#865: Wood-Paved Alleys

December 20th, 2017 § permalink

There’s a block where, if you have to step aside for a car slowly rolling down crackling alley pavement, the car is a Bentley.

There’s a block where even the back entryways are tastefully decorated — can’t seem unseemly even to the rats and covert urinators who seek alleys as habitat.

There’s a block where tall staircases lead to immaculate brick homes with Christmas tree fairy lights and the everyday crystal chandeliers glinting and glowing out the windows.

And I was hunting these streets for an alley made of wood. » Read the rest of this entry «

#794: Night at the Museum

May 24th, 2017 § permalink

My ankle started to hurt, an old-man trait inherited from my dad’s side of the family, so I took a seat between the photo of the world’s first Ferris wheel and the old Chicago Times guide to the tribes you could gawk at.

The historian was still talking. » Read the rest of this entry «

#775: That Day

April 10th, 2017 § permalink

The penguins toddled a bit. I guess that’s what penguins do on land. They hop and waddle and toddle a bit.

The polar bear just slouched. It slouched back to the colder area of the enclosure; out of sight, out of warm, sunny day.

The lion laid back and let the sun warm its tummy.

It was that day. » Read the rest of this entry «

#735: He Vapes at Midnight

January 6th, 2017 § permalink

It was a mild, cold spatter of a winter rain, the type not harsh enough to keep you inside. It puts you on the streets — out, cold and miserable.

The stores were bright and fragile-looking, casting glances out the window, reverse shadows turned whirly rainbows reflected in the thin layer of oil slick city streets only show in the rain.

He held her in his arms. » 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 «

#617: Trains, Corpses and a $400 Million Hole – Three Things Underneath Chicago

April 6th, 2016 § permalink

My mother has been posting photos of what the privy diggers found.

I grew up in an old house which, apparently, used to have an outhouse right below the maple I used to climb. *

Outhouses in the 1800s were apparently trash dumps too, so my parents let some privy diggers — professional excavators — dig down to see what was there. They pulled out crystal wine stoppers, old bottles, cracked porcelain plates with blue-dyed townscapes, all right under my old maple.

It got me thinking about what’s beneath our feet in Chicago.

» Read the rest of this entry «

#606: A Most Difficult Chicago Trivia Quiz – The Answers

March 11th, 2016 § permalink

On Wednesday, I put out an incredibly difficult Chicago trivia quiz.

The purpose, aside from the fact I’ve been all coughing and bronchial and wanted a story I could write from my sickbed, was to get people to explore certain sites I like, including this one, Atlas Obscura, the Chicago Collections Consortium, the Chicago History Museum, Mysterious Chicago and Curious City.

So I made the quiz goldanged impossible. (And Curious City, that thing we talked about? It’s handled.)

From the Fool Killer submarine to park bats to Iroquois Theater Assistant Chief Usher Archie Guerin, here are the answers you didn’t get to the 1,001 Chicago Afternoons Really Difficult Trivia Quiz. » Read the rest of this entry «

#605: A Most Difficult Chicago Trivia Quiz

March 9th, 2016 § permalink

You might know the Iroquois Theater Fire happened in 1903, but do you know the name of the assistant chief usher called to testify after?

Sure, you know that the first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction was at the U of C campus, but do you know what sport the room was originally made for? » Read the rest of this entry «

#577: In the Time it Takes to Carve a Frog

January 4th, 2016 § permalink

The man with the leather or rubber apron and the chainsaw paced the raised platform amid a dozen or so earlier creations. Dragon. Fish. Penguin. Octopus. Waving bear.

He patted the block of ice, gave statistics on its weight. 300 pounds. He and a young woman grabbed it with large metal pincers, set it on the short table.

He called for suggestions from the small crowd huddled around the surrounding fence. They called fish, penguin, bear. He rejected them all, pulling what looked like an awl out of his back pocket to start scratching out a shape for the crowd to guess at. » Read the rest of this entry «

#553: A Pumpkin Spice Update and the Failure of Communism

November 9th, 2015 § permalink

It was a clear plastic knife, the type built for picnics where they really care.

I picked up the little knife, hefted it as much as one can with a sliver of molded plastic too light even to get a recycling number printed on it and cut off a slice of vanilla bean gourmet fancy-pantsy doughnut.


Now a slice of a cinnamonny looking ‘nut.


Now a risk, a gamble. A weird, sort of orangey thing with these odd teardrop seeds on top.

I pushed the knife into the doughnut until it gave, springy cake bits popping around each side of the dull petroleum blade. I popped a piece into my mouth. » Read the rest of this entry «

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