First things first—check out pictures of Ciral’s House of Tiki on 53rd St. Looks like the most amazing bar ever, right? It was. There were blowfish above the bar, Patsy Cline on the jukebox, and I was never carded. You should be very sad it no longer exists. They even tore the building down. This is a lesson on what the great philosopher Joni Mitchell called the law of “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” To sooth your pain, go to Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap on 55th and Woodlawn. Cry into your beer (preferably poured from a pitcher of Leinie’s). You can’t really say you’ve visited Hyde Park without a trip to Jimmy’s. Munch on your French fries and slurp pea soup as you consider the history of the place: the countless Nobel laureates who have sat at these tables, the birth of improvisational comedy (courtesy of the Compass Players) in the back room in the 1950s, the inane and passionate philosophical conversations held by over-confident undergraduates for decades. Semi-interesting Neo-Futurist connections: we performed a version of “Drinking and Writing” here in (I think) 2004, and Cardiff Giant, an improv group that featured the talents of Greg Kotis, Scott Hermes, and Phil Ridarelli performed here back in the day.
You like books don’t you? Do you like getting them for free? Walk past the free book box in front of Powell’s on 57th. You might get a copy of “The Big Book of Yiddish Humor!” For free! Then stop being a cheapskate and go inside. There are old books. There are new books. There are art books. There are blue books. There is probably not the book you are looking for but there is definitely the book you need. There is a downstairs area. When you are overwhelmed, walk west on 57th and mourn the empty space that once housed O’Gara and Wilson’s, another used bookstore across the street. (See Mitchell, Joni, above.) Keep walking. You are allowed to stop at Z & H Market and get a sandwich and an espresso, but you are not allowed to buy any of the fancy olive oil. That’s just crazy. Next door, you should visit 57th Street Books, the sister bookstore to the Seminary Co-Op around the corner. Go down the stairs, leave your bag at the cashier, and just try to make it past that first table of staff recommendations. There are so many books to read in this world. It boggles the mind. It’s nice when they’re curated. Also, there are several novels that I have read in their entirety simply sitting in this bookstore. I’m pretty sure that makes me some kind of literature thief.
If you keep walking west on 57th, you’ll hit the U of C. There are many things to do there and places to see. We cannot cover them all. But you should definitely pause in front of the gates to campus on 57th between Ellis and University because they appear in “When Harry Met Sally” and everyone knows that it’s the platonic ideal of a 1980s romantic comedy. On Ellis just north of 57th is the Henry Moore sculpture that marks the site of the first sustained nuclear reaction in 1942. You know, the thing that lead to the atomic bomb. Good times. Touch the bronze and consider the enormity of man’s ability to turn knowledge into destruction. Then cleanse your palate with a walk south on Ellis to the confusingly named Renaissance Society, a contemporary art gallery on the 4th (or 5th?) floor of Cobb Hall. It is essentially one room of ever-changing art but every time it blows my mind. Consider the fact that art has never blown up a single city and file it away for the next time someone tells you a physics degree is more useful than a theatre degree.
The Neo-Futurists are coming to Washington Park with five performances of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes) at the Washington Park Refectory (5531 S. Russell Drive) this Wednesday -Saturday, July 30th-August 2nd at 7:30pm and Sunday, August 3rd at 6:30pm all tickets are only $10 and are available for purchase here. Click below for more information.