Pedestrian Newsletter 01
New Radio Story, Pedestrian 05 Announcement, and Chicago's Shoes Center.
Back in December 2019 I announced the quarterly Pedestrian Newsletter to share updates and announcements on future projects. Consider that the prequel to today’s newsletter. Given the current state of affairs, I’m going to send the Pedestrian Newsletter monthly. If you’ve enjoyed the magazine then I promise you will enjoy it in newsletter form.
I’m also writing to announce I’ve started a Patreon to support this work. If you’ve appreciated Pedestrian in the past, please consider becoming a member for just $5 a month. Your membership includes a free copy of upcoming Pedestrian 05, access to unreleased content, and more TBA. As always, I’m incredibly grateful for your support.
Pedestrian finds value in the accumulation of accounts, routines, and relationships that are formed as a result of traveling throughout one’s everyday surroundings. It began as a quarterly magazine in 2018 by Alexander Wolfe and is occasionally released as a podcast.
Be in touch: email@example.com
The Pulse, April 24th
The story covers an exceptionally bad cockroach infestation I inherited after moving apartments last summer. As with all cockroach infestations…things didn’t go as planned.
I’m pleased to announce the fifth issue of Pedestrian Magazine will be released this June (given that social distancing measures ease up). Stay tuned for contributors, release date, and hopefully a launch party.
Ode to Shoes Center
I was recently asked to name my favorite places around the city that could be safely visited while taking walks during COVID. It wasn’t about naming the greatest hits of New York City, but suggesting the overlooked and unusual places I find worthwhile. This was not an easy assignment.
New York City is essentially shut down leaving few places to actually visit. Thanks to shelter-in-place, almost all businesses have little certainty as to when they’ll open back up. The city encourages New Yorkers to visit their favorite parks “virtually” online and only spend time outside to get the essentials or take a break from the confines of your apartment. Below is a text I received last Sunday.
After spending more time than I’d like to admit, I concluded I was having a tough time deciding because most of my favorite places are businesses. It’s not that I particularly enjoy what these businesses have to sell (or buying things for that matter), it’s the relationship or memories I’ve formed with them over time. There is a sense of comfort and fondness that comes with familiar places. Most of my cherished places are inherently banal, such as Advanced Copy Center (where I printed all my zines soon after moving to the city) or Windsor Vacuum in my hometown of Des Moines, (I’ve never even stepped inside, but drove past it my entire childhood). These places don’t have hundreds of Yelp reviews or mentions in any “Best of” lists. They’re places where nothing worthwhile really happens, but they’ve found a special place in my heart and I hope they never close.
I can’t walk there because it’s not even in New York City, but Shoes Center in Chicago is very close to the top of my list. I bought almost every single pair of shoes I owned from this store while living in the Windy City between 2010-2015. You can tell it’s been around longer than most businesses in the area. A quick time travel to 2007 on Google Street View reveals that it once lived among a variety of shoe stores. At one time, there was even a Footlocker next door until the building was demolished for luxury condos. Despite occupying a particularly developed strip of Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park, the store hangs on.
Shoes Center was just a few train stops away from my apartment in Logan Square and I continued to shop there even when I moved to a different neighborhood. This was the only place in Chicago where they always had Reebok Classics in my size, even if it meant unwrapping the shrink wrapped display model perched on the wall. Their clothing selection was subpar at best and stocked with cheaply made athletic wear, but the prices were always right. I could count on Shoes Center and recall buying a black hoodie produced by a knockoff brand coincidentally named “Trust”. I took the photographs above during my last visit before leaving Chicago, with little expectations that I would ever see the store again.
I was delighted to find the store in operation while on a trip to Chicago in 2018 (photo above). Visiting Shoe Center has become somewhat of a ritual since then. They replaced the classic hand painted sign with a distasteful temporary banner to drive renewed interest, perhaps suggesting they recently “opened for business”. Going inside to “shop” (aka looking around without purchasing anything) revealed that nothing had changed. The staff had long forgotten who I was (although I suspect they never really remembered me in the first place) and the shrink wrapped shoe selection was still cheap.
I was unable to pay a visit during my last trip in late 2019, but Shoes Center was certainly on my mind. A quick Google search to check their hours reassured me that everything was okay. In 2020, the future of the business seems even more uncertain given the devastating effects of COVID on small businesses. As with all good things, Shoes Center will close one day, I just hope it isn’t soon. I’ve stopped wearing Reebok Classics, but the fond memories of Shoes Center live on.
Shoes Center, 1255 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, Illinois
Hart’s Island made headlines after drone footage shot by The Hart’s Island Project revealed inmates burying bodies in a trench last week. It’s unclear if they were COVID related, but burials have increased dramatically since the pandemic. As of last week the city is no longer using inmate labor. Hart’s Island has been the city’s public cemetery for unclaimed bodies for over 150 years. It has a fascinating history that is worth reading about (Nike defense missiles were stationed there during the Cold War). Check out photographs of the island by Richard Nickel, Jr. on his blog Kingston Lounge.
The Tide and Current Taxi is a handmade rowboat taxi in the New York Harbor, operated by the artist Marie Lorenz. Each trip coincides with strong tidal currents, all documented on her site with pictures and stories. While on hold during quarantine, Lorenz has been making trips since 2005.
Baseball season is likely not happening this year. As a devote Cubs fan, this is very upsetting. Thankfully Ken Burns’ Baseball is now streaming for free on PBS.
Prairie needs your help. They recently lost all funding raised for future programming due to Paddle8’s bankruptcy (the platform they used to raise the funding). Anything helps to keep this artist-run space going.