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Moving Week

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pathos in a shit storm

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 06:41 AM

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Brown and Gray)
  • Mark Rothko, "Untitled (Brown and Gray)"
In the midst of shipping off from our well-worn quarters to the shiny Sun-Times building back in August, many of us took Moving Week literally, chronicling packing up shop, staying put, moving or not moving, as the case may be. Reader film critic Ben Sachs gave the theme a different take, writing about an autistic and severely retarded man he cared for through the direst of circumstances. Can misery, fear, and impacted feces be moving? In the hands of Sachs, yes.

Working with Daryl one-on-one required that I approach experience on his terms—autism has a way of transforming everything it touches—and they were fascinating terms indeed. Like many people deeply affected by autism, Daryl had echolalia. This meant he would often repeat the last word he heard or else vocalize nonsense sounds for the palliative effect. If no one engaged him directly, he was perfectly content to sit in a corner, playing with his fingers and enjoying the sound of his gibberish. Some sounds had developed, over the course of his life, into private mantras, and I became familiar with them all. The most common went something like: "Par-ee-ah shee-ah poor . . . pie . . . shocko pie, shocko pie . . . koat pie . . ."

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Friday, August 3, 2012

The most dramatic movement I've ever witnessed

Posted By on 08.03.12 at 12:54 PM

Because I cant think of an appropriate image for this story, enjoy this still of Cyd Charisse in Its Always Fair Weather.
  • Because I can't think of an appropriate image for this story, enjoy this still of Cyd Charisse in It's Always Fair Weather.
For most of the last year I spent working at a day center for developmentally disabled adults on the northwest side, I provided one-on-one supervision for a man who was both severely retarded and autistic. Daryl (as I'll call him here) required direct supervision because, as I learned when I first joined the staff, he was a "runner." Whenever he was overwhelmed by the goings-on of the center—which was often—Daryl would run out of whatever room he was in. Usually, he would find an empty classroom, turn off the lights, and stick his fingers in his ears to block out as much sound as he could. But sometimes he would try to escape the center entirely. For this reason, the front door had been locked from the outside for decades (Daryl had been a client of the center for about 30 years when I met him), and his mother almost always kept him home when the center took the clients on a field trip. He could run pretty fast when he wanted to, and the center could have landed in all sorts of trouble if he were to vanish.

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A perfectly good hole

Posted By on 08.03.12 at 09:10 AM

Perfectly good, Im telling you
  • Behold the gravitational pull of an abandoned bookcase

"The thought of moving fills me with joy, and it always will," Sarah Payne Stewart writes in a recent New Yorker piece fessing up to her New England-style real estate aspirationalism. "My heart soars at the sight of a moving van down a street."

If my heart soars at the sight of a U-Haul, it’s because it may signal abandoned bookshelves in need of a new home. So I read Payne Stewart’s essay uncomprehendingly—she might as well have announced her love of digging holes in the ground.

Me: What do you want to dig a new hole for? You live in a perfectly good hole as it is.

Payne Stewart: But this one will be under a tree!

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Tip the king

Posted By on 08.03.12 at 07:57 AM

First of all, chess is a sport.

If billiards is—and it definitely is—then so is chess.

So Chicago lost another great sportsman recently with the death of Ron Washington, also known as the "Mayor of the Chess Pavilion" at North Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.

Which, not coincidentally, is where he died.

Washington drowned in Lake Michigan last Friday, and when the story appeared in the Sun-Times earlier this week it pulled me up short.

Washington was described as a chess "hustler," and no doubt he was. That's what the chess pavilion was made for. I found that out myself when doing a column on it toward the end of the run of the Sports section in the Reader five years ago.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

On staying put

Posted By on 08.02.12 at 04:22 PM

Dont leave home with or without it
  • emmamccleary
  • Don't leave home with or without it
I am an American, Chicago-born, as a famous writer once bellowed—and I've never strayed far from the city of my birth. Why move? It's a hassle.

In 58 years, these have been my addresses:

6025 S. Kilbourn
6145 W. 59th
721 University Pl., Evanston (college)
420 W. Melrose
6457 N. Bosworth
6330 N. Wayne
1800 Oakton, Evanston

Can you recall all of your addresses? If you can't, or if you've averaged more than two per decade, maybe it's time to start questioning your wanderlust.

