#508: The Evidence of Leather

July 27th, 2015 § permalink

The painter was dying, and his lover struggled to find a home for his art.

“In the late 1980s when Dom [Orejudos] was getting sick with AIDS, Chuck [Renslow] was looking for a place, a museum to house his extensive art collection. Not only the murals in the auditorium, but he had hundreds and hundreds of oil paintings and pencil drawings,” said LA&M Executive Director Rick Storer. “And Chuck was not able to find a museum that would take them first, or would say ‘We can take them, but we can never put them on exhibit because of the subject matter.’”

The subject matter was key, Storer said as we sat in swivel chairs in the volunteer orientation area of the Leather Archives & Museum in a quiet residential slip of Rogers Park. Art museums wouldn’t take sadomasochistic gay erotica. » Read the rest of this entry «

#507: The Foreknowledge of U.S. Steel

July 24th, 2015 § permalink

In 1992, U.S. Steel’s South Works mill closed, putting thousands out of work and pushing South Chicago’s economic downturn into freefall.

The old man wandering through memories in a park district fieldhouse had known it was coming for 20 years.

“In 1992 it went down. RIP. Rest in… place? But really ’72 is when it started to go down,” he said. “We were probably the first guys to know that the mills were starting to go down in ’72.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#506: God’s Gabbers

July 22nd, 2015 § permalink

The three teens piled on the bus, gabby boy-men with muscle T-shirts, country accents and peach-fuzz beards.

They pushed and laughed and gaped at the machinery as two found seats a row behind me and one sat with a stranger a row ahead. They held loud discussions across me about whether the Western bus hits the Brown Line, about the best route back to the dorms where they had been staying.

“Bet you Tyler’s going to talk to her,” the two behind me fake whispered about the moderately comely blonde by their friend.

He did talk to her. About directions.

They had been given $2 each to live off for the day, so decided to make and distribute sandwiches to the homeless.

We have enough to eat,” one of the teens said. » Read the rest of this entry «

#505: Drum Mountain

July 20th, 2015 § permalink

She tried to offer inner peace even after they deflated the Titanic.

Around her, they disassembled the south end of the fair. The tables, folded. The booth tents, retracted. The sinking cruise ship bouncy house, flattened on the ground.

Only her little table full of meditation booklets for the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association Chicago Chapter still stood south of 24th as they took down the far end of the Chinatown Summer Fair. » Read the rest of this entry «

#504: Shameless Self-Promotion Theatre Part 2

July 17th, 2015 § permalink

I spent all Thursday talking to myself, listening to my voice over and over again, snipping out ums, uhs, and aaaaah-okays with a flick of the wrist on a program called Audacity.

I would love it if you heard the results.

But it’s not that simple. » Read the rest of this entry «

#503: Three and 84 Years On

July 15th, 2015 § permalink

The front door still appears to be boarded at the mansion-turned-apartment-building that once housed King Tut’s Tomb, “Said to be the hottest spot in town,” where “Al Bentley’s King Tut Syncopating Mummies, featuring Lee Collins, the jazz cornetist from New Orleans, provide music that would make a mummy come to life.”

The Golden Lily is still a long-shuttered Harold’s Chicken Shack. » Read the rest of this entry «

#502: The Weight

July 13th, 2015 § permalink

Outside, people enjoyed the festival.

They got corndogs and eyed craft jewelry. They traded cash for tickets and tickets for beer. Outside, kids ran and laughed and got their faces painted like tigers as the bright sun burned sandaled feet and unlotioned necks.

Inside, a packed auditorium remembered a friend with guitars and drums, bass and banjo.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#501: Chicken Sam and the Birth of the Ray Gun

July 10th, 2015 § permalink

A racist patent. A Swedish piano repairman. A corner that now houses a four-story car dealership and a faux-Irish sports bar.

This is how Chicago helped make the ray gun. » Read the rest of this entry «

#500: Return of the 499

July 8th, 2015 § permalink

500. Half a thou. D, to the ancient Romans. As close to the halfway point of the project as an odd-numbered goal allows.

So what should I write this milestone story about?

I decided to toss that question to the folks who made up the first 499, asking the people who got me this far how I should kick off the second half. » Read the rest of this entry «

#499: Mr. Sam’s Early Edition

July 6th, 2015 § permalink

A sweaty night, stepping off the Skytrain Ratchathewi stop and wandering down an alley past street vendors selling cuttlefish on a stick and rows of mini-dress women calling “Massage? Massage? You want massage?”

Bangkok smells amazing in season, especially during the endless nights. Squid and chicken steaming from a cart. Spices and a sultry damp. The Thai capital can smell like the sweat-breath of an alluring stranger leaning in to whisper you a secret.

And sometimes it smells like someone peed on a dog. » Read the rest of this entry «

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