Sunday, November 16, 2014
My Maxwell Street Jacket
Maxwell Street market had permanent stores as well, with people on the street (I think they were called, "pullers") to encourage shoppers to the store. "Hey, I have the best deal on..." next thing you know you're the proud owner of a typewriter, or a fish tank, or an industrial sized roll of brown butcher's paper (that one really happened. We didn't need greaseproof paper for years). Every nationality you can think of was represented, and together with their dress, and food, it was like exotic travel for the price of carfare.
A short distance away, on Roosevelt Road was Chernin's, the best shoe store on earth. My dad had very large, hard to fit feet and this particular store stocked both work-boots and dress shoes. The women's department had the craziest, flashiest shoes to be found anywhere. My mother said the hookers all bought their shoes there, which might not have been too far off. At any rate, that didn't stop me. Decades later, I have kept several pair of shoes I bought there as they are so unlike anything else I've seen. Unique would be an understatement. My dad wasn't stupid- bringing a teenaged daughter with to buy shoes at Chernin's was going to get expensive (you couldn't invite someone and then not buy them shoes) but he never complained. I think he accepted it as part of parenthood, and as already noted, I was the only one willing to go with him. Besides, after all that shoe-buying he'd be hungry, so we'd stop at Manny's Cafeteria for something to eat http://www.mannysdeli.com/. I was also the only one willing to eat at Manny's, which I never understood because the place was incredible. Sure, the food was great, but the people-watching was superb. I'm glad to see after a web search that they're still around. I don't know if you'd have the same experience today, with everyone's eyes glued to a device, but I would, without fail end up having some fascinating, sometimes crazy, conversation with the stranger seated beside us.Sometimes the person would have been to Chernin's too, and we'd compare purchases. Cafeteria style dining is a communal experience (or it was) and I'm glad I was able to have it.
At some point in the early 80's, I decided I wanted a motorcycle jacket-I knew where I'd get it too. That was my hard-earned money, and I was prepared to haggle for the best possible deal. Turned out, I didn't need to. My dad knew someone, who knew someone (as it goes) and the negotiating was already concluded by the time I arrived to pick it out. The elderly Jewish immigrant who sold it to me was under the impression I was buying it for someone, and seemed genuinely concerned that I might be riding a motorcycle! Then, because he had been trained as a tailor, he spotted a button about to fall off the jacket I was wearing, and insisted on sewing it back on for me, in the store.
Satin and lace. That's a difficult look to pull off for anyone. I could have reached for a loud, polyester blazer but I remembered the motorcycle jacket and like I have so many times over the years, I pulled up that indestructible zipper, and set off to face the day. Then, my car died a few miles from home. At least I wouldn't be freezing to death waiting for help (I was able to get it re-started, and hobble it home without much trouble, but it could have been worse-and cold!).
Night Hawk Motorcycle jacket-Some leather goods shop on Maxwell Street in the 80's
Satin and lace 80's blouse-Hand-Me-Ups
Marcasite cameo brooch-Jordan Marsh, 90's
1950's Coro clip earrings-Hand-Me-Ups
Belt-Von Maur, 2000's
Damn. All that talking about Chicago has me wanting a pastrami on rye...and I've been a vegetarian since 1983!