She makes her nightly rounds to several bars and clubs in the near north area and stays for a short time at each. In her seventies, she is by far the oldest woman in any of these bars, most of which have an average patron age of about 24. She is known and loved by all, and its not because she plays a serious game of pool or because she can keep up with any of us when it comes to drinking the hard stuff.

Shirley makes her living by baking loaves of bread and selling them on the street. She totes around a basket full of individually boxed goodies stamped with her insignia: Shirley; the bread lady. I have always been keen on her use of the semicolon in the logo. Each week she has a special feature loaf in addition to her usual lenghly list of selections, all of which are superbly moist and flavorful. If you catch her early in the night before too many of her wares have geen purchased, its likely she'll have at least one loaf each of banana chocolate chip, zucchini, cranberry-orange, banana nut, raspberry banana smoothie, blueberry, oat bran and cornflake (a recipe of her own invention that sells like hotcakes).

While relying on the sale of her loaves by day, Shirley is more known and revered by night for her delectable pot brownies. They are made muffin-style, sometimes with chocolate chips or chocolate icing if you're lucky, and sold for $5 or 7 for $30.

Some cynical bar-goers, new to the phenomenon of Shirley and her nightly rounds, have been known to say that her pot brownies are a fake and a rip off, but they are incorrect. Every one of her loyal customers knows that eating the brownie that night when you are already drunk doesn't do justice to the pastry's real potential effects. No, it is best to wait until the next day and eat the entire thing sans alcohol in your system; it takes no less than an hour to kick in but the reward for those patient faithfuls is well worth the wait, and certainly the $5.

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