Sitting through a documentary on bondage, taking in a burlesque show, and browsing in several sex-toy boutiques—that all counted as research for Shane Tritsch in generating ideas for this month’s feature package on sex and love. In addition to helping him overcome his editor’s block, exploring sexy Chicago brought Tritsch, Chicago’s managing editor, some fringe benefits in more quotidian social settings. “I got to be the most interesting guy in the room, but I didn’t have to be clever or witty,” he says. “People were instantly interested.” Although the project was a tricky needle to thread, it was never boring. “I’m going to miss this,” Tritsch says.

For a disheartening number of Chicagoans, fresh fruits and vegetables are a long drive or bus ride away. In this month’s Reporter column, “The Food Desert,” JENNIFER WEHUNT examines these shopping wastelands and the tangled knot of urban issues surrounding them. “It’s not just grocery stores,” she says. “It’s also poverty, education, crime, and health, among other things.” As a topic, the food desert offers a point of entry to help readers—and possibly activists, legislators, and businesspeople—understand systemic problems affecting real people. “Personally, this was the most rewarding story I’ve written,” she says.

For the past seven and a half years, Chicago’s deputy dining editor, JEFF RUBY, has moonlighted as The Closer, the author of this magazine’s last page, a monthly comic soufflé of stunts, observations, and wisecracks. Starting this month on the last page, now called Outer Drive, Ruby will employ a more essayistic and narrative style. “I’m hoping to generally move away from the quippy, snarky format and try to spread my wings with some traditional columns,” he says. Traditional, but still funny—check out his lament on Chicago’s low-on-personality sports stars. You’ll also find him testing a smorgasbord of aphrodisiacs in “Naughty Bites” in The Stimulus Package.

In “Tonight, Let’s Go West” in Arena, J. C. GABEL creates a travel guide for locals to hit the restaurants, shops, and nightspots of the Near West Side, a task he approached with military precision. “I know the area pretty well, but I took a couple extra reconnaissance missions,” he says. Gabel edits the culture magazine Stop Smiling, which is about to turn into a series of magazinelike books, with the first released in spring 2010 and three or four original titles planned for each year. Gabel’s work has also appeared in Wallpaper, Nylon, and Playboy.

The single Chicagoans in The Adventures of Supermen and Wonderwomen who passed through LISA PREDKO’s photography studio ran the gamut from a folk-rock musician (“He played us a song”) to the current Miss Illinois (“She’s definitely smiled before”) to a firefighter (“She’s a tough carrot”). While posing, they charmed Predko and her staff. “We keep thinking who we can hook them up with,” she says. Outside of matchmaking, Predko’s latest project, featuring her work with the model Sabina Kelley, is a “vintage pinups–meet–rock ’n’ roll” calendar coming out in quarters, sponsored by Kilo Kai rum.


Photography: Megan Lovejoy