#930: The Ways and Means of Dan Rostenkowski

May 21st, 2018 § permalink

Dan Rostenkowski owned “Chess” by Murray Head.

A concept album and later musical by lyricist Tim Rice and the B’s from ABBA, it’s mostly known for cheesy ’80s chart-flare “One Night in Bangkok,” an ode to the sexy, seamy world of Southeast Asian underground chess tournaments.

And it was one of the possessions up for grabs at the estate sale of late, disgraced U.S. Rep. Daniel “Rosty” Rostenkowski, D-Illinois. » Read the rest of this entry «

#929: The Fire is on Roof

May 18th, 2018 § permalink

It was seamlessly ugly, each line and fissure unified in hideousness.

There were no pretty bits, no elegant lines that would be jarring in contrast to the overarching fuggo. It was impressively socialist in its design. There were no free riders here, no collective action problem. The pieces all came together as one to create a truly unified, democratic and nasty whole.

But it was also on fire, and the rooftop was very cold. » Read the rest of this entry «

#928: Comparing and the Train

May 16th, 2018 § permalink

I hauled some boxes from storage this week and made the mistake of looking at my past.

Letters, birthday cards, photos of people I had forgotten about and of people I won’t ever be able to. Trinkets and trophies hard-won but now more a matter of storage space than personal pride.

I’ve googled some people from that shared past, disparate present. Of course their photos are lovely and their web presence curated. Of course no one posts the moments of whimsy and maudlin and floating, aimless sad. No one of this crowd but me was dumb enough to put anything but happy things online.

So I went to my happy place — the Chicago public transit system. » Read the rest of this entry «

#927: Maria of the Swap

May 14th, 2018 § permalink

She’s setting up for the morning, spreading cowboy hats around the shop, dusting off the ones wrapped in plastic, slowly inspecting each and slowly placing the finest on a stick to slowly lift them up to the display hooks ringing the top of her cage. » Read the rest of this entry «

#926: My Mother Keeps Making Fun of Me About Cannibalism

May 11th, 2018 § permalink

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, a text conversation between me and my mother.

For context, in the May 4 story #923: Simon Pure about meeting a friend’s baby for the first time, I accidentally wrote that we were putting “grilled unions” on the hamburgers instead of “onions.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#925: A Walk in the Rain

May 9th, 2018 § permalink

I want to write about four men of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian or some other ethnicity that meant their words sounded like Klingon head colds.

They hid from the rain under the small alcove created by the locked glass doors of the laundromat that went away more than a year ago. Despite the building owners’ window-posted plans of a luxury bar/restaurant deal filling the space, new suitors never courted the corner lot once the poor people clothes washery was ousted.

Now it’s a glass-walled corner lot, vacant but for the Halloween costume shop that stops by in September. It not being September, the lot’s only purpose is to provide a small alcove for orange-hoodied construction workers to hide from the rain. » Read the rest of this entry «

#924: A Letter to Send

May 7th, 2018 § permalink

If Senate Bill 2562 passes, police in Illinois will be able to use drones to spy on any group of 100 or more people assembling peacefully.

Bill sponsor Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) sold the measure that would let police spy on protest rallies by arguing it would prevent mass shootings.

The bill will pass if the House approves it.

The following is an edited version of an email I sent my House representative this morning. My hope is that it inspires you to write your own letters to your own representatives about why you feel this bill should fail. To quote James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” » Read the rest of this entry «

#923: Simon Pure

May 4th, 2018 § permalink

You have 10 little fingers and, I presume hidden under the swaddle, 10 little toes, and I like you very much.

You stretch your arms a lot while you’re in my arms. You’re in my arms, your dad’s manning the grilled onions, your mom’s opening a bag of chips and my wife is asking what she can do.

Hi, Simon. You’re two weeks old. Your head is squishy and you always look pissed off. You stretch and wave your arms like you’re cheering an invisible football team. And I’m going to know you for the rest of my life. » Read the rest of this entry «

#922: Victoria (Maybe Veronica)

May 2nd, 2018 § permalink

“You and me got the right idea,” she said, gesturing with her cup of coffee at mine.

I don’t know why our coffees set us apart from any of the other readers, phone flippers, gabbers, joggers, dog walkers, socialistas strolling with equally beautiful and fashionable friends, fat guys sitting like lumps looking at the water or any of the other people who had come to spend the first warm day of the year on the Riverwalk downtown, but it seemed to be enough of a link for her.

Victoria, or maybe her name was Veronica, became my friend in that very special way only a warm day by the water can offer. She told me about her work at a downtown hotel where she had been for 18 years and was the only one willing to dress as Santa, the Easter Bunny and sundry holiday elves.

“Everyone else is too dignified,” she said, pronouncing the last word with disdain.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#921: Beyond the Vines

April 30th, 2018 § permalink

The goose wasn’t having it.

He or she was standing atop her brick-and-ivy home, honking like a backward truck to chase the group of 30 onlookers away. Maybe defending eggs, maybe trying to catch some privacy, he or she strode the top of the wall like a feathered, Canadian Colossus of Rhodes defying God and historic cemetery tour groups.

The guide continued his speech, disregarding the honking Helios.

“Back about 12 years ago, a man named Dennis Mascari approached the cemetery with a rather novel idea. His basic premise was: Cubs fans are crazy.” » Read the rest of this entry «

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