Podcast Reviews

For my review, I skimmed through the site first looking for a podcast that interested me, not decided on a subject, and found myself drawn to the involvement of Americans in the Middle East and how our wars and changing regimes have affected people over there. I’d heard stories from a friend who grew up in Baghdad during the war, so I was wondering what people living over there were saying about conditions now. We’ve been in and out of the Middle East since the ’90s, and we’ve had a presence in Iraq and Afghanistan for 16 years. These interviews delve into the lives of people living in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan to paint a picture of how effective or ineffective American reconstruction efforts have been.

Amman, Syria. The country is the current focal point of conflict in the middle east

Rescue You, Rescue Me

Ira Glass interviews two volunteers who joined one of the provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq, working in rebuilding rods, bridges, schools, and hospitals after the invasion. Both volunteers described the tension between themselves and the Iraqis they worked with. After a few years seeing progress in the region, a new shiite general took command of the largely Sunni province and started replacing key officials with Shiites. The new general’s regime brought rebellion and chaos in the region, and the volunteers saw their work fall apart. Volunteers in Baghdad who had been tough enough to stay for years gave up and fled. Recently, construction volunteers have waned. The recent war on ISIS saw a surge of Americans volunteering to fight.

The fall of Saddam saw the destruction of his statues. Regime change would become a common part of life for Iraqi’s after this. Sunni, Shiite, ISIS and the US military would all be moving in and out of the city up to present day. The fall of the dictatorship also brought great instability.

Chicago’s Little Italy

You can’t look at the history of Italians in Chicago and ignore the influence of the mafia. The 1900s saw a wave of Italian immigration that brought with it crime families from Sicily that set up in the south side of Chicago, to be later known as Little Sicily. Chicago became the fountainhead of the underground liquor trade when prohibition drove drinking to secret speakeasys. All of this was arranged by the men smuggling it, Al Capone and his Chicago mafia. Capone became one of the richest men in history taking advantage of prohibition laws and the richest Italian American. The Chicago branch of the mob became so powerful it gained a seat of the Italian Mafia commissioner in America, separate from the original Five Families of New York’s mafia. After Capone’s arrest the mob was handled by even more capable bosses who expanded the influence of the mafia throughout the Midwest, and westward to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The casinos they ran were given to them by the five families, such was the respect the Chicago syndicate had earned with the senior capos. These men’s influence can’t be overlooked, because still today one of the richest Italian Americans was a billionaire Italian mob boss based in Chicago, by name of John “No Nose” Difronzo. The fact that his name was well known but he continued to run his enterprise until his death in 2018, is a testament to the power Italian families still hold in Chicago.

The gang wars between the Italian Southside and Irish gang-controlled North Sid turned Chicago into a battlefield of shoot outs and public assassinations in the 1920s, creating great prejudice against Irish and Italians in Chicago, who became associated with the criminal elements of the city. Events such as the Valentine’s Day Massacre where Capone had several North Side leaders murdered made the city notorious for gaming violence. The city launched a crackdown on the gangs that did little but arrest Capone for tax evasion and the cause was a change in mob leadership. During Capones time, the 20’s, mob membership reached 1% of the Italian American population. The Italians made up for the prejudice gang violence brought with their fast climb up the ladder. Labor unions, church, and school programs just for Italians were introduced in the early 20th century by Italian Americans to integrate them into American life. Al Capone continued this tradition, making ties with the non-Italian political leaders in Chicago by throwing social fundraisers where he lines people’s pockets and gained a charitable reputation by setting up soup kitchens. Because he played the politician so well, Capone was left alone by the police of the city to build his criminal enterprise. Italians were completely self-sufficient in their communities, they retained the language of their homeland and their sons and daughters married other Italians, and a strong Catholic upbringing was the story for most Italians in Chicago for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until World War II drafted young Italians to go to Europe and fight other Italians and take down the fascist Mussolini, that they began to lose the tradition of Italian language and began marrying outside Italian families. Neither of these was widespread since the war, but a living Italy existing in Chicago began to fade after the Second World War and a leveling off of Italian immigration to the city.

