Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's Not Exactly Penny Lane

It was such a marvelous day in Chicago on Tuesday that, after I got off work, I decided to walk the six blocks north and five blocks east from my job on campus to our apartment. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I thought that a brisk afternoon stroll through the neighborhood was just what I needed before I settled in for the evening to write my Heidegger paper about we can only become authentic human beings after we recognize and embrace the inevitability of our own demises. (My other two papers are about the impossibility of faith and the non-existence of truth. Philosophy is fun.)

So I strolled up to 53rd Street, and then turned right, and this is what I saw:

On the corner of 53rd and Woodlawn, there were two women kissing. And I don't mean kissing as in, "Hi honey, how was your day?" kind of way, but more in a "Let me see if I can swallow your tonsils while I put my hand up your buttcrack," kind of way. This went on for a few minutes, and for all this time I stared stupidly at them. And then they saw me. Awk-ward. But not nearly as awkward as when they then turned around and walked in the exact same direction that I was going in, about twenty yards in front of me. And the entire time they kept turning around and giving me the strangest looks, like I was the publicly indecent one.

Fortunately, as I passed 53rd and Kimbark, my attention was re-diverted to an old man sitting on a stoop to an apartment building with two dogs. Two big, angry, hungry looking dogs. I gingerly tip-toed around their slavering jaws, and was just about scot-free when the man suddenly yelled at me. "HEY." Uh-oh, I thought, and focused on not making eye-contact. "HEY." He yelled again. There was no avoiding it. I turned around. One of his dogs had gotten up and was looking at me, drooling. "Yes?" I said. "HOW YOU DOIN'?" he said, clearly and in all caps. "Good, how are you doing?" "NICE DAY TODAY." "Yup." There was a pause. The dog laid back down, satisfied. The man was staring at something above me and to my right. Clearly we were done here. I mushed on.

I swear, this guy's dogs were like, twice as big.

After I crossed Blackstone,

I lingered for a while to look in a shop window at the latest hot item in Hyde Park: bootleg Barack Obama T-shirts. These are plain black or white shirts that someone has bought in bulk and then photoshopped on to them images of Obama, and usually some slightly irregular version of his trademarked "O" logo. The result of this is that Obama is almost already Big Brother here, with his smiling face and doey, all-seeing eyes everywhere. One of the shirts had his likeness displayed across an American flag, surrounded by the floating heads of Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Malcolm X. I'm guessing that that shirt probably wasn't the best seller last week in West Virginia. And what's up with Mandela?? Couldn't they have come up with a third American Civil Rights leader?

Medgar Evers
Don't know him? Look it up. That's what Wikipedia's for.

Finally I reached 53rd and Harper, and went inside the bank to deposit the paycheck that was literally burning a hole in my pocket. So I got in line for the ATM and - oh, no! Those damn lesbians were right in front of me again! I spent the next several minutes staring intently at feet while one of the women kept looking over her shoulder and giving the stink-eye. Maybe she was just being over cautious in case I was planning on stealing her PIN number, but somehow I doubt it.

The run-in at the bank must have unsettled me more than I anticipated, because, as I got close to 53rd and Lake Park, I didn't realize that I was blankly staring at a young man who was walking towards me on the sidewalk. "What's up.. P-IMP?" he asked me. (Just like that, too, with the emphasis on the first "P") He startled me, but I guess that it was intended as a compliment. I wasn't wearing my pimp hat that day - I had on my wool driving cap, but I would describe that more as "jaunty" than "pimp-tastic"- so he either meant it metaphorically or he could look into my soul and see my essential pimp-alistic nature. Either way, I smiled at him and nodded, and he seemed satisfied.

At last, I reached the grand conclusion of my epic journey: the liquor store, where they were having a big sale on Kentucky bourbon. It made me appreciate the fact that they put the liquor store right next to the bank - it made my trip much easier, and brought a happy end to my arcade game-like experience of trying to get home.

Joel crossing Lake Park Avenue.


Robyn B. said...

You've inspired me: I think I'll start taking the Turtles ot Giant Logs to work. The 6 bus is sloooow these days.

Jim V. said...

I think you need to pull out the old Topo Duo and skoot across that creek. For an extra challenge, drink the product before leaving the liquor store. Now that is an adventure.