Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Cheap Trip—A Rockford Rendezvous

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A historical marker for Cheap Trick along the Rock River Bike Path/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

“Rockford could be fun,” said the editor of this magazine when I proposed writing a travelogue about the Forest City. “I mean, who goes there?”

Actually, there are plenty of reasons to visit Illinois’ third-largest city. I’d been to the area earlier this spring to play a gig at Pig Minds, a quirky vegan brewpub in nearby Machesney Park. We camped down the road that night in Rock Cut State Park, which feels surprisingly spacious and wild, considering it’s only a couple miles square and located just outside of Rockford.

Despite this foray, I’d never explored Rockford proper until a couple weekends ago. That’s odd, since it’s the home of power-pop legends Cheap Trick, and their magnum opus “In Color” is one of my favorite albums of all time. Oddball guitarist Rick Nielsen, known for his flipped-brim caps, checkerboard-patterned threads, and multi-neck axes, still lives in the city and is one of its most ardent boosters.

“I love Rockford,” Nielsen says in his four-page spread in the town’s official visitor guide. “This is where my friends live, this is where my family is from, where I got kicked out of band in junior high [for calling the teacher an 'incompetent, drunken fool']. It’s home.” Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “When I was young,” wrote French author Albert Camus, “I expected people to give me more than they could—continuous friendship, permanent emotion.” That didn’t work out so well for him. Over and over, he was awash in disappointment. “Now I have learned to expect less of them than they can give,” he concluded. “Their emotions, their friendship, and noble gestures keep their full miraculous value in my eyes; wholly the fruit of grace.” I’d love to see you make an adjustment like this in the coming months, Aries. If you do, the astrological omens suggest you will experience a blessing like Camus’. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I believe your persuasive powers will be stronger than usual in the weeks ahead. The words coming out of your mouth will sound especially interesting. I also suspect that your intelligence will get at least a temporary upgrade. The clarity of your thoughts will intensify. You will see truths you have been blind to in the past. Innovative solutions to long-running dilemmas are likely to occur to you. The only potential snag is that you might neglect to nurture your emotional riches. You could become a bit too dry and hard. But now that I’ve warned you of that possibility, let’s hope you will take steps to ensure it won’t happen. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Acquaintancing

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

ACQUAINTANCING_web

Dime Stories: A Night in Tokyo

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Some years ago, I visited Tokyo with the filmmaker John McNaughton. It was one of those experiences that has stayed with me and opened my mind to Asian literature and art, and broadened my view of the world. It also made me aware of the long lens with which the East and the West view each other. How little we know of each other and, oddly how alike we are. These are some of the thoughts I still have about this trip.

Li Po has been the best-known Chinese poet in Asia for about the last thousand years. He was a huge influence on the haiku poets, and is credited with being the seminal influence in the idiomatic languages of poetry and specifically, haiku. He was one of those wandering, searching poets who worshipped nature. Much like the Japanese haiku monk and poet Basho, who would be born a thousand years later, he was so great a poet that there are volumes of poems by other poets proclaiming their devotion to him—

Today I laid bare before you
all things stored in my heart. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Strolling 2200 South

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Little Village, Pilsen, South Loop No Comments »
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A corner store on Cermak Road in Lawndale/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Cermak Road is the waistline of our hourglass-shaped metropolis. Running 6.2 miles from the border with west-suburban Cicero to the road’s eastern terminus at King Drive, it’s just about the shortest way to get across Chicago.

The road, which passes through several formerly Czech enclaves, was named in memory of Anton Cermak, a Czech immigrant who served as mayor from 1931 to 1933. On February 15, 1933, Cermak was shaking hands with Franklin Roosevelt in Miami when he was fatally shot by an assassin gunning for the president.

I’ve walked the length of a dozen or so Chicago streets in search of adventure, but I got the idea to stroll Cermak Road from writer and musician Rob Reid, who led a group excursion on the road last Saturday to mark the martyred mayor’s 141st birthday. Since I couldn’t attend, I made a solo attempt the previous Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): When the path ahead divides in two, Aries, I am hoping you can work some magic that will allow you to take both ways at once. If you do master this riddle, if you can creatively figure out how to split yourself without doing any harm, I have a strong suspicion that the two paths will once again come together no later than August 1, possibly before. But due to a curious quirk in the laws of life, the two forks will never again converge if you follow just one of them now. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Tough Mudder Chicago (May 10, 2014)

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Finishers of Tough Mudder Chicago/Photo: Zach Freeman

Finishers of Tough Mudder Chicago/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Right off the bat it must be said: for anyone in even slightly above-average shape, the Tough Mudder—a (roughly) ten-mile muddy romp of an obstacle course that takes place in cities across the world—should really be called the Fun Mudder. This new designation is in no way  meant to diminish the challenge of the event (billing it as “probably the toughest event on the planet” is certainly overselling the difficulty, but  it ain’t easy either); it is instead meant to highlight the surprising amount of unbridled joy and camaraderie you can feel while tromping through mud and getting a solid workout at the same time.

