Hokum From New York | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Hokum From New York 

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My friend Mike arrived in Chicago with his friend Hokum. Hokum's a New Yorker and smelled like one--a scent that seems to combine cigarette smoke with sauerkraut. His prickly face made him look like a porcupine with an excessive hair-loss problem.

Hokum had it in mind that he should be granted a complete tour of Chicago. All he had to spare was two hours, but that's all he thought it would take to cover our little farm town on the lake.

"Fine. What do you want to see first?"

"I'm hungry," said Hokum. "Let's go to the best restaurant in Chicago."

We went to the Wiener's Circle on Clark. That's where the trouble began.

"This place is open till four. A place like this in New York would be open all night."

We took a little walk down Clark Street to my car.

"God. Nobody's out tonight. Where're all the people?" Hokum asked with distaste.

"It's Sunday night," I said.

"See, in New York, there's people out every night."

We followed Clark Street south into the Loop and tooled around the financial district.

"The streets are so wide here," Mike observed.

"More potholes," Hokum pronounced.

"You see this?" I asked, a finger pointing through the windshield

down LaSalle. "That's where they filmed most of the movie The Untouchables."

"Great," said Mike. "I'm loving this."

"They film so many movies in New York," Hokum began, "they have a special police squad just for movies."

"Over here's State Street," I said. "You know, like how Frank Sinatra sings 'State Street! That great street...'"

"Yeah," said Hokum. "He rarely sings that when I've seen him. He just sings 'New York, New York.'"

"OK," I said, "we're going to pass over the Chicago River and head onto Michigan Avenue."

"This is kinda nice," Hokum conceded. "It looks like they kinda took Fifth Avenue and shrunk it down."

"That's the new Bloomingdale's," I said.

"Half the size of the one in New York. That's what I read."

"Don't smoke in my car," I said. "Over there's the Drake Hotel--kind of a ritzy place."

"Been there," said Hokum. "They've got this thing in there they call the Palm Court." He snorted.

"Up ahead over there--that's Second City."

"Didn't all those people from there move to New York to do Saturday Night Live?"

"Yeah," I said, "I suppose." I continued heading west.

"You see these buildings over here? This is Cabrini-Green. It's, you know, one of the more notorious housing projects in the city."

"Tell me about it," said Hokum. "We live pretty near the most dangerous housing project in New York City."

"Good," I said. "Then you can walk from here."

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