#967: The Legend of Boots Merullo

August 15th, 2018 § permalink

Everyone has a favorite athlete and then their “favorite.”

The “favorite” is the top athlete they like and can admit to liking. The socially acceptable one. The one you can show off to your friends and take home to momma.

But everyone has a shameful, secret, actual favorite. Like a scandal-plagued athlete who you can’t admit still inspires you most, or one who became a joke but you still can’t get out of your head. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Pre-North Korea Dennis Rodman.

My ”favorite” is Ryne Sandberg. But my actual, secret favorite is the immortal Lennie Merullo, who had a secret darker than blood doping, the ladies or whatever the hell happened to Dennis Rodman because that dictatorship stuff just went off the rails.

Lennie Merullo, my hero, was a really lousy baseball player.
» Read the rest of this entry «

#837: Fire-Flowers

September 1st, 2017 § permalink

The sky above exploded in whites, reds, blues, crinkly crinoid yellows that shimmered over its reflection in a darkened lake.

The concrete below shook and rattled with every car that sped by just feet behind us. » Read the rest of this entry «

#818: Tour de Chicago – Lakefront Encroachment

July 19th, 2017 § permalink

If all went according to plan, the wife and I are currently backpacking through Marseilles following the Tour de France and you’ve already taken bike routes through the history of newspapers and the LGBTQ community.

Now let’s talk about the lake. » Read the rest of this entry «

#772: The Antelope Takes Flight

April 3rd, 2017 § permalink

“Man,” she said, lapsing into silence for what my digital recorder tells me was six seconds.

Six seconds might not seem like a long time, but try it sometime. Sit in silence for six seconds at a peppy Streeterville coffee shop after work on a Friday while Fatboy Slim’s 1998 hit “The Rockafeller Skank” blasts about funk soul brothers overhead and you’re trying to explain to a virtual stranger with a digital recorder why you love something you love.

“Sometimes it’s the smell?” she said, laughing. » Read the rest of this entry «

#569: The 1,001 Chicago Afternoons Holiday Gift Guide

December 16th, 2015 § permalink

Although Hanukkah is over, there is actually another gift-giving holiday in December.

Followers of the sect known as Christianity celebrate a special day called “Christ-mas” in which trees are slaughtered, cookies are left for fat, flying elvish deer-herders and Irishmen receive massive amounts of birds.

In case you want to purchase a gift for this regional folk festival, here are some ideas that will support a few of the people and organizations I’ve written about in the 150 stories that have appeared on this site so far in 2015. » Read the rest of this entry «

#547: Game Over

October 26th, 2015 § permalink

Every 105 minutes, I saw the Navy Pier Ferris wheel dissolve. » Read the rest of this entry «

#539: Tower in a Park

October 7th, 2015 § permalink

It was falling apart in my hands, the creases and seams where the thick paper had been folded simply coming away from each other in the 50-ish years since the plans had been printed.

They show layouts, floor plans, hand-rendered pre-construction imaginings of what would become Lake Point Tower, the modern architecture castle jutting beautifully from the land just west of Navy Pier.

And there, on the front cover of the package sent to prospective tenants back in the mid-1960s, words that made me burn: “Tower in a Park.”

Not only did they know they were turning our public parks into millionaires’ backyards, they made it part of the ad campaign. » Read the rest of this entry «

#530: The Little Red Wagon

September 16th, 2015 § permalink

She was a middle-aged woman with gray-blonde hair pulled back in a functional ponytail. She gave off an aura of likability from behind her yellow safety vest.

Her smile was weary — I got the sense it had been one of many long days in a row — but it was genuine as well. I recalled a line from Roald Dahl about only trusting people whose smiles went all the way to the eyes.

And she towed a little red Radio Flyer wagon behind her. I liked that too. » Read the rest of this entry «

#528: The Quaint Device of Tom and Teller

September 11th, 2015 § permalink

She asked if I wanted to see a production of my favorite Shakespeare play staged by my favorite magician with a score by my third-favorite 20th-century songwriter.

Of course I said yes. » Read the rest of this entry «

#514: The Pier

August 10th, 2015 § permalink

Her parents relented to her squirms and wiggles, and let the little girl run back and forth in the bus aisle.

The scattered riders looked on the girl with approving, sad smiles and a bit of envy. The bus hadn’t moved in minutes, lodged in a gum wad of red brake lights in the dark. We were about 200 feet from our final destination.

We wanted to run free too, to scamper and skitter in a place promising to be as well-lit and safe as the aisle of a traffic-locked city bus.

So we went to Navy Pier. » Read the rest of this entry «

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