Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’
March 1, 2012 | by Patrick Monahan
I never really got the Blues, though I have certainly gotten the blues. Maybe that’s why, until recently, I had never heard of Alberta Hunter and why her recordings and I are now inseparable. If Bessie Smith’s blues are a wail to the world, Alberta’s are a conversational tête à tête. She wrote and sang throughout her life but refused to be classified as a singer of any particular genre. “Just call me a singer of songs,” she insisted.
Last summer, a pianist friend handed me Amtrak Blues, an album Alberta recorded in 1978, at age eight-three. “You’ll get this,” he assured me. When I put it on, a frank, earthy voice radiated from the stereo speakers, and I started wondering who this lady could be. I found photos of a moon-eyed Chicago saloon singer with gold hoop earrings, a Parisian flapper in a filmy evening dress, a nurse in whites, a USO entertainer in khakis, and a sibylline old lady.
There was, as it turned out, a variegated life behind such variety. “I’ve been more places by accident than most people have been on purpose,” Alberta once quipped. A singer, actress, composer, and journalist, she was a kind of musical Marco Polo whose talents were as diverse as the many places her career carried her. Read More »
December 26, 2011 | by Caleb Crain
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
My husband and I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) the other night. He’d never seen it before, to the consternation of his Facebook friends, and I last saw it a decade ago, when I remember having been vaguely entertained. Not this time, though. “God, he’s kind of awful, isn’t he?” Peter commented, about ten minutes in. I agreed but was fascinated. Before my eyes, the rentier class was daydreaming a special dream, a dream of getting away from the drudges and the scolds ...
I was not fascinated by the plot, which is thin. A high-school senior named Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, feigns illness in order to play hooky and persuades a hypochondriacal friend and a bland girlfriend to follow him on a tour of Chicago, visiting a fancy restaurant, a baseball game, an art museum, and a German-American heritage parade. The movie depends heavily on Broderick’s charm as an actor, on his mix of too careful enunciation, direct address to the camera, and pale pink pubescence in the shower. In the opening scene, director John Hughes takes a rather large risk: Ferris lies to his parents with large calf eyes, giggling and lapsing into baby talk. What kind of movie hero consciously presents himself as infantile and duplicitous? What kind of movie hero begins by seducing his parents?
September 19, 2011 | by Irina Aleksander
Sometime in the last few years, my sixty-five-year-old father, a Soviet mathematician who spent the first fifty years of his life in Moscow, began speaking to me in English.
That I can’t recall when exactly this happened makes the shift seem, at least in retrospect, both gradual and sudden. One day he was correcting my Russian, his laughter once ascending into a taunting squeal as I attempted to casually use the swear word svoloch (along the lines of “scum”) and mistakenly said slovoch, which, if it were an actual insult, would mean “worder.” Another day, not much later, during what must have been an argument, I couldn’t find the Russian words to describe whatever I was feeling, and I remember my father, calm and patient, saying, “Say eet een English, my luv.” Then last week, a voice mail: “Hi. It is me. Call me back please.” When I return his call, the voice that I know to be father’s asks, without the sharp edges that used to define his accent, “Have you ever been to the Hamptons? Nice place.”
When we moved to the States, I was ten; my father, forty-eight. What this meant was that I lost my accent by the time I started high school while my parents still pulled up to the gas station attendant and said, “Fool up regular.” I spent whole afternoons then explaining to my mother that “ze” and “zat” were nothing like “the” and “that.” That no one in America hung Persian rugs on their walls as decoration. That boiled potatoes were not dinner. When my haughtiness was amusing, they called me “our little Americanka;” other times they looked at me with unrecognizing dismay—there was a stranger in their home, or, worse, a traitor. Read More »
August 15, 2011 | by Chris Flynn
Most dust jackets list only literary accomplishments, but I’ve always been a fan of offbeat author bios. So I asked some of my favorite writers to describe their early jobs.
Jessica Anthony: I was a singing-telegram cowgirl in upstate New York in the early nineties. I wore the dress, boots, hat, and fringe. I went to various places of business and sang, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no” from Oklahoma! to human beings who desperately had no interest in it.
