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Curious City

Chicago Public Media

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.


Chicago, IL




Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.




Traveling Parties: A Queer Chicago Culture of Partying as Resistance

The history of traveling queer parties in Chicago is rooted in exclusion and racism. This week, we spoke with Pat McCombs and Vera Washington — longtime organizers of Executive Sweet, a traveling party focused on Black lesbians that got its start in the 1980s. We also talked with Tori and Jae Rice of smallWORLD Collective, a group that organizes events today — and learned how queer Black organizers have been at the forefront of traveling parties in Chicago.


Are there guardian angels at the Chicago Public Library?

Thinking about the next book you want to read? Librarians are way ahead of you. Find out how new books make their way in the Chicago Public Library system, and meet some of the librarians who make it happen.


Nicky's And The Big Baby: A South Side Burger Mystery

Dozens of unconnected fast food joins serve up the same popular Chicago cheeseburger under the same name.


The Hard Work of Collecting Scrap Metal for a Living

Chicago's scrap metal industry relies on small scale collectors, called scrappers, who scout for metal castoffs to sell and recycle.


The Story Behind “Go Cubs Go” And The Man Who Wrote It

Folk singer Steve Goodman grew up going to Cubs games in Chicago, and this diehard fan had a lifelong goal—to write a hit song about baseball. This week we revisit his story.


Putting on a Chicago race requires fees, permits and patience

Each year tens of thousands of people take part in 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and all kinds of walking and running events in Chicago. But how does one get permission? And what’s it like to navigate the process and work with the various city departments to put on an event like this? Curious City talked to one race director who organizes ultramarathons to find out. And of course, as you might imagine, there’s just a little bit of bureaucracy involved.


Signs of Spring: From Screechy Recorders To Sprouting Weeds

Two sure signs of spring in the Chicago area are end-of-year band concerts at schools, and plants beginning to grow. This week we revisit a couple of stories from the archives on that theme. First, tenacious weeds like buckthorn, milkweed and goldenrod grow everywhere in Chicago from railroad tracks to sidewalk cracks. We find out how they survive city life. Plus reporter Monica Eng gets an answer to the question: why do so many kids learn to play the recorder in school?


How often do judges get voted out of office?

Editor's note: This episode has been updated with new statements from Judge Matthew Coghlan. Every election, after breezing through their choices for governor, president, senators, and state reps, Cook County voters face the longest part of the ballot: Circuit Court judges. Though the candidates running for judge may be the most obscure, judges are the elected officials any voter is most likely to encounter and the ones whose decisions can have the most direct impact on their life. Anytime...


The Story Of Chicago’s Polish Constitution Day Parade

For more than a century, Chicago’s Polish community has celebrated Polish unity and identity at the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade. This year, the parade has a new theme and anti-war message. Curious City’s Adriana Cardona-Maguigad tells us the history of the parade and what it has meant to the Polish diaspora in the Chicago area


What Happened To The Crows?

A listener thought she’d noticed a change in Chicago’s crow population. And she was right. Twenty two years ago, the crow population of Illinois was at an all-time high. But just a few years later, half of the birds were dead. The crows were hit by a deadly virus. And it’s one that humans are susceptible to as well. So where was this virus coming from? Reporter Claire Caulfield finds the answer.


The Fight For Disability Rights In Chicago

Sometimes, when Mike Ervin sees other wheelchair users about to board the bus or enter a train station in Chicago, he wants to catch up to them and say, “You’re welcome”. Because 30 years ago, much of the accessibility that people with disabilities encounter in public transportation today — lifts on buses, elevators at train train stations — didn’t exist. There were also no curb ramps, and buses would drive right by people in wheelchairs without stopping. But Mike Ervin, who has used a...


Are Chicagoans True Midwesterners?

Geographically, Chicago is smack in the middle of the Midwest. But not everyone seems to think that’s enough to make us “real” Midwesterners. Is being a Midwesterner about where you are on a map, or about state of mind? We found that people’s answer to this question says a lot about how they view Midwestern identity and the growing urban-rural divide.


What's It Like To Be In A Youth Orchestra?

This season 800 students will be a part of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra’s programs. They’ll come from across the state of Illinois but also from Indiana, Michigan and even Iowa. Nearly every member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played in a youth orchestra. Producer Jason Marck finds out about the joys and pressures of being an elite youth musician.


Chicago Teens Open Up About Race Stereotypes And Dating

Students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may go to the same high school, but this doesn’t guarantee they won’t cling to stereotypes about one another. That became painfully clear a few months ago when a student at Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School made a video asking classmates what race they wouldn’t date and why. Most of the answers were offensive, with many kids laughing and talking comfortably about how people of other races smell — all of it right in the school hallways...


What Happens When A Pothole Damages Your Car

Chicago’s streets are covered in asphalt and the city pays out a lot of money to drivers whose cars have been damaged by the poor condition of our roads. So why does Chicago use a material like asphalt, which requires so much repair, to pave its streets? And is there any recourse when your car gets damaged from hitting a pothole? Find out in this week’s episode.


A Quest To Find Chicago’s ‘Lizard Mound’

A Curious City fan asked us about an odd detail on an old Chicago map. Was it really a Native American burial mound? Producer Jesse Dukes went on a quest to find the answer.


The History Behind Chicago's Free Theater

The Free Theater was an ensemble group that put on non-traditional, avant-garde theatrical productions in Chicago from 1968 to 1974. Like its name suggests, the shows were free and no auditions were required. Productions took on the politics of the time. Curious City reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad digs into the group’s history and looks at what low cost and accessible theater looks like nowadays in Chicago.


Do real people win WBEZ pledge drive giveaways?

One Curious City listener was skeptical about whether real people actually win WBEZ’s pledge drive giveaways. They do. But there’s a little more to that answer. Plus, an economist who studies fundraising explains why people give money during pledge drives in the first place.


Chicago's Old Morton Salt Warehouse Becomes A Music Venue

Chicago has budgeted about 18 million dollars for salt for the winter 2022. And the city gets all that salt from one vendor: Morton Salt. Now, the company’s iconic warehouse is getting transformed into a multi-use development, including a music venue called “The Salt Shed.” In this episode historian Paul Durica traces the history of Chicago’s salt industry and tells us how some of that history will be preserved in the new concert space.


An Aldi closes and a Chicago neighborhood is reeling from the impact

Last year the Garfield Park Aldi closed after 30 years, leaving thousands of West Siders without a nearby grocery store where they can buy affordable, fresh produce or other staples. Now, the City of Chicago is considering purchasing the Aldi property to ensure it remains a grocery store. WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton and Curious City intern Asia Singleton head to the West Side neighborhood to find how the store’s closing is impacting residents — and what they’re doing about it.