Friday, December 11, 2009

Ramblings

I think in some ways I'm relearning who I am. I was an expert at knowing exactly who I was when I was really sick. When my body and mind were at their absolute bottom. I knew what made me happy. I knew what I wanted. I actually had things about me that made me unique and interesting. I may have been horribly sick behind closed doors, but outside them I was worth a second glance. I never ever thought a few years could drastically affect everything following them. Here I thought, at the time, that getting sick was the worst. Little did I know that everything after would be hell.

In some ways I let myself backslide into the laziness of disease. Degenerate longer than what was necessary. I got comfortable in it. Who the hell am I when I'm not sick? Who the hell am I at 22 in relation to 16? Kinda sick, residual sick? I am a has been before I was ever a been. I’m so lucky they tell me. I smile and nod. I am lucky. So fucking lucky. They believe me. That’s all that matters.

It's leaving me anxious. Nervous. I find myself second guessing and I never ever would’ve done it before. I find myself sans confidence, and it was never like that. Arriving at this 180 I gave up all my self power. You know it's bad when I start to bore myself. Maybe it’s Munchhausen or Stockholm or maybe just plain fucking crazy.
That's the pro and con here. I'm always so observant about everything, including myself. Why didn't I stop myself? Slam the breaks? It's hard sometimes to filter what's coming through the lenses. To break up everyone from myself. From the external from the internal. I let the combo of falling into the routine of post-illness and my lack of focus steer me to this current point. Too bad I don’t know how to turn around or keep going forward.

Boystown

Chicago offers so many different gay bars in a variety of different neighborhoods. Gay visitors to the city invariably head first to the area of Chicago’s Lakeview and Wrigleyville neighborhoods known as Boystown.

What makes a Boystown bar-crawl so easy is that 99% of the bars run down about a ½ mile stretch of North Halsted Street. Beginning at the southernmost bar and running north, this is Boystown U.S.A.

Spin, located at the corner of Halsted and Belmont, is a dance bar that attracts mainly a younger crowd. Being 42, I’ve only been inside Spin because it’s the place that participants in the annual Halloween Costume Parade register. This is definitely an under-30 crowd.

Sidetracks, at 3349 N. Halsted, is a multi-room, multi-level video bar. They have theme nights like Show Tunes on Mondays, as well as comedy nights and retro music theme nights. In the summer, there’s a relatively new roof deck. Sidetracks is not for claustrophobes – the bar is usually packed.

Roscoe’s, at 3356 N. Halsted, is what TV’s Cheers bar would be if Norm and Cliff were 28, hot, and gay. At times a stand-and-model video bar, there’s also dancing in the back room at night. Roscoe’s can get as crowded as Sidetracks but never feels as closed-in because the bar’s entire “east wall” is glass window looking onto Halsted.

Cocktail, at 3359 N. Halsted, is directly across the street from Roscoe’s – you can see Cocktail if you look out the front windows of Roscoe’s. Often Cocktail gets the run off of people from Roscoe’s. Cocktail has one unique thing to offer – go-go boys.

Buck’s, at 3349 N. Halsted, gets gays of all sexes, shapes, and sizes. The walls are adorned with the heads of real bucks but if that scares you, in the summer, there’s a surprisingly tranquil and festive back patio with its own bar.

Hydrate, at 3458 N. Halsted, is a late night dance club. They get some of the better known national DJs. During the week, the bar has teamed up with some interesting drag performers. Recently, they started a manicure special on Tuesday nights. Hydrate is open late typically till 4 AM.

Little Jim’s, at 3501 N. Halsted, is the neighborhood seedy bar. It’s where you go after everyplace else is closed and you just want to seal the deal and go home. They’re open nightly till 4 AM and 5 AM on weekends. The bar attracts all kinds – mainly men.
There’s always one TV screen dedicated to gay porn. They recently got a digital jukebox which is a major improvement over the old jukebox’s same-old never changing offerings.

Cellblock, at 3702 N. Halsted, is Boystown’s leather bar. It is not as hard core as the leather venues further north like the Eagle and Touché. But recently, they reopened “the Yard” – which is essentially their backroom, so that’s a good sign for the depraved. To get into the back room – open on weekends only – you need to wear a major item of leather. Don’t worry if you don’t own chaps – a leather vest will do (a leather jacket will not however).

Bobby Loves, at 3729 N. Halsted, is – I’m told – where people go who are serious about drinking and getting a bang for their buck. The bar looks like the type of place a lounge singer named Bobby Love might perform but it is a no-attitude environment. They have fun karaoke nights.

North End, at 3733 N. Halsted, is a gay sports bar. Sure there’s karaoke, but there’s a whole room of pool tables, dart boards, and video games and usually a sporting event of some kind on the tube.

All along the way, you’ll find more interesting gay destinations. Predominantly gay restaurants/bars X/O (owned by Hydrate’s owners), Kit Kat Club and Cornelia’s all combine upscale fare with the gay bar environment. And no trip to Boystown is complete without a sojourn to Steamworks, they Disney World of bathhouses. A block off Halsted and you’ll find country-bar and late-night dance club Charlie’s as well as neighborhood bar The Closet – both on Broadway.

Awesome Article!

I found this online while looking up stuff about the 1893 World’s Fair.
“A group of undergraduates at the University has come into contact with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, launching the first archaeological dig of the famed Chicago fair site in Jackson Park. “When I came to Chicago, I didn’t know much about the fair, but this has been a really interesting way to find out more about it,” said John Mullen, a fourth-year student and part of a 20-member class on urban archaeology. “The fair had a huge impact, not only on Chicago, but also on the world, with all the new things that were introduced. “Now, with Chicago vying for the Olympics, it’s like Chicago is trying again to get that kind of prominence,” he said as he sifted small clods of dirt through a wire-mesh screen while looking for artifacts. Some interesting items have quickly appeared through the careful eyes of the student archaeologists and their teachers. As Mullen sifted through the dirt reclaimed from a nearby pit, or excavation unit, he found pieces of white plaster that may have covered the walls of the Michigan or Ohio state buildings, one of the structures that probably sat where he and a student team were digging.
The plaster could be evidence of the White City, whose memory largely remains otherwise preserved in photographs and chronicles. Students in the College are conducting the dig, which began in early April as part of the new Chicago Studies program offered in the College. They are taking a class with Rebecca Graff, a graduate student specializing in American urban archaeology. Graff is writing her dissertation on 19th-century American habits of tourism and consumption based on the World’s Columbian Exposition. Although they probably won’t uncover any spectacular artifacts as they probe the grounds, the students are uncovering material that could provide new clues about life in late 19th-century Chicago. Besides plaster, students have found nails, bricks, pieces of ceramic and shards of glass that could have been from 19th century-mineral water and beer bottles. “The glass pieces are really thick,” said Mullen. “It was probably because carbonation had just been invented and bottlers weren’t sure how much pressure the process would create.” At the site of the Wisconsin building, another piece of evidence is emerging and may show how the state pavilions may have been built. In the sandy subsoil, about 3 feet deep, a team found an intriguing streak of black soil running directly east and west.
“This could have been the base of a foundation for the building. We know they would put down a plank and then build the foundation on top of it. Over time, the plank may have decayed and turned into black organic matter,” said teaching assistant Mary Leighton. The artifacts have been taken to a lab at the University, where they will be further examined along with field notes and measurements from the dig. Graff will try to determine what actually may have been from the fair and what debris was left behind at other times.
The work will add another layer of information to the record of the fair. “We have the plans for the fair, for instance, but we don’t have a map that shows exactly where the buildings were, Graff said. “This will give us some idea where they were actually built.“ Many of the more mundane, everyday aspects of the fair were not included in any of the other accounts of the fair. This is a way to fill in some information about the visitors,” she said. Graff has a personal connection with the fair, as her great-grandfather, Morris Graff, also stirred dirt for the fair. He was on a crew that dug ditches for the exposition. “He was an immigrant and an Orthodox Jew. Most of the other jobs he could find required that he work on Saturday. He took the job at the fair because there were different shifts and not all required he work on the Sabbath,” she said.
“It’s funny to have found out about this family connection. I was interested in the fair before I knew this, but it certainly adds to the experience for me,” she said. “Although my father’s family is from Chicago, I grew up in Los Angeles, so learning about my great-grandfather’s job at the World’s Columbian Exposition has made me feel more connected to the site.”
I find it so fascinating that there can be archeological digs in Chicago and that they can actually find things! Blows my mind thinking about the historical treasures we could be walking over everday!

Mary Stain

Has anyone seen the salt stain Virgin Mary on the wall of the underpass by Fullerton? I have and I remember the fiasco when it was discovered. In 2005 a driver passing by noticed that a stain on the concrete wall looked like the Virgin Mary. The media picked up on it of course and people went crazy! People jammed the underpass spilling into the street. Police had to be called to control the crowds. The Mayor got involved saying that it was only liquefied gunk trickling down through the cracks of the overpass after a long frozen winter and staining the wall. Did people listen? No. They saw a miracle and hung on for dear life.

I went and saw it with my dad one day and even before he was close enough to closely examine it, he started ranting about the stupidity of sheeple. He pointed out the clearly visible gobs and crystals of yellowed road salt in the center. It isn't too hard to figure out the rest of the figure was made of road dirt, exhaust, and whatever flies off the highway.

