Category Archives: Around Town

Chicago Writers & Poets: A Poem by Mary Gray Kaye




Here’s another installment of Chicago Stories’ feature, Chicago Writers & Poets.

   Our writer this month is Mary Gray Kaye. Mary writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.



Little mindsets
In our country
Little mindsets
          filled with tickytack
Little mindsets
Fill the sidewalks
Static mindsets
          all the same

There’s a red one
And a blue one
And a  right one
          and a  leftish one
And they’re all made
Out of tickytack
And they all smell
          just the same

And the people
With their mindsets
Always plugged in-
          to Giant teletubes
So they stare at
Glowing boxes
Where what comes out
          is the same

There are poor folks
And some rich dudes
And some  multi-
          figure millionaires
But they’re all bound
Up with tickytack
And they all sound
          just the same

And they all will
Carry  banners
As they holler at 
          their antagonists
And they”ll bring
Little babies
Who will learn from
          moms and dads

Learn to holler
Clever slogns
They’ll believe in
          ’til the day they die
While they’ll stand on
Little boxes
But they’ll still sound
          just the same

Soon the small boys
Become big boys
And the  small girls
          try to grow up too
While the big shots
On the top tier
Fill their heads with
          sticky glue

So they settle 
Into blue states
Or they fall in-
          to the redder states
And they stick with
Gooey tickytack
And it all just
          stays the same

copyright mary gray kaye
Inspired by Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds


Chicago Writers and Poets – A poem by Ilze Vitands

         IMG Randolph 2 

 Chicago Stories is introducing a new feature: Chicago Writers & Poets with new works by Chicagoans who bring their personal perspectives to the Chicago experience. I’ve been involved in writing groups and classes for a number of years and continue to meet and read the work of those who are capturing in words their unique take on Chicago life. I’ve been having so much fun I just want to share some of that with all of you. And I’ll be sneaking in some of my stuff, too.

A poem by Ilze Vitands.


 By Ilze Vitands                                      

                   Once inside a kitchen cluttered,

                        at the counter there I uttered

                        over many a sauce and condiment bottle

                        and knives with vinyl grips.

                        Here I paused in reverence, asking,

                        my body’s wisdom thus unmasking, 

                        after so much multi-tasking,

                        What refreshment here equips?

                        Of the best and healthy choices?

                        What food here shall pass my lips?”

                     Quoth my body, “Eat some chips.”


                 Ah, distinctly I remember

                        my reaction, this dissembler!

                        How my wise and knowing body could retort and be so flip?

                        So I spake, “I am mishearing.

                        Surely you would not be steering

                        me to such unworthy leering

                        at that yellow plastic clip

                        holding closed this bag of Ruffles?

                        “Truly, this food I should skip!”

                     Quoth my body, “Onion dip.”


              Presently, with virtue stronger,

                        hesitating then no longer,

                        “Sir,” said I, “No, wait..Madam, you must see

                        this weakness has to stop.

                        Do you not have resolution?

                        Stand against your own pollution!

                        Respect the eons of evolution

                        that will crumble from this slop!

                        Imbibe some purest mineral water!

                        Eat the green and leafy crop!”

                   Quoth my body, “Drink some pop.”


            “Be that then our words of parting!

                        Exercise I will be starting.

                        Hoist me hence from my apartment! 

                       To the vast Lake Michigan Sea!

                        There I’ll run along the paving,

                        End this self-destructive craving!

                        My own soul I will be saving!

                        Breathe the air so deep and free!

                        I’ll  run until my sweat

                        doth fill my eyes so I can’t see!

                   Quoth my body, “Watch TV.”


            So my body, glad in quitting,

                        still is sitting, still is sitting.

                        Watching reruns of Green Acres,

                        sharing pork rinds with the cat.

                        But in the dark before each dawning,

                        I plot afresh against each scorning

                        Repeating every doctor’s warning,

                        Every warning falling flat.

                        “Won’t you heed my wisdom, body?

                        Make some effort? Lose some fat?”

                   Quoth my body, “Screw all that.”

Inspired by The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Quoth My Body was pulished previously in the Journal of Ordinary Thought. Ms Vitands writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

