I’d say this post is apropos of nothing, but there are enough writers in my audience that I can say it’s apropos of, I was goin’ through my files the other night and ran across something amusing that I never published, and I needed to fill a Tuesday slot after a long holiday weekend. This went down about 20 years ago. Enjoy. —DM
I saw a street fight one recent night.
It wasn’t like any street fight you ever saw.
This battle did not take place in the street, but rather on the streets of Chicago.
In this contest, each man would try to stump the other by naming the most obscure Chicago streets he could think of and challenging his opponent to guess its direction and location.
The fighters were well-chosen, well-matched, and exceedingly well-mannered. Marc Levison has been a Chicago Fire Department paramedic for nearly three decades. Dan Terkell is a budget analyst, but drove a cab for three years. Each combatant predicted at the outset that the other would win.
The promoter of this fight also served as its appropriately named referee: Tony Judge has known both men for years. He staged this “street fight” at a party in his home.
The foes squared off in front of the kitchen sink. A crowd gathered round.
“Alexander,” was Levison’s opening salvo; he read it from a sheet of paper.
Terkell did not flinch. “Two blocks south of Cermak, runs between Wentworth and Princeton.”
The crowd let out an admiring sigh.
Terkell’s turn. He scratched his chin, stared at a spot above the refrigerator, then turned deliberately to his opponent and inquired, “Are you familiar with Clarence?”
Levison grinned. “Clarence is on the northwest side. It runs east to west, and you can catch it just south of Devon.”
Terkell nodded politely, and the crowd took a collective drink and settled in for a long match.
And so it went, for seven more rounds. As the tension built, the two men by turns correctly located Cyril, Kimberly, Elbridge, Lock, Kamerling, Berkeley, Liberty, Vanderpoel, Luther, Carondolet and Nixon.
There is a street in Chicago called Waterloo Ct.; but Levison’s Waterloo turned out to be Anson Place.
“Anson, Anson, Anson,” he pondered, as the crowd began to murmur. Dan Terkell waited patiently like a boxer sent to his corner to await a standing eight-count, which Tony Judge effectively delivered while Levison gamely tried to steady himself.
“Anson’s in the middle of the city. Is it near Lake and Halsted? No, I’m a little off. Lake and Kinzie? Kinzie and Damen? Hubbard and Wood?”
Finally, a humble Terkell clarified: Anson runs from Leavitt to Oakley, just south of Grand Avenue.
Levison was down one with only three rounds left.
Terkell got Dominick, then Levison got Kirkland, then Terkell got Tremont.
Then came the death blow for Levison: Kreiter. Sagging against the kitchen sink, Levison swung wildly: “Is it in North Bridgeport?”
Terkell sadly shook his head, no. Levison gave up quicker this time, and when he did, Terkell muttered with some embarrassment that Kreiter runs north and south between 93rdand 94th, east of Ewing, “bordering on a scrapyard.” (Later, Terkell would question himself. “I can’t be absolutely positive that there’s a street sign for Kreiter,” he said. But everyone figured that a guy who knows the names of streets that don’t have signs deserved to win anyway.)
As a formality, Levison tossed one more to the champ. “Glenroy.” Terkell didn’t miss a beat. “That’s in Morgan Park, just west of the Rock Island tracks.”
And with that, the contest was over.
In all the post-fight mayhem, only a reporter noticed the two pavement pugilists, not a mark on either of them, return quietly to their street talk. Maypole, Robey, Beethoven Place.
Terkell and Levison were last heard talking about the short-lived Algren Street, renamed from Evergreen to honor the Chicago novelist Nelson Algren. The story goes that the street had to be changed back to the original, partly because the residents weren’t getting their mail.
Apparently, the post office couldn’t handle one more Chicago street.