The Italian neighborhoods started to spread out and disappear aft get the Second World War. It was never publicly stated whether it was on purpose or not, but there seemed to be a concerted effort to break up the Chicago mob by breaking up the Italian community. Benefits for veterans after the war sent a generation of Italians across the country to universities they would not have considered before, the few square miles of the south side had been big enough to never leave. Benefits for Italians not going back to school like housing plans provided enough capital to move into the surrounding suburbs, a move most Italians hadn’t seen as a possibility for the last few generations. Further urban housing plans such as the Cabrini Green housing project leveled Italian homes and began the demographic reorganization of the south side from Italian to the African American community we see there today.

In the ’60s, the building of an interstate highway carved a trench through Italian neighborhoods and leveled one of their iconic Cathedrals, also a school, which served as a meeting place for the Italian community. It would be hard to imagine the city getting away it today in the age of social media, with tearing down a historic cathedral and school for children in order to build a highway, but apparently Chicago was ready for a change after the bloody years of Capone and mob imposed taxes all around Chicago. A real effort seemed underway to drive out the Italian community by cutting it up with highways and literally claiming houses for the state to be torn down and rebuilt for their own purposes. In the 60s, the mayor of Chicago chose to expand the University of Illinois by leveling a square mile of the Little Sicily for development. This move became the death knell for the tight-knit, Italian speaking Catholic community. With their old slice of the homeland thoroughly dissected or erased, they left the city in droves for the suburbs or other cities.

Work Cited

Dickson, Mike. “Chicago Outfit.” American Mafia History, americanmafiahistory.com/chicago-outfit/.

Candeloro, Dominic. “Historical Research and Narrative.” Chicago’s Italians: Immigrants, Ethnics, Achieveers, 1850-1985, www.lib.niu.edu/1999/iht629936.html.

Christmas time is close in Little Italy.
Early 20th century parades for Italian Americans. Scenes like this were used in the Godfather. The sight of red, green, and red flags alongside the stars and stripes being carried aloft down big city streets is an icon of America.
The great influx of Italians and Greeks led to the influence of Roman and Grecian architecture. Parts of Chicago allude to an age of Grandeur, when the city rivaled New York in economy and size. It also would look to someone who didn’t know the history of America, that this city had been here since the time of the grand Roman Empire.

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s China town is central to America’s understanding of eastern cultures. The stories of ninja and ancient dragons, the martial arts and period pieces based on Asian culture that appears in movies and television all stem from the massive migrations of Chinese into one of America’s biggest cities. The first Chinese immigrants came to California, both to escape their home and seek opportunity in America. The Opium Wars in South Eastern China with England and France stretched out for a decade, from 1848 to 1858, at the same time as the California Goldrush was happening across the Pacific. The rampant opium abuse and war in China drove a largely Cantonese population of Chinese to move to America, specifically to San Francisco by the thousands. The town had seen a booming population from the gold rush, an American myth that had spread all over the world. However, after the gold rush ended around 1855, most of the Cantonese had not become rich. Taxes on Chinese who mined for gold intended to impede the migrations, but just ended up pushing them to other jobs, as the gold rush was ending. They went to work on the new public works project, the transcontinental railroad. The American myth of rivers flowing with gold was so powerful it inspired massive Chinese immigration to California decades after it ended. It got to the point where racial clashes were wide spread in California, and the strife led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which barred further immigration, only from China, the first such act of its kind. Facing more dangerous jobs and lower pay from the railroad commission than they gave white workers, and racism that often became violent, the Cantonese group began moving further into the country to the Midwest and East coast. Ironically, they traveled by way of the Transcontinental Railroad that so many Chinese lost their lives building. The rail line ends in Iowa, right next door to Chicago, Illinois, where thousands decided to settle. Several wealthy Chinese families, and organizations such as the Hip Sing Tong mob, got together in Chicago to establish a China Town by leasing several buildings in the 1880’s. The neighborhood would see a move south around the 1910’s due to racism and assaults. The neighborhood of China town was and still is mainly Cantonese, as the Mandarin Chinese who came in during the 1940s to escape the Chinese revolution did not feel comfortable living in a Cantonese neighborhood. Instead, they dispersed through the city and never established a central Mandarin community. Further immigration from south eastern Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Loas fleeing the Vietnam war created a larger Asian community in Chicago. By the ’90s a new China Town was established on the north side by Chinese businesses and associations, helping with overpopulation in Chicago’s southern Chinatown. The new neighborhood does not consist of many Cantonese families, as the longest established families still reside on the south side. It’s fascinating to see how the American myth of the promised land and enigmatic stories such as good that just flows in rivers in California culminated to bring Chinese culture to America.

