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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Guest Post: Weird Things About Chicago By Paul Krueger

Ah, Chicago. Frank Sinatra called it “my kind of town.” Carl Sandburg dubbed it “the City of Big Shoulders.” And Rudyard Kipling once wrote of the city that “I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.” But that’s okay, because Kipling was too busy being an imperialist shill to appreciate what he had in front of him.

Chicagoans are very proud of their swampland paradise, and the traditions that have arisen alongside all the pleasantly gothic buildings downtown. When I was thinking of where to set my bartenders-versus-demons novel, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, Chicago was a no-brainer. Not only do I have the privilege of calling it my hometown, but it comes with all kinds of weird baggage I was able to draw on for inspiration. Let me walk you through some of the idiosyncrasies that sent Kipling screaming from our streets:

1) Malört - Jeppson’s malört is a wormwood liqueur, which makes it a distant cousin of things like absinthe. It’s a local specialty…even though it’s now exclusively made in Florida and shipped to Chicago, rather than distilled locally like it used to be. It’s most famous for its incredibly bitter taste, which has often been fairly compared to that of battery acid. It’s a favorite pastime of Chicagoans to find out-of-towners (whom they refer to as “sassenach”) and tell them all about the delicious drink they absolutely have to try. The last time I was in Chicago, I made my publisher’s entire staff do a shot of it with me, because I don’t have survival instincts.

2) The Curse of the Billy Goat - Since the days of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, Chicago has been wont to blame its misfortunes on errant farm animals. In this case, the farm animal was a billy goat named Murphy, whose owner was a barkeep named Billy Sianis. The legend goes that Sianis opted to take his gruff pet out to game four of the 1945 World Series, much to the chagrin of everyone else in Wrigley Field that day. When the smell started to really bother everyone else, security came to toss out Billy and his goat. According to legend, Sianis reached into the depths of his soul and recited the following litany of black magic:

The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more.”

Not only have the Cubs not won a World Series since 1908; they haven’t even played in one since 1945. So even before I came along, Chicago already had a rich history of magic-wielding bartenders.

3) Casimir Pulaski Day - In addition to being a super-sad Sufjan Stevens song, Casimir Pulaski Day is a Chicagoland holiday meant to honor Chicago’s robust Polish community. It’s named in honor of General Casimir Pulaski, one of George Washington’s right hand men and the father of American cavalry. Traditionally, it’s celebrated on the first Monday of March, but it was hard to celebrate when the holiday very conveniently stopped excusing us from school right when I started growing up. If you wanted proof of Chicago’s political corruption, six-year-old Paul would’ve had you look no further. When I was writing Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, I tried to infuse it with as much Chicago flavor as I could. To me, that merited an automatic mention of Casimir Pulaski, somehow. And sure enough, I managed to sneak him into the manuscript as a pivotal figure in bartending history.

That’s just a taste of what Chicago has to offer (not to be confused with a Taste of Chicago, which is a different matter entirely). The city’s been a showcase for the exceptional and unusual since at least the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which gave us both the world’s first Ferris wheel and America’s first serial killer. I tried to add my own flair when I wrote Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, but you should seek out your own weird corners of the city if you ever visit yourself.

And if you do visit, try the malört. It’s delicious.

Official Author Website
Order Last Call At The Nightshade Lounge HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Paul Krueger is a fantasy writer and cocktail connoisseur whose work has appeared in the Sword & Laser anthology. He lives in Los Angeles.

Check out other stops on the Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge blog crawl:
- Once Upon a Twilight on June 7th 
- The Book Addict’s Guide on June 8th
- Fantasy Book Critic on June 9th
- Girl Who Reads on June 10th
- Crossroad Reviews on June 11th
- Civilian Reader on June 13th
- Teen Librarian on June 14th
- Feeling Fictional on June 15th
- Andrew Knighton on June 16th
- A Fantastical Librarian on June 17th



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