Saturday, June 2, 2012

When There's No More Mishegas

While talking to a friend the other day I lamented how it had been over a month since I last had a blog post. "I just have nothing to write about," I said. 

"Anymore crazies on the train?" she asked. 

 "Not really. Just this guy who likes to go into a corner and yell at himself while throwing himself against the walls." He and I have ridden the train together on several occasions. 

Suddenly it hit me. I talked about him like that was totally natural: a very disturbed young man who gets into an absolute rage, starts screaming at the empty space around him and slamming his body into the car walls. The first time I was on a train with him I was understandably concerned, but after a few stops went by and no one on the train seemed particularly upset I was able to tune him out. When Yelling Man was on my train a week later my only thought was to turn up my music. The crazies are no longer seen as special enough to warrant my attention or to even write about! It's time to leave, ladies and gentlemen. I am clearly too acclimated. 

When I first arrived in Chicago everything fascinated me. The people on the train, protestors on the street, the quick and determined way everyone moved around on the sidewalks and in their cars. Now, I am one of them. I don't give a second look to the afro-engulfed woman, constantly shouting profanity, who is staked out around the corner from Heartbeat Theatre. I don't question the man who walks around downtown Evanston rapping about how caffeine will kill us all (and I typically get his songs stuck in my head). And I try to act like I am talking on my phone when I see someone in my path who is clad in some sort of uniform, holding a clipboard, and smiling right at me (although I did give $2 to the Gay Rights Campaign today because that girl was very persistent and I am weak to a cause I care so much about!). 

I know it is not a bad thing to grow comfortable in one's home, but to an aspiring travel writer in her early twenties who is still seeking compelling material no longer noticing the oddities of a place is deadly (in a writer's block kind of way). Therefore, I am heading back up to Mackinac Island for the summer to work at my beloved Orchid Hotel where I will hopefully come away with as many entertaining stories as I did before. Life will be a bit different on the island this year. I will not arrive until the end of June and I will be there until the season closes at the end of October. I have also recently learned that I am able to live with one of my best friends for a good part of the season and I can only imagine that hilarious and possible hazardous events will ensue. I will certainly miss the friends I made on the island last year who will not be returning this summer, but I have my fingers crossed that I will still meet some fun and interesting people. What will I do after my time on the island? Who the hell knows...but while I postpone thinking about my future even longer I will entertain you with a story from the past month and a half: 

Towards the beginning of last month I was invited to a college friend's birthday get together. It was at a bar far from any train stop in Wrigleyville so I took a bus there. The bus ride itself wasn't terribly eventful and I watched the blinking blue dot on my phone's Google Map the entire way so as not to miss my stop. At one point I looked to my left and a person in very detailed skeletal makeup was leaning over the empty seat next to me. I somehow managed not to jump at this unexpected sight and turned back around to stare at my dot. 

Finally, the next road was the one I needed. I pulled the lever, walked to the front of the bus, and then watched as the bus driver sailed past the stop. What the hell? I looked at him, but he made no notice of me. In the rear view mirror I could see Skeletal staring intently at street signs. She sprang forth suddenly and yanked on the lever. The driver stopped immediately and Skeletal and I disembarked. We were about five blocks from where I needed to be so I began walking in the direction of my original stop. Skeletal walked in front for a few paces before darting into an unmarked bar. It was then that I noticed a lot of Skeletals walking on the sidewalk. Their makeup and outfits were so exaggerated and Tim Burton-esque that I couldn't figure out if they were serious or costumes. 

Upon walking into the designated birthday bash bar my immediate reaction was to run. Hearing someone is going to have a party at a bar brings to mind crowded mingling and music so loud you can't understand the name of everyone you are being introduced to. To me, this sounds like the ideal social situation to show up to alone when the only other party goers you know are the birthday boy and his girlfriend. Instead, the party consisted of about four tables that had been dragged together banquet style. Guests were seated on either side and it was very apparent that everyone was part of a couple. Being the only single attendee it was my infinite pleasure to take a seat at the head of the table. Making this situation even more joyous was the fact that to my right sat a boy and girl who came to this shindig as a first date and on my left was a couple who had only recently become official. I ordered a drink before even taking off my coat. 

