Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Bye Blogger

In an effort to simplify my life, I'm moving my blogging endeavors to my photo blog at

Look for new posts there.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nathan and Will visited, and so should YOU

Nathan and Will just left after a week's worth of visiting. I'm using their visit as an excuse to compile a list of awesome Chicago things to do. This is for you, friends-who-have-yet-to-vist-Chicago!

Come see us, and you'll have the chance to...

- Eat deep-dish pizza three times, from three different restaurants ("or my name's not Nathan Van Patter!"): Giordano's, the Medici, Lou Malnati's.

- Stroll on Broadway, buy a hat in the wrong size, and have it re-sized by the excellent folks at Goorin Brothers Hats.

- Hike to and from a free acoustic blues luncheon at Buddy Guy's Legends (in the biggest blizzard in years, if you're as lucky as Nathan and Will were).

- Be overwhelmed by the size of the Art Institute of Chicago ("We spent so much time there, and we didn't even see the famous Seurat!")

- Taste the Chicago Mix (caramel popcorn and cheddar popcorn), not from tourists' favorite Garrett, but from Southside gem MotherButter's.

- Cobble together a donut tasting in the city's new artisanal donut mecca, River North, featuring FireCakes, Fritz Pastries (visiting the neighborhood for a pop-up shop), and (almost, if they hadn't sold out for the day!) Donut Vault.

- Get coffee at Intelligentsia, Bow Truss, and Bridgeport Coffee Company.

- Share a Pork & Cider meat pie at Pleasant House.

- Watch a 95-year-old bridge across the Chicago River undergo a total reconstruction (all right, you can only really do that if you visit in the next three weeks).

- See the seething arctic ice at the edge of Promontory Point (if this doesn't sound fun, visit in the summer and replace "see the seething arctic ice" with "swim").

- Play the Haunted House game A LOT (I am always up for this, btw).

- Join Haymarket House for whatever happens to be going on (ironing a book? tasting 12-year single-malt scotch? building shelves? playing TWO games of Dominion simultaneously?).

- Learn to navigate the CTA and the Chicago street grid.

- Contradance at University of Chicago (or decline to do so, due to fatigue from so much walking around).

- Be surprised by whatever new exhibit is at the Chicago Cultural Center.

- Pick up Indian takeout from Rajun Cajun and Chicago-style hot dogs from Hyde Park Gyros.

- Find the Lincoln Park Conservatory's small dinosaurs (they're really in there!).

- Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo (at closing time to see the animals doing their thing).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing...

I'm experimenting with tumblr, where I put my photos. I've posted this post on this blog, and on that one.

*    *    *

I don’t know how it took me this long to finally read this cornerstone of Chicago literature, but here it is:
by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
   Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
   Stormy, husky, brawling,
   City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
   Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I've been doing game stuff with the folks at Waxwing for a while now, but I'm particularly proud of this, a write-up that Waxwing's founder Andy and I did for a game that I wrote and executed early this year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lake Michigan: Cerulean

On the east side of Harold Washington Park, on the east side of Hyde Park, is a bridge across Lake Shore Drive. On the other side is the lake shore. Looking south, the view is Promontory Point, Hyde Park's favorite lakeshore hangout. The shoreline curves east into the lake, to the end of the point, where stands an old lighthouse.

Today, crossing the bridge over the highway and looking out, I noticed that the lake was an unusual color. At first, I thought it was the fog discoloring things. Downtown, usually a clear view north, was obscured in fog. But after I crossed the bridge and walked down to the shore, I saw the real reason: ice.

The whole shoreline, as far as I could see -- the rocky breakwaters, the cement promenades, the end of the point -- was encased in ice. Last night's ice storm, coupled with today's 50+ degree weather, had turned the shore of Lake Michigan into a dead ringer for the Antarctic coast.

From the stunning cerulean water to the miniature icebergs that were calving into the lake, to the sheen on the whitened, icy rocks, everything was there, a testament to what? A usual Chicago winter? The unpredictability of global climate change? I'm new here, so I couldn't tell, but it was beautiful, and of course, I didn't have my camera.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon is dead. I'm using his real name here. In at least one earlier post on this blog, I gave him a pseudonym, out of respect. Now, I'd like to use his real name, also out of respect.

Of course, Francis Bacon may not be his real name. It's just too good of a name to be true, but that's how we knew him in the bookstore.

The man himself was not too good to be true. He was a panhandler, a drunk, a rabble-rouser, and a purveyor of sexist opinions. More than once, I had to ask him to leave the bookstore where I worked. He would show up in the balcony and start hitting on the singers or heckling the politicians who frequented the store. Then I would sigh, walk upstairs, and ask him to leave.

I know what is said about speaking ill of the dead, but I need to make it clear that I'm not romanticizing the man.

When I last saw Francis Bacon, a few months before he died, he was starting in on Paradise Lost. He would never heckle the authors who came to give book talks, did I mention that? His heckling, especially when he was drunk, took in all and sundry, including the owner of the store, the mayor of Harrisburg, and even yours truly.

"Is that how you coil cables here?" he would say to me, as I packed up the microphones from an event, "at the theater I managed, you would've been fired on the first day."

But Francis had respect for the arts, so he never heckled even the most pitiful self-published self-help author, and that's why he was reading Paradise Lost. Of course, he didn't have his own copy. Instead, he would enter the store with his huge backpacker's bag, walk into the "famous authors" section, and grab Paradise Lost. He would go to his chair, set down the pack, and open the book.

He never bought a book, and he never stole a book, but he read through all of Don Quixote and most of Paradise Lost in the time that I knew him.

He marked his place in the book and put it right back on the shelf in alphabetical order in the "famous authors" section, even when he was being thrown out for disorderly conduct and heckling. He always came back to apologize after such an event.

All of this is to say that Francis Bacon led, as far as I can tell, a wild, open life. By no means perfect, but I'm glad to have known him and I'm sorry that he's gone. I hope he finished Paradise Lost.