Monday, June 30, 2008

Maxwell Street in Chicago

The rough-edged hustlers' heaven on Chicago's Near West Side is no more, thanks to the current Mayor Daley and the University of Illinois at Chicago. A new "Multi Pac" offers a visual and auditory dimension to remembrance that even classics like Ira Berkow's Survival in a Bazaar can't provide. It's a combination booklet, CD, and DVD, featuring and using the title of the classic 1964 Mike Shea documentary "And This Is Free." Footage as old as the 1940s is included, as well as the obligatory "making of..." interview. The CD has 17 tracks.

For getting the feel of a historic place that no longer exists in anything like its original form, this offers unparallelled access. If you have Jewish or African-American research targets with ties to this area, there may be genealogical potential in the narrow sense. Actually, the films (Shea's is only one) have enough random street scenes you might even see an ancestor briefly in the frame. Berkow himself puts it all in context in his introduction to the booklet.

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