Mercifully, my roommate Cassie* decided to be my "plus one." By the time she arrived everyone was a few drinks in and becoming quite chatty. The boy on the first date was not having a great experience and each time his date left to use the loo he would lean to me and say, "Is my humour too crass? I feel like I'm scaring her with the off-colour jokes and profanity." 

"I think your jokes are funny," I assured him. 

"I know! I wish she was laughing as much as you! I think she's too much of a good-girl." Thank you? 

When the party ended and everyone began to go their separate ways, Cassie and I were invited to hangout at another party goer's apartment. We agreed and all set off to catch the brown line. While on the brown line Cassie had the wise revelation that if we did not head back home right then we would miss the last purple line to Evanston. She got off the brown line abruptly and I had sense enough to follow because somewhere in my clouded mind I thought, "Best not to lose my roommate after three drinks. We boarded a red line heading north. 

As usual, the red line was crowded, but we were able to find two sideways-facing seats. At the next stop an extremely intoxicated college student entered the car and plopped into one of the forward-facing seats directly to mine and Cassie's right. His loud volume and swaying body caused the person next to him to move to the back of the train. Unperturbed, the drunk student spread out across both seats. He turned to Cassie, "That guy thought I was too loud." 

"You are a bit loud," she answered good-humouredly. 

 "But now I got these seats allllll to myself!" 

 "It's good to spread out." 

"Do you want to scare off your seatmate? I can show you how." 

I leaned forward and smiled at the drunkard. "Hello." 

"No," Cassie responded, "I think I'll keep my seatmate." 

"Oh! Well she's a pretty seatmate." He widened his eyes to look more sincere. "If I had a seatmate like her I wouldn't want to scare her off either." 

"You've got some glitter on your face," Cassie observed. 

"Ah yeah. I got glitter bombed by some dudes at this party." 

 "It's kind of all over." 

 "Got hit real hard." 

Directly across from Cassie and me was Zach Galifianakis's twin. He was wearing a purple baja and held a phone closely to his ear while watching everyone from the corners of his eyes. Across from Glitter was a young downtrodden man with his head in his hands, who was swaying dangerously to and fro. I looked around at the other occupants of the train. There was a man in slight business attire holding a Starbucks bag (I wanted to know what Starbucks was opened this late). By the back door stood an extremely curvy woman in petite clothing who was hanging onto a man I could only assume was her boyfriend or soon to be one-night-stand. I wondered if I looked as outwardly inebriated to these people as Glitter did. No one else on the train seemed as unsteady on their feet as I felt. To be fair, however, I was not swaying as Gumby-like as Glitter and I was fortunate to be sitting. My dumb smile was perhaps the only thing giving me away. Then again, to smile on the CTA only makes you look either like a tourist or mentally unstable. 

Luckily, my rum-and-coke-induced smile was to be upstaged when the downtrodden man across from us turned out not to be sad or tired, but sick. He began spewing pink foam onto the floor. Like a machine, half of the car around us sprang from their seats and huddled around the front door. Their terrified looks as they "sardined" themselves into a few feet of space would make one think this man was wielding a weapon instead of a stomach obviously too full of alcohol. 

 "Dude," Glitter said, "you're sick, dude." The man ignored this observation and continued to puke. "You should get off the train, dude. You're throwing up." Suddenly, the voluptuous woman in Barbie's clothing came strutting in between Glitter and Sir Sick A Lot. "Is he botherin' you?" she asked forcefully. 

"No, I'm just pointing out that he's sick." "IS HE bo-ther-in' you?" 

"No. I just think maybe he should get off the train if he's sick." 

"He ain't none of your concern, okay? He ain't puking on you." 

