#952: Her Eyes

July 11th, 2018 § permalink

We usually part in the morning. She leaves me behind before dawn’s crack during the school year. I let her go as the sun beats overhead when summer break starts.

No matter who leaves first, mornings are the time my wife and I say goodbye, chat about dinner and become our own selves for the day.

This week, though, she has business downtown. So I have company along my morning commute, the ‘L’ path among trees and towers. We rode the train together. My train. And I wonder if she saw. » Read the rest of this entry «

#941: The Romance of the Rickety (Or Elon Musk is the Simpsons Monorail Salesman and You Can’t Convince Me Otherwise)

June 15th, 2018 § permalink

I don’t like how the train shrieks when it goes around even the slightest of bends.

It shrieks and croaks and I think if one could actually hear metal fatiguing in real time, that’s what going around the Loop in 2018 would sound like.

I don’t like how the corners all smell like pee, how if you do find a quiet nook where you can prop up against a window, sip coffee and watch the tops of trees meander by, you’re forced to wonder what dried where you’re sitting.

I don’t like when the homeless people scream or when I feel like a horrible person for wishing someone away when they just want to find a place to sleep without freezing to death.

But I’d take all the smell, noise and moral ambiguity a thousand times over Elon Musk. » 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 «

#919: Duet

April 25th, 2018 § permalink

I had seen the old man with the detergent bottle foot before, but the woman was new. » Read the rest of this entry «

#911: That Question

April 6th, 2018 § permalink

If you’re reading the title to this little schmear of words, mentally stress the word “that.”

It’s not that question, it’s that question. The one we all know. The one we’ve asked and been asked and we winced with discomfort both times.

This that question came from behind me as the train trundled me north from work.

“Can we still be friends?” a woman said into her phone. » 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 «

#883: It

January 31st, 2018 § permalink

It started with a joke, not a good joke or a particularly funny one but one of the stock jokes one stranger tells another and then the second stranger chuckles politely, feels a lightly warm moment of shared humanity and then promptly forgets forever that the first stranger ever existed.

But in this case, the interaction of strangers didn’t end with the warm, human, pleasant, forgettable, boring, space-filling, meaningless little joke of jokes. That’s where it started.

“We’re going to get real cozy here,” I said as the packed train shoved me closer to the old man in the woven mohawk hat. » Read the rest of this entry «

#882: The Germans Have a Word for It

January 29th, 2018 § permalink

I mean, I’m sure they have a word for it. They have a word for everything. It’s like a whole… language.

I’m sure the German word for it is guttural and 14 feet long. I’m sure it’s made of slapping different word particles together into a monstrosity meaning something like the-anger-of-realizing-your-childhood-joys-no-longer-entertain-even-in-a-nostalgic fashion or the-unthinking-sigh-you-give-at-the-moment-you-learn-a-mother’s-love-is-and-always-has-been-conditional.

I’m sure the French have a phrase for it, something elegant, pithy and too clever by half. » Read the rest of this entry «

#878: 10 Straight Days

January 19th, 2018 § permalink

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” the voice came from overhead.

It was a velvety voice made tinny by the CTA loudspeakers rattling through the morning riders and silty, road-salt floor smears of a morning train.

“Although it’s warming up, I need some sun so I’m going to be taking vacation next month in Florida. Who’s with me?” the velvet-voice conductor continued as the shriek of the long, black tunnel rose Doppler to drown his words. » Read the rest of this entry «

#871: Caesura

January 3rd, 2018 § permalink

It’s a tired city smeared white with road salt.

The cold always takes a lot out of the town. It’s an effort to move, to pack yourself thick with swaddle. Coats that go to the knees, scarves, gloves, hats we’d all agree were hideous in a better world than ours.

Breathing is sharp, noses drip, backs ache, and it feels a workout for legs just going up and down road-salt stairs down to the subway hub to head elsewhere.

Everything’s been slow in the cold. People aren’t going out when they don’t have to. “When they don’t have to” is becoming a larger category each dropped degree.

So down empty white-smeared streets, down huddled penguin hallways even the smiling Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned, down into the city’s railway belly, we have a rest. We have a caesura. » Read the rest of this entry «

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