What it means to be a Chicagoan

Chicagoans of a certain age can be identified the world over by simply uttering one of three time-tested phrases. These words are so powerful and sacred that other native dwellers immediately light up and buy a round of drinks. As a courtesy to Chicago Parent readers everywhere, I feel it is time to finally share the secret. Please use this information wisely as with great power, comes great responsibility.

1. The Bozo Show.

What kid didn’t dream of one day landing a coveted spot on The Grand Prize Game? Dropping ping pong balls into a bucket and walking away with a new bike was the stuff of dreams. I don’t know a single native Chicagoan born between 1955 and 1980 who can keep a straight face when you mention the show. Their reaction makes Pavlov’s dog look like Doyle Brunson.

2. The Magikist Lips

The signs for this rug-cleaning company appeared in the form of giant red lips that hung prominently over several Chicago expressways. School kids would frantically duck under their bus seats on field trips to avoid getting “kissed.” Commuters viewed the landmark lips as a way to gauge their driving progress and arrival time. Start a sentence with, “Do you remember the giant Magikist lips?” and just wait. There will be a story. There is always a story.

3. Block Parties

While other cities claim ownership to the original block party, I dare suggest that Chicago has hosted and continues to host the best in the entire land. There are epic ones like the Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party (where I met my husband after he gallantly offered me a free bratwurst), and there are less-than-epic ones. I am still recovering from the event I co-hosted with a neighbor where I suggested a pig roast and watched as kids fainted and accuse me of murdering Wilbur.

While there is nothing I can do to create new memories of The Bozo Show or the Magikist Lips, I am here to help all those in search of a good block party. On Saturday, May 17, from 5:30-11:30 p.m., St. John Fisher school on the south side (10200 S. Washtenaw Ave) will be hosting one of these classic rites of Chicago passage (adults only, but only because there is alcohol, not naked people). Entrance is $30, food is included, and there will be a cash bar and raffle. Proceeds will go to update the school’s technology department (hopefully replacing the old Ditto machines with the newer, much-coveted dot matrix printer).

I, of course, will be there supporting my sons’ school, talking about giant lips, and bragging about my proficiency with ping pong balls.

All in a day’s work for this Chicago girl.

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