Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Message of Camaraderie

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Events 1 Comment »

Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Mayor Daley’s campaign to host the 2016 Olympics in Chicago failed, but local bike messengers are realizing their dream to bring the Olympics of two-wheeled delivery to town. As the athletic action heats up in London, this weekend hundreds of couriers from around the globe will converge in our city for the 20th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, with a packed schedule of races, arts events and parties celebrating their unique lifestyle.

The championships take place from Thursday, August 2, to Sunday, August 5, with the main competitions happening all day Saturday and Sunday in the south parking lot of Soldier Field, 18th Street and the Lakefront Trail. Other highlights include track racing at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, a nighttime “alleycat” (messenger-style race in live traffic), a movie night with courier-themed films, an opening party featuring punk-rock legends Agent Orange and the infamous Messenger Prom. Check out the full schedule of events at Read the rest of this entry »

NATO Takes Chicago, Chicago Takes NATO

Events, Politics No Comments »

This weekend’s NATO summit is inspiring a mix of welcoming promotions, confrontational protests and regular Chicagoans heading out of town. Here’s a selective listing of events, protests and promotions inspired by the gathering.

Already Happening

Chicago’s Culinary Crossroads Over two hundred restaurant locations will present tasting menus, featured items, desserts, wine selections and cocktails inspired by the NATO nations. For more information visit Through May 25.

NATO Cupcakes Magnolia Bakery, 108 North State. $3. Through May 25.

 May 17

Occupy Chicago’s Day of Environment: Planet over War! Bring your bike and rally against the environmentally destructive agendas of NATO and the G8. Rally outside of the Canadian Consulate, meet at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle. 2-11pm. Free. For more information visit Read the rest of this entry »

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)