The End Is Nothing, The Road is All: A Nelson Algren Documentary

Jack Wangelin - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Nelson Algren: The End Is Nothing, the Road Is All

A documentary on the life of Nelson Algren, the literary figure of local infamy; produced by local studio, Bullet Proof Film.

Bullet Proof Film Logo
Bullet Proof Film Inc.

Chicago’s Wicker Park is home to Bullet Proof Film, a full service production company and producer of award winning documentaries whose work has been distributed world wide airing on PBS, ARTE France, Link TV and the History Channel. It is also the site of esteemed writer Nelson Algren’s most evocative and influential work. So, it seems fitting that former Wicker Park resident and award winning filmaker Denis Mueller and filmmaker Mark Blottner have joined with Ilko Davidov of Bullet Proof Film to produce the definitive documentary on the life and work of Nelson Algren.

Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, the Road is All is a feature length documentary film about one of America’s most important -- yet underappreciated and unjustly forgotten authors. The film deftly evokes the atmosphere of 1950’s Wicker Park/Chicago, the perfect setting to revisit, through Algren’s signature writings, issues that are still very relevant today - government surveillance, social and political activism, the excesses of a materialistic society, and the role of the artist in it.

The soulful notes of jazz great Oscar Pettiford, performed by long time Bucktown musician Richie Pardo, provide an emotional chiaroscuro to Algren’s flailing, tragic battles with the city of Chicago, his critics, the FBI, too many women - most famously Simone de Beauvoir, and ultimately, himself.

We are seeking support for this project from those who are closest to it. To Algren, Chicago and Wicker Park were more than just places to live and work, they were characters that came alive through his writing, they were like family. And so, we too are part of the “Algren family” and have been working for over a decade to finish and bring this film home, to Chicago, where it belongs. 

Our Indigogo campaign is drawing to a close.  We are within reach of our goal. Your help can make this amazing story of Wicker Park’s most illustrious writer, a reality. Please donate what you can, today.

"The End Is Nothing, the Road Is All" LINKS:


The Film's Website 




A big thank you to Ilko Davidov, Carmine Cervi, & Bullet Proof Film, Inc. for bringing WPB a fantastic biopic on Nelson Algren, and for writing this post to help get the word out.

Member Spotlight: Old Zines

Jack Wangelin - Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Interview with Member Bob Katzman of

Where did you get the inspiration to open your business? 
I was 14 and left home in the middle of the night and needed to find a way to support myself. I opened one business after another and all the while was collecting paper, periodicals and posters that dated back to 1576.  

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? 
Beginning at 5, I collected empty Coke bottles from prairies near high schools where the kids would throw them. I’d put them in a little red wagon and then turn them in for 2-3cents each and buy candy and water balloons. 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
A good relationship is more important than any single sale.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business in Chicago? 
Have a year’s worth of money saved to pay your basic cost of living. Don’t hire anyone until you’re overwhelmed with business. Make sure you’re filling a need. When you’re successful don’t change your old clothes; don’t advertise your success! And last, find a way to give yourself time off. 

What product or service of yours are you the most excited about offering? 
I sell magazines for birthdays and anniversaries, but really I sell emotion. I sell the way a person will feel when they open up whatever gift it is a person has selected for them. There are only four places like mine left in America. That means a person who buys a gift from me has to go out of their way to find me in Skokie – and that’s the gift, that they’re bothering at all. 

I also sell books here that I wrote myself – non-fiction about Chicago. 

And I currently have 50,000 posters from all over the world being liquidated for $10 each.

What do you like the most about being located in Wicker Park Bucktown? 
I may not be in Wicker Park or Bucktown but I joined the Chamber because I love the people in the neighborhood and they are the right demographic for what I do – smart, curious and artistic. Now if only I could teach them how to use the train to get here! 

What are the places in Wicker Park Bucktown that you cannot live without? 
Where my daughter Rachel lives and I won’t tell you where that is, but it’s with my grandson Jericho and her husband Jerry. She is an artist, singer/songwriter, and makes jewelry. Is she not the perfect Wicker Park person? 

What kind of people are your customers? 
Worldly - they appreciate history. They understand the value and fragility of what I sell. They’re also imaginative because they could just go to Target to buy the latest CD. 

What can people expect when they walk in your front door?
A genuine eccentric. 

Do you have a great story about your business that you’d like to share? 
Last week a woman came here to sell me a box of sports magazines. We had never met before. I couldn’t use them and she was disappointed but then she noticed a 1931 Geographic on “Modern Ethiopia,” and explained to me “I just came back from Ethiopia.” We started talking. I know all about Ethiopia – used to have a foreign language bookstore in Lakeview where I sold Amharic language tapes. (That is a Semitic language by the way.) We got to talking and she was interested in Coptic art which is early Christian Art in Ethiopia. I found an example of it in a 1920 Geographic about Abyssinia (the old name for Ethiopia). She bought that and an Ethiopian flag too.  She was thrilled! She never expected to come in here, try to sell me sports magazines, and instead, leave with a magazine about Coptic art in Abyssinia! That’s a good story, isn’t it? 

For directions to Bob’s store in Skokie from the Damen Blue Line el stop, please click here
Bob Katzman
Old Zines
4906 W. Oakton, Skokie, Ill 60077
(847) 677-9444 M-F: 10-5/weekends: 10-2

Tale of Two Cities- Bucktown vs. Wicker Park pt. 7

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Monday, July 30, 2012

The following blog entry was contributed by: Sam Marts and Dina Petrakis
- he's Bucktown, she's Wicker Park - who compare their two ‘hoods.

People that criticize urban sprawl also denigrate the “Mini- or Mc-Mansion” and increasing footprint of new homes. There is nothing new under the sun, however, so today we look at 2 grand homes on multiple lots- one in Bucktown and one in Wicker Park built a century earlier.  

