Kats and Reese's peanut butter cups. I was at a neighborhood event and this girl was eating gummy worms and gummy cockroaches. I remember gummy worms, but I remember them being hot pink. It is so gross - do they really have to look so realistic? I probably egged the girls on to be really sick with it by telling them how nasty they were. Halloween is cool and all, but I don't know about gummy cockroaches. Yuck!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Let Allied Drive's Hungry Eat Chinese Food!

Ordering food on Allied Drive has been a pet peeve of mine as you can read in my previous post "Hungry On Allied Drive" ... I found a place that will deliver to Allied Drive and I was so thrilled! I was hungry today, we did not have any food in the house, and I did not feel like going out, and I am burned out on Dominos Pizza ... so needless to say, I was thrilled when I found out Grand China Buffet at 2705 Beltline Highway will go where no typical delivery man dares to go. So if you are hungry, and you live on Allied Drive, call Grand China Buffet at 608-276-8833. They have great service, timely delivery and good food!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hungry on Allied Drive

There is a lyric to a track that I have heard about 2,000 times in the last 5 days (because it is on the Need for Speed soundtrack). This track found a way to adhere to my brain and I find myself humming it at work, mainly because it is so characteristic of Allied Drive. Here is an excerpt:

So if ya hit, the ambulance, it don't come around here
Now ya stuck, not even cabs, they don't run around here
If ya hungry, pizza man, he don't come around here
The last line there is key because that is one thing I find so aggravating about this community. It is not possible to get a pizza delivered on Allied Drive because Madison's pizza joints are "uncomfortable" with our community. That does not stop me from trying. I call the pizza places every couple months (usually when I am on my period) and and the conversation goes something like this:
Lina: Hi, I was wondering if you deliver and how far you go?

Stan the Pizza Man (in uppity cheerful voice): We sure do! Where do you live?

Lina: I'm over by Verona Road, right by Walgreens.

Stan the Pizza Man (still in an uppity cheerful voice): No problem! What can I get for you?

Lina: Great! (Note: This is where I order my food.)

Stan the Pizza Man (still in an uppity cheerful voice): Excellent, can I get your delivery address?

Lina: Sure! I am at 2347 Allied Drive. (Note: I make an conscious effort to sound uppity and proper here, think Bree from Desperate Housewives.)

Stan the Pizza Man (notable coldness in voice): Oh. Please hold.

After a couple minutes, Stan the Pizza Man returns.

Stan the Pizza Man (notable coldness still in voice): I am sorry, we don't come out to Allied Drive.

Lina: Really? Why is that? (Note: I question the reasons as if it is the first time I am having this conversation.)

Stan the Pizza Man (notable coldness still in voice): Well, our delivery people do not feel comfortable going down there.

Lina: Really? They are not comfortable? That's odd, Do you know why they do not feel comfortable? (Note: My tone is still as if it is the first time I have heard that we can not get food here.)

Stan the Pizza Man (still cold): Well I guess there have been some prank calls from out there and some of our drivers have gotten robbed, so they don't like going down there.

Lina: Really? You never get prank calls from anywhere else in Madison?

Stan the Pizza Man (cold): I don't know.

Lina: Do you know if this is this a policy for all of your locations? (Note: Now I am preparing to shift into bitch-mode.)

Stan the Pizza Man (still cold): Well I don't know, that is just what they said.

Lina: So what I am hearing is that deliveries can only be made if the driver feels comfortable at the time, so if I call on a different day when a different driver is working, or maybe even the same driver, they may feel comfortable driving down this street at another time and I may be able to get a delivery on a different day, right? I mean, maybe the driver is just having a bad hair day today and doesn't feel like going outside. (Note: Bitch-mode, 1st gear)

Stan the Pizza Man (still cold): Maybe, I really don't know.

Lina: It's too bad equal opportunity and affirmative action don't apply to the hunger of members of federally protected groups. (Note: I only say things like that on my bad hair days, and maybe when I have some cramps too)
Blah blah blah, depending on my mood, I may push it a little more. I have called all the pizza places within a two mile radius, including Glass Nickel, Pizza Extreme, Rocky Rococo's and Pizza Pit. It's all the same conversation. Some will offer to meet me at the end of the block, like over on Red Arrow or Crescent. That's generous, but the whole reason I asked for delivery was so that I did not have to go outside. If I am going down the block, I might as well drive out and pick the darn pizza up and save the $2 for delivery. Domino's, though they have offered similar conversations as above, will still deliver here if the sun is up (I'm not trying to be funny, that is really what they told me). However over the last few weeks, I called after sunset and did get a delivery. But damn, Domino's gets old after a while! I guess I should not complain, as Suni Clay says on his track, if ya hungry, pizza man, he don't come around here ... Any ideas on how we can get food out here? I am all ears!!

