Saturday, April 29, 2006

North Chicago Breakdown
"Sun don't shine on the same dog's ass everyday,
but mister, you ain't seen a ray of light since you got here."
Opal Fleener from the movie Hoosiers © 1986
Directed byDavid Anspaugh Written by Angelo Pizzo

Chapter 1
When I saw the sign that read North Chicago, I knew we were fucked. The sound soming from under the hood sounded like a chicken caught in a tractor's nuts. Young Elvis, my friend and traveling companion who had drifted off into unconscious, recived a sudden right jab from me and woke up singing a They Might Be Giants refrain, "make a little birdhouse in your soul." "Are we out of gas?" "No," I replied, "the car is finished, dead, kaput, ya know historaga. We need to dispose of this vehicle immediately and find a way to Rosemont, Illinois with a quickness." Young Elvis didn't appear like he could move without the proper persuasion, so he bravely elected to stay with the car while I hitched a ride somewhere, anywhere.
Almost immediately a small pickup truck stopped to give me a lift, the door opened as I approached and in I went. The driver, a short, chain smoking Asian man stared straight ahead, almost fearfully, not ever turning to look at me. He sped along very fast not paying attention to me or any of the stoplights. As soon as he picked me up, it seems, he dropped me off at an oasis.Without so much as a sayanara, he spun the tires and took off.
I entered the oasis and headed straight for the restroom to freshen up. Overhead the humm of the flourscent lights was almost deafening. This place wasn't clean but it did have that constant chemical smell. The problem with chemicals is that sometimes they don't mix; that problem became evident soon after I asked the clerk for help and the store cleared.
Juan Saponatime
"Cocaine is the most potent stimulant of natural origin.This substance can be snorted, smoked, or injected. When snorted, cocaine powder is inhaled through the nose where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues."

Chapter 2
Tim was the name sewn into the man's obnoxiously bright red shirt. Lying inside this shirt was a super-amped, high-octane charged human being. "A wrecker, at this hour?" He spoke to himself. "Well, " he said ever so slowly, followed by, "IcanprobablygiveJuanacallOKhewillshowbutitmighttakesometimebuthewillshowOK?"
Hiding behind confectioners sugar and newsprint, I watched Tim very carefully. Looking at him I instantly thought of all the people who were high on cocaine and gave themselves away. The quick banter in his voice, the ever present grinding of the jaw, not to mention the white residue nostril ring-dead giveaways.
The ancient wrecker sped into the lot, the back tires spinning furiously, gravel spitting every which way and then came to a sliding stop. Juan, the truck driver was a cautious Chicano with unwashed greasy black hair, sleep in his eyes and his name painted on the side of his truck. Until we conversed in espanol, I do believe that Juan was holding the grip of a pistola or at the very least, a very large wrench in his left hand. "Ayuda me, por favor," I said, asking for help as I introduced myself and then explained my mission, my sense of urgency, and my need for quick action. "Si Senor," he said, "I help you," he smiled at me, revved up the engine and we screamed off together down the road in the wrecker toward my derelict ride.
Juan jumped on the bumper and quick as a flash, Young Elvis stepped out of the dead Buick, a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth and blue smoke framing his face. I explained to my new friend Juan that this 'gringo loco' was not some random jackass but in fact my photographer, 'Elvis Joven.' Juan put down the extremely large wrench, while keeping his eye on Young Elvis then hooked the Buick to the wrecker and off we went to the nearest house of lodging.
Young E headed for the lobby to get us checked in as I grabbed our luggage from the back of the truck. "Cuando," I asked Juan, "when?" His response was not what I wanted to hear, "Manana, manana por la noche." Tommorrow night would be too late, tommorrow night was the show.
"I see the men," O'Grady said, "but I don't see the victuals. We can't march until we get transport and food, and where they are to come from no one seems to know."
Under Wellington's Command, A tale of the peninsular war,
by G.A. Henty, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1898, p. 2

Chapter 3
Relax, I thought, we are going to make the show. Now was the time for Young Elvis to shine. This is the type of situation that always brings out the best in him. Young Elvis stood six foot tall, but his slight frame made him look taller. He was rail-thin, which was so surprising considering the amout of food he consumed. I guess that was off set by the amount of drink he imbibed. He wore his hair in a sort of new age pompadore, which is how he got his nickname and was by all accounts, just plain lucky. Everyone he met seemed to like him from the start and by the end it seemed they were indebted to him. Young Elvis worked the phone and soon announced that another car was in route. "I ordered us a new Buick," he crowed, "they will drive it in from Michigan and deviver it here post haste." Two phone calls, at five in the morning, across two state lines and now in a matter of hours, we were to be rescued.
Just as Young Elvis had advertised, constantly and loudly, the new car arrived at 10:01 am. We took off heading South with the border of Wisconsin in our rear-view mirror. We didn't quite make it to the Land o' Cheese, but North Chicago was close enough given that North was the opposite direction of our destination. The number one priority was to make it to the Holiday Inn in Rosemont, Illinois; number two-to get to the Horizon to cover the Grateful Dead concert for the Blind IguanaPress. My editor, DJ, had made all the arrangements for lodging and tickets and with the road trouble behind us, I thought that the bad had passed us by. © 2006
Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
Whenever I'm bored I travel abroad but ever so properly
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh
From the Song "Posh" sung by actor Lionel Jefferies playing the part of Grandpa Potts
from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968
Directed by Ken Hughes
Writing Credits, Ian Fleming [novel] Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes
Original Music, Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman

