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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Chicago – The annual commemoration of the famous Bughouse Square Debates takes place today in the city’s oldest public park, Washington Square Park. The space, across the street from the Newberry Library which sponsors the event, was left to the city by developer Eramus Bushnell in the 1840s.

Bushnell’s will allegedly said anyone who wanted to make a speech at the park at any time would be allowed to do so. From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century the space attracted public speakers on all kinds of subjects, from the eccentric to the revolutionary.

This year’s Bughouse Square Debates Master of Ceremonies, Tribune senior writer and Sidewalks columnist, Rick Kogan spoke with us this week about the legacy of the event.

We’ll be there to cover the 2009 offering, so please check back here for more.

Video by Albert Corvera and Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Video by Albert Corvera and Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2009

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by Albert Corvera

Personal trainer Michael Salazar says his business is booming, despite the current economy. Photo from his website.

Personal trainer Michael Salazar says his business is booming, despite the current economy. Photo from his website.

Chicago – Personal trainer Mike Salazar is doing something he dreamed about ever since he was a junior in high school. Not many 23-year-olds can say they have a successful business, but he can.

Just a little over a month ago Salazar’s business, Evolution Personal Training, 2633 W. Bryn Mawr, opened its doors. As of now the profits of Salazar’s training facility have been increasing to go along with his base clientele he has had at previous employers including Bally Total Fitness and locally owned Fitness Defined. In the opening month Salazar netted nearly $8,000 in profit.

Despite financial success at the other gyms, the sports business and business management student at Loyola University in Chicago wanted to break away from the big box gyms and start something different. Something he can call his own.

“I wanted to create an environment where people of all abilities can work out,” he said. “From the busy stay-at-home mom, the competitive athlete, the junior high volleyball player, and senior citizens; there is a place for all these people here at Evolution Personal Training.”

The majority of fitness workers work part-time at one individual facility, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Strength professionals such as EPT trainer Dan Deitch end up holding multiple jobs to create a full-time workload.

“I have a few clients here, some at Fitness Defined and at-home clients,” Deitch said. “A lot of people compliment personal training with other jobs, whether it’s construction or something like that. People just like to do this for fun on the side because it’s such a fun and great job to have.”

Personal trainers start at various wages. To test out his ability Salazar first started training teachers and fellow classmates for a small fee. Once he got his first certification, he became a regular at Bally, which charged clients roughly $20-$30 per hour.

Now at his own facility Salazar charges about $69 per hour on average. With training being a luxury, Deitch said people can pay the rate. They just have to make sacrifices on the little things financially.

“I think a lot of people can afford it,” Deitch said. “It’s just a matter of whether they want to. People tend to budge on really what they want. If you really discipline yourself for a few months financially, you can put that into training. But eventually it’s going to eventually be a need because people aren’t going out for exercise as much.”

Despite the struggles in today’s economy, people will still take their health seriously no matter at what cost. With the prices skyrocketing for healthcare, Frank Miele, vice-president of operations for International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), says that more people are concerned.

“Personal fitness trainers fill the gap between sick care and health care,” Miele said. “Today, a personal fitness trainer can be defined as an individual who educates and trains clients in the performance of safe and appropriate exercises in order to effectively lead their clients to optimal health.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics a 27-percent increase has been predicted in the number of employment opportunities for fitness and nutrition professionals between 2006 and 2016. Reasons include many fitness corporations are looking for part-timers rather than full-times.

Deitch said there is only one reason to why being a personal trainer is one of the more prospective occupations – technology.

“I think within the last 20 or 30 years obesity in our country, at least among teenagers, will have almost tripled,” Deitch said. “More and more people are staying at home now, either with their ‘Crackberrys’ or their video games or on the computer.”

Twenty-three-year-old client Christopher Rivera recently signed for a few sessions with Deitch. In addition to getting in better shape and feeling healthier, Rivera said that he wanted personal training to learn how to workout smarter.

“You can look at training as a way to ease stress,” Deitch said. “There is nothing better about seeing your body in better shape and feeling better. Everybody has his or her own reasons, but stress alone is a key factor.”

Salazar has said that people want to exercise, workout and get in shape. But with the hectic schedules of everyday life, most people don’t have time to workout as much, which has caused many Americans to become out of shape and obese.

“These people want results,” he said, “but they still want to spend time at home with family and friends. Working with a personal trainer ensures they are getting the most from their workouts.”

“After a good workout it’s going to get some of that stress out,” Deitch said. “If you’re married, you’re going to be working out. If you’re a Cubs fan, you’re going to be working out.”

Personal trainers are self-employed. Many work by appointment. New trainers with a small clientele base go through prospecting, which Salazar describes as the salesman aspect of the job where the trainer attempts to sell him or herself to the consumer.

“As a trainer, you can’t sound like a salesman,” Salazar said. “You need to enjoy what you do, do it right and have integrity towards your work. You shouldn’t focus on the money, but on the client.”

Copyright 2009

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Commentary by Albert Corvera

The infamous Cubbie curse is upon us yet again! Best record in the National League, and yet another three game flop in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS).

If you didn’t find a scary costume to wear for Halloween this year, I suggest that you go next year as a Cubs curse: the “Billy Goat,” “Black Cat” or the “Bartman.”