Also, I added the sound track to the side bar - take a few hundred listens so that I am not the only Madisonian humming this song over the next several weeks! I included the lyrics too, and I have to say, the rest of the track totally reflects our 'hood ... as if it was written right here. But I guess to presume that would be small-minded. Maybe, possibly, every city has an Allied Drive. Regardless, I decided to proclaim it as the Allied Drive anthem - hey, if we can proclaim mayors on Allied Drive, we can certainly proclaim anthems!

UPDATE: Chinese food delivers to Allied!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Police Calls: Plug and Play, Click and Drag

The Wisconsin State Journal has this great interactive map that will show all the areas of Madison and the total police calls that were made from the various areas of the city. The Allied Drive area was way ahead of many of the other city's areas with 288 calls in 2006, however we were not number one ... the University area had 431 calls. These numbers encompassed calls for aggravated battery, attempted murder, battery, homicide, burglary, arson, armed robbery and sexual assault. So there it is ... now when people automatically bring up Allied Drive in discussions about crime in Madison, let's talk about the University first. After all, they are number 1!

In related news, WSJ covers the new Allied Plan:

The bantering over the perfect solution for Allied Drive continues ...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Prisoners of our own homes?

I keep hearing a lot of talk about streets opening up the Allied area so that through the middle of Allied Drive, there would be another street that goes through our neighborhood creating a pathway between our neighborhood and the rest of the Dunn's Marsh community. Many individuals are vehemently against this road, and following is a summary of reasons I have heard at various neighborhood association and public city meetings:

1 - The streets are already very narrow and the open pathway would increase traffic and residents don't want any more cars coming through their quiet street.

2 - It would be so expensive and as city tax payers, many individuals feel they have the right to say no on the grounds that it would just seemingly be irresponsible use of tax dollars, and that there are better things to spend money on.

3 - The individuals that tend to speed and race down Allied are thought to potentially speed down the newly open street as well, and who would want that?

4 - And lastly, perhaps an extension of the above point, some of the residents on the other side of Allied just don't want Allied people coming out to their domain. A street would seem like an open invitation to come out to their neighborhood.

There are some very basic reasons that I see in favor of opening up the street, some of which are summarized as follows:

1 - In terms of safety, if there are more openings into Allied Drive, that makes the neighborhood less segregated from the rest of the city and allows police to have more ways to come into the community serving as a deterrant to some of the crime areas that are somewhat out of reach to normal traffic.

2 - It would be easier for those of us whose mode of transportation is foot to have actual streets to walk down, as opposed to shortcuts through fields and brush, especially in the snow and rain. Speaking from experience, it totally sucks walking to Walgreens in the snow. No one shovels snow off the fields.

There are some basic urban planning reasons for opening up the streets that boils down to a healthy community needing streets to access the rest of the community. I remember going to a neighborhood meeting and hearing a resident from the other side complain about the prospect of the streets opening up and the reason cited was that he did not want "people from down there, up here." There was some consensus among those around him and I don't think that he realized that I was one of those dreaded people from "down there" and hearing that conversation made all of the above really irrelevant.

It seems the real question is whether Allied Drive is deserving of access to the rest of the city, or are we all summoned to remain trapped in this little street with minimal access to what all the other residents of Madison have access to.

When my father was younger, he would often opt for quick fixes on home repairs. We often fixed leaky pipes with duct tape. One thing I learned growing up is that band-aid fixes typically result in something blowing up down the road and requiring a lot of money and a lot of time, and sometimes a little bit of heart to fix. For example, when pictures are damaged in a flood, it takes a certain type of attention to salvage them. That leaky pipe is Allied Drive. For years, we have made little fixes on Allied Drive, parallel to duct tape on a leaky pipe, and things are ready to blow. So be prepared, Madison, the overall solution will require a lot of money and a lot of time, and maybe a little bit of heart.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Payday Loan Store Alternatives

Following is a link to an article that just ran in the Wisconsin State Journal on payday loan stores ... very timely after my rant on these stores in my last post!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Survival of the Fittest on Allied Drive?

