On the cover: Photo by Melinda Fries. For more of Fries’s work, go to melindafries.org.

Our cover this week was born out of a sense of uncertainty, something most of us have been feeling for about 22 months now. While it’s true that some of us (ahem, especially some of us on the editorial side of this newspaper) like to periodically check in with prognosticators and astrologists (or even that guy who sells flowers outside the Jewels on Archer who will shout your weight at you with aggravating accuracy), the beginning of the COVID-19 age in March 2020 pushed the great majority of us to look out for any kind of reassurance, be it mystic or medical. 

It’s a tough thing to pay attention to the news these days, but hey, when has it ever been an easy time to pay attention? A friend is fond of reminding me that at least we don’t live in the Stone Age and have to spend our hours hunting deer and bison with homemade axes, but sheesh—at least Paleolithic people didn’t have to deal with property taxes and wrangling streaming services, AM I RIGHT? 

No, I’m wrong. It’s true that the blessings of our modern age come with some curses, and there are some questions in the universe that humans are perhaps here to worry about for the course of our days. Even though we managed to find a Magic 8-Ball, a grade-school-style paper fortune-teller (I know some of you used to call it a “cootie catcher,” and you can keep that to yourselves), a mini slot machine, various books on alchemy and chaos, tarot cards, and a good luck pig drawing from a friend’s daughter, we still can’t predict what this year will bring. While we’re all waiting for a sign, at least we’ll continue to bring you the best of Chicago’s stories that we can muster