#480: The First First 1,001 Chicago

May 22nd, 2015 § permalink

Microfilm nauseates.

It was a room on the third floor of the Harold Washington Library, a room few go into when pdfs and scans are available from the comfort of home. The old microfilm is unused and cracking — the Daily News records for 1921 have split to the point where the black buffer of tape is gone and the roll starts mid-issue.

The Chicago Herald records from 1917 were in better shape.

The choice was between a projector that sticks and one that won’t rewind. Whirring, churning, slugging by under draining yellow lights, the Herald’s takes on World War I, Pancho Villa and long-forgotten murders du jour lurched by my eyes, filling me with a whirring, churning, slugging nausea.

But I had to prove this project was inspired by Ben Hecht’s “1001 Afternoons in Chicago,” and not by the author of a 1950 guide to sleaze. » Read the rest of this entry «

#479: The Lost Bar

May 20th, 2015 § permalink

He was at the bar two patrons down from me, leaning over and pointing at the drinker he had buttonholed. He jabbed the air with every point he made, leaning his head down to wait for confirmation on each, because it’s not fun being right if no one says it.

It was the same tone he used to take with me when I was the one leaned into and pointed at. I nodded then just as rigorously as the drinker was now. “Yes. Yes. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah. I should write about that.”

But it was to the same effect. My agreement then and the nodding drinker’s agreement now egged him on, not shut him up.

I turned away, moved over to the counter where they sell “no fries, chips” to wait until the line cook finished my Billy Goat cheezborger. » Read the rest of this entry «

#478: Nouns of Assemblage

May 18th, 2015 § permalink

We’ll start simply. A group of wolves is a pack.

Pride of lions, that’s one everyone knows.

A herd of sheep.

Now let’s get more complicated, ratchet it up.

A murder of crows.

A parliament of owls.

A smack of jellyfish. » Read the rest of this entry «

#477: The Corner, 1836-1971

May 15th, 2015 § permalink

I guess I missed the 1800s.

On Wednesday, we looked at a few random moments in the history of the intersection of Randolph and Dearborn.

We saw a 1909 photo of a midday rush of streetcars and horse-drawn carriages, heard a one-legged booking agent’s 1919 vaudeville memories. I capped that article when the intersection was the hub of the theater district in the 1930s, with the full intention of spending this one going to the ‘50s, going to the ‘70s and then going to bed.

A chance encounter with Homer Hoyt and Harry A. Millis’ 1933 “One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago” on Google Books required a late-night rewrite.

So, well past the midnight hour, let’s see what the intersection with the McDonald’s, Daley Center, Goodman Theatre bar and that angry street preacher with the portable speakers looked like in the early days of Chicago. » Read the rest of this entry «

#476: The Corner, 1909-1931

May 13th, 2015 § permalink

1919, Eddye H.B. Kendall

“Morning ’til night (say 10 a. m. to 5 p. m.) the sidewalks on the northeast and northwest corners of N. Dearborn and W. Randolph Sts. were crowded with vaudeville performers. There were acrobats, aerialists, singers, dancers, ventriloquists, jugglers, animal men, dramatic sketch artists, piano teams, dialect comedians in all classes, wire walkers, trick cyclists, sister teams, trios and quartettes, pantomimists, trick cartoonists, novelty musical acts, monologists, soubrettes and prima donnas, mimes and entertainers in all the infinate [sic] variety which was Vaudeville.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#475: How They Joined the Circus — Captain Hammer and the Groupie

May 11th, 2015 § permalink

Eric did flips at 47th and Michigan.

Kae broke her back in Ohio.

Jim got slapped at a Bruce Wayne fundraiser.

And Julie had too much to drink one night.

That’s how they joined the circus.

Last month, we met Acrobatica Infiniti, the nerd circus. The acrobat collective has Jedi who juggle, Aquaman aerialists, bipedal B-Boy bactrosaurs and other acts, alliterative or not, that combine circus and nerd cultures. » Read the rest of this entry «

#474: Level Up

May 8th, 2015 § permalink

It’s easy to wax poetic at a graduation. That’s sort of what a graduation is, a chance to don medieval dresses and impractical hats and wax poetic about the last four or so years. » Read the rest of this entry «

#473: Autophagy, or Why Progressives Lose

May 6th, 2015 § permalink

The progressives came to the industrial park.

They came on bikes, on foot, in aging, limping, soot-chuffing hatchbacks slathered in anti-oil bumper stickers. They came with buttons and reason.

They came to see the journalists. » Read the rest of this entry «

#472: Show of Hands

May 4th, 2015 § permalink

Wet from the blattering rain outdoors, they gathered in a glowing gallery storefront to tell lies to each other. » Read the rest of this entry «

#471: The Fan

May 1st, 2015 § permalink

There’s always someone who loves baseball more than you do.

I went to Wrigley. I did the things. $8.50 beer, $5.75 hot dog, $49.50 hoodie because I misjudged the chill night breeze.

We sat and laughed and watched the Cubs lose badly, cutting out early when the game got too dire.

That’s a thing you do at Wrigley too.

Then came the man in the bathroom. » Read the rest of this entry «

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