#879: The Beachcomber

January 22nd, 2018 § permalink

The ice lining the waterside edge of the beach was a perfect replica of meringue.

Hawk winds peeling off the lake had spent the winter whipping water foam into a rich lather. The until-recent deep freeze had set the flocking. Sand, muck, gunk and grime had given the edges a light browning. The beach, frankly, looked delicious.

But here the metaphor becomes too clumsy to continue. Beyond the pie-top, there was nothing. The rich white fog had erased all but a few feet of lake. It looked like the edge of the universe. It looked like God’s animation budget ran out.

As “the meringue pie at the edge of the universe” is about as mixed metaphor as you can get, attention now turns to the land, to the hazy sand muck between ice and bike path where a man slowly, resolutely scanned each inch with a metal detector. » Read the rest of this entry «

#878: 10 Straight Days

January 19th, 2018 § permalink

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” the voice came from overhead.

It was a velvety voice made tinny by the CTA loudspeakers rattling through the morning riders and silty, road-salt floor smears of a morning train.

“Although it’s warming up, I need some sun so I’m going to be taking vacation next month in Florida. Who’s with me?” the velvet-voice conductor continued as the shriek of the long, black tunnel rose Doppler to drown his words. » Read the rest of this entry «

#877: Finishing Moves

January 17th, 2018 § permalink




“D-F-HP… D-F-HP… D-F-HP!”

And with that I spit molten acid all over my friend. » Read the rest of this entry «

#876: Memorial

January 15th, 2018 § permalink

To get through this stretch of Belle Plaine, drivers must brave twin brick ornaments, one on each side of the street like the entrance to what would be a subdivision a few miles to the west, as safe as a toddler’s rubber spoon and usually named for whatever natural feature they tore down to make the subdivision. » Read the rest of this entry «

#875: The Secret of the Marquette

January 12th, 2018 § permalink

“To follow those waters … which will henceforth lead us into strange lands.”

The “…” isn’t mine. It belongs to the four bronze plates of French voyageurs endlessly exploring the Dearborn Street entryway to the Marquette Building downtown. The reddish, soot-stained terra cotta office building is a dwarf among the glass giants of the Loop. It’s outshone. Purely and plainly, passersby’s eyes either draw to the modernist glass-and-steel and whorling cherry-red steel sculptures of Federal Plaza to the south or to the distant Art Institute to the east, the latter a sign that their tourist trek from Union Station is almost at an end.

It’s nice. It’s cool and fine, sort of an “Oh, that’s charming!” from the outside.

But there’s a secret. » Read the rest of this entry «

#874: Unidentified Failing Object

January 10th, 2018 § permalink

Every so often, when the wind blows oblique angles and I decide I should actually spend a night in rather than tracking down the last artisanal radish farmer in Schorsch Village, I run draft sections of a book I’m working on (and still looking for a publisher for… hint hint). 

The book will be a companion piece to the Chicago Corruption Walking Tour, my delightful summertime side hustle that NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report called “one new walking tour that some local politicians wish would just go away.”

I’ve run sections on the treatment of the Potawatomi and what the Justice Department corruption stats actually say about Illinois, but with this little blurb, I channel my inner Blair Kamin and get into some architecture. Enjoy! (And tell your friends in publishing that this hot word-typing is available.) » Read the rest of this entry «

#873: Super Mall of the Midway

January 8th, 2018 § permalink

The clown standing by the front door chats in his off moments with the Comcast salesman. The security guard doesn’t seem to be his friend. » Read the rest of this entry «

#872: The Sorta-Maybe Mayor Hoyne

January 5th, 2018 § permalink

Hoyne Avenue is special to me.

Hoyne was the home of my first real apartment in Chicago, a converted storefront we called the Bodega. The floors were so warped, my significant other at the time would laugh herself to tears rolling a baseball down it and watching it return to her. The wiring was so dangerous the old Lithuanian electrician the management company finally sent after three weeks of prodding started yelling “Is stupid! Is stupid!” when he got behind the outlet to see how it had been set up.

I was 23 and it was heaven. I found out a few months later that my great-grandparents were living a few blocks south when my grandmother was born. On Hoyne.

So it seemed especially fitting when I discovered that my street of stupid joy was named after a man involved in a story that now brings me stupid joy. I now bring you the story of Thomas Hoyne, who for 28 days claimed to be the mayor of Chicago. » Read the rest of this entry «

#871: Caesura

January 3rd, 2018 § permalink

It’s a tired city smeared white with road salt.

The cold always takes a lot out of the town. It’s an effort to move, to pack yourself thick with swaddle. Coats that go to the knees, scarves, gloves, hats we’d all agree were hideous in a better world than ours.

Breathing is sharp, noses drip, backs ache, and it feels a workout for legs just going up and down road-salt stairs down to the subway hub to head elsewhere.

Everything’s been slow in the cold. People aren’t going out when they don’t have to. “When they don’t have to” is becoming a larger category each dropped degree.

So down empty white-smeared streets, down huddled penguin hallways even the smiling Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned, down into the city’s railway belly, we have a rest. We have a caesura. » Read the rest of this entry «

#870: The Last Year

January 1st, 2018 § permalink

I’ve spent the last few days sick, limiting my Chicago exploration to the kitchen tea kettle and my adventure to whatever’s on Netflix.

As my writing output during this period has been limited to text messages about soup and several rude limericks about members of the presidential administration, I am today, Jan. 1, 2018, turning to you the readers to make this site’s last year a great one. » Read the rest of this entry «

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