What freaked me out more then being under a dirty, ghetto underpass were the people who were there. They had left flowers, balloons, candles, greeting cards, teddy bears. It was like the gate outside of Kensington Palace after the death of Diana. A sea of wilting color.

The people were almost worse then the gifts. Crying, wailing, sobbing, hugging, kissing. It gave me wicked second hand embarrassment. When they started to write prayers on the wall in marker, I hightailed it out of there. I am all for people being religious, but it makes me so uncomfortable when it is done so ostentatiously towards slime on the wall.

To this day even after it has been covered up, I will still see people down there taking pictures or see a candle flickering in the wind. Chicago has always been big on the supernatural and a supposed Virgin Mary on a highway wall is no different.

Beef!

When christened at birth with the name Al, you are either destined to become a plumber or go into the Italian food business. For our sake, thank God that this one Al ended up in the later. I am referring of course to the delectable, delicious, positively divine Al’s Italian Beef on Taylor. My life was changed at first taste. Positively scrumcious!

“The perfect Italian beef sandwich begins with slow oven roasted, perfectly Italian seasoned beef, tender and extremely lean, sliced amazingly thin. Spices and seasonings used in its preparation include only the freshest natural products that ultimately produce our 100% natural beef gravy.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. The gravy is wicked awesome too. You have the option of dipping your beef. All the times I have gone, I have never had my sandwich dipped, but lord was it soggy. I figure if I get it dipped it will have to be served in a pint glass.

Al’s beef sandwiches are the definition of Chicago. Simple, yet totally complex. The everyman’s sandwich. The fries are pretty awesome too. Oh and the cheese. The cheese can be a meal on its own. I may or may not have eaten it with a spoon.

CTA

I can't understand the people who sit in an empty row of seats on the train and instead of sliding in towards the window, they maintain their position in the aisle seat. Now this doesn't pose much of a problem on empty trains, but there's been numerous times in the morning when the train is jam packed and there's people standing all around while the lone empty window seat remains unoccupied! All the while the aisle seat elitist appears to not have a clue as to what's going on! Rage!

Move Over. Don't make me crawl over you to sit down. Move Over. Or at least get up to let someone get into the window seat.

Additionally, what happens to people's basic etiquette on the train? When I happen to be seated in an aisle seat (and of course there's someone seated in the window seat) and the window seat occupant's stop arrives, more times than not, instead of a polite "excuse me", "out please" or even "move" all I get is the person pressing his/her body into mine alerting me that they want out. Perhaps I should become the reverse "aisle seat elitist" and instead make people climb over me to get out.

Bellow

I have never read Saul Bellow before, but his novel “The Actual” won’t incline me to read any others. Obsession, denial, life, dreams, all of these great themes crammed into a story without momentum or even a plot really. Harry Trellman is Jewish, but looks Chinese. Not important to the plot but this information about his appearance is discussed again and again! And I have no idea why! Maybe to illustrate how much of an outsider Harry is to everyone around him, including himself. And Harry is not only in this obnoxious trait of describing every single little physical detail. Every one of the characters is discussed ad nauseum by similar, if not identical, physical specifics. In fact, physical appearance takes up much of the non-dialogue sections of the novella. It happens so much in such a short book, that Bellow must be after some deeper meaning, must have some compelling reason to continuously describe his tiny cast. Whatever the reason, I missed it. So instead of being profound, it was distracting and irritating.

The book starts out very strongly. Harry is an enigmatic character and the reader is caught into the folds when the rich Mr. Adletsky pops up and has a mysterious tête-à-tête with Harry. But 20 pages later, Harry's and Mr. Adletsky are kaput and the focus shifts to Amy Wustrin, who is the center of the plot for the rest of the book. An old flame of Harry's, Amy is the woman he has never forgotten and who he continues to swoon over. The obsession is nice and had lots of potential but it never really develops further than fantasy and back story. The confession which is supposed to be the climax is not really climatic and comes way too late in the game. It would be interesting if the confession came earlier and then to see how the relationship progresses because of it.

In all, there is nothing very exciting or titillating. It is hard to do romance and Bellow gave it a good try, but it just fell flat. Maybe if Bellow kept the story narrated by Harry and quit with the excessive, mind-numbing attention paid to detail such as Harry’s physical appearance and Amy's ex-husband's burial arrangements it would have allowed the story of obsession and love shine through, instead of becoming an endless, pointless yarn about a Chinese looking Jew and his long lost love.

Fire Sale

I like the idea of Sara Paretsky. I like that she is a Chicago writer and that she features a kick ass woman as the life blood of the novels. There are no many detective novels that feature strong independent women and Sara made a character that is smart and strong, not stereotyping her character as either a vamp or victim.

I also enjoy that she enjoys Chicago. She uses Chicago almost as a character itself. It’s wonderful when she uses the chilling surroundings of the poor as one of her characters. Fire Sale is squarely placed in the depths of South Chicago. The bleak streets provide a color that makes all of her characters and plots that much more vivid and interesting. Yeah the Northside is awesome, but the Southside has grit that a gritty crime novel thrives off of. Take V.I. out of the slums and the story becomes wilted, almost stale.

However, there were two things which annoyed me. First, Paretsky falls into the trap that many novelists who have lead females; they turn the heroines into punching bags. The amount of physical violence that befalls V.I was slightly disturbing. V.I is no victim and she can totally hold her own, but it feels like Paretsky has to put her to the test constantly, almost making her work for her kick ass status. I found it unnecessary and annoying.

Second, Paretsky obviously does not like the rich. Humorous in the beginning, it just got obnoxious as the book continued reminiscent of the socialist ranting in “The Jungle.” I get it, you don’t like the rich and you need a foil for your selfless characters, but it became so annoying that I would skip the parts where the Bysens were mentioned. While not a paragon of brilliant writing or character development, Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon novels, succeed in writing villains in away that makes the reader feel for them until something totally unrealistic happens. That’s what Paretsky has to do to keep her novels from reading like bitter, boring rant; give her villains sympathetic qualities so the reader finds them interesting.

Algren

I surprisingly enjoyed “Chicago: City on the Make.” Not enjoying the novels for this class so far (Sorry Luis!) I expected the same old, same old. Maybe it was the atmosphere that I read it in, (a speeding El train above the swarming city on a rainy day), maybe it was the city I so love, or maybe it was just super good, but as cheesy as it sounds, I was touched by Algren.

Chicago: City on the Make was like nothing I had ever read. Vastly different, it is more then just a book! It is a freaking experience! As weird as this may sound, reading this book was like having sex. Let me explain.The book starts off at break neck speed. Whipping around Chicago like a speed demon. The reader is left breathless and follows Algren every which way, wanting more, seeing where it will take you next. Not a long book, but thick with prose poetry It's one of those rare and sometimes great books that can be read aloud for the language alone.

But back on track. Algren is amazing at keeping his poetry flying high above what other authors could ever hope for, but then Algren's voice becomes tired, his prose more and more stretched until there's nothing left of the energy you find in the beginning. But you the reader are not upset. No! You knew it was coming and that that speed could not be kept indefinitely. You can not really put blame on the one who gave you such a wild ride.

Basking in the afterglow of a perfect read (which happen to take place on a train),

I couldn’t help put look at the city all around me. Algren knew he struck gold when it came to Chicago. He wrote about it like one writes about a lover. When he is at his best, he makes the place sound positively holy, like something that glows. The best part is you know exactly what he is talking about. As a native Chicagoan, every street mentioned, every restaurant alluded to, made me smile in recognition. It was like Algren was telling me a story I had heard many times before or a shared inside joke. Those who don’t know and love Chicago probably won’t enjoy Algren’s work. Oh well I say, more for me.

Fire Sale

These kinds of serial novels are always easier to get into if you've been a fan all along, but I have to say, I got into the story, pace, and rhythm of Fire Sale fairly early on. Maybe part of it is the main character, who is obviously so flawed, and doesn't mind revealing this to the reader. The more she annoys the world around her, the more I seemed to like her. I found a lot of her jaded, sardonic asides to be pretty amusing, as well as her no-holds-barred approach to her job...a fresh, tough perspective on femininity that we need more of in this world.

I find it interesting that Sarah Paretsky herself comes from such an erudite and academic background. It's a bit confounding why she would spend her literary career concentrating on a character who is so unlike her, and in a genre that doesn't always get much literary respect. Maybe she just seized upon a purpose in life...she simply wanted to create some kind of fresh and dissident voice in a largely male-dominated genre. She seems to have succeeded at it, in a way that is entertaining, real, and completely unpretentious. If that was, indeed, her goal, then quite frankly, it's still a level of success that is beyond most writers. Maybe there's a lesson in humility there for all of us.

The Jungle

My God, what an onslaught of depression, cynicism, and pain. I don't know what else to say. I think that Sinclair is a wonderful writer, but good lord, did this guy need an editor. Did he really need that many words and pages to make his point? We get it, Upton - life was tough for immigrants in the meatpacking industry! Damn you, Sinclair, and damn your monumental verbosity.

This is not to say The Jungle is without its merits. As a country, we obviously needed this book. Maybe it needs to be judged more as an agent for social change than as a work of literature. The Jungle led to a fair amount of reform in the meatpacking industry, and provided a sounding board for people whose voices were not previously heard. So, in that regard, we have to give the book some props.

