Street Smart Chicago

Linework: Hey

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

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Dime Stories: Of Hobos, Card Games and Bughouse Square

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The Letter 'S' 300

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Chicago is the greatest railway center in the United States. No one knows these facts better than the hobo. It is a fact that trains from all points of the compass are constantly entering and leaving the city over its 39 different railways. According to the Chicago City Manual, there are 2,840 miles of steam railways within the city limits. The mileage of steam railroad track in Chicago is equal to the entire railroad mileage in Switzerland and Belgium, and is greater than the steam railroad mileage found in each of the kingdoms of Denmark, Holland, Norway, and Portugal. Twenty-five through package cars leave Chicago every day for 18,000 shipping points in 44 states.” —”On Hobos and Homelessness” by Nels Anderson

Given that Chicago was the hub of the American railroad system, it’s not a surprise that the largest ‘”hobo jungles” were here. The area around North Dearborn Street (Washington Square–better known as Bughouse Square) was one of the safe harbors for itinerant men and women. In the years between 1900 and 1920, much was changing in American life and this part of the city, known then as “Tower Town” because of its proximity to the Water Tower, was known as a neighborhood of bars like the Dil Pickle Club, brothels and gambling dens. It was also the center of the newly realized avant-garde in Chicago. The nascent American art form of jazz could be found here. Although mostly on the South Side, it also had devotees among this crowd of free thinkers. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 4, 2014

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but I’m going to suggest that you monitor the number six. My hypothesis is that six has been trying to grab your attention, perhaps even in askew or inconvenient ways. Its purpose? To nudge you to tune in to beneficial influences that you have been ignoring. I furthermore suspect that six is angling to show you clues about what is both the cause of your unscratchable itch and the cure for that itch. So lighten up and have fun with this absurd mystery, Aries. Without taking it too seriously, allow six to be your weird little teacher. Let it prick your intuition with quirky notions and outlandish speculations. If nothing comes of it, there will be no harm done. If it leads you to helpful discoveries, hallelujah. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Mend the Broken Heart

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

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Fall Forward 2014: The Guide to the New Season

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David Bowie’s going to be everywhere this fall in Chicago, and we have no idea if that means the man himself will grace our town with his presence. Most notably, the Museum of Contemporary Art is mounting a blockbuster-style show of a blockbuster-style artist, albeit one we’d heretofore thought of mostly as a musician, as singular in style as he is. Either way, his influence will be crossing genre after genre this fall, with notable performances in dance, film screenings and, yes, underground music events. If he shows up passing the baton with Maestro Muti at the CSO, though, we’ll be suitably impressed. Either way, we’ve got a deep sample of fall events across eight disciplines on the pages that follow. So if your plan is to ignore all that Bowie fuss, we’ve got you covered as well. (Brian Hieggelke) Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Welcome to Dystopia!

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

It isn’t hard to figure out where all of the dystopian entertainment is coming from lately. “The Leftovers”—based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name and about a Rapture-like occurrence  that disappears about two percent of the population and leaves a befuddled, confused populace in its wake—is probably the smartest of them, but they are abundant. “The Strain,” “Lottery,” “The Last Ship”… it goes on and on. It seems there is some jack to be made on the end of the world, the end of times, the apocalypse—pick one. It seems everyone is ready to write our obit as a world. Hell, it’s a bumper industry.

It was the same thing with the end of the millennium—the Y2K idiocy—the first Rapture, comets, la-la-la. The Mayan calendar wanted to rip up our ticket in 2012 and Nostradamus is forever inspiring idiots to fashion their doom-and-gloom gibberish to be mouthed by the same gullible drool-cases who buy into the “Illuminati” wolf tickets. Hell when my daughter was talking about this in eighth grade, I thought she said the Lou Malnati’s was coming and I was going to get pizza. I was thrilled. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 28, 2014

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In the coming weeks it will be important for you to bestow blessings and disseminate gifts and dole out helpful feedback. Maybe you already do a pretty good job at all that, but I urge you to go even further. Through acts of will and surges of compassion, you can and should raise your levels of generosity. Why? Your allies and loved ones need more from you than usual. They have pressing issues that you have special power to address. Moreover, boosting your largesse will heal a little glitch in your mental health. It’s just what the soul doctor ordered. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 21, 2014

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): An American named Kevin Shelley accomplished a feat worthy of inclusion in the “Guinness Book of World Records.” While wearing a blue satin martial arts outfit, he smashed forty-six wooden toilet seats over his head in just one minute. Some observers may be inclined to dismiss his efforts as frivolous and ridiculous. But I admire how he playfully mocked his own competitiveness while fully expressing his competitiveness. He satirized his ego’s drive to be first and best even as he achieved the goal of being first and best. I recommend you try something similar. You’re entering a phase when you’ll be wise to add a bit of humility to your bold self-presentation. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Patrol

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

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Dime Stories: The Nation of Facebook, The Pornography of Grief

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Something odd often happens in the toneless and contrarian public square of Facebook. In fact I shouldn’t say “odd” because it always happens. Express an opinion, a thought, an observation and the trolls come out—like gremlins barreling out of a psychic clown car, they come rolling out full of indignation and venom and the kind of puffery one can work up from behind the safety of a locked door and a computer screen. And they are ready to stack asses.

I’d been watching the sad, brutal footage from Gaza over the weekend and like everyone else was horrified at the sight of shroud after bloody shroud of Palestinian children being lined up like so much lumber. A skip down to CNN and I caught Benjamin Netanyahu admonishing Secretary of State John Kerry, “Not to ever second guess him again.”

This pissed me off. Kerry merely urged restraint and rightly criticized the brutality inflicted upon Palestinian non-combatants—mainly children. He was suggesting that Israel had made its point and called for a cease-fire. Netanyahu was offended and decided to bitch-slap Kerry on the world stage. Read the rest of this entry »