Memorial Day

Certain holidays never held any importance to me. This isn’t out of some disrespect or apathy for the reasons they exist, it has more to do with the fact that for most of my life these celebrated three-day weekends always ended up with me going into work and getting time and a half while being partially staffed. Let’s not think that I don’t care about people who died in combat or that I have some kind of disrespect for the labor movement although I will say the crappy healthcare and meager pay, I received most of my life shouldn’t be celebrated. Where are these fighters for the common man now? Thanks for the weekend but I work most of those as well.
One of the first Memorial Days I enjoyed as a day off came a few years back when I was living my myself in my house in the ghetto. The smell of barbeque was in the air and the music was loud with windows vibrating as cars drove by and fireworks (gunshots) could be heard in the distance. This was a normal Friday night/ Saturday in the hood except it was taking place on a Monday. I was enjoying myself by either hanging out inside or sitting on the porch reading whatever book had my interest at the time.
Around noon I heard the sound of sirens a few blocks over and didn’t think anything of it. This was a common thing in the neighborhood and to not hear sirens would leave one to worry that something was happening and nobody was responding to it. Something was always happening.
An hour later I could hear a small group of guys coming around the corner from Haye’s Park and this usually meant there was going to be trouble. They were yelling things to draw attention from the neighborhood and when they appeared there were three guys and two girls walking behind them.
“These Niggas think they going to talk shit in our hood. Chicago muthafuckas don’t know who they are messing with. We gonna show these niggas what’s up!” It was the tiny guy in the middle who was doing all the talking.
Next door a party had been going on all day. The house was rented to one woman who was middle aged and back in school. A few weeks before I watch a guy leave her house during a similar party and stash something under my porch. He left and later came back looking around puzzled that the laptop I had found was gone. The next day I knocked on the door and the woman answered. She looked intimidated at the bald white guy standing on her porch. I asked about a laptop and she ran from the door upstairs and came back a minute later screaming somebody had stolen it. I went back home and brought the laptop over with the power cord that was stashed with it. Everything still worked and I suggested being picky about the people she had over. Of course, it wasn’t her fault it must have been a friend of a friend. I described the guy and she was pissed; it was her nephew. I let her know that I had lived in the neighborhood for a while and if anyone tried stuff like that at my house they were being buried in the backyard. After that comment, there were eyes watching me every time I was out back picking tomatoes and planting herbs.
I watched the guys stand out in the street and yelled at the house with a group of guys on the porch talking back. Women stood in the yard rushing the kids inside the house. After a minute the guys in the street pulled their guns. There was a submachine gun, something you might see from a WWII film, a Berretta 9mm with an extended magazine, and the third pistol being aimed at the house. There must have been 10 kids inside the house and I hoped they were in the basement. I rushed to find my phone and had trouble dialing 911. The operator answered and told them there was a group of guys in the street in front of my neighbor’s house with guns drawn. There were kids in the house. I gave descriptions of the individuals and told them about the girls standing in the street with them.
“Are you sure the Berretta has an extended magazine?” dispatch asked.
“Yes, it’s sticking out like a foot under the handle. Where are you guys? These people are going to be killed.”
‘We are on our way. Keep an eye on them but stay safe.”
I stayed on the line and with the guys on the porch not saying a word as they had guns aimed at them the men in the street had decided that they made their point. They walked down the street, turned the corner and disappeared. The police arrived 15 minutes later.
By this time the women in the house were packing up their cars and going back to Chicago, the safer city. “These mother fuckers are crazy over here. What the fuck was that. Why are you mother fuckers talking shit to these crazy people. You ain’t bad ass. You don’t have no gun. We’re getting the fuck out of here.” The guys didn’t talk to the cops but the women threw in their own two cents.
“Do you know the guys who pulled the guns on you?” an officer asked.
The man on the porch stayed silent.
“Ya he knows them. Starting shit and bringing it to my house. What the fuck did you think was going to happen?” she said tossed an arm full of clothes into the trunk of her car.
