Station by Station #1: California station
By ,

    A: Avery , Z: Zach

    [The “El” train pulling into the station]

    A: Hey, I’m Avery Adams.

    Z: And I’m Zach Watson.

    A: And we’re going to be exploring the Chicago area station by station.

    Z: So yeah, it’ll be a good time. So, first station — where did we go?

    A: We went to California Station.

    Z: And how did we get there?

    A: You tell me, Zach.

    Z: Alright, so I think it took us about an hour to get there.

    A: Yeah.

    Z: So California, it’s close to Logan Square; it’s northwest of the city, and it’s a good neighborhood. So we got on the Davis station on the purple line, transferred at Howard to the red line, we got off at Fullerton and took a bus to California.

    A: Yeah, that was the 74 bus?

    Z: Yes, 74 bus. So yeah, if you’re a Northwestern student, getting there directly via train, you can do, but it does require you to go into downtown Chicago. But if you happen to be downtown, and you want a cool place to go that isn't downtown, then you can just take the blue line from the Loop, and get off at California, which is the station.

    A: Perfect yeah. So, what was our first stop?

    Z: So let’s see… You had to use the restroom really bad.

    A: I did. I did not think I would make it, to be completely honest with you.

    Z: So we were walking, we found some shop, and we were like, we didn’t know what this was. You said you thought it was a dog store?

    A: So at first, these people with a dog walked in, so I thought it was some niche little place. And actually my first thought was that it was a dog treat place. I didn’t see the name of it, but of course seeing a dog, I was very inticed to go in.

    Z:Yeah, I think the people actually got kicked out.

    A: Yeah, they actually weren't allowed to bring the dog in, so that was my first red flag.

    Z: So yeah, we go in, and it’s a popsicle shop, and it's like 45 degrees out, but we were like ‘it’s fine.’ We both go into the restroom, and I come out, and I’m looking around, and there are these weird stair benches in the corner all the way up the wall, and then there’s this big giant wall with magnet letters on it like the refrigerator when you were a kid, but they were all black. And I was thinking, ‘hey, this is pretty cool,’ and so I round the corner to see the sign, and the place is called ‘Pretty Cool.’

    A: Pretty fitting, I would think.

    Z: Yeah that was pretty good.

    A: The good thing was, we went outside, and we could have held that popsicle for probably three hours, and it would not have melted.

    Z: Oh yeah. So I got a blackberry pie-sicle, and it had I think a graham cracker coating on it.

    A: It definitely tasted like a pie. I was shocked.

    Z: No, it did. I can honestly say, I think it was the best popsicle I’ve ever had.

    A: Definitely worth $5. I know that seems steep for a popsicle, but I mean, it was a pie-sicle, not just a popsicle — definitely recommend.

    Z: So yeah, that first stop was pretty cool.

    A: Yeah, and that was on California Ave; it was right after we got out. And after that we followed Fullerton to Milwaukee Avenue.

    Z: Yeah, and we got to the next place. It was really cold outside and we just had a popsicle, so naturally the next step was to go get some coffee, so we went to Gaslight Coffee Roasters. The barista was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘syndical snail,’ so as soon as I walked in, I went ‘ok, so it’s this type of coffee shop.’ And there were flyers in the corner where we were sitting — we were sitting on these, like, I think they were old baseball bleachers that were stained dark, and they were like vintage bleacher seats that we were pretty much just sitting in. They folded up too, which was really cool — but anyway, next to them there were some posters and flyers that people had put out. There were some for like socialist rallies and stuff like that, so it was very much a politically infused coffee shop.

    A: And I actually picked up at one point a magazine from 1948. And then Zach yelled at me, of course, for touching it because the oils in my fingers — don’t want to ruin such an artifact. So I’m sorry.

    Z: I don’t know why that had that out though, because it was like a sporting magazine, a hunting magazine, from 1948.

    A: I just had to touch it; it was just so intriguing. So definitely like a vintage mix, I would say, in the atmosphere.

    Z: Yeah for sure. I loved the board with all the prices. It was like one of those stick-on letter boards that you see in like bowling alleys. That’s what I thought of — like a bowling alley.

    A: A clean bowling alley — it didn’t have any of that bowling alley carpet.

    A: If only the coffee was free — that would have really sealed the deal.

    Z: Yeah, it wasn’t bad though. We got like two coffees for $5.

    A: Yeah, and if you get a refill it’s $1 so…

    Z: How would you actually rate the coffee?

    A: I’m a big fan of just dark drip coffee, and I just need it to function, so it was good coffee, I thought — especially for the price — it was good coffee. I’d go back.

