Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Native American, post-apocalypse

NAME: Kevin
LOCATION: Sultan's Market, Wicker Park

I got this, uh... it's one of the shirts I got from like the one-dollar rack at, like ... I think it was the Brown Elephant. And, uh, I liked it so much even though it already has pre-existing pit stains. But you know whoever got rid of it clearly saw the potential in it. You know, it's pretty ratty. It's really just one of those shirts I like to wear because I expect to get laid. I expect to get fucked when I wear this shirt. Not like, you know, I wear this, like, "Oh, I'm totally gonna get fucked tonight." But it's: "I'm going to get fucked tonight because I'm wearing this shirt. Because of this shirt." I look at me in the mirror, and I think, "I would fuck me." Just because of this shirt. And only because of this shirt.

So that's what - also, it's just pretty cool. I like looking at it and imagining where the Indian is.

Where do you imagine the Indian to be?

I don't know. I think it's like, after a nuclear bomb or something. I don't really know. That's for you to decide. I guess.

Have you ever gotten laid in this shirt?

No. Not once.

Friday, September 18, 2009


NAME: Jamie
LOCATION: The Firkin & Pheasant, Orchard & Diversey

I don't believe for a second that this is from Bermuda.

Well, I've actually been there, but it's not from Bermuda.

Where's it from?

The Salvation Army on ... some street in Worcester, Massachusetts.

...which is your hometown?

My hometown.

Did you get this before or after you went to Bermuda?

Exactly six years after. I was eight when I went to Bermuda and I was fourteen when I got this t-shirt.

You must have some fond memories of Bermuda.

I don't know - I was scared! Because everyone wanted to braid my hair and I was eight years old and it was - I had never really seen like many black people before. It was scary. Are you putting this on the internet? I messed up.

Why is this now your favorite shirt?

Um, well I've had it for almost eleven years now and it's, y'know, basically see-through ... it's real nice ... a great color ... they don't make 'em like they used to.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

go SOX!

LOCATION: U.S. Cellular Field (Royals @ White Sox)

Is this shirt actually handmade?


Did you make it yourself?


Can you tell me about this logo?

Well, I guess I'm a rabid south-sider, so this is a rabid south-sider.

How long have you been a Sox fan?

Hmm, let's see. Probably about fifty years.

Fifty years!

Yeah, about. More or less!

How are they doing this year?

[Sue makes the "so-so" gesture with her hand.]
They're a .500 team, I guess. We might be able to win our division, so... I'd be happy with that. I believe in miracles. And I love the bleachers! I wouldn't sit anywhere else!

How long have you lived in Chicago?

All my life! Fifty-five years.

And how long have you been coming here? Or, over there?
[I am gesturing towards where Comiskey used to be.]

Holy-moly! About fifty years!

Anything else you'd like to say about the Sox?

Go Sox! I love 'em all! We've got a great line-up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Golden State Warriors / THE CITY

NAME: Hilary
LOCATION: Paulina Brown Line

Is that the Golden Gate Bridge?

It is! It's actually - the logo is the old logo for the Golden State Warriors. They used to play in San Francisco.

The Golden State Warriors?

Yes. They are the basketball team that now plays in Oakland.

Are they in the National Basketball Association?

They are. Good job. They moved to Oakland in, I think, the seventies.

This is, like, a "retro" shirt.

It is, yeah. But I moved to San Francisco about a year ago and it made me kind of sad to be for the first time in a city where I had no relationship to any of the sports teams. So this was... no. That's not true. I do have a relationship: I dislike many of them intensely. But I have no beef with the Golden State Warriors. So this seemed like a nice connection to my new city.

Explain to me what 'THE CITY' has to do with The Golden State Warriors.

Well they used to play in SF and that was just their logo. If you go look at old photos, this was on the jersey and everything.

That included the words 'THE CITY'?

'THE CITY'! Amazing, right? It doesn't look like a sports logo! But it was.

Okay. Aren't you being a poser?

