Weeds, 1555 N. Dayton: Aaron was sitting at the bar, which was covered with itchy wool serape blankets, explaining how he entertains himself for an evening. He goes to a night spot and tells cute girls old Jewish stories, the long kind that start off with a rabbi who goes to a strange town and gets bitten by a small animal or a baker who throws his wife out of the house with only a piece of pita bread.
Elliot, Aaron's sidekick, goes along and squirms on a nearby bar stool because he has a high metabolism and gets overstimulated in hot weather. They are grad students at the University of Chicago's Divinity School.
"Stories can elicit a deep response," Aaron says, sitting under the green light that makes the air in Weeds look like old pond water. Aaron's head tilts to the left or right when he talks. "You look into somebody's eye and you can see where they're touched by the story. The eye gets a little teary. Of course, wardrobe is all-important, too. Like the shirt?" He was wearing a large cotton shirt the color of a tomato printed with platters of pears, lemons, and oranges. "My mother picked it out. I'm from Cleveland, University Heights.
"Last Wednesday, me and Elliot went to the Charleston in Bucktown and I started telling the male bartender Hasidic stories and the female bartender Dorothy hugged me. She told me she's busy for six weeks. I know she'll call. I'm patient. There was a girl from Iceland, too.
"Just the other day I told a story about how the founder of Hasidism attained the 36-letter name of God which he used to work miracles with. This woman in the group really liked the story but she had a boyfriend. Still she gave me her phone number.
"There are different levels of connection with storytelling. When my last girlfriend was upset, she'd ask me to tell her a story and she'd put her head on my chest so she could hear the story vibrating through my lungs. Her favorite was about how money can lead a person astray.
"I've moved a lot of people with stories. They can be very powerful.
"When me, Elliot, and this guy Abe ate some mushrooms and went drinking at Phyllis's Musical Inn, we met a beautiful blonde named Heidi who was a writer and interested in stories but she was going with a performance artist. Of course, I thought my stuff was more compelling than his. I told her the story about the two souls, one of my favorites. I told it for 40 minutes with lots of digressions. I checked to see if the fish was on the other end. It was, it was still tugging. Heidi was very moved. I definitely felt I had lured her in for the evening. But she's sort of a flirt. I've seen her a few times but she's too image conscious.
"Of course, sometimes I strike out.
"I was at Jimmy's talking to this girl Melissa who was really beautiful but she was suburban and spiritually barren. I was thinking what I could say that would touch her deeply and then a doorway opened in my mind. I opened my mouth and out came this wonderful pearl sitting in the doorway and she just didn't get it at all. But this guy next to her, who I knew--tears were rolling down his face, I mean, he was really touched by the story. He said, 'Aaron, sometimes when you speak, you speak like a prophet.'
"I was glad he was affected but I was really bummed that she didn't get it. Of course you don't tell a story just to get a woman to come home with you."
Next search: September 6
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.