Friday, December 16, 2005

Moonlight Serenade, of sorts

Last night I was walking back from Dawn's house to my house, around 8 p.m., in a gentle snow. Two boys were on our favorite corner, then just one. That kid had a lot to say to me, which I pretended not to hear.

"Hey, hey, como estas? Hey gringa, what's up? You know, George Bush doesn't like black people," the strong implication of which was that I don't like black people either. I thought about hollering, "You know, I don't like George Bush," but decided against it.

Then he started singing "Gasolina" at me. He probably knows the words better than I do.

I just kept walking, though he was loud enough I'm sure the whole neighborhood heard it. I looked down the street and there was a shovel parked against my fence. It was Tony. He had his back to me. "Hey, Tony, is that you?" I asked, not loudly.

He jumped, startled, then turned around. "Don't do that to me!"

"I'm sorry," I said.

Young Punk on the corner continued his Gasolina serenade, then switched into some other tack that didn't sound any more pleasant. You couldn't quite make out the words from my house. I ignored it and started talking with Tony about snow, etc. Soon after, while Young Punk was still shouting, yet another lady who probably works the corner came by, trying to get 70 cents out of either Tony or me. I dug up some change. Like Tony and Young Punk, she too is black. The irony of my interactions with them while this young punk was hollering up and down the street about me did not escape me, shall we say. I would say, "yeah, i don't like black people, I don't like them so much I hire them to clear my snow and I give them money when they ask for it."

But Young Punk would see a different sort of irony--I suspect he would look at it as "that gringa chick is OK with black people as long as they work for her or beg from her." And he has no reason to think any different based on what he can see. I actually went to the next door neighbors' house and knocked on their door to invite them to my party, but they didn't answer, though there were lights on in the house and I saw someone inside. I don't blame them for not coming to the door. Probably I should just leave a note.

I'll have to get brave enough either to offer Young Punk a cookie or call him out for selling drugs to his own people. I'm frankly not sure I have the guts to do either, but I might be able to muster the courage to say, "I don't like guys who stand on the corner, whatever color they are."

Meanwhile, I think my suspicions of problems of another kind with Tony are probably correct. He did call me "sweetheart" to my face last night after clearing out the snow and ice, and he looked at me funny when I handed him a five-dollar bill.

"Everybody has to keep warm and dry," I said. He took it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Very Reggaton Christmas

Another big snow hit us Saturday night. Around six the snow was falling so hard cars were crawling. I thought I'd go home and have a quiet evening with a book, the radio and a cup of hot cocoa.

Well, the snow stopped, and I got the cocoa and the radio, but not a quiet evening. Dawn and Joey and their friends from down the block showed up asking if they could use my yard for a snowball fight. I said yes and called Junior and Oscar and Danny. They all came out. Tony was clearing my snow (since my shovel broke!) and I started making eight cups of cocoa out in the kitchen.

I need to get Swiss Miss or something easy--I have yuppie Droste cocoa which requires much more patience to make. The directions assume you are making one cup at a time and you have to get the cocoa and sugar just wet enough to make a paste, but not too wet or the paste won't work. With eight cups to practice on, I figured it out, but it was time-consuming.

Tony liked his cocoa. The little boys, most of the six of them, clamored for more, but I ran out of milk. Once they had their cocoa break, they asked if I would play. So I threw a few snowballs and let them knock me over in the snow once. I made a snow angel.

They ran loose in the street but there were so few cars I didn't really worry about it. The only bad thing that happened was Joey got knocked over hard and hit his leg. He was crying and I was trying to figure out if he broke anything. Of course he was fine five minutes later.

When Junior and Danny's moms came out looking for them, I sent everyone home except Dawn, Joey, and Dawn's friend, the big sister of most of the little scamps. We'll call her Carolina. Dawn and Carolina started stringing up the lights Junior's mom gave me (her cousins' old lights--some of them still work), while Joey played DJ. We had "Feliz Navidad" on for a little bit at Dawn's insistence, then switched over to reggaeton. Of course we heard Daddy Yankee and Joey cranked up the bass.

"I want to hear Daddy Yankee sing Christmas stuff," I kidded them. "Fe-liz Na-vi-dad," I said, grinding my hips slightly to a makeshift cumbia beat. The girls cracked up.

Yesterday I went out to the new Aldi's (yay-cheap stuff within walking distance!) and got a new shovel with a metal edge for seven bucks. I also got chocolate chips. We had another go at the snow with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, but this time Joey got in a fight with Carolina's little brother, whom I'll call Peter (since he leads the pack, it seems like). I have thought Peter was kind of trouble because the other kids talk about him behind his back, but he definitely has a gift for leadership. Plus, he won my heart yesterday when he agreed to push the shovel over the backyard sidewalk.