Works Cited

Steffes, Tracey. “Chinese.” Encyclopedia of Chicago, www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/285.html.

Grigg, Cindy. “Chinese Immigrants and the California Goldrush.” Hickman Mills C-1 School District / Homepage, www.hickmanmills.org/cms/lib3/MO01001730/Centricity/Domain/794/Chinese%20Immigrants%20and%20the%20California%20Gold%20Rush.htm.

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Mexican culture has contributed greatly to the American melting pot. We now celebrate as a country Cinco Dey Mayo, and major cities see festivities during the Day of the Dead each year. Mexican style restaurants line most major streets in any town in America, and Mexicans are always featured in our American westerns. Most Mexican Americans live in major cities like Chicago according to demographics surveys, and this trend started in the early 20th century. Mexican immigrants who moved into Texas around 1900 faced racism even as they established communities in the state. Hearing of opportunity for work in a less biased part of the country, they took the rail lines up from Texas through the Midwest to settle in Chicago. This trend continued until the Great Depression wiped out the incentive to move from Mexico.

Since the economy started booming again in the 1950s, Chicago has seen an influx of immigration from Mexico. The reason they choose this city today is because of the family ties with a number of Mexican towns that Mexican Americans in Chicago have. Many generations of Mexican families live in predominantly the south side of Chicago today, and these blood ties draw immigrants who cross the southern border right up to Chicago as soon as they arrive. Mexican people in Chicago have a history of discrimination in the city. In the 1910s, Mexican immigrants had just arrived at the union strikes of steel mills and other industrial factories. Having come all the way north for work, they were known to end the strikes by going to work along with African American workers who were coming up from the south for the same reasons as Mexican immigrants; to escape racism in the south and enjoy Chicago’s booming industrial job market. Unfortunately, they ended up offending the largely European immigrant composed unions. Specifically, the Irish led unions came into conflict with Mexican and African American workers over the strikes leading to the 1919 race riots in Chicago. This was a trend reminiscent of the Draft Riots in New York City 1863.

The riots in Chicago were a contributing faction to the 1924 cutoff of immigration from Mexico. An exemption to the hold on immigration was quickly made for Mexican immigrants to provide labor to a struggling market, but it ended up doing no good for the market when the Great Depression hit, and all immigration to Chicago came to a halt for several years. Today Little Mexico is the focal point of the Mexican history of Chicago, but its culture and people are throughout the city due to their history there. Besides the southeastern United States, Chicago stands out as the American city with the longest Mexican history, as families were moving there around the same time immigration first began again in the early 1900s. It can be argued that the Mexican people of Chicago are responsible for the long-standing holiday tradition of Cinco De Mayo and the ubiquitous site of Mexican cuisine.

Works Cited

Arredondo, Gabriela F., and Derek Vaillant. “Mexicans.” Encyclopedia of Chicago, www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/824.html.

Misra, Tanvi. “Why Chicago Is Still the No. 2 U.S. City for Mexican Immigrants.” CityLab, 9 Oct. 2014, www.citylab.com/equity/2014/10/why-chicago-is-still-the-2-us-city-for-mexican-immigrants/381304/.

