Yesterday I got a close shot of the conspicuous and elusive 'Walking Dude'. He has been a fixture in the North Loop and River North for decades.
He walks. Silently. He shuns conversation. He is very good at turning away from cameras. Getting a good shot of him requires quickness and subtlety.
He walks through his chosen neighborhoods like a wandering vagabond. No one knows where he lives or even if he is homeless.
He is called the "Walking Dude,' the 'Walking Guy,' and the 'Walking Man'. He is the man with no name.
Back in the late 1980's he was said to resemble a disco version of Yanni, the Greek singing sensation. He wore sport jacket with an open shirt and boots. His hair was long, as it is in my photo. He was known to stop, look at himself in windows, and comb his hair.
Others spotted him wearing sports coats and open collar shirts, looking like a trendy weekender. Upon closer inspection, the clothing was slightly shabby or worn.
Other than he is a fixture, nothing is really known about the 'Walking Dude'. He is a myth, mystery, and enigma. No one even knows his name. He walks with a blank gaze. He is not approachable. If you try to talk to him he just keeps walking.
There are stories. He is the scion of a wealthy family. He was a Rush Street bartender in the 1960's. A former professor of literature. A gigolo, graphic artist, street salesman hawking goods to cab drivers and trinkets to tourists, even a ghost.
The 'Walking Dude' is one of Chicago's characters like the the Whistler, who is a habitue of Daley Plaza and protests. He carries his signs and blows whistle. No one really knows his story either.
Mailbox Mary or Marilyn, depending on who you talk to, was another Near North fixture. She was also known as 'Crazy Mary'. She was a notorious and infamous streetwalker. While many knew her, no one knew anything about her.
How many enigmatic fixtures are there in Chicago? People with no known past or lives outside of their quirks or outlandish behavior?
What causes them to become mysterious eccentric fixtures on the urban scene?
What are their real stories and how do you get them? If you ask, how do you know they are telling the truth?
Is it better not to know? Leave them to their mystery?
Maybe that mystery is the only shred of dignity they have left.
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