Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 52

One of the stops on my route is on South Water street, east of Michigan avenue, so it's all reclaimed land. What was 200 years ago lapping waters of lake Michigan or perhaps a swampy are near the mouth of the river was filled in with debris from the Chicago fire to create new land east of Michigan avenue. I bet it was nasty that first few years, jumbled bricks and charred wood, bent metal reaching out in odd directions, melted by the heat of the flames. Dig down deep enough I bet you can still find it like a thick K/T boundary, it might even have hundreds of animals skeletons from the cows and horses that couldn't get away. Now, a good 60 feet above that layer, maybe more, is what most of the people that visit the city see as street level. Underneath is now a maze of at least three layers of streets, parking lots, ramps and steel. Lots of steel. So much steel has been brought into the Chicago area, that never used to be there, I wouldn't doubt that the migrating birds get pulled off course a bit on the way south.
   The reason I bring up the layout of south Water street is that there are guys living there on one of the ramps. One group lives about 100 feet past where the road ducks under, on the south side against the wall. That area of the sidewalk is pretty much blank for about 500 feet and they just set their bedding up not more than 4 foot from the passing cars. I've seen as many as five guys hanging out, the beds neatly made with many layers of blankets, personal belongings taking up space between them and at times with decent looking bikes. Every once in a while the city will be having an event near by so they send a crew down to clean it all away, and within a week, they will rebuild in the same spot. At first I couldn't figure out why they would want to be right there, but besides being a dry place, they are close to one of the wealthiest areas in the city to beg. Just up the ramp is also the location of a little known resource for guys with no money... it's where all kinds of smokers come out to get their fix, and many times toss half smoked butts laying on the ground for them to swoop in on.
   One day the guy that was my driver wanted to make the run in at south Water, and so I sat there in the idling van, looking into the cavern under the east side of Chicago. I could see one of the homeless guys walking down the sidewalk behind me in the side view mirror and I thought that it must be hard to be living like that, out in the open. I noticed a lady following him and she was mad, her head popping back and forth as she berated him, not letting up till they stopped at one of the beds. I thought, oh my God, not only is he homeless, he has a nagging girlfriend too! Ugh, lol.
   Near the end of my time in the program we got a second pick up at the same spot. A restaurant, new to Chicago, was donating all the sandwiches made that day and not sold to the mission, very cool. We would come out with two garbage bags full of individually packaged sandwiches and have to count them to keep records. One of the ramp guys noticed what we where doing, and we offered up a couple to him and his buddy. It felt good and I told them about the mission, maybe they would come in. The next day there where 4 guys. By the end of the week there where 10 and they where getting picky. we had to stop, this stuff was being donated to the mission to be distributed there in a reasonable manner. If they wanted them, they'd have to go there for now on.
  The most annoying guy in the program, by far, is little Ed. He can be like a broken record, spitting out the same thing repeatedly. "You dig?"(pronounced you deeg?), "like a rivaaah", "Question is?", "Whoop, there is eizz", "Hey tight suit, "you be my nig" and "I be pimpin" I talked with him on the last two a few times. I'd be like, dude, your in a Bible program, why would you keep saying you're a pimp when all they do is make slaves out of women? He would turn his head, and with glazed eyes agree... then start doing it again a half hour later. Folks, drugs, and the damage they do, are not glamorous.
   I'm getting tired of the food they serve here at the mission. Sure, it's better than the plain rice or oatmeal I was eating before I got here, so I guess I am complaining like the Israelites in the desert with Moses. Still, a glop of yellow egg stuff with a scoop or rice for breakfast? Rice and watery beans for dinner? Then there is the constant prison baloney and soup for lunch, occasionally with a slice of pizza... one slice. Being in the transportation department has changed all that for me now. It's bound to happen, you have guys that where perhaps living out of garbage cans now in vans out away from the mission looking at trays of pastries and bags of food, we're gonna graze. I found myself partial to the pink cake balls on a stick from Starbucks. We make pick ups from Chipoltes, random bags of chopped chicken, beans, shredded pork and sometimes corn salsa. I wait for a small bag of the shredded pork, push the air out of it, flatten it down and lay it on the dash to heat up in the sun. I'm thinking I need to start hitting the tread mill again now, lol.

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