As I write this there has been no big snowfall yet in Chicago and the summer’s memories are collecting mothballs as the metamorphosis begins. I'm not looking forward to the lack of sunlight, nor the subzero temperatures that come howling off Lake Michigan. Maybe it won't be so bad staying in a little more though, especially since my summer went out with a bang.
Going to the ACRE PROJECTS artist residency in Stueben, Wisconsin for two weeks this summer was worlds away from this current one of spirit fingers at General Assemblies. I was in the woods with 35 other Chicago artists. I was skeptical at first, but the healthy diet of dancing till 8 AM, making art, going to county fairs, blowing shit up, and watching everyone eat duck tongues made me never want to leave. If I got bored of that there was any number of other distractions: destruction derbies, hacked computers, rope swings, edible plant seminars, BB guns, alien head piñatas, taking pictures of naked friends I just met, and swimming in the rain by myself at 4 AM.
When I got home, I slept nearly two days straight at my girl Monica’s house. Before I crashed, I noticed a wonderful scene outside Monica’s window: Syndey’s Ice Cream Truck. I love this beast. Not all the trucks have fluorescent lights on the side. When this truck drives through the darkened side streets at night you can see the light trace the trees and the houses. Ahhhh, Chicago, sometimes you are just so classy. Off to bed.
Around 3 AM Monica’s roommate banged on the door. “Guys, wake up!” he yelled. “There’s a dude just laying in the street!” As I started to make movements to get up, he just barged through the door. He didn’t care that I was naked. “I think this dude is dead,” he said. “Did you hear the gun shots?” We both raced to the window. As I put on my boxers, the police closed off the intersection and draped a sheet over the dead body.
“No.” That was a weird realization.
Monica and I tried to piece together the story, as he eventually ended up lying there for hours—at least three, maybe more. The doors were open in the car across the street, which slammed into the fence. Was he pushed out? Did his homies kill him? Did someone try to jack his mini van?
Sometimes I wonder about this place. This isn’t the first time I've crossed this kind of path. Once, on my morning bicycle ride to work I passed a similar scenario. The block pictured is the block my brother lives on. It may be hard to see, but there is a body in the driver's seat. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman, but they are hunched over with their head under the steering wheel. The police had big problems with me. They said, “That’s enough! You’re coming with me!” They even reached for me but my mother gave me the tools growing up to avoid being kidnapped and molested.
So back to this body. I stepped outside and noticed Monica’s front door was in the crime scene.
As soon as I got there the police approached me and said, “OK now, no funny business. I don’t want to have to take you to jail tonight.” I was suspecting to hear, “You live here? Can we ask you some questions? Did you hear anything?” Quickly came the “We are going to have to take your camera. Come with us.” Another police officer rolled up, then another, and before I knew it I had four cops in my face, plus a dead dude. Fortunately they created confusion amongst themselves with “Is this the guy?” and “Are we taking him in?”
I politely didn’t say shit, as you're supposed to do when you plead the fifth. I turned around, locked the door, and ran upstairs, hoping they wouldn’t crash through and do me like they did Fred Hampton. Well, I am not as militant as Chairman Fred, so maybe they would do me like they did Karolina Obryca or Michael Pleasance. None of those officers were convicted. In fact, the latter was promoted to detective two years after the murder. It made me think of the nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy,” and why I didn’t get it when I was younger, or why I should care what pigs do. As the rhyme says, “This little piggy went to the market, one stayed home, the other had roast beef, and all this because none of the piggies are going to jail.”
Anywho, the scene looked like this the whole night. The police just stood around with their bulletproof vests and guns. Every night I watch them chase cars, bust random U-turns, and blow red lights. I'd always assumed they were racing to catch criminals, but really I think they were just racing to steal somebody’s stash of weed. I believe weed is the leading cause of arrests in Chicago, so I am not too far off.
The blood was still on the street the next day. Thirty feet from where we slept, where we dreamed, bullets ripped through a man and I slept through it all. I was so tired I wasn’t even dreaming. I wasn’t the only one.