#983: Last Afternoon

September 21st, 2018 § permalink

The smell right now is coffee and smoke.

The coffee comes from my cup, the smoke comes from a man in jean jacket and spendy fashion version of combat boots one picnic table over  from mine. We’re all at picnic tables in the backyard-turned-patio of the house-turned-coffee-shop in the Puerto-Rican-turned-hip enclave of Humboldt Park.

I’m here now on the last afternoon. » Read the rest of this entry «

#982: Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger

September 19th, 2018 § permalink

Contrary to popular assertions, the perfect hamburger is not necessarily grilled.

Nor is it necessarily charbroiled, parboiled, batter-dipped, smashed, skillet-fried, filleted, sous vide’d, sautéed, shwenkered, spatchcocked if such a thing can be done with ground meat, griddled up, braised or poached in a light crème sauce.

The perfect hamburger is, however, served by a woman whose phone rings while you’re talking. » Read the rest of this entry «

#981: Yakko’s Race

September 17th, 2018 § permalink

On Sept. 4, 2018, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not be seeking re-election, throwing the political landscape into turmoil.

In honor of Mayor Emanuel, who has provided poetic inspiration before and upon whose missing finger I have waxed philosophic, I offer a farewell in the form most befitting his mayorality: A song listing his potential successors in the style of a 1990s cartoon.

If you are Rahm Emanuel, I wish you and your inevitable consulting agency nothing but the best as we try to fix what you left us. Think of us when you’re smoothing some deal for Ticketmaster, Sterling Bay or Elon Musk’s underground network of rocket cars. » Read the rest of this entry «

#980: This Is

September 14th, 2018 § permalink

This is a section of Sumerian tablet Istanbul #2461, sometimes called “The Love Song for Shu-Sin.”

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

It was found carved on a small hunk of stone in 1889. It wasn’t translated until 1951, when a researcher poking around the Istanbul Museum looking for his next project opened a drawer and picked it out at random from the other pieces.

It’s believed to be the world’s oldest surviving love poem.

This is what happens when you toss sodium in a lake. » Read the rest of this entry «

#979: Brian. Little Girl.

September 12th, 2018 § permalink

When your first impression is of youth, it’s hard to start that story.

What does it mean when you remember someone as young? How young? Younger than me? Younger than the composite age of my aggregate readership? Younger than my prejudices of someone too damn fool to listen to good music and respect their my-aged elders?

Sometimes, it’s easy to describe someone as young. Brian was young, too young to need the quad cane at least. » Read the rest of this entry «

#978: Stained Walls, Stained Glass

September 10th, 2018 § permalink

Above, there are chandeliers and rooms made of walnut.

Above, there are floors and floors of shopping for brand-name luxury.

Above, there are perfume counters and ornate stone and bronze fountains.

Below the downtown Macy’s (but the locals call it Marshall Field’s) glass meant for light sits in darkness. » Read the rest of this entry «

#977: Under the Bridge

September 7th, 2018 § permalink

There’s a culling by commitment in a light rain. A downpour removes all comers, but when the raindrops patter the ground like first kisses — clumsy wet smacks some teenager should apologize for — you can be out-slash-about, but only if you really mean it. » Read the rest of this entry «

#976: Fez Sez

September 5th, 2018 § permalink

The cabinets’ contents are not for sale.

Sure, you can buy the $1,500 crystal vases and $99 place settings from the display cases shuffled among the relics. Of course you can buy them — it’s a store, from the top floor of bedding sets down to the entrance where soaps, candles and other heavily potpourried toilet decorations mace you with scent when you walk off the street.

Among the three stories of designer corkscrews and Persian-inspired throw rugs that define the downtown Bloomingdale’s home store, only the two glass cabinets are off limits. More than Orrefors or Simon Pearce crystalware, they contain the truly valuable.

Fezzes. Badges. Photos of clowns. » Read the rest of this entry «

#975: Will Tomorrow Smell Like Chocolate?

September 3rd, 2018 § permalink

The smell of chocolate wafts around the building.

It has for years, decades. That smell permeates the building and spreads out onto the North Branch of the river. When the wind is right it scents the whole downtown with a short, tangy reminder of cocoa and jobs. On summer days, it’s what Chicago smells like to me.

Inside the factory door of the blankface warehouse, there’s a glass booth decorated with hygiene requirements for any visiting subcontractors. A few workers pile out the door, their shift done. They laugh wearily and joke, like kids at the end of a school day.

The hefty man behind the glass sees me and nods me in what’s clearly the right direction. I enter the shop.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#974: Coco’s Famous Deep Fried Lobster

August 31st, 2018 § permalink

Two years staring at the restaurant was enough. I decided to get some lobster.

Across Clark from the modernist federal prison shaped like a triangle, on a block of 1800s buildings that somehow survived the skyscrapering and Mies van der Rohe-ing of the Chicago Loop, next to a sign that blares HOTEL MEN ONLY into the atmosphere, there’s a soul food joint that’s been alluring me.

My main attraction to the place was also my main source of reluctance: the awning that declared it the home of Coco’s Famous Deep Fried Lobster. » Read the rest of this entry «

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.