I am no gangster.

This is true. Very true. Although I grew up on the South Side of Chicago (living in two areas that had a decent gang population), I have never been affiliated in any way, shape, or form with a gang. I have had and have friends that are in gangs. Some, my age, and others, older, most of who have abandoned that lifestyle. I’ve stuck out my hand to shake, only to have to inform the other person that I’m not in a gang. Which can be awkward, when everyone else seems to have shaken up except you.

I tell people who aren’t from Chicago that a heavy gang presence in the city makes things “different” and I know they’ll most likely never understand. There is crime everywhere. Robberies, murders, drugs, beatings, rapings, vandalism, et cetera. No matter what race, it affects nearly every community in this country. However, a child grows up on the South Side of Chicago a little differently than most. It’s one thing to have to worry about some creep in a van with the temptation of candy. It’s another to be a 12 year old boy and have to take the scenic route home because GDs(Gangster Disciples) in the area WILL recruit you. They won’t try. They will. Now, not everyone goes through this on the South, West, and some parts of the North Side. But there are gangs just about everywhere. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, Chatham. The families were semi-affluent, and mostly professional on my particular block. Still, I was aware that I lived in an area that was the Moes territory. I wasn’t exposed to this in my household; I wasn’t even allowed to watch Boyz In The Hood or Menace II Society when I was a kid. This was almost common knowledge. It was known where gangs “resided” by a lot of people who lived far away from that lifestyle. I was never recruited, but I’ve definitely been approached several times about where I come from, or what gang I happen to claim. This happened as recently as last August. Five or six young men approached my friend and I, and we could immediately tell they were either drunk, high, or both. We were calm, but they were clearly looking for a fight. Asking us if we were GDs, most likely waiting for us to respond with whatever they considered to be the wrong answer. After realizing that we weren’t taking their bait, they walked off, stumbling. And that was a laughable instance, in my opinion.

It’s everyday in Chicago, plain and simple. Before the GDs, Black Disciples Latin Kings, Vice Lords, Spanish Cobras, BPSN, Satan’s Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, and the Maniac Latin Disciples, there was Al Capone, Ma Barker, Bugs Moran, and Hymie Weiss. This is a city that was damn near built through corruption. Between the gangsters and the crooked politicians, it’s a wonder Chicago isn’t completely down the drain when learning its true history.

 For the record, I completely understand that gangs don’t exist only in Chicago. I understand that there is a West and East Coast, and the South, and yes, the North. I just don’t believe it’s as prevalent in those areas as it is in Chicago. Things might get hectic in SoCal or in NYC, but it’s an entirely different shindig here. Unfortunately, for so many, it’s LIFE. The colors, the way their hats are cocked, the signs, the sayings, the handshakes–it’s ingrained in so many boys, girls, men, and women. Some would tell you that they’re a member of a gang before telling you their name. They identify with their gang and fellow members like a person would with their family.

Our police department is led by a moron, Jody Weis, who knows nothing about the gangs of Chicago. He doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency when it comes to putting a stop to the violence involving children, either. There was once a Gang Task Force, but it was disbanded for some odd, strange(possibly, cost-cutting)reason. There are a plethora of problems in Chicago, from hiring scandals to nepotism to questionable laws and tactics. Weis could more than do his part by re-assembling the task force and at least trying to slow down Chicago’s street gangs. With a mayor that was hell-bent on the Olympics, and cash cow schemes that are failing, Chicago cannot rely on Mayor Daley to pull it out of the hole. Enter, Weis.

Though it’s made more and more evident each day, it’s still sad that so many of the youth have to grow up in areas heavily populated by gangs, drugs, crime, and violence. Shame on those that turn away when made aware that the youth are being exposed to conditions that would make “less than ideal” sound like utopia. It’s tough growing up around gangs, whether you have to run, duck and dodge them or not. I think that’s why so many Chicagoans that can relate feel as if we’re a little tougher than most. But hey–I am no gangster. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. To all of my dudes and dudettes, stay up.

Merry Christmas!

I’ve had a pretty good Christmas. I’ve stuffed my face, smoked plenty of loud, and received some dope ass gifts. Thanks to #myfavoritenerd, I was able to buy some ILL Bo Jacksons. A card here and there, a sweater sandwiched in between some flannels, and some fly denim to boot along with a few phone calls from friends. Today I was reminded of my favorite Christmas was in 1992, when my mom bought me a Super Nintendo. That was my favorite because the SNES was God to children back then, and I was one of the first in my class to own one. I’m kind of in a gray stage with Christmas now. I’m 24, so I don’t have the same youthful exuberance that I did when I was younger during the holiday season. I’m not married and don’t have any children, so I don’t get the same joy out of giving to others as parents, grandparents, et cetera. I actually get more excited because I know the end of the year is near. I’m not really the type to go out and do it real big for New Year’s, but I enjoy the idea of starting a new chapter, even if I finish it as fast I finished this one(2009).

