#958: Chess Dogs

July 25th, 2018 § permalink

Across from a chalet-style law firm with the old butcher’s shop name “Schmidt Metzgerei” still written above in font as close to German Gothic as nailed-up tiles can muster, next to a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple founded by Japanese-Americans returning after imprisonment in American concentration camps during WWII, there is a valley of chess tables with dogs on them. » Read the rest of this entry «

#957: Kinder Bueno on the Edge of the World

July 23rd, 2018 § permalink

We sat on a rough cement ledge in the parking lot, slowly chewing candy.

Geographically, the lot looked more like it belonged to the walk-in clinic than the bakery. A large sign made of the corrugated plastic used on the yard signs of the candidates rich enough to win declared though that this was in fact for bakery.

Geographically, we looked in the wrong place too. Montclare is Chicago, but looks suburban — strip malls and multi-lane divided highways no kid could wander across without getting a faceful of semi-trailer. Just across the street and down a block, a liquor store awning trumpeted the wares inside as the first stop free of City of Chicago taxes. We were on the border of the rest of the world, thoughtfully munching Kinder Bueno. » Read the rest of this entry «

#956: Who Was Who?

July 20th, 2018 § permalink

The book smells delicious, that combination of wood rot and dust every hankerer after old volumes knows well.

It’s a “Who’s Who in Chicago and Vicinity” (Enlarged to Include the Entire State of Illinois) from 1941. I’m flipping through a pound of pages and decades of history, life stories laid before me in dates, figures and antiquated abbreviation systems.

And I have no idea who these people are. » Read the rest of this entry «

#955: Churches on the Little Calumet

July 18th, 2018 § permalink

In Altgeld Gardens, the roads curve.

It’s an odd realization in a town snapped famously to a grid. But here in the far south south so south South Side crossing a street across the river takes you from Riverdale the Chicago neighborhood to Riverdale the separate municipal jurisdiction, in a housing projects that gives low-income families homes by poison and industrial waste sites, butted against a forest preserve where old men from the projects or the neighborhood glare steadily as they fish rotted waters, the roads curve.

One crackles. » Read the rest of this entry «

#954: The Long Ride of the Pullman Porter

July 16th, 2018 § permalink

“Daddy,” the little girl said, lolling in her father’s lap. “Is this going to be a long one?”

He shushed her gently as the movie and several more questions began. Eventually, he let her go to scamper through the house-museum and run up and down the, in her words, “too many stairs!”

The room went quiet. Black history was about to begin. » Read the rest of this entry «

#953: The City Under

July 13th, 2018 § permalink

It was a natural turn for him, odd for us.

The wife, her father and I had agreed upon a suitable location for dinner and then strode further down the basement. Wordlessly, he turned. Wordlessly, we followed him down the basement path.

With the expert nature of a downtown dweller, he led us through revolving doors and past closing government offices. We went by barber shops and dry cleaners, past empty shoeshine stands and stores for chintzy Chicago memorabilia before popping out feet away from the destination we had planned in the city below.

We took the Pedway. » Read the rest of this entry «

#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 «

#951: Glitz, Glam and Theater Kids

July 9th, 2018 § permalink

Along Randolph Street, well-clad pairs line up to get The Shot.

Sometimes they’re romantic couples with lips on each other and eyes peering slideways to make sure they’re perfectly framed in the selfie borders. Sometimes they’re parent-child pairs — usually a teenage girl who, after The Shot, wants a solo picture on herself to gesturing Vanna White-ly at the poster gleaming on the outside wall.

Soon these The Shots will flood the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, some other social medians I’m too old and crabby to know about. Then the world will see the eyes-slideways kiss-shot with the theater marquee in background. Then they’ll see the theater kid teen gesturing bravely at the box office. Then they’ll see, like, comment, heart, smiley, OMGLOL that their friend got The Shot that proves they went to a Broadway show.

I think I look fat in mine. » Read the rest of this entry «

#950: A Present to You and Me

July 6th, 2018 § permalink

With nervousness, I am releasing the first chapter of a book I’ve been working on for two years out into the internet for free, knowing I’m one Ctrl-V from a better-connected writer pitching a fantastic idea to a willing publisher.

I am doing this stupid, stupid thing for a few reasons: » Read the rest of this entry «

#949: A Poetry of Things

July 4th, 2018 § permalink

“This Pyrex dish was usually used to make rice pudding or bread pudding. I didn’t eat either but the dish and I were bonded together. When my mother died, I wanted that bond to continue. The dish was a way to feel close to my mother.”

“I just liked the antique aspect of the sewing machine. One day I’ll have it oiled and fixed.”

“I remember when my mother first originally gave me this plane. The look of excitement and glee she had on her face was unexplainable.”

A metal airplane decoration. A Pyrex dish. A grandmother’s sewing machine and the “misty, moist memories” from a hose used in a project’s garden. This is the story of public housing. » Read the rest of this entry «

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