Friday, May 27, 2011

Ruth; Ronald

To make up for the blog neglect, here are two stories in one post!

Ruth: Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:25 a.m., May 26th, 2011

I love my Lord Jesus, and I love to read His Word more than anything. Ever since the birth of my first child I've carried the Holy Bible around with me every day, for God's teachings give me comfort in every situation. Whether I'm feeling happy, sad, angry, or hopeless, I just open up my Bible and the words I need to hear are right there.

Last Christmas my daughter Elizabeth, who is a lawyer and skips Church far too often, bought me one of those newfangled e-readers. She said: "Now you can read your Bible on here, Mama, instead of carrying the actual heavy book around with you." At first I found it very uncomfortable; it seemed almost sacrilegious to read His Word electronically. But now I've come to feel that it's a blessing. God has just made it that much easier for me to study the scripture. He carries the weight of the physical book for me. And to this day, the Holy Bible is the only book I have downloaded. It's the only book I need.

Ronald: Seen on the Northbound Davis Street platform at about 8:35 a.m., May 26th, 2011

Ronald strolls off the train, ignoring the confused stares people throw his way. He knows that he looks eccentric, to say the least. But that's just the way life goes when you're into Clown Goth.

Clown Goth is a new, up-and-coming sub-genre of clothes and music. Not many people know about it, but those involved in the scene are dedicated to it completely. Ronald is on his way to the first-ever Clown Goth convention: Death Circus I. And in the Clown Goth sense, he is dressed to the nines. His over-six-foot frame looks intimidatingly silly in a black jacket with a gray-purple flower boutonniere, a black kilt, green knee-socks, and saddle shoes. He's decided to wait to put on his make-up until he gets to the hotel, so as not to alarm the general public. He also has to touch up his roots when he gets there; the parking-cone-orange color currently starts a few inches below his part and drips its way down his long, straggly hair.

Ronald has high hopes for Death Circus I. Tight Rope Noose, the most popular band in the genre, is going to play. He's always wanted to see them. In fact, Ronald wants to start his own Clown Goth band (he plays drums), so he'll be looking for potential new members at the convention. And maybe he'll even meet the girl of his dreams--a delicate, pale-faced, dark-eyed creature in a corset with vivid hair bundled under a top hat.

And there's that. Agenda for this evening: mojitos. I hope you all have a lovely holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Seen at Fizz Bar & Grill at around 10:00 p.m., Monday May 23rd, 2011

The music is terrible this evening! Too much 1920's Charleston nonsense. I don't come here for that. I don't even come here to dance with the pretty young ladies in their colorful dresses. (Although that doesn't hurt--they're always willing to indulge a harmless little old man like me.) Really I'm here because it reminds me of my parents.

Mom and Pop made their living as a dancing duo in small New York jazz clubs. They were even in a picture once, but it flopped. Naturally they started teaching me to swing dance from the time I was a little boy. Pop showed me how to gracefully direct a girl into turns and dips. Mom would practice with me, bending down low so I could get my arm over her head. When I got older, I didn't dance as much. I was always interested in more "manly" things--playing baseball, building things, getting an honest job. I still took my girlfriends dancing from time to time. They were always impressed with my dance moves, but none of them would marry me. Too grumpy for them, I guess.

I'm retired now, and I don't do much with my day except watch the Westerns channel and go for walks. But ever since I found out that the bar has swing dances on Monday nights, I go there every week and teach the young people what my parents taught me.

Oh man! Sorry about the epic lack of posts. I've been crazy busy. Besides working a lot, I've also been hosting lots of couchsurfers (which has been amazing), getting some paid go-go dancing gigs, and getting a new tattoo. Exciting stuff.  Anyway, I'm working on two more posts about people I saw today. They're just not finished yet. More tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Seen on the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8:15 p.m., May 19th, 2011.

The Princess Gloria peers out the window at the shabby sides of buildings that pass by; she silently studies her territory. She likes to ride the L trains back and forth and observe the everyday lives of those in her capital city. Everything about her screams royalty--the long, blonde hair that sweeps down her back and delicately curls at the ends, her confident nose, the red velvet scarf around her neck. Yet none of her subjects recognize Gloria as their princess.