“You realize these men fit the description of the men who killed a 13-year-old boy two blocks over an hour ago?” the officer was making a point that they should be dead.
The man stayed silent and the women hurried up loading their cars and putting their kids inside. In less than an hour they had packed up and were heading back to Chicago.
“What am I supposed to do?” the man said as the woman walked to the car with her keys.
“Get a job, stop thinking you’re a thug you freeloading bitch!” she hopped into the car and drove away. The guys stood on the front lawn with no house, no cars, and no balls. This was the fastest I had ever seen anyone move out of a house.
The street was quiet. The party was over. I sat on the porch and relaxed as I watched the same three guys walk around the corner looking at my neighbor’s house from across the street. I pulled my phone out and dialed 911. I went inside and acted like I had just received a call.
“The guys who pulled guns on Clinton are back.” I told the dispatcher.
“Are you sure it’s the same men?”
“They are wearing the same clothes. The girls aren’t with them, but it’s them. They are watching the house across the street.”
“Do you see any weapons? Do they have the guns?”
“I don’t see any.”
“Can you find out?”
“I’m not going to ask them!”
“We are on our way.”
I rolled my eyes and continued giving updates as to where they were. Once they reached the intersection down the street police cars swarmed in and guns were drawn. The guys looked around surprised and were quickly cuffed and put into the back of squad cars.
It turned out they were the men that had gunned down a 13-year-old who was “talking shit” and when these guys pulled guns on the neighbor most of the police force was two blocks away securing a crime scene. The guns were found at a friend’s house, dropped off after the showdown. My nerves were shot, adrenaline was starting to subside and I found myself passing out on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. I almost watched a house filled with people be massacred over two groups of guys measuring their dicks. One person died that day, he was referred to as a good kid and didn’t deserve what had happened. A day later the public learned that he had been kicked out of school, was shot a week before during an altercation and this time the job was done right. There is a life lesson here, if you are doing something that got you shot maybe you shouldn’t do that thing again.
The house next door stayed empty for a while. The rest of the summer was quiet, no that’s a lie, who am I kidding, it was a non-stop shit show of ghetto fabulousness. That was the start of the summer and I hadn’t seen anything yet.

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Golden: part 8

The last day in Seattle started out like all of the others. This morning a jazz band was playing in the corner of the deli and when they asked for requested, I suggested something from Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis classic. Without a horn in the group the electric guitar took over the role and played the piece for ten minutes. I was impressed and the head of the band told me that the guitarist had really improved over the past ten years. Nick added afterwards that he had recorded some of the American song book with this group but others in the band were not up to his standards for the job.
We sat at the counter with the picture window overlooking the street and patio. Nick read one of the local papers and discussed how the governor of Washington state was meeting with President Xi of China. Some people were suggesting that the Governor might run for president but I knew that role was already going to Hillary. I knew nothing about local politics and sat silent eating my meal listening to the conversations around me.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched a woman walk into the deli. I had been repeatedly told about the beautiful exotic Asian women living in Seattle but after a week of staying there and seeing little of Seattle I took the information to be a local myth I should disregard. I few women I did meet were just like the college students I saw in my own town with three universities. Young naive and consumed by pointless over charged educations, with a thirst for consumerism, the women I saw in Seattle were clones of this model, until this day.
The woman who walked in was very different from anything I had seen at home or abroad. Wearing a blue sundress, her hair was pulled back into a pony tail as she stood in line only a few feet away. Dark red lipstick emphasized her smile and when the owner of the shop walked up to say hello her eyes squinted as she smiled. She knew the owner and continued her conversation as I sat silently watching from afar hoping she wouldn’t notice me. The sundress did little to hide her curvaceous body and I fought to remember the details of this rare beauty. Thick calf muscles teased there way into view between the brown boots and the skirt. Thick thighs blended into wide hips and a healthy attractive midsection. Completing her curvaceous figure were her full breasts. These details I was fortunate to remember and looking away from her simple and classical face of beauty was a task upon itself. Big brown eyes and thick red lips filled her oval face gave her a constant expression of kindness that wasn’t faked or forced like so many I had met before. The girl at the airport bar in Salt Lake City came to mind.
