This was some radical gang graffiti in Chicago, I guess, proclaiming, "Radicals Against Discrimination," like it was a slogan for a political party or a popular movement.
Somewhere along the north end of the city's shore on Lake Michigan, near Lincoln Park and DePaul University, an idealistic and committed Chicagoan, possibly a young person, decided it was necessary to say what she or he stood for.
Apart from the factor of a strong punk scene in Chicago, the gesture made me smile. People here are straight-up.
Chicago is huge. Some 2.7 million within the city limits and about 9.8 million people in the metropolitan region at large. I was more excited for this trip than any in a long while. What is going on down there? Had just a few short days to gather an impression, in for a talk at DePaul.
While landing, the city looked gargantuan and seemed to spread, dilligently and with evident muscularity, to the far-off horizons. Old-school, built-up, tough, efficient Americana. Chicago.
Upon arrival, the cold was significant. But it also felt good on the lungs. Above, your blogger before the Anish Kapoor sculpture "Cloud Gate" at Millenium Park near the Lake Michigan waterfront.
The Tribune Tower.
Pizza at a neighborhood family pizza spot in Brighton Park, a Mexican barrio near the Mexican Chicago epicenter of Pilsen. I was pretty astounded at first sight but now let's just say it flat and move on. "Chicago is a Mexican city," as ethnographer Daniel Makagon put it one night.
So here we were, a family pizza place on a Saturday night in Mexican Chicago. The pizza crust was amazing; rest of pie, so-so, but it didn't matter. The winning factor was the ambience. Almost everyone inside was brown. Others represented the ethnic diversity that is a standard cosmopolitanism of Mexican barrios anywhere in the world.
Anyone who lives in a pocho/paisa hood inevitably becomes somewhat Mexican themselves, right?
I felt at home. There was a huge family sitting in front of us, laughing (loudly), talking, discussing, some in close fades and others wearing blingy earrings, big mamis, kids running around, and one glowing young achiever in a suit celebrating a fresh college degree.
Had to congratulate him. Barrio duty.
No me digas! America!
This is not recommended behavior, but I have a certain DNA and I can't deny it. It activates as soon as I arrive in a new place. "Anywhere I go, I can find love and the party within 24 hours." An old friend's matra. Still applies.
By the end of this first night in Chicago 2012, we had gotten picked up off a street corner by a guy who yelled, "Ey, quieren party?" from a turning lane. He busted around, seemed non-evil, so we hopped in. Homie drove us to a gliterring fantasia of a birthday party, with heat lamps and red satin fabric draped over the walls and ceilings of a garage.
A gay Latino immigrant house party in Back of the Yards. Basically, magic.