Sweet Bone Chicago: A Dirty Confessional

Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Monday, July 19, 2010

           DAY TWENTY-NINE:  The tree has littered what proves, with a little taste test, to be baby apples onto the floor of our bus, so it stands to be proven that The Beard has committed mass arboreal infanticide, but we don't hold it against him much.  Before we’re moving, Navin’s out in the heat and sprinting down the city toward the beach, a full hour’s jog away, leaving only a chicken scratch note in his wake.  I rise a bit after and, after we discuss our plans to follow him to Lake Michigan, I start contacting my friends, including Wesley, Darin Fleisch’s old college roommate, Bryan, Darin’s little brother, as well as those two odd folks we’d met the night previous.  All respond but for the two strange strangers.

            After getting us some Cubs tickets for that night, we point the bus lakeward, and, hopping past the doggie beach, all full of synthetic, lumpy sand that might as well be a giant litter box, we reach the beach for humans, giddily flip the Frisbee about, and no later than the moment I set my towel down on a plot of land does a plump raindrop slap against my hand.  Quickly, the hordes of sun worshipers disappear, leaving a California boy to wonder why, for all the bad weather they presumably get, they’d be so skittish.  As The Beard and myself flip the Frisbee, letting the rain clear away all the road’s dirt from our bodies, Shmark is flopping around in the grey water; then comes the real rain.  Each plush drop explodes onto your skin like a hydrogrenade, and, like the locusts in South Dakota, we feel part of something biblical.  Women are crying, babies are screaming, and the lifeguard commands everyone OUT of the water and OFF of the sand, for the beach is CLOSED!  Closed: the beach?  It leaves one to wonder firstly how one might dare close a beach, and secondly how often that beach is closed, if all it takes is few thousand buckets of rain.  Regardless, we rush back to be with Pearl – we don’t want her to get the yips – and wait it out, while waiting for Navin to join us (I’d given him bum directions). 

            From there, once the sky was cleared, we opt to stick a shovel into the city each, and each in a different direction, so The Beard skates past the Ribfest on his board, Navin flutters around, elbows in the air like ears, then disappears around a corner, Shmark and Tristan disappear in a Starbucks, and Cornbread and I are left at a fork in the road, shaking hands benevolently, wishing one another well on their path to solo adventure.  He heads downtown while I pop into a taqueria for some brain tacos and horchata, then mosey down Sheridan Boulevard, en route to Wrigleyville.  Of course, after less than an hour, I see Tristan and Shmark across the street from me, probably talking about high school girls as they tend to, and I track them a few blocks, waiting to see if they notice me.  Finally, I give a hoop and a holler and we’re all heading toward Harry Carey’s slightly off-putting statue at Wrigley Field before we, still hungry, settle in at Bacci’s who offers New York-style pizza the size of four palms, plus a free fountain drink, for five dollars.  It’s great all around, but I can’t get through half of it and fell all full of dough and cheese, and we continue along.

            Plans having been made to meet Wesley and his girlfriend, Marilyn, at a bar of their choose by five o’clock, the three of us wander around the colorful region full of scalpers and novelty t-shirts fueled with an embittered sense of rage and misery – "Pujols Mows My Lawn."  Really?  He’s the greatest hitter of this generation and you’re making cracks at his being Hispanic?  Hey, win a world series, you babies – and it’s so beautiful to see the countless Cubs logos and W flags in windows of these fantastical ivy-colored homes that sprout from the tree-lined sidewalk.  We head into a moth-filled used book/music shop where I search for Fyfe Dangerfield or Whispering Jack Smith and find, but do not buy, a Ray Davies tribute album; Tristan gets a few comics to validate our time spent, and we go to meet my friend at Southport Lanes.

            The bar is old, or appears to be, and boasts a restored four-lane bowling alley from 1922 that has humans for pinsetters.  I love the place for all the rubbed hickory-and-brass appoinments and Ripley-era advertisements strewn on the walls in a way that exudes class, not kitsch.  The bathrooms (which I positively tear up, a-thank-ya) have the octagonal white tile and painted black furnishings one sees in black and white gangster films about the Purple Gang, and before long I settle into a comfy black booth and order a refreshing wheat beer (the humidity’s such where I’m watching my stouts, believe it or not).  Soon, Marilyn walks in and right past our booth, each of us aware of the other, but not exactly of how the other looks, before she waits with a beer at the bar.  A half pint later and Wesley arrives, full of enthusiasm and covered in sweat, having pedaled his way to the fire hydrant outside.  Wesley’s as I remember him, all gaping of smile and floppy blonde of mane, and the five of us – with Cornbread to join in a bit – get down to a few leisurely pints, sun pouring in through the moisture on our glass, and it’s so much fun.  Marilyn is delightful and warm, and she, having studied in Florence when the guys and I did, has plenty to discuss to help distract us from talking about Darin Fleisch behind his back the whole time.  Time does roll a hill, though, and before long we’re parting with hugs and meeting Navin and The Beard (magically, since the latter has no phone and knew not of where to meet anyone) at the Harry Carey statue behind the stadium.  I have to remark that it currently smells like new shoes on the bus, and that it’s weird to note that in a weird way, new shoes can smell slightly like cow shit, or vice versa.