The entire last section of the book was weird, awkward, and somewhat insulting to the reader. It was as if Sinclair was saying, "Look, if you didn't quite understand the point that I've been bashing you over the head with for the last 300 pages, then let me provide an essay-like summary through a one-dimensional character whose sole purpose is to explain my socialist agenda in expository fashion. That should drive things home nicely, don't you think?" Ummm, ok, Upton...it's your book, do what you want with it.

Carl Sandburg - Chicago Poems

It's difficult for me to grapple with Carl Sandburg. Many of his poems come across as rather patronizing and ridiculous. I imagine him strolling down the street, smiling at blue-collar workers like some kind of faux-Buddha, thinking to himself, "Ah yes, the huddled masses, with their simple ways, and simple minds...I love them so. Hey, that's a great idea for a poem!" Another problem with Sandburg is that he was a bit of a plagiarist. The Fog, for example, was a pretty blatant rip-off The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (published just prior to The Chicago Poems), which contained a stanza clearly comparing fog to a cat. Observe the similarities:

Sandburg:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on

Eliot:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the windowpanes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle upon the windowpanes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house and fell asleep.

Eliot's command of language was substantially better than Sandburg's, and this was just one stanza in the poem. It's kind of annoying for me to read The Fog for this reason.

On the other hand, as we discussed in class, Sandburg created quite a few of the seminal poetic visions of Chicago that are still used today. So yes, he was a plagiarist, but he has probably been plagiarized by millions of people himself, and deserves credit for laying out the basic precepts most people hold for Chicago. So Carl Sandburg - I salute you! Kind of.


The Compass Players

Of all the places to launch one of the most innovative and dynamic movements in the history of American comedy, the University of Chicago would certainly not come to mind. But that is exactly where the Compass Players were born. Founded by David Shepard in the mid 1950's, the Compass Players were a group of University of Chicago alumni and dropouts who improvised plays out of vaguely outlined sketches - none of their dialogue was rehearsed prior to their shows.

One of their main performance spaces was Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap (located at 1172 East 55th Street). One night at Jimmy's, the bartender asked if the Compass Players could extend the show so that he could sell an extra round of drinks. Having run out of material for the evening, the actors asked the audience for suggestions, and their purely spontaneous and off-the-cuff performances proved to be immensely popular; they ultimately became the focal point for all of the Compass Players' shows and, moreover, created the foundation for the kind of improvisation that you see everywhere on the American comedy scene today.

The list of actors who were members of the Compass Players is astounding and impressive: Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Alan Alda, Ed Asner, Del Close, Jerry Stiller, and Valerie Harper are just a few of the names. Several of its members (including Del Close) went on to form Second City in 1959.

John Mahoney



John Mahoney is a familiar face to many people. He played Frasier's father on the long-running sitcom, and has appeared in many films as a reliable character actor (I particularly liked him in Barton Fink as an eccentric, washed-up, and astoundingly alcoholic William Faulkner). He also happens to be one of Chicago's own, and his own personal story is a pretty amazing testament to anyone who decides to stick to their guns and follow the path they feel is their destiny.

Mahoney worked for years here in the city as an editor in the publishing industry. His last job was working for The Quality Review Bulletin, a journal of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals. The job was comfortable and seemingly emblematic of the American Dream; Mahoney had a nice private office on the 37th floor of the John Hancock building, and all the other trappings of corporate success. But it wasn't enough, and he found himself unhappy and unfulfilled. At the age of 37, Mahoney quit his job and decided to make a go at becoming an actor. While taking an acting class at the St. Nicholas Theater on Halsted Street (now defunct), Mahoney was cast in David Mamet's play The Water Engine - his first professional acting gig. After that, he co-starred with John Malkovich in Ashes, and went on to star in many stage productions at the Steppenwolf. Mahoney's successful stage career led to small roles in films such as Moonstruck, Suspect, and Betrayed. Ultimately, his role as Frasier's father was what made his face so visible and famous, but Mahoney has remained a true Chicagoan to the end. He still lives here, joining his beloved Steppenwolf for various productions, and for the most part has rejected the call of Hollywood in his post-Frasier semi-retirement. "Chicago has been fabulous for me as an actor," he said. "My career got started here. All the theaters are here. I learned my craft here. Chicago has a got a personality like no other city...it's almost like a person instead of a city."

Devil and the White City

All that remains obviously visible now of the White City is the former Palace of Fine Arts, which now resides comfortably in the middle of the University of Chicago - a tribute to science and technology. Now known as the Museum of Science and Industry, its web site states its vision as follows: “to inspire and motivate our children to reach their full potential in science, technology, medicine and engineering.” Is this true? Hell, yes! Every day, scores of yellow buses transport hundreds of hyper-kinetic children into this magnificent monument to scientific progress to be inspired, perhaps, to reach their full potential as engineers, architects, scientists, and physicians.

When I lived in San Francisco, we had a Palace of Fine Arts; interestingly, it is also the only surviving building from a World's Fair—the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair. San Francisco's 1915 fair was known as The Panama-Pacific International Exposition and celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Today it houses a splendid art collection and serves as the site for many glittering (and pompous) gatherings featuring fine wines, chamber music, and well dressed socialites. San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts had its own little literary brush with terror, though—in film rather than print—as one of the settings for Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo.

Let's see...a segue, a segue, I need a segue. Screw it. Erik Larson and The Devil in the White City is a blockbuster tribute to the genius and determination of architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham and a testament to the madness and depravity of physician, murderer, and purveyor of cadavers Henry Holmes. Larson has succeeded in captivating the public, I believe, because he skillfully whipsaws us back and forth between the noblest and finest of human aspirations and behaviors and the meanest and most sickening depths of the human psyche.

Robert Louis Stevenson got the same morbid stranglehold on his readers' emotions in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he catapulted his Victorian audience between depravity and goodness in a single conflicted and tortured double character. Stevenson's work continues to speak to us. It has been recast as a play and, in recent years, even as a Broadway musical which ran from 1997 to 2001. The romp between good and evil is always winning combination. Good choice of a time tested formula, Larson!

I wish the story of Daniel Burnham had been enough for Larson. Burnham was a pretty extraordinary fellow, and certainly worthy of his own biography in his own right. Anyone who says otherwise is jealous, retarded, or some combination thereof. However, in the end, that's just not what people want. I found three biographies of Daniel Burnham on Amazon's website, and I don't think I know anyone who has even read any of these biographies. Sorry, Burnham. It's just your lot in life to have your life oddly juxtaposed with a homicidal maniac.

Most of us do not live in shining white cities or in palaces filled with resplendent fine arts, just like the majority have no idea what it's like to reach for the kind of greatness that Daniel Burnham tried to grasp. On the other hand, most of us have never encountered the dark and loathsome places Henry Holmes designed and inhabited, but every now and then we are tempted to hang pruriently over their edges, just for a moment, before we finally skitter away.

This desire to taste all of life—not just the piece of the universe that we happen to inhabit — has been fed for centuries by playwrights, journalists, and story tellers...roiling stews that combine ambition, passion, goodness, wickedness, heroism, kindness and cruelty. Erik Larson may not be Shakespeare or even Robert Louis Stevenson, but I suppose he knows a winning formula when he sees one.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Optimo Hats

Inspired by the founding partner of his firm, my husband Todd decided what he really needed for his winter wardrobe was a good hat. The founder of his firm has an impressive collection and offered to take my husband to “his hat guy” on the Southside. Apparently his puppy had gotten a hold of two of his hats and he needed to visit Optimo for a repair/replace consultation. Todd was so excited he talked about it for days. Optimo Hats is a bit of a Chicago institution and they did all the hats for the Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies. Located at Western and 102nd, they claim to be the “one of the last remaining traditional hat shops in the world.” Apparently Todd ordered a great hat. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen it yet (they are custom made so it takes awhile). But it cost $500 so it had better be awesome.

What I got out of the whole thing was an evening at Optimo’s Annual Holiday Party in the penthouse of the Blackstone Hotel. Todd borrowed a hat for the occasion, I was one of two hatless guests. The crowd was memorable: mostly men between the ages of 35 and 60, racially mixed and everyone dressed to the nines. We met a doctor, a millionaire and a retire Chicago firefighter, and everyone was really into their hats. Like they really wished they could pull off a porkpie, or they were planning the purchase of a panama for the summer. One man wearing a red hat and red suit explained that he bought the hat first and let it sit in his closet until he had the suit made to match. It was fun to see such a mixed crowd of people come together over such a specialized interest.

The owner of Optimo is a white guy in his mid thirties named Graham who purchased the store from the last owner, whose father had started the shop. Clearly identifiable as a hipster, Graham was ahead of the trend, learning the craft of hatmaking at sixteen when he apprenticed himself to the owner of Optimo. It is incredible that a sixteen year old had such clarify of vision, but indeed, he seems to have locked on to his trade early in life. I am looking forward to seeing Todd’s new hat. Turns out the founder of his firm’s hats were irredeemable. That’s an expensive puppy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Write What You Know

I appreciate Paretsky’s depiction of the Southside of Chicago. We spoke in class about Sinclair’s depiction of the working poor in the Jungle, based on his brief stint working among them. We discussed how it felt a bit melodramatic, like a story parents tell their children to make them stay in school. All they do is work and despair their slow and unavoidable demise.

