I think I’ve mentioned that I go to a yoga class above a pawn shop. It’s taught in a big dance studio room at the Rumble Arts Center on North Avenue, in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago. Michael and I officially live in Logan Square, but we’re actually on the wrong side of the tracks, metaphorically speaking, and fit better demographically with our neighbors to the south.
I found the yoga class when I was looking for a drawing class. Google served up Rumble Arts, whose schedule included Filipino-Indonesian martial arts, African drum and dance, “Drink and Draw” (BYOB), and yoga. I remembered liking yoga when I was a kid, and finding exercise that I can stand to do is challenging. Also, I already think I can draw when I’m drinking, so I dropped the idea of an art class and decided to take up yoga. I persuaded my friend Mac to go with me.
We headed down one late winter Saturday for a one o’clock class. North Avenue at that point is anything but spiffy, with a currency exchange looking across the street at a boarded up building, a fast food place next to a liquor store and across from a huge vacant lot, several nail salons, two heating and air conditioning places and Aaron’s Windy City Jewelry and Loan–”Where You Always Get More Money.” The gutters are decorated with smashed Dunkin Donuts coffee cups, pint liquor bottles and various other urban detritus. When we got to the corner, a woman in her sixties or seventies stood next to a cart holding an oxygen tank and, as she raised a cigarette to her mouth, its smoke swirled around the plastic tubes leading from the tank to her nose.
The Rumble Arts door was right next to the pawn shop door. Entering, we saw a kids’ martial arts class on the first floor and a set of stairs leading up. At the top of the stairs, doors led to two large rooms, the art studio and the dance studio. The dance studio, where our class would be, featured not only most of a wall of mirrors but a grand mosaic of Ganesh, who seems to be the center’s household idol. On the facing wall were examples of the art works created in various classes.
Mac and I fell in love with the place, the class and our yoga instructor, Eric, almost immediately. We were also enthralled by the director of Rumble Arts, who was a vision that I will not be able to describe adequately, so I’ll just say masses of blond dreadlocks and red, knee-high, laced boots with high platform soles, and leave you to fill in the rest with your wildest imagination.
One day when we got to the class a little early, a young Hispanic man who teaches music theory there told us about the pawn shop connection. He explained that the pawn shop downstairs—Aaron’s Windy City Jewelry and Loan–was the main source of support for the center. Of course, after yoga that day we paid a visit to Aaron’s.
We were buzzed in the first door, and one of the employees opened the second door. In one direction there was a large room full of jewelry cases. In the room where we were standing there were bicycles, tools and electronics. Behind the counter were two men, who turned out to be father and son.
When Mac asked about one of the televisions, the older of the men—Aaron, we presumed—started telling us stories. “Remember when Motorola changed its television brand to Quasar? They had to get rid of a whole bunch of them. You know, with the wrong name on them. So I bought 5,000 of these TVs, marketed them myself. I called them Leonardo daVincis. Changed the “Motorola” on the sets to “Leonardo daVinci.” This story was one of many.
We learned later that the vision in dreads, the Rumble Arts director, is Aaron’s daughter, and the pawn shop donates a portion of its profits to the center. I would say “only in Chicago,” but I don’t want to sound xenophobic or provincial. So I’ll just say, “not surprisingly in Chicago.”