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Magic Jewel Bar
Magic Jewel Bar
watercolor and ink
13.5 x 10.5

n 1953, South City still felt like 1947; neighborhoods were demarcated by the parish and the corner bar, and adults still mostly socialized at taverns rather than over suburban fences. At bars like the Magic Jewel, there was pool, a bowling machine, shuffleboard, a Cardinals game on the P.A. There was a Falstaff clock, ringed in red neon. There was a pay phone, always with some sweaty, desperate so-and-so locked inside, having the most intense conversation on earth. A drunk roaring along to Jo Stafford or Frank Sinatra on the jukebox. A peroxide blonde, wielding a lipstick-smudged cigarette and daintily spinning a black Bakelite ashtray around and around on top of the bar as she chatted distractedly. And the ceiling fan, spinning all the smoke and noise and humidity together with its blades. Eventually last call came down; at one legendary South Side bar, all the drunks were herded out with a klaxon, the bartender slamming the door hard after the last bleary guy exited, watching the drunks shuffle off into the night, their shadows feathering down the sidewalk under mercury vapor streetlamps.