    Z: So yeah, that was Gaslight Coffee Roasters. My concluding sentence would be flyers for psychedelic peer support workshops and socialist rally posters; like that’s my theme.

    A: Yeah, and then after we were all warmed up, we decided to just walk down Milwaukee Avenue, and we actually — something caught our eye. What caught our eye, Zach?

    Z: It was a pop art gallery called Galerie F.

    A: Yeah, and the first thing I noticed were these paint cans, but the paint cans actually had paintings on them — and they were on the windowsill. So that definitely caught our eye.

    Z: Yeah that was cool. What caught my attention, there were some Eleven from “Stranger Things” artwork of her, there was a Ruth Bader Ginsburg art piece, and the rest were very, like, post-modern punk pop art type pieces, and I enjoyed it a lot.

    A: Yeah, and a lot of them had a Chicago theme, so we actually asked whether these artists were from Chicago. And we got back that about 50 percent of the art were based out of Chicago, the artists were based out of Chicago, and that was very interesting. So we actually asked how one would get their art into this gallery.

    Z: And the guy — I love this — he’s like, ‘I don’t know if I should talk to you guys about this, let me go see if the owner, Billy, wants to talk to you guys. So he just retreats into the back room of the art studio and goes down stairs and comes up and is like, ‘Yeah, Billy’s too busy right now. Unfortunately, he can’t talk to you. And then he proceeds telling us how Billy finds artists.

    A: Right, so we’re not really sure if Billy is an actual person, but if you’re curious, you can go onto their website, galerief.com, or just look them up — they’re actually more prominent on instagram — and I challenge you to find who Billy is.

    Z: Yeah, honestly. The guy working there said they have a huge Instagram presence, and they pretty much just find artists through Instagram and invite them to do temporary pop-up galleries. And if they like them enough, they keep them and put them on permanently.

    A: Yeah, and they even have these events, these drawing events, where people can come in, doodle, do their art, and Billy — this apparent Billy — will walk around, and if he likes this artist, he will ask them if they can sell their work, and they can even become permanent artists for the gallery.

    Z: Yeah, so that was a really cool place. I wish I had room in my dorm to actually put stuff up.

    A: Or money.

    Z: Or money, yeah, that’s true.

    A: I actually did buy these pins from this artist named Glass Cuisine, and they’re actually pins of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead in all different poses. So I’m ready to flaunt those on my backpack — just pin them all up — so you’ll see Jerry Garcia all over school now.

    Z: So that was cool. After Galerie F, we were just kind of walking around, we walked to Logan Square, which is a really nice park, and there was this — I thought it was like a public information center like you see in towns — but we walk in, and there was actually an art gallery.

    A: Yeah, and apparently, it used to be a little shelter for train riders in the early 20th century, but now it’s an institution where art can be displayed, there are exhibitions, there are even concerts there sometimes.

    Z: The house was called Comfort Station, right?

    A: Yeah. And I agree with that because it was freezing outside, so going in there — being warm in that little art exhibit — that was much needed.

    Z: The one thing I was wondering was, I did not see evidence of any railroad tracks anywhere, so I want to know where the railways was. Because by that time we were probably a quarter to a half-mile away from the nearest station.

    A: Hmm, what changed, Chicago?

    Z: So I don’t know where the railway went.

    A: So after that we decided to just bear the cold again, we went out and then we crossed the park, which is beautiful, and we came across this bookstore, Uncharted Books, which seemed really fitting. The first thing we noticed was this big, fluffy dog--

    Z:--I loved it, I loved it so much--

    A: --her name is Ramona, and if you go on their website, it is called unchartedbooks.com, you will find a picture of Ramona, and I think you should go down there just to visit her. She is the sweetest thing.

    Z: I mean, maybe buy books as well, if you feel like it.

    A: Yeah that’s true.

    Interview with employee Tanner:

    A: So is Ramona always here?

    Tanner: Yeah she was raised in the bookstore. She was puppy when we adopted her, she was about 8 months old, which was right when the store opened. From the first day we had her, she’s been the bookstore dog.

    Back to A: One thing that I found out was really interesting was they had this big, paper sacks of books, and on them were had different genres of books written.

    Z: You bought one, right?

    A: Yeah, so I actually picked one up that was a collection of different ‘zines, and there were other ones like “women authors,” one said “LOL, books that’ll make you laugh.” And they’re stapled so they are just a mystery. As soon as I bought it, I cracked it open to see what I got and, I mean, I’m not disappointed. It’s a really fun way to get someone to buy books, to get someone to read these because you don’t know what you’re going to get.

