Sunday, January 4, 2009
Miami Bowl, Winter Blowdown
Well, I've been promising Bob I'd tell the Miami Bowl story for about a year now, and as of this weekend, I have a new reader who stopped by after reading my July post on Storytellers Unplugged, "The Ghosts of 32nd Street." An expatriate Chicagoan fan letter for me, yay! So I'll kill two birds with one stone, making at least two people happy, some baffled, maybe a few dyspeptic. Here goes. Back in the winter of 2004, they tore the Miami Bowl down at Archer & Pulaski, "they" being the Demolition Bastards Who Tear Everything Good Down. Marzano's Miami Bowl was well known because it was open 24/7. You all know I don't drive, and there were times I'd be taking the Archer Avenue bus in the false dawn, then play pinball at Miami until the first Pulaski bus around 5:40 AM. Man, that was decades back. Well, I wanted souvenirs. I took bowling pins and shoved them into snow drifts. Walking back from the drift, I saw an opening, I pushed a toppled door aside and discovered what other scroungers did not, the basement. I jumped down and heard my right knee crack against the basement tile. There is no more a lonely sound than one of your own bones making a cracking sound in the dead of winter with no one around to hear it. I stood up, wobbly, thinking, OK, I'm invisible from sight, no one knows I'm here, and I can't see the outside. The first photo shows the elevated train, I was that close, but no one would see me. I had my empty backpack for my plunder. I cadged a box of squat green pencils, a plaque from 1989 with a bunch of polak names on it, and the photo that made it all worthwhile, the 1977 Marzano Rat Pack photo. It took me another hour to get back to ground level, as a lot of surfaces had a thin sheen of ice, finally I was back in the real world, the sky colored horseradish, the trains rumbling overhead. I grabbed two pins from the pile and took the others over the next few weeks. My right knee had popped, that's the side with my cerebral palsy so I could probably have a gunshot wound there and not notice it. I screwed it up worse the following year, not so ironically, at Bubbly Creek, taking winter photos. Again that forlorn crack of bone on ice that echoes everywhere. I'm proud of that photo of the guys in polyester, and I got it by jumping down ten feet into an unstable hole in the ground. It's Chicago history that was swiped away--its still an empty lot--and it was one of the better adrenaline rushes of my adult life.