I participated in an Employment and Training Open House today at the Boys and Girls Club, and it is always nice to do the work that I do in the community that I am connected to. As the appointed MC for the event, I navigated the various training programs available to residents in the community while making my best effort to keep the attendees engaged. All but one attendee was from the Allied Drive community and all but three attendees had been out of work for at least 90 days. One of the comments that consistently came forward was the need for a job now, today, yesterday. Rent is backed up, lights are about to be turned off, a baby is on the way. The question we were confronted with was how can we expect anyone to go to school for even as little as 3 weeks without pay? “What kind of job do you want” was not even a question to ask. Many in this room were willing to do absolutely anything at all that would offer a paycheck. How does that get anyone ahead? We cited success stories of other residents who sat in the same very seats months ago and made commitments to enroll in training programs and are now working at places like US Cellular, The Isthmus and Wisconsin Department of Revenue. It can happen, however it will be an uphill battle, and I was able to guarantee everyone in the room that at least ten things will pop up and attempt to block graduation from any program. It takes a lot of perseverance and a lot of determination to get ahead around here.

Much of that can relate to anyone’s life, however what makes Allied Drive unique is that everyone is in survival-mode, everyone is in crisis and everyone is pumped with serotonin in this grand effort to make it to the end of the day. When you live in such an environment, I swear, it impacts your ability to think straight. All the crisis situations I have been in out here were followed by this urgency to fix the situation with the most accessible solution. Nine times out of ten, that solution was self-destructive in some way, but it pushed the problem to bay. And though I knew it was self destructive, I opted for it anyway. I don’t know why. It has only been recently, through very strict discipline and consciousness, that I stopped myself from taking out a payday loan or going to that auto title loan place down the street whose signs scream at me as I am pulling down Allied Drive EVERY DAY. All these words screech, like "Fast Money," "No Hassles," or "Up To $10,000 NOW." Something makes me want to go in there and something makes me think that I would actually qualify for something close to that $10,000, and that would somehow solve all or most of my problems – can you imagine a $10,000 pay day loan? It would take decades and the value of a house to pay that off!

There is some kind of essence that breeds on Allied Drive and shifts us to this mindset that we are on the verge of collapsing. That distorts our ability to respond in a sound manner. They say that crisis meets everyone at some point in time, but imagine being confronted with it at the same time as all your neighbors, every day at every hour! Have you ever seen “28 Days Later”? That is what life out here feels like every day, all the time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Power of One a Success

The Power of One campaign came to a close and was deemed a success! Something like $8,000 was raised for the MAP program - congratulations!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

It's Black and White on Allied Drive

Someone commented recently that kids, black, white, Latino and Asian, do not play together. I've always known that not to be true, at least out here. Today, I walked out of my apartment, and these kids were playing "ninja" right outside my door. My camera let me take one picture before dying on me - though I can't say that kids do not see color, I can say that I don't think that they understand differences based on color until we teach that to them. My fiance and I were recently at a party with a lot of kids, and one of the young girls referred to my fiance as a "man with dark skin." Kids don't understand anything beyond that - just different color skin. When we first moved out here, a young Latina girl came up to my fiance and asked him if there are any kids in our family that she could play with. She didn't care what we looked like - she just wanted someone to play with. It's too bad as we get older we build all these biases toward one another. Allied Drive certainly provides experience for kids to learn how to live with one another in the broader scope of this world. I wish the rest of Madison could benefit from some of those same lessons.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Allied Drive Unsafe For Children?

At a recent Madison city council meeting, an elected official was witnessed commenting within a public city meeting that Allied Drive is not a place anyone would want to bring their kids on the weekend. Such a snide comment reflecting snippets of news commentary of alleged violence within events in our community very likely influences others to believe that Allied Drive is inappropriate for children.

Despite the little pieces of Allied Drive that is revealed on the news, any Allied Drive resident would concur that our children drive our community. We have a lot of kids here. Some think that our kids are neglected. Don’t pass judgments strictly through surface observations. Poverty brings forth very complex factors.

Some think our neighborhood is violent. I wonder if the recent murders and abductions on State Street have resulted in similarly vehement remarks about State Street not being a place anyone would want to bring their children. Especially considering State Street’s violence can be perceived as a notch above Allied Drive.

Though violence is reported from time to time on Allied Drive, there has always been a story associated with the logic that led to the events. It’s over a man, or someone cheating, or someone not getting paid. In all of Madison, it is rare that acts of random violence occur.