Many people in America believe there is a shadow government, in case tragedy strikes Washington D.C. What they don't know is that the shadow government is a monarchy. That way one single person can make decisions in a time of crisis without all the messiness of democratic debate. Chicago is the royal family's capital city for obvious reasons--it's far cleaner than LA & New York, but it's still large, beautiful, and full of culture. Furthermore, it is far less likely to be attacked than either of those cities, at least while the current government is still in place. The monarchy reside in a Gold Coast mansion, waiting for the day to come when they will have to truly reign.

But Gloria, Crown Princess of the United States, hopes that she will never see that day. She has been groomed to rule her whole life, and she will accept the responsibility if she must. She'd just prefer not to do so. She'd like to remain a secret princess all her days, presiding over her conditional kingdom.

Gah! This week has been conspiring against my blogging. Yesterday I ended up working until 7, and had to go straight to go-go dancing lessons without stopping home or eating or anything. Not too fun. So obviously, I couldn't blog then. But I did write this story yesterday.  Hope you like it. I'll try to make up the lack of stories this week with some more this weekend. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:15 a.m.

Sam, for a long time, was not a hit with the ladies. He was just a straight-laced, mildly dorky law student. But everything changed one fateful, snowy day.

It was last February, and Sam was biking around, despite the knee-deep remains of the recent snowpocalypse. On his way through Logan Square, he noticed a small, shabby thrift store that he had never seen before. For some reason the vintage clothes in the window gave him a funny feeling in his stomach, like he had just come home after a long time away. He locked up his bike and went inside to investigate.

A tiny, grey-haired woman was reading a magazine at the counter. When Sam walked in, she took one look at him and said, "You're the 1970's."

"Excuse me?" Sam was bewildered. The woman smiled.

"You may be living now, but your soul is from the 1970's." She shuffled around the store, grabbing various wide-collared shirts and flared slacks off the racks. "Just try these on," she ordered, "they'll suit you."

And they did suit him. Perfectly, actually. From that moment, Sam fully embraced his 1970's identity. He grew his curly brown hair out into a Roger-Daltrey-in-Tommy-esque bob. He wore tweed jackets with brightly striped, polyester shirts underneath. He took the flared pants down a notch, but they were all still slightly flared. He joined a Three Dog Night tribute band. Girls threw themselves at him like crazy. Sam had never been happier, and it was all because he daily paid tribute to that most stylish of decades.

Sorry I didn't write one yesterday! I forgot my journal, and hence I could not write on the train. Anyway, this guy I saw today reminded me a lot of Tom-Baker-as-Doctor-Who, except in his 20's. But I decided to go with just the 70's in general. More accessible. Anyway, trivia tonight! Exciting stuff. 

Monday, May 16, 2011


Sorry for the obscenely long break! I had a mild life crisis, but it's all good now. Anyway, here's a story I wrote few days ago...

Seen waiting for the Red Line to Howard at the Fullerton Station, April 12th, 2011.

Chad is having an identity crisis. When he picked his disguise, he thought it was funny. He was the Crusher, the strongest man on earth (or at least in the greater Chicagoland area). When in his full superhero regalia, he stood tall and muscly in his spandex suit, his brown hair slicked back, a confident smile above his chiseled jaw. What better disguise than a measly, bike-riding, environment-loving, PBR-drinking, jort-wearing, music-snob hipster?

He looks down at his outfit: pale green slacks, blue-and-white plaid shirt, canvas shoes, bowling bag used as a briefcase. Chad is starting to feel that this is his real self. He's getting really into the scene. He has started a relatively successful tumblr in which he displays quotes from notoriously evil people that sound really good and kind out of context. And sometimes, mostly with regard to his online presence, he spells his name "Tchad," the French way of spelling the African country. His record collection is blossoming. The other day he picked up Belle and Sebastian's "The Boy with the Arab Strap" for a great price. Their earlier stuff is so much better.

Chad finds himself frequently mocking, even hating his superhero alter-ego. The Crusher is just some dumb bro who doesn't even think about anything he's doing. He's into all that "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" bullshit. Sure, he saves a ton of people from tragic deaths. But he doesn't really see any of the larger problems in the world, you know? Starvation and political turmoil or whatever. Besides, Chad's commitment to CAPES is kind of cramping his style. They're supposed to go to this big superhero conference the same weekend as Pitchfork Music Festival. He can't miss Fleet Foxes! Is it possible to reject his powers and choose his own life?