Little Mexico isn’t just a saying, they have a real gate entering the neighborhood, making one feel like crossing over the Mexican border.
This Dio De Los Muertos mural was too good to be stopped by Chicago’s zoning laws against bright colors.
Chicago’s diverse cultures provide one of the most concentrated areas of authentic Mexican, Italian, or Chinese food you can find in America.

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

Irish of Chicago

Chicago is known as perhaps the most Irish city in America, beating out other highly Irish populated cities like New York or Philadelphia. Only Chicago has a city council that consents to their river being dyed green every St. Patrick’s Day. This city can arguably be responsible for the widespread myths of Leprechauns, of the thoughts we as Americans associate with the end of a rainbow, and they are the audience that inspired lucky charms, a basic staple of American childhood. While Chicago doesn’t have the biggest Irish population of American cities (it comes in fourth), somehow this is the place where they are the most influential. Many of Chicago’s mayors have been Irish, at least for eighty years out of the 170 or so years they’ve been here. This could be attributed to how many union leaders and police chiefs, fire chiefs, and religious leaders in the community are Irish. Most of the cities governance is run by Irish Americans, such as its police and fire department, but not just run by Irish, they are predominantly represented in these fields. As well, Irish Catholics have founded over 80% of Chicago’s churches, their number and size dwarfing the grand Italian Catholic cathedrals. Migration to Chicago from Ireland was caused by the potato famine in their country around the 1840s. Starvation killed a million Irish and pushed another million across the sea to look for work, as the melting pot of America looked more welcoming to Irish refugees than the countries of the long-established communities in Europe.

The history of Irish in Chicago is also a controversial one. During the widespread factory strikes of the 1910s, the Irish were leading the unions that clashed with African and Mexican American workers during the 1919 Riots. The North Side Gang fighting over territory with Al Capone is what led to the Valentines Day massacre, followed by more gang-related murders. Today the mafia’s of Chicago is said to have gone legit or been arrested, now the Irish exert their influence in Chicago through politics, civil service, and religion, a huge improvement.

Works Cited

Skerrett, Ellen. “Irish.” Encyclopedia of Chicago, www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/652.html.

The Journeyman Plumbers Association turn the Chicago River green on St Patrick’s Day, 3/17/2018, by injecting a green dye

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

History of Chicago

Chicago could be called the keystone city of our country. Looking at its location, it seems it was destined to be born. Located near the Great Lakes, it connects the Midwest to the early thirteen colonies. With the northern end of the Mississippi River running along the western border of Illinois, it connects the south, and the early settlement of New Orleans, to the Midwest. The Chicago River runs from the Mississippi River on the Illinois southern border to Lake Michigan. Ships traveling the Mississippi could pass through Chicago by way of the River to the Great Lakes and their shipping routes to the Northeast and early Canadian cities such as Quebec and Montreal. The connection from the Great Lakes to Canada by the St. Lawrence River leads out to the St. Lawrence Gulf, a popular shipping port between Canada and France and England. The European migrants of the 19th century that created the Irish sections and Italian sections of Chicago crossed the Atlantic, took the St. Lawrence to the Lakes, and could walk right into Chicago. This land was critical to connecting the expanding West and Northeast with the south. Chicago lay at the transit between ships coming from the Caribbean and ships coming from New York, or Europe. The Chicago river which runs through it outlines the major neighborhoods and businesses of Chicago, as this city in the Midwest was born from a port harbor town. The diversity of Chicago started with its founding, as it was a biracial African and French explorer, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable who originally made contact with the Indian tribes. From there, business interests and the government realized the potential of this location, leading to Indian removal acts in the early s 1830s. By 1833, a town called Chicago was first chartered with the federal government.

