Streetwise vendors sometimes go to great lengths to attract customers.Photo: Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune

1. Columbia College in the ’90s had its share of StreetWise vendors. For me, the most notable was a gentleman who spoke in the most regal of English dialects to ply his wares. It wasn’t uncommon to hear “Forsooth, my fine lad!” as he’d approach with a rolled-up StreetWise, claiming it would be a proper whip to trounce a foe. I heard him break character only once: In between regaling passersby with his spiel, he retired to our part of the sidewalk to say, “Man, these motherfuckers just don’t even appreciate what I’m trying to present to ’em. Damn!”

2. I didn’t do the club scene too much, but when I did, I would find myself at Neo or Exit from time to time (no, not the “original” Exit on Wells—sorry, old crusters). No matter when I went, I’d always see the same guy. Not a purple-dreadlocked, gas-masked goth monolith like you’d expect, but a five-foot-tall Latino dressed in black slacks and a clean white button-down shirt, always tucked in. Without stopping at the bar for a drink, he’d find a piece of the dance floor, throw his head up toward a spotlight, and proceed to violently shoot his arms up to the sky like he was attempting to pull the beam down with sheer willpower. He would remain in this trancelike state for hours. Eventually, I asked my sister about him, and she told me she didn’t know much but that she called him the Light Worshiper. Sounded about right.

3. The Singing Cab Driver (Ray St. Ray) picked me up at the end of an unfortunate night at the Gingerman Tavern after I redecorated some of the floor. Even though I was feeling a little ashamed of my amateur display, my spirits lifted when I entered St. Ray’s taxi. I remember him asking if I minded if he sang some songs while he drove, since he was, in fact, the Singing Cab Driver. Now, if you’re someone who would say no in this situation, please enjoy your unbuttered toast and T-shirted missionary sex and move along. This is a yes-only type of scenario. As far as what songs he sang, I can’t remember. If he was off-key, well, I can’t remember that either. What I can tell you is that right when you think you’re just another loser getting a lonely ride home from the bar with puke on your shoes, Chicago can still surprise you.