#640: Treasure Hunt

May 30th, 2016 § permalink

It was dark now.

The conga line of beach-and-parkgoers was now heading westward, hauling now-empty coolers and now-full livers back to parking spaces, buses and home.

Dogs worn from a full day of fetch trotted sleepily after their masters. Children too, also worn from 16-inch softball, soccer, volleyball, Frisbee and just running like mad midgets between grass, sand and a freshwater lake trotted after their adults too.

Stomachs were full, muscles were tired and a family of garbage pickers was tipping over the recycling bins to fish out aluminum cans. » Read the rest of this entry «

#639: When You Were Older, You Used to be a Giraffe

May 27th, 2016 § permalink

We would talk about it on the train to and from Evanston.

We would plan it at work in the rare moments between meetings about bleeding-edge digital disruption.

It was to be our masterwork, the business bible for the 21st century, the must-read of 2014, the seminal text of the ages, the hardest-working man in show business, Soul Brother #1, Mr. Please Please Please…

“When You Were Older, You Used to be a Giraffe.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#638: Don’t Save Ferris

May 25th, 2016 § permalink

The drums could be heard even before we got to Daley Plaza.

Next, we saw the high school marching bands, majorettes twirling batons, a float with a semi-Germanic array of dirndl-babes waiting for a historical re-enactor in a leopard vest/undershirt combo to lead the gathering crowd in a rousing rendition of “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.”

“Unfortunately,” I joked to the tour group I was leading. “They didn’t re-enact the part of Matthew Broderick’s career where he vanished.”

I do realize that Broderick has a strong career on Broadway, but for having just snaked a crowd of tourists through a live Ferris Bueller re-enactment, that’s a pretty keen ad lib. » Read the rest of this entry «

#637: Older Than Nations

May 23rd, 2016 § permalink

The room should have looked different.

It should have had low lighting, dark mahogany, crannies. The hallway to get there should have had twists and turns and sudden dead ends. Instead, there were high ceilings, tons of light, carpeting.

The Newberry Library looks like a library, of course, but more the type where students cram for PSATs than where Hercule Poirot would stumble upon a body.

And in this high-lofted room with the appalling lack of my preconceptions and stereotypes, there lay on a set of tables books older than most nations. » Read the rest of this entry «

#636: Local Boy Makes Good

May 20th, 2016 § permalink

It’s 1980-something. I don’t like getting out of bed unless it’s a Saturday morning and I can watch cartoons until my eyes bleed.

As it’s not a Saturday, it’s the usual battle. Yelling, repeated threats, maybe the offer of breakfast drags me downstairs. My dad has been known to threaten an ice-cold wet washcloth as the nuclear option in waking me up. » Read the rest of this entry «

#635: Just Like You

May 18th, 2016 § permalink

It would be hard not to burst, I suppose, through the doors between cars on a moving ‘L’ train.

Metal clamps, security latches, slamming and rumbling on tracks that bumble north through the city — a saunter or casual stroll through those doors would be a physical unreality. The doors between cars on a moving ‘L’ train slam open, a metal crash saying, “I’m here and I’m going to ask for your money.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#634: Streetlight Manifesto

May 16th, 2016 § permalink

The line of punk rockers snaked back and forth along the barricade of candy Walgreens uses to file the customers.

Past the gamut of Snickers and other impulse buys, the line of punks continued back through half the Walgreens, petering out by the premade turkey sandwiches.

“Did a show just let out?” I asked four sweaty white teens whose brand-new Streetlight Manifesto T-shirts hung limply over their scrawn. » Read the rest of this entry «

#633: American Lyric

May 13th, 2016 § permalink

The white-throated sparrow is a migratory songbird that passes through Chicago in the spring and again in the fall. Its chirp sounds like “Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada,” according to the Chicago Botanic Garden website, so maybe that wasn’t the bird that greeted me in the morning.

But I like the bird all the same, the little tree-mice whose songs trickle from the skies, even in a city. » Read the rest of this entry «

#632: I Am the Best Bahn Mi in Chicago

May 11th, 2016 § permalink

A writer I admire is going on an absolute tear on Facebook. The subject is the Chicago Reader Best of Chicago 2016 live poll.

You can vote on the Reader’s website, although she wishes you wouldn’t. » Read the rest of this entry «

#631: Uncle Bathhouse

May 9th, 2016 § permalink

“Bathhouse John Coughlin was my great, great uncle,” she wrote. “Nothing to be proud of, I know.”

I’ve received several interesting letters since starting the corruption walking tour. Some are old friends letting me know they heard me on the radio and “Miss yer face.” One man wrote about his fears the demolition of his childhood home was a land scam.

And then there was Bathhouse Coughlin’s great-great niece, letting me know what the family had been up to. » Read the rest of this entry «

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