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“Life in or around Chicago”

It’s massive. It’s mind-boggling. It’s use is obscure upon first glance. They call it a quarry, apparently. You pass it on I-94, going east from Chicago into Indiana. It’s a giant pit of gray rock, the bottom of which is not viewable from the highway, so deep.

Jeff Tweedy, frontman of the band Wilco, was born in Belleville, IL, a town 18 miles from St. Louis, and 13 miles from East St. Louis, IL. His first band, Uncle Tupelo, was formed with some acquaintances from Belleville, and would start by playing shows in St. Louis. The lead singer would break the band up in 1994 by calling another member to tell him that he was not getting along with Jeff Tweedy. This member would form Son Volt with some Uncle Tupelo members, and Tweedy would form Wilco with other Uncle Tupelo members. Wilco was formed in St. Louis and got signed before any association began with Chicago.

A platoon of womanly energy, eyes innocent and understanding, a body that synopsizes every female having ever inched along these corridors. This is why we fight wars. This is why we get out of bed. This is why we are here, resenting each other’s existence.

Pitchfork.com began as pitchforkmedia.com, founded by Ryan Schreiber in Minneapolis when he was just out of high school. It was conceived to be a “regularly updated resource for independent music.” [1] It would grow and magnify to a great influential level, and eventually, compile lists, that were widely viewed, of its favorite 100 albums of all the decades. On its Top 100 Albums of the 1990’s list, included are a couple albums by a band called Brainiac. These albums drastically changed the way future bands would create indie rock. The lead singer of Brainiac, Timmy Taylor, died in an automobile accident in the band’s prime. Brainiac members would go on to for another band Enon. Enon made several albums, the third of which is Hocus-Pocus, containing the song “Spanish Boots.” This and Wilco’s song “Heavy Metal Drummer” are the two best songs for living in or around Chicago.

“When I fight,” he says, “I take a little of that stuff.”
“I had about four Long Island Iced Teas,” he says. “‘Bout fell out of my chair.”
His muscles are bulging through his shirt. On his face is no expression. Seems like every time I look up he’s glaring at me. I’m looking for a place to go. Along the dust upon the wall, in the music I hope exists in everyone’s heart, within all this new technology in which we’re submerged.

{Exchange in New Buffalo, MI}
“Excuse me. Are you familiar with this area?”
“No.”
“I’m tryin’ to find a church.”
“Oh.”
“Are you from Chicago?”
“No.”
“Just have the hat on?”
“Yeah.”

{Exchange in Chicago}
“You remember Chuck?”
“A little bit.”
“He hung out here a couple times, probly before going out.”
“Mmm-hmm.”
“He was the one who had all that coke.”
“Dude, you just described like half your friends.”

“Yeah, I’m just in Indy now,” she said. “Chicago KICKED MY ASS!”

“Derrick Rose? That’s a bad man right’eyah.”

Beep. Crosses his arms. Beep. In the eyes a fixed gaze. Beep. We’re in Jewell. Beep. He’s 5’10’’ 220 lbs. Beep. It’s relatively dark for a grocery store, full of action, nothing frenzied, nothing static. Beep. $150 and counting. Beep. His wife is a buxom, gorgeous little Latina. Beep. Frozen pizzas. Beep. Cashier relaxed, everyone comfortable in their own way. Beep. He is of Scottish complexion, but portly. Beep. Frozen taquitos. Beep. Eyes sheltering the situation, expression inexpressible. Beep. $300. There you go.

“My roommate was telling me about these muggings that have been happening. One dude comes out of nowhere…”

A group of four friends on the orange line from Midway airport, on the southwest side, toward downtown. A fat dude from Michigan State University, a benign guy and a benign girl, and a guy with a silent gregariousness. He bears the burden of the situation, and so exempts himself from scrutiny and doubt. In his cheeks is a rosy sheen that bends and gives with the air pressure, and the characteristics of the day. They’re all on their way to Lollapalooza, and they all got their tickets a different way.
“Yeah,” one says. “$30. Sounds like I got ripped off doin‘ it that way.”
Laughter.

No Age was a big craze in 2009, t-shirts everywhere. The people might like Third Eye Blind, but they won’t admit it. They won’t want you to stop them on the street, to ask them anything. Most if not all things, of any makeup, sentiment, objective, or color, are accepted. But where’s your money at? It’s gone, and you’re sitting there with a jaw that’s strong but not steel, and all American progress seems to culminate in one soft-chinned girl, who’s standing there looking annoyed, probably getting off somewhere, just hoping for it all to make sense.

“Yup,” he said. The train clanked into motion. “‘Bout to go visit my little six-year-old nephew.” He took a drink of his liquor that he had in a brown paper bag. “Lil’ badass!”

I move back to my hometown of South Bend, IN to become a teacher, because it was a great place for me to grow up, and I want to help other people, young people, grow up there. Colorado was unfriendly. Two days before I move I get the notice that I will be disallowed a substitute teaching certificate on grounds of my background check, which has turned up two arrests. Both arrests list public intoxication as the primary violation. In addition, there is a misdemeanor violation of possession of marijuana, a drug that when inhaled puts the user in a keen state of perception, under which the studying and digestion of scholastic subject matter is internalized and familiarized, leaving the user in an advantageous mindset for relating it orally. No arrest was made for this violation.
I’ve been away for a while, in an opposite kind of town, people don’t know me, I don’t know people. I go to a bridge over the St. Joseph River. There is a steel beam extending from one side of the bridge to the other, as it supports itself over the river. I step out on the beam, which is four inches wide. Below me is a thirty foot drop onto rocks. I take another step. I’m schizophrenic. I take another step. Nothing is worse than being schizophrenic. I take another step. I stand, thrilled. They won’t let you into the giant white petroleum things with the ladders going up in a circle around them, all 70 feet up.

[1]: wikipedia.org

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