#500: Return of the 499

July 8th, 2015

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.

My first call was to honorary nephew Roland, age 10, who appeared in #362: Uncle Go Paul and #237: On Dining with Children Where I Used to Get Shitfaced and who was the subject of #365: Why Write? A Letter to my Nephew.

He wanted to talk history, surprisingly focused on the 1893 Columbian Exhibition for someone who still makes up stories about robots.

“I thought you were talking about writing a fiction story, but I like, um, I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s the Ferris wheel. Because it involves the Fair,” he said.

“And if I were writing a fiction story?” I asked.

“The Cubs winning the World Series.”

“Did your dad tell you to say that?”

“Yes.”

His brother Milo, 7, suggested I write about boats.

“They would go boating!” Milo said.

The unnamed narrator of The Nut Hut Trilogy (#193, #196 and #199) is an old friend of mine who sat down for tripe soup and a chat about how she used to be the bait in a phony prostitution scam (read the stories — it’ll make sense).

“In keeping with my theme,” she said, she’s digging up the name of a church group she’s heard of that goes out to “minister to prostitutes, porn stars, strippers and other sex workers.”

Another longtime friend, fellow hipster striver Steven Gilpin, who made his musical debut at Schuba’s last month, was profiled in #140: Evil Twins back in 2013. He suggested I talk to the Chicago tamale guys, those saviors of hungry nights out who circle local bars with coolers full of hot, homemade tamales.

Puppeteer Stephanie Díaz, whose handmade constructions told the tales of Mariposa Nocturna: A Puppet Triptych in #424: Paper, Wood and Wire, suggested I profile the famous Chicago Puppet Bike.

However, this is the only of the ideas I already had myself, profiling the mobile puppet show in #66: The Kitties Dance to Country.

Geologist and paleobiologist Asa Kaplan of #484: The Man in the Dinosaur Hat sent this as a response, which I’ve decided to run verbatim because I’m pretty sure he’s messing with me.

“Hmm something about lightning bugs? Midsummer, I mean. Something in the middle of something.”

Joann Martyn, who each year celebrates the day she didn’t die in #444: Didn’t Kick the Bucket Day, took a different approach.

“You’ve profiled a lot of people and told us their stories, but what I want to know — how have those stories impacted you? How has your life changed because of these stories you craft and share with the rest of the world?”

The answer, of course, is that when I started this project, I was 6 foot 5 and so muscled I looked like an over-inflated Stretch Armstrong.

Martha Bayne was first featured in late 2013 in #251: Karen’s Stone Soup, which was about a fundraiser Bayne and her friends held for Swim Café owner Karen Gerod’s medical bills. Gerod passed away the next summer, much missed by the Noble Square community.

Although she didn’t appear by name, Bayne next showed on the site through artist collective Theater Oobleck, the focus of #344: The Most Sarcastic Child in Chicago Watches a Clown Show.

So it’s only appropriate that a two-timer give two suggestions, “one self serving and one a wild card.”

One’s on the Veggie Bingo event she holds at The Hideout (itself the setting of #473: Autophagy, or Why Progressives Lose). The event looks as insane as the name implies, and you can bet your kale and golden beets I’ll be writing about that soon.

Bayne’s other idea, which I might do as early as next week, is to “go to the corner of 500 N/500 W and then 500 S/500 E and report on the street life.”

Absolutely perfect. I think it’ll still work even if it’s not story #500 on the nose.

Sculptor, graphic recorder and one of Chicago Magazine’s Most Eligible Singles in 2014 Dusty Folwarczny also worked with the number notion.

“I think you should write about something that has to do with the number 500 and Chicago. Maybe it’s the address of where you interview, or how many bottles of beer are produced in an hour, or how many oysters are consumed at Shaw’s happy hour,” she said.

Dusty’s company Ink Factory appeared in #162: The Graphic Recorders and she guided me through the why of modern sculpture in #197: The Hypothetical Zulu Test.

Rachel Hyman, my co-organizer co-host in the Welcome to the Neighborhood reading series, suggested I do something lighthearted and fun, “Since you already took the meta angle with the last story.”

Yeah… wouldn’t want to get too… meta.

Hm.

I don’t think I’ll be writing about the Cubs winning the series, and technically every story I write is “something in the middle of something.” But I want to take this chance to thank all the people who have shared their stories with me over these last three years. And I’m looking forward to the people I’ll meet in the next three.

Now come back Friday for the completely original idea I came up with myself about boats that go boating.

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