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 The old jazz fans and boozehounds had been replaced by young hipsters.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.