The Green Mill is (was?) a jazz club on the far north side of Chicago (not so far north as to be in the godforsaken suburbs, but far enough to warrant a cab). The beautiful art deco interior is simultaneously intimate and impressive, and the large circular booths next to the stage are as inviting as a feather bed. Legend has it that Al Capone used to hold court here, but that legend is attached to practically every would-be-cool nightspot in Chicago.

I used to hang out here, off and on, in the late 'eighties, at first for the Sunday night poetry slams, then later for the music, which I didn't understand but nonetheless found entrancing. Among my standout memories of the place are the night friends from my small bible-belt hometown came to visit and I took them there for the poetry slam. This was in the fall of 1989, I think, and flag-burning had recently re-emerged on the national radar as a problem begging for a constitutional solution. One of the slam contestants delivered a screed about Amerika and Zion, then extracted two small flags from his pocket, one Israeli, the other American, and introduced them to his zippo.

My friends went back to Oklahoma with a story.

I returned to the Green Mill once, around the turn of the century, and it seemed like the crowd had changed. The old jazz fans and boozehounds had been replaced by young hipsters. They were a little younger, and wealthier, and perhaps a little too aware of the irony of the place. In other words, in classic American form, the old crowd had been displaced by more people like me.
The Green Mill is a bar in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. It's situated at the corner of Broadway and Lawrence, about a stone's throw in either direction from either the Lawrence stop on the Red Line or the Graceland Cemetery. It was founded in the early 1900s and named "Green Mill" to imitate the "Moulin Rouge" ("Red Mill") nightclub in Paris. Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have hung out here in the 1920s as well as Evanston native John Cusack (more recently)during the filming of "High Fidelity". In 2001, I attempted to enter this bar with the Red Elvises but we were thrown out because one of the band members' girlfriend was using a fake ID to try to get past the doorman.

If you're really lucky, you might happen by here on a night when Patricia Barber is singing...

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