Time to Settle Accounts
December 27, 2011: For life.
The Damen bus was quiet. It was 4:30, a rainy Tuesday afternoon, four of us in the back section, phone, phone, phone, book, heading south from Irving toward Wicker. I was returning from an interview with the Reader’s Ben Joravsky – we’d spent 90 some minutes talking Bulls basketball, Chicago mythology, Chicago voters, Rahm, Royko, Daley, Evanston-New Trier, parking meters, TIFs, storytelling techniques, freelance writing, social media, youtube… and now I was on this silent bus.
I pulled a box of mini-Altoids from my coat pocket. “Mini-Altoid?” I said, offering them around. The people smiled shaking heads and returned to their screens.
The bus pulled to a stop at Belmont. A young man in his 20s stepped on and walked to the back. The middle seat was available and he took it. He was holding a bottle of champagne adorned with ribbons. He wore navy blue gloves with an orange Bears C, a gray turtleneck, a black vest, a Raiders hat, and ear buds.
I cocked my head, looking at him. Pointed to his hat and then his hands.
“Hmm?” he said, removing one ear bud.
“I was looking at your hat and gloves.” I nodded back at the hat. “You know, the Raiders and all.”
“It matches,” he said, pointing to his sleeve and vest. “It’s a hot hat, you know? I like to match.”
“So you have other hats?”
“Oh man, I have about 25 snap backs, 25 fitteds… yeah, I’ve got a lot. But this,” he said, pointing to the C on his other hand and saying with no shortage of pride, “This is my team. Even now, even with Caleb Hanie, you know, even if I’m mad at them right now,” he said laughing… but then his smile faded. He tried to laugh again, and couldn’t. He grew serious, and sighed deeply. “Yeah,” he said, rubbing at the backs of his gloves, “this will always be my team.”
NEXT: The truth will set you free. (12.31.11) (see below)
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Time to Settle Accounts
December 31, 2011: The truth will set you free.
“You getting down on this?” G asked when I walked into the Ambulance Factory.
“I wasn’t going to, but on the other hand, let’s do it.”
“You bring anything?”
I grinned. “Nope.”
“Perfect. You can buy the next wraps.”
G and Ricky were sitting at the black table, and G pulled a garbage can next to him to split the blunt and dispose of its tobacco. Ricky was on a new iPad, tweeting and checking the news. Mike, one of the Ambulance Factory’s two proprietors, was strolling around the dark apartment/studio in his bathrobe, the Hugh Hefner of music recording admiring the scene in his red-tinted musical hamlet. Bandgeek Hustle, the producer of the beat that G was recording on today, was seated on the couch checking his phone.
“Whendyou get the iPad?” I asked Ricky. I was drinking a glass of water and set it on the table.
“It’s a Motorola Zoom,” he said.
“Never heard of that.”
“It’s pretty sweet. I got it for work.”
The blunt was rolled. G twisted it tighter, licked the sides, and then dragged a flame across its body. He lit it and took a large, deep inhalation, and he passed it to Ricky who did the same, and Ricky passed it to me. In the past six months I’ve smoked less than I ever have, but here we were at the Ambulance Factory just like the first half of the year, and the day was young and the year was ending and the smoke was smooth and full. Clouds from my nostrils rising above the table… coughing and striking my chest and passing the blunt to G…
“2012 man,” Ricky said after he’d finished coughing.
“Won’t be long,” I said. “I’m not really worried about the end of the world any more. That bullshit about, you know,” I said, laughing, “‘Planet X! Nibiru! She’s coming right for us!’” I coughed again and swigged a gulp of water. “I’m not sweating the ice age either. I’m much more concerned about something like, you know, a food shortage…”
“…or some kind of global consolidation of power, Obama calling in martial law or something. All the stuff billowing from the Occupy tension. All the 99% stuff… possible responses… escalations and so on… ” Ricky cocked his head to the side in lieu of words. “That’s much scarier than some out-of-control planet hurtling toward us.”
The blunt had come back around to Ricky, and now he passed it to me. My head was loose and free, my eyes watering, a grin in my cheeks. Life felt sensible again.
“It’s been a good year,” I said.
“On to the next one,” he said.