Street Smart Chicago

Linework: Desperate Winning

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By Sarah Leitten. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Grand Theft Noel: Tis the Season for Familial Larceny

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By Robert Rodi

I come from a large family—three sisters, three brothers—and for years we siblings bravely persisted in honoring the holiday spirit by giving each other Christmas presents. But when spouses entered the picture, and then kids—the latter popping out at the alarming rate of sometimes two or three a year—our gift-giving expenses seriously spiked. As the only childless member of the clan, and therefore the one who took the biggest hit to the fiscal solar plexus, I ventured to suggest that maybe it was time we adults retired the habit, at least with regard to each other. As it was, the practice had devolved into everyone submitting a list of several things he or she wanted, and the others dutifully trotting out and buying them. “The whole spirit of gift-giving isn’t even there anymore,” I said. “It’s like ordering online. Only without a return policy.”

So we tried it the following year at our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and it went just swimmingly. The kids had the pleasure of ripping into boxes beneath the tree like a pack of crazed weasels, while the adults celebrated the occasion in a more dignified fashion, with platters of home-cooked food and a cascade of fine California wines. Read the rest of this entry »

The White Castle Song: Why? Because It’s Open on Christmas

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It’s open twenty-four hours, round the clock
Good service all the time, there’s always something going on.
Always something going on.
Simple Menu… excellent service.

You know this is a song about White Castle.
Because when you are on your way home at 4am,
White Castle is always open… Even on Christmas.
But if you are at White Castle on Christmas, you are out of luck.
Then again, maybe not. Read the rest of this entry »

A Buddhist’s Holiday: Shambhala Day Well-Wishes from a Wounded Would-Be Warrior

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greateasternsunBy Emerson Dameron

As a practicing Shambhala Buddhist, I like to think I don’t have too terribly much invested in this forthcoming holiday racket. That’s good, I suppose, because it’s stacking up to be another tough one.

This year, I have lost two jobs, one rather recently. And I have twice come rather close to losing my life. The first came in April from a sudden flareup of acute pancreatitis that had me in the hospital for four indescribable days, detoxing from booze and experiencing worse physical pain than I had previously imagined possible. The second came a couple of weeks later, which had me back in the ER with a severe gastrointestinal bleed and a hemoglobin level that my admitting doc described as a third-world problem.

It was a time of severe disappointments and learning to be less clingy by having certain attachments violently ripped asunder. On the upside, it was the year I finally began practicing Shambhala Buddhism in earnest, with accountability, as part of a community and as someone determined to thrive in a very new and unfamiliar reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Gifts for Transportation Geeks

Checkerboard City, Green, Holidays, Lakeview, Rogers Park 1 Comment »
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The Recyclery’s t-shirts feature a cool intermeshed chainring design.

By John Greenfield

My holiday wish for 47th Ward CTA riders? The return of the full #11 Lincoln Avenue bus route.

For everyone else, here are some groovy gift ideas for transit, walking and bike enthusiasts. Most of these Chicago-centric goods and services are homegrown, so you’ll be supporting local businesses and organizations, while minimizing the amount of gasoline burned in transporting schwag to stores.

Up in Rogers Park, the Recyclery offers bike safety and mechanics instruction for kids, plus open shop sessions and maintenance classes for adults. They also donate refurbished bikes to refugees, people experiencing homelessness, and low-income families. You can help fund their good work by purchasing gifts from their online store. Gift cards are available for bike upgrades at an open shop session ($30), a two-part tune-up class ($75), a six-week overhaul class ($180), or a used bike, helmet and lock ($300). They also sell Recyclery t-shirts, featuring a beautiful intermeshed gears design ($25), and limited-edition posters by local artist Jay Ryan, with a fanciful image of the shop overrun by cats and bears ($25). The Recyclery, 7628 North Paulina, TheRecyclery.org.

Another organization that deserves your support is the Active Transportation Alliance, which advocates for better conditions for walking, biking and transit across the region. You can buy gift memberships online for as low as $35. In addition to bankrolling the group’s work, an Active Trans membership includes discounts at more than 100 bike shops and small businesses, a copy of the regional bike map, and a discount on an annual membership for Divvy bike-share. ActiveTrans.org/membership.

Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 27, 2014

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): What exactly do you believe in, Aries? What’s your philosophy of life? Do you think that most people are basically good and that you can make a meaningful life for yourself if you just work hard and act kind? Do you believe that evil, shapeshifting, kitten-eating extraterrestrials have taken on human form and are impersonating political leaders who control our society? Are you like the character Crash Davis in the film “Bull Durham,” who believed in “high fiber, good Scotch, the sweet spot, and long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days”? Now would be an excellent time for you to get very clear about the fundamental principles that guide your behavior. Recommit yourself to your root beliefs—and jettison the beliefs that no longer work for you. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: A Tribute to Jane Byrne

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

An odd thing happened with the death of Jane Byrne on November 14: She became beloved as we began to realize the worth and scope and vision of Chicago’s only woman mayor. It’s bitterly funny how some people’s value cannot be measured while they’re alive.

While Richie Daley did his level best to try to erase her from the city’s history, Little Janey Byrne, a tough Irish girl from Sauganash, hung in there like a pit bull. To his everlasting credit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel included Jane Byrne in every significant city event and this is not a small thing—there are still plenty of remnants of the old machine who vividly remember Jane Byrne, all hundred pounds of her, thoroughly kicking their collective asses in grand fashion in 1979. And to this I say “Good on Ya Janey—You knocked their dicks in the dirt.” You see, we Irish? We’re poets.

She was a favorite of Daley the first. The old man liked her and she could have almost been his own daughter. She came of age in the ungentle atmosphere of City Hall. She was around the rough breed of men who made public policy in this city her whole professional life and she realized the casual brutality of the Democratic machine was an all-consuming beast and one would be wise to tread lightly, to watch and to wait for one’s moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 20, 2014

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Someone on Reddit.com posed the question, “What have you always been curious to try?” In reply, many people said they wanted to experiment with exotic varieties of sex and drugs they had never treated themselves to before. Other favorites: eating chocolate-covered bacon; piloting a plane; shoplifting; doing a stand-up comedy routine; hang-gliding and deep-sea diving; exploring the Darknet and the Deep Web; spontaneously taking a trip to a foreign country; turning away from modern society and joining a Buddhist monastery. What would your answer be, Aries? The coming weeks will be an excellent time to explore what you have always been curious to try. The risks will be lower than usual, and the results more likely to be interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Eyes Born in the Night

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By Bernie McGovern. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Dime Stories: The Ferocious Wisdom of the Illinois Voter

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Democracy is the theory that the common  people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
—H. L. Mencken

A funny bit of choreography happened on the victory stand for Bruce Rauner’s successful and expensive campaign for the governor’s office the other night. A rainbow coalition materialized: On the stand were Illinoisans of every race, creed and color. I’m sure that these fine folks were all CEOs and higher-ups in Rauner’s many business interests.

Hey, it could happen!

It was one of those feel-goods designed to make us believe that these are all “Bruce’s people” and, right in the middle, the Smiley Dunce himself—twenty-seven million dollars poorer, like it matters—and full of all manner of warm, fuzzy feelings for the working people his ilk have been butt-surfing for decades. Read the rest of this entry »