The sad fact of the matter is that some Madisonians blame Allied Drive for virtually all of the city’s crime. Even a recent neighborhood meeting several communities away tried to make Allied Drive responsible for a substantial crime occurring in their community. However the reality is that Allied Drive busts encompass people from all over Madison. If you drive down Verona Road and pass the Allied Drive area and you see cars pulled over with multiple police officers interrogating the individuals in the car, there is a likely chance that you are seeing someone from another community that the police caught either coming into Allied Drive to do some wrong, or coming out of our community after doing some wrong. My small community encompassing about nine blocks is not a scapegoat for the entire City of Madison’s problem with drugs and crime.

For the record, in the two years that I have lived on Allied Drive, I have gotten to know many mothers, fathers, brothers, daughters, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and many, many children. Never have I felt that our children are unsafe beyond typical precautions that would apply anywhere else. It annoys me when people judge our community without knowing the first thing about our community.

A principle I would like to offer elected and appointed officials with the responsibility of "dealing with Allied Drive" is one that could quite possibly apply to all areas of life. Don’t judge a community from its worst without experiencing its best.

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Allied Drive = Political Exhaustion

On top of living on Allied Drive, my job in part involves employment on Allied Drive. Add to that, being on the board of a non-profit that serves Allied Drive, serving on two city commissions that devote a good chunk of time "dealing with Allied Drive" and writing for the neighborhood paper, Voices. In between all of that, I try to keep up with community events and this blog – at the end of the day, I am often tired of Allied Drive myself. Needless to say, if I see anything involving Allied Drive running in circles, I really don’t want too much to do with it. This whole CDA thing, to me, feels like a big semi-truck coming at us 90 miles-per-hour. We can stand out in the street with our hands out gesturing for it to stop and hope for the best. Or we can pick up our prized belongings and get the hell out of the way, and hope there will not be a whole lot of damage at the end of it all. I have heard the pro-CDA and anti-CDA arguments, and from my observation, there really is no purpose in sitting on the anti-CDA side. For real, if you pick up a carton of milk at the JFF office with an expiration date that is 5-days old, are you really going to drink it? Are you going to call Deans to complain about your milk chug? No, you put it aside, and come back the next day and hope they have something for you. Similarly, this whole CDA thing, is just too big and seemingly too powerful. I am hopeful that when the truck passes through the neighborhood, there will be some goodies that fall out of the back for us, and if not, such is life. Considering that we are not property owners without any real stake in the community, what can we really do? Speaking of … I better go pull my credit report, I think I have about a year now to get ready for a first-time mortgage. Maybe on Allied Drive, maybe somewhere else. As any resident on Allied Drive, I think I have to remain open-minded.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Power Of One

This Saturday, September 15th, come out to our community to participate in a walk that will help support MAP with your donations of $1 or more.

The registration for the walk will start at 8:00 am and conclude with a short ceremony around 10:00 am with a presentation from the Employer Group. If you have any questions, please call 608-239-4286.

The campaign is centered around the POWER in ONE ... see you there!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Move Forward and Move Out

Yesterday was this big Allied Task Force meeting where I was hoping to catch the unveiling of the newest proposed plan for what they will be doing with the buildings I live in. I have been trying to keep up with the development plans so that I can guage what my living plans will be, as I hate having to move under the gun, as do most poeple. Anyway, while waiting for the unveiling of these big plans, there was this circus that took place within the Task Force surrounding alders and Task Force members battling over resolutions calling for RFPs and master developer negotiations. One resolution was drafted by the alder that represents our district that called for the city to begin negotiations with CDA to be the master developer of the properties I live within. Some say that the CDA will gentrify the neighborhood and screen people out. Maybe the tactic of the city is to draw this whole thing out until residents get so tired of hearing about all these strategies and just let happen what was likely intended to happen from the very beginning, back in 1991. As it stands now, the voices fighting the fight are not those that will be directly affected by the development about to take place. The residents within my building and the other city buildings have household incomes that are three times the rent (Hauk property rents are between $490 and $715), which was the requirement prior to moving in, and I know for my household, we are not too concerned about getting put out if that is what happens. How can you get mad about getting put out of Allied Drive? That is like getting mad about buying a burrito from Taco Bell and accidently leaving it on the bus. So what? Life will go on, we'll get another place to live that will likely be better than where we are living now. That really goes for all residents. They talk about displacement and we are all holding onto our neighborhood like it is paved with gold. Give me a break! I have mold all over my apartment and who knows, maybe that is the reason I can't stop coughing. Whatever the case, if anyone wants to come down here to take my moldy apartment from me, be my guest. I will be more than happy to get steppin'! In the meanwhile, these arguments over who develops what and who gets to put their hands in the pot of money that is at the root of this revitalization plan is exhausting. There are so many overlapping interests that are unclear here and it is no wonder that the actual residents do not get involved. I have never seen any City property residents at a Task Force meeting. There was one motion that took place where it was pointed out that all the residents voted against it. The sad thing was that none of the residents were really residents of the properties being discussed. I've asked actual residents to come out and when I bring it up, they ask why? What is the point? I guess I see where they are coming from. I don't know who let all the dogs out, but I think we'll just let them fight it out and we'll come out when it is all over and see what is left.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Katrina's Two Year Anniversary