I feel like Paretsky is more aware and more respectful than that. I appreciate that the girls’ dialogue seems plausible and their speech isn’t overly regionalized. By identifying her title character as both a local and an outsider – she grew up on the Southside but moved away long ago – she is stating her (the author’s) awareness of her partial knowledge and experience in a community that she is familiar with but not a member of. When the Southside characters admonish Warshawski for not knowing the neighborhood anymore and for being snooty, I assume that is a bit of self-consciousness on Paretsky’s part. Her self-awareness makes her a better writer. I think it is really challenging for a writer to depict people from a group they are not a part of convincingly and humanely. I suppose that is why the old edict is to write what you know.

As for detective novels in general I’m not a big consumer. I have a hard time keeping all the characters and plots straight, though I did have phases as a kid when I read a couple detective serials, one about a middle aged woman detective and another about a male detective and his two Siamese cats. I liked that you could grow familiar with the characters over the space of several books and that the disappointment of a good story ending was softened by the knowledge that another book in the series was waiting for you.

The Chicago List

Okay, this is going to be a long post, but I think it's worth sharing. . . Being new to Chicago I asked a local friend what are some essential Chicago experiences I should have while I'm here. She posed the question to everyone she knew from Chicago and this is what they came up with. I am slowly working my way throug the list. Feel free to add anything you think they missed!

• Air and Water Show
• Ann Sathers cinnamon rolls
• Architectural Artifacts
• architecture boat tour!
• Argo Tea
• Around Coyote
• Aurora outlets
• Baha’i House of Worship and gardens
• Beach volleyball on North Avenue Beach
• Bears game with tailgating
• Bobtail Ice cream
• Bongo room in bucktown for brunch
• Boutique shopping down Armitage or Halsted
• Brew and View at the Vic
• Broadway Chicago shows
• Brookfield Zoo
• Bulls game
• catch a good concert at Northerly Island
• Century Theater for indie movies
• Chicago Symphony Orchestra
• Chicago Diner
• Chicago Fire game
• Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder (across the street from where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre happened - they have the best salad w/2 dressings and Chicago "bowl" pizza & great house merlot)
• Chicago Public Library on Congress
• China Town for dim sum brunch (I like the Phoenix)
• Coast for sushi
• Coffee and a walk on the lake front
• Coffee from Bleeding Heart Organic Bakery on Belmont
• Costa’s Restaurant (best Greek food outside of Greece)
• CS Magazine
• cupcakes at southport grocery
• De Cero in the West Loop
• Delilah’s
• Double Door
• Drake for afternoon tea
• ed debevics
• Farmers markets/Green City Market
• Field Museum
• Flash Taco right above it has fantastic tacos and quesadillas
• fondue at geja's
• Toast on Webster for breakfast
• Frances on Clark has best chocolate peanut butter milk shake
• Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
• Funky Buddha Lounge
• funky shops on Belmont
• Gallery hopping around River North or West Loop
• Garfield Park Conservatory
• Garrett’s popcorn
• Gene & Georgetti's
• german fest in lincoln square
• Get on a boat and drink the day away!
• Goddess & Grocer
• going to an Oprah show taping
• Goodman Theater
• Goose Island Beer
• Graceland Cemetery
• Great America
• Green Dolphin Street
• Green Mill
• Hancock sky deck
• High Tea at the Peninsula
• Hot Chocolate on Damen
• Hot Doug’s
• House of Blues
• Ice Skating at Millennium Park
• if they were still having it -- The Southside Irish Parade (RIP)
• Ikram for wonderful shopping
• Improv Olympic
• intelligentsia coffee!
• italian at Topo Gigio in Old Town
• Jane Adams Hull House museum
• Japonais
• Jean and Jude's hot dog hmmmmmm good
• just hang out by Wrigley..always a good time! :)
• kayaking tours on the river
• Kenosha Outlets
• Kitsch’n on Roscoe
• Lincoln Park Boat Club - rowing is simply one of the best group sport
• Lincoln Park Zoo
• live jazz in the garden -- late hours so you can stroll through the museum.
• lollapalooza
• Lookingglass theater
• Lou Malnati’s stuffed pizza and Malnati’s salad – YUMM!
• Mario's Italian Ice on Taylor
• Market Days
• Melting Pot for fondue
• Michigan Avenue shops
• Michigan for apple-picking
• Millennium Park for chicago symphony orchestra
• Montrose Dog Park
• Morton Arboretum
• movies in the park
• Museum of Science and Industry
• Navy Pier Wed/Sat fireworks
• Oak Park (Frank Lloyd Wright tour)
• Old Town for shopping
• Pasta Bowl on Clark
• Piece for pizza
• Pitchfork
• Pizano's pizza
• Portillos hot dogs, fries and Italian beefs
• R. J. Grunts
• Ravinia
• Remy Bumpo Theater Company
• Renegade Craft Fair
• Rib Fest in Naperville
• Ricobenes
• Robie House
• rock n roll mcd's
• Rock Shop in Evanston (they have a museum in the basement!)
• Rotofugi Designer Toy Store
• RR#1 Apothecary
• Salvage One
• Second City Improv
• Segway tours
• Shedd Aquarium
• Sheffield Garden Walk
• Shopping down Milwaukee from Division to Damen
• shops and bars around Bucktown/Wicker Park
• Signature Room on the 95th
• Skydeck at the Sears Tower
• Steppenwolf
• Sultan's Market
• summer dance series if you’re interested in learning different types of dance
• Summerfest in Milwaukee
• Super Dawg
• Sushi Luxe
• Svea’s
• Taking public transportation everywhere
• Taste of Chicago
• The huge Macy's on State
• the BEAN!
• The Best Deep Dish Pizza really is Peaquods on Clybourn
• The best Merk's cheddar burger is at Underdog
• The best thin crust is at Pat's on Lincoln
• the bike path
• The Bottom Lounge
• The Chicago Botanic Garden is heavenly
• The rooftop garden/deck at Lightology
• thursday nights at the art institute - free admission,
• Viceroy of India
• Violet Hour
• Warren Dunes in MI (about 3 hours) but soooo worth it!
• Water tower and pumping station
• Webster’s Wine Bar
• Wells Art Fest
• Wrigley Field and the Cubs

Jeffrey Brown

One of my favorite comic book artists and writers is Jeffrey Brown, a Chicagoan, most of whose autobiographical work is set in Wicker Park. As part of my final project he agreed to an online interview. Here is some of what we discussed:

Heather: You have written about your early interest in superhero comics. How and when did you discover indie publications? Where there any Chicago writers/artists you were drawn to early on?

Jeffrey Brown: While I was in middle school/high school, the manager at my local comics shop started giving me some of the alternative comics like Hate, Eightball and Dirty Plotte. Eightball was one of my favorites, so Dan Clowes was the one Chicago cartoonist I liked a lot.

H: What was your sense of Chicago growing up? Did it feature in your imagination? Did you always imagine moving here, or was it just because of the School of the Art Institute?

JB: I have a lot of family in Illinois, and living in West Michigan I was only a three hour drive from Chicago, so out of any city outside of my hometown, I probably knew Chicago best. We went to the museums a lot, so the Field Museum and Museum of Science & Industry are probably my strongest associations. In college, my roommate was also from Chicago, so I spent time visiting him as well. When I started feeling like I needed to move away from West Michigan after college, I was actually leaning toward moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan. So really, going to The School Of The Art Institute was the biggest factor in coming here.

H: Your personal work has a strong sense of place: not just Chicago but Wicker Park as well. How would you characterize the importance of place in your work?

JB: Since my work deals with personal narrative and the nature of our memories, things like objects, songs, events, etc. all play important roles, so of course place does as well. For example, the idea of where you were when you first kissed someone, or the last time you saw someone, are closely tied to certain memories. So in my work I think that sense comes through, the importance of place in our lives.

H: If you were to describe Chicago as a character in your work, how would you describe it? What mood does Chicago imbue? What do you think are Chicago's most marked characteristics?

JB: In my work, I think the sense of Chicago is down to earth - maybe tied to that Midwestern sense of work ethic - and also, because of my interests I guess, a sense of DIY culture. Chicago to me has a mood of melancholy mixed with opportunity. Lately I think one of Chicago's marked characteristics is political corruption. Or at least that's one thing I think of when I think of Chicago.

H: We have been reading a number of Chicago authors for my class beginning with the turn of the century and working our way up through Saul Bellow and Sara Peretsky who is a part of "The Syndicate", a group of Chicago mystery writers. Do you feel like there is an intact community of graphic novelists/artists working in Chicago now? Howwould you describe the local community?

JB: I think there's a bit of community, but it's hard to gauge how closely knit it is. I think a lot of cartoonists know each other, and various groups see each other, but by its nature cartooning is a bit of a solitary pursuit. Judging from attendance at comics-related events and the work being created by Chicago cartoonists, I'd say the community is pretty vibrant.

H: How and why was The Holy Consumption (theholyconsumption.com) formed? How did you and the other artists meet? Do you see The Holy Consumption as having a role/effect in Chicago beyond yourselves?

JB: I met Paul Hornschemeier through Chris Ware, while Paul was working for Westcan, the company that printed my first self-published book Clumsy. Paul already knew Anders and John, and I met them later on. The Holy Consumption was Paul's idea; it was a way to give the four of us a more solid online presence as well as a venue to sell some of our work, since we were all self-publishing. I don't know how much effect the group has had as a group - for the most part, we worked alone and everything, just got together socially - but I think the idea of it, as well as how our careers have all evolved, has had an impact on inspiring the next generation of cartoonists.