Chapter 4
We were driving fast as hell, Young Elvis and I, of course totally in the wrong direction. I knew it was the wrong direction, but when a drunken idiot like Young Elvis grabs the wheel all the way from the passenger seat and jerks it toward the right lane there really isn't much you can do except ride it out. The way to Rosemont was the left two lanes, Young Elvis was adament about the Buick taking the right two lanes so he yanked the wheel right, the car has been redirected and now, I am heading straight for Wisconsin. No problem, I think, we will just cruise along for a few and catch the next exit, turn around and everything will be koser keeny. No such luck. We seemed to have found the only stretch of highway in Illinois without an exit every fucking mile. Something's has to come up, I'm thinking, there has to be a way to undo this horrible mistake in navigation and to get us back on track.
Our goal was to get to the Rosemont Horizon to cover the Grateful Dead show for a literary zine, Blind IguanaPress. My editor DJ insisted that Young Elvis, my friend, confidante and photographer, and I zoom to Chicago to cover this particular show because he himself could not attend and DJ always said, " day Jerry Garcia will be dead and you gotta see him live every chance you get." What the hell was he talking about, a herion junkie rockstar die, please. Shit Keith Richards is still kicking right?
I was driving like a cabby, you know, fast, dangerous, carring on a conversation with my passenger, all the while unaware of all other drivers on the road when ever so quietly the rumble from under the hood began. Knowing something was very wrong indeed, I sprung into action franticly pulling maps out of the glovebox in an effort to find an exit that had an onramp heading back South so we could turn around. Before I could locate our postion on the map and thus navigate us in the right direction, the Buick started clucking and smoke began to rise from under the hood and right then I knew that it would take some doing just to get this baby off the highway and not have it explode into flames. That, a few dollars worth of gas and a faulty premise, is what brought us to the place called North Chicago.
Clandestine"The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable."James Madison, Annals of Congress 434, 1789Chapter 5The insanity that we were involved in began as all great adventures do, as a bet. "I bet," I declared to DJ, " I can go to Chicago, get into the Rosemont Horizon, cover the Grateful Dead show and write a kick-ass concert review for your magazine Blind IguanaPress all without press credentials or a ticket to the show. "Bullshit," DJ shouted, "Bullshit, it can’t be done." "Those fucking Rosemont cops will kick the ever living shit out of you," he added. That was a sure bet. The cops in and around Chicago do not fuck around. The show was already sold-out and there was no way that we were gonna get credentials so the only way we were going to see the show was to sneak into the Rosemont Horizon.DJ was the publisher, editor and lead writer of this far-reaching, yet small circulation literary magazine. The kid was a straight out creative genius. He was a Journalism student, a fellow classmate and was living the "working journalist" thing. Ya know, a chain smoking, hard drinking, overly opinionated five foot four bundle of dynamite with a large chip on his shoulder, a story to tell and his own publication to facilitate his aims. When he was on, there was no one better, but he was a drinker, a bad drinker. He offered to give me space for 1000 words, a byline, $200, and a pat on the back if I could pull it off and have the story on his desk in 72 hours; then he kicked me out of his house. This crazy late afternoon I was going to make it happen.I tried to locate Young Elvis. I made three unsuccessful telephone calls, left a message then slammed the telephone down in frustration and lit a cigarette. Where the fuck can he be, I thought to myself. Twenty minutes passed and I was starting to get shitty. As I picked up the phone to try again, I heard Young Elvis' voice in the receiver, "Whats the plan and where do we meet?"Young Elvis and I were an interesting pair. He was a gifted art student from Michigan who lacked some direction and I was a 10-year college student. When he was a senior in high school, he lived with his aunt who at that time was married to a famous rockstar. He knew people and he always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He was attractive, friendly, well-spoken and just plain lucky, well mostly lucky; we would end up needing that luck.Two and half-hours later we were barreling toward Rosemont, Illinois in a borrowed Buick to cover a Grateful Dead concert.


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