Book Review: No Ketchup

This book by Dennis Foley, subtitled Chicago’s Top 50 Hot Dogs and the Stories Behind Them, is a city-dweller’s delight. Foley has credibility to spare (more on this later) and the book is organized in a way that’s perfect for keeping in the glovebox of your car. That way, you’ll never be without guidance when the urge arises to eat like a true Chicagoan.

Gordon Meyer with book

Foley rates and ranks hotdogs across the city (sorry not sorry suburbanites) using a succinct scale and terms defined in the front of the book. By the time you’ve read a few, you’ll find yourself looking for a 4 mustard bottle place that serves thummys with a full M7 complement. (Trust me, it works in the context of the book.)

But the book is more than just hot dog reviews. If a place also makes a good Italian Beef, that’s noted too, for example. But the best bonus is the stories that Foley includes. There are numerous sidebars about history, people, and city life. It’s clear that Foley is true blue Chicagoan — a salt of the earth type that cares about his fellow citizens and has the Irish gift of gab.

I trust Foley’s rankings because he clearly gets around. All the compass directions in the city are well-covered, aided by the fact that Foley used to be an electrician for the city’s Streets and Sanitation department. This took him all over, and the job allowed plenty of time for lunch breaks. (Insert your favorite city worker joke here.) Interestingly, the folksy and casual tone of his writing belie his MFA and law degrees. Chew on that for a while!

Sadly, although this book is current, it was researched and published just before Trump’s pandemic so there will surely be some changes to the restaurant landscape in the coming months. For that reason, I encourage you to seek out local recommendations now, and to forgo using the coupons that are included in the back of the book. They’re only for a dollar off (of a ten dollar purchase) and I’m betting the extra buck will be appreciated by the restaurant.

Foley has done the gut-wrenching (literally) work of eating more than fifty hot dogs over the course of fifty days. (The places that didn’t make the cut are omitted and unnamed.) The least you could do is buy his book, right? I got my copy at Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park, but you’ll find it on Amazon, too. Bonus: If you buy it from Quimby’s stop by the nearby Devil Dawgs — which is in the book — or neighborhood gem George’s, which Foley inexplicably did not list.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book review: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show

Gordon Meyer with the book

This book, by Steve Bryant, was delightful. I think anyone will enjoy it, but if you happen to be a magician, ghost show fan, or resident of the Midwest (or, ahem, all three) you’re in for a treat with page after page of allusions that will make you smile.

Before starting to read this book, I didn’t read the back cover summary. Therefore, I didn’t come to realize that Lucas and the troupe were dead until I got to around page 23. A realization that made me laugh with delight. (It’s not really a spoiler for me to say this, as most people will pick up on that a lot sooner, if not before they begin.)

Another moment, which I definitely will not spoil, is the perfect ending. Seriously, it’s exactly how the book should wrap up, and it offers something that you’ll recall with a smile in the future.

It’s a rare feeling for me to have, but about halfway through this book I realized that it would make a wonderful movie. I hope that Disney or someone else has optioned it from Mr. Bryant, it has so much potential for the big screen!

Just one more note, yes this is a “Young Adult” book, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s smart, clever, and fun. And if you need more convincing see my review of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.

Now, run off and get your copy of Lucas Mackenzie at Amazon, I’ll meet you in the back row of the theater, the show is about to begin!


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A visit to Amsterdam's Oudmanhuispoort (2019)

Gordon Meyer Old Man's House Passage

Oudmanhuispoort (Old Man’s House Passage) was part of an 18th Century senior citizen’s home. We learned about the place during a late-night “ghost tour” and vowed to visit the ancient market when it was open for business. Not too long after, a rainy day provided the perfect excuse.

In the mid 1880s this passageway became a place for vendors to sell music, books, and prints. That’s still going on today, although during our Tuesday morning visit most of the stalls were closed. One booth that was open sold nothing but used dictionaries — of every kind imaginable, such as “Biblical Greek.”

It’s said that Amsterdammer Vincent van Gogh was inspired by the Japanese prints he saw here, forever changing the course of Western art. The print vendor open on the day we visited had many great pieces to choose from, at very reasonable prices. Two (a Pooka, and a Water Fairy) will be making their way back home to Chicago with us, which poses a new challenge for our luggage situation, but we’ll do our best. (Update: We visited again, and while more booths were open that time, it was still fairly sparse. Perhaps September is off-season for the market.)

Gordon Meyer Old Man Prints Purchase

The shop’s owner was a charming lady whose only U.S. visit has been to Los Angelas, so she had a few questions about Chicago, which she said was one of her best-selling old map prints.

Postscript: The passageway and surrounding buildings are now home to the University of Amsterdam’s School of Law, which makes clear their view of interlopers in classic passive voice:

Gordon Meyer Amsterdam Schol of Law

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: You Are Wonderful coloring book

gordon meyer with book

The subtitle of this book by Eliza Todd is “A Coloring Book That Thinks You’re Pretty Darn Cool.” (Spoiler alert: the feeling is reciprocated.) Yes, let’s get one thing out of the way first, I’m 45-50 years older than the target market for this book. I don’t care, not only because I have no shame, but also because adult coloring books are actually a thing too.