No! I'm a Celtics fan, but I'll go to some Warriors games this year, because they just signed Steph Curry, the kid from Davidson. I'm kind of excited, actually.

Oh, I know who he is! He's that guy who is adorable and great and whose team didn't make it to March Madness this year because his team sucks. He was carrying them two years ago and then this year, even he couldn't carry them. Because, who has ever heard of Davidson.

He will also be unable to carry the Golden State Warriors. But I will go to some games, and it will be fun.

[By the way, according to wikipedia, the Philadelphia Warriors relocated to San Francisco in 1962. The San Francisco Warriors played in Oakland with increasing frequency between 1966 and 1972, and finally changed their name over when they permanently housed themselves at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. They are the only NBA team whose name includes neither a state nor a city.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CUNT [sorry, mom]

NAME: Jessica
LOCATION: Parrots Bar and Grill, Wellington & Halstead

There really isn't a story behind it. But, I just wanted an offensive shirt. I had never seen anybody with the word 'cunt' on their shirt before.

You got this made at the Jive Monkey?


How do you feel about that word being familiar to people?

I think it's a good thing, because I think people don't know what it really means. It means: 'Can't Understand Normal Thinking' and there's a reason women are very offended by it, and I think that should be done away with.

Do you feel like you're reclaiming it, the way black people reclaim that other word that I'm not gonna say because people might get offended?

No, I don't think I'm reclaiming it necessarily.

I've read this book called "Cunt" that was all about how women should reclaim the word. It's like: if a word is offensive to you, you make it your own and then you turn it back around. Is that what you're trying to do?

No, not really. Like I said, just make it familiar kind of. Like, overexposure. So it's not a big deal when it's said.

But is the idea, though, to lessen its value as an insult to women?

Well, yeah. That's not a bad idea. But the shirt, though, I just wanted it to be offensive. I just wanted people to stop and go, "Wait, what does that say?"

Have people done that?

Oh yeah! Because it's very subtle. And they have to stop and kind of look at it for a second then they're like, "Does that say what I think it says?"

Would you say this shirt has been successful?


[The Jive Monkey is an independently owned and operated store in Lakeview, one of the family of stores under The Alley's umbrella. They'll make any t-shirt you want!]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harvey Danger

NAME: Kyle
LOCATION: Schubas, Belmont & Southport (Chicago stop for Harvey Danger's farwell tour)

You're a Harvey Danger fan.

I am. I have been for a couple years, actually.

Only a couple years?

Okay, for about ten years. Since "Flagpole Sitta" came out. I mean I really don't like the song now but it was what first introduced me to them.

You don't like "Flagpole Sitta"?

It grew old. It got overplayed. It's - I mean, it kinda overshadowed any other song they had that came out.

They have a lot of other stuff, obviously.

They have four albums! I mean, three plus all the bonus stuff.

But do you want them to play "Flagpole Sitta" tonight?

I wouldn't be offended if they played it but I mean I'd rather the room be saved in the set for something more obscure.

How do you feel about the band breaking up?

Very disappointed. I mean, I know they haven't been very active in a while, but I mean, I didn't mind just like once every couple years a new album coming out... I've driven downstate to see their tour before. It's fun times.

How many times have you seen them?

Only twice.

What's your favorite Harvey Danger song?

My favorite one is probably one that I don't even have a complete cut of off their original demo tape, called "Ignore Me". Otherwise, like as far as more popular songs go, my favorite single is probably "Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo". Or, "Woolly Muffler" if we're gonna go with just album tracks.

My friend Mal over here wrote out a top ten. She likes "Wrecking Ball".

Ooh! I really like that song. Have you heard the piano version that they did on the "Little Round Mirrors" EP?

[Here, Kyle and my friend Mal went off on their favorite Harvey Danger deep cuts for about ten minutes. Instead of transcribing all of it, I'll just link you to this video, which I feel is a pretty impressive representation of the joy that swells in my heart whenever I hear Harvey Danger's one big hit.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homeless PRIDE

LOCATION: Parrots Bar and Grill, Wellington & Halstead

Are you homeless?

