The apartment isn’t old, really. It’s no older than any other of the Chicago-style two-flats lining this little residential slip just a hair east of Western.
But it is old, teeming with history. The family has lived there 90 years, Arden Joy says. Her mother lives there now, she says as she walks you past the vintage typewriter at the top of the stairwell. Her grandmother lives on the first floor.
There are memories here, old photographs. Beautiful wallpaper ringed at the top by plates perched on a ledge of the wainscoting around the circle of the room. Some of the plates are old and beautiful, commemorative china perhaps. Others were clearly painted by children, the summer art projects of who knows how many generations of the family. They’re beautiful too.
The walls are stacked with books. They meet your approval as Arden and her friend Stefania step to the other room to prepare the tea you requested via e-mail.
And in the center of this family home on the second floor of the Chicago-style two-flat is a large wooden dining room table laden with computers and microphones. There’s a board of dials and wibbly levers that Arden twists and shimmies as you and Stephania chat over tea. Each microphone has a large circle in front of it filled with what looks like the foam from inside an air conditioner.
You sit at this cosy table, making sure to put your tea on a copy of T.S. Eliot left there because books absorb sound more than coasters do. In this comfortable family home, around this N. Rockwell dining table, you put on sound-damping headphones and prepare to speak into the foam circle.
“Episode 36,” the pair say in unison to their circles.
Arden and Stefania are podcasters, shooting out their words to the Internet fortnightly. From Arden’s family home, with brothers bustling and a sleek cat getting friendly, they interview activists, artists, authors, architects, poutine festival organizers, derby girls, comics, cops — everyone who makes Chicago Chicago.
Even a blogger guy getting 1,001 stories himself. It’s airing Monday.
“So you’re at a Second City show…” Arden starts in the pre-taped segment that tops every episode.
“Riding the Red Line…” Stefania chimes in.
“Eating a hot dog…”
“With no ketchup!”
“Cruising the Christkindlmarket…”
“Cheering on Da Bears at Soldier Field…”
“When suddenly you wonder: Who are all the people behind these things?”
“If you’ve ever wished you could sit down with these people for an hour and get to know them…”
“This is your chance!”
Arden Joy has radio in her blood, she says. She started the podcast in January 2012 with a different co-host and an interview with a nuclear power plant engineer and has been going since.
Stefania (who doesn’t use her last name for the podcast so you assume that’s how she wants it) is a sorority higher-up and former Your Chicago guest who, as she puts it, finagled her way into co-hosting. She’s a stand-up comic who needs to do it more, she says.
They’re witty and charming, bantering with each other and with the guest, putting the latter at ease with herbal tea and the promise of beer if it’s needed. It isn’t.
You talk for well beyond an hour. Partly it’s nerves — you’ve never learned when to shut up. But partly it’s the hosts, the weird, compelling questions they rehearsed to get their guest going, the comfort of the room, the old pictures on the wall, the beautiful dishes, even the sleek cat getting a little fresh mid-interview. The three of you talk and trade Chicago secrets and tell stories much longer than you expect, sharing tales of each other’s searches into this majestic and odd little skunk-town by the lake.
So yeah. Check it out. Especially on Monday.