Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: Notes From a Former Lifetime

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

If you drive rural roads, particularly the ones in the Midwest where the landscape is flat, you often see owls in radio towers at dusk or dawn. This is mostly when they hunt. When I was young, I hitchhiked everywhere (across the country a couple of times) and I remember being stuck on a road outside Galesburg, Illinois, which  is the very definition of “East Bumfuck,” trying to thumb a ride. I got picked up by a guy who was shuttling U-Haul-style moving trucks who drove me back to Champaign where I was not attending college. He gave me a job cleaning and servicing moving trucks, which I used to load up with my friends after hours and have rolling parties, with twenty goofballs packed into the truck, a keg and a boom box blasting AC/DC. We would stop at a townie bar in Urbana called Huffy’s, owned by one Earl Huffman, an ill-tempered drunk and bad pool player who, when angered, would start throwing pool balls at the clientele while ordering everyone to, “Get the fuck out, Skippy!  Chop-Chop!” Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 2, 2014

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): As I hike through the wilderness at dusk, the crickets always seem to be humming in the distance. No matter where I go, their sound is farther off, never right up close to me. How can that be? Do they move away from me as I approach? I doubt it. I sense no leaping insects in the underbrush. Here’s how this pertains to you: My relationship with the crickets’ song is similar to a certain mystery in your life. There’s an experience that calls to you but forever seems just out of reach. You think you’re drawing nearer, about to touch it and be in its midst, but it inevitably eludes you. Now here’s the good news: A change is coming for you. It will be like what would happen if I suddenly found myself intimately surrounded by hundreds of chirping crickets. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 25, 2014

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): It’s no secret. The wealthy one percent of the population has been getting progressively wealthier. Meanwhile, the poor are becoming steadily poorer. I’m worried there is a metaphorically similar trend in your life. Am I right? If so, please do all you can to reverse it. Borrow energy from the rich and abundant parts of your life so as to lift up the neglected and underendowed parts. Here’s one example of how you could proceed: For a while, be less concerned with people who think you’re a star, and give more attention to those who accept and love your shadow side. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Manual 2014: Who Wants to Have Some Fun?

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Sometime after I left the College, back in 1983, the phrase “Where Fun Comes to Die” attached itself to the University of Chicago in the zeitgeist. Funny thing, that, since I used to tell people that if I’d had more fun in college, I’d be dead, what with all the fraternity parties, Lascivious Costume Balls, “study breaks” and god-knows-what-else we used to frequent, where we’d lament our inability to have a good time at the University of Chicago compared to, we assumed, other schools. There’s no question fun reshapes its contours in Hyde Park, where play, foreplay and mindplay all have their place. Where that guy boasting about all his big ideas at the kegger might, in fact, have big ideas. After all, this place is ground zero for the atomic bomb, the Heisman Trophy and improv theater. How fun is that?

Newcity was founded by UChicago graduates right out of the College, so we’ve always had a special connection to the Grey City, and lots of time to think about it. Accordingly, this second edition of Chicago Manual is not like other Orientation guides you might see around campus. For one, it’s not chock full of recommendations for the best pizza in Hyde Park, or the social dynamics of study carrels in the Reg. It’s meant to be savored, to be studied, to have fun with. And it’s not written primarily by undergrads—though we do have a fine piece written by a fourth-year herein—but rather a mix of those of us who’ve graduated, and offer our perspective with the seasoning of time. (Plus a couple of writers also consider Hyde Park from the perspective of outsiders looking in.) Some are recent grads, some of us thirty years or more.  But the message is the same. Here is the perspective of “what I know now, that I wish I’d known then.” So now you know, and it’s your then now. (Brian Hieggelke AB ’83, MBA ’84)

The Green and the Green Line: Putting the Public in Public Transit—and Public Space

Towering Solitude and Pazuzu: Let the Beauty of Hyde Park Possess You

Out of Place: The Neighbor Outside Looking (and Sneaking) In

Train Yourself: Explore the City While You Can

That’s All Well and Good in Practice, But How Does it Work in Theory?

Lonely in a Crowd: A Holiday at the Moomers

Normal Life: Don’t Skip the Working Classes

What Will Become of WHPK? The College Radio Station Unlike Any Other

The Power of the Network: Give Before You Take

Chicago Looks: Can’t Hyde That Style

Things to Do with Your Tongue: Speaking and Eating Chinese with Professor James McCawley

 

 

 

What Will Become of WHPK? The College Radio Station Unlike Any Other

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My first connection with the station was when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago,” says Marta Nicholas, “in 1957 through 1960.

“An oboist, I had put together a woodwind ensemble that got together weekly for our own pleasure. One of the pieces we played was being analyzed in the Humanities I class, so we were invited to come perform it live on the station WUCB, which was only five or ten watts and on only a few hours a day. It may have in fact gone through the phone lines rather than a regular radio transmitter—we used to joke that it went through the plumbing pipes and could be heard only by standing on your head in certain shower stalls. A couple of times I was on a listen-to-recordings-and-chat show hosted by our group’s French horn player.”

