Archive for the 'Chicago' Category

Driving to the Gym

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Is there a sillier first world problem than not being able to find any parking at the gym?

I’m stoked that Ravenswood, my home for the last 7 years, finally has a grocery store and a gym, but let’s take a look at how LA Fitness is situated here:


This is the back of the building. The parking lot. This is where the entrance is.


This is the front of the building along Lawrence Avenue. All this prime street-access real estate and yet there is no entrance to LA Fitness. It’s all windows and no doors.

In a city where the streets are notoriously congested, in a neighborhood with a ton of foot-traffic, on a major street that is easily accessible, we’ve built a gym that is easier to drive to than walk to.


Just a DASH of Nerd

Friday, May 13th, 2011

We don’t have a lot of magazines in the bathrooms at work.  They tend to linger for months, or even years.  One day, many years ago, I started leafing through an old issue of Rolling Stone while taking care of business and I came across this article (pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) about something called The Game. Ever since then I’ve wanted to play in one of these Games — yes, with a capital ‘G,’ and I think it’s warranted. Unfortunately, they’re never held in Chicago, they cost thousands of dollars, and I think they’ve been discontinued due to an injury.

The crux of the idea is this: Teams gather at a starting line where they are given a puzzle.  The solution to the puzzle leads them to another location where they encounter another puzzle, and so on until they reach the finish line.  It sounds simple enough, except the puzzles are so complicated they often take hours to solve.  These games tend to attract a somewhat narrow sliver of the populace, heavy on computer programmers, mathematicians, and technical-types.  In other words, nerds.

My wife, planning an elaborate game of her own, heard about a puzzle hunt being run in Chicago — much less elaborate than The Game, but the same general idea.  Knowing my obsession, she encouraged me to play.

DASH or “Different Area Same Hunt” is a game run simultaneously in several different cities. Players in each city are given the same clues, but are sent to different locations.

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Journey to the End of the Night 2011

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

This is my third year helping out with the Chicago edition of Journey to the End of the Night and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.  The first year (that I missed) had 75 people.  In 2009 we had 271 players.  In 2010 there were 404.  This year we have over 800 people saying they’re going to play on the Facebook group.  That’s some exponential growth, yo!

While the game itself is quite clever, what makes it great is how unusual it is to get hundreds of people together to play a game for no greater purpose.  I had the following conversation with someone at work:

Me: You should come it’s gonna be fun.
C: I think I will.  When do I need to sign up?
Me: You don’t.  Just show up.
C: How much does it cost?
Me: It’s free.
(C in dumbfounded silence.)

If you’re interested and want to play, the game starts at Welles Park at Montrose and Western at 7PM on Saturday May 7th, 2011.

I will be a staff chaser again this year.  I need to come up with a better costume than the gorilla.

Prepare to be Underwhelmed

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Everyone was talking about this epic blizzard that was going to hit Chicago.  Man, was I excited.  With some rare foresight, I set up a camera to take timelapse photos during the whole thing.

Well, that didn’t work.

I purposefully picked a spot with street lights so it would be visible at night, but maybe I left the flash on or the lights in the room were left on… I don’t know.  In any case, you can’t see squat during the night.  Poop.

Here’s someone who knew what they were doing:

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Morning Walk

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I was wandering around the neighborhood this morning taking care of some business when I saw a middle-aged man peeking into the old Villa May Pizzaria that’s been empty for almost two years.  My neighbors and I have been wondering what would eventually occupy the incredibly-convenient-for-us space.

Me: Is someone finally doing something with this place?
Man: Yeah… It’s going to be a Middle-Eastern restaurant.
Me: Great!  I live across the street.
Man: I’m Gene Shulter, your alderman.  I’m just checking in on our little projects.
Me: Oh!  Hi.
Gene: Let’s see how the other ones are coming along.

And with that he lumbered off down Montrose — to check in on the construction at Damen, I presume.

Bad Car-ma

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

My neighbor was out of the country for a few weeks and asked me to move his cars when the streets were being cleaned to keep him from getting a ticket.


Today, for some reason, I decided to check on the cars to make sure they were okay.  They were not okay.  They were gone.  Panic.  I started calculating the cost if they were towed.  What is it, $100/day?  10 days?  2 cars?  Oy.  Well, maybe they were stolen.  Is that better?

