The official user's manual for sunshine

Summer Strategy: Rooftop Rebellion

Fireworks, Memoirs & Miscellany, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

We’re surprised by the sun every minute that we’re in it, on our Wolcott Avenue roof in Ukrainian Village. We’re shocked when we sweat so much that we have to take our sweaters off. There’s debris up here from previous tenants; discarded, dead and burned-out fireworks, partially empty beer cans—which we joke about throwing across the street to the Happy Village tavern—cigarettes unsmoked, and a very rusty chair.

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Summer’s Midnight Baker: Tending to Business at Baghdad Bakery

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Baking bread at West Ridge's Baghdad Bakery.

Baking bread at West Ridge’s Baghdad Bakery/Photo: Sarah Conway

Faris Shlaimon, forty-six, an Assyrian Iraqi, describes summers after midnight in West Ridge from the counter of Baghdad Bakery at 2732 West Devon.

Summer is bad inside the bakery because it’s hot, but it’s the best season for business. Imagine it is thirty degrees hotter inside the bakery than the street. Sometimes, it’s 130 degrees in here. I have four working ovens so no matter the ventilation system or air conditioner, in summer it’s a sauna but my guys are used to it. Homemade bread, that’s why.
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Heralding Summer: The Indomitable Rainbow Cone

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The multi-colored Rainbow Cone. Photo: Scott Smith

The  signature cone/Photo: Scott Smith

By Scott Smith

If there was any justice in the world, the family name most closely associated with the greatness of Chicago would not be The Daleys.

It would be The Sapps.

Sure, the Daleys built O’Hare, Millennium Park and several other monuments to Chicago’s spirit of ingenuity triumphing over reason. But in 1926, when Old Man Daley was still finding his way around Bridgeport, Joseph Sapp and his wife Katherine built Original Rainbow Cone, a small store at 92nd Street and South Western Avenue that sold a unique, five-flavor ice cream treat of the same name. Some ninety years later, the store is in roughly the same location as when it opened and a Rainbow Cone remains one of the finest desserts known to man, woman or child.

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Forest Preserve Tales: Hunting Wild Onions

Food & Drink, Memoirs & Miscellany, Parks & the Great Outdoors No Comments »

It is late May in Chicago. Inside Cook County’s Forest Preserves, along the North Branch of the Chicago River, it is now warm enough to kayak absent the fear of freezing water. Pushing our boats onto the muddy shore for a beer break, we see another early summer tradition. Read the rest of this entry »

Real People: Real Italian Ice

Food & Drink, Ice Cream No Comments »


Chicago is brutal. There’s that saying that the two nicest days of the year here are spring and fall. It’s true that the weather is varied and vicious but even after the ice has melted and the trees have bloomed there is still time to wait until true summer arrives. This year that fact has been very apparent. It was eighty degrees in April, but since then it hasn’t risen above fifty-two. To some people that may be acceptable, but I need summer and I want it now.
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Ode to the Ice Cream Man: Mister Softee’s Song

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mister-softeeAs a kid, there was probably no sound of summer streets as alluring as the Pied Piper jingle-jangle of ice cream trucks. Good Humor had a little row of bells the white-uniformed driver would clatter, more a Pavlovian alert than a tune. Hearing the pre-recorded, vaguely nursery-rhyme-like song of Mister Softee, however, was both the mesmerizing harbinger and continuing soundtrack of summer. Though even as a kid I wondered how the Mister Softee driver maintained his sanity with that repetitive, almost baroque, plinkety-plink going on all day, for the brief moment that Mister Softee pulled up by the curb in front of our house, the song made us dance in anticipation of soft-serve ice cream in cones, shakes and sundaes.

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The Liminal Life: A Letter from a Chicago Expat

Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

By Kate Bernot

A pleasantly liminal state is what I remember about all my Chicago summers. I lived in the city for four years, but the summers are melted together in a loose block like the popsicles that inevitably defrosted between the store and my freezer.

I attribute this in-betweenness to Chicago’s mandate that I walk or bike almost everywhere during warm weather. I live in Phoenix now, a city whose summers’ heat is a mockery of humans’ choice to settle there—don’t give me that line about dry heat; when it’s 115 and asphalt turns to molasses, the dew point is irrelevant. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding the Festive: Limestone, Water and Fireworks at Promontory Point

Fireworks, Parks & the Great Outdoors No Comments »

When I first came to Chicago in 1994, I lived off Lake Shore Drive near Promontory Point in a charming, yet somewhat decrepit hotel that had been pressed into service to house the precocious youth in attendance at the University of Chicago. I was one of these youth and I was set on exploring the Point as soon as possible, if only as a safety valve from those who wanted to compare SAT scores endlessly and offer long-in-the-tooth panegyrics inspired by Plato’s Republic.

Created by the government largesse that was the Works Progress Administration, this pregnant outcropping of landfill buttressed by an array of limestone boulders is best experienced in summer. If you’re out in the early morning, you might encounter a clutch of yoga enthusiasts setting up shop, dog walkers leading their charges, along with cyclists and joggers, who are as ubiquitous as squirrels.

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Bike, Swim, Run: A Triathlete Weathers the Warmth

Bicycling, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

freddy bike

Fredricka Holloway, forty, is a youth worker and a triathlete. She lives in South Shore. She ran her first triathlon in 2007 and has run forty more races since then. 

It’s 5:04am and the glimmer of new light grazes the horizon and crawls across the calm waters of Lake Michigan as I stand and stretch at 63rd Street Beach. This is the only time of year that the sun rises early enough for my morning run to coincide with it and with the growing warmth and occasional breeze that smells of manure and fresh-cut grass. This moment, plus a calendar full of triathlete races for me to conquer, is when I recognize that summer is officially here.
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Our Elotero: Waiting For the Mexican Corn Man

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By Tiffany Walden

There weren’t too many outsiders voluntarily strolling through North Lawndale–bearing treats no less–in the 1990s. The area was (and still is, for now) an enclave of predominately black, borderline impoverished, hard-working grandparents, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts with a sprinkle of your neighborhood dope boys.

We grumbled through the winters, happy at first and then mad at the mounds of snow that made our streets impassable. But as the days grew longer, skies bluer and weather hotter, the sound of a particular jingle would echo off the two-flats lining the 4000 block of West Lexington Street. That’s when we knew it was time to go outside.

No, it wasn’t the ice cream truck playing Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” that warm weather favorite across all socioeconomic lines.

It was the sound of the Mexican Corn Man, as he was so affectionately called by myself and the other kids. It was only when I grew older that I learned that, in his culture, he was an Elotero. I really can only remember him through a ten-year-old’s lens, and now I wish I’d talked more with him; learned more about him. Gotten a recipe. I moved away from North Lawndale, to the west suburbs, when I was a fifteen-year-old. But until that move, his presence was a mainstay of my summers.

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