No, I'm not homeless actually. No, I'm not. When I first moved to Chicago, my brother thought it would be funny to get this shirt for me because I lived downtown in the dorms at the UC. I don't know if you know where that is.

Wait. Like, the University of Chicago?

No, the University Center.

Okay, no, I don't know what that is.

I went to Columbia. It's like this gigantic dorm that has DePaul students, Roosevelt students and Columbia students. At the time I went to Columbia. I lived in the dorms and my brother thought it would be funny to get me a bunch of t-shirts - like, random-ass t-shirts, like I got some other funny ones too. But, uh, he thought it'd be funny to get me a whole packet of like random-ass t-shirts that just had funny shit so this shirt's actually from LA! So...

Do you know specifically where it's from?

No, I don't. I could call him and ask him. He'd probably know. I think it was some like weird shop in Hollywood or whatever. But, uh, fuckin' A! He sends it to me man and I seriously like open it up and I was like, "I can't wear this here! I'm gonna get my ass kicked!" and he's like, "Just try it out once, just try it out once." And y'know, all right, I wore it, I wore it out when I lived downtown, and this chick comes up to me and she was like, "Are you seriously wearing that?" And I was like, "Yeah." She's like, "You homeless?" I was like, "No, I live - y'know I'm standing in front of a dorm, I'm not homeless."

And she was like, "Has a bum ever threatened you about that?" I was like, "Why would a bum threaten me? It says 'Homeless PRIDE' on it." So I'm like, obviously I've got pride for the homeless! Like, y'know? It was just like this long huge funny conversation with this girl.

And then actually some homeless dude saw me with it on, he got kinda pissed off about it, like, this was where I work, there's a lot of homeless people that like come around. He got kinda pissed and I was just like "Dude." I was like, "Really." I was like, "It says Homeless PRIDE." I was like, "What does PRIDE mean?" He was like, "Oh. You're not making fun of us?" I was like, "No, dude!" I was like, "I'm giving you guys props, dude, for fuckin' livin' on the streets, fuckin' survivin', man!"

And he was just like, "All right, all right. Can I get a cigarette?"

And I was just like, "No!" I only had one on me at the time, dude! I was just like, "No, dude, this is my last one." Like I'd say to any normal bum, y'know, like, "This is my last cigarette, bud."

The basic story is: my brother wanted to give me a ton of funny-ass shit when I moved out to Chicago about four years ago so I've been rocking it for about four years. Man, the Homeless Pride. Gotta love it.

Would you, in a pinch, bum a homeless guy a cigarette, though? If you had more than one?

If I had more than one? Well, I didn't do it today. Just 'cause he's a normal bum that comes around and he caused a lot of havoc so I was like, "No." But if it was a nice bum, like I don't know if you know Dorothy? Like she's been around this area like a very very long time. Like I would bum bums I know a cigarette. Yeah. 'Cause dude, I smoke American Spirits, dude, and they're fucking expensive as shit.

And the cigarette tax just went up.

Yeah, so. If I was smoking like a Marb Light or a Marb Red yeah, if I had over half a pack left, definitely. Or if they need some change, if I got some change in my pocket, y'know, I'll just throw it down. You gotta have homeless pride. Unless you got under a half a pack of cigs left and no change and just like, twenties and tens. Like, I ain't givin' you fuckin' that shit, man. This city's expensive enough as it is!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

eels with strings

LOCATION: Clark St, Lakeview

Tell the uninitiated about eels and Mr. E.

Eels is my favorite band of all time and, let's see. They're from California. They had a hit about 1996 called "Novocaine for the Soul". But then, after that, they didn't really have any big hit radio songs. They just kinda kept going but people didn't really know that they kept going. Well I knew they kept going. So I kept listening.

What about "Last Stop: This Town"?

That's another one they kinda - yeah, that's true. They did have one more - it wasn't as big a hit, but y'know.

I love that song.

I love that song, too. They're a great band.

So was E morose and depressed when you met him?

Uh, no. He was rocking out at a concert. I've been to see them three times.


