Thursday, July 31, 2008


Those who know me best have seen me a little off my game lately. A host of challenges (from a failed job search to a crappy performance review, with plenty more from the Department of Mediocrity) have managed to put a wobble in my gait.

But as everyone knows, it's tough to love the weak.
Snapping out begins now.

Leave it to a perfect stranger to help that process along.
Tonight I came home to this:
This isn't just any garden variety piňata. It's from Dulcelandia, a Willie Wonka-like storefront about a quarter-mile west on Fullerton, where every manner of candy--from wax lips to candy dots to pixie sticks--are sold brazenly, with no regard for toothbrushes or the advent of fluoridated water. Did you know there's a specific product called "piňata pack" that's filled with starlight mints and laffy taffy, meant to withstand several blows from a kitchen broom? It's made in Columbia but distributed out of Candy Works right here in Chicago, Illlinois.

The best piňatas are also filled with toys, so this one comes with a bag of party favors, including a yo yo, a tiny pack labeled "ojos de plasticos con dulce (plastic eyes with candy)" and an inexplicable plastic carrot, as if to add an exclamation point to this bold burlesque of healthy eating.

By all rights, I should probably hate this thing. I've just spent the last three years studying food deserts and how they disproportionately affect poor neighborhoods, where kids are left with sugary sweets and greasy fries in place of real nutrition.

But I don't. I love this piňata with all my heart. No just for its hot-pink crepe paper torso and shiny silver points. Not just for the way it will sway back and forth at our neighborhood block party three short weeks from now. But because Jason, a hard-partying guy I met the other night while collecting signatures in support of the party -- a guy who's rented an apartment just five buildings away for the last seven years, but who I've literally never seen before; a guy who probably will be working the day of the party, but still got on his cell phone to call a couple of neighbors out to sign the petition; a guy who boldly admits he never wants kids but was itching to make a contribution to the effort -- went over to Dulcelandia the day after we met, bought this piňata and all its trimmings, and dropped it off at my house so the kids on this block would have something to look forward to.

I challenge anyone to stay in a lousy mood after that. In some ways, it's the kind of block we live on. Not all the time, mind you. You may recall some gang- and drug-related homicides in the last six months, for example. But we also have people like Jason, our resident
Boo Radley, who makes a promise and keeps it, and seems to know exactly what a gigantic pink piňata left on a porch can do for deflated spirits. If you're around on Saturday, August 23, feel free to come by and try your hand with a whacking stick.


tracy said...

What a nice story! A pinata is not only fun, but also therapy.

Diana Sudyka said...

are you letting 30+ year olds take a swing at it? what if they are on their knees?

i wish a pinata would mysteriously appear at my place every time i was having a crappy week!