Chicago flourished from 1870 to 1930, right up until the Great Depression hit the world economy. In this sixth year period, it’s population grew ten times its size, 300,000 in 1870 to 3 million in 1930. In 1910, African Americans in the south saw Chicago as a place to escape racism they were experiencing at home. This led to the African American population of Chicago to quadruple by 1930. Racism was still a problem in Chicago, but they saw less segregated public facilities and transportation and were further away from the very active Klu Klux Klan. Though the town wasn’t segregated, black southerners facing animosity from the white population, settled on the West side of Chicago. Due to later migrations and tense race riots throughout the 20th century, which peaked in the 1960s, the largest African American population in one area has become the Southside of Chicago.

A plethora of different ethnicities and nationalities migrated to Chicago, primarily between 1880 and 1900, before Theodore Roosevelt limited immigration. A great number of Europeans, English and German, Italian and Irish, Jewish and Turkish, Greeks, Czechs, and Romanians came to Chicago for work or adversity in their home country. The history they brought with them into the United States now constitutes all the myths, charateristics, and culture of America.

Works Cited

Lightfoot, Mayor Lori E. “Chicago History.” City of Chicago, www.chicago.gov/city /en/about/history.html.

Bates, Karen Grigsby, and Jason Fuller. “Red Summer In Chicago: 100 Years After The Race Riots.” NPR, NPR, 27 July 2019, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2019/07/27/744130358/red-summer-in-chicago-100-years-after-the-race-riots.

Bizzarri, Amy Bizzarri Amy, and Amy. “World in a City: Chicago’s Culturally Diverse Neighborhoods.” Choose Chicago, 3 Sept. 2019, www.choosechicago.com/blog/arts-culture-entertainment/world-in-a-city-chicagos-culturally-diverse-neighborhoods/.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Anonymous/AP/Shutterstock (6645151a) Racism Riding in an open car, group of white youths displays Confederate flags, and a swastika on a crudely lettered sign “White Power” as they rode through area along Pulaski Road during a civil rights march in Chicago Race Relations In America, Chicago, USA

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

Cultures of Chicago

On the subject of globalism and American myths, cities seem to intersect with these concepts. Our history, our myths from other cultures and the customs they brought to American when immigrating here make up the culture of America. From the Irish, we get Halloween, from Italians and European Catholics we get traditions like Easter and Christmas, from Jewish Europeans we have Passover and Hanukah, and from Africa, we have kwanza. With the mixing of Irish bluegrass with African American musicians, we got blues, then rock and roll. Our music and the myths we depict in movies all derive from the development of globalism in our oldest cities. Looking at New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago you can find the origins of our holidays, the multiculturalism of our food, the mixing of peoples into a globalized community, all can be found in these major cities that have been the entry port for the majority of families that would come to make up the people of America.

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Chicago’s Little Mexico

Irish of Chicago

History of Chicago

American Place Main Page

Chicago’s Little Italy

Chicago’s China Town

Irish of Chicago

Chicago’s Little Mexico

History of Chicago

Main Page

The Dog Parks


The park looks made to bring your four-legged friend. Every water fountain has a separate dog bowl and faucet at the bottom, and every couple hundred yards is plastic bags to pick up after them. The park has two big fenced in areas to bring your dog and unleash them to meet canine friends, each segmented into two areas for large or small dogs. They don’t discriminate in this park, dogs of any size, even the much-maligned pit bull is welcome. It’s for good reason no one under the age of twelve is allowed in the enclosure, you don’t want your kid being run down in a stampede of German Shepards.


You can find these 3 whole acres set aside for your dog at the north end of the park, just past the Park Road bridge. Dog owners are so ubiquitous in the park that vendors such as King of Pops have started selling dog pops.

