Some People. And Chicago

Brief encounters with nice folks. And some mostly unrelated pictures from Chicago.

Trump Tower, seen from the El

Trump Tower, seen from the El

When the Republican Convention came to Chicago in 1944, this tavern posted a sign saying "No Republicans Allowed," thus cramming the joint with Republicans demanding to be served. Savvy as hell

When the Republican Convention came to Chicago in 1944, The Billy Goat Tavern posted a sign saying “No Republicans Allowed.” Soon the joint was crammed with Republicans demanding to be served. Savvy as hell

Welcome to Illinois

Welcome to Illinois

Jeff – the Billy Goat bartender since 1981
“My god – you’re Norwegian? I’m so sorry.”

Motel-clerk in Battle Creek
“Why would you spend a night in Battle Creek?”

Oh, look. Another skyline

Oh, look. Another skyline

A dive bar owner, drunk, profane, lovely
“What can I get you motherfuckers? Draught beer? We ain’t got no draught beer here. Choose again. Where you from? Norway!? Okay, you like it strong, I’ll get you some bottles with some oompf. See that couple in the corner? They’re from New Fucking York so you ain’t the only ones who don’t belong here. Where you going now? South? Okay, you gotta stop by this church I know of. It’s the nicest motherfucking church in the United States’ hemisphere.”

Every time the Chicago Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup, Post-It expences are off the charts

Every time the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, Post-It expences are off the charts

The entire population of St. Louis, trying to cram themselves into one MetroLink Car on the night of July 4.
Really, I don’t think I’ve experienced public transport this packed outside of an African minibus (you know the kind, registered to carry 16, modified to carry 24, carrying 36).

Would you like the lucky horse shoe or the diamond encrusted American flag cuff links to go with your loafers?

Would you like the lucky horse shoes or the diamond encrusted American flag cufflinks to go with your loafers?

Two drunk girls with a camera
“Hey gorgeous – we love your hat. You have the best shirt we have ever seen. Please will you let us two girls take a picture with you?”
(No, I won’t. While my hat is brilliant, my shirt is only so-so. Besides, you threw a whiskey cork at me to get my attention.)

First time in a coin laundry. Damn exciting

First time in a coin laundry. Damn exciting

The five year old at the zoo searching an empty rhino pen with her eyes, finding only the stray rabbit
“That’s not a rhino is it?”
(“Yes,” I told her, “it is. The Northern, white-furred mini-rhino is extremely well adapted to the barren, snowy landscape of the Chicagoland winters.”)

The Green Mill. Come for the jazz, stay for the restroom wall prose

The Green Mill. Come for the jazz, stay for the restroom wall prose

The Green Mill II. When singer Joe E. Lewis wouldn't take his act here during the Prohibition Era, owner "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn cut out his tongue and slashed his throat

The Green Mill II. When singer Joe E. Lewis wouldn’t take his act here during the Prohibition Era, owner “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn cut out his tongue and slashed his throat

The Chicago waitress taking my girlfriend’s order
“You have the best accent. Would you mind a lot if I tried it?”

Whether you're wearing cargo pants or tuxedo - neon head bands go with everything

Whether you’re wearing cargo pants or tuxedo – neon head bands go with everything

The restroom vandals at The Green Mill (the place is classy, their prose less so)
“Baa baa raa raa doo da your face!”
“Hemingways you’re favorite band (sic)”

July 3. Warming up with some light firework

July 3. Warming up with some light firework

This is America part four. Read part three here, part two here, part one here.

A Tale of Three Cities

It was the beginning of times, it was the end of times, and somewhere in between a rabbit stole the mayor’s parking space.

City One: Oil City, Ontario

Oil City, Ontario

Oil City, Ontario

Oil Springs, Ontario. America's first oil well

Oil Springs, Ontario. America’s first oil well

Or rather, the trio of adjacent towns: Oil Spring, Oil City and Petrolia. The first American oil rush took place here from 1858 and onwards, after an asphalt producer set out to dig a water well but found free oil instead, sparking what was to become the oil industry.

Population:
Oil Springs – 704
Oil City – 2930
Petrolia – 5528

City Two: Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan. The gospel

Flint, Michigan. The gospel

Flint was the center of the Michigan lumber industry. Lumber money funded the establishment of a carriage-making industry. Horse carriages gave way to automobiles. Flint became the birthplace of General Motors and a major player in the nascent auto industry. At its height GM employed 80,000 workers. Then the industry collapsed. NPR describes Flint as ground zero for the decline of American manufacturing. For the past decades Flint has suffered from disinvestment, deindustrialization, depopulation, urban decay and high rates of crime. FBI recently ranked Flint the most violent city per capita in America for the third consecutive year. According to FBI’s statistics, Flint had more than 2,774 violent crimes in 2012. They included 63 murders, 108 rapes, 673 robberies and 1,930 aggravated assaults.

