My host had to work last night, so I made my first solo foray by car into the heart of North Chicago. I stuck to the few roads I could identify and made my way to Quimby's in Bucktown. This bookstore constituted a geeky sort of pilgrimage for me, as I first became aware of its legendary status from reading comments on the Comics Journal Message Board. Its relatively small size belies the broad range of treasures contained within. Their selection of underground zines and minicomics is unlike anything I've ever seen. They stock a wide selection of the best alt-comix graphic novels, and many pamphlet-format books. Look further and you'll find books on conspiracies, magik, "lowbrow" art, esoteric sociology, tattoos, carnival life, prison literature, and just about everything the urban hipster could possibly covet. Shopping there is serious business too- they clearly post a D.I.Y. sign on the front door advising patrons to turn their cellphones off before entering. I have no idea how long I was actually there. It could have been hours. I escaped with remarkable restraint. I came out with work by Ivan Brunetti, Martin Cendreda, Rick Geary and the new MOME.
When I got back to Andersonville, we decided to go grab a drink. "The Duke of Perth" in Wrigleyille is a solid Irish pub with what I'm told is an excellent range of quality whiskies. I took advantage of the 50 cent wing special. I was so hungry that I would have gladly savored sushi. Fortunately that wasn't necessary. Actually I might have had to dig a bit if I had anything approximating a sophisticated pallet. The neighborhood itself is largely frequented by yahoos, as it hosts Wrigley Park- home of the Chicago Cubs. Although it's not the type of place I'd typically be drawn toward, I was impressed to see a sports stadium smack dab in the middle of a functional mix of residences and dense commercial development. Of course it's a bit like a postcard from a time long past, but it doesn't feel like a museum. Despite myself and my aesthetic, I admired the place just a bit.
We finished the night at Delilah's in Lincoln Park. Ian at Brillo Box had suggested that I would like this bar. He was right. Just as he had described it, thisw joint is a mix of the Brillo and Gooski's. I don't know what it is about Chicago and bourbon... but if you are a fan of that particular spirit, you will find many who share your enthusiasm. If you are into post-punk and slightky seedy dives, then Delilah's is a natural choice. It's dark, intimate and loud enough to keep you awake- even if you choose the comfortable leather couch in the back corner. And they stock both 60 and 90-minute Dogfish IPA. Nuff said.
My agenda for today was to set off by car in search of "authentic" Chicago. After a bit of a late start we headed in a roundabout way toward the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette. I don't know a whole lot about this faith, other than to say that it is syncretic with pretensions of universalism. The physical structure is an ornate behemoth, with an impossibly high ceiling and a variety of religious iconography carved into its outer exterior. From what I gathered from our short run around the visitor's center, its a bit like an Eastern Unitarianism with delusions of grandeur. I plan on doing some internet research about this religion when I get some downtime back in the Burgh. I was warned not to accept any offers fron adherents to view the explanatory film, and so we got back on the road.
I really wanted to locate unique photo opportunities, and so when the prospect of trying to find Louis Farrakhan's house was brought up, I embraced the idea. Unfortunately we couldn't find it, and we ended up in an industrial section where I took a couple of shots of a working steel mill. Imagine that. I had to drive seven and a half hours from Pittsburgh, only to photograph the steel industry. What was especially unusual about this site was the length to which the mill company went to encourage tourists to loiter about. There was a permanent placard explaining the philosophy of welcome. And there were several benches flanked by trees for the weary travele to take a load off. Apparently the 9-11 terrorist paranoia isn't running rampant in Chi-town. No one looked askance at me as I leisurely took photos of the men at work, and the scrapyard nearby.
This evening L. and I went down to Old Town to rendezvous with one of his buddies. We wanted to have our drinks outside on the sidewalk, so we ended up at a bar we wouldn't have otherwise chosen. The conversation was good, and so we extended our evening with a visit to the Old Town Ale House. Apparently this cozy neighborhood dive is a traditional haunt of the Second City players- many of which have found fame on Saturday Night Live. What really distinguished the place for me was the incredible collection of bawdy art and portraits occupying every available space of the walls. The paintings are executed in a flat, but colorfully naive style. They depict women and men caught in various stages of undress and occupied in various kinky sex acts. Perhaps tellingly, the artist included himself, peering out in a creepily voyueristic manner, in the background of each piece. Simply unforgettable. I wanted to buy a t-shirt with a particularly choice image, but they didn't have the right size. I intend to follow up online. If I see nothing else of value the rest of this trip, I will still consider myself lucky to have been exposed to this wondrous place.