H: What do you see as Quimby's (or other independent sellers) role in the development of Chicago talent? What are some of your favorite alternative/independent booksellers?

JB: Quimby's plays an important role, they're the leader in stores that are carrying self published work and a great place to discover the newest and most innovative work being made. For myself, going to Quimby's was a revelation, and definitely inspired me to not only make comics but the kind of work I make as well. Besides Quimby's, I like Chicago Comics and Comix Revolution. I like Myopic for used books, and I think the Book Cellar does a good job as a small independent book cellar.

The City of Lights

The passage that stuck with me from Devil in the White City was:

“The lamps that laced every building and walkway produced the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted and the first large-scale test of alternating current. The fair alone consumed three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago.” (254)

Three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago!

This is one of the rare moments in the text when I felt transported to the fair. I could imagine how absolutely magical it must have seemed to the attendees, out of the darkness of their homes and streets, people coming from all over the country, especially those from farms and small towns where there was little to no electricity at all. And suddenly they see this incredible city of lights – lit even at night as if it were the middle of the day. It must have been incredible.

The lights and the Ferris Wheel are the two things I would love to have seen. Every time I drive down Lakeshore Drive at night, past Navy Pier, and I see the Ferris Wheel all lit up I think about the world’s fair. Even to my modern eye, the light display on the Ferris Wheel is mesmerizing, it looks like fireworks the way the lights radiate from the eye. I really wanted a better sense of the scale of the original Ferris Wheel and I found this online:

http://www.spudart.org/blogs/randomthoughts_comments/2951_0_3_0_C/

It blows my mind how enormous the original was! And it blows my mind that it was structurally sound. You could not have paid me to be in the first round of riders.

The sketchy Harry Trellman

I think it’s funny that in all the time we talked about The Actual we didn’t discuss how totally sketchy Harry Trellman is. His whole fixation with appearing Chinese? And how secretive he is about his past and his career? Dude is totally suspect.

When discussing his profession he says, “Not that there is much to hide. But something about me hints that there is.” (2) Well, if there’s nothing to hide, why is he so circuitous? Or when he says, “Looking vaguely Chinese would not be enough to prevent discover. . . I mean exposure.” (3) Which does he mean? What is there to be exposed?

I wondered at the beginning if his life is so boring that he creates artificial mystery for the listener, or if he is actually involved in unsavory activities?

Later on he tells us, “It gave me an incomprehensible satisfaction to deny almost everyone access my thoughts and opinions.” (63) So I guess it’s just a power play. Which makes the character even less likeable, or rather, less knowable which makes me like him less.

“I was prepared by now to make my peace with my species. For most of them, I am aware in hindsight, I generally had a knife within reach.” (63) Well, at least the distrust is mutual.

Fire Sale

As I mentioned before, this Paretsky book was the first detective novel I've read. It appealed to me for a number of reasons. I liked V.I. Warshawski - that she's intelligent, tough, charming, and a feminist with a good sense of humor. I like that she has a sharp tongue always on reserve, and that at the same time, her compassion often dictates her actions, in spite of her wish to shut certain things out and not take on added responsibilities. It seems like all of the characters around her are mere sketches, though, and I wonder if this is typical of the genre.

My favorite thing about the book was the Chicago setting. I actually was going to make a site visit to where Thismia americana was discovered, but reading this book freaked me out to much too explore there on my own. (I will go this summer with friends.) The swamps/marshes that Paretsky writes about are still in that area of Southeast Chicago. When I was researching Thismia, I looked at a Google map and zoomed in underneath the Skyway where Warshawski finds Billy the Kid's wrecked car.

If detective novels are judged based on how effectively they conceal the inner workings of the mystery at hand, then for me, Fire Sale is successful - there was only one part that I predicted ahead of time. The detective novel genre is an interesting one - I like the idea of sustaining a single central character throughout numerous books. In some sense, it's like writing an extensive fictional biography, adding more and more details of the character's life with each new investigation, and I like the idea that different circumstances will reveal different aspects about the protagonist's life.

Thismia americana

Here is a timeline of Thismia americana, as well as a collaged list of descriptions of the flower. Thismia americana was only ever found in Southeast Chicago. Its closest relative is found in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. It is a tropical flower that blooms for three weeks a year in August. No one knows how it found its way to the prairies of the Midwest. The only known existing specimen is housed in a cabinet on the third floor of the Field Museum.

1912 – An unknown flower is first discovered in a wet prairie near 119th & Torrence Avenue, Chicago

1912 – Norma Pfeiffer, discoverer of Thismia americana, begins to collect specimens of the flower for five summers

1916 – Thismia is last seen in the place it was first discovered

1949 – Using a map from Pfeiffer, Field Museum botanist Julian Steiermark searches for Thismia with six eminent colleagues

1972 – Pfeiffer delivers her specimens to the Field Museum

1989 – Pfeiffer dies at age 100

1992-1996 – Intensive search fails to find the flower

1995 – Thismia americana declared extinct (although it continues to be listed in books on American botany, due to the possibility that it may still exist

2009 – Planning in progress for the most extensive hunt of Thismia

2012 – Centennial search


glabrous and white
delicate blue-green
colorless
transparent
translucent white
smooth
white-rooted
odd
strange
vanished
enigma
tiny pearl
tiny flowering
little
size of a pencil eraser
quarter of an inch
mystery that still haunts —
and helps — the Calumet region
elusive buried treasure of
the Calumet prairies
one of the most curious plants
of the world
of conservation concern
possibly extinct
feared to be extinct
believed to be extinct
easily overlooked
mystery

Snow by Carl Sandburg

In honor of the weather I found this Sandburg poem from his a 1920 collection of poems titled Smoke and Steel.

Snow
Snow took us away from the smoke valleys into white mountains, we saw velvet blue cows eating a vermillion grass and they
gave us a pink milk.

Snow changes our bones into fog streamers caught by the wind and spelled into many dances.

Six bits for a sniff of snow in the old days bought us bubbles beautiful to forget floating long arm women across sunny
autumn hills.

Our bones cry and cry, no let-up, cry their telegrams:
More, more—a yen is on, a long yen and God only knows when it will end.

In the old days six bits got us snow and stopped the yen—now the government says: No, no, when our bones cry their
telegrams: More, more.

The blue cows are dying, no more pink milk, no more floating long arm women, the hills are empty—us for the smoke
valleys—sneeze and shiver and croak, you dopes—the government says: No, no.


Sandburg's use of color is fantastic, and it works for Chicago.

The 1903 Iroquis Theater Fire


December 30, 1903 the single deadliest building fire in US history struck the Iroquois Theater at 24-28 West Randolph Street; the conflagration claimed 602 total lives including 571 in just 20 minutes.

The theater had just opened a month earlier and was showing the musical Mr. Bluebeard on the night of the disaster. A lighting arc started the blaze which spread quickly to the backstage and the 300 actors and stage crew fled through giant backstage double doors (only 5 staffers died) which sent a giant Chicago chill wind-fueled fireball into the audience. The orchestra continued to play as comedian Eddie Foy attempted to calm the panicked audience. "A sort of cyclone came from behind," Foy reported. "And there seemed to be an explosion."

Unfinished fire escapes, locked doors, an inoperable stage fire curtain, a lack of fire extinguishing equipment, overlooked fire codes (bribed were involved here (the Chicago way)), and an over packed house of nearly 2,000 patrons only made matters worse, and corpses were soon stacked 10 high around doors and windows.

"The screams of the children for their mothers and mothers for their children I shall carry in my memory to my dying day." -- Frank Slosson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Bain Wagon Works, survivor.


It ranks as the ninth most deadly structure fire of all-time in a list populated by Chinese conflagrations and the Church of the Company fire which killed between 2,000 and 3,000 people in Santiago, Chile in 1863. Not one of the injured survivors or victims' relatives ever collected a cent of damages.

The theater had been billed as "fire-proof" and the outside shell continued to stand after the blaze but was torn torn down in 1926. The Oriental Theater now stands in its place.

A fascinating 33mb PDF of the book Chicago's Awful Theater Horror from 1904 with pictures and first-hand accounts is available here from the U of I library.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Jungle

The most heart-breaking scenes in The Jungle for me are the scenes when the family first gets swindled into buying their home, believing that it is a high-quality, new edifice, and later when they discover that the house is part of a real estate scam that exploits immigrant meat packers.

Sinclair explains, “Cheap as the houses were, they were sold with the idea that the people who bought them would not be able to pay for them. When they failed...they would lose the house and all that they had paid on it” (55). The house company could then re-sell the house to another desperate, naive immigrant family that would also lose the house. The cycle would continue, enriching the exploitative landlords, and causing the financial ruin of the Packingtown families. Worse than the swindle—four families had lived in and left the house before Jurgis’ family, the house was “unlucky” (56). One member of each of the four families developed tuberculosis and died. This was apparently common in these ramshackle houses—if you slept in a “particular room...[you] were good as dead” (57).

Between the poor-quality construction, the use of toxic/hazardous materials (what else could cause severe respiratory problems in every single family that occupied the house?), and the deceptive advertising that lured Jurgis’ family into the scam, these scenes are incredibly difficult to read. The family’s experience with the house demonstrates all of the vulnerability and naiveté of the immigrant community in Packingtown. I have no doubts that these kinds of exploitative housing practices and other scams abounded at the turn of the century.