 This is the fifth Christmas that Karen has missed, and I’m sure that her corny ass would’ve been up mad early, watching some lame parade, talking on the phone to her best friend, Charity. I still think it’s awesome that when my little brother and I were young, she told us that she’s Santa, and not some overweight white guy with a beard that lives at the North Pole. She was grooming us for the “real world”…when I was 7 and he was 4. Thanks, Karen.

My lungs can take a few more L’s, so…  P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to everyone that’s enjoying Christmas and preparing for the New Year

It’s just hustle and bustle. Gosh…

"The Look"

I love Kalamazoo, Michigan. And East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. I love Madison, Wisconsin. I love Bloomington, Indiana. I was there briefly, but I didn’t mind Bridgeport, Connecticut. I love Fort Worth, Texas, and Lithonia, Georgia. I even love Evanston, Illinois. But I’m in love with Chicago. I love the 3,000,000 complaining, whiny, lovely, friendly, ornery, kind, snobby, down-to-earth citizens of this great city. I live under a corrupt mayor, and a governor that I don’t fully trust. As a citizen of Chicago(Cook County)I realize that I pay the highest sales tax in the COUNTRY. And that our public transportation system is in shambles and there have been talks of fare hikes and employee layoffs…but I love it. Streets & Sanitation collecting your trash at 4:00, and postal workers delivering your mail at 3:00. Love ‘em. The police department that understands that Chicago is Gang Capital, USA, and therefore waits until the shooting and killing is over and done before intervening. Or the same department that writes tickets like madmen and women near the end of the month in order to make their quotas. Love ‘em. Going to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field on a summer day has to be one of the greatest things that a human being can do during his or her life. Granted, the drunks sometimes ruin the experience, but simply seeing a historical landmark more than makes up for that. Attempting to decipher the slang in each area can be a little difficult, but also interesting as well. Hipsters in Wicker Park, academics in Rogers Park, party animals in Lake View, older people in South Shore, and families in Chatham. Lake effect snow, which I’ve experienced basically my entire life. I love how the weather can go from 82 degrees with not a cloud in the sky one day, to 64 degrees and biting winds the next. In no way, shape, or form do I enjoy the beach, but even I love how magnificent it looks during those great summer days. State Street and Michigan Avenue look absolutely gorgeous during the Christmas season. I crave Chicago-style hot dogs and pizza when I’m on the west side of the city, and chicken and burgers when I’m on the south side. I’ve found myself downtown, eating a barbeque chicken pizza one night, and fettucini alfredo and veal parmigiana the next. I love how shitty the streets are when the first snowflake falls to the ground. Bless those horrible, indecisive, overly aggressive, insanely passive bad-weather drivers, too. The cultures of each Chicago public high school are something that I fondly remember. I can’t forget those red-light cameras that have been less than friendly to most Chicago drivers at one point or another. Chicago is also home to fans of the most disappointing professional sports teams that you can think of. Die-hard Bears and Cubs fans fill up Soldier Field and Wrigley Field every game, respectively, and the Bears and Cubs collective championship drought is 125 years(with the Cubs on the hook for 101 of those glory-filled seasons). We have a hockey team, the Blackhawks, that was pretty much dead before last season, and another baseball team, the White Sox, that last won a title in 2005…and no one cares or cared. Our most successful teams of the last decade are a minor-league hockey team, the Wolves, and the Fire, a soccer team. And I’d STILL tell anyone that Chicago has the greatest sports teams and fans on Earth. Michael Jordan did his part to put us on the map. As did Kanye West. Amd Chaka Khan. And Bill Murray, and Jim Belushi. President Obama calls Chicago his home, and Oprah became a billionaire in this city. We do have a little bit of an inferiority complex, which might stem from the nickname “Second City”. But my glass half full self says that at least we’re the second-most popular city in America(which I translate to second-most popular in the world). Gotta love that we’re not third. I love seeing the guys that sell batteries, CDs, DVDs, watches, and tube socks EVERYWHERE on the south side of the city. I love the city’s many nicknames: “City of Wind” “The City of Broad Shoulders” “The Windy City” “The ‘Go” “Chi-Town” “The Chi” “GoIll”. The pride that most citizens here show is amazing. We don’t care that we don’t have a glamorous or sexy reputation. We don’t care that most of our celebrities go to New York or LA to “make it big”. There aren’t record companies on every block, or models at every club, bar, or lounge. It IS hard to make it in this city, but I still love it. I love my city with an unbridled passion that most that know me are fully aware of. I’ve enjoyed my time in the college towns and cities that I’ve had the opportunity to visit, but nothing(except maybe Kerry Washington, but we’ll save that explanation for another blog)beats home. GO. ILL. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to everyone that can call themselves a citizen of Chicago