I called 311 (useless), the impound lot (mostly useless) and my alderman’s office (very helpful!) before finally realizing I needed to e-mail my neighbor, tell him the bad news, and get the license plate numbers so I could figure out what actually happened.  My e-mail began, “I hope your trip was going well because I’m going to ruin it…”

A few minutes later I received a response.

I am sooo sorry.  We got home Sun. and I found the cars safe and sound.  I’ve been using them and completely forgot to give you a huge thank you.  I’m sorry to have put you through the last few hours of misery.  I owe you big time.

Phew.  Problem solved.

Oh wait.  Not yet.  First I need to make an awkward call to the alderman’s office and explain the situation to the nice man who was gonna “help me out of my pickle.”

There.  Now problem solved.

“Oh No, Not the Gorilla Again!”

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Journey to the End of the Night 2009 has come and gone and no one could have asked for better weather… unless you were sprinting as fast as you could wearing a gorilla suit. In that case you might have preferred it a bit cooler.



I think my favorite part of the whole night might have been the bus ride home with blue and pink ribboned Chicagoans boarding and disembarking, all sharing stories of their adventures that night.

Other fond memories:

  • Accidentally chasing three dudes who weren’t actually playing the game — possibly freaking them out a little bit.
  • A cop yelling out his car at me… only to ask me where my gorilla mask was. (I would have worn it but I couldn’t see anything out of it. Also, it smelled weird.)
  • Chasing people through Bridgeport where it was nice to see that kids still actually play outside in their neighborhood. They loved the idea of our game so I gave them the few blue armbands I had collected and told them if they wore them they might get chased by people with pink armbands. They ended up just running from anyone who came by.

Below is a map of the checkpoints for anyone who might be interested. As a “staff chaser” my job was to patrol certain choke points and make people run.

View Journey to the End of the Night 2009 in a larger map 

Journey To The End of the Night 2009

Friday, May 1st, 2009


I was worried when Dax moved away from Chicago he’d leave behind a bunch of people who still wanted to play the crazy games he organized with no one to run them.  

Luckily, Dax decided to come back to Chicago this weekend and run his game, “Journey to the End of the Night.”  I’ll be helping him out by chasing people around.  I may or may not be dressed in a ridiculous costume which may or may not resemble food.

The game involves running through the city to different checkpoints without getting tagged by a chaser.  If you do, you become a chaser yourself, and the beat goes on. 

The game will start Saturday, May 2nd at 6.30 PM at 280 S. Columbus.  Just show up and be prepared to run.  You’ll be given maps and other information at the starting line.

What’s that you say?  You’re not in Chicago?  You live in DC?  Well, there’s a simultaneous game in Washington on May 2nd as well!  

Read more here: Journey to the End of the Night

Sweet Home

Monday, April 13th, 2009


In the London tube stations there were a bunch of travel ads for Chicago.  I didn’t see many ads for other places — maybe one or two for Aruba — but maybe I just didn’t notice the other places.  

The ads weren’t very good, but everytime I saw one I felt the need to point it out.  Look!  It’s Chicago!  I think it made Shama a little homesick.  It made me a little homesick too even though I’d only been gone for a couple weeks.

Man Tian Dou Shi Xiao Xing Xing

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008


Shama’s wanted to go to First Fridays at The Planetarium for months now, and we finally got around to going last week in 10 degree weather.  The walk from the train station to The Planetarium was ridiculously cold, but it’s worth it for the view of the skyline from Solidarity Drive.

With admission you can attend unlimited sky shows, which is great unless you get stuck in One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure for a half-hour.  Can Big Bird sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Chinese any slower?

Frosting Is More Important Than Cake

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

A few weeks ago, there was a discussion at work regarding the best cupcakes in Chicago.  Most of us in the office, myself included, are big Sweet Mandy B’s fans but Kurt sent an impassioned e-mail singing the praises of a cupcake-only bakery called Swirlz.

Time for a cupcake-off.

Turns out the company is very opinionated when it comes to desserts.

Anna (via E-mail): Seriously?  22 emails about cupcakes? Seriously?
Tiffany: I think you just made it 23, Anna.

In fact, there were about 40 e-mails on the subject.  Despite all the chatter, a clear victor emerged: Sweet Mandy B’s.  

