Well hello darling! (kiss kiss) Hellohoware? Yes, yes I quite like the escargots... mild sauce does wonders for my decolletage..Tis a shame they're so pedestrian with the champagne tonight: Cristal... I know! I know! Dreadful face lift...she's even more equestrian looking...yes, they say the saline has leaked into her body and it's causing her hair to frizz. Oh Don't be daft! Of course I'll write you a check! Why we just gave one million dollars to WTTW...Monty and I are fine! Yes, we recently took safari in Kenya. Oh yes...the natives were cute...but restless...Giselle you say? Why I'd love to join you. I haven't been to the ballet in years....hey you should join us on safari...
Fresh out of college, I made a wager with the universe. That by age 25, the above would be my existence. A noveau riche world, with dignified academics, boozed housewives, reformed and evolved ghetto children...an endless supply of black excellence. I figured I had 3 years to fuck around and be an artist. I opted not to spend money in the then affordable Wicker Park neighborhood, moved back to my mother's abode on 55th to save up. I did theatre, waited tables and danced. It was terrific!
It was 1998. I graduated Northern Illinois University. Not 48 hours after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting and a minor in Dance I went traipsing off to Europe. My first trip abroad took me throughout England & France. When I graduated college, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. After a recent neo soul explosion, black was truly en vogue. Most sistahs donned fro's and short cropped fades. There were days that I'd spend more money on my head wrap, than make up. Brotha's wore Egyptian Musk and pussy came easy if you talked about "the new world order". A u-fucking-topian society people! Hell even hip hop still had a balance of conscious MC's and blingy swagger rappers.
I graduated into society, and was ready for change. Seems that my beloved Washington Park was also ready to change. By the late 90s nearly all of the housing projects were being demolished and the section 8 vouchers were being handed out. Robert Taylor, the ugly projects I had looked at since I was 4 years old, was an eye sore no longer. The neighborhood was definitely changing, and boy was I thrilled. Eviscerating them nwords from the belly of the beast (Daley Sr) to make way for a grocery store, seemed like a fair exchange. Sure everyone deserves a better quality of life, but social justice don't come easy. I know they weren't all bad...victims...racism, class ism...yeah yeah yeah, bring on the vegetable stand & book store.
Well, not all of the section 8 vouchers went to the suburbs...most ended right up on my block. And down went all of the property value. And my u-fucking-topian society. The universe had played a sour trick on me.
I wanted to drink wine, and take long evening strolls. I wanted to go to Penny Universities. You see in 17th century England, coffee houses were called Penny University. For a penny you could buy a cup of hot java, and hear hours and hours of philosophy. These men would enjoy the beans of Ethiopia and discuss the world. Don't worry about how my ghetto ass be knowing worldly facts like that. Stay focused. I wanted to go to gala's at the DuSable, and get my newspaper the local grocer and not the A-rab. I wanted to ride my bike, and have breast cancer walks on 55th street. And have composting classes at the Park district.
I mean look at the Near West Side! The Stadium (now called the United Center) used to be housed on Skid Row. It used to be a typical ghetto; projects, churches, and fried flesh shacks. And now, the only people you see on the streets at 2am are white people, walking their dogs. Their dogs live better than most people. Do you know I saw a Doggie Bed &Breakfast on Elston? I'm not fucking kidding. White people don't play about their dogs. Matter of fact, white people don't play about their life. When they move into a neighborhood, they live! okay? They will demand to eat and shop locally and won't stop yapping until they can. "This is America dammit. I want a sustainable life. So I'm gonna buy this building. And all of friends will follow. And soon we will rename Washington Park---Washington Knolls." Then they fix up the hood and have it looking like Constantinople and having festivals, and knitting shops and shit.
Surely you know I'm jest when I lament about Chicago. But I have to admit, it is a broken city. When I visit these days, I really do have to trick myself into upper crust society thoughts: I'm on safari. Yes, being in the ghetto is like being on safari. I see most of the South Side from the safety of a 2 tons of metal and glass. I can only witness their world from the safety of my car, in case one of them wants to engage with me. Oh no, no, no... It'd be dangerous. Also, don't look them directly in the eye. Now occasionally you can get out and take pictures of the peacocks (the scores of black women who glue purple faux-hawks into their heads), and the alligators. Standing absolutely still (on the corner) for hours and hours until they're ready to kill their prey.
Oh the anthropology of the ghetto is a mothafucking mind trip. It drives me insane that there is no grocery store in the Washington Park neighborhood. I have a Trader Joe and Whole Foods both, within walking distance of my home here in LA. When I'm home, I take my Mami any where she wants to go. We usually go to Bridgeport and shop at the Fair Play market. It's the best people watching money can buy. Its the only blue collar grocery store that truly looks like Chicago. Thick whites, blacks, Asians, and Latinos. Working class people trying to make better lives.
I'd like to really love my Chicago neighborhood-- to love the South Side again. I mean the Colombian Exposition was held on the South Side for fucks sake! I really hope one day not too feel so much hatred when I see 3-10 people gathered on a corner. Not to fret when the weatherman says it'll be 87 degrees, which means gunfire. I want my mother to have usage of her recycling bins. I want so much...but first, we have to eviscerate the bullshit out of our minds. Well, at least I have to.
Ciao for now fucker,
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