But the problem with “adult coloring books” is that they strain for credibility. They’re serious. They’re complex. Coloring them makes me feel like I have a second job. A job that I’m not good at. I don’t need that stress and pressure!

Todd’s book is simply delightful. It’s affirming, friendly, and cute. And as you focus (just enough) on coloring it, you discover all sorts of delightful and endearing touches. Before you know it you’re smiling, and if you’re not careful, having fun.

You can get your copy from Amazon for a very reasonable price. Welcome to the world of adulting like you don’t give a damn.

(You might also like Book Review: Why You Should Read Children’s Books)


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

iOS 14 Camera setting not restored on launch

In iOS 13 (and prior, probably) there was a Camera setting that would “remember” how you had the app configured last time you took a photo. This was very handy if there are particular filters, aspect ratios, and other tweaks you typically use when shooting a photo. (These days, for example, I mostly shoot iPhone photos in Square ratio.)

After installing iOS 14, this totally changed. Camera would no longer launch to my previous settings. I found a preference that seemed to be the same as the one in iOS 13, but it didn’t work the same. Bottom line: To mimic the old behavior you need to turn on all three options in Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings. Seems like feature creep to me, but there you are, go forth and be happy.

iphone camera settings

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A true story from Amsterdam (2019)

Gordon Meyer holding a guitar pick

We had a “date” to meet Kay and Flo for drinks the day after our joint nighttime dinner cruise of the Amsterdam canals. Gale and I arrived early and settled in at “Bar Americain” at the American Hotel. (The fact that we were early will surprise few of you.)

The walls of the bar are filled, corner to corner, with framed 8 × 10 photos of celebrities. Gale immediately recognized a few — such as Boy George — and as we waited for the arrival of the server we tentatively identified several more, including Slash.

Our server, Roger, confirmed many of our guesses and explained the photos were all taken in the bar. (I was wrong about Lenny Kravitz, it was a Dutch singer that Roger assured me I’d never heard of.) Gale and I were both surprised at how bad Billy Idol looked and would have never recognized him. And of course there was no mistaking the boys from Texas, ZZ Top.


One of my favorites, which Gale spotted, was a young Dweezil Zappa.


Dweezil Zappa photo

Kay and Flo — who were staying at the hotel — said they heard that it was soon to become a Hard Rock property. Which makes sense, given the rock star appeal. A guest book in the lobby displayed the signatures of UB40, who were playing in town that weekend.

Roger did a good job of keeping us well served and told us, when asked, that he was a true native, having been born just a few blocks away. He also offered Kay and Flo a couple of tips for their next destination, Barcelona.

As we left I gave Roger a Bucktown pin, and he gratefully reciprocated with a Bar Americain guitar pick.

We had a great time visiting with Flo and Kay. We left them well after dark (despite intentions otherwise) and had a long walk back to our canalboat, in a heavy rain. But it was worth the experience and friendship, both new and old. I’m hoping we get back to see Roger again before we leave.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

I am judging your return address labels

"The mass of men lead lives of boring return address labels. I choose not to count myself among them."

I couldn't agree more. Join the author and me in spreading a little joy with every missive:
One Foot Tsunami: Fun With Address Labels

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Londonist Mapped

It was only the second day of our long trip across Great Britain and Europe and here I was at Waterstones in Kensington purchasing a large-format book. Bless my wife for putting up with my impulse to buy it. (But she made it clear that I was the one who would have to stow it until we had a chance to send it home.)

Gordon Meyer Londonist Mapped Book

The hassle of hauling, and eventually mailing, “Londonist: Mapped” was worth it. It’s a self-described book of “Hand drawn Maps for the Urban Explorer,” which is accurate, but it isn’t until you page through the book that you discover how quirky and enchanting the contents truly are. Londonist.com commissioned many artists to create the maps and each one offers and different style and perspective on the city. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but “Things you might not have done near Brick Lane,” “A banker’s pub crawl,” and “A guide to tube pedantry” are all fascinating. And as a visitor, the brief but enlightening text that accompanies each map made me feel more knowledgable than I am.

Now that we’re back home in the U.S. — and locked in our mandated self-quarantine — opening this book not only takes me back to happy memories, it also reminds me that things to love and appreciate are everywhere underfoot.

If you’re fortunate enough to be a Londoner, I suspect that you’ll love this book. If, like me, you only get to enjoy London occasionally, get this book now and you’ll have a greater appreciation when you’re there, and happy daydreams of visits until you return. You can order a copy here at Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

There's no shame in little or slow

Today's culture seems to only value big successes. But little successes have a lot to recommend them too: The luxury of atypical success

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer

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.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site should you happen to purchase a qualifying product. Humbly, Gordon Meyer