This Wicker Park home was built grand on a wider-than-standard (25’ x 125’in most neighborhoods) lot.  Certainly intended to impress, the building features a turret and multiple roof lines.  

The piano nobile (first floor) is up off the ground, the balcony implies public address, the stone façade is highly textured and detailed- it’s actually Queen Anne style in stone.  The proportions are vertical, typical of buildings before 1919.  There are 3 vertical elements adding grandeur and depth- the turret, the center section, and the entry section.  The rooflines point to the sky as do the columns and balustrades.  The windows are tall, allowing maximum light and ventilation (air conditioning was not available residentially) and adding to the verticality of the overall composition. 

This Bucktown contemporary uses two lots with the building oriented to the long side of the plot, furtheraccentuating its size.  

This house looks very different from its predecessor until we realize it also presents itself as a collection of 3 vertical elements -here treated as abstract planes with differing materials.  Like the Wicker Park home, the first floor is raised.  However, this design makes the eye moves horizontally, typical of the modern age.  Featuring a richness of textures and materials, the abstract planes play across the elevation, and the entry and stair are obscured, typical in contemporary design.  The windows are in a hierarchy visible from right to left.  The largest and most imposing windows are on the right, framed with limestone wrapping around the corner; tertiary windows are simple squares in the center section; and to the left are secondary windows, large but NOT framed in limestone.

So- horizontal Bucktown or vertical Wicker Park- how do YOU like your big house?  

Tale of Two Cities- Bucktown vs. Wicker Park pt. 4

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Friday, April 27, 2012

The following blog entry was contributed by: Sam Marts and Dina Petrakis
- he's Bucktown, she's Wicker Park - who compare their two ‘hoods.

Today we take a peek at two homes of more moderate size, for those of you working your way up to a Bucktown or Wicker Park Mansion- or who prefer a smaller footprint.  The approach of these two homes is dramatically different, in part due to their location- and the timing of their “remodelation”.  

This Bucktown cottage has been enlarged and modernized, maintaining most of the original façade.  The slot window at the top and the picture window at the parlor both increase the visual scale of the cottage and announce their modernity with new shapes.  The most dramatic element is the second-story addition with a contrasting glass and metal wall in totally contemporary mode.  This would not be allowed in a Landmark District and wouldn’t look congruous there.  Had this renovation been more recent, it might have been a tear-down- or certainly would be a larger addition.  Today, the modest scale has a place in the market again.

This Wicker Park two-flat has elements which actually make it appear cottage-like by reducing the scale of the upper level; the roof of the bay window and the canopy over the entrance come forward and the second story visually recedes.   The cornice is original but the porch was reconstructed using picturesque elements as fitting this Landmark District and similar to surrounding buildings.  An addition on this property would most likely be limited to the rear of the structure by Landmarks- and a tear-down would be prohibited.  The scale of properties in Landmark Districts is more static- and appeals to those who appreciate both size and aesthetic.

So which is YOUR pick, “anything goes” Bucktown or “my way or the highway” Wicker Park?

Wicker Park & Bucktown: A History of Diversity in Cultures and Architecture

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Thursday, March 15, 2012

This blog was contributed by Demetrius Simpson. He is a Chicago native, sits on the Wicker Park & Bucktown Chamber Board of Directors, sits on the Bucktown Community Organization (BCO) Board of Directors, and is a Realtor with Sergio & Banks Real Estate.

Since the 1800’s, the Wicker Park & Bucktown communities have been a melting pot of cultures.

German, Scandinavian, Eastern European, African and Spanish descended cultures all played a role in shaping the Wicker Park & Bucktown neighborhoods and the architecture that we know today.

In 1800, the neighborhoods now known as Wicker Park & Bucktown were a dense, marshy forest full of wildlife. It was an isolated area on the outskirts of the City of Chicago, connected to the City primarily by the Indian trail known today as Milwaukee Avenue. 

It was The Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that sent a wave of settlers into the WPB areas,

As the fire left seventy three miles of Chicago streets and 17,450 buildings destroyed and a third of the city’s population homeless.Affluent German and Scandinavian immigrants settled in Wicker Park, away from the ashes of the once thriving neighborhoods to the east. They built large homes made almost entirely of brick and stone, as a response to the vulnerability of wood frame homes to fire. By 1895, homes built in the Italianate and Victorian Gothic styles, to name a few, circled the four acre park donated to the city by developers Charles and Joel Wicker, after which the park, Wicker Park, and eventually the neighborhood were named. Wicker Park was the showplace of architectural styles during the 1890’s. Many of these homes still stand today and are located within Wicker Park’s Landmark District.

By the end of the 19th Century, in addition to German and Scandinavian immigrants, Wicker Park was home to African and Eastern European descended cultures. These working-class immigrants, primarily Ukrainian, lived in small cottages on Bell Avenue. The area south of Division Street at Bell Avenue eventually became known as Ukrainian Village.

By 1930, Bucktown was home to a very large population of Polish immigrants. It is said that Bucktown got its name because goats kept by these Polish immigrants ran wild in the streets. A Buck is the male of the species. Bucktown became known as Little Poland or the Polish Downtown.

World War I sent a wave of Russian and Jewish immigrants to WPB.

The large mansions that were built by the affluent German and Scandinavian immigrants were converted to multi-family dwellings, especially after World War II and during the housing shortage.

By 1950, Spanish-speaking immigrants moved into the area making WPB a true melting pot of cultures.

The Wicker Park & Bucktown neighborhoods were shaped by a Great Fire and two World Wars.

These events sent immigrants here who built homes, built lives and ultimately shaped these communities into what we love them for today, the rich flavor of different cultures and beautiful buildings.

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