An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Chicago

I have been working hard on the Maxwell Street Book. I am planning short little amusements between chapters – the first might be this – derived from Perec’s lovely little book – An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Paris. Another kind of list.

Corner of Maxwell and Halsted Street, 11.50am – 12.50pm, 21 October 2012

(the 100th Anniversary of the Maxwell Street Market).


I sit in Caribou Coffee, on the southwest corner of Maxwell and Halsted.


Large man in a lumberjack shirt with a thin woman wearing shades sit on a black metal bench (fake cast iron) with small Jack Russell.


A white Toyota Prius parks outside in the one remaining spot.


Opposite – “Morgans – on Maxwell Street, Bar and Grill”


The other corners of the intersection are “Jumbo Juice” and “Sheikh Shoes.”


I have a small vanilla latte!


Cars passing in a steady stream, mostly black, white or silver.


Hipster with goatee and cap – black trousers with white lightning strikes down the side, red jacket.


A woman with dog (black).


Black and orange cab with ‘Stay Hydrated Chicago” sign on top – stops – opposite.


“I have a medium decaff coffee!”


Black man in a Bogart hat enters Morgan’s.


Cyclists with helmets.


Jogger in black with beanie hat.


Woman on cell phone.


A man staring at the screen of his phone walking slowly, doesn’t look up.


Canvas signs on lampposts – “University Village” – picture of a woman of uncertain ethnicity, white? Asian? Latina?


“Your village in the City!”


School bus painted black – “Untouchable Tours”.


The street lamps look old and have been painted black – they’re meant to look like gas-lamps.


The surface of Maxwell Street is made from what look like red bricks.


A variety of hoodies with various college logos.


“I have medium skimmed latte!”


8 – Halsted bus pulls up advertising Burger King – original chicken sandwich, buy one, get one free.


Man and woman hand in hand – him with Blacksox jacket.


Briefly can’t see anyone – 2-5 people on average, visible at any one time.


Thin jogger, grey top, shades, luminous running shoes.


Hardly a cloud.


Still a steady stream of cars.


Window frames painted matt green or terracotta – tasteful.


Red brick, sandstone  – “Maxwell Street” inscription above the second floor windows.


18 bus – 16th/Cicero.


Plentiful sporting attire, shades, phones out.


Hispanic group of three (dad? granddad?).


18 bus with “are you curious” written on the side.


“Small, iced, berry mocha, no whip – enjoy your stay!”


African-American family, three kids, one being carried.


Man in North Face jacket, camera.


“Two men and a truck – movers who care.”


A kid on dad’s shoulders – mum looks at Morgan’s menu.


African-American family with a teenage boy (14?) in a fancy suit. Church getting out?


Backpacks, baseball caps.


U-haul truck – “still as low as $19.95”.


Long yellow truck – “expert driving school, Spanish spoken, student driver”.


Red ‘Rose’ paving company pick-up truck towing tar vat.


Cars look new but economy sized on the whole.


Hispanic women running with pram.


Church has definitely finished.


More cyclists, less dogs.


UIC sweatshirt, red on black.


Some people in shorts, others in wool hats and coats.


Three men at bus stop. Two white students (?) with short hair, athletic tops, backpacks, one older guy with a hoodie.


Girl in purple in a pushchair playing with beads.


African-American woman, red streak in hair, grey sweats, sits in bench with friend holding an iPad.


Red pick-up truck.


Blue station wagon parking badly, well-built black driver with Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap.


Greyhound bus with blue greyhound on its side.


A sudden profusion of red cars.


More children now. Church?


Silver Macs outnumber PCs in this café.


Kid (4?) in blue sweater plays with fire hydrant.


8 bus – Halsted/76th.


I guess that 30% of people are looking at phones.


Man in green tracksuit with brown and white dog (medium).


“Two percent, skimmed or soy?”


Large (tall) guy in white basketball vest with large X on front crosses the intersection.


18 bus – Roosevelt.


The Prius leaves.


Some of the ‘gaslights’ are on – it’s a sunny day.


More people in shorts now.


Black population seems specially dressed up today – it must be church.


Police car with blue lights flashing – its passage blocked at intersection.


“I have a medium skimmed latte!”


More sports team regalia.


“El Milagro” tortilla truck.


“Medium iced Americano  – you’re welcome!”


18 bus to 16th/Cicero.


Traffic is lining up now at the stop sign.


“Large chai latte!”


Shoe shop filling up.


“I have a large, extra shot, latte!”


8 bus with American Apparel sign.


Fewer people, more cars.

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