The woman was called to order her coffee and just as fast as she appeared, she was gone. So, the mythical women of Seattle are actually real and just like any unicorn, snipe, or bigfoot you have to enjoy them for the few seconds they are there before they are gone.
I asked Nick bout the girl afterwards hoping to have a name to go with the face. He had never seen her before but by his recollection she might work for one of the local advertising agencies in Bellevue. Flying back to Kalamazoo later that night there was no point in pushing the issue.
Nick had this strange idea that I needed an iPad. He had a second device that he wanted to give me and that was our mission for the day. The second iPad belonged to his girlfriend Jan who came to own it from buying a new Cadillac. She used it once, set the pin number and after two years of sitting in the closet she forgot what the number was. Nick drove to the local mall where there was an Apple store.
The mall was no different from any other except for the Tesla car store in the middle. Nick was fascinated by these cars and thought these must be a rare breed in the land of Detroit muscle. The car by itself was odd, no motor, exhaust, gas tank, transmission, or cooling system. Everything was touch controlled and the car talked to you. I thought of Nightrider.
At the Apple store we spent an hour arguing with an employee about the resetting of the iPad.
“Unless you have the code, we can’t help you.”
“But we don’t know the code because it’s forgotten. Are you telling me that I own an iPad that I can’t have fixed if I forget the code?”
“do you have the receipt?”
“it belongs to my girlfriend and she got it from buying a new car.”
“Well unless you have the receipt, I can’t help you.”
“I want to talk to somebody else.”
This went on for more than an hour and this was how I spent the last day in Seattle, sitting in a mall surrounded by stores I don’t go to and people I don’t like. I could be doing this at home.
We left the mall with Nick promising that he would have the iPad unlocked and mail it to me. I didn’t want the iPad. I didn’t have WIFI. I didn’t and still don’t like Apple products. The iPad, even when it did become mine would become a useless pile of crap taking up space with little or no use to me. Nick never listened to me.
“You don’t know what you’re missing. Once you have it, you’ll like it.”
Back at Walden I packed my bags and carried everything upstairs to wait by the door. I had been awake for almost 24 hours at that time and it was another 12 hours home, flying overnight to Minneapolis and then to Chicago after a three-hour layover. I was hoping to sleep on the plane but knew that would be near to impossible.
When went to a local Hooters in Seattle close to the airport. The three of us sat at a table ordering beer. I didn’t want any food, my stomach felt like it was filled with rocks and the discomfort was getting to me. A cute little Latina waitress was serving us. Her hair was cute to her shoulders with bangs, her skin glowed and she was polite even when others were not. She was fit and you could tell that she went to the gym regularly. Sam flirted with her and she said things like “that sweet” or “you don’t say.” These are the “I’m not interested, please stop being creepy” clues. Nick talked about asking her to be in a demo video for the show and Sam suggested they get business cards as producer or executive producer for getting laid in the future. The slapped each other on the back for the great idea and grew excited at all the pussy in their foreseeable future. These were not the kind of guys I would hang out with in any other circumstance. I kept looking at the time and suggested that we go to the airport.
Once I was dropped off, I made my way to the loading area and waited. There were little shops and I bought a rechargeable battery for my phone so that I could use it while flying back. Only problem was that you had to pay to use the WIFI on the plane. They didn’t even supply free WIFI.
I unwrapped a movie I had bought in town, Under the Red Hood, an animated Batman movie and popped it into my laptop. Myself and the two people next to me watched the movie with subtitles while the rest of the plane pretended to sleep.
On the top of the mountains below us were flashing lights that didn’t appear as far away as I would have liked. Small towns were glowing petri dishes in the dark. The lights condensed to the main street and gradually spreading out from the center.
Minneapolis was a great non-event. I recall nothing. I was now at 30 hours without sleep. The 1.5-hour flight to Chicago took five hours with you include the layover and waiting on the tarmac forever.
