My dog’s favorite thing in the whole world is to run around like a fool chasing other dogs. Luckily, we live close to a giant park, so we go and do that after work every day. Unfortunately, now it gets dark at 4:30 and she becomes more or less invisible. I bought her a light-up dog collar, which was a piece of crap and broke after about ten minutes of playing with her buddy Bertram. With the determination of the perpetually strapped and moderately handy, I resolved to build my own, better, stronger, faster. Well, maybe not faster.
American Science and Surplus is basically the best place on the planet. It has a little bit of every kind of useful/fun/stupid/crazy thing you could want. Robot parts? Check! Pocket microscope? Check! Russian gas mask? Check! Fiber optic mohawk? Check!
So I set off on the Blue Line after work. Having been either broke, antisocial, living in a mostly inaccessible neighborhood, or a combination of all three for pretty much my entire seven-year stint in Chicago, I haven’t spent much time on the train lines I haven’t lived on (Brown and Red). And Chicago being deceptively large and varied, going to a different neighborhood can often feel like going to a whole new city. hile I had been to AS&S before, I had never taken public transit to get there, so I dutifully looked it up on a map and plotted my route. As I do not have a smartphone, I made myself a little post-it with the address and some vague intersection notes.
The Jefferson Park stop is in the middle of the highway, which is fairly unpleasant as a train rider. It makes the station smoggy and incredibly noisy. Plus you end up being really far away (relatively) from any of the actual places you might be going to, whereas at most other stations you can step off the platform and a few feet away are a ton of businesses who want to make your trip nicer. However, there is a certain benefit to the Schadenfreude of moving faster than the cars on the highway.
The walk from the train station involved a creepy underpass. Chicago uses highways to keep the “right sort” of people on one side or the other, so they slice through the middle of things quite often. You end up with a lot of places that look something like this:
Yep, there’s a creepy hobo totally ready to jump out and shiv you.
While the walk in general was fairly desolate, I did pass some interesting shops. I don’t currently have need of a pot large enough to boil a teenage runaway, but perhaps someday I will, in which case I know where to go.
Possibly the best thing about AS&S is that it has a sense of humor. The signs are a lot like they used to be at your favorite indie record store, back when those were still a thing that people did on a Saturday afternoon.
If you live in the Chicago or Milwaukee areas, you should definitely check out their stores:
5316 N. Milwaukee Ave.
(at Central Ave, N of Foster)
Chicago, IL 60630
33W361 Rt 38 (Roosevelt Rd)
(1/4 mile East of Kirk Rd)
Geneva/West Chicago, IL 60185
6901 W Oklahoma Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53219