Monday, November 17, 2003

Southport blog.

Amazingly foggy this morning. So much that I didn't want to risk being a pedestrian in the suburbs, and drove the mile to the train station. Quintessential November, I'd say. One gray day blending into another, not exactly cold, or warm either, and all the leaves stripped from the trees and into the rain gutters of my house.

On Saturday Yuriko and I went on a rare date in the city, with our small children safely parked at a friendly and capable babysitter in a condo just off Lake Shore Drive. The weather was much as a November evening ought to be (see above, minus the fog). We were able to park about three blocks from our destination -- that's still possible even in some popular parts of the North Side, though overly fashionable districts like Lincoln Park are parking nightmares.

Around 6 p.m. we walked a bit along Southport, a north-sough street I used to know fairly well because some old friends of mine lived at a flat in the 3000 North block in the late 1980s. Since then, some retail development has occurred along the street; I spotted the mandatory Starbuck's on a corner that I'm certain never had one before 1990.

But that part of Southport still has most of its understated neighborhood charms. Three- and six-flats, corner bars, small shops, a church or two. We were some blocks south of the Music Box, a fine '20s-style moviehouse that succeeds as a revival and art house, and wandered past an establishment that I've read has the only hand-set bowling lanes left in the city. Looking in, we could see the three or four lanes, but no one was playing at that moment. It's really a place to sit around and drink.

At the intersection of Belmont and Southport is Schuba's Tavern, a place I've passed many times, but never ventured inside. It's very much a Chicago corner bar, a solid brick building dating from before World War I probably. The long, narrow bar is in front, with a room in back sporting cramped seating for 150 or so, for small musical acts. That’s what we came for -- Al Stewart at 7 p.m. The song I mentioned yesterday -- "The Coldest Winter in Memory" -- I heard for the first time when I heard him sing it on Saturday. He gave a fine show, more about which tomorrow.


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