Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: To ‘L’ and Back

Checkerboard City, Events, Green, Transit No Comments »

By John Greenfield

Driving cuts you off from the outside world, but walking, biking and especially public transit encourage interaction with strangers, which can lead to some unforgettable encounters. The performance piece “EL Stories,” based on real tales from CTA commuters recorded by Waltzing Mechanics theater company, capitalizes on this.

“The Chicago ‘L’ is a shared, communal space that hundreds of thousands of people come together and inhabit every day,” says cast member Eleni Pappageorge. “When you bring that many people from that many places into one space a lot can happen. Some of the smallest, most mundane events on the train can make beautiful stories, but you wouldn’t notice them with your iPod on.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Windy Midrealm: The Society for Creative Anachronism Keeps Medieval Times Alive

City Life, Events No Comments »

The Pennsic festival/Photo: Ron Lutz

By Caylie Sadin

“I’m just checking Twitter for updates on the tournament,” a Medieval maiden says. This maiden is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a group dedicated to researching and recreating the arts, skills and traditions of pre-seventeenth-century Europe “as it ought to have been.” In other words, they enjoy the luxuries of indoor plumbing and easy access to the Internet through smart phones hidden in corsets.

At their Twelfth Night event at the Irish American Heritage Center, Katherine von Scholsserwald (Kathryn Westburg in real life) has a whole peasant’s house laid out in one of the rooms. She uses planks to delineate the animals’ sleeping area, the cooking fire, the eating area and the bed. She has bowls made of horn and wood, spoons made of ivory and the few metal belongings a peasant would have had—metal was very expensive. She has drawings of what those houses would look like in Yorkshire circa 1200. She even has leeches, which she is going to show to attendees later in the day at her medieval medicine talk. Read the rest of this entry »

State of Freedom: Can Open Streets downtown sell City Hall on future ciclovias?

Bicycling, Events, Green, Loop, Politics No Comments »

Photo: Brett Mohr

By John Greenfield

“On State Street, that great street, I just want to say
They do things they don’t do on Broadway”
—“Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Fred Fisher

The question is, can Chicago do on State Street what New York City already does successfully, not on Broadway but on Park Avenue; what San Francisco does on Grant Avenue; and what Bogotá, Colombia, does on Calle 11?

After two previous attempts, the Active Transportation Alliance hopes Saturday’s car-free event on State Street will finally convince City Hall to embrace the ciclovia concept.

Born in Bogotá, the “ciclovia” (Spanish for “bike path”) concept closes streets to motorized traffic, creating safe spaces for citizens to bicycle, jog, stroll, play and mingle, encouraging healthy recreation and social interaction. Ciclovias are now popular around the world, and most of America’s bike-friendly major cities are holding successful events, but the model still hasn’t gained a foothold in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

9/11+10: Remembering a Day We Wish We Could Forget

Events 1 Comment »

Vera Lutter, "Ground Zero III, January 15 - 25, 2002"

9/11/01 Was a Tuesday. Anyone who’s ever worked at Newcity knows what that means: deadline day. Starting Friday on this site, you can read about that day at Newcity, and read our resulting coverage. Meanwhile, many civic and arts organizations will be commemorating the tenth anniversary of that dark day in American history this week.

Vera Lutter: Studies for Ground Zero
The Museum of Contemporary Art recently opened this exhibition of Lutter’s work to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Lutter transformed a room in a building across the street from Ground Zero into a giant photographic lens to produce large-scale negatives of the site for this memorial display.
Open through September 12 at the MCA. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Tour de Fat fetes Beer Drinkers, Bike Riders and Beer-Drinking Bike Riders

Bicycling, Events, Green, Logan Square No Comments »

“If Tour de Fat was a drug,” an attendee to the cycling festival says on its Facebook page, “I’d say it was the same chemical compounds released in your brain and euphoric experience that we know as love.”