Jonathan Lethem: I once had a job as the assistant of a family friend, a very talented artist and theatrical designer who had, in the parlance of the time, “gone mad.” My tasks included helping him move a discarded chrome car bumper from the street to his tiny Upper West Side studio-apartment bedroom; helping him weld the bumper to a sculpture that also included sardine tins still covered in oil and shreds of fish; and walking his poodle to the liquor store to buy him bottles of gin. But there were problems: the unfortunate, confused dog had a giant clot of bright red paint covering approximately a third of its white curls, so that it appeared to have been attacked by an ax murderer. Also, I was only thirteen. Even in 1977, a liquor store on the Upper West Side wouldn’t sell a tall bottle of gin to a teenager leashed to a zombie poodle.
Adam Levin: I used to hand out Winston cigarettes at bars for a Chicago “guerrilla marketing” firm. I was required to carry around a duffel full of cigarette cartons. We had some discretion over how many packs to give out to each person—usually between one and four. I also carried a box in which an old digital camera was mounted. If you wanted free cigarettes, you had to let me photograph your driver’s license, and you’d nearly always let me, because you were drunk, which is why I picked you to begin with. So maybe it was more like I used to collect personal information at bars in Chicago for a “guerrilla marketing” firm employed by Winston.
Peter Carey: Never, in all my life, have I been employed in a job as absurd and peculiar as the one I have right now. Commuting between 1854 and 2011 is killing me.
October 5, 2010 | by Lorin Stein
I always forget how giant Chicago is. How giant, how elegant, and how proud.
Under Culture Commissioner Lois Weissberg, the city has come into possession of an exact replica of Maxim’s, the Paris restaurant, in the basement of a Gold Coast condominium designed by Bertrand Goldberg. Beatles fans: This is the site where John Lennon recanted his “bigger than Jesus” claim.
On that hallowed ground Stop Smiling’s co-founder, J. C. Gabel, Mairead Case, and I talked shop last Friday night before a crowd of fellow editors (Poetry, Playboy, The Baffler, the Trib), Ms. Weissberg, and assorted civilians passionate—to the point of forcible ejection—about The Paris Review. It was all part of the city’s “Cocktails and Conversations” series.
New Yorkers, can you imagine such a thing? Verily, they are Sweden to our United States.
Many thanks to Danielle Chapman, of the Department of Cultural Affairs, for having us. Even more thanks to J. C., who out-Virgiled Virgil, giving me the grand tour of the city, from Saul Bellow’s old apartment building and the Third Coast bar, to the thirty-third birthday of Poetry’s Fred Sasaki. May Fred enjoy many happy returns.
Another thing I forget—and then always remember—about Chicago, or rather Chicagoans, is what snappy dressers they are. Chicago men are not afraid of a necktie or a hat. The peaked cap also is worn. On Michigan Avenue I saw plenty of all three (plus a woman sporting the first fur coat of the season), as I provisioned for the forty-nine-hour California Zephyr to San Francisco. Last-minute purchases included: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, A Tale of Two Cities, Cousin Bette, Ragtime (I will read Doctorow, I will!), a pair of warm pajamas, a sturdy pigskin toilet kit, and a smallish bottle of Johnny Walker Red.
As it happened, I read the last page of The Anthologist at five-thirty Sunday morning, simply too happy to sleep, as my bunk lurched and tossed like a cozy Cyclone (I even found myself hanging on to the straps). Thus did I cross the Rockies.
In this connection, I must finally thank Patricia Daliege, Amtrak’s chief ticket agent at Chicago’s Union Station, for saving my bacon in the face of an intractable Paris Review–Amtrak imbroglio. If not for Ms. Daliege, and the sleeper compartments she finagled out of seemingly thin air, your humble correspondent would have detrained in the thunderstorming moonscape of Green River, Utah, and taken his chances against the sands. To Patti Daliege, merci.
To read more about Lorin’s trip, click here.
September 28, 2010 | by Nicole Rudick
Well, slightly West.
First stop: Pittsburgh
Tomorrow, September 29, Stein will join Bob Hoover, books editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, to reveal “The Sordid Confessions of a Subversive Big-Apple Editor.” The free event starts at 6:30 P.M. at the Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Avenue.
On September 30, Stein and Stop Smiling editor JC Gabel talk with Literago.org's Mairead Case at Maxim's: The Nancy Goldberg International Center, 24 East Goethe Street. The conversation begins at 6 P.M.