#899: The Battle ‘Ere Borne (Or, “How I Spent 16 Weeks in a Media Bowling League Listening to Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ on Repeat in a Failed Effort to Win a Sword Named Swords Terkel”)

March 9th, 2018 § permalink

Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses,” 1842

I was lying on the bench slide
In the park across the street
L-A-T-E-R that week.
My sticky paws were into making straws
Out of big, fat Slurpee treats.
An incredible, eight-foot heap.

— Len, “Steal My Sunshine,” 1999 » Read the rest of this entry «

#895: Quickly, the Corn

February 28th, 2018 § permalink

He was quick through practice, not intent.

There was no pressing need to dump the cheese and slather the mayo inside the cup so quickly, but after years of standing on street corners doing just that, that’s how fast he did it. He shook out the squeeze bottles of hot sauce and chili powder quickly as a matter of course. He grabbed a steaming ear of corn on the stick, carved off the kernels as per my request and tossed away the naked cob quickly because quickly is how it’s done.

And when the man with the mustache, dark baseball cap and radio slapped with a “This American Strife, From Englewood, Chicago” sticker handed me a Styrofoam cup of elotes from the cart parked on Milwaukee Avenue, he did it quickly. » Read the rest of this entry «

#886: Welcome to 2008

February 7th, 2018 § permalink

The bar lets you bring in food from the greasy spoon next door, so I got a hamburger on a pita, which is apparently something that exists.

The place was designed for the young, the beer pong table and oversized Jenga tower attested, but at this early hour it was inhabited by the old. The guys at the bar talking wildly and broadly to pack in as much mock drunkness and youth as possible before their wives call them home for supper, old. The white-haired drinker at the end of the bar, silent but for the occasional gloomy sigh as he stared into nothing, real old.

And the bartender was old, thick Chicago accent that caused me to code switch into my own Chik-kahgo Guy ever so slightly as I ordered a beer to wash down my pita-meat.

I nestled by a window to watch snow glimmer over neon and sexless forms wrapped in scarf and hood hustle down the sidewalk. This was it. This was the place. This mixture of old men in a young bar, of desperation on a poor slip of a rich neighborhood, this sandwich ne’er before seen in my lifetime was a perfect, patented, ready-made 1,001 Chicago Afternoons story.

But first I just need to check something on my phone.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#866: The Xylophone Solo

December 22nd, 2017 § permalink

Across the bowling alley: cheers, groans, the thick whomps of thrown balls landing to skitter down the boards, the clinking of pitchers, the cry of “Tamale! Tamale!”

Above the bowling alley: xylophone. » Read the rest of this entry «

#727: The Heart of the Book

December 19th, 2016 § permalink

“Books are…”

He trailed off, glanced around a bit, swirled his mug of coffee, sucked some air in through his teeth and let out a frustrated ah as he tried to find the end to the sentence.

“They’re living things.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#719: Help Nonprofits Survive Trump – Call for Submissions

November 30th, 2016 § permalink

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office and become the 45th president of the United States of America. The world will be worse.

So let’s spend the night before making it just a bit better. » Read the rest of this entry «

#713: In Praise of the Tamale Guy

November 16th, 2016 § permalink

“Tamale!” he yelled, lifting the small red cooler to demonstrate his wares. “Tamale!”

Marc from the office got a strange, quirked look on his face. He turned to the others clustered around the table.

“Who would buy a tamale from a-”

“Tamale!” I yelled, walking up from the ATM.

The Cubs won the World Series and, electorally, orange is the new black, so I should be through the looking glass on surprises this month. But somehow it managed to shock me that none of my coworkers had ever bought a tamale off a tamale guy. » Read the rest of this entry «

#634: Streetlight Manifesto

May 16th, 2016 § permalink

The line of punk rockers snaked back and forth along the barricade of candy Walgreens uses to file the customers.

Past the gamut of Snickers and other impulse buys, the line of punks continued back through half the Walgreens, petering out by the premade turkey sandwiches.

“Did a show just let out?” I asked four sweaty white teens whose brand-new Streetlight Manifesto T-shirts hung limply over their scrawn. » Read the rest of this entry «

#625: The Chimes of Logan Square

April 25th, 2016 § permalink

We walked down the street, the three of us, east past California where the bars and grills and oh-so-on-trend little boozeries stopped and into the construction-clad dead zone separating the hip enclaves of Logan Square and Wicker Park.

It was dark, and I had my worries when sidewalk construction on two massive condo blocks dipped the pathway into the street. On our way out for the night, I had seen confused bikers use the walking path to ride. Under the dark, I was concerned they wouldn’t see us in time.

Over the dark air, the sound of wind chimes filled an otherwise empty road. » Read the rest of this entry «

#618: A Reading in Logan

April 8th, 2016 § permalink

The promised wine was a single bottle of grocery store white for the whole room.

The lights were overly bright and killed all mood, all illusion we were anywhere other than a well-lit storefront during regular shopping hours.

It didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter the promised wine evaporated between a roomful, it didn’t matter the bookstore was as bright and moodful as a 1990s Toys ‘R’ Us. It didn’t matter that the door gave a loud electronic ding whenever real shoppers came in, making a meerkat moment of a dozen heads swiveling at once to scout the new intruder.

None of that mattered because we were there to rule the world. » Read the rest of this entry «

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