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Friday, December 9, 2005


Hola Amigos, I know it's been a long time etc.

We had a classic Chicago snowstorm yesterday. I may be one of the few people in the world who appreciates how awesome a classic Chicago snowstorm is. Not being an automobile owner may be a factor, I don't know. Last night I stood by the 19th story windows of my office building. I looked at four different windows, four different directions, the snow was swirling in all of them. It was really beautiful. I love my city.

Then I boarded the rush hour el train, perhaps even more crowded than usual because or weather related delays. Anyway, there was a Crazy Street Person in my car. Crazy Street People bother some, they mostly just amuse me. I've been riding the el all my life, on an almost daily basis (Champaign years excepted) since I was fourteen. I've seen it all and if you flinch when some insane/drunk/otherwise chemically impaired guy is talking about how God's Love Needs To Save Him From The Dirty Bitches, you're a rube. I don't care how long you've lived here.

This one was different. This one was a Bad Guy. He had the potential to hurt someone. I've seen my share of those guys too. They don't make me flinch either, but they merit my attention. Maybe I've seen him before, I feel like I've seen most of them, but I'd never seen him like this. He was a black man, as most but certainly not all Crazy Street People are, early sixties maybe, Rasta haircut. He started screaming at people for their perceived crimes against his person. "Pushing him" as everyone packed into a rush hour snowstorm el car will be pushed. He started telling people he would fuck them up. This is when most of the crowded car took notice. He started ranting, predictably, about the racists who had kept him down all his life, about white people and their crimes. Like a strong majority of Crazy Street People, he noted his valorous Vietnam service (in 1994 or so, a maybe thirty year old white Crazy Street Person with a Kurt Cobain haircut told me he was a Vietnam veteran, do the math) but this guy, well I didn't have much reason not to believe him, other than the fact that he was a raving loonie of course. I then saw him look quizzically at a young black man who, like me, was just watching. He asked "You serve your country? You a soldier? You a vet aincha?" The young man didn't answer for a moment, then clinched his teeth and said, "Yeah, man, I'm a vet. But I don't have to talk about it."

Maybe the Walking Wounded can in fact, recognize each other...

Crazy Street Person went back to screaming about white people and threatening to fuck them up. As we approached the Belmont hub station, people began filing out but he kept up the ranting, Finally, a middle aged man rose from his seat, told him to shut the fuck up, he backed down, rather fearfully it seemed.

A couple of minutes later, he found his courage, resumed ranting and started directing epithets to the middle aged guy. He started in, inevitably, on the bloodsucking Jews. This was the point at which a young black woman, who had a child next to her, echoed the earlier sentiment about the fuck that he should shut up. She told him he was scum and that he was no better than any racist. He advanced towards her and directed his haraungue towards her. Now the point at which he starts threatening a young woman with a child is probably a little bit past the point at which a run of the mill Psychotic Asshole becomes a Psychotic Asshole In Need Of A Beatdown. I looked around and it was clear that every man on the train felt that way. One guy said so, and I told him I was with him. But right then, the middle aged guy took him by the arm and said "Come over here and talk to me". At that point he calmed down. The situation was resolved peacefully. He talked about the ghetto he grew up in and hateful Whitey and whatever, but he did it all relatively calmly. He proclaimed "Chi-town is MY town". That at least, is something we've got in common. We were headed into the Howard terminal now.

"We gettin' near the lake now." He said. It's true. We were. "You know what's beautiful 'bout Chicago? That lake. No matter what people...white people...You got the lake. Nobody owns that lake. No matter how poor you are, they can't never take that lake away from you. Belongs to everybody..."

I smiled then. I smiled a lot.

As if I needed to learn it again, even a Psychotic Asshole can make me smile...

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Replies: 4 comments

Hi, this is a great blog. Great topic also. keep it going on.


I have reasonably positive views of Michigan. If it were in Europe, you'd think it was awesome.

Awww, what a nice ending to that story! For a lot of Chicagoans, the lake calls to them. A Pied Piper, it draws them to its shores. Not me. Its vast emptiness depresses me, for I know what's on 'tother side. Michigan. Ugh.

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