Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Some . . .

... 19-year old kid tuning his guitar says, "This is a Coldplay song," you know you have a long night ahead of you.

Some of you may recall a charity walk I was trying to raise money for sometime back in June. A friend who I hadn't spoken to in nearly a year made a very generous donation during my drive. When she sent out a mass e-mail yesterday letting friends know she was going to be reading at an open mic on the Northside, I figured this would be the most opportune time to thank her.

I got there at nine. The show had just started. In one hour, I saw three comics bail on their act. One had the common courtesy to start off on an anecdote, "I was tyring to get to sleep last night ... so I'm sitting on my bed - no. I'm laying on my bed." Then bail out before he got too involved, "Sorry, I've got nothing tonight." Another "comedian" spent ten minutes setting up a joke before conceding to the mic. Yet another act just talked about a funny scene he recently saw in a movie. "I guess you have to see it. Thanks, folks."

I spent most of the night outside the mess of a bar/coffee shop sitting on the wooden bleachers outside. The host and organizer of the event was out there for a majority of the show. I could easily imagine why. As he explained it, he'd been running events like these several times a week for the past fifteen years. He's heard enough Jewel covers and sloppy poetry to span generations. He spent most of the evening talking about the ever increasing legal fees the custody battle was costing him. I hadn't seen my friend yet. I'd been here an hour.

Back in the corner of the room, I realized, "These people just want to be heard for five minutes."

A black Mitch Hedburg imitator brought the house down when he said, "I'm racist, and sexist. But I'm a good driver."

I went for another beer. A guy standing behind me asks how much my drink cost. "Three." He wanted to know if that was the cheapest beer they had. I glanced over to the chalkboard above the bar. The PBR cans were 2.50. "Nah, I'm on a date and can't get cans. But I just don't want to blow a bunch of money on her, either." I left suggesting he go with the Spring Ale. "It's $3.50, but it tastes expensive." As I went back to my corner, I saw my friend sitting at a table. She had a ball cap on, so I hadn't recognized her from across the floor. Without word I sat at her table and stared. She was genuinely shocked to see someone come. With the short notice she put out, it was obvious she banked on nobody showing up. "Sit over here," pointing to a chair on the other side of the table, "my date was sitting there." As soon as I shuffled across the table, her date returned, placing two Spring Ales on the table.

He shot me a clean, dirty stare all night.

It was about 1:30. She still hadn't gone on, and there was an army of Takaminie wielders and ironic Lisa Frank diaries before her. She leaned into me, "We're going to go."

I walked with them to the corner. He slacked behind, looking at his shoes. The guy was just in an awkward place and didn't even try to save face. What point would it have made? We'd most likely never see one another again. In talking to her, I forgot why we didn't hang out more often. She could sense that, too. And so could he.

This place wasn't too far north of me. It was in the Arts District of Glenwood Avenue. Though that strip of bars and black box theatres was nice, the surrounding area wasn't. In the late-70's and early 80's, this area boasted the highest violent crime rate in the city, usurping any neighborhood on the south side. Though gentrification has curbed that violent winter, it's still unsettling to walk though alone.

And I forgot where I parked my car. I walked towards the main strip where I was stationed next to a meter. I found myself under the el. I didn't see the el coming in. I look around and see a steady stream of traffic a few roads away. That must be the main strip I parked on. Instead, it took me back to the bar. I went a different route. There were only two different ways I could have gotten here, so this must be the way.

As I was walking a beautiful black woman as ahead of me. She heard my footsteps and turned to see me. She stopped. Her dress was respectable and lent to her hourglass figure. "You coming home from the bars?" I knew where this was going. She kept pace with me for a few steps before asking, "You want a date?" I regretfully declined, and told her to be safe. AS I walked away, I could hear her footsteps still trailing mine. What if she had taken it as an insult. Who is this motherfucker think he is turning me down. She might have had a weapon for protection. Probably not a gun for the heat that would bring on her, but a knife or some weird instrument that I don't even know about wouldn't be beyond reason. I kept forward. Tyring to remember anything distinctive that would lead me back to my car.

I found the bar, again. I ventured back the way I went the first time. I turned a corner and ended up directly before the hooker I just declined. "Do you know where you're going?" I laughed off her question. - What are you kidding, me? Of course I know where I'm going. Have a good night. Ha ha ha. Me, not knowing where I'm going.

And there she was, the Hydra (1 of 3, ever) only one block away, on the same street as the bar. I fired her up. After three tries of the ignition, the engine and radio roared.

We left onto Sheridan Road, Gillian Welch singing of the lost highway.

No comments: