#628: Ink and Blood

May 2nd, 2016 § permalink

The Baron stood before the room. He stood in full regalia, military dress blues accented by a golden sash bandoliered across his shoulders and a white mask across his eyes.

Through that white mask, he tried to quiet the room with a glare.

“Take off the sash!” a woman in the crowd yelled for the third or fourth time.

“I told you before,” he said, gesturing to his face. “Ugly.”

The duel was about to begin. » Read the rest of this entry «

#627: Snap

April 29th, 2016 § permalink

I rode to Oak Park the other day for an event in a mansion.

I took the Green Line to get there, rumbling and bumbling a path out of the Loop, west west to the West Loop artist lofts and condos springing up on the old Skid Row, west west to the highways, train tracks, the vestiges of when we had industry and jobs humming a community alive with bustle and hustle.

The stores came then, the glimmering glintering shinies advertising checks cashed, predatory practices to keep the poor poorer. Then homes, stately once, keeping the fight alive just to stay standing. Homes got sparser on city blocks, homemade gates of corrugated steel protected a few backyards, a smatter of burnt and boarded husks memento moried the community’s vital bits.

Then, snap. It was lovely. » Read the rest of this entry «

#626: Chicag8 and My Delicious Ramps

April 27th, 2016 § permalink

It was our first time making risotto, and my first experience frying up a skillet of chicagos.

It’s ramp season in the Midwest, when the little onion-garlic goodies known as the ramp (Allium tricoccum) spring up for a few short weeks in forest preserves, gourmet restaurants and my girlfriend’s mom’s backyard.

It’s also the plant that named a city.

It starts with the word Chicag8. » Read the rest of this entry «

#625: The Chimes of Logan Square

April 25th, 2016 § permalink

We walked down the street, the three of us, east past California where the bars and grills and oh-so-on-trend little boozeries stopped and into the construction-clad dead zone separating the hip enclaves of Logan Square and Wicker Park.

It was dark, and I had my worries when sidewalk construction on two massive condo blocks dipped the pathway into the street. On our way out for the night, I had seen confused bikers use the walking path to ride. Under the dark, I was concerned they wouldn’t see us in time.

Over the dark air, the sound of wind chimes filled an otherwise empty road. » Read the rest of this entry «

#624: LRC

April 22nd, 2016 § permalink

The band was 20 acoustic guitars, a percussionist and a little girl in a dinosaur shirt dancing around in sneakers that lit up whenever her heel bopped.

My girlfriend called her “The Dancing Kid.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#623: Big Bill

April 20th, 2016 § permalink

The following is a selection from the Chicago Corruption Walking Tour, which I will be leading all summer.

Tickets are available at Dabble.co.

When researching 19-teens and 1920s Chicago Mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson, there were several moments when I thought “That is the greatest fact ever.”

When I found out Big Bill repeatedly threatened to punch the king of England in the face to court South Side Irish voters, I thought “That is the greatest fact ever.” When I found out he led a crusade to get pro-British books out of the Chicago Public Library, I thought “That is the greatest fact ever.”

When I found out that he kept his name in the papers after he lost his first re-election bid by announcing a massive expedition to South America in a ship called “The Big Bill” to capture footage of a fish that could climb trees, but then he just hung out in New Orleans for a while, I thought “That’s it! We’ve got it! That is the greatest fact ever.”

Big Bill was hilarious. And that’s what made him dangerous. This loud-mouthed, media-friendly clown in a cowboy hat — Chicago’s last Republican mayor — was the most corrupt public official in Illinois history. » Read the rest of this entry «

#622: Strange Creatures

April 18th, 2016 § permalink

With a hiss and a little bit of a puff, the beest lurched backward.

Its handler, a young artist type in a bright yellow T-shirt and a sideways-cropped hairdo with a yellow-dyed tuft on the right side of his head, jumped to attention. He grabbed a tube dangling from the animal’s side and kinked it.

The beest stopped. » Read the rest of this entry «

#621: Thumbnail Lotharios 2016

April 15th, 2016 § permalink

I didn’t think she thought I was cute or, like, wanted my phone number or anything, but the next thing she said cemented my suspicions.

“You’re cute,” she said. “I want your phone number.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#620: The Sneer

April 13th, 2016 § permalink

The sun was bright and his face was happy as he stepped out of his luxury SUV.

He took a few moments to just stand between car and sidewalk, relaxing and feeling the city’s pulse before a night of culture and glitz at the Goodman Theatre.

It would have been inspiring had he not been taking his moment of joy in the middle of a protected bike lane. » Read the rest of this entry «

#619: The Burrowing Chinese

April 11th, 2016 § permalink

It’s a parking lot now, a fenced-in expanse with a dropping gate arm. East of Three Happiness Restaurant and north of the Nine Dragon Wall and a pagoda, the lot nestles cars under and around the Red Line Chinatown stop.

But in the 1920s, this stretch was another block of shops, grocers, drug stores and the like, with a hidden network of underground tunnels connecting them all.

Maybe. Well, actually probably not. » Read the rest of this entry «

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