words by tosten burks


Robert Lypsite on the ESPN-“Frontline” scandal

"Was attention not being paid at ESPN? Too much time spent acquiring tennis rights, the SEC, Keith Olbermann, Nate Silver and Jason Whitlock, and not enough on journalism? 

Was ESPN naïve about the relationship with a hard-driving documentary unit whose viewership, not to mention its bottom line, was not invested in football? Was it also naïve to fail to anticipate the inevitable reaction from the NFL, which from the beginning had pointedly refused to cooperate with “Frontline” (no league footage, no Goodell interview, limited access to doctors who advise the NFL on concussions)? The league was not happy with a recent OTL report on one of its main doctors — which ran on ESPN’s platforms just last weekend — so why would it support “League of Denial”? 

Or did ESPN cave in to pressure from the NFL or Disney or both? And if so, really, what was the point?”


In the eleventh hour, ESPN crumbled under the pressure of what their own investigation revealed. I don’t think they were naive about the NFL’s conflicting interests, I just don’t think they ever imagined how incriminating the investigation would turn out to be.

But at the end of the day, we’re all drafting more fantasy teams. ESPN wants to bring down this ruinous, deadly sport no more than we want them to.

What the hell is this Place? Alchemy Arts

Cross-posted in the Reader (8/22)

The first thing you’ll notice upon entering Alchemy Arts (1203 W. Bryn Mawr), an occult supply store in Edgewater a block off the Bryn Mawr Red Line stop, is the smell—a ripe, heavy, calming blanket of herbs, smoke, and catnip. The shop’s floor is packed with rotating display stands of incense, roots, and oil. Surrounding a ceramic sphinx in the corner, candles burn. And of course there is a cat present, staring into your soul.

Frieda, a stray brought in by a customer years ago, is as friendly as Alchemy Arts’ owner, Ken Kwilosz. Thin gray hair slicked back, wearing loose blue jeans, a plain black T-shirt, and sneakers, he looks like a mechanic on his day off. But the Dumbledore glasses and diet Dumbledore beard give him away. He is happy to lead you to whatever you’re looking for, be it a scented homemade candle, a love potion, or a book on dark magic. As I walk in, he puffs his e-cigarette, says hello, and goes back to bagging herbs.

A jewelry case features Wiccan pendants next to cross necklaces. And despite the ominous books that line the walls (sorted by category: healing, Egyptian, shamanism, astral, spell craft, hoodoo, the satanic scriptures, et cetera), the shop is warm and inclusive. The community gathers for weekly tarot-card readings, and in the past the shop has hosted book clubs. A home for all manners of curiosity.

Andersonville commercial district responds to loss of elementary school

Cross-posted on Medium in the Changing City collection.

Parents, teachers, and families throughout the city are still reeling from the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last Wednesday to close 50 public schools, one of the largest single waves of public school closures in American history.

Lost in the ruckus is the impact these closures will have on surrounding local business. Small business owners in Andersonville in particular, perhaps the city’s most vibrant and proud commercial district, are still struggling to cope with the new reality that after the end of this school year, Trumbull Elementary will never again open its doors.

“It’s hard because not only is Trumbull Andersonville’s only school – it provides this great educational resource in our community – but the businesses rely on teachers and parents who walk through the community, who shop here and live here,” said Colleen O’Toole, Managing Directory of the Andersonville Development Corporation (ADC). “The school itself is one of the main staples of our historic commercial district.”

Trumbull is located on North Ashland Avenue – one block west of North Clark Street, Andersonville’s main road of restaurants and retail stores. The vast majority of these are owned by Andersonville residents. Local business owners were among the most vocal during the long fight leading up to the Board of Education’s final, futile vote.

It wasn’t just the “Support Our Schools DON’T CLOSE THEM” signs that hung in seemingly every storefront window on North Clark. Business owners spoke at public hearings, badgered public officials, and altogether led the defense. Yet, not even efforts by Andersonville’s official economic bodies made an impact.

“Our office always had a presence,” said Jason Cox, Associate Director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. “We wrote letters and encouraged people to write letters and make calls to the alderman, to the CPS, to the mayor’s office.”

Cox finds little consolation though in the fact that this business community worked so hard. “I think the deck was completely stacked from the beginning,” he said. “I’m not sure what more could have been done to save this school.”

What makes the situation sting even more is that Trumbull’s relationship with the surrounding business community dramatically improved in the last year, after parents elected a new Local School Council (LSC) last April to replace the previous head, a non-resident who was in charge for close to two decades.

“Before, Trumbull didn’t do as much community outreach. Just in the past year there’s been so much progress made. It’s such a shame,” Cox said.

