Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicago: A first Impression

Its no secret, I'm a whole-hearted citizen of the Mid-West. As I'm learning, people on the coasts not only have trouble finding Nebraska on a map, but believe that it is entirely populated with pig farmers and hicks. Someone from Brooklyn asked me today, "Where are you from?", "Nebraska." I replied. "Oh, can you even fly there?"

Yes, rest of the world, we have airports. Our rich landscape offers more than steaks, corn fields, and non regional diction. I'll be the first to concede, we have a fuck-load of cornfields, but the point here is that we ALSO have things like Symphony Orchestras and Art Museums...given most of them tend to focus on corn related things...alright never-mind, the Midwest is boring (as my healthy alcohol tolerance can attest). The point is, here I am, in the "Windy City" from the biggest small town in the world. I should have an interesting perspective to write from right?

So what is Chicago?

As far as I can tell, Chicago is a vast, multicultural, chaotic whirlwind of people who are each busy bustling about the city with their own agendas. These are people who aren't afraid to step over you if you're bleeding in the street, but also will stop and take the time to hold a door for you or have a quick and pleasant conversation. In fact, I've had more random conversations with strangers in the past four days than I did in an entire year of tending bar. Young and old, black or white, straight or gay, everyone will talk your ear off about nothing in particular if you give them the chance. Its like New York only more polite. In Chicago a crack head will hold you at knife-point for your wallet, but when he's done he'll offer you a receipt. Its just that kind of Midwestern hospitality.

Chicago is famous for a few things: Its unique skyline, its cursed sports teams, its hotdogs, deep-dish pizza, and caramel corn, but mostly for its epic corruption. In many ways Chicago has simply remained true to it's founders intentions.

The Homeless Community!

I've often been scrutinized for my blatant disgust of the homeless community, but my actions are somewhat well-founded. When I was working at Jake's, a bar and liquor store, the bums would beg on the street until they had just enough to buy a beer, come in get said beer, drink it on the street, and repeat. Most of them made more money per hour, and more money per year than I did. Just think, if ten people give a bum a dollar over the course of an hour then he is effectively making ten tax-free dollars an hour. That was about the minimum, its not uncommon for them to make between twenty and fifty dollars an hour on the bigger intersections. Some of these guys actually had apartments where they slept when they weren't begging on the streets.(It makes me wonder why I'm paying all this money to learn, when I could just write some witty sayings on a piece of cardboard and make more than I did working full time.)

Disclaimer: Some people cannot help their situation and are truly victims of society, but treating the symptoms will not solve the methods by which people become homeless. 

In Chicago, the bums have taken it to a whole new level. One guy, who appeared to be a homeless amputee veteran (with no legs) asked me for change when I was en route to Union Station. I didn't say anything. He then asked me if I had the time. I knew off hand that it was about a quarter till seven.

"Quarter to seven!" he replied with alarm. "I'm going to miss my train." and with that he hopped up out of his wheel chair, folded it up and ran towards the train station at top speed, leaving me flabbergasted in his wake.

Bums on bridges are the worst and Chicago is full of them (both bums and bridges). They're like the troll in the three billy-goats-gruff, only instead of being fooled by a riddle, they just smell bad. In fact, one of these vagrants actually claimed he was a troll, that he owned the bridge, and that beautiful young ladies need not pay, but I had to.  I've grown used to steeling my resolve and walking across the bridges with a rigid stone-face like I'm a championship poker player. So the other day when I was walking across the state street bridge to go buy groceries I was prepared for the inevitable assault of pan handling. To my surprise the bum there was immobile, holding his cardboard sign. For some reason this was more curious to me than being harassed and I looked further. I could barely suppress a laugh as I glanced his way and saw him playing word feud on a new iPhone.

This was funny for a couple of reasons. Number one, either he makes enough money begging to buy and maintain a functional iPhone, (which as I'm sure was the main demographic apple was aiming for when they made it), or two, he stole the iPhone from some unsuspecting tourist and is now delighting that person's family and friends by playing risque words in word feud. Either way I giggled to myself as a I walked along. Part of me really wanted to get his word feud ID and start up a game with him.  That would probably go something like this:

Bum played: QUAY for 46 points
Me: "Good one Mr. Bumsworth"
Bum: "Why thank you."
Me:"How's things going on your bridge today?"
Bum: "Not to bad."
Grant played: TITS for 12 points.
Bum: "Good one."
Me: "...tits....hah."
Bum: "lol!"

[Knowing what I know about Chicago politics I'm surprised that the Bums don't have some sort of Panhandler's Union where they organize and give our Panhandler licensees for various locations. They make enough to pay dues. In fact If I ever make a documentary about Chicago I will put in the Panhandler's Union whether its true or not.]

So in conclusion, I love Chicago. The rest of the world is going to have to pry my cold dead hands off from around this magnificent city.

Hugs and Kisses,

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