Soon thereafter, Nicholas “left the campus and the country.” When she returned in the early seventies, the station had morphed into WHPK, an acronym for Woodlawn, Hyde Park and Kenwood. “It was decided at that beginning to take the potential audience into account. Not only as listeners, but also as possible on-air participants.” Nicholas eventually served as the station’s international music-format chief. Read the rest of this entry »

Normal Life: Don’t Skip the Working Classes

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By Jenzo DuQue (Class of 2015)

The look is always the same. It usually starts with a gaping mouth, and then the eyes swell out of their sockets, followed by an eyebrow reaching for a hairline. That’s assuming there is a hairline; most of the time the gawkers are pushing sixty or have stressed their locks away by grad school. But regardless of whom I’m telling, it’s the same old song and dance each time.

“You go to the University of Chicago?” they gasp, a fork poised precariously before their lips.

“Yes, I do.” I say, balancing two plates in my left hand and another on my forearm. “Is there anything else I can get you?”

It’s hard for some people to stomach that I’m a waiter and a UChicago student. Shouldn’t I be off making breakthroughs in the Pirahã language or in cancer research? Probably. But I’m not. I’m doing what I’ve been doing since before college—just working because I need the money and honestly, it’s kind of fun. And I know you’ve heard about what happens if fun and our campus cross paths. Read the rest of this entry »

That’s All Well and Good in Practice, But How Does it Work in Theory?

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By Naseem Jamnia (AB ’13)

When I first set foot onto the quad—actually, it was the Ida Noyes courtyard, stone arches and grassy front—I was a goner. The Core’s opportunities thrilled me, even though the gym requirement totally blew; Northwestern, which I had visited that morning, sucked. What sealed it for me was when my tour guide paused by the Oriental Institute and asked which famous archeologist worked at the UofC.

If only the snakes were just the literal kind.

When we arrived, we were finally faced with our own worst enemy: ourselves. We looked around and saw not mirror images, but our murky reflection cast against the lake. How does admissions choose us, with applications starring perfect GPAs, dozens of extracurriculars, strong goals? We were all the same, though at the time, this was far from being a problem. Many of us felt that we had finally found where we belonged; everyone was like us and yet interesting! We had been the outcasts or nerds, the ones that either dominated class or didn’t speak up because it was too simple. We turned into the kids and the Scavvies; the techies, non-TAPS UT players, always-in-rehearsals; locked up in the Reg or Harper; ha-you-have-it-easy-you’re-not-a-science-majors; stop-complaining-about-crossing-the-Midway-Broadway-is-so-far away—by the end, we couldn’t even pinpoint where we had started because we had forced ourselves to go our separate ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Lonely in a Crowd: A Holiday at the Moomers

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By Michael Workman

By the time we manage the hour-and-a-half El-train-to-bus junket from Lincoln Square to Hyde Park, we’re already gripped with that particular combination of fatigue and active nerves usually reserved for those nights we’ve spent snorting lines of crushed Adderall washed down with too much booze. But tonight. Well. It’s New Year’s Eve, after all, and there’s plain cause for our anxious jubilation.

Our shadows stretch up the walk ahead, slowly splitting and shrinking beside, then behind us as we make our way up the 5500 block of Hyde Park Boulevard to Moomers. Not the ice cream from Michigan, but the Hyde Park institution, named after a founding tenant’s beloved feline pet, a name passed down, same as the hideout that preserves its legacy, tenant to tenant, generation to generation.

I’m with Cinnamoan Smidge, who I’ve been dating-slash-sleeping-with on and off again between bouts of mutual, relationship-ending, suicidal indulgences for roughly the last nine months. We’re here tonight because a friend of Cinnamoan’s rang up about the party, with whom she keeps texting as we stroll, finally locating the correct house number. And there it is, marked right on the buzzer, “Moomers,” it says, plain as day. We buzz, I count half a dozen heart beats, and we’re admitted. Inside, we’re greeted by Tyrone (not his real name), a young, wiry-framed guy in suit jacket and fedora who administers the place. Hugs and handshakes, and we slip out of our jackets and scarves, depositing them on the already-crowded coat rack just inside the door, opposite the large, dormant Tesla coil. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of the Network: Give Before You Take

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“It’s not what you know but who you know.” We all know this saying, and we all realize how important networking is to getting a job, changing careers and even being more successful in our current jobs. With few exceptions, my fellow alums from thirty years ago credit much of their success to relationships they have built and nurtured throughout their careers.

For those soon to launch careers with a degree in hand, what is the best way to build a strong network? A common practice is to target influential people in one’s industry, and try to connect with them with the thought of “what can this person do for me?” A better idea is to turn this approach on its head. In his groundbreaking book, “Give and Take,” Adam Grant presents compelling evidence that “givers,” or those who approach life attempting to help others succeed, in the end benefit far more than either “takers” or “matchers.” He points out, and backs up his claim with data, that the best networkers in fact do not think about how they will benefit from assisting others. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Longstreet

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By Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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