As Katrina's anniversary approaches, let's serve a reminder.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Allied Flip Squad, Part 2

Here is another picture of the Allied Flip Squad ...

Allied Flip Squad

Several kids last summer called themselves the Allied Flip Squad and I found these pictures online and had to share them - these pictures were taken by Sassy who captured the essence of this group of kids that found something to do where there really is nothing to do. One thing that disturbed me that summer is that many referred to these kids as "bad" when these are the kids who found something to keep them busy and actually organized a group. I remember I referred to one of the kids as part of the Flip Squad and I was quickly corrected that he was not part of the squad, but he just hung out with the group. Was there an application process to get into the group? I don't know. One thing I do know is that all these mattresses in the neighborhood were being disposed because of an infestation of bed bugs down here. Yuck!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Living on Allied Drive is like OD'ing on Barbiturates

I swear sometimes it feels like coming home is a complete downer. I have been an over-achiever all my life and it is typical for me to hold down 2 or 3 jobs, run a small business or two, keep up with eBay making money online and maintain a semi-professional writing career. However for the first time in my life, I feel like doing absolutely nothing. I've wondered if I am slowing down. I am getting older ... however every time I leave Madison for any period of time, I am so invigorated and active. I evaluated everything in my life, my partner, my job, my friends, my past-times ... I really think that living on Allied Drive is a downer and de-motivates people from wanting to do anything. My partner once pointed out that altitude-wise, Allied Drive is the lowest point in Madison. If you walk outside my apartment and face Allied Drive, you can turn in any direction and from all 360 degrees, you will look up towards the surrounding areas. I live in a pit! Something in this environment literally sucks the life out of us. It often makes me wonder if it is even possible to "come up" from "down here" ...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blast to the Past

Here is an old site I found about Allied Drive from, back in 2004:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Pit We Live In

I took this picture as I was walking around the back of the courtyard of my Allied Drive apartment building. It appeared so representative of what life is like here. Right up on the horizon are these manicured houses, yet where I stood was all this debris and trash. I know, my photography is just so deep.

Hang Out With The Latinos and Get Schooled

Little Lola who lives next door just turned six and when my other half and I were invited to her birthday party, I would have never in a million years guessed that it was going to be a kegger party! We had so much fun. The furniture was all moved aside for the dancers and I learned a few moves from one of my elder Latino neighbors who kept having to stop every few minutes because of arthritis in his leg. The food was incredible and it was a lesson in how parties are supposed to be. I learned some new Spanish and I can't wait for the next little kid to have a birthday! I know little Lorenzo will be having a party in October - but I am hoping someone has a birthday in in August or September ... After the party, we went down the block over to Elisha's to play some spades and school Rob again, but of course, they were too scared to open the door.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Grand Oak Tree

Here is a picture of the landmark weeping willow tree many community residents voiced requests to avoid cutting down within the city's redevelopment plans. It truly is a beautiful tree ... if you're into trees ...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Crime Rates on Allied Drop?

