Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: In Montreal, Thinking of New Orleans

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

It’s an unusual experience applying for a work permit in another country. It makes one feel some empathy for those who have to go through this process in the U.S. I’m in Montreal, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It is an old city with amazing stone architecture, and old Montreal reminds one of Paris with its narrow brick streets and bistros.

I’m working on a TV show and I had to get a work permit at the airport. You do so by going through immigration. I made the mistake of getting all of my luggage before going to the immigration office so all of my luggage—I travel a bit heavy—sat outside the office while I waited for my work permit to be approved. I was paranoid someone would just roll the stuff away. Evidently this doesn’t happen in Montreal. The very polite kid in the immigration office said “there are no worries, this—luggage theft—has never happened here.” I was incredulous. If this were Chicago or New York or any other large American city, my luggage would have been on its second owner by the time I went through the ninety-minute process. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Hittin’ (Up) the Bong

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
Photo: John Greenfield

Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

I like to think of myself as a gonzo transportation journalist, the Hunter S. Thompson of pedestrian, transit and bike writing. After all, I’m the guy who wrote the book “Bars Across America: Drinking and Biking From Coast to Coast.” But I steer clear of drunk cycling, and I’ve had little experience with illegal mind-altering substances on my car-free road trips. One bicycle journey I took from Kansas City to St. Louis along the Katy Trail did end in a psychedelic mishap, but that’s a tale for another day.

However, I had a smokin’ good time in late August on a train-and-bike excursion to Richard Bong State Recreation Area in southeast Wisconsin. It was the latest of several fun excursions I’ve done this summer, taking advantage of Chicago’s status as the nation’s railroad hub, with great Amtrak access, plus convenient commuter rail service via Metra and the South Shore Line.

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Free Will Astrology: Week of September 3, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Excess is the common substitute for energy,” said poet Marianne Moore. That’s a problem you should watch out for in the coming weeks. According to my astrological projections, you’re a bit less lively and dynamic than usual. And you may be tempted to compensate by engaging in extreme behavior or resorting to a contrived show of force. Please don’t! A better strategy would be to recharge your power. Lay low and take extra good care of yourself. Get high-quality food, sleep, entertainment, art, love and relaxation. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 27, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You like to run ahead of the pack. You prefer to show people the way, to set the pace. It’s cleaner that way, right? There’s less risk you will be caught up in the messy details of everyday compromise. But I suspect that the time is right for you to try an experiment: Temporarily ease yourself into the middle of the pack. Be willing to deal with the messy details of everyday compromise. Why? Because it will teach you lessons that will serve you well the next time you’re showing the way and setting the pace. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 20, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You’d probably prefer to stay in the romantic, carefree state of mind. But from what I can tell, you’re ripe for a new phase of your long-term cycle. Your freestyle rambles and jaunty adventures should now make way for careful introspection and thoughtful adjustments. Instead of restless star-gazing, I suggest patient earth-gazing. Despite how it may initially appear, it’s not a comedown. In fact, I see it as an unusual reward that will satisfy you in unexpected ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Canaan Land

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

In Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time,” the Dust Bowl tragedy of the thirties is chronicled in painstaking and heartbreaking detail. The “Okies” that Steinbeck later brought to life in “The Grapes of Wrath” are stranded in farms that have been blighted by drought and dust storms that turn noon into midnight. This, combined with The Great Depression, sends hundreds upon thousands of teenagers to the road and the rails to itinerant and uncertain fates and entombing sadness.  Walker Evans’ photographs are a testament to the fates of our grandparents’ generation in America.

My parents were children of the Great Depression and my mother still remembers it viscerally. In our house, it was unheard of to waste food—even the slop some of my sisters cooked. My parents often cautioned us that there were starving people in the world. As kids, we thought it was just an effort to get us to eat our meatloaf. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 13, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): To ensure the full accuracy of this horoscope, I have been compelled to resurrect an old-fashioned English word that isn’t used much any more: “gambol.” It means to cavort and frolic in a playful manner, or to romp and skip around with mad glee, as if you are unable to stop yourself from dancing. The astrological omens seem unambiguous in their message: In order to cultivate the state of mind that will enable you to meet all your dates with destiny in the coming weeks, you need to gambol at least once every day. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Dense Thinking

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Lakeview, Logan Square No Comments »
IMG_1642

The 1611 West Division building has 99 units but zero parking for residents./Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Believe it or not, back in the early nineties, ex-mayor Richard M. Daley was planning to tear out an entire branch of the El system. “The Lake Street branch of what’s now the Green Line had terrible slow zones and you could almost walk to Oak Park faster,” recalls Jacky Grimshaw, the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s vice president for policy. “The mayor and the CTA president wanted to take it down.”

Grimshaw says this moment of crisis was the birth of Chicago’s transit-oriented development (TOD) movement, a push to create dense, parking-light housing and retail near rapid-transit stations in order to reduce car dependency. CNT and the West Side community organization Bethel New Life teamed up to present the CTA with a plan for TOD near the Lake/Pulaski stop, but it fell on deaf ears. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 6, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Charles de Lint is a novelist whose stories are influenced by folklore, myths, and science fiction. In his book “Yarrow,” a wizardly character named Toby is skilled at conjuring. He can make small objects appear and disappear, for example. But Toby yearns for more. “I want to be magic,” he says. “I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree. I want to marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing. I don’t want to pretend at magic anymore. I want to be magic.” If you have ever wished for a comparable upgrade, Aries, now is an unusually favorable time to work on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Beautiful by David Alvarado

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Click to enlarge.Life_is_comic_1