In Chicago, there was the wait for my luggage, again forced to be checked in at no extra cost. I took the shuttle to the garage where my car was still parked in the same spot, I left it. Leaving the garage, I set my phone for directions to Kalamazoo. It didn’t matter where I went the phone kept telling me to make a U-turn. Frustrated I tossed the phone in the back seat. I jumped on the highway and drove as far and as fast as I could. I lost an hour in town from a stupid app and now the trip back to my hometown was taking me three hours. Then there was the traffic backup.
Some idiot had jackknifed a truck and the traffic was at a standstill. Many people were jumping off the highway to take side streets around the accident. The side streets were their own traffic jam. I stayed on the highway and looked at the morons who were twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out how to move the truck.
I put the audiobook on and tried not to fall asleep at the wheel. Clear blue skies and a bright sun kept me awake while squinting the whole time.
I drove up to my house. Pulled into the driveway. Left everything in the car. Went upstairs and climbed into bed. I had just hit 48 hours of being awake and no it was time to crash. I wouldn’t wake up until the next morning. 14 ours of sleep was just what I needed.

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Golden: Part 2

Working from home wasn’t the dream job that I thought it would be. Working second shift and getting out of work at 1am made the weekly meetings through Skype more difficult than they should have been. There was catching up to do on the project and I was stuck reading through files online and trying to create character profiles with little to go on. I learned early on that there were filing cabinets of information stuck inside Nick’s brain. During our meetings he would explain how he envisioned characters and scenes that weren’t in any of the documents online. To come up with something new for the show was becoming difficult, often shot down from the beginning because it didn’t fit into the world that was in Nick’s head that only he could see. The assistant who lived with Nick in Seattle, Sam, only encouraged this behavior often referring to Nick as “the master” or a “genius.” Meanwhile I was finding it difficult to know what my job was in a field that used visuals to tell a story and all the images appeared to be stuck in one man’s head.
After several weeks of Skype meetings, sharing ideas and figuring out how to move ahead, Nick decided it was time to have everyone with the project fly out to Seattle and stay at the place he called Walden. I had only flown once before, a trip to Phoenix with an ex-girlfriend and her family. While I didn’t have any problems on the trip there was the moment that TSA pulled her family aside because she had baby food in her bag and proceeded to pat down and tear apart the bags they had packed. I watched as the idiots in charge search half of the family, some stupid rule about suspected explosives, and let the other suspected terrorist on the plane with no problem. All the real terrorist would need to know is the procedure so that Bob is searched while Tom lugs on the C4. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to fly again.
I had to approve the trip with my new employer, the County Government. I was still on probation and to my surprise the trip was approved without any issues. They were kind of excited that someone in the department was working on a “Hollywood” project. The tickets were purchased online by Nick and I had to pick them up at the airport desk. There were many things I had to figure out before I left. Where do I park my car in Chicago? What happens if my flight is delayed? What is there to do for the three-hour layover in Utah? Who has fun in Utah?
I packed my bag making sure to only bring clothes. I would buy any toiletries in Seattle after I arrived and leave them there when I left. I wasn’t going to give TSA any reason to treat me like their own personal blow up doll. The drive to Chicago was non-eventful, listening to an audiobook called Impact and trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. Between the drive there and back I went through half of the book and never picked it up again. I should have listened to some Chicago hip hop, at least there would have been some interesting lyrics to write about.
The toll roads were the biggest obstacle I came across with exits that were labeled in five different ways sometimes appearing to have labels on top of labels. I could see the airport but every exit would say that I had to have a pass or pay some toll to get off the highway. I already have an issue with charging people to park their car downtown where I live so to pay to get off a road sounded exactly like highway robbery. Noticing that I was going to pass the airport with no free exit in sight I turned right, went up a ramp, looked at the camera taking my picture and gave it the bird as I went through the light heading towards my destination, a long-term parking garage.