One of the articles offered to the CDBG commission in our monthly packets had a clip from our daily newspaper about calls to the police decreasing by 35% from last year and the overall crime rate dropping. Most of Madison probably thinks this is attributed to changes that have taken place in the neighborhood and possibly some "troublemakers" getting evicted. However, I have a different prospective. Our neighborhood officer, Ozone (AKA Jason Ostrega), has been on our streets for roughly a year now. Our prior officer was commonly referred to as a white racist a-hole. Who knows, maybe having more minority officers have had an impact on how many of my neighbors get dropped down to the street top and subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct. My observation has been that Ozone is not the sort to jump the gun with his authority and he has an overall respect for members in the community. That respect is often returned and I have seen Ozone request people to stop certain behaviors and my neighbors often listen. If you want to compare the attitudes of the police to last year, just look at that community meal that they threw for residents to learn about the new proposed loitering ordinance. Absolutely no one in the Boys and Girls Club gym who came to hear what the officers had to say was able to hear a thing. It was almost as if they did not really want us to hear anything. The was I see it, if they cared about us as residents, they would have made sure we were able to somehow get the updates we arrived for, and if that meant plugging in the Boys and Girls Club PA system, I am guessing that would have taken a whole 10 minutes for which all of us would have patiently waited for. At least they had Subway sandwiches. Thank you Ozone for the great service to our community and for keeping our streets safe!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Nearly five million Americans can’t vote because of a felony conviction. The fancy word for that is disenfranchisement. The concept of disenfranchisement applies not only in politics and the right to vote, but also when it comes to technology. There is a term that computer geeks throw around called "digital disenfranchisement." It is more than a clever phrase – it is a scary reality that faces our community today.

There is a forecast that as technology develops, those of us that lack the technological savvy will be left behind, in every sense you can imagine. Some readers may be able to relate. If anyone has ever tried to apply for a job across the street at Cub Foods, there is no way to apply unless you sit at a computer and enter the information into a Web-based form. Similarly Copps, Staples, Home Depot and many other major employers in Madison summoned paper applications into the not-so-distant past. It is sometimes scary how fast technology is moving because not everyone is keeping up.

Prior to working in the non-profit world, my career was rooted in technology and the Internet. I was very fortunate when I was homeless and in line at the Hospitality House trying to get funding toward an Allied Drive apartment. I had this power that many other homeless people did not have. I knew my way around the technological world.

For me, that meant that I was able to utilize the Internet access at Hospitality House and other various agencies to hustle up money by selling things I no longer needed on eBay and I was able to talk to business owners and convince them to give me some money in exchange for a fully-functional Web site.

In the long run, technology allows literally anyone to make money through the Internet through PPC advertising, blogging, and even MySpace has income potential if you can be creative. I often tell people that the power of technology comes with the ability to do what you really want to do in life. I work a full time job at a non-profit agency because I love what I do. However, if it came down to money, I can tell you hands down that I would make double the money if I were to sit at home all day on my computer. Those who want to make money on the Internet will know what PPC advertising is, how to build a Web page, and have stories to tell. That could be anyone on Allied Drive.

It’s not easy and it could take years to really understand what you are doing but the point is to start. Begin by spending time with like-minded people and learn what you can at every moment that you can. Free Internet access is everywhere, Boys and Girls Club, the library, Urban League, the Job Center. Learning technology is easy. All you have to do is click. As Microsoft would say, where do you want to go today?

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Who Can Save Us?

I have been living on Allied Drive for almost two years now, and one thing that I found somewhat irritating back when I came up here was the notion that we must be saved. I have had several conversations with "activists" who don't live here, but assume a duty to come here and fight for us (implying that we can't fight our own battles?), and they often relate that they have always wanted to work with the poor. It led me to question where their duty would lead them if we were no longer poor? Observing the interests that advanced, the leaders that are designated, the programs that get funded and the inflated sense of empowerment that arose when a resident was able to negotiate a whole book of bus tickets, as opposed to just two tickets, was enough for me realize that Allied Drive is a beast that can only tame itself. It is only through residents who live here and care enough to build stake in this community that we will be able to make anything of this neighborhood beyond a social service pot that every bleeding heart could dip into in the name of saving us lost souls.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That's How It Is

I found this video on YouTube - don't hate unless you have a video to back your hate up!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Neighborhood Festival

Our Neighborhood Association really pulled off an awesome community festival! There really was something for everyone - from Spanish dancers, to hip-hop DJ's to double dutch contests, and of course food! Outside of a Dunn's Marsh resident trying to shut the thing down due to a permit issue, everything went extraordinarily well - Thank you Ms. Alice Howard for pulling it off!

Ironically, the block was so quiet this weekend ... no fights, no crazy dealings - kind of makes you wonder if some of the drama stems from boredom?

