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Book Review: Homicide — Bucktown

Gordon Meyer with book

This book by Samuel T. Logan features police reports and post-factual location photographs of nine neighborhood murders. I was fortunate to review a prepublication copy and wrote the text below, which Mr. Logan opted to include on the back cover.

“The Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown is known for its tree-lined streets, family-friendly attitudes, and easy access to downtown. All in the shadows of the working-class factories that are now high-end condos. But there are darker shadows too, which neighbors only speak of in hushed tones (or private Facebook groups). Like all such gossip, much of it is exaggerated or just plain wrong. In Homicide: Bucktown, Sam Logan has done the painstaking work of shaking loose the actual facts from the government authorities. But if the cold procedural descriptions make you feel uneasy, the accompanying in situ photographs provide reassurances that, despite horrific events, life goes on. But do take heed, you can’t unlearn what you’re about to discover.”

Get your copy (and its earlier published sibling “Murder: Wicker Park”) at Quimby’s Bookstore.

Time Traveling in København

Our first encounter with the future, on this very strange day, occurred in the Assistens Cemetery (c1760). We were playing the fabulous Shadow's Notebook puzzle walk and it led us to the grave of Andreas Morgenrødt.

Andres Morenrodt Grave

According to local lore Andreas made at least four trips back in time and eventually perished in a forward jump, in 2064, as noted on his tombstone. Or, at least that's what I think the story is, as the scant info findable online is in Danish.

That evening, at Tivoli Gardens, we encountered a tightly packed array of wildly spinning and tumbling time machines. Every one had a bright red LED display that indicated the relative year for each pilot. Above the carriages, a giant mechanical clock ticked backwards at a steady cadence.

Tivoli Gardens Time Machines

Tivoli Gardens (c1843) is said to be the inspiration for Disneyland. That may not be verifiable, but it is easily believable, as the attention to detail and whimsy is apparent at every turn. Also notable is the tenor of the rides — they operate at speeds and heights that no lawyer would ever allow in the US.

Tivoli Gardens Ride

Our third and final time-shift of the day happened in Tivoli’s homage to Danish back alleys. There we ordered two delicious “toasties” for dinner. It wasn't until after finishing our sandwiches that we noticed this, below the cash register:

Sign in Tivoli Gardens

Not entirely sure of its meaning, we took it as a sign to bring our day to a close.

Postscript: After telling the above story to our friend George (Hi George!) he correctly prognosticated that our time travel would continue the next day with a visit to the 1970s at Christiana — the autonomous commune/utopia within Copenhagen. Groovy, man.

A true story from Shetland's only town

gordon and goat

Standing outside the Lerwick store that specializes in goat’s milk soap, Connor the goat and a ruddy one-toothed man raise money for the regional hospital to buy an MRI machine. Last week, Connor raised nearly £2,000. Connor’s human friend loved the Bucktown pin that we gave him, after dropping some coin in Connor’s collection plate, of course. In retrospect, Gale observed we only assumed that Connor and the man were together. He might have just been standing nearby.

A true story in which I become an object in a scavenger hunt

coffee at Tate Modern

As we were leaving London's Tate Modern, a British woman approached. “Sorry to bother you. We’re on an office scavenger hunt and need a photo with a bearded man.” She added “It’s a competition,” likely as clarification in case “scavenger hunt” was a foreign concept.

(Gale and I exchanged amused glances. Five years ago, in Antwerp, a young woman who was participating in a bridal scavenger hunt sought us out as I was writing in my notebook because she needed to take (and keep) a ballpoint pen from a stranger.)

I told the lady that she was in luck as I happened to fit both her criteria. She snapped a quick selfie with me, then departed with thanks. Behind us, Gale noticed that her colleagues, watching our exchange from a few yards away, were shaking their heads and waving their hands. “You have to shake hands!”

She had left out that requisite characteristic, so she apologetically asked for a mulligan. This time Gale snapped a photo as the two of us posed with clasped hands and big smiles.

I quickly gave her a Bucktown button before she scurried off to join her coworkers for their next discovery.

A true story from Liverpool

“Can I ask you a question?” The ruddy mid-thirties man said eagerly, waving as he approached across the busy Liverpool town square. I don’t know what expression I gave him, but he quickly added “I’m not going to hit you, you’re bigger than I am!” Now within normal speaking voice range he asked Gale and me “Have you got a sense of humour?” “No” and “Yes,” we answered respectively and simultaneously.

Taken back only a moment by Gale’s response, Paul introduced himself and proceeded to tell us about the self-published humour magazine he “and his mates” were selling. He had a lot more to say, but I was lost in his verbal freight train of familiar syllables that only occasionally coalesced into recognizable words. Trance-like, I smiled, nodded, and decided I liked him.

After exchanging a fiver for two issues (one pound in savings!) I presented him with a Bucktown badge. As we parted ways with handshakes all around Paul leaned in and whispered to me “they’re good bathroom reading.”

Gag Mag Covers

A few steps away, we turned back and Paul was approaching another couple, now wearing our pin on his chest. Gale said “Too bad that he lost his job after the brain tumor.”

What? Apparently, I had been smiling and nodding throughout his sad tale.

Book Review: The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam

This delightful large-format paperback by Jan Rothuizen, subtitled Hand Drawn Perspectives from Daily Life, is one of the most charming and fascinating books in my library. My fondness for maps, hand artwork, participant observation, and Amsterdam coalesce perfectly in this book.

Gordon Meyer holding book

Each two- page spread is a “map” of a mundane (or sometimes famous) area of the city. The artwork is engaging, but it’s the annotations and details that draw you in. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you’ll frown. Having spent a little time in many of the areas, the art brought new details to light, and also (because the book is a couple of years old) let me consider how the area has changed since being captured.

It’s hard for me to decide on a favorite, but his drawing of an Albert Heijn supermarket certainly stands out. I was instantly transported back to the aisles of the one near our apartment at The Wittenberg. And the annotations resolved a few unanswered questions that puzzled American me. (Such as why Kellogg’s boxes are smaller — it’s to fit the Dutch shelves, which are shorter on the bottom rows. Duh.)

Other maps, such as Rokin, Vondelpark, and a canal houseboat stand out too. Having personal experience, I found these were honest representations, so it leads me to trust the others I didn’t get to see, such as a methadone clinic, a delivery room, and commune-style home.

I bought my copy of the book at the gift shop at Our Lord in the Attic (Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder) and proceeded to haul it around in my briefcase for the next several weeks. It was well worth the effort and is now one of my favorite souvenirs of the city. You can get a copy from Amazon, too. If this sounds like something you might dig, don’t hesitate. You can imagine me waving at you from the nave in Oude Kerk.