I have a confession. I’m a conspiracy theorist to the “nth” degree. Now I am not paranoid. Nor am I jaded. But some things do strike me as curious and make me wonder, “Is it just me?” Let me give you a couple of examples.

I normally don’t ride the “el” to work. But I got a couple of chances last month to do so. When the Lake Street “el” arrived at Laramie, it was crowded. There was only one seat empty and a woman had all of her bags and books sitting on it. I didn’t want to stand the entire way downtown, so I walked up to her and told her she had to move her stuff so I could sit down.

She eyed me and then decided perhaps it was better to move her stuff than to pretend she didn’t hear or understand me. As the “el” went downtown, I listened to every message announcement that went over the air. No music playing. No eating or drinking. Look out for strange or abandoned packages. By the time the “el” made it to Ashland, I heard a message I hadn’t heard before. That message told passengers to keep their stuff off of the seats so that others can sit down. Hmmm, I thought. We went through the entire black West Side and not once did the message play to remind passengers to move their stuff from the seat. But as soon as the neighborhood changed at Ashland, all of a sudden the message is given out.

I didn’t notice it just that first time. I noticed it again the next week when I again had to take the train downtown. This time a young man had all of his gear on the seat, and I had to ask him to move it so that I could sit down. If you ride the Green Line, listen to those messages and let me know if you notice the same thing. Especially those who get on the train before Laramie. It would be interesting to note just what kind of messages play between Austin and Laramie.

I heard a caller on the radio take offense at researchers and others who claim that “soul food” is bad for you. She pointed out that the food sustained our ancestors through the worst of time, and now it’s supposed to be bad for you? Her comparison of a pot of greens with a little smoked pork meat in it to a pizza loaded with pork and cheese made me wonder. Is the attack on soul fool real concern for the diet of African Americans or is it a ploy to get us to give up eating the foods that sustained us for 400 years? Pig is pig and fat is fat.

I was looking up an e-mail address at my job. As I read some of the names of the programmers from India, I must question how “black” names (you know the ones we like to name our children; LaTonya, Shenice, Ebony, etc) can be any different from the other ethnic names like Sandeep, Manpreet or Mukesh? Those are some common names in India where many American companies have moved their data processing facilities. They have no problem hiring people with strange sounding names until it comes to black folks.

Lastly, I have noticed that the new Wal-Mart has several young people out front wearing yellow vests and directing traffic. North Avenue doesn’t have a single stop light from Cicero to Kostner. Those drivers driving westbound go underneath the railroad tracks where the street dips below street level and then come back up. I hope and pray that before a major accident (there has already been one bad accident in front of Wal-Mart since it opened) a real stop light is installed so those young people do not have to risk their lives attempting to direct traffic.

I predicted months ago that the traffic on North, Cicero, and Grand avenues will be a mess from the day after Thanksgiving thru Jan. 2, 2007. Let’s hope I’m wrong. But with bad winter weather coming and those young people standing in the middle of the street, that is the prefect recipe for disaster. Let’s hope the city installs traffic signals before a major catastrophe happens.

Have a Happy Turkey Day! As always, the conference call will be Monday night at 9 p.m. Call 605-772-3200 (this is long distance so use your cell) and enter this Access code: 806598#. For cellphone users, this is just like a local call just using your night time minutes.

CONTACT: westside2day@yahoo.com