Now that Trumbull’s fate is sealed, Andersonville’s business owners are starting to reflect on the full effect this will have on their future.

“There is a certain number of people who work there, and parents of the kids, that brought people to the community who utilized the businesses on Clark Street,” said Don Cortelyou, Branch Manager at Bridgeview Bank on Bryn Mawr. Cortelyou is also the President of the ADC’s Board of Directors. “Not knowing what will replace that loss of income could be damaging.”

There is also the issue of what to do with the soon-to-be-vacant Trumbull building.

“Given the CPS’s track record of not really turning over those buildings in a timely manner or finding meaningful adaptive reuses for them, it makes us very nervous,” O’Toole said. “There’s major security issues and that’s very detrimental for housing and building values in the neighborhood.”

It doesn’t help that Ashland is already home to another large building vacancy, Edgewater Hospital, shut down in 2001 for medical fraud.

“Ashland is turning into a bit of a wasteland with the Edgewater Hospital site also sitting unused,” pointed out Judith Seizys, President of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Seizys suggests selling the Trumbull site to a developer in order to expand affordable Andersonville housing, or using the space as a business incubation site. Others are less hopeful about the site’s future.

“I don’t know what that building could be used for quite honestly. It’s huge,” said Maggie Finegan, a real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty as well as a member of the ADC board. “When I think about the future, it’s really disturbing.”

While it’s too early to tell the most productive way to re-utilize the space, Cortelyou emphasizes that the ADC will be involved in the decision-making process.

“We’re planning on being proactive in discussions with CPS about what we can do with the property to be a great place that will bring people to the neighborhood to soften the blow,” Cortelyou said. “We intend to be engaged as much as possible.”

A peek into Andersonville: Hambingo Night at Hamburger Mary’s

Underneath a plastic chandelier and a plastic disco ball, twenty-somethings with their Justin Bieber shirts off are taking jello shots. Two television sets show Golden Girls. An obese drag queen calls out “A8” from behind the bar. This is Hambingo.

Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville has been putting on its bi-weekly bar bingo night for five years now, raising money for a different local charity each week. This past Monday, the beneficiary was the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.

“People are so thrilled and impressed that they can raise so much money so easily,” said David Sterrett, who works for the restaurant and organizes the event. “We get a lot of repeat charities.”

It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a great time.

Surrounded by Betty Boop memorabilia hung crooked on the walls and Christmas tree lights dangled from the exposed pipes in the crown-molding ceiling, a consistently eclectic audience drinks beers brewed on site with names like “Strawberry Blonde Bombshell” and “The Flapper.”

The host, Felicity Metropolis, a brash, sassy consummate showman – show woman? – leads the crowd each Sunday and Monday through Bingo games called, among other less publishable titles, “Rimjob” (all the squares around your free space).

“I like the Rimjob especially when it’s followed by the BO,” said Brandon Wright, who owns the franchise with his twin brother Ashley. “Those two going back and forth is hysterical.”

It’s easy to get carried away by the comedy of the event, and while Wright takes pride in the fun of Hambingo, he is also quick to point out how universal his restaurant is.

“Our motto is an open-air bar and grill for open-minded people,” Wright said.

Waiter Brad Allen jokingly calls Hambingo “Lesbian family night,” but is quick to emphasize that Hamburger Mary’s is not a “gay bar,” but an “anti-hate bar.”

Look around, there are families everywhere. Bingo players range from fresh-out-of-college to full gray hair. Felicity wears drag and charity representatives wear red Leukemia Lymphoma Society hoodies. In other words, Andersonville.

Explaining Dapper

Making something from nothing is a fascinating process because of the impossibility of setting expectations. I say this as someone enthusiastically in the middle of that exact adventure.

I’ve spent the past few months whispering with a few inspiring friends in the darkest corners of Norris, plotting ideas for a magazine in the same way a fantasy writer invents a language for a book. But initial creative hypotheticals become calls of duty. We started to realize the possibilities of our parseltongue.

We’re starting Dapper because we are in love with the men of this school. Thinking about what a “men’s interest” magazine would mean for a student audience with such curious “men’s interests” became a compelling challenge.

Trust us, we get that a stated goal to “represent the collective Northwestern male identity” sounds either idealistic or ignorant.

We have no intention of projecting an image. Dapper is a mirror. The diversity of us demands a voice. We only seek to reflect.

And in doing so, hopefully realize how diminishing and simply incorrect it is to think in terms of “North-South” or “Science-Arts” or “Athlete-Muggle” or any of the other dichotomies we construct that prevent us from taking pride in our entire complicated self.

That’s Dapper. <3