Friday, January 31, 2014

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/31/14

Was It Rhymes with Lust the first graphic novel? There's a fair argument to be made for that claim. While other books before it had told their stories using just pictures, Lust spins its noirish narrative using much the same style as the crime comics of the late 1940s and aims its tale of power struggles, double crosses and plunging necklines squarely at adults.

It even uses Matt Baker, one of the first African-Americans to work in the comic book industry. He gained so much popularity and respect for his dynamic layouts and, particularly, his fine female figures that he was widely imitated, most especially by his employers at the Iger shop (making it difficult for nonexperts to discern which drawings are his and which belong to his more accomplished imitators). Lust is definitely Baker, though (with inks bay frequent partner Ray Osrin), and his style is well suited to the story of Rust Masson (whose name rhymes with...please go back and look at the title), who uses the occasion of her husband's death to grab his political machine and manipulate everyone around her.

The script, credited to Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller (under the pseudonym "Drake Waller"), aims for a tough, pulpy tone somewhere between James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler, but without Cain's depth of character or Chandler's snap of dialog. Still, it's a brisk read--and at least 20 years ahead of its time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Deep Freeze

Since I had no choice but to go to work on Tuesday, I opted to try and work around the resurgent Polar Vortex and go in to work later.
I still had to get up early to feed and medicate Olivia, but at least I didn't have to venture out into the -11 air. Not yet, anyway.
Once I did get up and get out into the winter wonderland, I found a world that was still, calm and empty. No people on the streets. Few cars. Even the birds and squirrels seemed to have vanished, but for a lone duck floating through the clouds of ice crystals (not steam, as most people assume) on the North Branch of the Chicago River.
The Brown Line train (which showed up at the station immediately upon my arrival) was nearly empty. Granted, it was the middle of the day, but it didn't seem like many folks had ventured far from their homes. Only the lunatics. And me. (Yes. Well.)
When I reached downtown, I crossed the river again--and this time found it frozen. Only in the most severe conditions--such as this harsh winter has presented--can cause that to happen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/28/14

What better way to save a parking space than with a mop bucket, some random boards and a can of AriZona tea? (The can of tea may have been incidental.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

On the Way to Work This Morning 1/27/14

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/27/14

Finally had the pleasure of meeting Superbadfriend's kitty Charlie on Saturday. Yes, he's really big. Superbadfriend is also really small.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vanishing Chicago: Uncle Fun

If you lived in Chicago and wanted to buy something unusual or unique--whether for a friend as a present or for yourself for kicks--where would you go?

Something like, say, a postcard of Tim Curry as Doctor Frank N. Furter in all his fishnet glory? Or a lunchbox devoted to the love of bacon? Or a book on the history of Halloween costumes? Or a tin windup robot or elephant or tabby cat chasing a ball?

You'd go to Uncle Fun.

What if you wanted a birthday card emblazoned with the splash page of a '60s romance comic? Or kitschy Japanese-made Christmas decorations from the '50s? Or a cardboard dancing witch? Or a tube of fake blood? Or a plastic fried egg?

You'd go to Uncle Fun.

What if you wanted a Count Chocula bobblehead? Or an action figure of Kelly Bundy from Married with Children? Or a deck of tarot cards? Or a colorful cardboard Thanksgiving centerpiece? Or a plastic fly? Or a skull covered in glitter? Or cereal box prizes? Or a refrigerator magnet shaped like the head of Bozo the Clown that also doubles as a kazoo?

You'd go to Uncle Fun.

That's what you would do. But you won't be able to do that much longer--Uncle Fun is closing for good.

The owner, Ted, is retiring and moving to Baltimore. (never thought of the home of the Orioles, Charm City Cakes and John Waters as a retirement destination, but what do I know?) Thus, everything in the store is on sale. The window signs say it's all 50% off, but since many of the items within the store and the adjoining basement (now open to be prowled by bargain hunters) have no price tags on them, discounts are often much steeper than that.

I've been in a couple of times since the announcement was made, despite the consistently lousy weather in what has been one of the roughest winters in recent memory. On such days, already tired and stressed from work, I'd rather go straight home and stay there. Also, I'm claustrophobic--it seems to have gotten worse as I've gotten older--so the thought of walking into a smallish store crammed wall-to-wall with people is not the most comfort one I could have.

But I've been going to Uncle Fun for far too long--as JB asked today, "Am I mistaken in thinking you have been shopping at Uncle Fun since we were in our late 20s?" (note: he was not mistaken)--to let it wink out of existence without a proper farewell.