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Accumulated crap from over the years

Posted By on 08.02.12 at 07:41 AM

From the days when staffers had time to kill
  • From the days when staffers had time to kill
The Reader office was a strange and fascinating place when I started working there about five years ago; I could spend hours—or minutes, at least—sifting through the layers of ephemera pinned to bulletin boards. Most of it was "ridiculous, nerdy shit that had nothing to do with anything," as one coworker put it. Random stuff like an empty Diet Coke can and a fake rose decorated the heating ducts near my desk, while a bag of packing peanuts was pinned to a rafter.

At one point I discovered a giant pinkish meringue on top of a wall dividing the cubicles. Judging from the amount of dust coating it, it had been around for a while. I was puzzling over how it might have come to be there when a coworker saw it and solved the mystery. Apparently he'd taken a bite of the meringue while sitting in one of the cubicles about eight years earlier, decided he didn't like it, and put it up on the wall, where it had stayed ever since.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Give me a slice and a cold one—it's moving day

Posted By on 08.01.12 at 07:09 AM

Moving the Readers grand piano is going to be especially tough
During my wandering college years (ages 19 to 27), I moved eight times. Only one of those residences did I live in for over a year, with a couple of them lasting for less than eight months. Following each move, I left a few packed boxes of CDs and textbooks tucked away in a nook of whatever closet, because I knew I'd be moving them again in a year. The constant change of environment never bothered me, though—I found the process to be strangely liberating.

Movers were never considered a rational option in my 20s. I played in shitty punk bands and made ten bucks an hour driving pizzas around the city—how the hell could I afford $130 hourly rates? No, sir. I had friends who hadn't yet ruined their bodies and could be bought with Domino's and Budweiser for a day's work. Pizza and beer is just as good as hard currency in college, and if you were brash enough to turn it down, we probably weren't meant to be friends to begin with.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

While cleaning off my desk . . .

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 05:42 PM

USS Cole after bombing
  • USS Cole after bombing
I just came across the front page of the Sun-Times from October 26, 2000. It carried this banner headline:


A 40 x 40-foot hole had been blown in the side of the Cole by a suicide bomber during a refueling stop in Yemen two weeks earlier. Seventeen sailors died. The article reported that a Pentagon intelligence analyst had warned of "impending terrorist attacks" but the warning wasn't passed along to military commanders. A later warning, of "imminent terrorist activity" in Yemen, wasn't acted on.

The thing is, the attack on the Cole was itself a warning: al Qaeda was at war against the United States. If taken as seriously as the 9/11 attacks 11 months later, it might have prevented them. But it was not.

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Turning my office inside-out

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 06:45 AM

Chuckys back, and hes tossing out his old blue pencils.
  • Chucky's back, and he's tossing out his old blue pencils.
Packing up my office this weekend, in anticipation of the Reader’s August 1 move to 350 N. Orleans, I was forced to sift and sort through 15 years’ worth of crap, which turned out to be a real trip down memory lane—maybe not a lane, more like a back alley. Here’s some of the weird stuff I dug up:

An eight-inch rubber sperm I got in the mail as promo for the movie Seed of Chucky. The big sperm also came with a condom labeled “Get a Load of Chucky,” which I stapled to the bulletin board at one point, so it’s probably no good now.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Where Virginia Woolf meets the White Sox

Posted By on 07.30.12 at 03:15 PM

To take or not to take?

The office is in shambles. Half-filled crates block the hallways and the giant neon backward-R that loomed at the top of the lobby staircase has been removed, leaving only a gray wall and a few nuts and bolts in its place. As editors clear their offices of papers, dictionaries, and other miscellany, the table of discarded books by the back door is piled ever higher.

The utter randomness of these rejects recalls a very extensive Goodwill book section. Along with a selection of airport paperbacks—The Time Traveler's Wife, Bridget Jones' Diary—there are the usual high school reading list suspects: Mrs. Dalloway, Hamlet, The Things They Carried. There is a Christmas tree ornament of a flying Santa resting atop a stack of books on race and urban planning. Unsurprisingly, there are a notably high number of guidebooks: to Chicago, to rock music, to blogging, to bars, to film, and, for some reason, to the gay and lesbian scene in London. There is also a well-thumbed, illustrated copy of the Pill Book, an office essential in case any staff members accidentally mix up their Klonopin with their Ritalin.

Some of the staff, like associate editor Kate Schmidt, have adopted a Zen attitude toward the move.

"I don't hang on to this stuff," Schmidt said. "I figured we should all travel light."

Schmidt left behind a book on urban farms, a 2011 Sox media guide, her (gifted) copy of Bridget Jones, and several "terrible" books that she'd been given to review over the years.

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