The operation looked like something you would have seen in one of those 1980s car theft movies where people pay to have their car stolen and cut up for parts while they were half way across the world. I didn’t like it and while I had already looked over every review on Google, I had this feeling like “this is too easy” or I would come back to an empty tank of gas. The shuttle took me to the main entrance and I found my ticket waiting for me at the desk.
The entire time I was driving to Chicago I worried that this was some elaborate hoax. Some guys on the west coast read one of my books and decided to pull a prank for some YouTube channel that I didn’t know about. Worst case scenario, Ashton Kutcher walks out telling me I was punked. But the ticket was there and things still appeared to be sending me to Seattle.
I had to take a bus to another terminal in order to board my flight. It never occurred to me how big and airport was, especially O’Hare. There was an international influence that I had not anticipated in the middle of the Midwest. Signs were posted in several languages an it was easy to see we were technically not in the United States anymore.
While waiting for the flight I pulled out a copy of Jim Harrison’s A Good Day to Die, reading this book was the only task I had planned to do during the flight with a different book on the way back. I knew this was a popular thing to do on flights with the high number of plane tickets I have found over the years stuffed between the pages of a book I purchased from a used bookstore.
Paranoid I sit facing the desk worried I will somehow miss my flight, a task that only an idiot could accomplish with all of the warnings given before loading the plane. The people surrounding me, waiting for the same flight, consisted of a motley crew that represented America as a whole. There were the middle-aged white Christian men and women in their button up shirts and blue jeans to the tan international students from around the world showing me the United States that I know and love.
For some reason the book weighs heavy in my hands, more of a novella than a novel,  the book caught my eye at the library bookstore, and with the title I thought it would be funny if something happened during the flight and my corpse was found with A Good Day to Die. I had been reading Jim Harrison for a while now and his works before and after Legends of the Fall never stopped amazing me with his attention to detail that bring the characters alive on the page. Being a man from Michigan I couldn’t help but notice how fast he had pulled himself from a State that bragged about high unemployment and poverty. Of course, he did this long before the automotive shutdowns of the 1980s and the rise of unemployment in the 90s, but I have to give him credit for being from the state. Of course, other writers had lived here and had written about the upper hand of the country. Hemingway was an influence on me for a while until I ran out of his material to read.
The terminal by itself was boring and the only thing of note was the tiny Asian girl who didn’t look old enough to be flying alone. By first impression she appeared to be in her early teens and had hello kitty accessories dangling from her carry-on bag, with headphones on and a copy of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 in her hands. A taller white man was standing with her, hair was blond but showing gray hair and a slight belly adding to his age. He hovered over her in a protective manner and yet when the passengers started to organize to board it became obvious that they would be boarding separately. The tiny Asian girl would be flying by herself. I didn’t see her during the flight but she passed my seat finding hers far behind mine. I assumed she would be reading 1Q84 during the 3-hour flight to Salt Lake City. That book was a good choice, Murakami has a knack for transporting his readers to another world and making time disappear faster than they had anticipated.
Unfortunately, my book wasn’t the same trip. Three people on a road trip to blow up dams across the country. It appeared to be Harrison’s version of On the Road with a love triangle that didn’t have to take place and a trip that was destine to end in tragedy.
In the new time zone, I arrived in SLC two hours before leaving Chicago and had to wait another three hours for my next flight. There wasn’t much difference between the flight and the airport except in the plane I was moving from one place to another. In the airport I was stuck and unable to leave. The only thing to accomplish was burning time. To shop in an airport meant adding weight to what you were already carrying. Window shopping seemed to be the preferred pastime and it was something I was good at.
To my surprise there was a bar in SLC. A week or two before my trip I had lunch for the first time with my biological father. He shared with me a story about one of his uncles having an ice delivery service in SLC. Part of his job was to drop off ice to high ranking members of the Mormon church where they had their own personal bars in their basements enjoying the same sinful substances they preached against. I was not surprised by this after growing up Catholic. Preaching one thing and doing another was something I was familiar with.