Leaning Tower of Niles

Every night at work I sit in the parking lot of Costco acting as security keeping an eye out for intruders or thieves, but actually I’m doing homework or watching a movie in my car. Anyways, sitting in the parking lot I have a pretty good view of an odd little piece of architecture in Illinois, the Leaning Tower of Niles, which is a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was constructed in 1934, 600 years after the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as a recreational site for employees at a near by company. The Niles tower is half the size of Pisa’s tower. 94 ft compared to Pisa’s 177 ft. Its original purpose was to store water for outdoor recreational swimming pools. Today it sits next to a bankrupt used car dealership, a YMCA, and across the street is a Target and Costco. It doesn’t hold any water anymore and only acts as a sight to see. I see it almost every night, but I don’t think much of it. I find it funny that it is mentioned in weird Illinois books or roadside attractions you must see and visit when in Illinois. I have seen this tower my whole life and never thought much of it, except that I knew I wanted to see the real one when I grew up, and soon I will.

The tower has been kept in good shape over the years. It seems to be a special landmark that Niles holds on to dearly. For Christmas, they have wrapped lights and Christmas tree stuff (I don’t know what it is called) around the tower. One of these days I will go up for a closer look.

Kuma's Corner

Kuma’s Corner is a Chicago burger joint that promotes not only great burgers and small company beers, but also metal. Not your Poison-Europe-Skid Row type a metal, but your Metallica-Slayer-Morbid Angel-Dying Fetus kind of metal.

I’m a big metal head so the music definitely grabs my attention, but even if you’ve never listened to any metal before, except for the go-to Metallica, that shouldn’t stop you from checking this place out. All the burgers, twenty-one in total, are named after some of their favorite bands. For example, The Judas Priest has bacon, bleu cheese dressing with apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Can you guess why they have fruit on this burger? Another example is the Led Zeppelin. It comes with their specially made pulled pork, bacon, cheddar, and pickles. This one is my favorite. All the burgers are served on a pretzel bun too. I suggest that before you go here make sure you have an empty stomach, because you will find yourself incredibly full and ready to unbuckle your pants after you chow down your burger and drink your three beers – three is the magic number.

They also have some rules they have set up, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. I’m never really sure which one it is. They do not take reservations. This is because the place is so small. This is also my biggest problem with the place. You may end up waiting longer than you were expecting if you go with a group of five. Make sure you bring enough money to buy a few drinks while your waiting. Another rule they post is, “we will not ‘put on the game, bro.’ They try to keep this heavy metal vibe, which they definitely do. They refuse to put on any sports game, thank God, and instead play crazy movies that usually are in some sort of horror category. You could probably find a bar down the block with the sports game on. Instead of playing ESPN all day they play some interesting movies. If you know some of the stuff metal musicians sing about you could probably take a guess on what kind of movies are going to be played at this lovely metal bar. Their third rule is no music requests. Just relax and enjoy what they play. The fourth is no minors after 10pm, because of the sometimes graphic movies they play. And their last rule is to be patient, because their kitchen is only 16x16. The kitchen is small but once your seated the food is usually out within forty-five minutes. Sometimes even quicker depending on how crowded the place is.

So if your looking for a new place to check out with some buds or your significant other take a stroll to Kuma’s Corner where you will be served metal up the…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Critical Mass

Although Critical Mass is not unique to Chicago, nor did it start in Chicago (it originated in San Fransisco) it is something I find special about Chicago, as not all big cities have it, and some big cities try to have it and have little success.

Critical Mass is a bike ride that take place the last Friday of every month. Bikers meet en mass at the Daily Center starting around 5:00 at night. The rout is never disclosed until just before the ride begins, when people will hand out maps. This is a new development, the rout used to be totally secret.

The ride begins when the bikers begin circling the Daily Center. The speed of the ride is very slow, so you will see anyone from little kids to seniors to experienced bike messengers. Everyone rides, and it is a friendly and cheerful experience. The cars don't always appreciate the sometimes thousands of bikers holding up traffic, but most people respond positively to the bikers smiles and often return the "Happy Friday" greeting being yelled out.

Originally started to spread a message from bikers to cars, that the road must be shared, it is now banned in New York City because of how badly traffic gets messed up. Here in Chicago, thanks to our bicycling enthusiastic mayor, the mass is actually accompanied by biker cops, who help block traffic. Despite this, the message doesn't always seem positive, as cars and bikes do often get upset with each other during the ride becasue the cars are forced to wait as all the bikes pass.

Overall though, the ride is a very happy and fun event, so check it out, the last Friday of the month (although probably not this one as if falls on Christmas and the Winter months tend to be pretty low in attendance, so I'd say wait until May or June and then you'll get the really great experience).

The Ghost of Summer Past

Getting cold? Me too. Can't afford a vacation? Me neither. Need an escape? Me too.



Luckily we live in Chicago, home to two amazing, beautiful and most importantly, warm, Conservatories.



The Garfield Park Conservatory (http://www.garfield-conservatory.org/) is located at 300 N. Central Park Ave. It is absolutely huge. It is easy to spend a cold afternoon getting lost in the tropical warmth.

Chicago is also home to the Lincoln Park Conservatory located at 2391 N Stockton Dr. The Lincoln Park location is smaller than the Garfield Park one, but I actually like it more. It is cozier and somehow transports me more than the other one.

Believe it or not they're both free, so whichever one you like better, they both offer great opportunities to escape the cold and the concrete and feel like you're in another world. They also both offer great volunteer opportunities, including at the Garfield Park Conservatory, BEE KEEPING. Thank you Chicago Park District.



The Green Mill and The Chicago Poetry Slam

The Green Mill, located at the intersection of Lawrence Ave and Broadway Ave, just off the Lawrence Red Line stop, is famous for music, namely Jazz. The Green Mill, as we learned in class is also an old Speak Easy. Now, on Sunday nights, the Green Mill is over run with poets. Slam Poets. Every Sunday night, from 7-10 PM, for just $6, you can see and even participate in a great show.

From 7 to 8 there is open mic, from 8-9 there is a special guest poet or poets or a musician, and from 9-10 is the SLAM!

The Poetry Slam was created by Marc Smith (http://www.slampapi.com/) who still hosts the show, every Sunday night, and he is quite entertaining. Cranky, funny and compassionate about the two things he seems to love most, Chicago and Poetry, Marc Smith never dissapoints an audience.

The Green Mill is definately worth checking out on a Sunday night, and if you're feeling brave sign up for the open mic, and if you're feeling really brave, get there early and secure yourself a spot in the Slam!

Gary Stocl: a ghost onn the streets of Chicago

I heard about the photographer Gary Stocl from a friend who was doing a project on him. What I learned from my friend was that Gary Stocl lived in the suburbs of Chicago, in the basemen of his parent's house, never working, but instead going down town almost everyday, haunting the streets, taking pictures. One day, apparently after his parents passed away and perhaps he needed money, he took his pictures to Columbia College, down town and showed them to a photography teacher who was amazed by what he saw. Stocl's photos, up until that point, may not have ever been seen by any one but himself.

He now has a book: On City Streets: Chicago, 1964-2004

His photographers are really amazing, and it is interesting to think about someone on the streets of Chicago, capturing pictures, beautiful and amazing pictures, for so many years, with no one really noticing, and him not making himself known.

His work is definately worth checking out, weather on line or in his book.

Chicago: City on the Make #2

Chicago: City on the Make #2

IN GENERAL
This is a slow read. I REALLY appreciate the notes section in back.
After reading a small section, I check out the notes immediately and it helps me understand who and what he is talking about—after all we are translating from a different language!

PORTRAIT OF A CITY
Chicago is a strange place—there are so many different areas and eras—it is difficult to put your finger on what Chicago is all about.

“It’s a ball game between the do-as-I-sayers and the live-and-let-livers—but it’s a rigged ball game.”
“The only way a mayor can procceed is to just keep things in repair”
The battle goes on between the people who follow the laws and those who realize there is no point in doing that—to survive (or sometimes just live) you may have to bend or even break them. There needs to be a place for these people and I was amazed that it was all confined to the Old Levee district, isolated from the rest of society. See note on bottom of pg 110

THERE IS MORE…
Algren tells an anecdote about one thing but he is really saying something else.
Re: the ball game and the blacklist. On pg 34-36 when he tells the story about being stopped on the northside by kids who demand he tell his favorite player and then berate him on his choices—it becomes commentary on the McCarty hearings. The phrases and terms used: Guilt of association, conspiracy, the committee, chairman all make a clever reference to a very twisted past.

WRITING
His writing is beautiful and has a wonderful sound when read aloud.

I have mixed feeling about the anachronistic “Chicago: City on the Make”. I think writing should be understood, without too much work for the reader. In another sense, I find the deciphering and decoding a thrill and a complete hassle at the same time. But, if he didn’t word things in his dated slang the way he did, his prose would lose all its beauty and cadence.

