MCA Edition: Dil Pickle Club

When Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading, his response is “Words words words.” Well, words words words was the theme of this past weekend’s Museum of Contemporary Art festival. I only caught a section of it since I was at the Bughouse Square Debates but I had a great time. All over the museum and outside of the museum, there were different celebrations of words. Out front in the plaza, there were an array of plants, including herbs and flowers. I think if you wrote a note or a poem, you got to take a plant. I could be wrong (I’m not sure since I am Elisa the Destroyer of Living Green Things.) Inside, you could make a zine in the lobby or read zines. There were many other activities.

1001 Chicago Afternoons was participating up in the Isa Genzken Reading Room on the fourth floor. I’ve wanted to check out this project for a while and I was really happy that I could. It’s based on Ben Hecht’s 1001 Afternoons in Chicago, which were a series of columns about Chicagoans and the city. The author Paul Dailing is attempting to recreate it 91 years later. It’s a wonderful project.

There were five total speakers but I only got to hear the last three. Studs would have loved it. I actually came in just in time to hear Paul Dailing speak himself about 26th and Cal or the Cook County Jail House. He wrote for newspapers so he would go there a lot. It was a piece about the experience of being there and a momentary interaction between a woman and her incarcerated lover. It was poignant and sweet. Then Oni Woods performed an apt poem about gentrification in Bronzeville. She gave a preface defining gentrification, going back to its root and its relation to the word gentry. Kari Lyderson gave a lyrical poem about the changing face of Pilsen. She had this amazing section where she talked about how Pilsen has had plastic surgery on its face but you can still see age on its neck, hands, knees, and legs.

Then it was time for the Dil Pickle Club, which was the reason I had come. Paul Durica of Pocket Guide to Hell put it on with the assistance of many others. The original Dil Pickle Club was situated not too far away from Bughouse Square. It had the same idea. It was a place where people of all different parts of life, political spectrum, and more would come together to hear talks, performances, and more. It was a place for free speech. Famous writes would go and attend. Mae West performed scenes from her play Sex while other Chicago luminaries gave talks and listened to others. The idea was that everyone was welcome from the young college students, housewives, hoboes, and famous writers and artists. The slogan was “Step High, Stoop Low, Leave Your Dignity Outside.”

Dil Pickle Club
Dil Pickle Club

The present day Dil Pickle Club focused on words. There was even a recreation of the famous door with the slogan. And the doorknob was from the original door! The event was started off by boisterous band “Environmental Encroachment” who marched around the lobby in steampunk/bunny ears. Society of Smallness began with a séance for prior denizens of the Dil Pickle Club. Bathhouse John even made an “appearance.”

Then it was a wonderful assortment of speakers who study and use language in different and creative ways. Hannah Christensen, PhD student of Old and Middle English at the University of Chicago, translated the famous slogan into Old or Middle English. It was quite neat. She talked about Old English and mentioned that there may even be a community that speaks Middle English in pockets in the US. Must investigate further.

Then Lisa Niziolek, a post-doctorate at the Field Museum, talked about oracle bones in the Shang Dynasty in China. I learned that the name of the diviner and the date was often put on the bones. Sometimes the end result of the prediction was put on too. So if the prophecy was that the harvest was going to be bad, there may be a later note that mentions how the harvest went. Then Alia Abiad, a Scripps National Spelling Bee finalist, was interviewed about spelling. She is a Spellerbity. Teehee. She even held her own little spelling bee for some of the audience members to spell some difficult and unfamiliar words!

Then Christopher Kidder-Mostrom, director and playwright of Commedia Beauregard Theater, talked about learning Klingon to put on the Klingon Christmas Carol. This was absolutely fascinating since I know little about Klingon. It’s apparently a full language and there are people who are fluent in it (though not many). He explained that an offhand comment at a meeting led to the play. Also, he had to edit the story to make it more likely to occur in Klingon Culture. Apparently, Scrooge is not a greedy man; instead, he is a cowardly, unhonorable man. I need to see this. Apparently, this will be the last year that it is done so it’s now (December) or never.

Then Donna Urlaub, freelance court reporter, talked about shorthand, which was fascinating. She gave a brief overview of how it works. It’s incomprehensible to the layperson. So cool. And to end the evening, Taylor Hokanson, an artist, talked about his eraser pink Sledgehammer Keyboard. It’s a giant rubber keyboard that you use a sledgehammer to use. It’s really cool. He wanted to see what people would say if they used this device. The first time he did it, he had kids spelling their names, profanity, and one person made a comment about George Bush. One person wrote, “I need deeelte key.” After the MCA show, I got to check it out and type, “Hammer mightier than the Pen.” It’s fun but hard to get words right. (I had a lot of mistakes).

That’s all for now!


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