He and his brothers saw me give Junior and Oscar pairs of gloves. Oscar got a red knit hat with a baseball cap-style bill. He liked it. "You're really nice!" he exclaimed. I was really surprised.

I'll probably have to get some gloves for Peter and his brothers, too. Ho, ho, ho, Daddy Yankee sings reggaeton Christmas and Ms. Claus brings gloves for children who throw snowballs in her yard. We tried making a snowman but the snow is too powdery. Maybe in a couple of days it will pack down.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Yup-yup Returns

He's back.

He appeared Monday night. I was racing home to get a pot of turkey chili to take to a potluck. I got off the bus and walked down 50th and there he was, cane, cast and all. (Did I mention he broke his leg a few weeks ago? So I lack the heart as well as the guts to fire him outright.)

Take the bull by the horns, I decided. "Hey, Yup-yup, where you been?" I hollered.

He hobbled across the street, shaking his head. "Hard times, hard times," he said, not saying anything else about his whereabouts.

I handed off the orange and the five-dollar bill, saying, "I've got some turkey chili for you, too."

"Turkey chili?!"

"I just have to heat it up. I'll be back out in a few."

What I didn't tell him was the rest of it was going to feed the CAPS potluck. How ironic.

Quest for the Historical Jesus

I just have to spend a few minutes talking about Phil and his quest for the historical Jesus. Phil is a freshman at Curie and he's buddies with Dawn's big brother. Phil read "The DaVinci Code" and got really interested in what we know about Jesus and whether Dan Brown was on to something or just making it all up.

I found this out one night on the front porch of Dawn's new apartment. Julian and Phil were hanging on the stoop and Julian wanted me to argue theology with Phil. Since I go to church regularly, Julian thought I would present a more conservative counterpoint to Phil's "God doesn't exist" and "Jesus was just a regular guy" perspective. Imagine his surprise when I started egging Phil on! How fun to out myself as not the religious nutcase for a change.

Anyway, Phil told me he wanted to read more about what experts say about Jesus's life and history, whether it agreed with Dan Brown or not. So I got on the Internet at work (how do I ever do my job???) and found an article debunking Brown written by a Presbyterian minister with a doctorate from Harvard Div and gave it to Phil a week later. Another week later, we were all hanging on the front porch and I asked Phil if he had read the article and how he liked it. "It was great," he said.

A couple of nights ago, an envelope arrived from a high school pal who also squeezes in his avocations during work time. It contained an essay from the December issue of Harpers Magazine, about Jefferson's redaction of the gospels and how similar his condensed version is to the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas. I can't wait to pass this one on to Phil, especially since he was at Dawn's house when she was polling people about why we study history. Way to combine two intellectual questions simultaneously.

I heard a lot about Phil from Dawn and her buddies last night. This is the same trio who used my kitchen to study in for their exhibitions a few weeks ago. Charlie's Angels showed up at my office at 5 p.m., despite the snowstorm, ready for their trip to the Harold Washington Library. We got Dawn some material on graffiti art for her research project. Gloria, the academic perfectionist, found three books but didn't check them out before closing, so she had to put them on hold. Guess who just went to pick them up? Two were for school--one on the Maya, another by or about Rigoberta Menchu--I'm not sure if it's the original Spanish version of "I, Rigoberta Menchu" or if it's a different bookd The third was a diet book in Spanish--at least it looks like it's a health plan not a fad diet, but my Spanish is probably not up to judging. Meanwhile, Angel number three, Janice, tried to find some books on Marilyn Manson, but they were all checked out.

Janice was surprised when I suggested she could look for some books on her musical idol. "How did you know I like Marilyn Manson?" she asked.

"Because I saw your exhibition project at my house, remember?" The light dawned on her face. Then I laughed and said, "No, really, Janice, I'm psychic."

Anyway, on the way home, while we were in the Orange Line station waiting for the bus, Phil and his book project came up as a topic of discussion. Dawn says Phil is writing a romance novel, I believe that is romance in the old sense, like wizards and witches and all that jazz. I'd copy-edit it for him if he wants. They were also interested in his personal style--he wears a long capelike, old-fashioned coat that rumor says cost three hundred bucks, and he's experimented with eyeliner.

Phil is thinking he would like to transfer from Curie to Big Picture. He says he is an average student at Curie (so, Cs) and is bored with his classes. He might be a good fit. I'm sure he'd be an asset to the school and I think the school would be an asset to him in ways Curie probably won't be about college, etc.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Georgina Gets a Scarf

While Tony the Car Wash King was being Tony of the Snows and shoveling my sidewalk, a new lady of the night stopped by. We'll call her Georgina. She's worried about what happened to Yup-yup, Priscilla's old boyfriend/pimp whom I hired as night watchman. I think I was so embarrassed about this I never wrote it up.

