#975: Will Tomorrow Smell Like Chocolate?

September 3rd, 2018 § permalink

The smell of chocolate wafts around the building.

It has for years, decades. That smell permeates the building and spreads out onto the North Branch of the river. When the wind is right it scents the whole downtown with a short, tangy reminder of cocoa and jobs. On summer days, it’s what Chicago smells like to me.

Inside the factory door of the blankface warehouse, there’s a glass booth decorated with hygiene requirements for any visiting subcontractors. A few workers pile out the door, their shift done. They laugh wearily and joke, like kids at the end of a school day.

The hefty man behind the glass sees me and nods me in what’s clearly the right direction. I enter the shop.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#892: A Primer on Metaphors (Or Don’t Put Lawn Jockeys on the Reader)

February 21st, 2018 § permalink

I’m not here to talk about the racism. Better men than I have that covered.

I’m not here to talk about bullying in media, or about liberals who use people of color as proof of purchase for ideology.

I’m not here to join the chorus of thinkpieces saying the Chicago Reader’s cover using a lawn jockey to symbolize black voters is really about this and that is really about that. This is really about what Adeshina Emmanuel said it was about — racism both overt and covert, a decision-making process that put a bully in command and the media’s desire for black men’s voices so long as the black men say what they’re expected. I have no words to add to that.

My sole purpose in this non-thinkpiece thinkpiece is to remind Chicago writers how to use a metaphor. » Read the rest of this entry «

#786: Authenticity VaVOOM

May 5th, 2017 § permalink

She strode to the center of the ring, her muscles rippling under pounding stage lights that could be described as all-covering and a wrestling singlet that absolutely couldn’t.

Her foe in the faux mustache and all-too-real chest hair laughed at her, pointed and made a Trumpian chuckle-smirk to the audience. He turned to the crowd to flex again, the audience hurling boos at him as his theme song – “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” – piped through the gymnasium.

Then the wrestling began, wedged between the dancing. » Read the rest of this entry «

#701: Away

October 19th, 2016 § permalink

I can see the Enwave building from here. That’s the squat little riverside icebox that acts as chiller for the office buildings around.

I see the Van Buren Street bridge too, and the bottom of the salmon-colored skyscraper that’s topped with the light bulb castle that blares like a beacon at night. Tour boats and Lower Wacker drivers coast by silently at eye level. Pontoons and rec boats cruise a little lower.

It smells like burnt carbon underground. » Read the rest of this entry «

#692: The Beautiful Catastrophe

September 28th, 2016 § permalink

I thought I was meant to laugh unending.

I thought I was meant to joke and taunt, bouncing unbruised from one fiasco to another, enthusiasm unflagged. I would joke away the Bushes, the Cruz, the neverending Romneys pop pop popping up like four-year perennials.

I would win one of these days, I thought, because I was smarter, younger, more vicious, more willing to laugh and joke the crowds away. I would win because how could I not? How could I not laugh the murderers and fools out of sight by being so very damn clever?

I can’t laugh right now. I can’t laugh at what happened Monday. » Read the rest of this entry «

#648: My Life in Paper

June 17th, 2016 § permalink

I was proud of the story I wrote about the linear accelerator, although that was cut some when Fermilab never built it.

I hadn’t thought about the little girl with Down syndrome in years. What a smile she had. How proud she was of her swimming.

Oh god, the circus story. That damn elephant.

It was good to go through my life in paper. » Read the rest of this entry «

#628: Ink and Blood

May 2nd, 2016 § permalink

The Baron stood before the room. He stood in full regalia, military dress blues accented by a golden sash bandoliered across his shoulders and a white mask across his eyes.

Through that white mask, he tried to quiet the room with a glare.

“Take off the sash!” a woman in the crowd yelled for the third or fourth time.

“I told you before,” he said, gesturing to his face. “Ugly.”

The duel was about to begin. » Read the rest of this entry «

#586: The Big Guy’s Palace

January 25th, 2016 § permalink

The Blackhawks-clad diner came in two main parts. If you turned left when you came in the door, the Blackhawks-clad patrons had tables and booths. If you turned right, it was a long, thin walkable strip between wall and counter.

The big guy walked down this thin corridor without bumping into anyone. It was a suave, practiced feet.

As he walked, he boomed a question that I answered. Thankfully, I had enough patty melt in my mouth that he didn’t hear my response, considering he was talking to the Blackhawks-clad trio just past me. » Read the rest of this entry «

#314: Fear and Storage

April 30th, 2014 § permalink

I don’t care how much Prince you pipe in, storage spaces are creepy. » Read the rest of this entry «

#160: Caving the Union League Club

May 6th, 2013 § permalink

In a room the size of a hundred smaller ones, among carpeting and columns that screamed high tea, I stood inches from an Ivan Albright while a trumpeter diddled in the background. » Read the rest of this entry «

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