I considered reading to the elderly, but I knew I would end up feeling sorry for those old timers being on lock down 24/7, would end up bringing them some Irish coffee, and of course, one of them would get drunk and stupid, and end up flattened by an Escalade on Sheridan.
Some thought was also given to one of those city beautification projects, like picking up trash along the Chicago River, but then I thought that with my luck, I would end up contracting Hepatitis from a broken bottle. My neighbor suggested that I help out the seniors with their vegetable gardens in Uptown, but she’s such a fuckin’ airhead that she was probably confusing vegetable gardens and vacant lots with two foot weeds.
In the end, I decided to let the volunteer organization decide for me and in their infinite wisdom they decided to send me all the way to Englewood to play games with nine year old’s on Saturday mornings.
I should have known this was a bad idea when they told me that everyone would be taking a bus together from HQ to the school. Evidently, it’s a hard place to find, or maybe there’s no parking, but I guess there was the possibility of losing one or two of the fifteen perky twenty-four year old white girls from Lincoln Park, inside Englewood, and the subsequent headlines would not boost morale for the next deep urban project. Personally, I’m never too worried about going to spotty areas because a lot of people assume that since I’m a big white guy, that I must be a cop and do whatever they can to look casual.
So, Saturday morning arrives, I head down to HQ and find out that I’m the only guy going down there except for the bus driver, who looks like he lives in the forest preserves. This is the guy to call next time you need that raccoon out of your attic or the cat out of a tree.
The bus ride consisted of me nodding off and the Trixies discussing what and who they did last night, and evidently, Barleycorn’s was the ideal place to find a one night stand. One was talking about her parents taking her furniture shopping, another discussed secretly having her engagement ring appraised for more than she thought it was worth, while another complained that her employer had gotten rid of the free breakfast bar.
Nothing but yap, yap, yap for forty minutes down Lake Shore Drive and the Kennedy. But, it all stopped once they looked up and realized that we were at the corner of 63rd and Ashland. Sadly, I’m sure two of them would have soiled their pants if they weren’t bulimic. The fear that gripped them was real and it was reminiscent of Steve Bartman realizing that he still had to get out of Wrigley Field alive.
I tried not to laugh when we pulled away from the stop sign and they thought for a few seconds that we had taken the wrong turn or something. But that hope was short lived when Festus announced we were almost there. I’m sure what they failed to realize was that it was 9:30 am and anyone who would give us a hard time had just went to bed a couple of hours ago and wouldn’t leave the crib again until 6 or 7 pm.
Anyway, we get there and we already have three cops standing outside drinking coffee (surprising, heh?), waiting to save the damsels should they become distressed, and all three cops were men, around 30 and eager to meet the damsels. Me? I couldn’t have been more invisible. I could have dropped to the ground, foamed at the mouth and flopped around enough to knock the wrinkles out of my shirt and the cops wouldn’t have noticed anything.
So, while the Trixies stayed outside and exchanged flirts with Chicago’s Finest, I went inside and was met by a few moms and maybe thirty kids, all of whom must have had a little cereal on top of their sugar for breakfast. Two boys had already grabbed some markers and gave each other tattoos, but I couldn’t tell if the tats were dragons or ugly people. Plus, one little girl was throwing up in the trash can, which would’ve started the expected chain reaction if it wasn’t for the quick thinking mom who pulled the girl and the trash can out to the hallway in between barfs. The rest of the kids were doing their best to act like nine year olds, as they chased each other in circles and created a dust storm by beating the erasers, etc, etc. After a few seconds I wanted to call my mom and apologize for being such a rug rat myself.
The action stopped once the Trixies walked in, as all of the kids froze in place and wondered where all these white girls came from. And, to say it was a clash of cultures would be accurate, as the Trixies were left to wonder who or what a FUBU was and how it’s remarkable that so many these kids went to the South Pole for vacation. Ladies, welcome to the world outside of 60614. Samantha, Molly and Emily, meet Laquisha, Imani and Aaliyah.
The rest of the five hours were spent with arts and crafts, and sing-a-longs, none of which I was interested in or good at. I have to say that it was funny to watch the one second delay in communications between the Trixies and the kids, as each had to do a quick interpretation of each other. I think what baffled the kids the most was the persistent, condescending, half smile of the Trixies. Why can’t this bitch stop smiling? What is she up to? Don’t you have a street fair to go to?
After maybe an hour into it I had the bright idea of sneaking out to the bus, only to find out that Festus had locked it up and went somewhere to get coffee. Then I thought about faking an upset stomach and sitting on the john and surfing on my cell for a few hours, but then the thought of being the guy hanging out in a grade school’s restroom with a cell phone camera didn’t sound like a good idea, and I would have waved down a cab, but they haven’t seen one of those in Englewood since The Six Million Dollar Man was ranked #1.
The only thing I could do was either go back inside and bear it out, or walk down to the L. So, I thought I would give it another chance and went back inside where I saw one of those 180lb fifth graders every school has, sitting alone in the back looking very pissed. I had nothing else to do, so I went over, sat next to him and asked if he’d rather be outside playing. He looked at me like I was crazy and said that he’d rather be at home playing Madden ’11. Then he asked if I was a cop, and when I said no he asked if this was part of a court sentence. After I said no to that he surveyed the room, then looked at me like I was a fucking loser for getting up early on a Saturday morning to come all the way here for this bullshit. I instantly liked the kid.
We agreed that all either of us could do was to sit tight and hope that maybe one of the tattoo artists would pull the fire alarm. So, for the next four hours we sat there and talked about Madden ’11, the Bears, Navy Pier and how Pearl’s had the best ham in town.