San Francisco International Airport
Chicago. Outbound. Post sunset Sensei drop off. All smiles, winks and nods at the baggage check-in. TSA line was moving like the wind, fueled by a playlist of Neil Young remixes and Tom Waits covers. Sensei’s couch serving up San Francisco final night restless sleep. The two after dinner espressos cured the heavy lids but put the Less in Restless. Would it have been as sweet, the good sleep, in the context of the leaving? Long, left and gone. We sang our midnight song in the piano room. Under the gaze of the Philosopher. Mildly curious but far from taken. Dave “Sensei” Mihaly is the great Spiritual Master of the San Francisco Music thing, of the Once Was a Scene. The young cats and future brats of San Francisco Rock & Roll have stepped into a broken chain. They walk past the Sensei.
Not even a nod. Not
Ohio House Motel, Chicago
Sweet stoned Chicago. Bricks and the elevated rails of the CTA. Brothers on the street dishing the dirt. Trying to put together enough for a tall boy. “what’s it like out west… How is it for the homeless?” Well, it’s warmer in the winter but the streets smell like hot piss year round. Everyone is moving west, even the homeless. What’s a Westerner to do? Make room or find room. Find joy in the middle.
The Ohio House Motel. Mid-Century gem in the heart of Sweet Home. Black is Beautiful and it’s on display in Chi-Town. The Black Sisters of the Second City are a spectacular sight. Foxy and plenty of moxie. They cat-call the old Coyote, “Look at them boots! Oh yeah, honey, you wearing them jeans!” The Coyote calls back, “You know it sister!” He struts. He preens, “We are in this Together! Vote Trans in ’16!”
There are stories here. Old songs and new songs
The World’s Fair of 1893. A City rising from the ashes of the big Fire and opening it’s gates to tomorrow. Pabst Blue Ribbon made it’s debut at the fair. The organization was a fiasco and the decision to not allow Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to perform at the fair proved costly. Buffalo Bill Cody would not be denied and went ahead and rented space directly across the street and siphoned off plenty of visitors, raking it in while flashing a metaphorical middle finger at the crusty capitalists in charge of the Fair’s curation. But for the debut of a new invention called the Ferris Wheel, the Fair would have sunk financially. That Ferris Wheel was 264 feet tall and could fit 2,160 riders at a time. Read that again. This was 1893.
It’s 1968 now. A nation in strange new territory. Leading up to the Democratic National Convention, Jerry Rubin and his Yippie army had been sending threats to Mayor Daly that they would be “dosing” the water supply of Chicago with LSD. Mayor Daly was apocalyptic. He had armed police guarding the city’s water supply. This was war. These dirty hippies would not come into the Windy City so brashly with their long hair and shortsighted views of the world. No, Daly would make them pay. There was going to be hell. Round them up. Put them in a cell.
Two, four, six, (Chicago) Eight.
No Plastic Paddies here…
Labor Day Weekend has the Second City on a full tank. White Boys on Rice Rockets have taken over the gas station parking lot across the street from the Ohio House Motel. You close your eyes and listen to the engine songs. You are taking a pit stop at the Grand Prix of your imagination. The yachts are out on Lake Michigan and the Ferris Wheel is still a picture on the Chicago shore. There is room to operate here. The city is jumping, singing the upbeat boogie Blues. People smile here and live here. At the Fado Irish Pub in the heart of Chicago the barkeeps are of thick Irish accent and jovial countenance. No “plastic paddies” here. We speak of San Francisco, the Buena Vista, and Irish Coffee whiskey preferences (it’s Powers for me). The Irish Breakfast is too much food for a skinny California cowboy. The Rashers are left untouched.
Pilsen, South Side of Chicago
Labor Day Mexican block party has me feeling right at home in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood. Grills on the sidewalks and revelers on the rooftops. The old church is under construction and under it’s shade two lovers are working out an alternative path through the thicket of relation. They believe in love’s supremacy but remain skeptical of love’s willingness to stay put. They form an alliance of movement and shake on it. Cupid smiling in the corner thinks these kids have a shot. Coyote standing in the shadows says let’s see about that.
Chicago is a dream. Alive and kicking. There are all kinds here and a little more breathing room than you might imagine. A westerner could make a home amongst the Taquerias and Dive Bars. Taking it all in. The architecture and narrative arc. While adjusting the clock and getting used to the winters.
-Mark Matos, September 2016