Wednesday, June 21, 2006

32 Short Stories About Racine and Addison

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One Day Steve came home with a beautiful little golden kitten. He told me I could name it, providing I picked a name from his independent magazine. It took me all day, but I finally chose Gidget.

I stole that cat from Steve. I never had a cat before, so I swiped her. As she got older, I taught her how to do 'yoga'.

Whenever I was bored or had some time to kill, I would pierce my ear. Used an ice cube and a potato. I used things from the 25 cent machine at the grocery store as earrings. The most piercings I did in one ear was seven.

Whenever Jody and I were home at the same time, and it started to rain, we would walk in the rain until it stopped.

I bought Jody gladiolas one night on my way home from work. That made her really happy.

One day Steve yelled at me for doing our other roommate's dishes too often. He said he needed to take care of himself and not rely on us to do his chores.

Steve was a big fan of Matt Groening way before anyone else was. He had all his books in 1985.

Steve also owned a frame-by-frame book of the movie Psycho. I read it almost everyday.

I kept all my brooches on the window sill in my room, in our garden apartment.. I had about two dozen. That window's lock was broken.

I was weirdly happy whenever Ramen noodles went on sale at Jewel. I ate a lot of Ramen noodles.

One night, I was up with a pain in my stomach, when Steve came home. He asked me what I ate, and I told him scrambled eggs and a coke. He said he heard somewhere you shouldn't mix 'eggs and pop'. I believed him. I remember thinking he'd be a good dad someday. I've never mixed eggs and pop again.

One day I commented positively on the hand painted mural on that weird little nostalgia store on Addison by Racine. (They both are still there) Doug thought less of me ever since. I know I saw him cringe out of the corner of my eye!

I told Doug I wanted to grow and bleach my hair so it looked like Marilyn's during her last photo shoot. I thought it would be cool. He had a positive reaction. (I didn't have the patients to grow my hair, and he knew it!)

The first movie I saw in Chicago was Amadeus at the Music Box. The theater and the movie seemed, to me, to be made for each other.

Besides our couch, I also found my dresser in the alley. It was painted a hideous, yet some how attractive, pinkish-purple. I taped the Musicbox schedule to the side of it. I kept that thing for at least 10 years.

I searched the neighborhood alleys every week for 'good' garbage.

I spent way too much time thinking about that dresser. Did someone's child die? Did she just out grow it? Did she move away to college? Or maybe she ran away, and the parents just couldn't bear look at it any more. Was it just too damn ugly and the grandma bought a new one...?

Steve was a big fan of The Replacements, and played them loud and often. Doug was a big fan of Songs From the Big Chair, cause he liked the title. I played Bauhaus and Siouxsie whenever I could.

Caren and Jody slept on bunk beds after they moved in. Whenever I saw them in bed, I had flashbacks to my and my brother's bunkbeds.

Caren and I liked to do laundry together and smoke and gab while we sat on the machines. The laundry room was right outside our front door.

Caren once said to me sex was better when you didn't do it too often. I remember thinking to myself "I hope to God one day I will be able to say that to someone".

Jody had very interesting toes, and I would stare at them a lot. Interesting isn't the right word. Cute- that's the right word.

We never ran our central air, cause none of us could afford it. Our rent on our newly rehabbed, huge two bedroom was 400.00. I made about 70 bucks a week at work.

Jody tried to teach me how to drive. I would make her do it at 2 in the morning, so there would be little traffic. Back in '85, there was little traffic near Racine and Addison at 2 am. I never did get my license. I'm not sure why.

I am getting ready to move my blog story to a new 'chapter' and I'm cleaning up some loose ends, or 'loose memories', if you will.

Yes, I do have a post brewing about living near Cubs Park. I think I will end my "Racine and Addison chapter" with that story.

Yes, I'm a little Marilyn crazy these days.