I was relieved by the normality of this bar in a strange land. I had heard horror stories about Utah, the most common was drinks being taken away mid flight because they were in Utah airspace. I considered this to be an urban legend, a medieval law that would be impossible to enforce. Here I was in Utah at a real bar serving real beer with a decent alcohol content. I ordered the pumpkin beer that was in season and sitting next to me was the tiny Asian girl sipping on a beer. On the counter was 1Q84 and her bags sat next to the stool. Her headphones rest around her neck framing her long shiny black hair around her face as she played with her cellphone releasing sighs of desperation from a low battery. I recognized the book but had not read it, this was the first and only paperback copy I had ever seen but I had read most of Murakami’s other works. The case for her musical instrument I didn’t recognize.
For a few minutes I relaxed sipping my beer and wondered what I could say to initiate a conversation, I picked the book of course and asked if she had read any of his other works? She said no and that she wasn’t that far into 1Q84. She asked if I had read it and confessed I had not but was working up to his 1000-page opus. Eyeing the outlet on the wall, I asked the bartender if there was a place I could charge my phone, and she points out a metal strip under the bar with outlets. The Asian girl became excited as if she had been rescued from her own personal hell and plugged in her dying phone. I smile, grab my charger and spend the rest of the visit making small talk. The Asian girl is going to San Francisco for a concert to play her violin, while I fly north to Seattle. I will likely never see her again.
I take pictures of the beers I drink and post them to Facebook for people to see. On the opposite side of the bar an airport employee is sharing with the bartender that she caught her boyfriend cheating. Dramatic exchanges take place and I realize these two are very familiar with one another. The Asian girl grabs her bags and hands money to the bartender. I was curious what venue she was playing or for what event but I never asked not wanting to sound like some generic asshole at the bar. There was zero chance of that conversation going anywhere, remaining the single serving friend that Tyler talked about in Fight Club. The Asian girl left and I never saw her again.
The blonde sitting behind the bar continued to tell her story of betrayal for everyone to hear. With all the plot twist and drama, I’m not sure how she kept the story straight, but somehow, she did for the bartender to offer her two cents. To help kill the depression of the event unfolding before my eyes I asked the bartender to add the blonde’s drink to my tab. The blonde smiled and nodded. Half genuine and half “I was hoping that would happen” she drank her beer without a thank you involved in the interaction. I paid my tab at the bar and left feeling like a sucker.

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Old Town Ale House

It wasn’t difficult to find. The ale house is across the street from Second City and while it is small it stands out with its unique appearance and classic exterior towered by modern yuppie crap. I first heard of the Old Town Ale House on Parts Unknown, the popular show hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. It was in the last full season of the show that Bourdain visited the Ale house, surrounded by the artwork and eclectic décor. The furniture is a simple and well-worn design. The wood had been rubbed down to the imprint of thousands of people in these seats over the years, the wooden bar has a feeling of love with the scratches and dents smooth over the years.
The one bar I have been to that reminded me of the Ale house was the Dune Saloon in Grande Marais Michigan, the favorite beer house of author Jim Harrison. That find was a pure accident that filled me with delight and while the Ale house was fully intended it didn’t fail to reveal a few surprises in the hour I was there. The portrait of Putin wearing a ballerina tutu with his shirt off was a delight to see since it wasn’t finished in the Bourdain episode. Behind the bar I spotted a stack of books by the artist of the bar, Bruce Elliott. I remembered hearing about his blog telling the stories of his youth and tales of the Ale house and now they are available in print. I bought a copy for $20 and the bartender told me that if I stuck around for 20 minutes Bruce would stop in. I paid for an hour at the parking meter with the expectation of being gone before that time. Like clockwork Bruce stopped in and saw me reading his book at the bar. I asked him to sign it and we started talking for maybe five minutes. It was an awkward conversation one that had me watching the time with less than twenty minutes left on the meter. I didn’t have the time to relax and enjoy myself. With a two hour drive back there was little to be enjoyed at the bar and I still had to work the next day and watch my daughter. The lady Bruce was with was from Grand Rapids and we chatted about that with little to say. It sounded like she had not been back for a while stating that it was a bigger art community than when she left and money had not ruined it. I couldn’t ruin it for her. Let her think what she wants about her home town.
