Frankie Machine Garden: What's the deal?

By Marjorie Isaacson 

The 20th year of cultivation is underway at the Frankie Machine Community Garden. The East Village Association established this community garden at 1800 W. Haddon (one block south of Division at Wood) in 1988.

Today, there are 27 individual plots for neighborhood residents who do not have their own garden spaces at home. Gardeners share raspberry bushes and a mature peach tree in the parkway.

Frankie Machine Garden is one of 57 sites owned by NeighborSpace, a Chicago community land trust.

Frankie Machine is the title character in Nelson Algren’s novel
The Man with the Golden Arm
. His last name was Majcinek, and he was called Automatic Majcinek for his expertise in dealing cards. Eventually he became Frankie Machine everywhere from the polls to the police blotter.

Frankie’s "golden arm" was an extension of his steady wrist, both valuable tools for a gambler and card hustler. Over the years, as his addiction to heroin worsened, a small fortune was spent on his arm. Unfortunately, there was no return on this investment.

Nelson Algren had been a resident of the West Town neighborhood, and in this novel Frankie lived at 1860 W. Division St. While neither Nelson Algren nor Frankie Machine were gardening types, the name seemed appropriate for a community garden a block away.

Gardening and gambling both depend on skill and luck. And both can be addicting.
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