Montgomery-Ward sleepwalkers—Shoppers at a department store
Straw Kelly—Summer hat
Cribs—Brothels

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Larson

I have to admit, when I first began reading The Devil in the White City, I enjoyed it. The more I read, though, the more repetitive, predictable, and boring it became. A better author could have taken the information that Larson gathered and produced a marvelous book from it. Larson’s book fails because of the cheap storyline with Holmes and the overwhelming quantity of details that he offers his reader. If Larson had just written a biography of Burnham, or a less fictionalized account of the construction of The White City, the book could have been a success. The most unfortunate moments of the book are his attempts to fictionalize history, particularly in the Holmes subplot.

I could barely read the sections about Holmes’ young, naive victims. There was too much gore and too much heart-break. As I read each of the Holmes sections, I wondered how Larson’s publishing company let him get away with his Holmes scenes—they were poorly written and distracting. While I’m sure that the company thought that the horrifying murders of these girls would sell books, I find myself incredibly disgusted by these scenes and their presence in The Devil in the White City. I can understand why many people are fascinated by the depths of human evil, but Larson’s treatment of Holmes’ brutal, psychotic murders was completely insensitive, exploitative, and senseless. The tale of the White City didn’t need a distracter in the form of Holmes; and given Larson’s lack of information on Holmes, the Holmes chapters were quite awful and unreadable. How many times did we read a comparison between the blue of Holmes’ eyes and Lake Michigan? Or between placid waters and his eyes? Also, because Holmes (like most serial killers) followed a pattern and chose similiar victims every time, every Holmes section was a repetition of the previous one. The only interesting details about Holmes were related to his hotel and its strange architecture. I’m pretty sure that Larson only included Holmes in the book so that he could have the clever title The Devil in the White City and work with the contrasting plot lines of a heroic architect building a white city, and an evil madman murdering in dark corners of the city.

Bellow

I found Harry Trellman’s fascination with his own Chinese/Japanese appearance to be quite intriguing. Trellman is a sort of mystical character, with his journeys to the East and his penchant for very astute observation. He is aware of the smallest details in the way that people interact with one another. Trellman’s shifting appearance, as a Jewish business man who appears either Chinese or Japanese, depending on who you ask, makes sense in relation to his shifting identity. Trellman is a “first-class noticer”, according to Adletsky (15). It is because of his insights into human behavior that he is selected for Adletsky’s “brain trust.” Trellman looks down on others because of their lack of “higher motives,” yet it is never clear what higher motives Trellman labors under (42). All of the characters of the novel, with the exception of Trellman and Amy, are histrionic egomaniacs or other embodiments of the absurd. Wealth and irascible behavior are linked, particularly in the character of Madge Heisinger, who pours a pot of tea into Amy’s lap in order to get her attention. The world of the über-rich in no way resembles the world of the middle class—anything is permissible with enough wealth.

By far the best scene of the book is the last scene, in which Harry proposes to Amy next to the grave of her dead ex-husband, Jay. Harry’s proposal to Amy is at once the fulfillment of a life-long fantasy, and a form of revenge against Jay, who tortured Harry through various forms of sexual cruelty, including a threesome with Amy, who Jay knew Harry was in love with. Though it took him well over twenty years to confess his love to Amy, he finally does. The theme of exhumation fits well with the project of the text: the actual exhumation of Jay leads to the exhumation of memories. Unlike Jay, who will be reburied, the exhumation of Harry’s feelings for Amy and their discovery that they had both loved one another for many years gives both Harry and Amy a second chance at life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Coyote Menace: America's Greatest Threat


It is easy to ignore a problem; it is harder to acknowledge one; and it is much harder to overcome one. Without question, the planet we live on faces a growing number of problems with each passing day. Nevertheless, even the most daunting issues threatening life on our planet − global warming, dwindling fossil fuels, war between nations − have solutions. For example, global warming can be reduced by decreasing pollutants released into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels can be replaced by using alternate energy sources, such as hydrogen cells and solar power. War can be resolved through peaceful negotiations. However, the most imperative problem endangering our planet is one that has no solution: the coyote menace.

Tricksters. That is the name given to the coyote spirit in Native American lore. Many moon cycles ago, our ancestors realized the looming threat coyotes posed on humanity. Despite their wisdom and understanding of the spirit world, however, the countless tribes that inhabited North and South America for millennia were powerless against the indomitable coyote. Since then, civilization has experienced significant progress and mankind has learned to harness electricity and fly across the heavens. Unfortunately, humanity has yet to find a viable solution to the threat posed by the coyote menace. Although the human race remains incapable of preventing the spread of coyote dominance across the globe, modern science has accumulated crucial information on its elusive adversary.
Coyotes look like dirty dogs and eat cats and little kids and dim sung. Biologists have confirmed that they are fluent in hundreds of languages, including Portuguese, Mandarin, Latin, Hebrew, Ket. Due to their vast intelligence, they have learned to manipulate the magnetic field, rendering all weapons composed of metal alloys useless against them. Coyotes have infiltrated several bodies of government and it has recently been confirmed that there are currently seven of them seated in the British Parliament. But many of them you probably wouldn’t even notice as a result of the sophisticated holographic cloaking devices used to disguise their appearance. NASA satellites have shown signs that coyotes are not only capable of traveling through space, but also have colonies on other planets. Most recently, sports journalists have unearthed Muhammad Ali’s birth certificate which confirms that he is a coyote.

The coyote menace kills without mercy, makes love without inhibition, and dies without regret. Although global leaders refuse to accept the fact that humans are an inferior life form, the scientific community acknowledges that coyotes are superior to humans in nearly every conceivable way. Even though humanity is already facing several critical problems − global warming, dwindling fossil fuels, and war between nations − they may not have an impact on the planet for another fifty years. On the other hand, coyotes threaten to have a catastrophic impact on the planet tomorrow. Certainly the dinosaurs did not see the threat coyotes posed, but they certainly felt it when they were obliterated from the face of the earth. In order for human culture to endure for future generations, a solution to the coyote menace needs to be our top priority and survival our most important concern.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fire Sale #2

Fire Sale #2

After I finished:

Great Character––V.I. Warshawski

After tensions were resolved, I was not very surprised. There was a long string of clues that took a long time to arrive to an inevitable conclusion.

Paretsky has an agenda and it is very noticeable: workers' rights at a big box store, gangs & basketball as their only hope, class issues, the giant chasm that exists between the haves and have nots etc...I don't mind as it is timely and apropos.

Warshawski is the righteous problem solver super hero. She fixes the injustices all over the town. From the small things to the big things. Warshawski's character was consistent, deep and tough. I like her, I don't like the clients & suspects she deals with, and I want her to figure everything out and kick some ass. I want to see the good gal beat up the bad guy. It vicariously heals all the injustices I have dealt with in the past.

Of all people, Warshawski reminded me of the John McClane (Bruce Willis) DIE HARD character. She gets wounded in the first scene, she is then hospitalized, and ends up a walking corpse by the end of the book being hospitalized again. She is beaten up and still relentless.

I don't really have a lot to say about the writing. It is competent and it appropriately delivers the story without getting in the way or drawing attention to itself. In that regard, i was not a participant. more of an observer of the cinematic story.

I think this would make a great movie. It seems to be overflowing with attitude from each character. I have yet to see the film that was already made in 1991.

Fire Sale #1

Fire Sale #1

Here are some of my thoughts as I was reading the book:

I am intrigued to find out what happens to the cheating couple (marcina & roach), the kid & josie, and to find out who started the fire even though i have a pretty good idea.

But, this is dragging on. Not much action happened from the fire in the beginning up until the 2nd half of the book. I like the historical chicago bits of info.

The by-smart, non-union, no benefits, cheap labor overseas, working class hero stuff is wearing on me at this point. Not from this book, but in our society. It is ridiculous that the denial of essential, civilized rights (like benefits and the ability to unionize) could be calmly accepted by the workers.

V.I. Warshawski is preachy, pushing, and a professional meddler, yet most other characters put her in her place and call her out on her behavior. She is also extremely self critical which makes her more believable——like she just can't help being the way she is.

I guess it makes me wonder why ALL private detectives aren't simply ignored by the potential suspects in mystery stories? It's not like you are ignoring the police! Unlike a police detective, a P.I. is just some busybody who everybody can shove aside.

Some scenes are great——like the "punta" scene was pretty funny.

Chicago: City on the make—#1

Chicago: City on the make—#1

I was poking around on Chowhound website trying to find a substitute for one of my favorite restaurants that closed years ago, BUSY BEE. Somebody posted that we should all check out a place called:

Podhalanka (pronounced, poe-deh-lanka)
1549 W. Division St.

Unfortunately, this did not pacify my desire for Busy Bee pierogi. My wife had already taken me there about 8 years ago. She swore they had the best Borscht. She was right. I loved this place and I loved the feeling i had being there eating and just hanging out. It is not chic, hip, or expensive. It is a real place — not a stepping stone to a restaurant chain franchise, not a stop in a sequence of higher schemes. This was it. I REALLy enjoy finding places like this.

Podhalanka reminded me and many others of the Busy Bee restaurant—a peirogi joint at milwaukee, damen and north avenue.

Then something happened...Somebody else on Chowhound responded with this:



I saw the connection. When I think back, people actually used to talk about Nelson Algren at a places i used to frequent—-i confirmed this with my wife as she used to hang out at these places a great deal more than me.

One was Busy Bee the other is the Rainbow club (1150 N Damen Ave., between Haddon Ave & Division St). They serve $2 PBR on a friday night—that says a good deal about this dive bar.

