#991: Nothing But Trouble

October 10th, 2018 § permalink

The three best bits of advice I ever heard about riding Chicago public transit are:

  • “My bus is my bus. I don’t try to make my bus my taxi.”
  • “There’s a reason that car is empty.”
  • and “Nothing but trouble comes through those doors.”

» Read the rest of this entry «

#990: Xanthippe (Or, “Tomorrow’s Song,” but it’s 990 stories in and I only have one story that starts with X so far)

October 8th, 2018 § permalink

On the train, by the window, rumbling south from the far north. Monday morning, she looked out through ’70s style Lennon sunglasses as she hunched over a college-rule notebook, pen in her left hand, wrist wrapped ’round purse so no one can grab and run.

Natural hair, close-cropped but growing out the last remnants of a henna job. It looked good — fashionable and two-tiered. I don’t know if she was hiding it under the white baseball cap turned backwards, or just was wearing a hat. I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to stop her scribbling. » Read the rest of this entry «

#989: Thoughts on a Cop

October 5th, 2018 § permalink

He was lanky and each pore of his skin oozed young.

He had a baseball cap popped too low on his head, like his mom had shoved it down before licking her thumb to scrub a bit of schmutz off his cheek. He noticed people looking at him — noticed me looking at him — and bit his lower lip, chewing it a bit as the train rumbled northward.

He turned and I got a better look down the aisle of the machine strapped to his hip. I helped pay for it. It could kill us all. » Read the rest of this entry «

#988: The Rabbi, Harry Potter and Too Many Corpses

October 3rd, 2018 § permalink

“I’ll tell you a good example,” the rabbi said. “A lady called me up, she said her son wants to go to the Museum of Science and Industry. They had a Harry Potter exhibit, OK? Imagine a kid, I don’t know how old he was, who was into Harry Potter needing to go to this Harry Potter exhibit. So I talked to her, I looked into it a little bit about how the exhibit was set up and it wasn’t possible. I wasn’t able to find a solution really.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#987: The Americans

October 1st, 2018 § permalink

I don’t want to write where this was because I don’t want the cops to roust them.

I’ll say it was on the North Branch of the river, in a spot where blue herons and kingfishers dance among the plastic bags and floating bottles. I’ll say it was where the water striders skim the surface so diligently their trails look like raindrops, and the sound of oars slicing the water overcomes road traffic and O’Hare-bound planes, but only for a bit.

I’ll say it was under a bridge since the story won’t work without it, but giving that much information frightens me, that tipping the world to their existence will get someone to call someone to call an alderman or cop and the laughing men and women and the community they built will be torn down and shoved out.

But they smile and laugh and wave and drink way too early on a Sunday, and they yell to us few on kayaks that they’re Americans. » Read the rest of this entry «

#986: Janna’s Light

September 28th, 2018 § permalink

As a child, Janna Sobel wanted to find the moment the light shut down and you became an adult.

“I felt like my friends were more playful, goofy, spontaneous, like whole, emotional, funny, alive,” she said as we sat in the grass by the Lincoln Park Children’s Fountain, the coincidence not occurring to me until I wrote this sentence. “As a kid it seemed to me like there was a light in their eyes — that’s the way I described it when I was young — and I didn’t see that same level of fullness of being or animatedness or livingness in most adults. It looked like something had happened.”

As an adult, she found that moment.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#985: Packy & Cracky’s Super Funtastic Go-Go-Wow Illinois Political Gamesmanship Kids Activity Book

September 26th, 2018 § permalink

The following is a selection from a planned-then-discarded kids activity book about Illinois politics I briefly toyed with writing in 2017.

While I have no desire to actually write the adventures of Packy and Cracky the Gerrymander Twins, Their Friend TIFany, Layoffo the News Clown and House Speaker Mike Madigan, it is super-late in the day and I have to run to an interview for an actual story about life in modern Chicago.

So with your indulgence and forgiveness I give you Gubernatorial Corruption Charge Limericks. Answers will be posted on the @1001chicago Twitter account at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28. Thank you for making it to 985 stories and may God have mercy on my soul. » Read the rest of this entry «

#984: Life and Death for $15

September 24th, 2018 § permalink

Below the bowels of the Daley Center courthouse, in an office where the website lists one address next to a photo of the building across the street, a man in a uniform sits behind a desk shuttling incomers by their business.

Marriage, go this way. Birth and death, go this way. He shunts people to lines marked with barricades connected by ribbons made of seatbelt fabric and, when people complain about the $15 fee, reminds them how much worse it could be. » Read the rest of this entry «

#983: Last Afternoon

September 21st, 2018 § permalink

The smell right now is coffee and smoke.

The coffee comes from my cup, the smoke comes from a man in jean jacket and spendy fashion version of combat boots one picnic table over  from mine. We’re all at picnic tables in the backyard-turned-patio of the house-turned-coffee-shop in the Puerto-Rican-turned-hip enclave of Humboldt Park.

I’m here now on the last afternoon. » Read the rest of this entry «

#982: Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger

September 19th, 2018 § permalink

Contrary to popular assertions, the perfect hamburger is not necessarily grilled.

Nor is it necessarily charbroiled, parboiled, batter-dipped, smashed, skillet-fried, filleted, sous vide’d, sautéed, shwenkered, spatchcocked if such a thing can be done with ground meat, griddled up, braised or poached in a light crème sauce.

The perfect hamburger is, however, served by a woman whose phone rings while you’re talking. » Read the rest of this entry «

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