#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 «

#889: My Local Doughnut

February 14th, 2018 § permalink

The line snaked the perimeter.

It crept along the bakery’s inner edge, past the street-facing glass cases trying to lure wanderers with wedding cakes, curling around the side room where pickup orders happen any other day of the year, almost reaching to the dining room off to the back where people eat sandwiches and drink coffee any other day of the year.

But it’s not any other day of the year.

“I should have pre-paid,” I said, eyeing a man in a tan greatcoat who hopped past it all, picked up his box of pączki and left.

“Every year I am saying to myself I should do that,” the woman behind me in line said, chuckling. » Read the rest of this entry «

#888: The T. rex That Wasn’t

February 12th, 2018 § permalink

Her ass is gone and her ribs have been marked up, hand-writ tags dangling from each one like they’ve been priced for a yard sale.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#887: Harley and the Pickles

February 9th, 2018 § permalink

Last night, I received a comment on my portfolio site from a student named Harley.

Harley was reading about 1920s bohemian hot spot The Dil Pickle Club for the Chicago Metro History Fair, a project of the Chicago History Museum that turns students in grades six to 12 into historians by making them research and present on Chicago and Illinois history. She or he (Harley like a 1990s villainess or like an 1890s vice admiral?) had come across a blog post of mine about the club and wanted to know where one could find out more about the Pickles.

First, Harley, I’m impressed. I never would have reached out to anyone for a project at that age. That level of initiative will carry you far in life.

Second, it’ll carry you a lot farther if next time you remember to leave some contact information.

So rather than try to track down a lone schoolkid somewhere in northeast Illinois, here’s a story directed at one person, but on a snowlocked morning meant for all. Here’s a quick and dirty guide for finding out what you want to know about Chicago history, including about one of the weirdest, wildest clubs the city ever knew. » Read the rest of this entry «

#886: Welcome to 2008

February 7th, 2018 § permalink

The bar lets you bring in food from the greasy spoon next door, so I got a hamburger on a pita, which is apparently something that exists.

The place was designed for the young, the beer pong table and oversized Jenga tower attested, but at this early hour it was inhabited by the old. The guys at the bar talking wildly and broadly to pack in as much mock drunkness and youth as possible before their wives call them home for supper, old. The white-haired drinker at the end of the bar, silent but for the occasional gloomy sigh as he stared into nothing, real old.

And the bartender was old, thick Chicago accent that caused me to code switch into my own Chik-kahgo Guy ever so slightly as I ordered a beer to wash down my pita-meat.

I nestled by a window to watch snow glimmer over neon and sexless forms wrapped in scarf and hood hustle down the sidewalk. This was it. This was the place. This mixture of old men in a young bar, of desperation on a poor slip of a rich neighborhood, this sandwich ne’er before seen in my lifetime was a perfect, patented, ready-made 1,001 Chicago Afternoons story.

But first I just need to check something on my phone.  » Read the rest of this entry «

#885: Finding Mercedes

February 5th, 2018 § permalink

She was a South American beauty, body born for the beach.

She cast her head around as her dark eyes scanned the room. All eyes were on her sleek form, the swivel and sway in her walk.

And her lateral nasal supraorbital gland used to expel bloodstream salt accumulated through the repeated ingestion of sea water she pursued her diet of squid, krill and cuttlefish? Dang. » Read the rest of this entry «

#884: The Other Loop

February 2nd, 2018 § permalink

It seems obscene to have curved roads in Chicago.

Chicago’s a place for The Grid, with streets so regimented and designed “The Grid” gets capitalized. We can tell where people live by how many hundred their address is north or south. Our city looks like Tron when you fly into Midway at night.

Sure, something might bend a tad, but those are blotches of history, curves of road to avoid since-filled creeks or railroad lines that dissolved into bankruptcy 60 years ago. The streets snap back into shape as soon as they are physically able to realign with our urban skeleton’s obsession with 90 degrees.

A circle of houses swirling like a suburban subdivision around a central kids’ park seems obscene in Chicago. But Chrysler Village isn’t obscene. It took something more than obscenity to create this. It took a war. » Read the rest of this entry «

#883: It

January 31st, 2018 § permalink

It started with a joke, not a good joke or a particularly funny one but one of the stock jokes one stranger tells another and then the second stranger chuckles politely, feels a lightly warm moment of shared humanity and then promptly forgets forever that the first stranger ever existed.

But in this case, the interaction of strangers didn’t end with the warm, human, pleasant, forgettable, boring, space-filling, meaningless little joke of jokes. That’s where it started.

“We’re going to get real cozy here,” I said as the packed train shoved me closer to the old man in the woven mohawk hat. » Read the rest of this entry «

#882: The Germans Have a Word for It

January 29th, 2018 § permalink

I mean, I’m sure they have a word for it. They have a word for everything. It’s like a whole… language.

I’m sure the German word for it is guttural and 14 feet long. I’m sure it’s made of slapping different word particles together into a monstrosity meaning something like the-anger-of-realizing-your-childhood-joys-no-longer-entertain-even-in-a-nostalgic fashion or the-unthinking-sigh-you-give-at-the-moment-you-learn-a-mother’s-love-is-and-always-has-been-conditional.

I’m sure the French have a phrase for it, something elegant, pithy and too clever by half. » Read the rest of this entry «

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