#856: The Invisible

November 29th, 2017

Javi’s roommate was very patient.

He came in the back, as requested, and glanced at the three men laughing loudly about 19th century dry goods magnate Aaron Montgomery Ward and hung out in his room for a bit.

He was cool.

Last night, I participated in the inaugural episode of an upcoming podcast. I don’t know how much info Javi wants shared — the name, the target launch date, etc. — but I’ll post a link to the podcast here and on the 1,001 Chicago Afternoons Facebook page when it’s up.

It’s a podcast from tour guides, which is going to be more fun than you realize. It’s people paid to be charismatic and engaging about stuff they couldn’t give two whits about (the height of Sears Tower, Mayor William Butler Ogden, all the mob movie crap the tourists gobble up) grabbing a beer and cutting loose about the things they do care about.

When not trying to explain our banking system to old Japanese ladies or trying to convince the French that American coffee is not an affront to God, which it absolutely is, tour guides are as a rule:

  • Personable
  • Funny
  • Foul-mouthed
  • Oddly passionate about municipal history
  • Drinkers
The podcast is going to be fun.

An open secret about tourism is that a surprisingly huge percentage of what you hear is bull, either lies the guide heard and believed, last-minute improvisations when you blank on what year a building was built or gigantic whopping tales couched under “some say” or “the story goes.”

People ooh and ahh and snap pictures and hopefully don’t write research papers based on what they hear.

The podcast Javi — that’s Javier Dominguez of Shoreline Sightseeing, ask for him by name — leans into that. Each episode will have Javi and two other local guides trying to lie to each other’s faces. For the inaugural episode/test run Javi, I and Ben — that’s Ben Archer of Shoreline, the crime tours and every other guide company you can think of, ask forĀ him by name too — took turns telling our favorite true historical stories, filling them with balderdash and blatherskite. Then the other guides try to separate the entertaining truth from the entertaining fiction.

The theme was Thanksgiving, so when the episode debuts, prepare for some truth and lies around Black Friday, the history of prayer and the expulsion of the Potawatomi from Chicago.

And then we all tell tour guide horror stories.

Taping the episode was a blast, three men crowded around a laptop on a dining room table in a Humboldt Park two-flat. TheĀ polite roommate eventually tired of his room, so when you listen always envision an increasingly weary man with earbuds eating pasta on the couch in the background.

That’s how podcasts are, and blogs and YouTube channels and all other forms of media created by amateurs with laptops and dreams. It’s not a newspaper typed up at a cluttered desk, or a play set before a crowd, or a guitar solo twiddled in the corner of a sweaty bar on dollar draft night. Our art comes from living rooms and bedrooms with roommates eating pasta and, when alone, varying levels of pantslessness. We type, talk and sing into our screens, imagining an invisible audience clapping at our every word.

We’re at a point where art is designed by the amateurs for increasingly targeted audiences. Maybe no one else will enjoy our hilarious tales of Aaron Montgomery Ward, but for others, that’s exactly what they need.

So let’s leave this story here, with three grown men goofing around, enjoying each other’s jokes and sharing the stories they love with a room full of the invisible.

Read a random story from the archives, likely written while pantsless

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