Sweet Mandy B’s: 53%
Undecided: 17%
Swirlz: 12%
Other: 12%
Hates Cake: 6%

Basically, it came down to the frosting.  I think Amanda summed it up best:

  1. Thank you, very much, for the cupcakes.
  2. Swirlz is the superior cake.
  3. Mandy’s is the superior frosting.
  4. Since frosting matters and the cake is irrelevant, Sweet Mandy B’s wins, no question.
  5. The fact that they’re cheaper and closer means that Swirlz is heretofore banned from our offices.  Long live Sweet Mandy B’s!!  

The Architect and The Urchin

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Dax’s street game, “The Architect and the Urchin” was this weekend.  The game goes something like this:

Every player is given a nametag that they keep on their right wrist.  The goal of the game is to collect as many nametags as possible.  Nametags are collected by taggin players on other teams.

There are three teams, Orange, Purple, and Yellow, each identified by a colored armband.  The Orange team can tag people on the Yellow team, the Yellow team can tag people on the Purple team and the Purple team can tag people on the Orange team.

Each player is given a map with 12 locations on it.  At each location is a stamp.  You need at least 9 stamps to cross the finish line.

Only travel by foot or on CTA trains is allowed.

Shama and I were on the Orange team and we gathered the mysterious Kevin into our cohort as his friend didn’t show up.  We all decided we wanted to try and get the award for getting all 12 stamps as quickly as possible.  We figured most people would start south and work their way north towards the finish line.  Our plan was to take a train north and then do a big loop.

Here’s the route we ended up taking, complete with checkpoints and annotations. Click on “view larger map” to see the details:

View Larger Map

When we finally huffed into the finish line, we were told we were the 7th, 8th, and 9th to finish with all 12 stamps.  Not to bad for over 100 players.  I also won second in the “best photo” contest for this shot of Shama jumping a fence:


I Think I Met The Bobby Fischer of Rochambeau

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Dax has developed a “street game” called The Architect & The Urchin.  Here are the rules.  This is the greatest thing ever.

Last night Dax had a practice session to help him work out some of the kinks.  A bunch of people met on the steps of the Art Institute and played some tag, sardines, and other games white people like.  I’ve always loved sardines.  We only played one round beacuse the hider did such a good job — lying in tall grass of the garden outside the Art Institute.  It took over an hour for everyone to find him.  I was in the middle of the pack, but Shama was one of the first, using a tried and true tactic that my friend Eddie used to use when we played as kids: act like a weirdo and listen for snickers.  

Hiding in the garden

I think my favorite moment of the evening was when two people in our group played rock-paper-scissors to decide who would hide first.  After a decisive victory,  a stranger ran across Michigan Ave.

Stranger: Who won?
Winner: I did.
Stranger (holding out his hand to play): Let’s go. 

The mysterious stranger won three straight games, pumped his fist (rock?) and then walked off down the street.  When you’ve got it, flaunt it… I guess.

Hole Encore

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I live on a resiliant little street.  Well, not the street itself — it’s as frail as a lactose-intolerant octogenerian — but the businesses around it manage to keep going despite multiple floods, a ridiculous sinkhole, a year-long train station construction project, and now… emergency sewer repair.  Here’s the news we all received:

Repeated partial collapses during cleaning and inspection operation have persuaded the Department of Water Management that a full sewer replacement between Damen and Hermitage is necessary.

Repeated partial collapses?  That explains why the neighborhood smells like a toilet.  Still, Roong Petch, Glenn’s Diner, Lather, Subway, Scot’s, Beans and Bagels and my friends at the convenience store keep on truckin’.  Even El Torito has signs that they’ll be reopening soon.  El Torito, which looked like this only a couple months ago:

Kudos bi’ness.

Don’t Let The Fame Go To Your Hedge Funds

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

There are film writers who can do a better job reviewing The Dark Knight than I — here’s a good one — but, like everyone else, I sure dug it. As advertised, Heath Ledger steals the show, but I was even more impressed with the performance of our fair city. Chicago wore very little makeup in its portrayal of Gotham, and the city looks gorgeous. I was particularly excited when Batman threw the Joker into a limestone wall that I’m pretty sure was my bank. My bank! A big movie star! I can say I withdrew from it way back when.

I suspect The Dark Knight will join The Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as one of the all-time best Chicago movies. High Fidelity did pretty good too. Oh, and Stranger Than Fiction. And don’t even get me started on John Hughes. What are your favorites?