Woo hoo! Brought back CAPES. Anyway, must run. Swing dancing tonight...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:10 p.m.

Marnie holds a small bouquet of red roses that looks larger compared to her tiny body. She bought the flowers simply so that people will wonder why she has them. Maybe she's going to lay them at a loved one's grave. Maybe they're from a secret admirer. Maybe they're just to brighten up her kitchen table. In fact, she will throw them away when she gets home. Marnie hates roses. But during her commute, the roses will make her a noteworthy person, and that's the important thing.

Super short story! Fun times. It's such a nice day! I want to go eat outside.  Must make this happen...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Natalie & Amanda

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:15 p.m.

Natalie pretended to read the Red Eye. She looked like any other 20-something--worn jeans, black jacket, pink pashmina, and a pair of those fashionably large sunglasses. If people were paying attention, they might have observed that Natalie's glasses were extraordinarily large. They consumed the top half of her face, and one would imagine that they effectively blocked her peripheral vision. In fact, they would have blocked her peripheral vision, if she had any. Natalie didn't have any vision at all. If you removed her glasses, you would find huge gaping holes of nothing in her face. They wouldn't be staring back at you, nor would they be reflecting anything. Your stomach would turn when you realized that you were looking into non-existance.

Natalie was born that way. If she had lived in a different time, she probably would have been forced into a freak show, traveling the world and fascinating people with her dark, empty sockets. Instead, she stayed in Chicago, wore large glasses, and pretended to be normal.

She also pretended not to notice when Amanda got on the train. She could smell her perfume. Amanda was a member of the same support group as Natalie, a group for "those made differently." Natalie obviously didn't know what Amanda looked like, but she had heard many descriptions. She knew all about Amanda's problem. She knew that Amanda had recently acquired a new, tailor-made coat. It was bright yellow, with buttons down the back as a trendy artistic statement. She always paired it with a thick scarf piled around her neck. That's because Amanda wanted to blend in, too. You see, the back of Amanda's coat was really the front. Without the coat, and with more confidence, she might have used her backwards head as a trendy artistic statement.

Natalie and Amanda did not talk to each other. These splendid freaks ignored the fact that they were more unique than most people could ever hope to be. They pretended that they were just like everyone else.

Hello again! I had a lovely weekend, and I learned some important lessons:

1) I must hang out in Wicker Park more, even if it is a pain to get there.

2) Dalek cupcakes, while awesome, take way too much time and effort (see picture below)

3) Taking your mom out to see drag queens perform is a great way to spend mother's day.

Anyway, I'm off to Felipe's to watch Harry Potter. Literary nerd time is important. 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Seen on the Red Line to the Loop at about 2:15 p.m.

Steve was born on the outskirts of Memphis, and from the time he had basic motor skills he had been playing the blues. His grandpa was his first guitar teacher. Throughout his life, Steve had developed a theory: the older you get, the easier the blues become. When his grandpa passed, the painful lyrics of the songs he had been taught became real for the first time.

His family was always poor, and when he was twelve his father was sent to prison for stealing food for their family to eat. Higher education certainly wasn't an option, so Steve got a job at a gas station. He was constantly surrounded by people who hated their jobs and their lives. He knew countless miserable and mistreated women, sucked into marriage and motherhood too early. During these years, Steve's blues songs became significantly better. He frequently performed at dive bars in the area, and he even recorded one song, which was sometimes played by the local radio station.

He met Martha at one of his shows. She was from Chicago, and she was unlike any woman that Steve had ever met. They started talking after his gig, and they spent a lot of time together during her trip. When she returned to Chicago, Steve followed. After all, he could still play the blues there. Martha was impressed by his persistence, and they were soon married; she died in childbirth a few years later. Steve continued to play the blues, and now his songs were infused not only with loss, but also with the feelings of neglect created by living in a heartless big city.

He raised Anna, their daughter, by playing gigs and doing whatever work he could find. She was a good kid, but they didn't live in a good area. When she was just fifteen, she was shot in a drive-by.