Saturday, son…

Today’s weather was absolutely atrocious. I don’t think that anyone that I talked to did anything remotely close to productive today. Chicago weather in December isn’t conducive to living a full night life. Or a life, period. There was random basketball on, along with other sports and television shows that I didn’t pay much attention to. I did manage to read my new issue of COMPLEX, and the experience was made much more awesome because of the story on Zoe Saldana. Damn, she’s so dreamy. Right now, I’m rappin’ with #myfavoritenerd, admiring my Nike ’96 DT4s. I guess if I want to have an adventure, there’s always tomorrow. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to “Neon” Deion Sanders

Why ya wanna go and do that love, huh?

Lately, I’ve been in Hyde Park Record Store and Dr. Wax more than I’ve been at home. Well, maybe not THAT much. But I have found myself roaming the aisles of those two stores, seemingly on a hunt for good ish to listen to. Not so much hip hop, but just good music. I rarely buy new releases anymore, mainly because they’re overpriced and most aren’t worth the price. I bought a copy of Outkast’s “Aquemini” and Do Or Die’s “Headz or Tailz” for $4.99 each. Two classics, and I barely spent more than $10, including tax. Today, I bought The Clash’s “Combat Rock”, an album that I hadn’t heard for almost 3 years. I paid only $7.99 for it. C’mon, son.  If I’m not at a record store, I’m downloading some otherworldly, extraterrestrial mixtape that no one else seems to have listened to. How many people do you know that have heard Mick Boogie and Adele’s mixtape? I didn’t think so. I take pride in having such an eclectic taste in music. It’s starting to show in my iTunes, on my iPod, and my random performances throughout the day. I’m just walking around Chicago, trying to catch up on some of the music that has seemed to escape my ears. Everything I hear is dope, including Diplo’s remix of “Flashing Lights”. I’m most definitely not allowing anyone to influence what I listen to nowadays. That mentality died back in high school. I’d like to keep my music library pure, at least by my definition. P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to #myfavoritenerd, L-Boogie, Jon, and Fowler for introducing me to some pretty dope muzak of late

Word?

The winter has shown herself early this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Oh wait, I absolutely hate it. With a fiery passion that cannot be described beyond that. Growing up on the south side of Chicago and attending public schools made my hatred for the winter and its weather much stronger. When there were “snow days” for Catholic schools and suburban schools, public school students were often the ONLY students in the Chicago area attending school. I was naive as a kid, which is why I didn’t understand why kids would be treated that way. Didn’t they understand that it’s a snow day?! Being a public school student and growing up at my Granny B’s house didn’t help my relationship with winter, either. She lives in the South Shore area, about 20 minutes away from Lake Michigan. Anyone who lives near the lake(#shoutout to the Kenwood students, who have braved those winds)will tell you that when the weatherman calls for it to be 54 degrees, you might as well figure that to be 39-44 degrees if you’re anywhere NEAR the lake. I played baseball in high school, and our home field was separated from the lake by a beach and Lake Shore Drive. There were times when I could see the waves in the lake from shortstop, which was never a good sign. Baseball, being a mostly stationary sport(there have been plenty of games where I nearly froze my fingers off because I barely moved),makes it hard to keep warm. Unlike football–where there’s constant movement for about 2/3 of a 53-man NFL roster–some players on the baseball diamond aren’t involved in one play during the course of an entire game. That lake effect is represented by that damn wind. The wind that earned Chicago the nickname “Windy City”(actually, it’s more because of politics, but I’ll blog about that another time)or, more recently, “The City of Wind”. It bites. It pierces. It pinches, and sometimes, I think it punches. It’s not really the Chicago temperatures in winter that are frightening, it’s the wind chill factor. The temperature outside may be 37 degrees, but the wind chill factor can make it feel like it’s only 7 degrees, which is disturbingly cold. Truth be told, the winters in Chicago are a bitch. Getting dressed as a kid is a hassle, because your parents know that pneumonia and frostbite are easy to find if your not properly covered up. It affects the mood as well. Chicago is such a great city, but who really wants to go outside for any reason when it feels like it’s 4 degrees? People in residential areas go crazy. Fighting ensues over parking spots, and drivers skid across streets and crash into each other. Policemen aren’t very eager to answer calls, and the petty crime in some areas increases because of it. Shoveling is more than a chore, especially when you’re the only one in your house that is willing to get up early enough to do it. There is no chilling on the porch in the winter. There are no late-night trips to The Point, or walks down Michigan Avenue in the middle of January. Winter solstice comes on December 21, wraps her sold, spiny, ugly fingers around my city and doesn’t let go until March 21. You’re one cold ass bitch, Winter Solstice. And people wonder why I respond with, ‘Word?’ when people tell me that they love the winter…  P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. #shoutout to all of my people who don’t have to worry about the cold…