I don't recall much more than the regulars saying that Algren was a regular at the Rainbow Club. I don't think busy bee was around when Algren was alive, but the folks there used to talk about him and they said he hung out at the Rainbow club.

Busy bee was an amazing place, too bad it closed down.

It was amazing in the sense that it was owned and operated by somebody who enjoyed serving people large portions of good, inexpensive food. Sophie, the owner, created a community dinning area - a giant rectangular bar/counter with the servers in the center. There were also tables in an other area.

Policemen would double park out front, jump out run in and pick up there order as the exchanged some happy talk with Sophie as hustlers, hoods, locals and travelers, killing time, ate at the bar. I went in there the first time to fill my belly. My very dear friend is Polish and his mother always had really great food available for me. I walked by Busy Bee, I saw people eating pierogi and rushed in.

It was a place rich with characters and it was a microcosm of the eclectic and strange city in which it resided. It was a place you could write about. It was a place where you could go to eat some great cheap food and write. I can picture Algren sitting there chowing away and getting into frank and curt discussions with the other diners.

The Actual—#2

The Actual—#2

I think The Actual a great example of modern writing in that there is really no emphasis on plot and much of what we encounter are fragments that are decontextualized. Some of the players involved have implied roles, yet offer no true forward momentum to constructing a plot.

There is a collection of cinematic scenes, internal thoughts, and observations. The reader must put all of this together. We end up trying to figure out what the story IS while we are reading. And, it is a bit of a twist to see the fragments i THOUGHT might develop where actually red herrings (as you mentioned). In the end it was a simple old flame who really did make our main, mysterious character truly conscious.

The old flame theme idea rears its head in a completely realistic manner. Life goes on with its monotony on one side and its chaos on the other. Many times during a day one connects with their past—externally and internally. Even if you change locale and friends—its always inside you.

The immediacy of life hit me in the face by the end of the book. Marriage, love, and trying to cope with it all while Death hangs over head. Old relationships, ones that could have been but never where.

There are some people who have a profound ineffable affect on me. There is an attraction way beyond the physical. It is the missed opportunities with those unique people which are often viewed with regret. We all have them.

I am thankful that I attained closure with two unrealized loves from my past. I sought one of them out, and the other found me. I walked away much wiser with a strong acceptance of our attraction and incompatibility. Unfortunately, i am also reminded of all the loves that where realized yet ended unresolved and without closure. There is a residue from these things that lingers until you get so old you forget everything you ever did and everybody you ever knew.

The Actual—#1

The Actual—#1

We all had a little confusion in class about the shower scene. I went back to check it over: Harry, Jay and Amy where all in the shower. Amy and Jay were not married at the time. FYI.

I love this book. This is the first Bellow book i've read. I plan to read many more. A story that starts anywhere and then kinda ends where ever it needs to always pulls me in.

As i stated in class, Bellow did a wonderful job revealing enough information to keep me interested, but leaving out just enough to keep me involved. He had me trying to piece things together in an enjoyable way.

Bellow offers little assistance to the reader when dialog is involved. It is challenging to know who is speaking at a given moment.
Shifts in time take place with little to no warning. Both of these techniques work because Bellow KNOWS he did this and he drops clues in the following text to help you keep your place. It is refreshing to have this tension and resolutions in some areas, and unresolved mystery and ambiguity in others. So, I don't know everything, but i know enough to want to know more. As i continued to try and piece together one thing, other fragments are introduced. Its like a fugue.

The repetition of facts and events did strengthen the back stories of each character so they STUCK in my memory. Often, you would re-experience the same scene retold from a different perspective and this would validate, reinforce and broaden your experience of the scene and the characters involved.

The Ghostly Smell of Chocolate

Every wonder why it smells like chocolate when you're walking the streets of down town or making your way to class on the campus of UIC? It is because you are within smelling limits of the Blommer's Chocolate factory!

Located at 600 West Kinzie, it is the cause of the delightful and sometimes nauseating odor of chocolate.

They do tours, and they have a small store in the front of the factory where you can pick up bulk chocolate, so if the smell didn't overwhelm you and you're still in the mood for chocolate, it is a great place to pick up some high quality chocolate for cheap!

Kinzie, being a street I take often, I have been privy to seeing the tankers of Chocolate pull up and pump chocolate through their giant hoses, into the building. The workers run around all suited up like they are austronauts, and one time I got to see a chocolate spill, and they were sweeping and hosing the chocolate down the hill. Made me want to pull over my bike and help clean up the street with my tongue! A very cool Chicago factory.

Link to their home page where you can learn more about tours:

http://www.blommer.com/

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Find a Grave: Illinois Edition

http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.php?page=state&FSstateid=16

This seems entirely relevant to a discussion on Chicago ghosts: A list of all the (somewhat) famous people buried in Illinois, with locations (down to lot, section, and row), and in most cases, pictures of the actual tombstones.

Some entries that I found interesting out of the 1,263 results:

Beveridge, John Lourie b. July 6, 1824 d. May 3, 1910
Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, 17th Illinois Governor, US Congressman. Served as Major and commander of the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, and as Colonel and commander of the 17th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. He was one of the founders of the Hollywood, California, Public Library and in his honor a live oak tree was planted on the grounds and named the Beveridge Oak.
Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot: Section F, Lot 64



Bliss, Leonard 'Baby'
b. May 4, 1865 d. January 4, 1912
He was world famous in the late 1800s as the fattest man in the world. You can see some of his clothes and pictures at the Mclean County museum in Bloomington, Illinois.
Smith Grove Cemetery, Towanda, McLean County, Illinois, USA

Capone, Alphonse 'Al' [original burial site] b. January 17, 1899 d. January 25, 1947
Organized Crime Figure, Chicago Gangster. Probably the best known of the 1920s gangsters, he controlled Chicago until brought down by FBI Agent Elliott Ness. Ness later wrote a book "The Untouchables" which detailed his efforts to jail Capone. Capone was the largest of the racketeers, and captured the American public's imagination as few ever did. Born Alphonse Capone in Brooklyn, New York, of Italian immigrant parents, Gabriele and Teresina Capone, the fourth of nine children.
Cause of death: Syphillis
Mount Olivet Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot: Section 52, Near 115th Street


Caray, Harry b. March 1, 1914 d. February 18, 1998
Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Sportscaster. He was born Harry Christopher Carabina in St. Louis, Missouri on March 1, 1914 and was orphaned by age of 10. Caray played semi-pro baseball before beginning his career in broadcasting. Caray learned his craft at stations in Joliet and Kalamazoo, Michigan, eventually doing the play-by-play for the St. Louis Hawks and the University of Missouri football team. Later, the Chicago Cubs.
All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot: Section 42W, Block 22
GPS coordinates: 42.0608711, -87.8983688 (hddd.dddd)


Deere, John b. February 7, 1804 d. May 17, 1886
19th Century American inventor and industrialist, best known for founding the yard, farm and earthmoving equipment company that bears his name. John Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont, on February 7, 1804, the third son of William Rinold Deere, a merchant tailor. In 1808, William sailed for England, in hopes of claiming an inheritance, but he was never heard from again, and is presumed lost at sea. Raised by his widowed mother on a meager income, John's education was limited to the primary...[Read More]
Riverside Cemetery, Moline, Rock Island County, Illinois, USA
Plot: On Prospect at Concourse, North East corner of Cemetery overlooking the Mississippi River
GPS coordinates: 41.5075493, -90.4919281 (hddd.dddd)

Karadjordjevic, Andrej b. June 28, 1929 d. May 7, 1990
Serbian prince. Younger brother of King Petar II. After 1945 lived in exile in Great Britain and later in USA. (Bio by: Jelena)
Most Holy Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Third Lake, Lake County, Illinois, USA

Mayer, Oscar
b. March 29, 1859 d. March 11, 1955
Business Magnate. Oscar F. Mayer was born in the Bavaria section of Germany. In 1873, at the age of 14, the family grocery business failed, and Oscar came to the United States with his cousin. Settling in Detroit, he answered an ad and took a job as an apprentice with George Weber's Retail Meat Market. He stayed there for three years until 1876, when the he moved to Chicago to work at the Kohlhammer meat market, and also at the Armour meat packing company (located in the stockyards). In 1883...[Read More]
Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA

Owens, Jesse (James Cleveland) 'JC' b. September 12, 1913 d. March 31, 1980
American Athlete. Jesse Owens first came to national prominence in 1933 when, as a senior at Cleveland East Technical High School, he tied the world record for the 100-yard dash. Attending Ohio State on a track scholarship, Owens had perhaps the greatest day in sports history on May 25, 1935, setting world records in the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the broad jump while again tying the world record in the 100-yard dash at the Big 10 track and field championships. He is perhaps...[Read More]
Cause of death: Lung Cancer
Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot: Section C-32, just off of paved road

Ruby, Jack b. April 25, 1911 d. January 3, 1967
Killer of accused Presidental assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, on 24 November 1963, in a downtown Dallas, Texas police station (Oswald was never convicted of the crime). Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald as he was being transferred in the basement garage of the police station, and the killing was broadcast on live television. Many people believe that Ruby intentionally killed Oswald to cover up others' involvement in the...[Read More]
Westlawn Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot: Violet Section, Plot 2 lot 9
GPS coordinates: 41.9582405, -87.8222504 (hddd.dddd)