This weekend: Chicago

Summer in Chicago is drawing to an end, but there are great outdoor and indoor activities in my city this weekend.

Festa Italiana

bg-1-141469Summer is the time for street and neighborhood festivals.  This is one of my favorites.  It’s in little Italy, the old Italian neighborhood near the UIC campus. Festa Italiana runs through Sunday on Taylor Street between Racine and Ashland. There’s food from all the great Taylor Street restaurants and entertainment ranging from Italian-surnamed crooners to new bands such as This Must Be the Band, Acoustic Generation and my favorite band name, Inbound Kennedy.

The highlight of the festival, for some, will be the meatball-eating contest.  Personally, I’m grossed out by food-gorging displays.  The winner will be the person who eats eight meatball-slider sandwiches in two minutes. (That is disgusting.)

Lill Street Art Festival

The Lill Street Art Center (which started out on Lill Street) is celebrating its 10th year in its Ravenswood location, at the corner of Ravenswood and Montrose. The opening reception tonight will celebrate Best Served Hot: Ceramics for the Coffee Ritual, cosponsored by Intelligentsia Coffee. Saturday will include an open house and block party.  Lill Street Art Center offers classes, a gallery and studio space for artists in ceramics, metalsmithing and jewelry, painting and drawing, printmaking, textiles, glass,  digital arts and photography.  I treasure a few pieces of ceramic jewelry from Lill Street.


smalldvdIn honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, you should watch the documentary about Bayard Rustin, the strategist and activist who organized the march.  He was a key adviser to MLK until he was asked to leave (or was pushed out) because of his political past (socialist) and sexual orientation (gay). The film is Brother Outsider (available on DVD and streaming). It’s an excellent view of Rustin’s background, leadership and his activist life after 1963.  President Obama will award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rustin posthumously.  It’s bloody well time.

The Huffington Post has a good article on Rustin by Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College.

Anna Karenina, the gorgeous Joe Wright version of Tolstoy’s tragic  novel with a script by Tom Stoppard, is showing occasionally on HBO right now.  If you haven’t seen it, do.  It’s creatively staged–and staged is the right word because much of it is set in an old theater.  The railroad scenes, as ice-encased trains arrive in Moscow or St. Petersburg, are not to be missed.


Have you been to Big & Little’s? It’s a fine place to stop for a fish taco, a fried oyster or shrimp po’ boy (my favorite) and many varieties of  burger and sandwich choices.  Also foie gras & fries or truffle fries.  Yum. Delish. Not fancy.  Big & Little’s is at 860 N Orleans, just north of Chicago Avenue. There’s a tiny parking lot and you can sit inside or outside (as I did today) or carry out.  Cash only.  It’s been featured on the Food Network’s Triple-D (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and on Chicago’s Best on WGN and on Check Please on WTTW.

Wish I was at the Jersey Shore

brucenoir_bkgnd_only250I often wish that and I occasionally go to that neighborhood we call Springsteenville: Freehold, Asbury Park and West Long Branch, New Jersey. This is one of those weekends. There’s a Bruce Noir Film Festival in Asbury Park. The five films being shown are those he’s mentioned in interviews or in songs.

Since I can’t be there, I’ll find another way to watch them. The films are:

        — Gun Crazy (1950; on which Springsteen based his song “Highway 29” from the Nebraska  album)

— Badlands (1973; based on the Charles Starkweather murder spree story, which Springsteen tells in the song “Nebraska”)

— Out of the Past (1947; a Robert Mitchum film about a private eye)

— Atlantic City (1980; a Louis Malle film with script by playwright John Guare, starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon)

— Thunder Road (1958; Robert Mitchum plays a bootlegger trying to save the family moonshine business from big-city gangsters; lots of great road footage as Mitchum drives a “tanker,” a car modified to carry alcohol in the fuel tank)