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Fading Ad: Sen-Sen


Sen-Sen, "For Hoarseness." Gorgeous, massive ad - six stories tall. 158 N. Broadway, Third Ward, Milwaukee. I actually visited, about ten years ago, the Chicago factory where Sen-Sen was last manufactured. I brought home a sample, but don't remember trying it - the owners warned me that it had a strange taste. According to Wikipedia (which noted its "frequent use in covering up the odoriferous evidence of perceived vices such as drinking and cigarette smoking") the product was discontinued in 2013.

April 30, 2017 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (3)


"Warm, pleasant, misty weather, which the great mountain amphitheatre seemed to drink in with gladness. A crow’s voice filled all the miles of air with sound. A bird’s voice, even a piping frog, enlivens a solitude and makes world enough for us. At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say, Well do not these suffice? Here is a new scene, a new experience. Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like Emerson's idea about appreciating the small, non-monumental aspects of nature. To me, an Illinois marsh is as fascinating as a western canyon. 

April 27, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


"One ruins the mind with too much writing. — One rusts it by not writing at all." - Joseph Joubert

April 21, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

"...a crystal candle-stick of a girl..."

"If she was an angel, the girl at whom Sam was pointing, she was an angel of ice; slim, shining, ash-blonde, her self-possessed voice very cool as she parried the complimentary teasing of half a dozen admirers; a crystal candle-stick of a girl among black-and-white lumps of males." - Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth

Which I've read, but remember absolutely nothing about. Still, I love this quote. 

April 19, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)


"There is no such thing as a crime as the word is generally understood. I do not believe there is any sort of distinction between the real moral condition of the people in and out of jail. One is just as good as the other. The people here can no more help being here than the people outside can avoid being outside." - Clarence Darrow

April 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unexpected Welty


Lovely surprise from my local public library: a sharp two-in-one edition of Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding and The Ponder Heart, which I bought for a dollar from the Friends of the Library sale shelves. Over the past few months I've been working through What We Have To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell. The two were great friends for fifty years, and Maxwell was Welty's editor at The New Yorker, where The Ponder Heart first appeared, in an issue devoted entirely to that story. 

I've only read one Welty novel so far, and thus most of the references to her works in their letters have flown right past me. They talked a lot about The Ponder Heart in their letters, so I'm looking forward to not only reading the novella, but also re-reading the passages from their letters when they discussed the book, both as it was being written and prepared for publication. On the other hand, Delta Wedding seems to have mostly predated their correspondence, so I won't have a similar experience reading that one. 

At the moment I saw the Welty volume at the library, my arms were literally filled with books (Maddie is on spring break this week, and stocked up on manga) that we had checked out, but I somehow managed to take the book off the shelf without dropping the others, and even though our old house is already groaning under the weight of our personal library, once I saw what a nice edition it was, I just knew I had to buy it. My vices are relatively harmless, I keep telling myself, so it seemed safe to indulge. 

April 16, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...inflated language and other windy humbuggeries..."

Mark Twain, on the chivalric novels of Sir Walter Scott:

The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating influence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes and their grotesque “chivalry” doings and romantic juvenilities still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already perceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth-century smell of cotton-factories and locomotives; and traces of its inflated language and other windy humbuggeries survive along with it.

Of Twain's works, I am sorely under-read. I should do something about that. This passage reminds me a lot of Mencken, of whom I'm a big fan. 

April 15, 2017 in Books, History | Permalink | Comments (2)

Michael Brand Brewery, the epilogue


Six years ago, I posted about the impending demise of the old Michael Brand Brewery complex on Elston Avenue in Chicago, which was about to be demolished for a new HH Gregg store. Which indeed happened, shortly after. And now comes the news that HH Gregg is bankrupt and is closing all of its stores. So, at the cost of an impressive relic of Chicago history (and buildings that could have easily undergone renovation and creative reuse) we got about five years of a crappy Indiana electronics chain. How stunningly short-sighted. 

April 8, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forgotten bookmark


Heavily faded receipt from a long-defunct B. Dalton Bookseller in Chicago. It's the actual receipt from the original purchase (by the unknown previous owner) - the price and ISBN match the book and price sticker. Found inside 44 Irish Short Stories, edited by Devin A. Garrity (Konecky & Konecky, 1995; originally published in 1955).


April 7, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)



You had nowhere else to go. There were other hotels, dozens nearby, but none any different, or better, than where you ended up. That night, after long cold hours on the streets - the hotel didn't admit inmates until 6 p.m. - you slept fitfully, though just well enough that you never smelled the smoke. You should have smelled it clearly, with the tops of the cribs covered only with chicken wire, but the day's cold exhaustion laid you low. You had paid your sixty cents, and were intent on sleeping as well as you could, even though your lanky frame meant you had to draw up your long legs to fit the six-foot bed. The fire was the only warmth you had felt in months, and as you slept, your body must have told your mind that the warmth was good, so good, and you shouldn't stir or else the warmth would be lost. Whenever you stirred in the mornings, and were forced to rise, you had to go back outdoors into the cold, so that night your body told your mind that it would keep still for as long as it could. Your mind agreed, savoring the vicarious thrill of the fire's warmth. By the time your mind realized your lungs had filled with smoke, it was already too late. The other men may have been trampled, or coughed to death on the icy sidewalk, but not you. You never rose, never left your thin mattress, and stayed warm, for the first time that winter, right up to the end.

April 7, 2017 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

Failed novelist? No.

This anonymous writer considers herself [1] a failed novelist because...her first two books failed to get published. Her first effort at getting published lasted only "several months." And now she's so devastated that she not only has given up writing, she also no longer reads contemporary fiction. Boo freaking hoo. I'd say more, but the writer David Barnett has responded much more eloquently (and diplomatically) than I ever could.

[1] I assume it's a woman, based on the "infertile woman at a baby shower" analogy. Very few men would ever make that reference.

April 6, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


"That I ever published a page of prose was due primarily to the dread prospect of spending the rest of my days in a bank." - James Stern

April 3, 2017 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)