#842: Quizmaster D

September 13th, 2017

Do people know DeKalb produced barbed wire?

Who has a clue what the second-biggest city in the state was before Rockford?

What is a reasonable amount of Cheap Trick lyrics to expect people to know? Like, all of them or just most?

On Sept. 21, I’ll be participating in Lit Crawl 2017, a series of literary and storytelling events flung across Andersonville for one night only. Sponsored by Women & Children First, the American Writers Museum and The Neo-Futurists., the night brings together some of the stars of Chicago’s storytelling scene, and some dumb guy named Paul.

I’ll be one of the readers at Hopleaf at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 as part of the “Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology” event. I’ve been asked to not only read from my contribution to the book but also to help come up with questions for the pub quiz that will follow the readings. And therein lies the rub: I didn’t write about well-known stuff.

Sure, my piece “The Carnival” is about going to Chicago Cubs games as a kid, but it’s really not about baseball. It’s about loss, poverty, the decline of American manufacturing and calling the Chicago White Sox “pooey dumb-dumb heads who smelled like poo.”

And it’s also about my hometown. So I have to write trivia questions for a mass audience about a place that elicits, if any response, either “That Madonna movie with the baseball team, right?” or a quiet “Oh” followed by the person slowly moving their purse or wallet out of my reach.

When you grow up in an area, you know a lot about it. You lose perspective on what’s reasonable for outsiders to know. I grew up knowing the town’s name, its founders, a bit of the history of American screw manufacturing and a thousand other bits of info equally endemic in my mind. I don’t know which of these things other people know.

It’s not if people know DeKalb made barbed wire or not. It’s that, if you’re not from Northern Illinois, do you even know DeKalb exists? Do people know about Rockford’s past as global leader of manufacturer of nuts, bolts, screws and other fastening devices, or just that it’s a good rest stop when driving between Chicago and Madison? In terms of Cheap Trick, everyone’s going to know every lyrics from 1979′s “Cheap Trick at Budokan” of course, but how deep into 1983′s “Next Position Please” is too deep?

I don’t know what’s reasonable to ask of strangers crawling between literary events.

You should come to the Lit Crawl on Sept. 21 to find out what I come up with.

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You are currently reading #842: Quizmaster D by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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