"No, but I just don't think he should be on the train like -" 

"You just mind yer own business, okay? He ain't botherin' you -- he ain't botherin' nobody, okay?" 

Magically, Sir Sick A Lot was standing beside Hoochie Mama like he hadn't just emptied the contents of his stomach for the last eight minutes. "What's your problem?" he said to Glitter. 

"I don't have a problem!" Glitter threw his hands in the air. "I was just saying that you're sick." 

"What's your deal, man, huh? You got a problem?" 

Hoochie Mama's boyfriend decided to join in the fray as well. He made his way to her side, which was right in front of Cassie and me. "Dude," he said to Glitter, trying to put on a friendly smile, "just stop talking." 

"I was just saying he was sick!" Glitter protested. 

"You want me to punch you in your face?" Sir Sick asked. "Cause I'll do it. I'll punch you in your motherfuckin' face." 

"I don't want you to punch me in my face." 

"Dude, just stop talking," the boyfriend advised again. A bottle of vodka dropped from his pants. "Opps," he said, picking it up and stuffing it in a pocket once more. I could see another bottle sticking out of a pocket on the inside of his coat. 

"I'm just saying that he was sick and now I'm about to get punched in the face." 

Cassie leaned over to Glitter. "You should just stop talking." 

"I'm gonna punch you in your motherfuckin' face," Sir Sick repeated. 

 "If that's what will make you feel better." Glitter crossed his arms across his chest. 

Hoochie Mama and Sir Sick became a cluster of "He wasn't even botherin' you" and "I'm gonna punch you in your face." Around this time I suddenly noticed a severe lack of passengers on the train. Baja Man and Starbucks were still here as well as another young guy, but I could have sworn there had been more. 

"Dude, you got glitter on your face," Alcohol Pants pointed out, still smiling pleasantly. 

"I got glitter bombed." 

"I'm just pointing out that you got glitter all over your face." 

"Well at least I'm not the one puking on the train." 

The smile faded. "Now you're just being a smart ass." 

Hoochie Mama took a seat beside Glitter and convinced Sir Sick and Alcohol Pants to go to the front of the train. "I got this," she called. It was not clear what she had, but she continued to say that until finally joining both of the men at the front of the train. She soothed and petted each of them, changing her boast to, "It ain't worth it. It ain't worth it." Everyone left on the train remained silent until all four of them - Hoochie Mama, Alcohol Pants, Sir Sick and Glitter - departed at Loyola. 

As soon as the doors shut Galifianakis Jr said into his phone, "Did you get all that?" Starbucks looked over at Cassie and me and said, "I cannot believe they all got off at the same stop." 

"I know!" I had been bursting with this exclamation since the doors closed. "That boy is a dead man." 

"He should have just ridden the train one more stop and then come back down." 

"My friend recorded the whole thing," Galifianakis said to Cassie, gesturing at his phone. "I do recordings and we're going to put that in something." 


"Here's my card. Add me on Facebook." He handed the card to Cassie. It was bright yellow with buttons crafted into flowers in the background. The card read: "Sid Yiddish. Actor, Poet, Writer, Throat Singer, Mishegas."(I later looked up this last word and found that it is Yiddish for "Insanity or craziness"...Clever, Sid.) 

 Finally, we reached the Howard station. Cassie's original concern about missing the purple line turned out to be apt. We had missed the last one of the night by two minutes. Thankfully, Cassie often works late in downtown Chicago and has found herself in this predicament on more than one occasion (until this night I had only experienced this once and practically sprinted the 1.8 miles back to my car because the Howard District terrifies me so). 

We left the train platform and headed downstairs where we found a bus that would take us within a few blocks of our apartment. Unfortunately, the bus was not leaving for a half hour (making the departure at 2:30am). Cassie and I took a seat inside the bus. We were shortly followed by Sid, Starbucks, and the other young guy from our same car. Starbucks turned to us and said, "So you ladies survived the festivities, eh?" We had indeed.