Letters from Chicago – Volume I: Fit to Burst

Saturday August 11, 2012
2:38 AM
Logan Square
Chicago, IL 60647

It’s Superfest 2012 and the Congress Theater down the block hosts heavy beats and youthful entropy. I spent the night drinking a 30-rack of PBR, which I was excited to find for 12.99 at Vas Food & Liquor on Milwaukee and California. I drank it uncomfortably in the company of people I found overbearing politically and limited in their comfort zones. We drank, watching people in waves from my third floor apartment, dark, healthy teen-aged flesh parading past. My friend’s annoying friend Danielle (who was certainly the most active observer – thoroughly enjoying every “Fuck you!” she tossed at the cop cars and the rotten apple she busted on their windshield) stole my idea of plugging an iPod into my Fender Rumble 150 bass amp so that she could blast Lil’ Wayne, much to my dismay. (Not wanting to play something stereotypical, as four white kids gawking through a window, I suggested Frank Ocean).

I got fed up and decided to take a walk to Walgreen’s a few blocks down to snag some cig papers for the Drum we had and check out the action.

I felt sort of felt silly wearing my Washington Redskins snap-back tight and low around my eyebrows, trying to look like I’d fight back, but generally felt more comfortable because of it. I mainly observed on my walk, giving some headnods when sustained eye contact made it obligatory and thoroughly enjoying the collective sneers at the cops that cruised by.

I bopped into Walgreen’s, grabbed a 32 oz Gatorade – lemon-lime – without talking to any of the mob of 40-50 patrons and got in line. I reached the pinnacle of my wait and greeted the only other white person in the building, the cashier, with a relaxed, “What’s up.” At about that same moment, a petite, long-legged, light-skinned girl, probably around 17, started screaming at the security guard when he tried to stop her from walking out drunkenly with a pink grapefruit Snapple. She wasn’t subtle about her attempted theft, partially because she didn’t have much to hide the contraband in, clad in an above-fingertip-length, skin-tight pink dress, gold-sequined high heels, and a mini Coach bag. She wore a modified Puerto Rican flag tattoo on her left shoulder, a little tripped-out and with some of those stereotypical hollow five-point stars around it.

The Security Guard appeared a little spooked at her enthusiastic reaction and the cashier stopped ringing me up in order to watch, so I turned around to enjoy what might be a little show without reservation. Our thief-to-be began yelling at him through eyelids soaked in pink-blue eye shadow and tears, informing him that “His African ass should learn some English and stop telling her what to do.” His shell necklace, dark skin, broad nose, and bewildered look sold him out. He didn’t speak that much English, actually, and stumbled over his words. She got up in his face and rattled off in Spanish, “Quien eres en mi casa?” By this point everyone in the store was staring at the situation, exchanging jokes, laughs, and a few serious glances (eyebrows raised in exasperation, eyes bold and inquisitive), “Is this girl real?”

Then she shoved him, he lunged to restrain her and she punched him in the face. He paused for a second to take in what had happened, then hauled back and gave her one of her own straight to the mouth, swelling up the stage-right side of her bottom lip. Shit straight erupted then, with friends and foes jumping in on both ends and pulling back the opponents. During this mayhem, our instigator picks up her Snapple and hurls it at the Security Guard. I was happy to watch it sling past his face and into the wall of glass behind him, shattering it and sending a soft hailstorm of heavy glass onto the floor.

By this time, the flabbergasted, slow-moving, mustache manager of the store had dialed 911 and thank god for him; there were tons of police around, doubtless heavy in the neighborhood due to the color of skin expected to attend Superfest. An old-school beat cop with glasses and a shaved head showed up with his tall, buff thirty-year-old gelled-hair sidekick, and our heroine offered a crew of witnesses eager to attest to the fact that the security guard had hit her first. They seemed willing enough because she was kinda cute, perhaps baser instincts surfacing, but the pigs didn’t seem interested in what the kids had to say. They went to the manager for the story – through her screams that they were getting it all wrong — and of course, it began to feel like the head pig would protect the neck of his fellow law enforcement official, even as it was, a lowly rent-a-cop.

As he brought the still shrieking girl outside the store, I found out they didn’t carry papers. I bought a pack of $10.31 Turkish Royals. I went outside to smoke one.

After a while, she started yelling at the cops, promising to call the cops (them?) as she stumbled towards the intersection. They grabbed her, dragging her towards the white SUV they were sporting. She hooked her legs around a parking sign outside the store and stayed there locked until they convinced her she better come with them or get arrested for public drunkenness. I talked to a fellow observer (charmed by his slick ‘fro and skinny jeans) and we agreed, the right conclusion had been met. But shit man, that shit was fucked up.

Right after, I interrupted some kid on the street with a fixed gear, gauges, and a mustache and spilled what had happened because he was hollerin at the cops for lugging the girl away just because she was black. This was the first time I’ve ever seen the cops do the right thing. A moment of enlightenment maybe. Certainly a moment of confusion and reflection, probably aided by my being pretty stoned off some shake my friend Ari found in a clay pot in her house yesterday while Dave was cooking meatballs.

Eventually, I got home, a little caught up in my own head, and found Danielle claiming she had started a riot with that one really good Weezy song. Dan said that was a stretch. I agree.

Everyone was looking for something wild on a Friday night, for a little hope that the fragile shades of order in place could crumble under the weight of enough people and alcohol. But whether it was Danielle’s naïve passion for anarchy or the Walgreen’s bandit’s active pursuit of chaos, our cries for justice and freedom are misguided, frustrated attempts at attacking a system that we know is wrong, but struggle to change.

 

3:36 AM

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