For several years, my walks to and from work were limited to the warmer months until I happened upon a program on a Chicago Access Network broadcast. A homeless man being interviewed stated that the only time he’ll go to a shelter was when the temperature fell below 25 degrees. That became my new benchmark. Any day of temperatures 25 degrees or higher was a commandment to walk. No excuses.
Typically, on weekdays, it’s about five miles each way from Humboldt Park to The Loop. South on Western Avenue one day and Damen or Ashland Avenues the next. West on Augusta Boulevard one day and Chicago Avenue or Fulton Street the next. Depending on my mood, I’ll walk streets void of traffic to be with my thoughts, or choose to people watch on the Randolph and Division streets’ restaurant and cafe scene on my walks back home. I've walked underneath of Lake Street train tracks--I guess just to make sure my ear drums are in tune--to the sounds of the rumbling CTA metal caterpillars overhead.
On weekends, I have walked south on Kedzie Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard (once and never again!) and north to Argyle Street. I have strolled east on Grand Avenue to the lakefront, then north and west on North Avenue back to Humboldt Park. I always vary my walks, taking different small side streets that may end in dodgy cul-de-sacs or open up to little enclaves with mansions and perfect lawns.
There are a number of one of a kind and quaint restaurants, parks and boutiques that I would never have discovered without walking the streets of Chicago. Some impressive homes in unexpected places, a majestic and historic block hidden in plain sight on Jackson Boulevard just east of Ashland Avenue. So much hidden beauty in the city to discover.
But in 2013, the most impactful ‘discovery’ was the motivation to start a t-shirt brand called Freedom Effect. Upon receiving a couple of the t-shirts my artist-partner Brenda had designed, I’ll don them on some of my walks, and each time without fail, I was complimented on the design. In fact, some of our first t-shirts were sold this way, right off my back! However, this became a small problem when I was to outline a business plan for the t-shirt venture we were about to embark on: so many wildly different categories of people had expressed interest in the design and t-shirts that it became a real challenge to define and narrow down the target market or a marketing persona for our t-shirts.