A Poem for May

How to Work                                                      

I’m talking about this old guy from here

name of Charley

that old boy was something


could ride a horse standing up

I seen pikshers of him on his horse

Jiggs in World War I days

he’d swing his little bulldog Jiggs

around his head

dog holding on to the end of a rope with his teeth

suppose he liked the name Jiggs


that old boy could do some work

bought an eight-room house

no kitchen no bathroom

put ‘em both in by hisself

made the cupboards from scratch

landscaped the backyard

rock-walled gardens and a patio

took off the front porch and built a new one

added two rooms

that time his friend Everett helped out


old boy could do some work 

he was sixty-some and

 started shingling that two-storey place

by hisself

just a little guy maybe five-foot-one

hundred and ten or so

done some shingling before but not much

no matter

used asphalt shingles

stiff brittle stuff broke easy weighed

a ton, fifty pounds a bundle

he would sling it up

on his shoulder like a 15-pound ham


Charley wanted his boy to help some

and yes he did      some

 he told the boy to use the pre-drilled

nail holes in the shingles

driving the nails too deep’ll shatter the shingle

kid needed to pay more attention

than he was used to

three broke shingles and three ass-chewins

went a long ways for making the boy a worker


every night after work and weekends

got the job done in two years

that’s his house across the road there

sixty years nothing’s sagging

shingles‘re looking good

Charley’s been gone forty years now


enough talk  let’s go

grab that bundle

sling it up on your shoulder

that’s the way, sling it

now bring it up the ladder to me

remember what I told you about

bein’ careful driving them nails

you and me we’ll get this goddam job going yet

and it won’t take no two years.


Copyright Larry Ambrose

The February 2013 Puzzler


Here’s your Chicago Stories February Puzzler!

Who am I?Where am I?

Who am I?
Where am I?


Check the picture of the statue.

     Who is it?

     Where is it?

Now, click on “Leave a Comment” and enter your answer.

I’ll reveal the solution in a couple of weeks.

Good Luck !


A Poem for the Month

Chicago Stories’ Puzzler is taking this month off.

In its place is “A Poem for the Month,” one of my recent poems,

usually on a topic of interest in Chicago or something having taken place here.

Magic Start 

The light-bathed, glass veranda

welcomes you to lunch high above

sparkling yellow leaves lining the

bronze River winding through

a Miesian canyon,

gently suggesting that

dining is



You order wine. Chardonnay.

Peruse the menu absent Soup du Jour,

Buffalo Wings, Miniature Crab Cakes.

Fall for the mysterious Toasted Corn Bread Pudding ,

Spicy Shrimp, with Warm Pico de Gallo,

Avocado Salsa.

Luscious crisp round crust encasing

supreme soft pudding smoothness

that seeks out every suggestible

corner of your mouth. In time,

add a sip of wine,

senses singing out a chorus

of rhapsodic tingle and attitude.

Another bite, into beautiful

copper grilled shrimp, begs that

the moment never end.


Pause, return to pudding,  

shrimp and wine,

leisurely now.

The wine settles on your pallet, and you

are the wondrous being

you’ve suspected of yourself  

all these years. 

You can do anything.


Anything at all, especially the never-before.

Gazing out your back window,

re-tasting the moment,

Chopin turned low, settle back

and revel

in your first, most perfect nap.


Copyright© Larry Ambrose

A Day on the Town

9:30 a.m. Ready to go. How’s the weather?

9:40 a.m. Chestnut, on the way to the 151 bus

9:45 a.m. Well, where is it?

9:55 a.m. Finally!

10:15 a.m. Omigod! It’s raining! Get the bus!

10:25 a.m. Still raining. Where’s that bus??

10:35 a.m. Here it is! Now we can go shopping! 

11:45 a.m. Shopping’s done. Three buses later. Hungry? Check this out.

12:00 Noon. I’m hungry! Hurry up!  (The Bridgehouse Tavern.) 

12:05 p.m. Chicago’s Leading Lady

12: 15 p.m. Great fish and chips!

12:30 p.m. Best taxi town.

12:45 p.m. Wanna rent an electric boat? We got electric boats.

1:20 p.m. The bus home

1:40 p.m. Home at last!

Your July Puzzler

Chicago Theatre

Chicago Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depending on your age or years spent in Chicago, your memories of the venerable Chicago Theatre may vary widely from those of others. Built in 1921 by the famous theatre chain of Balaban and Katz, it was probably the best-known of the great Chicago cinemas in the Golden Age of the movies. Seating 3,880 people, the Chicago was a dominant movie theatre from its beginnings through the 1940’s. 

In the early 1950’s the movie industry began to feel the effects of the new popularity of television, which severely cut into ticket revenues. Theatre owners were forced into a great variety of promotional efforts to shore up ticket sales. Among these was to air-condition their theatres.  How many of us remember the banners under their marquees announcing, “Cooled by Refrigeration” 

The Chicago Theatre was no exception to this trend. Planners envisioned that the A/C equipment could be located in the basement directly below the vestibule where crowds of patrons waited to enter the auditorium. This vestibule was lined with large ambient-air wall vents, about 4 by 6 feet with lattice-like grills through which the air could pass. Figuring that the air conditioning could be hooked up to the vents, the technicians checked out the basement. There they discovered hundreds of old wallets covered in dust. A look at the contents showed that most were decades old.

Now here’s your July Puzzler:

How did the wallets get there? And why were they there?

So have at it! 

Include your entries, guesses, or expert answers as a “Comment” below. All are welcome! None will be disqualified!  

I’ll reveal the correct answer in a couple of weeks.

 Good Luck Everyone!


English: Chicago Theater

English: Chicago Theater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)