Street Smart Chicago

411: There Are Packers Among Us

Lakeview, Sports No Comments »

For the past twenty years, a dark scourge has thrived in the heart of South Lakeview, mere blocks away from Wrigley Field. This twisted secret society gathers in the shadows nightly: drinking Leinenkugel, eating pickled herring and participating in bizarre rituals involving Muskies and some sort of card game known only as “Sheepshead.” They proudly call themselves Badgers and Cheeseheads. We know them as Packers fans. And yes, they live among us.

Since 1991, Will’s Northwoods Inn (3030 North Racine) has been the go-to Chicago bar for Wisconsinite expatriates and other assorted Green Bay faithful. Packers games have become such an event there that they even host crowds driving down from America’s Dairyland itself.

“If you just go to some bar in Wisconsin, it’s like going to any old bar here in Chicago to watch a Bears game,” explains Will’s GM Kevin Kruse. “But when you come here, it’s wall-to-wall hardcore fans.”

This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated football games in the history of the world (or, at least, the Midwest), as the Green Bay Packers travel to Chicago to face the Bears in a NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1941, and you can guarantee that Will’s Inn will be serving up plenty of beer brats and fried-cheese curds. Read the rest of this entry »

Think About The Future: If you did, you’d already know there’s a school for psychics

Education/Training, Lakeview No Comments »

Maybe this is the year you finally quit smoking, or drop those fifteen pounds, or get that online degree from Phoenix U. But probably not. So save that money you were going to waste on a gym membership and invest in something useful, like learning to become psychic.

InVision, 3340 North Clark, has been Chicago’s leading school for psychics, energy healers and clairvoyants since 2003 (in a past life it was known as The Midwest Psychic Institute). They offer both introductory six-week classes and more advanced six-month training programs in topics ranging from basic Psychic Meditation (think “Being Psychic 101”) to Astral Body Training. And while you may not think you have it in you to read psychic energy or heal chakras, InVision’s guiding philosophy is that we all have the potential. Read the rest of this entry »

411: A Day in the Park(ing) Space

Events, Green, Lakeview 2 Comments »

Two hours is all it takes to turn parking spaces into a temporary park. Motivated by both the PARK(ing) Day events in San Francisco, and locally by last year’s parking-meter deal, this is PARK(ing)’s second fourth year of bringing the urban park to the people.

Matt Nardella, principal architect for Moss Design and organizer of the event, says last year’s turnout lead to the growth this year. They are expanding their “oasis,” which is biker and pedestrian friendly.

“Last year we only had three spaces. This year, we’re trying to take as much of the block as possible,” Nardella says. Read the rest of this entry »

Fanatic Four: Drowning basketball sorrows in a Spartan fashion

Lakeview, Sports No Comments »

“I can’t believe they’re actually showing this,” exclaims a Michigan State fan perched at a table in the middle of the Lakeview bar The Tin Lizzie, as the obscenely hilarious sex scene from “Team America” distracts everyone from the grim reality soon to return to the television screen. Sporting a green Ghostbusters T-shirt and backwards Michigan State cap, his laughter gives way to tension when the bar’s TVs returns to the evening’s first Final Four contest. Surprisingly, the “hometown” Spartans—this is a decidely partisan bar—trail the underdog Butler Bulldogs 44-37 late in the second half. Nothing steals his eyes from the 32-inch flat screen mounted above a women’s bathroom until a shout of “Fuckin’ man up!” rips through the rigid atmosphere, evoking a shifty glance. After a critical Michigan State rebound with about thirty seconds remaining, a pessimistic outcry—”They’ve still got to make the shot”—is immediately trumped by MSU’s fight song erupting over the bar’s PA system and chants of “Go green!” echoing through the packed bar. Now nervously clutching his headgear, the Spartan fanatic braces for what will be his team’s last opportunity to pull out a win. When it falls short, he and other Tin Lizzie patrons look collectively shocked and perplexed. Obviously not the way they imagined starting off their Saturday nights, but at least he has a backup plan: “How about we not be able to remember this in the morning?!” (Darrel Sangster)

We Can Be Heroes: Center on Halsted hosts a low-key Comicon

Events, Lakeview, News etc. No Comments »

What kind of a comic-book convention is this? There aren’t any geeks dressed in Dragonball Z costumes, no signs of Lou Ferrigno or Adam West aimlessly wandering the aisles giving out their John Hancock’s for minimal fees. There are some oddballs crowding around a table of DC back issues like famished vultures, but other than the guy with the bad goatee wearing a red satin cape tied around his neck, this looks pretty low key. Apparently, for the organizers of this year’s Windy City Comicon, that is the goal.

“We wanted this to be a very creator-driven show along with a good shopping experience,” says Chris, the co-promoter of today’s convention. This is a hardcore comic lover’s event. There are more than seventy-five artists and creators strewn around the modestly sized room in the Center on Halsted, most of which are locally based. Thomas of Century Guild says this reminds him of what cons were like in the seventies, when it was all about the comic book and not the commercial aspect of it all. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebel Rebel: My dad owns The Alley. So what?

Lakeview, Wrigleyville 4 Comments »

By Alexis Thomascover

My first job was as proprietor of a lemonade stand at the corner of Belmont and Clark, an intersection of smut, littered with empty PBR cans, Dunkin’ Donuts-stained napkins and transsexuals in ripped fishnet pantyhose. It was the epicenter of the counter-cultural lifestyle. If you lived in Chicago, dyed your hair blue and believed punk rock could save the world, you’ve probably spent some time at Belmont and Clark.