Now, five years later, Steve looks older than he is. His blues songs have reached their pinnacle; his life is so thoroughly soaked in tragedy that he can't help but write them perfectly. People have been taking notice of him; he has even been offered a recording contract. He's not sure he'll take it. But he always carries his guitar around with him. He's wise enough to know that the inspiration for a good blues song can come at any moment.

I haven't written a depressing one in a while.  And this guy really did look like a blues singer. I'm actually having a pretty good day.  My boss let me leave at 2 p.m. because "the weather is nice." So that's awesome. It means that I actually have time to do laundry for once. I'm pretty excited. I hope you're having an exciting day, too. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:12 a.m.

Max flipped to the next chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was the 17th time he'd read the book. He ran his fingers through his curly red hair and braced himself for the part when Harry finds his parents' grave in Godric's Hollow. He didn't want to cry again. Besides, he needed to pay attention and look for clues.

Max was a member of the Chicago chapter of The Believers, a network of Harry Potter fans who were convinced that the 7-book series was not entirely fictional. J.K. Rowling could not have possibly invented such a richly detailed world without some real inspiration. The Chicago chapter met on Tuesday nights at Moody's Pub in Edgewater, since it reminded them of the Leaky Cauldron. Every week each member was assigned an investigative project; Max's current project was to identify potential real-world locations of Godric's Hollow.

He already had a few ideas. In his bag he carried a map of the UK with red X's marking each possible site. For Max, finding Godric's Hollow was the equivalent of finding buried treasure. He was determined to unearth the secrets of the wizarding world. He desperately wanted to explore this final frontier--to eat a feast in the the Great Hall of Hogwarts, to drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade, to wander the halls of the Ministry of Magic, to stroll down Diagon Alley and marvel at all its magical shops. Max was flying to London in just three months to pursue his dream. If you were there, if you knew his earnest passion, you would have wished him luck.

I love Harry Potter. We all knew this would happen someday.  I was so excited to see somebody reading it on the train, even though the books are so popular that it's probably not particularly unusual. Anyway, I must run.  Go-go dancing tonight!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mathilde; Tyranny

Mathilde: Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:26 a.m.

Mathilde misses France. She moved to Chicago a few years ago for a job, and she still has not learned to love the city. She feels that, compared to Paris, Chicago has no grace. The people are plain; they may be friendly, but they're ignorant, and most of them look as though they take no pride in themselves. The buildings are hodge-podged together without regard to order or overall appearance. Row houses that might otherwise be charming are ruined by their neighbors--1970's square cement apartment buildings and ugly black skyscrapers. And the weather! Mathilde had never felt such biting cold, and even in May it still hadn't warmed up.

She opens her book, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," which she likes because the author is Swedish and has European sensibilities. She pulls juicy red strawberries from her bag and eats them one by one. Mathilde has to give America that much credit: its strawberries are far superior.

Tyranny: Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:45 p.m.

When people see me on the L, they feel bad for me, or they scorn me. To them, I'm just a hideous old hag. Those are the reactions you get when you're a hideous old hag. But little do they know that I'm so much more.

They're all so stupid and blind. They really should know better. From the time they were born they've heard loads of fairy tales. And in fairy tales, the hideous old hag is always what? I mean, I'm wearing striped socks; I'm practically giving it away.

I come from a long line of witches. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was the very witch who tried to cook Hansel & Gretel. I still have her delicious family recipe for broiled child. Haven't had it in years. Children are much less gullible these days.

That's the problem! Witches no longer command the same kind of respect. Nobody believes in us anymore. And it is true that without belief, our power wanes considerably. But I can still hurt them. While they sit on the train listening to music and reading books, I am constantly cursing them, bringing little misfortunes to their lives. If only they would fear me. I would ruin them completely.

I was only going to write one story, but then I saw Tyranny on the train and I just had to write about her! She really did look like a stereotypical fairy tale witch. Anyway, I must study up for trivia. Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wilfred/Killer Joe

Seen on the Red Line to the Loop at about 5:35 p.m.

Wilfred smiles politely at the other passengers as he boards the red line train. He is on his way back to the city after attending an absolutely delightful lecture on Oscar Wilde at Northwestern University. His bag is full of books. With his fedora, round glasses, and perfectly curled mustache, he is the literal portrait of "a gentleman and a scholar."