Ok, so there's not 32 stories. 32 is a lot.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Despite Straight Lines

Not long after Jody and Caren moved in, my roommate Steve had a visitor. His nickname was PJ, and hey! I just now this second remembered his name, after wracking my brain all week. Wait, that might not be it . Oh well, let's just pretend I'm right.
The day before he arrived in Chicago, Steve asked me:
"Brian, would you spend sometime with PJ tomorrow? I have school and work all day. I think you'll like him; you have a lot in common. I think he may be gay, too."
"He might be gay? He's your friend, right? You don't know?" I said.
"I'm better friends with his older brother. Just ask him!" he said.
"Yeah, like I'm just gonna say 'I'm a gay homosexualle are you one, too? I wanna kiss your tinkie'" I said.
"Oh Christ... he wants to see Chicago on his summer break! Bring him downtown, ok?" He yelled.
"K." I said, as I inwardly screamed. I didn't know how to get downtown. On my last attempt, despite written directions, I failed miserably. I ran out of the Addison station, convinced my directions should have read 'north' instead of 'south', because an ominous warning echoed in my head:
"Never go to the south side, white boy!!"
And I was way too dorky to ask for help. (To finally cure myself of the fear of trains and getting lost, I went to Paris alone for ten days in 1993. It changed my life.)
I confessed this to Steve, and he promised to show me how to get there with PJ, using a map, drawing a map, writing extremely detailed directions, and making me sign a piece of paper that said, on the crazy chance we get lost, 'I promise to ask a cop for directions'.
"Alright, alright, thanks. I'll be ok" I said.
That night I got The Reader, and we all sat around the table to see what was going on that weekend.
"Oh my God Oh my God!!" I screamed.
"Andy Warhol is going to be at the opening of a new store on Halsted and Armitage, called Ringo-Levio, and that same night he's going to be at the opening night party of Limelight!!"
(I still have the first thing I bought from Ringo-Levio: a pair of Matinique pants. And a great Hugo Boss tie. I'll show you some photos once I get my scanner hooked up!)
I was a life-long fan of Andy, because of his glamorous antics at Studio 54 in the 70's, and from reading Edie: An American Biography when I was 16. Oh yeah, the art. I love his art.
"Wow. Cool. Too bad you're 19." Steve said.
"Shit, that's right." I said.
"What about going to that store? It shouldn't be too hard to find." Caren said.
"It's late, I'll write out the directions tomorrow" Steve said.
Well, with all the commotion the next day with PJ's arrival the directions to the store were forgotten. PJ and I immediately hit it off; he was very cute and adorable, and I was smitten. We took the train from the Addison station to the Chicago station. I wore my resale-store Girbaud jeans and a paisley shirt from the 60's. We spent the day at Water Tower, 'cause he wanted to find some cool clothes. At the Express store, he found some great pants. They were a green plaid, with paisley accents. The girls were cool with us and let him try them on, because we were in a women's store, and probably due to fact they were a hundred bucks.
"I never spent that much on pants before!" He said.
"Well, they're super-cool, you should get them..." I answer back.
He hemmed and hawed, and after 20 minutes, he decides to buy them. After hanging out on Michigan Ave for a while, I felt confident enough with my sense of direction to walk us over to the Parachute boutique on Maple, cause Doug took me there once. After drooling and not buying, we take the train to Belmont. Next to the train is the Belmont Army Navy Surplus store.
I was at the Belmont El stop today. They tore down the Army Navy store to expand train station. I thought that the building for the store was the only one on that lot, but on the upper part of the building next to it was revealed a very old and faded advertisement. I can't make out what it was advertising, but it got me to wondering what was there before the Belmont Army Navy Surplus, and all the lives lived there, and all stories I will never hear; stories that I never even knew existed!
Uh-oh, I think to myself.
Soon PJ starts yelling at me.
"Why didn't you tell me about this place! Why did you make me spend all my money on those pants! This stuff is way cheaper and cooler!" He went on and on, tearing through the store.
I walk outside to smoke a cigarette. He comes out of the store a little while later, with a new bag. "I thought you spent all your money" I said.
"No. I'm sorry I yelled at you. It wasn't your fault I bought those pants" he quietly said.
"No, I'm sorry. I totally forgot about Army Navy. Did you get something cool?"
We continue our conversation as we walk down Sheffield back to the apartment. Later that night, Steve asks how Andy was.
"Oh shit, I forgot all about him! And, well, we didn't know how to get there."
I was pretty upset I didn't get to see Andy, but I was very distracted by PJ. We instantly fell into a rhythm of a couple who's know each other for years. I really liked him and didn't know if he was gay or not, but he didn't live here anyway, so what was the point of starting something, especially when he said he was starting school next month in Missouri or some shit like that?
I told all that to Jody and...
The next day, Jody pulls me out the back kitchen door and starts whispering a story to me:
"Brian! Brian! When I got up at 6 this morning, PJ was up, and we started talking! You were asleep, so we snuck up to you , and I said 'Isn't Brian the cutest sleeper?' and he walks closer to you, bends down, and put his face like, three inches from yours, stares at you for a while, and turns to me and says: 'Yes.' "

