Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick
By Tony Fitzpatrick
Driving back from California through the desert, one is always cognizant of the hungry world that surrounds you. The desert may seem still, but beyond what you can see it is teeming with life: coyotes, owls, hawks, vultures and some genuinely scary-ass reptiles, thick western diamondbacks, prairie rattlers, gila monsters and sidewinders.
There are small boars called javelinas—ugly little fuckers who love-you-not. There are roadrunners who tear along the desert until they find a lizard to peck to death and devour. They are psycho-looking sons-of-bitches who remind us that for all of the cute photos of baby seals and shit like that, that nature is around-the-clock murder. Look into the eye of one of these ground-dwelling birds and one sees all of the madness in the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Danny Resner by the decorative spire at Ashland/63rd/Photo: John Greenfield
By John Greenfield
On Saturday, National Train Day, my El-racing brother-in-arms Danny Resner and I tried to write a new chapter in the saga of competitive CTA riding. The rules are simple: you must stop at and/or depart from every station by train, although it’s not necessary to ride every inch of track, and you can only travel by El, bus or shoe leather.
Several people, including Danny and me, have worn the CTA racing crown at various times. In October, ad men Chris Aubin and Garrett Sorrels set the current record for 145 stations: 9:12:39. We hoped to snag the title before the five-month shutdown of the south Red Line for a $425 million track rehab and station enhancement project, which starts this Sunday. Here’s how our day went down:
10am We begin our journey in Wilmette at the Purple Line’s Linden station, a stone’s throw from the Bahá’í temple. Last week a seven-month, $2 million slow-zone-elimination project started on the line north of Howard and we see yellow construction vehicles parked along the track as we roll south. Just before we reach Howard to transfer to the Yellow Line there’s an excruciating twenty-minute delay. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): In the alternate universe created by Marvel comic books, there is a mutant superhero called Squirrel Girl. She has the magic power to summon hordes of cute, furry squirrels. Under her guidance, they swarm all over the bad guy she’s battling and disable him with their thousands of tiny chomps and thrashing tails. She and her rodent allies have defeated such arch-villains as Dr. Doom, Deadpool, Baron Mordo and Ego the Living Planet. Let’s make her your role model for the coming weeks, Aries. The cumulative force of many small things will be the key to your victories. As in Squirrel Girl’s case, your adversaries’ overconfidence may also be a factor. Read the rest of this entry »
Race to Wrigley runners/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: For the eighth straight year, Chicago Cubs Charities organized the Race to Wrigley, a 5K through Wrigleyville that starts at the intersection of Addison and Clark and ends with a brief jaunt through the Wrigley Field ground-level concourse. After being warmed up by WGN’s Dina Bair and Danni Allen (winner of Season 14 of The Biggest Loser), the 3,000 or so timed runners (self-organized into pace groups) took off down a blocked-off Addison.
Organization along the course, including directional information and water stations were heavily attended and clearly marked, with a great deal of fanfare paid to the finish line area in front of Wrigley Field. The pre- and post-race party area in the space between Clark, Waveland and Wrigley Field was less well-organized, with a slow-moving and regrettably unsystematic gear check slowing things up and too many participants crammed into the space after finishing the run. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
In Tokyo, I took tons and tons of digital shots and I had no earthly fucking idea how to load them onto my computer, because I am a moron. I walked at least five miles a day all over Shinjuku and Shibuya and in the Ginza district. I also spent a little time in one of the parks that are gorgeous in Tokyo, and oddly quiet. Public space is revered in this city because there is so little of it and parks offer respite from the crowds. People are very quiet in the parks and these immaculately manicured places are sanctuary and lend themselves to reading and meditation. The trees are carefully pruned and sculpted and every park is tended to like a giant garden. They are beautiful.
I walked a great deal and saw a lot of Tokyo in a shopping district right by Shibuya. There is a youth culture that is hard to discern the look of; part punk, part slacker, part skate-kid. It is an amalgam of all of these things. I also stumbled onto something Japan really likes–buttons. They are bat-shit for buttons. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago’s Divvy bike-share vehicles won’t come with helmets.
