Saturday, September 17, 2022

Northshore Notes: Rainy day outing

Drawing by Don Colley

     I never tell Northshore bureau chief Caren Jeskey what to write about. It would be as wrongheaded as shouting orders at a cloud or a butterfly. Though I must admit, when I saw where she was going with this I thought, "Oh no..." But then she pulled it off, as she always does. Enjoy.

By Caren Jeskey 

The sky clears, illuminating the earth for a second,
And then frightens the sleeping birds
With a great clap of thunder, and like bitter tears
The drops of rain become noisily mixed with those already fallen.
Nature, frightened, hides under the rustling leaves,
The flowers close under this brutal dew
And the soaked earth boasts of bearing this squall alone.
The birds, flapping their wings, lift themselves up
And murmur softly, “The Storm.”    
                                                   —Anais Nin
     The rain always comes at unfortunate times. Such as last Sunday, as I tried to figure out what to wear to be outdoors with an afternoon storm quickly approaching on the radar. Rain boots, waterproof jacket, plastic bag tucked in my purse for the book I was going to buy, and funnily enough an umbrella. Not the best tool in the windy city.
     Not only was I primed to brave the weather, I was even willing to risk my life on the terrifying death trap of I-94.
     I do not take expressways, as a general rule of thumb. I’m a backroads kind of lady. In the past 16 months since I’ve moved back to Chicago I’ve said no to anything faster than Lake Shore Drive— which, hell-OH folks, has a speed limit of 40.
     Part of that is due to the "Fast & Furious" scene I naively drove straight into, late May of last year, on my final leg from Texas back home to Chicago. Racing isn’t the word for what I saw. Garish plastic sports bikes popping wheelies, dented up cars weaving in and out of the lanes. No speed limits, Autobahn style. I ducked off as soon as I dared, Indy wannabes coming up so quickly on my right I barely had a chance. I wish they’d stick to the Nascar course next July for that.
     Although it did not seem certain on the harrowing drive with dim pavement lines buried under roll waves, I made it to Plymouth Court. Not many things can get me out of the house these days, but the Printers Row Lit Fest was one of them.
     As a teen in the 80s, the then-called Printers Row Book Fair was a must attend event each year. Eye candy covers of new books, the promise of that perfect find or ten to bring home and get buried in, and the company of fellow book nerds made it the place to be if you were into that kind of thing.
     Decades later I met an author and vendor from New York at the fair, and the following year he was my boyfriend and roommate in Chicago. We’d cozy up with tea on long afternoons, noses buried in crisp new copies of whatever we were reading, inhaling the fresh paper smell. (Actually, that part of our short lived relationship never happened, but that’s what I was aiming for).
     Once parked last Sunday, I found my friend William. We made it into our seats moments before the big event at 2. The crowd went wild as none other than Neil Steinberg and Shermann Dilla Thomas took the stage.
     The room was packed, and abuzz. TikTok historian Dilla and Neil did not miss a beat. They jumped right into impressing each other and their audience with little known facts about Chi town told deftly. They riffed off of each other like old pals, though this was their first meeting. Dilla offered that he finds himself agreeing with 83% of what he’s read by Neil. They both laughed.
     In addition to his TikTok channel, Dilla operates Chicago Mahogany Tours. “According to the Washington Post ‘While national news outlets seem fixated on the city’s gun violence and crime, Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas has built an impressive audience by highlighting his hometown’s best qualities.”
     The Dilla Steinberg duo was such a delight that we would gladly listen to the two of them regale us with swapped stories again. After the show one fan implored Dilla to start a podcast with Neil.
     Neil shared stories from his new book with the succinct title Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago.
     When Neil and Dilla wrapped up, my friend and I made a plan. We’d get a quick bite, then head to the tent where Neil was selling and signing copies. We finished our burgers and dashed back to the Fest, only to see that it was no more. They must have closed up early due to the rain. We missed our big shot.
     To keep the book mojo going we ducked into the local bookstore where William and I spent an hour sharing what shiny new books jumped out of the shelves at us— The Daughter of Doctor Moreau — along with books we’d read and wanted to recommend — The Stranger. I asked the poised proprietor Ellen Sandmeyer about Neil’s book and she said they were hoping to get it in the next day.
     I left empty handed but full hearted and will pick up the book soon. We are all in for a fun ride.
Over spring mountains
A star ends the paragraph
Of a thunderstorm.
                —Richard Wright


  1. No one goes 40 on LSD! Most are going at least 55.

  2. Damn that apparently turned Germany's Autobahn into the ornithologist and nature guy, Audobon. AutoCorrect is for the birds.

    1. AutoCorrect is my own worst enema.

      (Yeah, it's a rerun. Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    2. Very perceptive, Grizz. I noticed "Audobon style," briefly wondering exactly what it meant in reference to insane LSD drivers, but dismissed it as current slang unfamiliar to aged me.


    3. My eye caught it automatically. Old copy editors and proofreaders never die, they just keep catching other people's misteaks.

    4. Oh, my...I just realized that Caren spelled his name correctly...and we didn't. There are two instances of the letter "u" and only one "o" in "Audubon." This time, the laugh's on me.

    5. Thanks Grizz! :) I'll get it changed.

  3. Hi, Caren! 2 Fun Facts for your Saturday. 1. I sat behind the above artist as he sketched the speaker before Neil. He was fascinating to watch. 2. I am the "fan" who suggested the podcast and I stand by it! Thanks for your thoughtful posts and giving the man one blessed day off each week. - Lori

  4. When I drive downtown on DuSable in the morning people are doing 70 , or more

    1. Wow.

      So you've also made the switch to DuSable. I will try, good reminder. I still say Cubs Park and Sox Field, though I can see that this is different since we need more awareness about DuSable and other pioneers, wheres no more about US Cellular or whoever else owns the parks now.

  5. You got me there, Caren, with the "cozy afternoons." Green with envy, I could only bewail that the closest I ever got to such was a bleak sharing of a bottle of Gallo wine in the wee hours of the night with the TV flickering and whispering in the background. Then, of course, you took it back. Not sure if that made it better or not.


    1. I hope it makes it a little better, since we are certainly not at all alone. I've been told to read The Midnight Library, which is said to help decrease feelings of regret about our pasts. I think it's on my shelf. Maybe it's time.

    2. Thanks for the heads-up, Caren. I need to find that book. At 75, I'm constantly thinking about my past (woulda, coulda, shoulda)...and about the future (debilitation and the coming of the Iceman). Meanwhile, the future becomes the present becomes the past, and tomorrow becomes today becomes yesterday. Yeah, I think I definitely need that book. Mucho apreciado.

    3. You bet. I pulled mine out too.

  6. Thank you Caren for including poems I think I understood. I enjoyed the way they began and ended today's refreshing column.

    1. Thanks Les. I just love good haikus. Another that recently struck me and is still apropos in the dog days of summer:

      [The cry of the cicada]
      Matsuo Basho - 1643-1694
      The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.


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