After experiencing Tough Mudder Chicago (which was actually in Richmond, Illinois) it’s clear that the phrase “Tough Mudder” doesn’t just refer to the course itself, although that’s obviously a big part of it. Instead, the title refers to the whole immersive experience of the event, from following their prescribed training regiments to riding a shuttle bus to the event to hitting a knee at the starting line while an announcer spends twenty minutes pumping you up for the race ahead to downing that first complimentary beer after crossing the finish line. The whole thing is undeniably an all-out great time.

Yes, there are various challenges along the way, though most of them sound more intimidating than they really are. Among others, the “Arctic Enema” submerses participants in ice water, “Pitfall” sends you wading through a murky wetland with sudden drop-offs and “Berlin Walls” involves scaling tall, wooden structures. But while many of the obstacles may be more entertaining than trying (“Mud Mile” involves slithering up and over a series of mud mounds), there’s a mythologizing effect that sets in after you complete the Mudder and get your finisher’s shirt. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Universal Sole Four Mile Classic (May 8, 2014)

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Runners finish the Universal Sole Four Mile Challenge/Photo: Zach Freeman

Runners finish the Universal Sole Four Mile Challenge/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Before the Universal Sole Four Mile Classic could even get started Thursday evening, a particularly strong gust of wind grabbed one of the covered tents from the basecamp, picked it up and tossed it over the starting line and directly into Dusable Harbor. After gazing into the water for a few seconds, race announcer (and Universal Sole owner) Joel Feinberg remarked into the mic, “Well, that tent’s a goner.”

Starting and finishing under a giant Red Bull arch in Dusable —home of the tent-swallowing waters—the northerly wind was an obstacle on the out half of this out-and-back open course along the Lakefront Trail, but it was a motivator on the way back, pushing runners to the finish line. The relatively compact basecamp consisted of a gear check, a timing-chip pickup booth and a massage tent (Muscle Milk and Red Bull were passing out free samples). But lest runners think this was the entirety of the race package, a large-scale post-race party took place inside the Lakeshore Sport & Fitness mega-gym with pizza, casserole, beer and other goodies.

Like some other Universal Sole races—the Burgers and Beer 5K comes to mind—the Four Mile Classic has the aura of a low-key race put together by runners for runners, low on frills but heavy on having a good run and celebrating afterwards. This race is still relatively small and finding its footing along the lakefront but it won’t be long before more runners catch on. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: 5K March to College (May 8, 2014)

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Students cross the finish line at the 5K March to College/Photo: Zach Freeman

Students cross the finish line at the 5K March to College/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Some races are all about the course. Some are all about the post-race party. And some are all about the charity and its benefactors. The 5K March to College—put on by Companies That Care in order to help its students “dream about going to college and be able to get there”—falls into that final group, with a college and career fair starting at 2pm leading into the 5:30pm race start time and the vast majority of participants being the very students the race is meant to support.

Now in its third year, this race has seen steady growth since its inception in 2012. The crowded starting line this year spilled out around the starting area on Columbus just east of Upper Hutchinson Field and swarmed onto the course once the race was underway. Despite numerous reminders from the race announcer that walkers should move to the back of the pack, youthful exuberance and a lack of pace signs led to a slightly rocky start.

But the open course along the Lakefront—heading north by Museum Campus and turning around just before Dusable Harbor—provided plenty of space for runners (and walkers) to spread out and enjoy an evening trek along the lake. The finish line was exciting, particularly once younger runners started racing in, but the post-race refreshments (bananas, apples and stale bagels) left a little bit to be desired. Still, when you’re running a race that’s centered around the charity it was created to support, a stale bagel is a small price to pay for the positive vibes and the potential to inspire a student to go to college. Read the rest of this entry »