#983: Last Afternoon

September 21st, 2018 § permalink

The smell right now is coffee and smoke.

The coffee comes from my cup, the smoke comes from a man in jean jacket and spendy fashion version of combat boots one picnic table over  from mine. We’re all at picnic tables in the backyard-turned-patio of the house-turned-coffee-shop in the Puerto-Rican-turned-hip enclave of Humboldt Park.

I’m here now on the last afternoon. » Read the rest of this entry «

#928: Comparing and the Train

May 16th, 2018 § permalink

I hauled some boxes from storage this week and made the mistake of looking at my past.

Letters, birthday cards, photos of people I had forgotten about and of people I won’t ever be able to. Trinkets and trophies hard-won but now more a matter of storage space than personal pride.

I’ve googled some people from that shared past, disparate present. Of course their photos are lovely and their web presence curated. Of course no one posts the moments of whimsy and maudlin and floating, aimless sad. No one of this crowd but me was dumb enough to put anything but happy things online.

So I went to my happy place — the Chicago public transit system. » Read the rest of this entry «

#861: State Matters

December 11th, 2017 § permalink

She was waiting for someone else to care. That never goes well. » Read the rest of this entry «

#856: The Invisible

November 29th, 2017 § permalink

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. » Read the rest of this entry «

#756: Blades

February 24th, 2017 § permalink

I saw a homeless man pull a machete out of his shopping cart on Thursday. » Read the rest of this entry «

#749: Pennies on the Dollar

February 8th, 2017 § permalink

He sat in the door frame, propped against the wall on some ledge hidden among the two-liter bottles of off-brand citrus soda.

Leaning forward, his hands bracing himself on his knees, he wheezed a bit, his large body still recovering from the effort of opening the door and coming in. His walker rested on the sidewalk outside.

I slid past him to get the six-pack I promised a friend. » Read the rest of this entry «

#740: Hush and Hustle

January 18th, 2017 § permalink

A damp gray morning wrapped around the city.

A puffed indigo coat wrapped around the little boy.

His light blue eyes wrapped around the workers in the middle of the street. » Read the rest of this entry «

#709: Vote Like a Champ in Just Six Steps

November 7th, 2016 § permalink

Voting is like improv comedy: The fact you’re unprepared is only amusing to you.

For the rest of us, those who take more than one stab at existence and who tire of any activity with a cover and two-drink minimum to watch state school theater majors laugh harder at their own jokes than the audience ever will, we like to be a little more prepared.

So in the vein of my Bare Minimum Voting Guide from the primary, a six-step plan that will get you voting like a champ in no time. * » Read the rest of this entry «

#687: The Yegg and The Berries – Two Prohibition-Era Craft Cocktails That Taste Like Sadness

September 16th, 2016 § permalink

The ‘20s are big in 2016.

Pseudo-speakeasies, modern burlesque and of course craft cocktails are the thing across Chicago’s nightlife.

We want to imagine ourselves hobnobbing with the Dil Picklers, dancing to Louis Armstrong all night at the Sunset Café. (We don’t picture ourselves getting shaken down for protection money or forced to use the colored person entrance to buildings, but Prohibition is far from the only era to get a romantic whitewashing.)

Being a person who knows actual history, I’m aware that most cocktails weren’t a sign of class and style so much as sugary attempts to stretch out what little booze they could get. And Ben Hecht fabricated many if not most of his 1001 Afternoons in Chicago stories, so feet of clay all around here, folks.

To slap your joy with the open palm of reality, I gathered several friends and forced them to try and rate two nasty, noxious and just-as-authentic-as-a-Sazerac Prohibition-era craft cocktails. » Read the rest of this entry «

#678: Told

August 26th, 2016 § permalink

He got up, drink in hand.

He told his piece to the crowd thick like lichen on every free surface of the tiny tavern. He gave stats on Latinos with PhDs. He talked about dodging gunfire the night before he defended his dissertation.

He backtracked and repeated himself. He laughed at his own jokes and sometimes talked so close to the mic I couldn’t understand him. He was unpolished and unprofessional.

It was the greatest storytelling event I’ve ever been to. » Read the rest of this entry «

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