#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 «

#859: Two Women

December 6th, 2017 § permalink

Last night, I met a woman.

She was short, with either vintage style or a winter coat and hat — at a certain temperature, the indicators of “retro” and “just very warm” start to blur. But on a chill, dark train platform at Belmont, frantic rivulets of bleached orange hair crept at odd angles from under a jaunty cap.

And she held before her a cluster of dowel rods. » Read the rest of this entry «

#855: Glass and Rust

November 27th, 2017 § permalink

Dawn is odd to colorblind eyes. It’s a mixture of orange and green, a color pairing that makes perfect sense to my particular visual defects but earns blinks and confusion when described.

It’s OK. My version of reality is prettier than yours. Even when seen from a 6 a.m. train rumbling toward a city of glass. » Read the rest of this entry «

#853: Scream

November 22nd, 2017 § permalink

I hate the smart ones the most.

Hate is the wrong word. I don’t hate them. I hate that they exist, that there are crazy screaming men out there savvy enough to include notes about the Federal Reserve Bank and on the Bears’ handling of Jay Cutler in their hobo screed. I hate that I can’t reach them. I hate that there’s nothing I can do.

He started so good too. » Read the rest of this entry «

#847: Making It

November 8th, 2017 § permalink

He didn’t talk for as long as he could.

You could tell he wanted to. You could tell he had comments to add, things to say in our conversation that he was not a part of. He’d chuckle silently at a joke one of us made, his body quivering a little behind the wheel. Or he’d nod along at a point as he flicked on the turn signal or merged into traffic.

But he held out from the moment he picked us up at the 26th and California courthouse in Little Village up until the pre-rush hour glut by the Ogilvie train station when he just couldn’t take it any more. » Read the rest of this entry «

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