Piedmont Park

The 189 acres of green set in the middle of the city was built by the same architect that created New York’s park and the Biltmore Gardens in South Carolina. Since 1895 the park has been a place where you can go to forgot you’re living in the city, a slice of nature amid miles of concrete and asphalt. The park has been in Atlanta so long that the Piedmont Conservatory, which runs and maintains the park, even gives historical tours of the park, not that you’ll find many park-goers taking the tour. To many who live in the city, the park is a natural part of their life, it’s always been there and doesn’t take much consideration. Also, for the bird obsessed with lots of time on their hands, there’s the Bird Watching Tour which people have allegedly gone on. Walking through its trails you can find people setting up camp in the trees. They aren’t supposed to do this but the park is so big that security lets it slide, not wanting to search through the woods every night for people staying too late. After most of the city empties out, many of the cities homeless find a safe place in the park away from all the noise and people. The old bathhouse has been renovated into a swimming pool, offering apartment dwellers the feeling of swimming in their backyard pool. On the northern end of the park, you can run through a seventy jet splash pad reminds you of memorial parks’ fountains, but Piedmont’s is not a crowded tourist destination, and these jets reach 30 feet high. Little side trails behind the stone walls and sitting areas lead you down hills spotted with the litter of park explorers. Stone ledges over the trails and hidden clearings in the woods have become private hangouts for those of Atlanta who have been walking the park long enough to wander off and find them.
Every Saturday from nine to one in the afternoon, farmers, bakers, chefs, and dietitians come to sell their wares at Piedmont’s Green Market. Located at the west entrance to the park, you can hear the live band for the weekend playing in the center of the market, then the smell of food hits you. Startups and old establishments buy food trucks and carts to advertise their business roll in and set up early in the morning to wake up Piedmont Avenue North East with the smell of a bakery.
Like Central Park has its Tavern on the Green, Piedmont has a restaurant and several surrounding it such as Loca Luna. Park Tavern is an old looming stone building, having originally designed as a horse stable in 1905 since then it’s been a men’s club and a golf course clubhouse. It wasn’t until 1990 that it became a restaurant, it’s name a nod to Tavern on the Green in Central Park, it’s architectural father.
The park looks made to bring your four-legged friend. Every water fountain has a separate dog bowl and faucet at the bottom, and every couple hundred yards is plastic bags to pick up after them. The park has two big fenced in areas to bring your dog and unleash them to meet canine friends, each segmented into two areas for large or small dogs. They don’t discriminate in this park, dogs of any size, even the much-maligned pit bull is welcome. It’s for good reason no one under the age of twelve is allowed in the enclosure, you don’t want your kid being run down in a stampede of German Shepards.
You can find these 3 whole acres set aside for your dog at the north end of the park, just past the Park Road bridge. Dog owners are so ubiquitous in the park that vendors such as King of Pops have started selling dog pops.
Developed in 1973, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens sits within Piedmont Park. While it is privately owned and didn’t belong to the Piedmont Conservatory, the botanical garden has woven itself into the roads, parking garages, and piedmont grounds. Ticket buyers can walk the six hundred foot long skywalk over the gardens and look down over the park, which is separated only by an iron write fence of stonework. The gardens have attracted eclectic artists over the years, creating the classical themed Holiday Lights each at Christmas time and during the warm seasons exhibits like the hallucinatory Alice and Wonder Land: Imaginary Worlds are set up, with bizarre mirror works, bright colors, and gigantic sets of the book’s characters turned into a sprawling garden. One popular artist Chihuly has his exhibit extended due to popularity, monopolizing the garden for eight months and drawing four hundred and twenty-five thousand visitors, some of which might have never come and visited piedmont park otherwise. Each year more than one hundred and sixty thousand people visit the gardens Holiday Lights exhibit, which is a dazzling array of a million and a half lights and titanic wooden soldiers. Piedmont leverages people’s interest in art and gardening by offering their community garden, an educational center encouraging people to grow their own food naturally. The program has made Piedmont a popular field trip destination, making the park a fond childhood memory for every kid in the surrounding area. With art, nature, venues for weddings, parties, and an international styled green market setting up each week, the park has made itself a unifying place for the people of Atlanta. If you haven’t seen this vital part of Atlanta’s culture, take a look and see if you’re missing out.


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