Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chicago: Quimby's, Bars and more.

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.


awhisperatdawn said...

Hello Merge; I have also visited the Baha'i temple as well as the Baha'i World Center in Israel. Baha'i is not a syncretic religion. It has a unique set of principles and teachings all from the pen of one author whose title was Baha'u'llah. His given name was Mirza Husayn Ali. He was from Persia but was exiled to Palestine as a punishment for His beliefs. Baha'is regard their religion as a continuation of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Babi Faith which was the forerunner to the Baha'i Faith. Its social teachings are the equality of men and women, the harmony of science and religion, elimination of prejudice, universal auxiliary language, the need for the nations to form a commonwealth and to construct an addition level of government where all nations are represented fairly, universal peace and a spiritual solution to the economic problem. I am a Baha'i of 35 years experience from Niagara Falls, Canada. -Peter

Bill said...

Hello dear friend,

I am glad you had a chance to see the Baha'i House of Worship. The current display in the visitors' center is outdated and will be replaced when the planned new visitors' center is constructed.

You mentioned that the Baha'i Faith "is syncretic with pretensions of universalism... From what I gathered from our short run around the visitor's center, it's a bit like an Eastern Unitarianism with delusions of grandeur."

I hope you'll take some time to investigate the Baha'i Faith to get a clearer picture of what this religion is about. The Baha'i Faith is not syncretic, although this is a common misperception. In fact, it is an independent revelation from God with its own scriptures, institutions and spiritual life. Baha'i spiritual
practice includes belief in God and eternal life, daily prayer, an annual fasting period, pilgrimage, charitable giving, and meditation.

The Baha'i Faith recognizes the validity of the great religions that came before it, just as Christianity accepts the Jewish prophets, and as Islam accepts major figures of Judaism and Christianity.

The Baha'i message is universal. One of its messages is the oneness of religion and the need to achieve the unity of the human race. I am sure you see these as noble goals.

May I recommend that you contact Baha'is in your home community and ask them about attending a Baha'i study circle or a devotional program. May you have an exciting spiritual journey and find a place you can call home.

Merge Divide said...


1. the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

"Baha'is regard their religion as a continuation of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Babi Faith which was the forerunner to the Baha'i Faith."

"The Baha'i message is universal. One of its messages is the oneness of religion and the need to achieve the unity of the human race."

Just saying...