Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: Steve Jesus, the Magic Lark and the Ghost of Jerry Garcia

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The Magic Lark 300By Tony Fitzpatrick

My pal Steve Jesus was in town for the weekend’s Grateful Dead end of days. He was happily sad at the prospect of a final Dead show. He was determined to experience the holy trinity of mind-altering Grateful Dead substances : X, acid and ‘shrooms, in that order. He also, thanks to Tinder, got to experience some slap and tickle twenty-first-century style. He hooked up with a lass who wasn’t looking for Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now. Steve was happy to oblige. All in all, his weekend was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Jerry Garcia would have been proud.

Steve is one of my oldest and best friends. Years ago, when I was on the radio, he was my producer. He has since gone on to work for a large tech outfit in San Francisco. He is a proud member of five or six dispensaries in San Fran and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things cannabis.

There were all manner of Deadheads in town over the weekend and at first I thought they would be of the sixty-plus-year-old vintage. To my surprise there were plenty of kids who were not even alive before Jerry Garcia died. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 16, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Stop Making Sense” was originally the name of the film and music soundtrack produced by the Talking Heads in the 1980s, and now it is the central theme of your horoscope. I think your brain would benefit from a thorough washing. That’s why I invite you to scour it clean of all the dust and cobwebs and muck that have accumulated there since its last scrub a few months back. One of the best ways to launch this healing purge is, of course, to flood all the neural pathways with a firehose-surge of absurdity, jokes and silliness. As the wise physician of the soul, Dr. Seuss, said, “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.” Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: A Taxing Woman

Checkerboard City, Green, Politics, Transit 2 Comments »
Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle and CNT vice president Jacky Grimshaw. Photo: CNT

Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle and CNT vice president Jacky Grimshaw/Photo: CNT

Back in 2010, when Toni Preckwinkle was running against incumbent Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, she successfully used Stroger’s one-cent sales tax hike as a campaign issue, going as far as to make an ad with a Benjamin Franklin impersonator. “I used to teach my history students about Ben Franklin,” said Preckwinkle, a former high school teacher, in the spot. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

After she was elected, Preckwinkle rolled back the sales tax to the current 9.25-percent rate. As president, she’s generally been credited with improving the efficiency of the county government and cutting costs, avoiding the allegations of patronage and incompetence that hounded Stroger.

However, to address pension obligations, Preckwinkle is now calling for a return to the higher county sales tax. In response, a Crain’s magazine cartoonist recently portrayed her as a mad scientist crying, “It’s alive!” as the 10.25-percent tax rises from the operating table like Frankenstein’s monster.

There’s a saying in politics, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Accordingly, The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance are using this moment when the Cook County commissioners may vote for a tax hike to promote their Transit Future funding campaign. They’re asking the commissioners to simultaneously create a dedicated revenue stream for public transportation infrastructure in the county. CNT vice president of policy Jacky Grimshaw explained the reasoning behind this new push. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 9, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): How can you fulfill your potential as an Aries? What strategies will help you become the best Aries you can possibly be? Now is an excellent time to meditate on these riddles. One of my Aries readers, Mickki Langston, has some stellar tips to inspire you: 1. One of your greatest assets is your relentless sense of purpose. Treasure it. Stay connected to it. Draw on it daily. 2. Love what you love with pure conviction, because there is no escaping it. 3. Other people may believe in you, but only sometimes. That’s why you should unfailingly believe in yourself. 4. It’s your duty and your destiny to continually learn more about how to be a leader. 5. Don’t be confused by other people’s confusion. 6. Your best friend is the Fool, who will guide you to laughter and humility when you need it most, which is pretty much all of the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Detroit?

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Illustration by Detroit's own Stephen Schudlich

Illustration by Detroit’s own Stephen Schudlich

Chicago’s smaller cousin to the northeast has been suffering a fair bit these recent years, becoming something of a punching bag for out-of-town media, politicians and comedians. But from its depths, something special is underway. Detroit is reimagining itself, and starting to live up to its “renaissance city” moniker. We started taking notice of this during the great recession, when artists from all over the world started moving to Detroit, lured by its bargain real estate and urban grit. Like Berlin a half generation or so ago, it’s becoming a creative mecca, and with that seeing new life in its culture, a rethinking of its design and built environment, and new vigor in its entrepreneurial spirit. The future of Detroit seems unbound from its one-industry past. To coin an overused ad slogan from its automotive legacy, this ain’t your father’s Detroit.

In the spirit of our annual summer road-trip editions, several of our writers and editors—some Motor City expats, others Chicago through and through—visited and explored. At the same time, we connected with writers, artists and designers with boots on the ground, who added a native’s insight. What better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than with a deep meditation on one great American city? And in doing so, gain some insight into our own city, and ourselves?  Read the rest of this entry »

For the Love of Detroit: Reimagining A City By and For Those Who Stayed

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buffalo st neighborhood.jpb

Photo: David Kukier

By David Kukier

My earliest memories take place on Detroit’s west side, in the 1980s still a patchwork of working- and middle-class neighborhoods anchored by churches, bars and multigenerational businesses. I would return as a resident in 2003 to a vastly different landscape: holdouts, areas sustained by the sheer tenacity of residents and a strange sense of freedom created by so much disinvestment and mismanagement.