Those interested in the way beer, free music and bicycle riding can stimulate that particular feeling would do well to check out the upcoming Chicago leg of the Tour de Fat, which comes to Chicago this Saturday. Centered around a costumed bike parade, the festival, which is hosted by the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, will have an emphasis upon sustainability. The Car-for-Bike program allows one pre-chosen Chicago citizen to trade in their polluting car for an eleven-speed handcrafted bicycle for one year. Performing acts this year are appropriately eclectic, including vaudeville comedy act The Daredevil Chicken Club, psychedelic blue-grass band The Dovekins, and  self-described “circus punk marching band” Mucca Pazza. Seventies rock mainstay Free Energy headlines the stage. (Michael Gillis)

The Tour de Fat is in Chicago on July 16. Registration for the bike parade begins at 9am, with the parade itself being at 10am at Palmer Square, North Kedzie Avenue and West Palmer Square. Performances continue at Palmer Square from 11am to 4pm. 

Chasing Glory: University of Chicago students strive for posterity with twenty-fifth annual Scav Hunt

Events, Hyde Park No Comments »

One young college student, balanced on the shoulders of another, wobbles dangerously while the lower one cringes. “Low five!” he screams, and claps hands with the scavenger-hunt judge beside me, successfully fulfilling said item on the list of required finds or feats. Over the next hour, as people rush around the quads trying to figure out “Nearest what classroom building you can find a Ferrari?” and “the theorem illustrated on Eckhart” before time runs out, this happens thirty times. Thirty.

Students from the University of Chicago are attempting to break the official Guinness World Record for the largest scavenger hunt, one currently held by 212 children from St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Ontario.

This record-breaking attempt is happening just as the twenty-fifth annual UChicago Scav Hunt, one of the school’s zaniest and talked-about traditions, is underway. The entire event is a four-day-long frenzy to collect almost 300 items, including “The most evil thing you can build using only the parts and materials included with one IKEA item” and “brownies baked using only the power of the sun.” Captivated students abandon their student groups, midterms and souls to fulfill hundreds of insane challenges, putting their intellects to use in ways that seem both geeky and totally, unashamedly cool. So today, in the warm sun of a late Friday afternoon, they’re trying to break the Guinness World Record, an effort that is just one small part of the larger Scav Hunt.

“It’s crazy,” says one student, a first-year, who is sitting beside her team and planning their attack, “I want to break a world record! I want to buy the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ and say, ‘Hey, I did that.’” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Haymarket Rioting, as Planned

Chicago History, Events, West Loop No Comments »

Striking laborers and plotting anarchists crowd Haymarket Square while policemen attempt to keep the peace. Suddenly, a pipe bomb explodes on the police line from an unknown source. Thus began the Haymarket Riot, which is still considered the day in which the Chicago Police Department lost the most officers it ever has in a single day. Consequently, this will also be what occurs on April 30 at 2pm with Paul Durica’s fourth reenactment, which he plans to “remind us that we all share in the legacy.” To do this, the Pocket Guide to Hell teamed up with the Illinois Labor History Society, the Version Arts Festival, Haymarket Pub & Brewery and the Fulton River District Association, enlisting the help of Chicago’s historian Tim Samuelson and musician Jon Langford, who will perform the song one of the convicted anarchists sang in his jail cell. Just like on his walking tours, Durica sets this reenactment at the actual site of the original Haymarket Riot—Randolph, Desplaines and Halsted—which demonstrates his goal of “reanimating spaces and connecting past and present.” Considering the current state of labor affairs in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, this connection should not be difficult to find. Volunteers will don period hats and badges, and everyone is encouraged to wear a costume. In fact, everyone will become a participant by acting either as a policeman, an anarchist, a laborer or a curious onlooker. For more information, visit (Elizabeth Kossnar)

Hanks for the Memories: Drinking in a newly created holiday

Events No Comments »

International Tom Hanks Day is no longer the April Fools’ joke that it was when it began in Kevin Turk’s basement with just a handful of his friends while attending college at Western Michigan University.  Today at Fizz Bar & Grill, Turk estimates that a couple hundred Chicagoans have arrived to join in on the Tom Hanks festivities.

