#692: The Beautiful Catastrophe

September 28th, 2016 § permalink

I thought I was meant to laugh unending.

I thought I was meant to joke and taunt, bouncing unbruised from one fiasco to another, enthusiasm unflagged. I would joke away the Bushes, the Cruz, the neverending Romneys pop pop popping up like four-year perennials.

I would win one of these days, I thought, because I was smarter, younger, more vicious, more willing to laugh and joke the crowds away. I would win because how could I not? How could I not laugh the murderers and fools out of sight by being so very damn clever?

I can’t laugh right now. I can’t laugh at what happened Monday. » Read the rest of this entry «

#691: Walking Man and the State Street Preacher

September 26th, 2016 § permalink

I was there when Walking Man walked by the State Street Preacher.

It’s an incredibly Chicago sentence, full of local shibboleths a step beyond the ones the tourism council promotes.

They might say Chicagoana is rooting for the Cubs or keeping ketchup off hot dogs. A step beyond that is knowing that the next number in the sequence 5-8-8-2-300 is “Empire” or favoring a lesser-known spot for fat Chicago pizza (Pequods is mine).

But when you’re down to recognizing downtown street characters, now you’re talking local. » Read the rest of this entry «

#690: Shameless Self-Promotion Theatre, Part 3

September 23rd, 2016 § permalink

In part 1, I pimped a live lit reading honoring Studs Terkel.

In part 2, I announced a podcast that I since stopped doing (I later halted the Patreon campaign too).

And now, in part 3 of Shameless Self-Promotion Theatre, I want to dress up all fancy, swill some cocktails all Gatsby and yell at you about politics. » Read the rest of this entry «

#689: “Dhoom 3” vs. “City That Never Sleeps” – What’s the Daffiest Chicago Movie?

September 21st, 2016 § permalink

One year and 198 stories ago, I reviewed 1953’s “City That Never Sleeps,” a cinematic world of crooked cops, gangster magicians, the handyman from “Newhart” and a character named, I kid you not, Little Stubby.

It was the single silliest, most ridiculous and just plain most daffy Chicago-based movie I had ever seen.

Until Sunday. » Read the rest of this entry «

#688: Anise and the Morning Commute

September 19th, 2016 § permalink

I’ve seen old white men before, and messenger bags too.

I’ve seen long, sheathed hunting knives gripped in palms. I probably have seen tatty blue jeans sprinkled with ball point pen signatures, presumably from friends or a self-inflicted hobby.

But I’d not seen an old white man with a messenger bag, a long, sheathed hunting knife and tatty blue jeans sprinkled with ball point pen signatures set a bottle of ouzo and a metal goblet on the ‘L’ platform during morning rush. » Read the rest of this entry «

#687: The Yegg and The Berries – Two Prohibition Era Craft Cocktails That Taste Like Sadness

September 16th, 2016 § permalink

The ‘20s are big in 2016.

Pseudo-speakeasies, modern burlesque and of course craft cocktails are the thing across Chicago’s nightlife.

We want to imagine ourselves hobnobbing with the Dil Picklers, dancing to Louis Armstrong all night at the Sunset Café. (We don’t picture ourselves getting shaken down for protection money or forced to use the colored person entrance to buildings, but Prohibition is far from the only era to get a romantic whitewashing.)

Being a person who knows actual history, I’m aware that most cocktails weren’t a sign of class and style so much as sugary attempts to stretch out what little booze they could get. And Ben Hecht fabricated many if not most of his 1001 Afternoons in Chicago stories, so feet of clay all around here, folks.

To slap your joy with the open palm of reality, I gathered several friends and forced them to try and rate two nasty, noxious and just-as-authentic-as-a-Sazerac Prohibition-era craft cocktails. » Read the rest of this entry «

#686: Willful Wills at the American Indian Center

September 14th, 2016 § permalink

The fan droned in what looked like a grade school gym.

Hardwood floors of the type that made sneakers squeak. Overhead fluorescent and steps to the back of the gym leading up to a stage perfect for plays about the importance of saying please and thank you.

The steps were riddled with holes.

I nocked an arrow, drew back the string and let a shaft of aluminum fly into a target tattered by all the arrows before. » Read the rest of this entry «

#685: The Winnow

September 12th, 2016 § permalink

A cold wind pulses through the region.

It pulses down streets, up alleys, through television-clad bars. It throbs and flits, breezing some Chicagoans away like the puff of air that separates wheat from chaff in an ancient farm’s winnow.

It’s the winnow for Chicago. It’s the season where the wind blows residents away, clustering them in eddies around televisions and bars any given Sunday to stare en masse at that most sacred of taxpayer-subsidized franchise-based multi-billion-dollar corporate endeavors, football. » Read the rest of this entry «

#684: Bright and Burning, Dark and Empty

September 9th, 2016 § permalink

It’s a bright sort of darkness, the type city people confuse for the real thing.

Streetlamps and buses, trains and cars, glowing store signs and homes’ motion-activated security systems mean it will never get truly dark here.

No one’s going to stumble and cry out here, lost in an endless black. At worst they’ll look slightly up and a green sign off a lamppost will tell them if they’ve made it to Damen yet. » Read the rest of this entry «

#683: A Bit of Hope by Where the River Caught Fire

September 7th, 2016 § permalink

The globe is black and white, paved with little cars. » Read the rest of this entry «

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