#899: The Battle ‘Ere Borne (Or, “How I Spent 16 Weeks in a Media Bowling League Listening to Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ on Repeat in a Failed Effort to Win a Sword Named Swords Terkel”)

March 9th, 2018 § permalink

Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses,” 1842

I was lying on the bench slide
In the park across the street
L-A-T-E-R that week.
My sticky paws were into making straws
Out of big, fat Slurpee treats.
An incredible, eight-foot heap.

— Len, “Steal My Sunshine,” 1999 » Read the rest of this entry «

#898: The Library

March 7th, 2018 § permalink

They picked at the jigsaw puzzle scattered over a large table on the sixth floor.

Well, picked at the jigsaw puzzle and gossiped about boys.

A few dozen people had set up laptops around the library, taking advantage of the WiFi for cardholders in order to watch videos, scroll through tweets — I saw one guy editing a song and another watching a full-on Hollywood film shot in Oscar-bait lighting. Others read. Two women chatted in the 3D print lab on the third floor, a floor which also held the mass homeless encampment of men and women who found a brief respite from the cold by clutching a magazine from Periodicals for a few hours.

In the stately two-story open lobby, a tour group with matching shirts depicting the state of Ohio nodded as different features of the walls were pointed out. And I flipped through my phone and considered a nap in a warm, dry corner on 6 next to a man pawing through a stack of research texts.

We were all doing it right. » Read the rest of this entry «

#897: Home

March 5th, 2018 § permalink

My apartment’s radiator sounds like Snap, Crackle and Pop have a fourth elf friend named High-Pitched Whine.

There’s an empty room in the basement off from the laundry room with brick walls, no window, a dusty concrete floor and some bits of long-broken glass. It’s the single creepiest room I’ve been in. I call it the Murder Room and want to hide a clown mannequin in there. It would be just standing there, looking.

And someone spilled like a ton of cat litter in the stairwell and didn’t clean it up. Used cat litter.

I love this place.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#896: The 2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Race (Or “Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!”)

March 2nd, 2018 § permalink

Welcome dear friends and hear now the story ‘a
A far-away land known as Gubernatoria
Where the grickle-grass grows and Whos have elocution
And each problem comes with a slogan solution.

There are Grinches and Sneeches, and Loraxi aplenty,
Enough to appease the Seuss cognoscenti.
But the land has a creature foul ’nuff to make eyes well
More than the other brain-kids of Ted Geisel. » Read the rest of this entry «

#895: Quickly, the Corn

February 28th, 2018 § permalink

He was quick through practice, not intent.

There was no pressing need to dump the cheese and slather the mayo inside the cup so quickly, but after years of standing on street corners doing just that, that’s how fast he did it. He shook out the squeeze bottles of hot sauce and chili powder quickly as a matter of course. He grabbed a steaming ear of corn on the stick, carved off the kernels as per my request and tossed away the naked cob quickly because quickly is how it’s done.

And when the man with the mustache, dark baseball cap and radio slapped with a “This American Strife, From Englewood, Chicago” sticker handed me a Styrofoam cup of elotes from the cart parked on Milwaukee Avenue, he did it quickly. » Read the rest of this entry «

#894: A Fly in Amber

February 26th, 2018 § permalink

She seemed surprised to see us. I don’t blame her for that. The guest book, checked later, revealed there had been about five visitors the whole month.

The place seemed empty from the outside. Our only greeter along the stretch of Pulaski where the chains don’t have interest in setting up shop was a shaggy old blonde man walking by with a guitar. He asked if Jesus was our lord and savior. I lied and said he was. A small sign told an equal lie, adding to our real destination that we were about to enter the ward offices of the alderman who just got in trouble for covering up his brother being pervy at a female consultant.

In reality, Ald. Quinn works two-and-a-half miles away, nestled safe in the bosom of a shared office space with House Speaker Mike Madigan. The fire escape route map on the inside of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture doesn’t even list space for a ward office.

The woman in the gift shop seemed surprised to see us, but she processed the admission fee accordingly. She smiled and told us there was more on the third floor. And then she let us into 17,000 years. » Read the rest of this entry «

#893: Just Like a Waving Flag

February 23rd, 2018 § permalink

Gus Porter’s father would joke he had the most famous rear end in Chicago.

It was 1987 and Mayor Harold Washington had just died in office. WGN Flag & Decorating, a small shop in South Chicago, had the city contract to decorate council chambers in black mourning bunting. An Associated Press photographer snapped a shot of Porter’s dad and other WGN employees at work, mislabeled them as city employees and sent a photo of their backs out to the world.

It wasn’t the first big job for WGN — named for Porter’s great-grandfather William George Newbould and no relation to the TV station (but people always ask, Porter said). They were the ones who decorated Marshall Fields for V-Day in 1945. They still decorate police stations and fire houses when tragedy hits. They work with the archdiocese when popes or bishops pass.

But they were there for happier moments too. They do the championship flags for the Blackhawks and White Sox, decorated the official city visit when Queen Elizabeth II came to call in 1959. They put Harry Caray’s face on his steakhouses, cover universities and businesses, make the sigils for Oak Lawn, Orland Park, South Holland, Cook County and scores more governments.

If it happened in Chicago, they’ve been there. Since 1916.

Photo by AJ Kane.

» 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 «

#891: The Corner, Prequel

February 19th, 2018 § permalink

Picture an ocean of warm, shallow water.

Long, eel-like fish slip by coral reefs. On the sea floor, oval not-crabs skitter through sand, pausing to glance with crystal eyes for food, predators or just to watch the hot sun shimmer and diffract through warm waters. » Read the rest of this entry «

#890: Thursday Morning, Body Count 17

February 16th, 2018 § permalink

My wife’s school has active shooter drills. » Read the rest of this entry «

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