Ohio Street

The newbies don’t know you like we do. We used to hang out on the steps waiting for the ice cream truck at 11 pm, remember? Sure, we were kids and maybe we shouldn’t have been out that late, but we liked the dark and admit it, you liked us out there too.

There were only three concrete steps in front of our house, but that’s where we waited for the ice cream truck to cruise by. The song blared from two blocks away as we gathered up as much change as we could from mom’s old, ceramic vase (the light blue one with the chip on the side). It wasn’t my fault it fell. We looked under the couch cushions and found some more money. The rest we got from dad. Strawberry and vanilla cones for everybody.

The night kissed our cheeks and we laughed as we breathed in the last of the warm summer air.  A small chill brushed against my legs and I rubbed them to get the warmth back. Fall was coming. We could feel it.

We ate the crap out of that ice cream, which was just enough to keep us wanting more; the high of sugar—every kid’s dream. And then we went to bed, in the same clothes, no brushed teeth and you knew it and we knew it.

We spent our mornings bike riding, back and forth, down the block. Don’t go too far! Just go around the corner and back! Our wheels crushed the leaves—pulverizing them to dust. And when our parents went inside, our neighbors watched because every kid in the neighborhood belonged to every adult.

And before I put my bike away, I gave our tree, the biggest one on the block, a hug because trees need love too.

That afternoon, we made our way to the Boys and Girls Club, where we’d jump from the top of the steps. We should be dead, but we’re not. No hesitation. No fear. That’s what saved us. Every day, they gave us small cardboard boxes filled with a sandwich, a milk, a snack, and an apple. Nobody would admit it to anybody else, but we were all starving.

And then we’d make our way to Smith’s Park where we’d swing for hours and go down the slide, but mostly swing.

On the way home, we’d hit one of three corner stores: the Damen one, the Erie one, and the one owned by the gangbangers that we weren’t supposed to go to. Damn, why did the gangbanger corner store have the best candy?

We checked our pockets—thirty-five cents. Penny candies it was!

Ukranian Village, you know us and we know you. The newbies could never know you like we do.

Writer:  Janina R. Williams
Location:  Ohio Street

CLM Turns 1

chicago literary map turns 1

One year ago today an idea as mobile app was born as Chicago Literary Map welcomed the world. In turn, the world welcomed it. I have charted stories from people I would not otherwise meet, whose stories help paint a picture of what life is like, was like, or could be like in our broad shouldered city. I’ve also encouraged my family and friends to write, who are great storytellers, but have not written anything other than an email in years. And artists that may not think of their writing as publish-ready and the vets. From online courtingCocktails on ClybournThis Morning in Old Town to Time at the Pacific Garden Mission, the voices of the city are intersecting, but haven’t even begun to represent the complex beauty of the hog butcher.

I would like to take a moment for gratitude and thank DNAinfo’s LIzzie Schiffman for her piece on CLM. I would also like to thank Mike Stephens for bringing me on Outside the Loop Radio, and John Rich from the Literary Guild Complex for inviting me to read and talk about the map. I’m excited to collaborate with Salli Berg Seeley and her Explore Chicago class at DePaul University this winter quarter and to John Lillig for connecting us. The road ahead for Chicago Literary Map includes unearthing more stories, planning reading events, new collaborations, and the unknown. There are many ways to capture a moment, and I greatly appreciate all the writers who take the time to do it with words. Here’s to you! And here’s to Chicago—a muse like no other.

– Stephanie Plenner

Flyover Drive-Thru



Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Southwest Airlines Flight 341. It’s a beautiful night. Let’s make it a beautiful flight.

That’s right. We’ll be flying nonstop to 57th and Cicero. Mm-hmm. That’s right. Right over a White Castle.

Anyone here from Chicago? Yeah? Y’all goin’ home, too?

Where you from, sir? Bridgeport? Oh, all right all right. Got the boss man here. South Si-ide!

We got any Cubs fans on this plane tonight? C’mon, now, don’t be shy. There we go. There we go. This gentleman right here. Cubs fan. Looks like a long year for you, sir, I’m sorry to say. But hey, what’s another year for the Cubs?

Nah, I kid, I’m playin’ with you. Best of luck to the Cubs. Not that you’ve had any in, I don’t know, a century. Nah, I love the Cubs. I love ’em. Second only to my Sox. And about 28 other teams.

Anyway, we’re gettin’ ready to move, so strap yourselves in and we’ll soar on the wind. Please place all seat backs and tray tables in their full, upright, and locked position, and make sure your seatbelt is correctly fastened. At this time, we ask that all electronic devices are turned off. That means completely off. No airplane mode, no headphones—off. If you are unable to go 10 minutes without your phone or your music, just hit the call button and I’ll be happy to come over and lay some beats down. Or else beat some sense into you. Nah, I kid. I’m playin’. Cell phones do need to be off, though.

It’ll be about a two-hour flight from sunny Tampa to chilly Chicago, where the current temperature is 34 degrees and the current rain is what we like locals like to call “miserable.” Maybe another word I can’t say. But you know what, folks? It’s home, ain’t that right? And White Castle’s got warm booths and hot food 24 hours a day. I know I’ll be makin’ a stop.

We know you have options when you fly, and we thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines, serving lovely Midway Airport on Chicago’s lovely Southwest Side. For real, now. You don’t believe me? Yeah, all right: Midway could use a facelift. But the Southwest Side is lookin’ fine. Sometime when you’re not rushing around, trying to catch that Orange Line or that yellow, you should stay a while. Our White Castle’s great.

Anyway, my name is Robert, and I’ll begin serving drinks and in-flight snacks shortly after we reach cruising altitude, along with my partner in crime, Chicago Lawn’s own Tanya. Say hi to Tanya, y’all. Feel free to call us Young Cuz and T-Ball, or just “Hey, flight attendant!” It’s all up to you.

Until then, grab a friend so you’re not alone. Chicago, we’re comin’ home.

Writer: Pat Chesnut
Photographer: Geoff Stearns