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The Urbanist’s Chicago: What to Do


The ocean-liner inspired North Avenue beach house on Lake Michigan.  

Windy City As Beach Town

“You know how New York empties out in the summer? In ­Chicago, everybody stays. Summer by Lake Michigan is our reward for surviving the winter. North Avenue Beach, near the Gold Coast, is our fancy beach; it has 50-plus ­volleyball courts and looks very much like Miami. But my ­favorite is Montrose Dog Beach, in the Uptown neighborhood. It’s the only beachthat has an explicit ‘no water pooping’ rule. And about the lake: In addition to the wonderful dissonance of floating while you look up at the skyline, it feels as expansive as the ocean, and it has waves. You get in the water, you taste it, it’s not salty. And then you remember: This is a lake. I’m in the middle of the ­country.”
—Paula Mauro, writer and radio producer


Not Yet Famous
Forecasting the next Michael Shannon, Buddy Guy, and Wilco.


ACTOR
Jon Michael Hill is the youngest member of Steppenwolf, and the actor who seems most destined for success. He was in the Broadway run of Superior Donuts. Now he is starring in Steppenwolf’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Hot L Baltimore.Two weeklies came out with virtually the same article saying this is the guy to watch—I think it’s merited. ” ­—Larry Grimm, founding member, A Red Orchid Theatre


BLUES MUSICIAN
Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis, who plays regularly at the Kingston Mines (2548 N. Halsted St.), is like one of the old Chicago bluesmen. A lot of people say he’s the next Buddy Guy. He’s a great bandleader, and heat comes off the stage when he plays. He’s in your face. He’s the one to keep an eye on.” —Shannon “Shay” Byrd, blues booking agent


INDIE BANDS
“There’s a psychedelic ­techno-hippie, dance-oriented scene on the South Side, focused on bands like Mahjongg (right), Lazer Crystal, and Cave. Even if the guys aren’t playing synthesizers, they’re playing the drums like it’s a drum machine. Those are the shows where I see people twenty years younger than me going nuts and dressed in ridiculous outfits.” —Bobby Conn, rock musician


Art Critic Jerry Saltz’s Memories of His Frank Lloyd Wright Past

I grew up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, where I hated every­body and everything. I couldn’t wait to leave. But Oak Park always struck me as my own “princedom by the sea.” The reason: its architecture. I’d pass as many as twenty Frank Lloyd Wright homes on my way to school—scores of Prairie School buildings, breathtaking moments of America’s architectural coming-of-age. I once knew someone who lived in one of those homes. A certain Linda. Imagining this house now, I turn into Humbert Humbert catching glimpses of Lolita’s “lovely indrawn abdomen.” I see the house’s natural woods, stone surfaces, and graceful symmetries. I’m back there, on that long, beautiful built-in ledge in her dimly lit, low-ceilinged, hazel-painted living room, sitting on golden-yellow Japanese cushions, with cinnamon-color pillows, finally being allowed to kiss wispy Linda, thinking, This is the best place that I have ever been. Everything seemed possible. Until her parents came home.


Urban Amalgams
Chicago, like New York, is a study in neighborhoods. Here, diagrams of three worth exploring.


PILSEN
Do this: Caffeinate at Cafe ­Jumping Bean (1439 W. 18th St.); eat ribeye tacos (and BYO Dos Equis) at ­Nuevo Léon (1515 W. 18th St.); wander the National Museum of ­Mexican Art (1852 W. 19th St.).







ANDERSONVILLE
Do this: Split a bread pudding for brunch at M.Henry (5707 N. Clark St.); shop refurbished vintage armchairs at Scout (5221 N. Clark St.); sun and mingle at Hollywood Beach (5800 N. Lake Shore Dr.).







WICKER PARK/BUCKTOWN
Do this: Thumb used novels at ­Myopic Books (1564 N. Milwaukee Ave.), sip foreign brews at the Map Room (1949 N. Hoyne Ave.), jockey for patio seats at bar-restaurant Big Star (1531 N. Damen Ave.).


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