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They told us we’d be working to-night, but they didn’t offer any details. They just told us when to show up and handed us some glow sticks. The lights go down and two huge projection screens light up. The word VIAGRA appears on both in tandem, followed by the image of six women devouring hot […]

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I put the Vitamin Water on the counter and reached for my wallet. I’d been wondering if my shirt made me look too yuppie but forgot about it when I saw the price on the bottle. A dollar thirty-nine for watered-down Tang. “A dollar thirty-nine for ‘vitamin water’?” It took me a second to realize […]

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Following Bill Clinton’s Book-Expo America keynote address last Thursday, several hundred fans rushed the rope separating the former president from his citizenry. As Clinton worked the crowd, beaming and nodding, shaking hands and signing autographs, those in the back of the throng jockeyed for spots on the front line. “He’s shorter than when he was […]

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My friend Jake asked me to help him sell “Packers Suck” T-shirts at the Bears-Packers game last month. He had sold them when the Bears played the Packers in Champaign last year and made $500 in less than two hours. “They sell themselves,” he told me. “One for $10, two for $15.” We hopped on […]

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Two women got on the elevator with me. First woman: What are you doing this weekend? Second woman: Well, it’s Sammy’s birthday, so we’re going to have a little party. I got him a birthday hat and a birthday bib. And I’ll make him a nice steak dinner. And I have to stop at the […]

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Behind her booth at the Custer Street fair in Evanston a potter had set three bushel baskets full of pots she’d marked down. “There’s nothing wrong with them,” she said. “I just need to make space.” Two boys, maybe seven or eight years old, walked up and started picking through the pots. Suddenly one of […]

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Outside Potash Brothers grocery on Clark just south of North Avenue, a trickle of stoic people walked past a tall, white-haired, and bearded StreetWise vendor in a green T-shirt. He was hawking the current issue with a smile and the following phrase: “StreetWise–help the homeless take over the world.”

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A man wearing a sweater and tie under a tan topcoat got on the southbound Red Line train at Fullerton. Boarding was a chore because he was bringing with him ten big bags–some of them made of paper, others cloth–all stuffed with old newspapers and other papers. He lifted these bags into our car two […]

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While walking south on LaSalle between Erie and Ontario I was approached by a man wearing jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt, like me, who also like me had a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. Possibly because he was black and I’m white, he assured me that he wasn’t a criminal or a vagrant before […]

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One morning I dashed across the lawn of my building to catch the 146 bus, arriving breathless behind a jovial woman who was trying to stuff coins into the jammed hopper. The bus driver was trying to cover it with his hand. “What I’m telling you is that it’s not working,” he said with cold […]

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My piano teacher told me a story of trying to buy sheet music at the Old Town School store. When she mentioned that she needed it to work on parodies (she helps improv troupes), the clerk got all huffy, saying that it was an insult and a rip-off to hardworking musical artists and he himself […]

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I was at my orthopedic surgeon’s office for a follow-up on my broken shoulder. The only other people in the waiting room were a man in his mid-20s and his son, who looked like he was around nine or ten. The man was watching Jerry Springer, while the son rolled around on the floor, drummed […]