So there I was, snaking my way through the crowds (much heavier on my first visit than on my second), filling my basket with the most random of shit: Postcards (one of them a genuine turn-of the 20th-Century New Year's card); fridgy magnets; buttons advertising Red Dog beer; a windup tin bird that hops and pecks the ground like the sparrows I feed every morning; a picture of Roger Moore holding a box of kittens (from the movie Ffolkes); a windup Timex watch; a packet of nylons with cool '50s graphics on the envelope; a plastic Bozo head that doubles as a bank (what is it with the Bozo merchandise multitasking?); and much, much more.

Did I need any of what I bought? No, not really. (Notable exception: A plastic form for laundering baseball caps. I've needed one of those for years. Seriously.) Did every single item make me smile on some level? Yes, it did--just like everything I ever bought at Uncle Fun always did.

Of course, I couldn't take everything I wanted to. There were items throughout the store that were out of my price range or that weren't for sale at all (like the many celebrity autographed photos behind the counter).

Then there's the huge, life-size tiger that looms on a tops shelf toward the back of the store. If I had a large apartment (or, even better, a house) and unrestricted funds, I'd buy that tiger. Then again, I'm not the only one who feels that way. "Everybody wants the tiger!" said the super-cute, super-friendly cashier said.

She also told me that the last day of "celebration" (her word, not mine) at Uncle Fun would be Sunday, January 26, or until they ran out of merchandise, whichever came first. (Given how much stuff Ted apparently has in storage, I'd be shocked if they ran out of stuff to sell before the 26th.) I'll try to pop in again before then, if only to pat the tiger on his worn fur head one last time.

I suggest you do the same. The fun--Uncle Fun--ends soon.

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/20/14

Monday, January 13, 2014

Snowmageddon 2014: More Dibs

More examples of "dibs," the dubious, embarrassing Chicago "tradition" of setting out random crap from around the house to mark off parking spots--even though the snowstorm that necessitated the digging out of said parking spots happened a week ago.

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/13/14

The way this winter is going, the little girl who lost these better find them again.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Yesterday's Breakfast

Tamale hash skillet at West River Cafe.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

On the Way Home Last Night 1/10/14

The vice of winter slackened as the week went on, only to be replaced by driving rain Friday afternoon and evening. As the ground was still frozen and the water had nowhere to go, this turned sidewalks into moats, curbs into rivers and intersections into lakes of gray/brown slush. The sizable "puddle" above started at the junction of avenue and alley and stretched to the middle of the street. Fuck pedestrians--cars could barely get by.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Vanishing Chicago: Dominick's

My Dominick's Fresh Values card is old. Battered. Dirty. Recently lost a large chunk due to due to deterioration. I've had it in my wallet for a long, long time. It has, in fact, outlasted several wallets.

And now, it has outlasted Dominick's itself.

According to Wikipedia, Dominick's was founded in 1918 by Dominick DiMatteo, an immigrant from Sicily. Over the years, the one store became two stores, the two stores became more stores, more stores became a chain, etc.

Dominick's wasn't the biggest kid on the block in Chicago--that was (and is) Jewel/Osco--but it was prominent. In the 1980s and 1990s (when Mr. DiMatteo passed away), you could find Dominick's supermarkets all over the Chicagoland area. I had one within walking distance (well, for me, anyway, walking fool that I am) of La Casa del Terror for many years.

In 1998, Dominick's was taken over by Safeway, a national chain. And so began its slow decline to ultimate extinction.

Many blame Safeway for this. Easy to see why. The stores took on more of a generic feel. Prices became less competitive. Product quality wasn't the same. The Wikipedia entry details other customer complaints, particularly about produce and meats. But it all adds up to the same thing: Customers no longer recognized the store they were in--Dominick's was Dominick's in name only--and they chose to buy their groceries somewhere else.

Of course, it wasn't just suspect quality that lured customers away from Dominick's. There were other factors Stores like Target expanded their grocery offerings, and Walmart finally entered the city proper (they'd been in the surrounding suburbs for years); bringing their low prices along with them. Other grocery chains, like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Mariano's, entered the market, offering greater variety and, in some cases, better values.

the chain slowly contracted. Dominick's stores either became other stores--that one within walking distance of me turned into a Mariano's--or just ceased to be. Finally, it was announced that all Dominick's locations would close by December 28, just in time for Christmas. (Happy Holidays from Safeway!) Some of the locations were scooped up by competitors. Others will sit empty, their eventual fates to be determined.

A city full of "food deserts"--areas without many (if any) grocery options--just got a whole bunch more.

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/9/14

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The End of the Holidaze

The Christmas lights have all winked out
And Daley Plaza's bare;
Cards, though few they were, packed up
as if they're never there.
Not a Santa found in sight,
reindeer no longer play.
The Holidaze, though not here long,
are over, sad to say.

On the Way Home Last Night 1/7/14

Every Picture Tells a Story 1/8/14

The lovely Ms. Olivia, enjoying the sun despite the cold.