I saw them first time at the one down here. The Metro. Yeah, the Metro. And then I saw them again in Detroit and I saw them again - this is the concert I got the shirt from - I saw them at Park West.

How did you go about meeting him, to get him to autograph the shirt?

I just hung out after the show. The first time I met him was at The Metro when I was young and dumb and excited to meet a rock hero and so I was this very scary big man going crazy.

Just how tall are you?

I'm 6'5". So I said, "Hey, can I get a picture?" And he said, "Yeah, sure, whatever." And so I just went like this...

[To demonstrate, Jon threw his long lanky right arm over my shoulder with delightful enthusiasm.]

...and so the best picture I've ever taken in my life is me smiling this big huge smile and him looking off to the side not even looking at the camera. So, that's the first time. And then the second time I, you know, I went home that night and I thought you know what? He's probably gonna think I'm a big jerk or whatever and if he ever sees me again he's probably gonna wanna punch me in the face so I gotta lay low this time and so I just went up to him and said, you know, "nice concert" hoping he wouldn't remember this big kid from Chicago who mauled him last time. So I just asked him for an autograph and he was cool.

This says something here?

It says "E was here".

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


NAME: Donnacha
LOCATION: Landmark Theaters, Lakeview

Christopher Walken!

I just like the look on his face.

What movie is that from?

It's from "The Prophecy".

Nope, never seen that.

It's one of those, like, angels are gonna bring about the apocalypse, blah blah blah. The movie's crap. This is good.

What's your favorite Christopher Walken movie?

"Batman Returns".

Great choice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wii-mote with Nunchuck

NAME: Nathan Lane
LOCATION: Landmark Theaters, Lakeview

My name is Nathan Lane. No, really it is.

Can I see some ID?

Yeah. I mean, do you want my school ID or my real ID?

[It's true. I'm no bouncer, but his identification looked legit.]

Your name is Nathan Lane.

I'm one of two. Truthfully, um, Nathan Lane is causing a lot of trouble in my life. First of all, it's not his real name. His first name is actually Joseph. And the second issue is like when he came out when I was in middle school, my life turned into a living hell. But only some people actually know about Nathan Lane so I can't always make a joke about him.

Tell me about your Wii-mote shirt.

My Wii-mote shirt. I recently went to Allentown to visit my mom, which is kind of close to New York City so I went to New York City and in New York City I dragged my much-cooler friends to a place called Nintendo World where I blew like sixty bucks and was a public embarrassment. So I bought like this shirt and the belt buckle and, uh, some other things, including a stuffed Kirby doll. Um, but it was like going to Mecca for me.

How big is the stuffed Kirby doll?

It's about, uh, maybe the size of, uh ... of a toddler's head? I can't think of a more appropriate comparison than that.

Okay. Best Zelda game.

The best Zelda game! Now, I know this is a contentious issue because, I, like ... I'm supposed to say "Ocarina of Time", right? I don't want fanboys pounding on my door because I didn't say "Ocarina of Time". But I really enjoyed "Wind Waker", and everyone can suck my 'D' on that issue.

I am a fan of "Wind Waker". I think it's underrated.

I appreciated a return to a more playful style. You know, I didn't need a Zelda epic. I didn't need "Ocarina of Time" again. I thought it was a good game.

I'm always gonna be partial to "Link to the Past", myself.

I mean, that is a little before my time. I played a little bit - was that on the NES, the original, or was that on Super Nin--

Super Nintendo.

I only played that one at GameStop. I've never even owned that one.

Oh, you should pick it up.

I'd love to, man.

Monday, September 7, 2009

St. Norbert College Knights

NAME: Jacob
LOCATION: Brown Line (Northbound to Kimball)

This is a private college in Green Bay. One of my best friends actually played football for the St. Norbert Knights and I was at a thrift store in Green Bay and came across it and it was something that I could like support his team and also have an awesome shirt and it only cost me a dollar.

Not bad. How did the St. Norbert Knights do that year?

