The official user's manual for sunshine

Kneecaps: The Summer I Went Home

Memoirs & Miscellany, Summer Romance No Comments »

MuncieBy Naomi Huffman

Last summer I began a long-distance relationship with a man from my hometown, Muncie, Indiana. I don’t know exactly why, not yet, but I think I just really wanted to be in love. We had grown up together but had very few actual memories together—he’s a few years older than me, and we’d attended different high schools, and I moved to Chicago and didn’t think about him for a decade. But then we reconnected when I was home for my sister’s wedding in July. We began talking every day, and then I was booking round-trip Megabus tickets to Indianapolis twice a month: for my mother’s birthday, for Labor Day, for occasions I’d missed or otherwise ignored the past five years, enamored as I was with Chicago and my own oh-so-busy life, but which now seemed as good an excuse as any to come home and sleep in an almost stranger’s bed and pretend I knew how it was all going to turn out.

That my frequent trips home would set off a summer that changed my relationship with my mother should have seemed inevitable, but it didn’t at the time. I never seem to see that sort of thing coming. Read the rest of this entry »

Dog Days

Summer Romance No Comments »

By Ray Pride

Johnny Ratones is humping my leg with quiet urgency as I simmer on the porch swing waiting for Sally to come from the kitchen with the smokes she’d stowed just above the freezer with the taped-down tearsheet of Johnny’s Cash’s extended digit. Even in the worst neighborhoods, sitting on the back porch on summer can be the most romantic escape. I miss having my own back porch, I think, as lightning lights, thunder cracks. The filthy black Lab hopes to bite into my thigh as I shake off his embracing forelegs.

It’s late July and as humid as dew on an impossibly small and perfect peach. Small soft drops scatter. This is how I like summers to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer in Avondale

Living Arrangements, Summer Romance No Comments »

By Stephanie Ratanas

“I tried to clean as best I could.”

Randy made absolutely no effort to appear sincere. Though the apartment was small, his voice bounced and echoed slightly in the hollow space. We stood facing each other in the empty two-room studio I was about to sublease from this man, a battered plastic broom leaned against the wall between us. Dust and hairballs sat next to it in a gray, miserable pile.

“So. Do you want a broom or not?”

I looked down at the broom, then back up at Randy, who appeared to be sweating through his gray short-sleeve button-up shirt, which didn’t make a lot of sense since it was only June and not close to the sweltering heat the summer would eventually introduce. His graying, balding head was sickeningly analogous to the pile on the floor. Read the rest of this entry »

The Summer of Living Dangerously: A writer’s remembrance

Living Arrangements, Summer Romance No Comments »

By Martin Northway

It was an L-shaped second-floor apartment in Old Town with a bay window in the crook of the L. It looked southeast with a clear view of the Hancock. My Shaker-simple desk was placed such that I was backed against the gorgeous view. I would pound at my typewriter—no computer as of yet—and fling crumpled wads of paper on the floor till the end of the day because I didn’t have a wastebasket.

It was my summer of writing dangerously. Grieving estrangement from my ex-wife and family in southern Indiana, I’d come back to Chicago’s South Side, labored a while as an A/V scriptwriter along Michigan Avenue and thrown that aside for the urgent need to simplify and write short fiction. The landlord was desperately trying to sell the building and most tenants had fled, but Bad Penny had friends there and brokered a space for me. Cheap, no lease, and the neighborhood was gentrifying all around St. Michael’s “Catlick” Church, whose bell extolled its provenance on the hour. Read the rest of this entry »

The Complete Summer

Amusement Parks, Baseball, Food & Drink, Living Arrangements, Outdoor Concerts, Parks & the Great Outdoors, Road Trips, Summer Romance, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

Before you can say “cold front” it’ll be September and you’ll be wishing you hadn’t spent all summer watching reruns on TV. There’s a whole world around Chicago, and for three months, it’s not as icy, bitter and unforgiving as a jilted lover. The sun glistens of the concrete, steel and glass menagerie we call home. But since it’s such a pain to find out what’s going on, and to plan things, NewCity did the work. From hot air balloons to Binti the ape who save lives, we tell you where to go to make you want to sing like Brian Adams about the Summer of ’97. Read the rest of this entry »

(Re)heated Memories: Rolling out a summer flurry of flings

Summer Romance No Comments »

By Richard Knight, Jr.

What is it about the heat that makes people so willing to throw both their character and principles right out the window, in exchange for anything from a few minutes to a few months of intense romance? To hell with caution, with the consequences. I once received a letter from a woman who wrote, “I believe that love is what we are here to get”—and that certainly made sense, at the time. But now I wonder if an intense little fling actually offers deeper pleasures. No worries about commitment, no need to drag out the baggage of past relationships, no reason to run a reference check.

Then again, there is the pain. Just a random sampling of the “Romance” section at the video store reminds me what’s ahead after that memorable fling: Katherine Hepburn dumped by Rosano Brazzi in “Summertime,” John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John havin’ summer fun in “Grease,” all of those blanket movies, endless versions and variations of “Brief Encounter”—and of course, “9 1/2 Weeks” the ultimate Cliff Notes romance film.  The ice cubes and the riding crop and the department store bed were great. But at the end everyone cries and cries because it’s over, forever. I am reminded of a song lyric by a now-obscure seventies singer/songwriter, Libby Titus: “My mind won’t stop showing those old movies of you.” Now that’s a memorable summer fling. Read the rest of this entry »

Small Town, Big Names: Discovering world-class architecture among the Indiana cornfields

Road Trips, Summer Romance No Comments »

By Mike Michaelson

Everyone loves an underdog. There are the unseeded tennis players who reach the Wimbledon finals and the amateur golfers who survive the cut in the Masters. There’s John Sayles making acclaimed films on a small budget. And tiny Oshkosh  with its massive air show. And then there’s Columbus, Indiana, David among the architectural Goliaths.

With a population of less than 35,000, this Hoosier town, surrounded by stubby cornfields, forty-five miles south of Indianapolis, has more distinguished architecture than cities fifty times its size. In 1991, when the American Institute of Architects asked members to rank U.S. cities based on design quality and innovation, diminutive Columbus came in sixth. It was exceeded only by, in order, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington. Pretty heady company. Read the rest of this entry »