    Z: I actually talked to the owner about the books and here’s what he had to say:

    Tanner: So, the mystery bags we started doing around the holidays last year as wrapped mystery Christmas gifts, and people really liked them, and we sold a bunch of them, so we brought them back full time. Dana, who is the other person that works here, is kind of a savant for making these. She does the decorations and she’s real good at putting the bags together. They’re really fun.

    A: And how do you determine the different genres or what goes into each bag?

    Tanner: This is all Dana, my dude, this is all her. So she’ll pull a bunch of them out and kind of figure out what’s the fun thru line of these that’s eye catching. She’s great at it. But yeah, I’d say our specialities are kind of literary fiction, poetry, local books. We’re getting more of an emphasis on weird books, so we’re starting to sell kind of rare, occult and unusual books.

    Z: And tarot cards.

    Tanner: And tarot cards. I would say we’re trying to be the literary bookstore.

    A: We also talked to him about what goes into this bookstore because he had a very eclectic collection of books.

    Tanner: We’ve got, you know, bound books by established authors who are local, we’ve got a superhero comic made by two 10-year-old girls who live in the neighborhood, and everything in between.

    A: And can you explain how local artists or writers get into here.

    Tanner: So we sell a lot of books on consignment, so we are kind of aggressively looking for more artists. Whatever you make, we want to be the kind of place where you can distribute that.

    Z: And then after that we stopped, because we were in there for a while. You know, because of Ramona the dog. I really loved the inside of the bookstore. It was such a cozy vibe.

    A: I felt like it very embracing of locals, very supportive of local artists, local creators. So as we left Uncharted Books we said goodbye to Ramona the dog. The first thing that caught my eye was this big marquee for Logan Theater. I think that is really an institution in Logan Square.

    Z: It really is. It looked like it had not been changed on the inside, with the exception of new popcorn machines. And then afterwards, we took a bit of a walk and we found, you were super excited about, this record store called Bric-a-Brac.

    A: I really just liked the name, it reminded me of knick knacks, and I have to say it definitely lived up to that expectation.

    Z: Oh yeah, it was like, I don’t even know what the theme was.

    A: So the first thing I noticed was metal music. How would you describe the music that was playing?

    Z: It was, again, I don’t know what the deal with this area is, but it was like anarchist-punk metal music. It sounded like some of the weird stuff we play on WNUR, honestly.

    A: I think we concluded at one point, one of the songs was just a man screaming “anarchy.”

    Z: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was.

    A: But wow, there was everything in that store. The first thing that caught my eye were these rows of vinyl records, but they also had cases and cases of cassette tapes and VHS tapes.

    Z: Yeah I never realized that anyone sold VHS tapes still. Or cassettes, or anything like that. I guess they’re making a resurgence, so that was pretty cool.

    Z: Alright, and then after that, we then found ourselves--we had probably walked maybe half a mile, six-tenths of a mile.

    A: Yeah, I was actually surprised, we basically walked up Milwaukee most of the trip. We didn’t deviate too far from our main path, and there were just a lot of little shops along the way. We really didn’t go that far. Everything was pretty contained around Logan Square.

    Z: So yeah, concluding thoughts of California Station and the surrounding area?

    A: I really, really enjoyed it. I think it was very eclectic. I would say every shop we went to had a very niche place. And I think a lot of it really brought in the local culture. Everything was very supportive for local creators, and I really really enjoyed that.

    Z: For me it was like, a mixture between hipster socialist, and then white mom named Pam. Because there was some stuff like--also we went into Fleur, which was a flower shop, and to me it was like plants, and what was it, essential oils? I don’t even know.

    A: Yeah, maybe some candles.

    Z: Yeah, plants and candles, all the stuff that we can’t have in our dorm rooms.

    A: And not very affordable either, that’s where you get the middle-aged mom Pam who has her life together.

    Z: Yes! But yeah, that was really cool. I really enjoyed the area. I think for a day trip or even just an afternoon trip, it’s totally doable.

    A: That’s what I was going to say. I think all in all, it took an hour max? To get there, to get back. It could be a good day trip. There’s just so much to see.

    Z: I really wish I could have stayed there more honestly.

    [“El” on the tracks]

    A: I’m Avery.

    Z: And I’m Zach.

    A: And we’re with NBN.

    Z: So yeah, keep, uh, we’ll put one up soon.

    A: But I mean, I’ll definitely be back.

    Z: Oh yeah, for sure.

    A: I’ll meet you at California Station?

    Z: Sure, see you next time.

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