I snapped a picture with the Bourdain portrait and a few others to remember the place. Who knows when I will be back, if ever? When I used the restroom before heading out, I noticed that the toilet stall didn’t have a door on it, the urinal was a foot away from the sink and the mirror was scratched to shit. I was told that I would be able to feel Bourdain in there. For a moment I thought he was trying to tell me something. That buy the ticket, take the ride mentality was staring me in the face and I left the ticket on the counter. Not today. I like my life. I have responsibilities and while I could have traveled down the rabbit hole, I decided to leave it be and let someone else have the story. It was hard to see the place, recognize the seat Bourdain sat in. meet the people who talked to him. Take in the place that so many people have walked through hoping to leave with a little something extra.
Walking out I found a tobacco shop around the corner. If I wasn’t going to meet up with Jake, I could at least go home with something I wouldn’t find anywhere else. The time was ticking and I only had a few minutes until Chicago does whatever it does to cars after the meter runs out. I looked at the pipe tobacco in the case found one called Secret Agent and couldn’t find anyone to help me. I wasn’t greeted walking in. everyone was smoking cigars and the shop was one giant humidor. People would look at me wondering who I was and yet I wasn’t served or asked if I needed help. In the end I turned around and walked out with one guy making some shitty comment I didn’t catch. Who cares? If they don’t want business, fuck em.
I got in my car, hit the highway. Almost crashed taking an exit too fast to buy gas. Stopped at a McDonald’s that no longer had humans working behind the counter and made it home by 1am. For a few minutes I sat in bed wondering if I had fallen asleep at the wheel. Was I dreaming about being home going to bed? Once I convinced myself it was real, I went to sleep and sleep well I did. The adventure was over and it was time to return to my normal life.

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Yang Gang Party in the Greenhouse Loft

I wasn’t familiar with the Greenhouse loft, a wedding venue that was being used for the rally in Chicago. From the outside it looked like a small place but had enough parking for the people coming from out of town. I assumed from the people who were attending the rally that most of them used public transportation, uber, or walked. As I pulled into the garage, I could see a long line of people being checked in, using their cell phones to show the ticket issued to them while I had my tree killing piece of paper.
Being the odd ball at events like these I stuck out like a sore thumb. Wearing a long beard for the purpose of hunting as opposed to the well-groomed hipster crowd I appeared to be the low-class outsider with a cowboy hat on. My North Face Jacket had seen better days and my leather shoes were covered in mud, something the people of Chicago had not seen in a long time.
As the event hall filled up, I kept looking at my clock wondering why it was already running an hour late. Then I was reminded that Chicago is an hour behind and my phone had not adjusted for the time change. A staffer came over and told me the restaurant next door was serving food and drinks for the event. A person could buy a beer at a Yang Rally. Bernie was never this cool. For $5 I picked up a small IPA and slowly sipped the hoppy beverage wondering if it was a good idea if I was driving afterwards. Still time was on my side and I waited.
In the lobby a table was set up where they sold Yang merchandise. Shirts, posters and books were on display and although I had already read Yang’s book the sign said “have Yang sign your book.” I knew one of two things would happen. I would be face to face with hang with nothing for him to sign or I would buy the book and wouldn’t be able to get close to him. On the off chance of a third option I bought a copy and considered it a donation to his campaign.
The crowd waited. The room was packed. The body heat from the crowd hovered over the room and pulsed down on us like a heat lamp in an incubator. Impatience like an egg was about to crack when a girl took the stage asking us to be patient. More people were still coming into the building and the overflow rooms were filling up fast. The man in charge of the Chicago Yang Gang could have passed at a Chicago version of Zach De La Roche with bushy hair and having the crowd chant Yang’s name gearing us up for the main event.