When he steps onto the platform at Jarvis, however, a change comes over him. His smile turns into a cynical smirk. He pulls off his glasses, and, despite the unseasonable chill, rolls up his sleeves to reveal arms slathered in tattoos. He pulls on his earlobes to make sure the thick gold rings are still in place; he then flips down his septum piercing from inside his nose. He struts down the block to the place where he parked his precious hog. Killer Joe is heading to O'Malley's for a meeting of the notorious Horsemen of the Apocalypse biker gang. He's the secretary. He makes sure his minutes book is tucked safely in his bag, and finally hits the road.

I don't really like how this story turned out. Oh well.  This guy just really looked like two different people in one. I do, however, like the idea of biker gangs having secretaries who keep minutes. I hope that's true. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daphne; Me

Hey y'all.  Forgot to mention I'd be in Memphis this past weekend at the Beale Street Music Festival.  I was rocking out to so many awesome bands that I didn't really have time to write while I was there, but I did write one story in the Atlanta airport on the way to Memphis involving the royal wedding.  And Sunday night, when I heard that Osama bin Laden had been killed, I thought that the momentous occasion might call for some creative non-fiction.  I hope you enjoy both.

Daphne: Seen at the Atlanta airport at about 8:55 a.m., April 29th, 2011

Why did Aimee's cheerleading competition have to be this weekend?! Ever wince William and Kate announced their engagement, I've been just dying with curiosity and excitement. Who designed the dress? Will she wear flowers or a tiara? What royal titles will they receive? And now I'm stuck with my daughter at the airport watching wedding clips on CNN. It's just not the same!

They couldn't ruin my wedding fun completely, though. When I was a little girl, my mama threw a wedding party for Lady Di and Prince Charles' wedding, and it was the most fun I ever had.  We had tea and shortcakes and ladyfingers, and we strung the Union Jack all up and down the house. Well, you wouldn't believe it, but yesterday I found the very dress my mama wore that day! So I decided to wear it to the airport.

It's light pink, tea length, with gorgeous puffy sleeves and a big bow in the back--not to mention a matching one for my hair! They really don't make dresses like they used to, don't you think? I always loved this dress. Aimee says I look silly. You know, sometimes I don't know how I raised a daughter so different from myself. I wanted to have her help me throw a royal wedding party for Kate and Will so she could share in my fondest memories. But she showed no interest whatsoever! It just broke my heart. It truly did.

Well, it'll be fine. I asked my husband to tape the wedding for me so I can watch every beautiful, romantic moment when I get home. At least I look pretty. At least I'm acknowledging this special wedding day with the respect it deserves.

Me: Tom Lee Park, Memphis at about 10 p.m., May 1st, 2011

I was in Memphis when I found out he was dead. A few of my friends and I were dancing in the fog with a newly-purchased light-up tambourine as Wilco played on stage. The air smelled like beer, cigarettes, barbecue, and the Mississippi River, America's jugular, which was close to bursting its levees. Our feet were caked in its historic mud.

We learned that they had killed Osama bin Laden via Twitter, of all things. When the towers fell, Twitter didn't even exist. A lot can happen in almost ten years.

Hearing the news at an outdoor music festival was surreal, to say the least. The first thing I thought of was the time my friend Leta and I saw the Northern Lights. It wasn't long after 9/11. I was walking Leta back to her house when we noticed that the night sky was filled with ethereal green and pink streaks. The Northern Lights don't typically appear as far south as Illinois, so neither of us had ever seen them before. Our immediate conclusion was that it was some kind of bioterrorism. We ran all the way to Leta's. Her parents just laughed at us, of course. But to my twelve-year-old post-9/11 self, it seemed like a real possibility. Now kids won't have to be afraid of the Northern Lights anymore.

Back at the concert, I had mixed feelings. The happy, lively crowd seemed a sick contrast to all the people who had died over the years just to catch this one man. At the same time, it was an affirmation that the ultimate terrorist had never succeeded and could never have succeeded in breaking our spirit. And even as people cheered when Wilco started playing "Jesus, Etc.," the words of the chorus seemed to mourn all those who died by bin Laden's hand:

"Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs.
Tuned to chords strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around."