By John Greenfield
Last summer when I visited Copenhagen, I drank Carlsberg beer with Mikael Colville-Andersen, one of the world’s most influential and controversial bicycle advocates, in his lush back yard while his kids practiced soccer and picked flowers. Colville-Andersen heads the consulting firm Copenhagenize, advising politicians, planners and advocates on ways to copy the success of the bike-friendly Danish capital, but he’s probably better known for his wildly popular photo blog, Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
Among the many topics we discussed was his attitude toward bike helmets. He thinks they’re totally unnecessary for urban commuting, and he believes that promoting helmet use is actually counterproductive for making cycling safer. In northern European bicycle meccas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, more than a third of all trips are made by bike, almost nobody wears a helmet, and yet injury rates are much lower than in the United States, where lots of people wear helmets. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): The Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico are renowned for their ability to run long distances. The best runners can cover 200 miles in two days. The paths they travel are not paved or smooth, either, but rather the rough canyon trails that stretch between their settlements. Let’s make them your inspirational role models in the coming week, Aries. I’m hoping that you will be as tough and tenacious as they are—that you will pace yourself for the long haul, calling on your instinctual strength to guide you. Read the rest of this entry »
Cinco de Miler post-race party/Photo: Zach Freeman
Breakdown: If there’s a better way to start off Cinco de Mayo in Chicago, I haven’t found it. Mostly following last year’s five-mile course from a blocked-off Simonds Drive north to Hollywood Avenue and back, this year’s Cinco de Miler kept everything that worked last year and even managed to improve on a few details.
The signature mariachi band was back (with a few additional members this time around) and the finishing chute was a bit more streamlined, curving around a cheering area and directing runners back to the post-race party. RAM Racing knows how to do swag and the race shirts were much improved: last year’s long-sleeve red and white running shirts were replaced with stylish dark gray cotton/polyester blends. The finisher’s drinking mug was replaced with a finisher’s medal that doubles as a bottle-opener (which runners could make use of immediately after the race at the beer tent).
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The McGroarty-Torres family
By Lisa Applegate
When she stood behind the podium and began reading from her one-page speech, Kathy McGroarty-Torres felt more than just her usual jitters about speaking in public. The paper she held quivered in her hands. Her voice choked and she blinked away tears. She had written this speech late the previous night in her hotel room, anxious to include the most compelling details of her family’s struggle with a largely unknown immigration law. It was a story she had yearned to tell for a decade, ever since she and Ines Torres were newlyweds and learned of the law while waiting at the border in Ciudad Juarez. Now here she was, standing before a television camera and several reporters in a U. S. Congress meeting room.
“We have lived everyday with the fear that our lives could be destroyed by a deportation order. We have two boys, Esteban and Diego, who have no idea that their father’s immigration status could ultimately bring unbelievable heartache to our home.” As Kathy spoke her boys’ names, a thought flashed in her mind: “Oh, there it is. We’re all out now.” She had been encouraged to use their names, to add a human dimension to the law passed by Congress seventeen years ago in an attempt to deter undocumented immigrants. Now she wondered, could this be dangerous for us? Read the rest of this entry »
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick
By Tony Fitzpatrick
I’ve made more than a few tributes to the great Chicago writer Nelson Algren. His shadow looms large over how I see the city. Algren, of course, is the steely realist who will not let us bullshit ourselves about who we are. He is also the soft heart who is full of the gambler’s optimism about who we could be. He was a master of the gray; the good in the bad and the bad in the good. He also leavened his often sad and tragic stories with wry humor. He is also aware of Chicago’s propensity for eating its own. He often remarked that Chicago could not “love you back” and went to his grave believing this.
This is why I get pissed when dipshits from somewhere else attempt to tell us who we are. In his lifetime Algren never let us forget our inequities and cruelties—he saw Chicago for what it was—never mind the cheap boosterism or the “swagger.” When the New York Times Book Review ran its hit piece disguised as a book review a couple of weeks ago it sent me searching for writers who lived here, and their testaments to that experience. Algren never went easy on Chicago. Neither did the oral histories of Studs Terkel or the novels of James T. Farrell. Mike Royko certainly cut the city no slack when it came to blowing the whistle on crooked aldermen, shysters and even the mayor. We’ve never wanted for social critics among our own. Though I suppose we should be grateful that an associate professor from DePaul weighs in and lets us know how deluded we are in our little burg. Read the rest of this entry »