My dad owns The Alley, an alternative-lifestyles store that sells everything from neon-colored sex toys, leather jackets, pins, one-hitters, spiked collars and bondage gear to Doc Martens.

Saturday mornings, dad and I packed Dixie cups and pitchers of Crystal Light lemonade into the back of his Cadillac hearse. The hearse was decked out in Alley decals and for ten years was his main ride. He drove it throughout Chicago neighborhoods promoting his store and lifestyle.

I’d sit on the corner as dad watched the foot traffic of Cubs fans, punks and everyone in between. But no one bought lemonade from me. Instead, their eyes crossed and noses wrinkled as they looked at me like an orphan misplaced by her parents before a show at The Vic and a whiskey sour at L&L Tavern.

Kids with mohawks and leather jackets sat next to my lemonade stand with their jelly donuts and cigarettes. Skinheads, oi punks, riot grrrls, ’77 punks and metalheads crowded into tight circles and broke into the kind of fights that were all fists and snot and blood.

Just as I was about to give up on my lemonade stand, my dad yelled over the walkie-talkies in the store, “You all better go out there and buy some lemonade from Alexis when you’re on break!”

The Alley rescued my business from bankruptcy as every employee handed over a dollar for my lemonade. By the end of the day I had made ten dollars.

The Belmont and Clark I knew at 8 years old got lost in the rubble of punk rock’s Armageddon. And before punk could revive itself, gentrification filled its void. Today, the Belmont and Clark I knew is an abandoned history. Read the rest of this entry »

Tip of the Week: Story Week 2009: Part Two

Events, Lakeview, Lit, Literary Venues, News etc., South Loop No Comments »

Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 continues Thursday and Friday, kicking off with an event featuring the school’s playwriting students, who stage scenes from their work, at Film Row Cinema on Wabash. Later in the day at the same venue a panel discussion ensues, titled “On the Rise: Chicago Theater and Beyond,” featuring About Face Theatre Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar, Goodman’s Tanya Palmer and Oobleck Theatre genius Mickle Maher. Friday offers a conversation with “The Girl on the Fridge” author Etgar Keret at Hokin Annex, plus a celebration of F Magazine, with Keret, Mort Castle, Augustus Rose and Betty Shiflett, later in the evening. The big event is Thursday night’s “Literary Rock & Roll” party at Metro, featuring Nami Mun, Lydia Millet and “Lush Life” author Richard Price. You should never miss an opportunity to see Price. (Tom Lynch)

Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 runs through March 20; visit for complete details. 

Sox Talk: One morning, at the bus stop…

City Life, Lakeview, Sports No Comments »

Between Waveland and Pine Grove Avenues the far east side of Lakeview hides no fact that Chicago is a baseball town. In the New York high-rise familiar faces associated with Wrigley Field such as Alan Trammell and Ronnie Cedeno frequent the convenient store inside the building’s lobby. And this year they’ve been smiling all season.

But even on the North Side there are Sox fans. And we all had a great reason to finally wear a smile on our faces today, the morning after the Sox won the American League Central division.

I’m on my way to the bus stop, still riled up since last evening’s victory. Ahead of me an older man in a flannel robe walks his dog—I have seen him dozens of times over the past years—and he has a big grin on his face and a black Sox cap on.

“Did you see that game last night?” I can’t help to ask.

“I sure did. I was there,” he says.

The 145 pulls up to the bus stop but we keep up the conversation—the amazing plays from the game, how Junior’s throw to AJ at home was a game-saver, how Thome’s bazooka-blast of a homerun was monumental, how having Brian Anderson in centerfield in the ninth inning made all the difference with his game-winning diving catch.

The conversation continues with more baseball: the North Side, the South Side, the game of yesterday and the game of today. We talk stats, numbers, big plays, the ‘05 Series. I realize I’m talking to a true Sox fan who knows baseball.

A few minutes pass—I can see another bus approaching. Before I leave I introduce myself.

“We’ve been neighbors for a while,” I tell him, “I’ve seen you dozens of times and it is finally nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Minnie,” he says. “I’m Minnie Minoso.”

Then he holds out his hand for a shake, a hand that belongs to a man who has his own statue inside the Cell. (Anthony Regan)

411: eBay’s Say

Bucktown, Events, Lakeview No Comments »

In less than a decade eBay has become an authority on consumer trends, and Karen Bard, eBay “pop culture connoisseur,” will be in Chicago this weekend for the eBay Live! event at McCormick Place with a panel of eBay experts speaking to just this. Read the rest of this entry »

Bohemian Rhapsody: University of Chicago profs study the migration of hipsters and other urban phenomena

Andersonville, Bridgeport, Bucktown, City Life, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Kenwood, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Little Village, Logan Square, News etc., North Center, Pilsen, Roscoe Village, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Washington Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville No Comments »

By Sean Redmond

Entering Wicker Park by the Blue Line, you emerge into the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee to a long-familiar sight. There’s the Double Door across the street, Flash Taco and, until just recently, the façade of Filter, Wicker Park’s former hipster coffeehouse extraordinaire. These staples, like many along these primary roadways, fade into the background with repeated visits; yes, you know you can find Reckless Records and American Apparel and the venues and art galleries in the surrounding area, but getting where you want to go requires little thought once you’re situated enough to put your eyes to the sidewalk and your feet into autopilot. But then one day, you get off the train and, surprise, the boarded-up shell of Filter is replaced with an expansive Bank of America, and your mind jolts back into motion. Suddenly, a wave of thoughts bursts forth: “Man, there are a lot of banks in the area,”or “Wicker Park really is getting commercialized,” or  “Maybe I need to start spending more time in Logan Square.”
Read the rest of this entry »