Um, they did pretty good. And it was something that I was definitely getting a couple eyebrows raised at the games because, you know, this is an old school throwback t-shirt. It went over really well.

What position did your friend play?

My friend was a wide receiver. His name is Judd O'Connell, um, he was number 85 and, um, had a fantastic Senior season and we were very proud of him. He did a great job.

Wait, tell me again where St. Norbert College is.

St. Norbert College is located in De Pere, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Green Bay. Actually a funny little story: before St. Norbert College became a college it was Abbot Pennings High School and that's actually where my father went to high school. Graduated in 1972. Just a little tidbit for ya'.

Friday, September 4, 2009


NAME: Ezekiel
LOCATION: Logan Square

What's the story behind this shirt?

Uh, well, Joey's my nickname given to me by my parents. Um, this shirt was given to me on my twenty-first birthday by my roommate's girlfriend. She made it herself apparently because she works at a t-shirt store.

How do you feel about wearing a t-shirt that just has your name on it?

I would agree with her when she told me it was incredibly obnoxious but I'm also a moderately obnoxious person and I'm okay with being obnoxious from time to time ... hence wearing the t-shirt.

How has the reception been?

Well, this is my second time wearing it and people seemed generally excited about it on my birthday but that's probably just because it was my birthday and that's the one day of the year where people are generally excited about my existence, I suppose.

Do you intend to ever wear this shirt out and about?

Um, yeah it depends on my mood I guess, and if I'm going to be acting like a clown for the evening. If it's on my list then clown I shall be.

Would you wear this shirt up by, like, Roscoe and Halstead?

That's, uh, that's - that's a no-go, actually. This is an uncharacteristically form-fitting physique of a t-shirt. Don't wanna give people the wrong impression up in that neighborhood. No offense.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In and Out of Luck

LOCATION: Belmont & Kenmore

Are you a runner?


This t-shirt belonged to a runner.

There's a town near my hometown called Luck and it's 'In and Out of Luck' runners - one of the dudes actually built my house - my parents house - and I think, though, this was my girlfriend's shirt, and I took it from her and now I wear it. And I am wearing it because the production designer on our show we're doing thought it was cool.

So where is Luck?

Luck is in rural Wisconsin, about an hour-and-a-half north of Minneapolis - St. Paul right on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. My hometown is St. Croix Falls.

Is she still your girlfriend?


And she knows you have it.

Yes. I think it's her's. She may or may not have actually earned it by running.

[Ian refers to an in-production internet-based serialized show which he was in the midst of creating when I found him. If I ever find it on youtube, I'll link to it here. On another note, if any Minnesotans would like to correct (or validate) my punctuation of "Minneapolis - St. Paul", please feel free.]

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Ed Hardy Mermaid

NAME: Sarah
LOCATION: Parrots Bar and Grill, Wellington & Halstead

Ed Hardy is some kind of fancy t-shirt designer.

I suppose so. I guess that's what I've been told.

Where did you get this shirt?

Dude, I got it at Macy's, on sale.

Was it expensive?

It was supposed to be like ninety bucks, but I had all these coupons from Christmas time, so I think I paid like forty for it.

Do you have a lot of forty-dollar t-shirts?

No. The reason I love this one though is I love mermaids and it has a mermaid on it and she's got the devil hand up and that's awesome, so.

So for you it's all about the mermaid, not the Ed Hardy.


Do you get conflicted when people know that this is a hundred-dollar t-shirt?

Well some people might know that but I don't really care. Some guy tonight when I first came in was like, "Oh, Ed Hardy is a famous tattoo artist and I drank with him in North Carolina. I got hammered with him. He drinks Jack." And I was like, "Sure thing, dude." I didn't believe him. He also said he walked here from Fort Lauderdale. I asked him, "How did you walk here? What roads did you take?" And he's like, "I walked on foot." I'm like, "Well duh, I understand that you walked on foot, but did you walk along the highway? Where did you walk?" He's like, "Huh?" So this is the kind of asshole that asks me about my shirt. These kind of fucking idiots. That's my life behind the bar.