Put on a goat mask. Wear all black and put on cat ears, and you’ll make a “Black Cat” to spec. Or, don a Cubs cap, elbow on a blue sweater, and top yourself with a pair of headphones to look like the infamous Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who was blamed for knocking away a foul ball in the 2003 NLDS.

But one thing you have to ask yourself, either as a Cubs fan, or a baseball aficionado: are the Cubs really cursed? Has the 100-plus year drought of a World Series win gotten to us so that we now truly believe, after years of doubt, the Cubs curse really exists?

Lifelong Cubs fan and Northeastern Illinois University psychology major CJ Mina doesn’t think the curse is the case. Possible blame of the Cubs demise could be placed on the media hype that the team faces every single season with the insurmountable pressure to win it all, according to Mina.

“Cubs cursed?” Mina said. “No. How can any type of superstition account for the Cubs not producing runs during the NLDS this year. Besides, the dude with the ‘Billy Goat’ curse has been dead for almost 40 years now. I think it’s more of the media hype because that’s all [fans] can relate to when the Cubs lose.  Still sad and pitiful though, it’s gonna be 100-plus years.”

Cubs’ historian, author and lifelong Cubs fan George Castle said the Cub’s curse does not exist. Castle said factors within the organization and management gave the team their hundred plus year demise as a soft laden franchise. Not any single one of the curses exists, according to Castle.

“What gives Billy Sianis the right to put a hex on the Cubs?” Castle said. “No one in this world can ever have that power or right to do that!”

The Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture of a woman’s face sports a Cubbie blue lid at a playoff pep-rally in October, 2008. Photo by Albert Covera.

The Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture of a woman’s face sports a Cubbie blue lid at a playoff pep-rally in October, 2008. Photo by Albert Covera.

For those of you less or not familiar with the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” the story goes like this…

Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis brought his pet goat to Wrigley Field during a 1945 World Series game. Fans were bothered by the odor of the goat, and Sianis was asked to leave with his goat.

The request angered Sianis, and the supposed hex came about when he said that the Cubs would not win anymore. Some thought the Sianis hex meant that there never would be another World Series at Wrigley Field.

Unfortunately, so far, this has been true. There hasn’t been a World Series game there since then. The last time the Cubs even came close was in 2003 when the team was five outs away from clinching the NL Pennant. Then, disaster struck in the fifth inning, and another curse was born.

Bartman was listening to broadcasters Pat and Ron on the radio during game six of the Cubs 2003 NLDS. In the fifth inning Bartman reached up for a foul ball at the same time as Cubs left fielder Moises Alou jumped to make the out.

Sure, it was a catchable ball for Alou, but that ball was clearly within the grasp of all the neighboring spectators. In the close up photographs of that moment other fans near Bartman were also reaching for the ball. Unfortunately, one guy took the heat for the way it was. Bartman became a victim of his own human instinct to catch a ball headed his way.

But there is one thing that people are forgetting. How about the groundball through the wick-its (legs) of normally sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzales?

No one made a huge deal about that when the Cubs faltered in game seven against the Florida Marlins, the World Series champs that year. That was the fishes’ second in six years, compared to the Cubs zero in the past 100.

Castle said Cubs management and personnel have been the real reason and tale for the lack of winning by the organization.

“Most people, the media especially, like to use the curse as sort of a scapegoat for the Cubs’ miseries in the past century,” Castle said.

No one can explain it. No one can pinpoint the exact cause of failure. But one Sox fan explained it this way.

“The Cubs aren’t cursed! They just suck!” said Alvin Baetiong, a researcher Northwestern University.

Sadly, as a diehard Cub fan, I couldn’t agree more. 

Copyright 2008

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by Albert Corvera and Christopher Brinckerhoff

Buckingham Fountain is Grant Park’s watery centerfold. The famous structure streams water in the middle of many annual festivals including Bluesfest and Taste of Chicago. This is the spout.

Tourists are drawn not only to the festivals themselves, but also to Grant Park. Rainbows of flowers, lush green bushes, and perky trees quarter the spaces. These are the sprouts. Maintaining lakefront sprouts is a full time job.

Foreman for a private contractor for the city, Willie Riley, said his crew began working on the lakefront’s foliage at 5 a.m. on June 24, and was putting in a 12 plus hour day to prepare for the 2008 Taste of Chicago.

“We are here to help beautify the city by putting in flowers and shrubs and fertilizing the plants,” Riley said.

Their job was part of the Mayor Daley program, according to Riley. They plant and prune flowers, put mulch down, and pull up weeds. Working outside during the summer with a good group of guys has its moments.

“The guys I work with are a pretty nice group of guys,” Riley said. “We all pitch in together as a team and try to do things together to make sure everything’s done. We take pride in what we do.”

Riley and his men are hired scouts, but there is another type of scout to consider. As summer quickly rolls along, tourists become part of Chicago’s cityscape. Teenagers Toni and Sergio Pinon from Tallahassee Florida made their first trip to the windy city this year. Popping ears in a skyscraper elevator topped Toni’ list of Chicago experiences.

“We went to Buckingham, the Sears Tower, and the Hancock,” Toni said. “The most fun was the elevator ride on the Hancock.”

Chicago’s fast paced lifestyle put the kids’ approximately 200,000 hometown population in perspective with Chicago’s 3 million people.

“Chicago is very, very busy,” Sergio said. “It’s really a lot crazier [than Tallahassee]. It’s fun. I’m starting to get used to it.”

Copyright 2008

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