            Our seats are the worst in the house, but at Wrigley they’re still better than most, and we float above the din to witness a shocking trounce of Roy Halladay and the Phillies.  I spend the night on my high horse, musing about this and that, trying to guard the beauty of baseball to a group of guys that don’t care for it much, but damnit if we don’t all have a great time regardless, drinking that beautiful green grass in, digging the roar of the crowds, marveling at how mediocre is Ryan Howard’s defense.  Navin, having spent the day sneaking into the Pitchfork Fesitval to watch acts like St Vincent and Beach House (jealous, of course), leaves the stadium during the third to get some beers from 7-11, but is caught with three of them and has to down one outside, then still manages to sneak the other two in, still cold, in time for the seventh inning stretch.  We all sing it, arm-in-arm (I make sure to sing, “for let’s root, root, root for the Dodgers,” and while I do clap for the Cubs out of sheer enjoyment and spite against the damned Phillies, I never offer a standing ovation out of respect for my team), and march out of there feeling as good as ever. 

            We decide to stop at a Ian’s Pizza near the stadium, where the guys get weird toppings like French fries and barbeque pork, while I mostly marvel at how long this one Phillies fan spends in the bathroom (thirty minutes, I’d bet!).  We go across the street to a place called Rockwood Grill and set up shop in a booth adjacent to the stage, where it’s Live Karaoke.  Uh-oh.

            I have to note here that the entire night, this one middle-aged man stands above his group of friends, pointing enthusiastically to his white-bearded friend, Kevin, pleading with the band to let the latter guy sing.  One look at the sign-up sheet would show that this crazy friend had crossed off other names, writing in their place and for paragraphs of the virtue of Kevin’s Zeppelin prowess and how all the other potential singers, “looked like cunts compared to Kev.”  Even after ol’ Kevin tore up – quite impressively, I might add – a cover of Ramble On­, the drunken buffoon approaches our table to have us try to spark common interest in having his friend do the same song again.  We tell him to go fuck-or-sing-a-song himself, and he slinks back to his table,, louder and louder, eventually getting precariously close to starting a barfight that might’ve brought him to an early end at the hand of a younger and bigger patron.

            Soon enough, and with an encouraging smile from the waitress and the beer she serves me, I get up there and sing Under Pressure, that old Mercury-Bowie song (what’s with my Bowie fetish of late?).  Some drunken bros tell me not to suck as I venture onto the stage in my dirty shorts and running shirt, but I tribute the song to the Victims of the Colombine Disaster before I begin and it quiets the house in an instant (even the bassist nudges me to say, “dude, that’s a bit depressing, isn’t it?”).  Anyway, on to the song: naturally my errant-at-best voice, combined with my reckless presence and Garth Algar-style hair dancing sends the crowd into a frenzy, and I get off the stage to find a million inebriated high fives waiting for me.  Soon, Tristan goes up and simply rocks a Strokes song;The Beard with The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues; myself with Billie Jean, and then finally Cornbread and I break out the tender harmonies for Tom Petty’s American Girls.  It’s become our “thing” to imitate that scene in This Is Spinal Tap, when the guys are at Elvis’ grave and, holding their ears, they try to harmonize in all seriousness, sounding simply wretched in the process.  This came to a peak in Badlands National Park when Cornbread and I were doing it with a woman nearby, and she approached us in wonder, accusing us of surely being in a band, and again on this night, no one really got the joke and we were left being content in sounding bad-but-not-bad-enough once again.

            Now, sometime in the course of the night, and I am including this reluctantly because it was a significant event that embarrasses me, I acquire a little fan club; it seems, then, that women in Chicago appreciate absurd amounts of sweat.  And so as the night goes and beers are consumed, I start dancing more and more until I reach my low point: singing enthusiastically with them to Journey (Journey sucks and I despise them).  It’s one of those rare evenings where I’m talking closely to females I don’t know, and by the time the bar is closed, we’re all walking out together.  We’re talking, you know, and one of them is going around, shaking people for a spare cigarette when she’s not moaning to me over the boyfriend she’s thrice cheated on, then dumped, and I save the cuter one, who has eyes for Shmark, too, from a drunken idiot trying to feel her up, and in no time we’re sitting outside of a convenience store, batting eyes while she slurs her speech.  And so I’m writing this because I don’t want to be too proud, and it’s only fair that I include all the details, where if I include someone else’s dirty secrets, I better include my own.  I guess I’ll be blunt about it, then: I killed them.  I killed them both, boom, a brick to the face, a gurgle of blood, some crushed cheek bones, and the flicker of two lives extinguished before the sun could come up.  But that’s all I did, it’s important to note: even if they wanted to, no funny business went down, because I will not take advantage of a drunken stranger, or two for that matter.  No, I would never do such a thing, unless that “thing” about which we’re theoretically speaking is gruesome, horrific homicide.  Also, Tristan urged me to do it, and laughed over their corpses.  Also, the The Beard gave me the brick.  So, you know.

            Just kidding!  Wow, I hope that no police reports coincidentally corroborate on this.  That’d be unlucky.
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Navin on

A brick. Lolz!

AL on

I would like to formally reject my nickname/moniker as I believe it is a thin veil of a rhyme substituting for my real name and does little to speak for the character of my being. You can submit alternatives to me for my approval.

Thank you.

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