Anyway, check out the news coverage ...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Allied Learning Center - 2005

An old picture I found of one of our landmarks, the Allied Learning Center from 2005 ...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Allied Drive Courtyard in the Backyard of New Single Family Homes

My puppy, Max, likes to play in the courtyard of our Allied Drive apartment. I am often in the courtyard playing with her, and as I looked at this picture I took of her when she was about 4 months, I realized how we are right in the backyards of the single family houses up on Red Arrow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Losing Walgreens is a Matter of Time

As residents of the Allied community, there are many things that we know without having to look at statistics or data. We know that there are a lot of people out here that depend on the number 18 bus and if service on that line went down, many people would be out of jobs. We don’t have to look at a study to analyze the findings to know that. This is our community, we just know.

Similarly, we know that a lot of people steal from the Walgreens on the head of Allied Drive. It is a sad truth that we all just know. And I am sure that it is no surprise to the rest of Madison. There are a lot of perceptions about those of us living on Allied Drive, and one of them is that none of us have any money. Therefore it is a no-brainer that the stores over here most likely have a hard time staying profitable due to all the losses resulting from theft.

However, I know from going to Walgreens almost on a daily basis, that many of the thefts that take place are not acts of desperation. The rest of Madison must know that we are not all impoverished human beings over here that steal eggs and milk in order to feed our children. Ever since the weather broke, I go to Walgreens and I see kids bored out of their mind going into Walgreens for some quick thrills. Some of these kids are like six years old and they will all run into Walgreens, grab a King-Size chocolate bar and run out laughing and giggling, and I think in my mind, those boys will be in prison by the time they’re fourteen. We are in Wisconsin where half of the prison population is locked up over what Def Jam would call a DWB (driving while black).

These kids need to quit playing and find something to do. And maybe it is up to some of us to offer some guidance. There are many ways that we can incorporate children into our lives. I have adopted a little sister down the street from me (who I am guilty of neglecting at times, but I try to make up for it when we are together), and if everyone did the same, maybe that would have an impact on our community.

It’s not like we go anywhere fancy to spend time together. We make cookies and watch a movie, or play with Max (my puppy) and when we are together, we talk about real life things and I think that has an impact somewhere. We have a lot of kids in our neighborhood, and they all have mothers that are struggling. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, we have a lot of children here, and not a whole lot of village, so if we want a healthy community, we need to all pitch in. I think a little investment of time with our children will go a long way. And then maybe we can count on Walgreens to stay.

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Adversity of Diversity

I recently heard a dialogue between various DJs on the radio about the racial and ethnic diversity in Madison. Listeners who called in claimed to love Madison because it is such a diverse city with so many ethnicities of the world represented. Yea, right!

The way I see it, Madison has summoned all people of color to a little pocket on the edge of the city, namely Allied Drive. If we decide to abandon our cultural identity to incorporate “white culture” into our lifestyles, maybe the hippies up on Jennifer and Williamson will welcome us to their neighborhood. But if we do not assimilate, most likely the landlords will be unable to get in touch with our references and ultimately be unable to verify our rental application. I personally spent weeks in Madison dealing with landlords in the various trendy areas of the city. Allied Drive, however, approved my application and handed me keys within three hours. It is possible that the white landlords really were playing phone tag with my rental and employment references. It is also possible that the woman of color who processed my application on Allied Drive was unbelievably lucky in the fact that she got in touch with of all my references within an hour.

Other circumstances could be woven into the situation to argue that race had nothing to do with my experience. Race arguments are tired. Even some African-Americans will say that they have ditched the race card because they are tired of talking about it. But how can it be ignored when so many of us on Allied Drive can relate similar experiences?

Some would argue that we can’t afford to live anywhere else. Please. There are a lot of us who have good jobs here. I talked to someone who manages several properties on Allied Drive and she confided that three graduate students live in her buildings among many educated individuals earning salaries comparable to the rest of the city. And as far as Allied Drive being a slum where no one pays their rent, that is a fallacy too. Well over 90% of the residents pay their rent in a timely manner with no worries, according to her observations.

I dread looking for housing anywhere else in Madison and disclosing on an application that I lived on Allied Drive. Already I have trouble obtaining goods and services that are readily available to the rest of the city simply because my address is on Allied Drive. How will I combat the unsaid assumptions that I have all these connections with Madison’s vast drug and firearms network? Remember, Allied Drive is a whole three blocks. I could be a potential danger to any neighborhood. Is it really worth the trouble dealing with the landlords “out there”? No, not really … at least on Allied Drive I can experience true diversity.

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at: