Monday, July 23, 2007

Chicago adventures and cause for War

Here are some pix and a video clip from my trip to Chicago. I have been meaning to post up some video for a long time. I have a backlog of video that I need to edit.

Chicago was fun.

I had forgotten my scapular. I needed to pick up a scapular, get a haircut and get my shoes shined. That was all I really needed to do. I met up w/ some peoples while I was there. I had a crew in from the SF and my many Chicagoan friends as well. Shannon, Di, Caroline, Tracy, Pete and Gate. We had quite a good time running from taverns such as the Matchbox to the Green Mill and eating ice cream from Margie's Candy. I put many miles on the Caprice being a taxi. The city of Chicago is alive, very alive. It is a wonderful mass of humanity.

I went back to the ol' hood in the OP(Oak Park) and ran around the streets of my youth. Rather tame, but Austin is still the same, just as Delmar is in our city.

Coiffeur Andre's
Originally uploaded by AkitaSan

Be seated: Coiffeur Andre's
Originally uploaded by AkitaSan

I got my haircut by a fella named Andre who owns a shop on Belmont, a 77 year old Frenchman who moved to Chicago back in 1950. I used to get my haircut there when I lived in Chicago back in 99. He is a coiffeur. He is doing rather well. He has an interesting story. His parents strongly encouraged him to move to America after the war. He was only 20 years old. He is happy, but he said his French counterparts are now all retired while he is still working. He says he has no regrets. I asked him what it was like during the war. He said it was okay. Andre told me a German soldier taught him how his rifle worked and all about it. The soldier then pulled out pictures of his family and there he had kids his age. The soldier cried. He said the soldiers were okay where he was, but in other parts of France it was not the same. His wife was separated from her family for over a month, for they lost track of each other in the chaos of the evacuation. They were driven from their village during the bombing by the allies. He said that they always feared the Gestapo, even the German soldiers feared the Gestapo and warned the people. But he said he was young, he was only 11, and for a child it was different. He said the German soldiers used to give him bread. And he said the American soldiers were kind as well. He said he met Russian soldiers after the war who were recuperating in France. After Andre moved to the US he got drafted by the Army and served up in Alaska. And ever since he cut hair. He is happy. Interesting story. I never heard a story like that from that perspective.

After I got my haircut I needed to get my shoes shined. I walked two stores down per Andre's rec and went to the most surreal store. A Korean man, not unlike the genetic designer character in Blade Runner came to help us. He was very much a hustler. He was very eager to help, and was quick to get the shoes off my feet. The store was full of crap on the shelves, none of which made sense. He had fuses for fluorescent light bulbs, ancient elmer's glue that was white and brown. Dusty sunglasses from the 80s, chewing gum, rolling papers, random prophylactics, tp center rolls and novelty games. But this was a shoe repair store. So strange. The man pulled out two chairs for Akita and I and he slapped the chairs and said "For conversation!"

The music was so strange. It was gooey American pop music with Korean DJs. It was being played loudly over a transistor radio. He then went back to the backroom which sounded like a shoe repair machine running. I hope that is what it was.

About ten minutes later he came out with some mighty fine shiny shoes and as I put them back on, Akita made a purchase of some tic tacs.

The owner did not go to a register, he just said off the top of his head "Eighty nine cents!"

Akita drifted around some change in his hand.

"How much you have? That is enough."

He just took Akita's handful of change. We sort of looked at each other with a smile.

So I asked "How much for this?"

It was a novelty game that was called "Pin the Model." It looked it was about fifteen or twenty years old. It had a picture of a woman with a chest that was removed and just white paper. And then there were cutouts of things like two milk jugs, two melons and, well, you get the point. Needless to say this game caught attention on the shelf. There was also a male equivalent of this game with a man's groin area removed. The items to pin on were even more outrageous.

"Ah, very special game. Collector."

He goes over to the broken down dusty display and pulls out one of many copies of the game.


"I think I will pass."

Although I do have to go to two bachelor parties, I just couldn't do it. I am not sure I want to get caught with a game like this. Besides, 10.99? This stuff has been sitting on the shelf since I was in grade school.

I rolled my eyes and tipped him for the shine. He was still very happy even though I didn't buy.

On Saturday we went to the game with Tracy and met up with Pete. On our way down Addison I was able to get my scapular. Back in 99 I worked at Wrigley. After work one day I found a house that had free scapulars in a mailbox on the front gate of their house. So I decided to go back to get a scapular, for I had forgotten my scapular for the trip. And sure enough, there was the mailbox full of scapulars, holy water and rosaries. I love Catholics. We look out for each other.

The game was sold out so we watched the game from the new open gate in right field. We were able to sit on the sidewalk and watch the action on the field from the comforts of the free street seats. Perfect. The video has this wonderful scene.


However, during this last trip I have come to the conclusion that the city of Saint Louis should declare war on Chicago. Now I do not suggest we burn down the city of Chicago, but if that is the way it goes, so be it. I did light off some fireworks outside of the Green Mill during my recon mission, but that was not intended to be the lantern that O'Leary's cow kicked over. But if it did happen I would be guilty. They always blame the Irish. For good reason too. We usually do start fires, that is why so many of us are firefighters. We just need to make sure we got steady and fair work like the Molly McGuires.

This war should not about hate. Even though Chicagoans make signs such as this:
Regardless of how funny/wrong this is, it just begs to be cause for war with Saint Louis.

Now while I am in favor of war with Chicago, my intention is not to destroy. In fact I would love to preserve Chicago by all reasonable means. It is such a wonderful city. And I don't want to risk Chicago destroying Saint Louis either. They got us on numbers, even though we could probably sustain air strikes on the Chicagoland area much more effectively if we needed to. But that would be a waste. I think as Saint Louis we can be beating Chicago. I think a real healthy rivalry would bring out something very good in our city. And Chicago will still be a wonderful city when we beat them silly.

In order to win this war, we will need to think differently. I have heard even a Saint Louis Alderman refer to life in their ward as being in the trenches. That strategy and mindset is doomed for failure. The first step we need to take is to not live in a trench and to not think of the neighborhood as a trench. This war will not be won in the trenches, for if it gets to that point we will both lose. Trenches are in rotten cities where only despair and lawlessness rules. In order to win this war we must each live in a vibrant city that encourages growth, and we need to make sure that this city happen for all those who live in Saint Louis. This war should not be fought in trench state of mind if we expect to win, for if we do we will lose.

Now a declaration of war on my original hometown of Chicago will not be an easy decision to make. But I think it is necessary for Saint Louis to be back in that real rivalry state of mind. Chicago is so large, they probably won't even notice this war until we are well into the battle. So far we have done well to line up the stage to wage a war, but this does not mean we assuredly will win. Our city is prime to take great leaps forward if we are able to shake a few things.

How shall we do it?

Well, we need to work together and focus as a region on North Saint Louis and the East Side. We need to keep in mind how we can help the area emerge again with the residents of North Saint Louis along with new residents that we hope to fill in many of the barren neighborhoods. We need to finish the emergence of the Southside as well. This will require real unity. We have many opportunities to realize. This city needs to let business happen. Opportunity needs to be abound. Abandoned, neglected and underused property all over needs to be seen as an opportunity, and we need to make sure all people see property in our city as an opportunity.

The aim is to beat Chicago at a game they have mastered. Richard Florida has been beating the drums of the same tired gay/bohemian index for over five years now and people are still listening. While there is merit in this index, the formula is not that simple, nor is it so important to rely so heavily on these demographics.

We need to think different. The gay bohemian is very 90s. While the index will remain relevant, we need to think in the future and what else we will need to seek to come out ahead. I see the big push is dependent upon fundamental urban design, real progress in race relations, focus on immigrants, green policies, diverse and robust transportation options, encouraging real business opportunity with simple policy revisions that are true to what urban centers are. Economic and cultural centers. We need to not only be tolerant, but encourage the hectic, allow the noisy and bustling, accept the cut throat, allow the ripe opportunity, reject the staid, accept the rush and congestion, and have no time for moaning. We need think more about business and less about government. We need to think progressive ambitious government that is willing to take risks. This will put the STL in very kind eyes for the next fifteen years in the overall picture. It is very possible, for in many parts of the STL it has already happened/happening, but in order for a true widespread resurgence we need to have major reform in many communities, old and young, north and south, rich and poor, native and non-native, city and county.

There are ways to push this agenda through, but we need to realize we will need major revisions of the structure and culture of the city. Many might believe that these traits are not inherent in the character of our city, when in fact it is our roots of who we are and where we came.

I will continue my spy missions on our overgrown sibling to the north. This will help us to understand the opponent. I will also visit some other old cities this fall to gain more intel. Hopefully enough people from the STL will join in on this war to make it work. Lets really bring this STL/Chicago rivalry back, for it is our turn to hand out the beating.

*barbershop pix taken by Akita-san


Blogger Michael M. said...

Cool video. Folk School folks will jam at the Kirkwood Farmers' Market 10-2 Saturday. The Tower Grover Farmers' Market has the Harvest Sessions.

I know it's a terrible joke, but I can't resist. If Chicago launches retaliatory air strikes, can we tell them where to aim?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Doug Duckworth said...

Very good point about wards being trenches. I wonder how success can be obtained when such a negative mentality exists?

And yes, trench warfare wasn't the most effective. Rather zero sum with little ground taken.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

i was going to comment on the video giving me a couple good ideas, but then i saw doug duckworth's comments. he really does read every blog in town

10:50 AM  

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