“I can’t believe it’s gotten to these epic proportions,” Nick Bodner, one of the original attendees of Tom Hanks Day, says. Bodner reminisces about the beginnings of the day, eight years ago in that Kalamazoo basement—some live music, barbecuing, beer pong and Tom Hanks movies.

Johnny Coughlin and Caleb Arnold are first-timers. Arnold dons the classic beard, trucker hat, sneakers and short red shorts to match the Forrest Gump look. Coughlin says “we came to spread the joy with other Tom Hanks lovers.”

At random moments the intoxicated group of Tom Hanks Day goers break out into song, to the tune of the soccer fan chant, but instead of “olés” the group replaces it with—guess what?—“Tom Hanks.”  That, Turk says, is an eight-year tradition. One-dollar Pabst Blue Ribbon’s lubricate the two-room Hanks film screening while folks wait for the big prize drawing—a poster or DVD signed by Tom Hanks himself.

What started as a gag has turned into a charitable event with all proceeds going to Tom Hanks’ favorite charity, Lifeline Energy—an organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of lives of unstable communities through environmentally friendly technologies.  “And the beauty is Tom is going to match us dollar for dollar on the donations we make today,” Turk says. (Nancy Wolens)

Where the Boys Are: Backstage at the Burlesque Fest

Events, Lakeview, Love & Sex No Comments »

Miss Indigo Blue/Photo: Kriss Abigail

“Let’s be fabulous and fantastic,” announces Cyon Flare, host of the Windy City Burlesque Fest’s opening-night party. “And remember your burlesque etiquette: laugh, clap, scream and yell. Tell ‘em to take it off if you like what you see. And if you don’t—be respectful and shut the fuck up.” The St. Patrick’s Day crowd at Hydrate in Lakeview does exactly as instructed as dancers take the stage to tantalize and give a glimpse of what to expect throughout the festival.

The Burlesque Fest, at the Greenhouse Theater over the weekend, is produced by two Chicago troupes: Belmont Burlesque Revue and Vaudezilla. These local ensembles share a passion for paying homage to “old school” burlesque, as described by Jack Midnight, executive producer of Belmont Burlesque Revue and host of the festival. “Chicago has always been a big Burlesque town,” Midnight explains. He describes Chicago as “the birthplace of American burlesque and home to its biggest scandals.” Most notorious is Sally Rand’s “fan dance” at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair where she was publicly filmed and photographed dancing in the nude but hidden behind long white ostrich feathers, epitomizing the burlesque tease and causing a national rustle with her risqué technique. Not surprisingly, the art of burlesque has changed in the last eighty years, but it still holds true to certain conventions: choreographing clever ways to take one’s clothes off in front of a live audience without baring it all. Read the rest of this entry »

Constant Contact: Eating pi with the Chicago Nerd Social Club

Events, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Humans, by nature, are social creatures. We literally cannot exist without each other. When it comes to human society, it’s true: no man is an island.

Nerds are human too. While sometimes confused with reclusive amoebae living vicariously through World of Warcraft avatars, “Nerds actually go out and do things too,” says Kevin Harris, who’s helping hand out slices of pie for The Chicago Nerd Social Club at the second annual Pi(e) Day. Held at Firkin and Pheasant in Lincoln Park, this event celebrates the mathematical symbol with the pastry that shares the same pronunciation.

Rachel Baker, co-founder and brainchild of Chicago Nerd Social Club, greets everyone at the door, distinguishing the nerds from the bar regulars with bright blue Hello-my-name-is stickers. “Did you bring a pie?” she asks her fellow nerds upon arrival. “I have two actually!” exclaims Brittany Zimmerman, who learned about the club at last year’s Pi(e) Day. “Pfff, over-achiever,” Baker jokes. Pies are given points for taste (1 point), presentation (1 point), crust (1 point) and nerdiness (0.14) with a total possible score of 3.14. This pie competition is no cutthroat tearjerker—a savory Moroccan pie wins. The “-off,” on the other hand, is taken very seriously, as four contestants take turns sounding off as many digits of pi as they can from memory, all in a quest to take home a $100 gift card to Read the rest of this entry »