A local teacher took the stage to talk about Yang’s policies, hands shaking and voice stumbling over words I could tell he wasn’t used to such a large crowd of adults paying attention to him. Then came the head of Yang’s campaign, a young man who had been in charge of his schedule from the beginning. He was stalling. The unprepared gibberish lasted long enough for Yang to come out on stage and the crowd forgot about the waiting that had taken place for two and a half hours.
“Andrew Yang, Andrew Yang, Andrew Yang!!!” the crowd hollered as the man took stage. Yang gave high fives to the crowd before saying “Andrew Yang, Chant my name.” It was at this point Yang had the full attention of the crowd. He moved through his talking points like a professional while cracking jokes along the way. At one point, Yang said “I was told I had to go outside of DC to make this issue big enough for politicians to pay attention to. It sounded like a challenge to me so you know what I said, I accept your fucking challenge.” It was this kind of honesty that had drawn me to Yang from the beginning. His no bullshit stance on what was happening across the country and not lying about how to fix it. I finally learned that day what MATH stands for now, Make America Think Harder. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. If there is one thing that I know about blue collar America its that the last thing they want to do is think more about anything. Put a television in front of them, have a talking head tell them what they want to know, and make sure their bills are paid. That is all they want while people stay off their lawns, anything else is too much for them to bare.
Yang left the stage and disappeared for a bit. The crowd wasn’t sure where to go as we were promised the opportunity to meet Yang, shake hands, and have our books signed. For twenty minutes we hung around the entryway and waited, then the crowd broke and flooded into the overflow room where Yang was standing against the wall surrounded by bodyguards, large black bodybuilding linebackers who could crush a watermelon with their bare hands. I stood to the side hoping to weave my way inside but the crowd was too dense. Phones flashed, books flew through the air, Yang’s MATH hat disappeared and reappeared in the crowd as the minutes passed. Then like, a Kardashian leaving an abortion clinic, Yang was ushered through the crowd, the bodyguards creating a plow tossing people aside and moving Yang to the back door for the fund-raising dinner organized immediately afterwards. I waved my book around, tried to catch his eye but it was a lost cause. Time and luck had run out and my chance was gone. Yang disappeared and the only option I had was to go to my car, find the Old Town Ale House and wallow in my pity about an over-priced book and never being able to shake his hand. Alas, there was still more to enjoy.
To be continued…

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Getting on the Yang Train

Today I head to Chicago where I will be observing a Yang rally in the Green House Loft in Old Town. It’s a two hour drive one way and while I would like to turn this into some kind of windy city fear and loathing style adventure, I am going on this trip alone. There is no lawyer coming along. The trunk won’t have anything besides a spare tire and an emergency bag incase some shit goes down. No, this will be a professional series where I will share what happened, what was shared, and finish the day with a beer at the Old Town Ale House across the street from the Second City Comedy Club.
Yang has made some headway since the first time I talked about him or heard him on the Joe Rogan podcast. Major news media outlets are starting to mention him. There has been talk about Bernie considering him as VP if he receives the nomination. Personally, I think the VP slot is a pipe dream that others are pushing for the hope that Bernie might have it pass by his ears, but we can still have hope.
The first debate will make or break Yang. He’s busy these days, driving, speaking, and sleeping non-stop as he constantly moves through the country passing his message along. I don’t know how he does it. How hasn’t he put on trucker style weight? Where are the bags under his eyes? Why is he always chipper? The man who is fighting the robot horde could in fact be a robot, the trojan horse of the coming economic overhaul we all fear. Maybe we have already received clues as to the robots walking among us. There was the “Dancish” contestant who performed gravity defying stunts on stage for America’s Got Talent. Sex bots are on the market. Robo calls sound like humans. The list goes on and on with no end in sight.
Yang is a man with a drive. If you listen to his story, he has been doing this kind of thing since he graduated from college. It takes a certain skill, a talent to keep going under these circumstances. Like an Asian Batman Yang is proving to not be the candidate we want, but the candidate we deserve.
More to come…

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