Population: 102,434 (down from 200,000 in 1960)

City Three: Sarnia, Ontario

Sarnia, Ontario

Sarnia, Ontario

Back across the border to Canada, midways between Flint and Oil City, in the city of Sarnia, a rabbit sat on the mayor’s parking space on a summer evening.

Population: 72,366

This is America part three. Read part two here, part one here.

Viva Las Canada

Welcome to Niagara Falls. Would you like a really, really big bed?

Casino on the hill

House Casino on the hill

They are

They are

Falls #1

Falls #1

Poncho Town.
Smurf City.
Disneyland Ontario.

Everyone’s blue, poncho’ed
against the mist and spray
of the friendly neon-lit natural splendor.

Schlock romance!

Honeymoon suites with
heart shaped beds,
heart shaped tubs,
heart shaped towels.

Cosmic dinosaur mini golf championship.
Big screen wrestling at the Hawaiian bar.
Wax museum upside down house of horror resorts.

And on the American side:
21,000 tons of toxic waste
dumped in Love Canal.

Girlfriend in disguise

Girlfriend in disguise

Margaritaville. Certainly

Margaritaville. Certainly

Motel #1

Motel #1

Motel #2

Motel #2

Neon is a colorless, odorless monatomic gas under standard conditions.

Neon is a colorless, odorless monatomic gas under standard conditions. That and kitschy

When dinosaurs roamed the earth, miniature golfers roamed too

When dinosaurs roamed the earth, miniature golfers roamed too

Motel #3

Motel #3

Motel #4

Motel #4

Eye of Sauron. Revolving restaurant

Eye of Sauron. Revolving restaurant

Falls #2

Falls #2

This is America part deux. Read part one here.
Also: This is fantastic.

New York Fact Sheet

A set of ten facts* from the photographer’s very first encounter with America.

Manhattan

Manhattan

Ground Zero

Ground Zero

One block from Ground Zero

One block from Ground Zero

Fact one (pre-fact): Just south of Greenland’s Cape Farewell, at a height of 39,000 feet, an elderly gentleman watches the same inflight entertainment video of a skateboarding bulldog again and again. (This might be the best thing he ever saw.)

Fact two: Taxi driver Armando changes lanes on average 34 times a minute on his way from JFK to the Lower East Side. The Indian businessman in the Lincoln Town Car who didn’t drive like an arse but otherwise followed the same route arrived ahead of us.

Donuts. And dollars

Donuts. And dollars

Fact three: WIthin two hours of arriving the US I had eaten a jelly donut in my underwear.

Fact four: The worst rower in the world is a large black woman in a rental boat on The Lake in Central Park. Her teenage daughter is not embarrassed at all, but lovingly supportive. (Hooray for the world.)

Manhattan. Again

Manhattan. Again

Empire State Building. Tourists on the 86th floor #1

Empire State Building. Tourists on the 86th floor #1

Empire State Building. Tourists on the 86th floor #2

Empire State Building. Tourists on the 86th floor #2

Fact five: The best picture I never took was the portrait of the two ten year old Jewish twin girls on Lee Avenue: identical flowery old fashioned dresses, identical oversized bows in their hair and identical joyless eyes (yes, we’re all thinking about the Grady Twins).

Fact six: You are very friendly – in a loud and very direct way. I’m a Northern European – as in proudly depressed and introvert. We need to work on our relationship.

7th Ave w/ tourist

7th Ave. And tourist

Chinatown

Chinatown

Fact seven: I’ve finally seen the Chelsea Hotel. (A favourite anecdote: Janis Joplin meets a young and unknown poet in the elevator of this hotel, and tells him “I’m looking for a man called Kris Kristofferson.” The unknown poet – that is Leonard Cohen – tells her “You’re in luck little lady. I’m Kris Kristofferson.”)

Fact eight: One New Yorker in a carnival-sized top hat keeps shouting “I’ve got hair under this, I’ve got hair under this!” while banging his fists on a hairdresser’s locked door. Another New Yorker offers some helpful tips on how to stop aging caused by sin. A third New Yorker promises $750,000,000 to the person or persons who will expose the FBI for putting a “poison tracking device” in his body.

Tourist in Central Park #1

Tourist in Central Park #1

Tourist in Central Park #2

Tourist in Central Park #2

Fact nine: Looking for a place to piss and have a few more beers, I stumbled upon the stomping grounds of late photojournalist Tim Hetherington. The place called Half King is co-owned by Sebastian Junger, the author and filmmaker who collaborated with Hetherington on the Afghanistan verite documentary “Restrepo,” according to the LA Times.

Fact ten: I’m slowly growing accustomed to your boisterous manners. I think we will get along nicely, America.

Tourists on Times Square

Tourists on Times Square

Tourist in general

Tourist in general

Tourist on the Staten Island Ferry

Tourist on the Staten Island Ferry

* By facts I mean “facts”. 

BTW: In the blog piece The Tourist and The Tulip I explain some of my motivation for blogging on this trip.