Talked to lots of folks around Chicago today. Let’s dive right in!
Ah, but first a disappointing note: Apparently the following interview did not record the entire way through. Normally that would encourage me to leave it out entirely, but in this case the story is simply too fascinating to shove aside.
I was in Pizzeria Due waiting 40 minutes for my deep dish pizza to cook (that’s not a complaint, that’s just how long it takes to make the pizza), so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk to the hostess, Kiya, up front to see if she had any stories to share.
Like most people she claimed that she didn’t really have an interesting story in her life, but then her friend Ean said “She lived in Israel when she was a kid.” This was a little surprising because Kiya is black, and you wouldn’t normally associate black people with Israel. I asked if she was Jewish and she told me no, but her parents (or maybe just her mother?) were Black Hebrew. That’s different than being Jewish, but they still hold Israel as a holy place:
And then, gahh, of all of the places for the recording to run out! I can only tell you that when she was 9, Kiya’s mother finally succeeded in sneaking her back out of Israel to the United States. She doesn’t remember how she was snuck home, only that she was.
It’s a story she doesn’t tell too often, partly because she doesn’t really feel like it defines her as an individual, and also because the few times she’s shared the story she usually gets accused of cribbing the story from the Sally Field movie Not Without My Daughter.
I biked up to Grant Park and snapped a quick photo of the giant Cloud Gate sculpture:
At the edge of the park I met Emily, a college student who was just digging in to the final few dozen pages of Slaughterhouse Five, and I simply had to say hello because I love Kurt Vonnegut.
Emily is incredibly friendly, and a natural storyteller to boot! It’s so wonderful when I come across someone with a natural instinct for storytelling; not only are they more compelling and fun to talk to, but they also make the whole audio-editing thing go a lot smoother.
Ever since Brooklyn, I’m enjoying asking people about times they got in trouble as kids. Here’s Emily’s recollection:
We talked a little more about Chicago, and the subject of crime came up. Depending on where you go crime is either a big problem or a slightly smaller problem, it seems. Had Emily ever run into trouble in the city? She had:
I biked on over to Navy Pier, snapping this photo along the way:
(okay, not the most stunning example of Chicago architecture, but I was mostly thinking of the “barcode” image I’m compiling for the end of the trip)
On the pier, I spotted a man who appeared to be in his late 50′s, wearing shorts, no shirt, sunglasses, and long locks of graying blond hair. His body looked, I’m not kidding, spectacular! Not ripped and cut, but very fit in a way that tells you that this isn’t a guy you want to eff with. In fact, although I say he appeared to be in his late 40′s, he could have told me he was in his early 40′s and I would have believed him.
He didn’t seem too keen on talking, but I did manage to get this much out of him:
Down further on the pier, I met Georgette and Cha-lie. “There’s no R in it,” he told me. You see, Georgette and Charlie (I know, I know) are from Rhode Island originally. Even though they haven’t lived in the Ocean State for nearly two decades, they still had the accent.
They were in search of a good old-fashioned Chicago Hot Dog and a Beer, and they agreed to talk on the microphone once they accomplished their mission. It had been a long quest, and after we were all seated inside the Pier’s food court, I got the whole story:
I also got this story of mischief from Charlie’s teenage years:
For clarity, it was all of Charlie’s friends who were responsible but not Charlie himself– he was just as surprised as his mother, though maybe a little wiser about the source of the mysteriously appearing gourds.
I biked along the beach (yes, Chicago has a legitimate beach right there in the city! I was totally surprised!) to the neighborhood known as Boystown. I walked around looking for some folks to talk to, but was mostly told “No, thank you” by folks.
So I wandered in the nighttime around the houses and turned a corner to find myself face to face with… a baseball stadium! In full effect, in the middle of a Cubs game!
I neither know how there were no indications that I was just around the corner from Wrigley Field, nor how I continue to stumble and bumble myself into these famous landmarks, but it was pretty exciting to see even if I’m not a baseball fan.
Feeling like the day had been long and full, I boarded the L train back home.
At one point I was the only person in the car for a few stops. Then a woman got on and sat at the other end of the car. She looked friendly, so I thought I’d try out a little joke:
“No, no, no… this is MY car!” I said, and made a gesture that she should find her own car. I thought I was being sweet and funny and exaggerated enough to be absolutely clear that I was joking, but she made such a stunned face that I quickly had to reassure her “I’m totally kidding. I’m totttttally kidding.”
She gave me a kind of smile, and when I remarked on her seeming shaken she said “I was startled is all.”
We spent the rest of the ride at opposite ends of the train car, in totally silence.
Guess I need to work on my material.