Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Storytellers Unplugged, April 28th 2010
She Blinded Me With Science
Well, actually, it was a he, and it involved psychiatric craziness, but I couldn’t get a working title out of that. Last month, Dave commented on not knowing about my so-called hippie days. Well, I was even wilder than that.
I smoke, did any of you know that? Marlboro Lights, the cigarette of the enlightened. Not often. Started in college because it cut down on my hunger pains, and I think a pack of cigarettes was cheaper than a Dunkin’ Donut in 1981. Stevenson Hall, 2nd Floor, all the writing workshops. A half-dozen vending machines filled with coffee and scalding hot chicken broth. I wish I had photos, particularly black and white film, the alcove near Room 203 filled with kids hidden by cigarette smoke, grown men shrieking from the broth spilling over their fingers. Spring outside, but bleak inside, due for the most part by the overhead lights discolored by the smokers. Now that you know that I wrote “Rapid Transit” while hopped up on coffee, broth, and nicotine, well, I bet that explains a lot, right.
I quit easily. But over the years, I’d be so pissed off at the boss or the sky that I’d buy a pack, hotbox three or four of the cursed things, and then pay the rest of the pack forward. The last time was at the printing plant, the winter of 2007. Too many guys on the night crew smelled of bachelor ass and making my clothes reek helped a bit.
Which leads me to this. As I’m ready to be off unemployment and back on food stamps, I have been looking at Craigslist every night, looking for focus studies and the like. I got a reply from my alma mater, UIC, and I’d be at the Behavioral Science Building, which I knew was behind Stevenson Hall simply because it looked...well, now I’d say it looks like a hunk of crystal meth, but back then it was this clunky, grey building that didn’t fit with the shiny, bright buildings that all seemed to be named for politicians.
$30.00 for two hours, a smoking study. With my handicapped pass, my bus ride was 75 cents each way. Most importantly, I figured I’d be able to fake smoking by not coughing my brains out. This kid came in, he reminded me of how old I am because of his resemblance to one of the characters from Animal House. I had to do a Breathalyzer thing, which was fine because I smoked two cigarettes, a little less than manly because of the wind that day, on the way across the campus. I’ll skip past the part where I typed into a computer why this and when that...let’s get to the good part. A cautionary tale, perhaps.
The kid came back in and asked if I wanted to make another $70.00. He was naked under his labcoat, so I felt safe in answering with a shrug. He then brought up a screen on the computer with a strange purple square made of smaller squares. Up and down was “Bad” and across was “Good,” but I couldn’t understand how, by moving the mouse around the other squares, I could describe a varying amount of goodness or badness. I didn’t have a chance to ask, because the guy zoomed out of there, back to the camera I was being monitored on.
The first photo was of a young black kid with his jaw missing. Then a flower vase. A can of re paint, then a severed finger. Each photo remained on the screen for five seconds, and I still couldn’t get how I could feel good AND bad about a damn severed finger. Why, because it belonged to an adult? I saw photos of people having sex, women on the bottom, women on the top, naked men against a wall that looked suspiciously like the alcove from my college days. A man being tasered, more flowers in a field, and then an honest-to-God eyeball with optic nerves attached, floating in a glass of fluid. More sex shots. The plane hitting the South Tower on 9/11. The jumpers. Tienaman Square, the guy who stood up to the mighty tanks. Back to 9/11. Girls in bikinis.
I was actually wetting my lips with the tip of my tongue, something I might do in November when I’m on a crowded street corner, just to get the sharp tang of the nicotine ever so close to my throat. The screen went blank, the kid came in and told me to smoke. I wanted some bleach for my eyes, to be honest. Then I had to smoke again, only after he handed me the money, all crisp fives and tens. We made small talk, I left, pissed that I was not dressed for the weather. Now late afternoon, it was in the 40s, and I was wearing my Polkaholics t-shirt and my leather jacket. I stopped in the food court to get something to eat, to get my body warm. $3.89 for a biscuit with cheese, bacon, and a Jimmy Dean sausage. Now I know why Jimmy Dean is so damn rich.