Monday, June 05, 2006

Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven

It's funny, when you try and remember someone you knew twenty-one years ago, it's the little things that stick in your mind. When I think of Jody, I recall her Virginia Slims. Her Doc Martins. The way she dances. The sounds she makes sleeping...
Ringing Scott's buzzer at his place on Diversey and Clark one night in June, 1985, a girl asks:
"Who is it?" In a sing-songy voice.
"Aaa, Brian. Is this Scott's place?" I answer back.
"Yes it iiis, come on uuup!" In the same voice.
I enter Scott's place to find two girls encamped at the kitchen table, giggling, giving me the "once over" and playing The Walk way too loud.
"This is Caren and Jody. I met Caren at Berlin a few nights ago. Her and Jody go to school together." Scott says.
I didn't know if I was more shocked that Scott was at Berlin without me, or meeting strange girls.
"I'm trying to convert Scott into a hetero and make him sleep with me." Caren says, taking a drag on her cig.
Scott turns beet red and starts laughing.
"Oh, I see. Are you having any luck? Do you need any help? I hear He has a nice basket." I reply. Scott just laughs louder and starts screaming.
We goof around a little longer, watching Scott fix his fake i-d, drinking beer, getting ready to go to Berlin.
"Why are you in school?" I ask Jody.
"I'm there for biology." She replies.
"Jody wants to be a doctor!" Caren interjects. "She's smart."
"No I don't. Research maybe. It's too cut-throat at school to be a doctor." She says.
"Let's go." Scott says.
"Ooo, you're wearing your Fiorucci shirt. How glamorous. Can I wear your Perry Ellis shirt? I promise to wash it!" I ask him. He found the beautiful white shirt at a thrift store a few weeks prior.
"Alright." he answers back.
After I change, we head out his door down Diversey to Sheffield.
"We never take Racine to Belmont any more. Those bars on Belmont are waay too scary. We don't like to walk past them. Especially when we're dressed up. Or our hair is big. Or both."
We're having a great time at Berlin, watching videos and dancing and requesting songs (I was going through an Aztec Camera phase, and Scott a Love and Rockets phase), when Jody mentions how she wished she lived in the city so she could come to Berlin more often.
"Where I live is so boring!" she says.
I tell her I am looking for a roommate, and we both get very excited. We hadn't known each other more than 80 minutes, and already we're living together. That's youth for ya. Or fate. Or just knowing when something feels right.
Her and Caren move in a few weeks later, into Tim's (our seldom seen roommate had moved back home) old room. It was mine, so my new room is the couch. The alley couch. I didn't care. As long as I didn't have to move back to Wisconsin. Steve was excited to have two straight girls across the hall.
We had countless late nights at Medusa's and Berlin, or just hanging out in the apartment, but they were always up early everyday to get the train to school. That's youth for ya, again.
Their first weekend at my place, we go to Medusa's. Scott and I glam up Jody and Caren in our best DIY chic, and I wore Jody's long, black, fitted skirt from Express (remember the chick with sunglasses on their labels?) the Perry Ellis, and a jean motorcycle jacket, some dead old man's wingtips, and another military-style hat,(a-la-Boy Georgie), and, of course, many brooches.
We all go: Scott, Steve, one of his friends, Jody, Caren and I. Walking down the street like a new wave band in search of a venue. Or extras in some freaky movie.
Scott and I had been cultivating a rapport with Blue, Medusa's door man. We had an unspoken agreement that if we showed up in an "outfit" and big hair, he let us in for free. The five buck cover was a big deal for us back then, for five dollars was our grocery budget for the week. We climb the huge stair case, get in free (yay!) and dance dance dance. My favorite song comes on, No Shuffle, and we run out to dance some more. During that song, someone runs up to me and hits my hat off my head. I was mortified. Like, run home mortified. I don't know why, but I was.
"Do they hate me? Do they want my hat? Am I not welcome here? Should I leave?" I think to myself.
We stay til ten am or so, and walk the few blocks home in the morning sun. I lay down for a little bit, because I had to be at work in a few hours. I show up to the salon in the same outfit.
"I thought I said no skirts at work, Brian!" My boss says as I walk in the door.
"Oh Christ, I'm wearing a skirt..."