Here's the back story. Back when Priscilla was cleaning my windows, after the doorbell ringings at 3 a.m., I asked Priscilla what I should do. She said, "You could get Yup-Yup to watch your house." It must have been sleep deprivation that led me to believe this was a good idea, but somehow it made sense at the time. And really, I can still see it--he's out there all night, I get him on my side, he keeps the rest of the bad guys off my back, right?

So, I offered him five bucks a week, payable Tuesdays, in exchange for keeping an eye on the place. After about two or three weeks a new perspective emerged--I put myself in a protection racket!! What am I getting back from this guy? For whatever unknown reason the doorbell ringing did stop, but given the only "suspect" Yup-yup suggested was some guy he met in the alley who thought I was Latina, I'm not real sold on his detective/security capabailities. Plus, the gas charge this winter is outrageous.

So I went to Yup-yup before Thanksgiving and said, "I don't know how I'm going to pay my gas bill this winter. Can I pay you in food instead?" He agreed much more easily than I expected. Then my uncle died and I missed our Tuesday before Thanksgiving appointment. I saw him the Sunday I got back and made a deal that he would get his last five bucks plus some food the following Tuesday. Yup-yup vanished last Tuesday. I've been walking around with an orange and a fiver in my coat pocket for a week. No sign of him.

So last night Georgina confided she was worried about Yup-yup and she hadn't seen him since Tuesday night. (don't know how he missed me in the morning, but he did.)

"You think he's locked up?" That was my immediate assumption when I didn't see him Wednesday.

"No," she said. "I have a feeling he isn't locked up. I'm worried."

Why the heck she's worried about this guy is beyond me. Anyway, she hung out and chatted and told me she was cold, so I looked in my closet and found the nice Cashmink plaid scarf someone left at the last holiday bash I threw at my old North Side apartment and gave it to her. She tied it around her coat hood instead of putting her hood down and tying it around her neck. There's something else I really don't understand.

Junior tells me he heard Yup-yup has a gun. Joey tells me Yup-yup tried to help him find Baby Girl, the bunny that got away. Georgina tells me two of the boys who died in my house were Yup-Yup's nephews. He didn't tell me that, but he clearly cared about the young men who died here. Lots of mysteries to ponder...


Hi everybody--

Thanks for your patience with me. My uncle died the weekend I was leaving town to attend a protest against a training academy sponsored by the U.S. Army. For more on that, see This meant I was out of town the whole week before Thanksgiving and it has taken me a while to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

I also don't know why I can't put active links into this text, which sort of defeats the purpose of a blog, right?? anyway, apologies for all these things.

Some of you have been in touch with me to find out what I decided about opening my home to two women who want to help women in prostitution. The Friday after my initial conversation about doing this, I spent 17 hours on a bus to Ft. Benning, Georgia with a little grey-haired nun who was traveling with a bag smaller than my Sierra club bookbag, and who used to run a home for women recovering from drug addiction. (In social services jargon, that's second-stage housing, and yes most or all of them had been prostitutes while they were addicts.) So she knew the scene and she raised all the points that comments on this site already raised, plus the key--that she and her nun buddy were around 24/7 to supervise and work their "nunja" on the residents and their associated guests. So I decided she was the voice of God telling me to give myself a break, and I listened. I am still working on finding a place for those women to do their thing--if anyone has suggestions, please pass them on.

Last night I got home for the first time in two days. There was about an inch of snow all over the place. I felt too lazy to deal with it, locked the front gate and went inside. Five minutes later, the doorbell rang. It was Tony the Car Washer (as opposed to Tony Lawn Care of Logan Square, whose been stealing Jesse's yard maintenance gig at my place). Tony wheedled three bucks out of me when the cold snap first hit, and asked what I needed doing. Since at that point there was no snow and Tony Lawn Care had just been by, I told him to watch for trash in the traffic circle.

"Nobody ever did nothing like that before you came here," he observed.

Anyway, last night Tony the Car Wash King hopped my fence and rang my bell to ask whether I wanted my snow removed. Of course I said OK. He shoveled and salted. He was surprised when I paid him an extra four bucks but it was cold and that is work, even when it's not that much snow.

I'm a little nervous and yet a little pleased that I thought I heard him call out, "Bye, sweetie" when he left. Did I hear right? Should I be nervous? Am I happy I have a friend? Is that all he thinks it is?? It better be...he was fool enough to tell me about his six kids and how after "a little trouble between me and my lady" she got an order of protection on him.

I had another visitor last night. She's probably worth her own entry, so I'll stop here.

Windy Citizen Share