In 2001 after waiting almost two years, my name crept to the top of a waiting list and I finally skipped the warehouse. I moved several miles and neighborhoods south into a conventional high-rise full of squeaky-clean Nigerians. On my own at last, I decided that I should stock up on office supplies so I phoned the cripplevan phone-lackeys one morning at 6:00 am. more »
Archive for October, 2006
In some older Chicago neighborhoods there’s a ditch in front of residential buildings. Freddie, one of my roommates, claimed to have been sitting on a lawn chair in front of his house when an old friend burst into the yard and slapped him on the back. The force of the slap sent Freddie headfirst into the ditch; the impact broke his back.
He’d demonstrated the capability of walking behind his wheelchair while gripping the handles to support his towering frame, but most of the time chose to plant his skinny ass in the seat. I overheard a therapist ask him why he didn’t walk more often. He whined his answer: “Because I be all crippled up.” Plus he couldn’t stand upright when he was crocked—every day he knocked back plenty of cheap vodka. more »
Up until I finished the sixth grade, the decorations in my classrooms reminded me and the other students of approaching holidays. Most of my teachers decked out their rooms with cardboard die-cut characters and tableaus: gold and red leaves welcomed fall; skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns meant free candy; two-dimensional Santas evoked unspoken greed; stereotypical leprechauns rollicked until St. Patrick’s Day; a few pompous-looking fancy boys or a damaged bell served as an all-purpose reminder of “patriotic” holidays about which nobody gave a crap, except those grown-ups who got the day off. more »
Some of the staff referred to Jake as “Santa Claus”; his visage and demeanor inspired the nickname. His longish white hair and full beard contrasted with his omnipresent gray knit cap. He carried his bulky frame with assurance though old-age sluggishness had begun to slow his movements. Jake’s arsenal of charm included a dazzling smile cracked as a prelude to friendly conversation punctuated by good-natured chortles. He claimed to have at one time been financially comfortable and married to a stunningly gorgeous Asian woman—he made a big deal about her ethnicity. Once I asked him why he had been relegated to the warehouse. He mumbled something about his heart, then quickly changed the subject. more »