I started walking uphill towards the entrance to the Blue Line train, which ran between the east and westbound lanes of the Eisenhower Expressway. Maybe I ate to fast, maybe it was the taste of the tobacco, or the visuals of the truly disgusting photos I did not describe, but I suddenly walked to the railing and threw up onto I-90. Nobody swerved, so I knew I wouldn’t be making the news that night.
What is the point of telling this? Well, again I am pointing out that there’s a story in everything, I could change various parts of this story and sell it to Penthouse, Soldier of Fortune, or turn it into a manga comic of big mouths and big eyes. The lab guy could have been Pokemon.
But I am also telling you this, all of you. If anyone in a lab coat offers you money without telling you why, haul ass.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
In 1966, my dad was transferred to the 8th District and the photo above is the block I lived on, near Dawes grade school, not even close (by walking standards) to St. Denis. So I'm not pretending to say I grew up in Humboldt Park, before it was all fucked up by hipsters and their town homes.
For everyone else (and Anonymous), there is a new post below this one.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Maybe its because I'm so used to "Who Stole The Kishka?" (Hint: It was Stashu.) , that I zone them out, yet if I'm waiting for a bus at 8 AM and hear a nice Mexican polka, I cheer the hell up. When I worked at the plant, Carmerina and Sophia in bindery listened to polkas, and when I got a ride hom at midnight, after a 12 hr shift, the polkas playing on the car radio kept me wide awake in the cold of winter. Many of my family members are buried at St. Adelbert's, which is as about as far northwest as you can get and still be in Chicago. Mamach. Szostak.Rushko. If I took a decent guess, I'd say the place was filled with 80% Polish ghosts. And I posted an image of the old Dziennik Chicagoski, which is now printed in tabloid form and slick paper.
OK. Cut to last night (Thursday). Our first warm night, it was in the 80s all day, and our Friday high came at midnight. In the Englewood neighborhood, considered (by me) to be another level in hell, there were 16 shootings that left 7 people dead. The area is 100% black, and I always scratch my head at the grandmoms and aunts who say their kids were hood kids and yet they get killed on a street corner at 3:15 AM on a school night. Since the start of the scool year, 130 school kids have been killed, most of them shot, a few of them beaten. When it comes to mourning, there were a hell of a lot of sound bites about the Mayor and the PO-lice needing to step and do more. I wish the news stations would tally their sound bites for every death, and add up how many times you don't see the mother or father on camera. It's always an aunt or an uncle.
The Polish people are very religious, I can go to St. Albert's on State Road and listen to a mass in Polish if I wasn't sick of Catholic priests who need their balls cut off fucking alter boys. And for the most part, Mexican families in most neighborhoods are religious and tight-knit, and willing to talk with you instead of averting their gaze when you pass on the street. But I am sorry to anyone reading this who might think I have an ounce of racism in me, but the black population in Englewood, and in the Austin neighborhood, always expect others to clean up their own mess. Earlier this week, a 15 yr old girl was shot dead. She was pregnant. Are condoms expensive? Christ. Quite a few black men need their balls cut off, as well, or at the very least be introduced to some nice sout' side Arsh Catlik priests. And, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with taking a gang member who just killed innocent bystanders and tasering the fuck out of him through his eyeballs. And if he lives through that, shoot him right there on the ground, hopefully in his own piss. But that's just me.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Walnut is the reverse of Maypole, although it runs erratically. Much like Crystal, the street I lived on as a kid. This is at the Ashland stop, facing north. On the way back to the el, I saw this really ghost-y sign, so I tried my best to get a decent shot. And that's that for now.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Maypole roughly parallels Lake Street, and I first knew of the street after Frankie Machine went running from the cops at the end of Nelson Algren's The Man with The Golden Arm. The hipster shit isn't this far west yet, though within a few blocks there's the newer housing built around United Center. But there's still a wedge of squalor right off of Ashland Avenue. Poverty is rough on the eyes, but it is still more realistic than the bullshit real estate projects that will soon enough force the people who live here far away.
I'm posting these here just as an ass-backwards way of having an easier way of printing them out. And, again, for any of you thinking, hey, why doesn't Wayne sue Metra?, well, it was MY fault I fell. Besides, their lawyers would just say I was doped up on bipolar meds or some other bullshit. And it was indeed my fault, I'm used to my body walking exactly where my brain tells it not to.
Anyhow. More shots of the Lake Street el later.