In the real estate boom of 2006, Detroit’s core neighborhoods would suddenly enjoy a renaissance of those drawn back to urban life and a market buoyed by rising demand. And I would move again, from a century-old hodgepodge of artists, eccentrics and a fellow tenant who once welcomed my arrival by vaguely threatening me with a knife while trimming roses, cautioning me to ignore the cocaine-induced violence that his apartment played host to on Saturdays. I settled in the low-rent district of a shabby but workable immigrant enclave, where the process would repeat itself again a decade later, the standard Craigslist banner screaming, “Tired of outrageous Midtown rents? Move here!”

Recession slightly slowed development downtown and along the Woodward corridor, but its effect in the neighborhoods was devastating. Suddenly anyone still working at all could afford to flee failing schools and the constant specter of crime for the relative peace of the suburbs. Mortgage scams imploded and neighborhoods I drove through daily started to disappear as owners and tenants walked, and scrappers, firebugs and the elements moved through. Read the rest of this entry »

Rotland Funnies: Detroit Comics

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Edited by Ryan Standfest.( Click to enlarge.)rotland_funnies-final-version2

After the Rapture: Unforgettable Journeys to the Four Corners of Detroit

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Dequindre Cut/Photo: Andrew Jameson

Dequindre Cut/Photo: Andrew Jameson

By F. Philip Barash

I greeted the millennium from a former laundry factory near the old Tiger Stadium. It had been indifferently converted to lofts and managed with the lightest of touches. On game days, the neighborhood did brisk trade in beer and parking. Otherwise, it felt as if the rapture had happened and only we few were left behind to indulge in sin. The whole city felt like that, and you sensed that if you stuck around Detroit long enough, you’d know every last sinner by his Christian name.

The loft, which I shared with a roommate who was always either between jobs or girlfriends, served as a headquarters for a constellation of friends and acquaintances who, although not yet out of their teenage years, had been thrust into worldly knowledge by the very fact that they were daily immersed in Detroit, a fact we all carried with us like a dark and tattered halo. The first night in the loft, as we were unpacking records and blasting jazz, a neighbor came by to tell us to knock it off. We discovered later that he was the great Detroit DJ Stacey Pullen. Our other next-door neighbor was a woman approaching middle age and possessed of the calm and poise of a spiritual guru; she ran a porno studio from her two-story loft. It was decorated with floor-to-ceiling fabric panels that seemed to never cease billowing, a few leather settees, and not much else. On weekends, when her young daughter visited, the space would fill with the smell of baking. Once, they left a platter of fresh cookies at our door.

A neighbor down the hall was imbued with an intense, Mephistophelian, charm; slight, dressed well but without flash, and invariably polite, he traveled flanked by a pair of Rottweilers. Because he was a well-known drug dealer, the unit he shared with his dogs and lieutenants was not infrequently raided by the cops. He always knew when a raid was coming and was exceedingly apologetic when he informed us of them. “I hate to be presumptuous,” he’d tell me after knocking on the door, “but I’m expecting a visit and wonder if you might spare room in your refrigerator for”—and here he would enunciate especially clearly—“a volume of acid.” He handed over a pickle jar filled with pure liquid LSD and invited us to use as much as we might want, and so we praised him as a good neighbor and stayed awake for days. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: H is for Hawk—and Helen

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Every once in a while a book sneaks up and surprises you. What fascinates me the most about Helen Macdonald’s exquisite “H is for Hawk” is what it is not. It is an intimate, fierce memoir of furious loss, falconry, as well as a meditation on the lonely legacy of Arthurian novelist T.H. White; it is also a love letter to the English countryside which she renders in lyrically brackish beauty when describing the winter “hawking.”

What it isn’t? It isn’t like anything I’ve ever read—and this is a good thing. It’s a serious book about how you negotiate life when tragedy and death blindside you and leave you alone in the world.

The book is written in a language so rich one must read it slowly to savor the story and its telling, which unfolds after the passing of Helen’s father—a news photographer, a watcher and a transcriber of the mysteries of planes that fly over. He casts an immense shadow over this story and his daughter’s grief is enormous.

She decides to lose herself in the training of a goshawk. An experienced falconer; she endeavors to tame and train the most contrary and fierce of hunting hawks. Even experienced falconers—good ones—approach the idea of flying goshawks with great pause. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Proud to Run (June 27, 2015)

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Proud to Run

Proud to Run participants pre-race/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: After the landmark decision by the Supreme Court on Friday, Saturday’s Proud to Run event—a 10K run and 5K run/walk that has been around since 1982—celebrated its biggest year yet, with more than 1,700 registrants (for the last several years the event has hovered around 1500 participants). And walking up to basecamp in a grassy expanse of Montrose Harbor, it was clear that there was indeed plenty of celebration going on, with thumping music, colorful costumes and excited runners.

I spoke with race director Justin Koziatek before the race and he stressed that the race is “here for people to celebrate Pride in a fun and healthy way,” but also that the 5K includes a walk option to make it clear that anyone can participate regardless of experience. He also pointed out an effort to be more inclusive by tailoring the running categories to “male-identified” and “female-identified.” Read the rest of this entry »