#958: Chess Dogs

July 25th, 2018 § permalink

Across from a chalet-style law firm with the old butcher’s shop name “Schmidt Metzgerei” still written above in font as close to German Gothic as nailed-up tiles can muster, next to a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple founded by Japanese-Americans returning after imprisonment in American concentration camps during WWII, there is a valley of chess tables with dogs on them. » Read the rest of this entry «

#800: Knowing a Lot

June 7th, 2017 § permalink

Men play bags at the corner bar north across North.

The distance and the scream of cars rushing over the avenue make it an oddly silent game, little marionettes stepping forward to underhand bean bags into the sky, hoping their loft comes ka-thunking down near the board set up on the game’s other side. One man makes an odd wooting call that cuts through the traffic for a moment. Wha-ooo, not wha-hoo. Wha-ooo.

You’re standing by an empty lot that used to house a corrupt alderman’s bar. » Read the rest of this entry «

#750: Two and Four

February 10th, 2017 § permalink

The entirety of American political history can be found at an old polling place somewhere along the north branch of the Chicago River. » Read the rest of this entry «

#411: The Podcast

December 12th, 2014 § permalink

There is a type of story you can’t help tell without sounding old.

It’s the type that starts in a comedy club with a curtain over the door so the comic doesn’t get a blast of light in the face every time someone has to go to the bathroom.

It’s the type of story that starts with wait staff filing and shuffling people into seats, taking drink orders, bringing up napkins and plates of fries for table to split, gliding around with pitchers and smiles as others file more hungry, thirsty faces in.

It’s the type of story where a man you’ve only seen on TV comes up wearing cloth reindeer antlers, casually shakes your hand and says, “Hi, I’m Greg” before moving on to do the same at the next table. » Read the rest of this entry «

#406: The Comedy Machine

December 1st, 2014 § permalink

The line started outside.

It was wrapped around, as lines should be. The perfect length to show that, yes, what’s happening in this small storefront in Old Town is worth seeing, worth waiting for, worth wrapping around a building for.

“I don’t know how clear your conscience needs to be, but the line starts back there,” a man in line snipped as I walked in the doors.

I shot him a look somewhere between obsequious smile and a 14-year-old girl’s interpretation of withering.

“We’re heading up to will-call on the second floor,” I said. “My conscience is fine.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#165: Three True Moments in North Side Chicago

May 17th, 2013 § permalink

1. Wrigleyville

Just down the street from a storefront just marked “BEER,” no one was interested in the best margaritas in Wrigleyville.

The windows and doors had been thrown open to let the spring warm patrons who would hopefully come in to watch the Cubs lose badly on the many, many TVs stationed around the bar.

It wasn’t working. I was alone with my Victoria. » Read the rest of this entry «

#32: The Cleverest Hobo

July 11th, 2012 § permalink

This is the tale of the smartest bum I ever met. » Read the rest of this entry «

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