I see your priorities are out of wack…

I assume that unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’re aware that Tiger Woods ran over a fire hydrant and smack dab into a tree. Initially, some(myself included)chalked it up to drunk driving. Then the time of the accident was made public: 2:25AM. Uh-oh, I thought to myself. Where was he going at 2:25AM? Then we started to hear rumors about his wife beating him with the same golf club that she reportedly used to break one of his car windows and pull him out of his Escalade. From that, speculation started to run rampant. Was she beating him over a marital quarrel, or was there a more serious issue at hand? Like…adultery? It seems odd that someone would leave their house at that time of morning unless… Nah, we didn’t know anything for sure. After all, rumors are spread about celebrities everyday. Most are false, while some are true. Days go by, and still, Tiger didn’t want to address the public. He didn’t want to talk to police(which is his legal right considering he was involved in a traffic and not criminal matter). Now people were really getting antsy. Was he cheating, and caught? Did his wife hit him with the golf club? Was she merely chasing him with the golf club? Did she really beat the consciousness out of him? Days pass, and a promoter’s name pops up. Pretty, but she claims they’d never had an affair. Then all of a sudden another name pops up, this one claiming to have been Tiger Woods mistress. Now the shits hit the fan. People are wondering whether this means the end of Tiger’s marriage, or if his sponsors will abandon him. Fast-forward to yesterday, and it’s confirmed: Tiger did indeed have a sexual relationship outside of his marriage. E-mails, text messages, and incriminating voice mails. Tiger couldn’t hide anymore. The jig was up. He’d infuriated many when he didn’t want to comment on the accident, and those angered by the fact that he wanted to remain recluse were now even more perturbed by the fact that he was hiding his extramarital affairs. Both men and women were outraged. Some members of the media lashed out at Tiger. Bloggers immediately disparaged and berated him for what they deemed were “celebrity acts”. The story has ruled the news. And not just ESPN…the news. President Obama addressed the country last night with his plans to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and seemingly, no one cared. Never mind that this country is in a world of debt, and that the troop surge will cot $30billion. People were so consumed by Tiger’s scandal that I guess they viewed sending men and women to their death was just irrelevant. This is nothing new. This country is infamous for ignoring real, vital issues that affect us all to instead find out via TMZ where Britney Spears eats lunch, or whether or not Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez are “beefing”. Foreigners laugh, because we are SCREWED, and don’t seem to not only not understand, but not acknowledge the severity of the situation. Unemployment rate over 10% nationally? That doesn’t matter, as long as we know the name of Lil Wayne and Nivea’s baby. Discussion about the disparity of police and media coverage of minority children that are deemed “runaways” instantly? Nope. People on Twitter would rather contribute to the #sidechickawareness trending topic. We are a nation that subscribes to Sun and the National Enquirer. We watch Entertainment Tonight in order to better get a glimpse into our favorite celebrities’ lives. We rely on Perez Hilton to give us updates on who’s having sex with who, and what celebrity has been arrested or sent to rehab. Never mind the fact that children are dying everyday. Forget that there are thousands of college students that have had to sit out a semester or two, or attend a city, community, or junior college due to insufficient funding. Ignore the health problems that so many are facing on a daily basis, and how difficult it is for a large number of them to get the care that they need. We want to know whether Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston are at each other’s throats. We want to be kept up to date on the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation. Why do we care so much about people that don’t give a rat’s ass about us? Do any of you really think that a celebrity wants anything from you more than your money? As long as you attend the sporting events, movie showings, stand-ups and concerts, they’re happy. They want your dead presidents, dinero, greenbacks, chop, dust, bread, dough…your money. Don’t invest so much time, energy, and emotion into someone that won’t reciprocate. If you’d dismiss those that are actually AROUND YOU for not returning the favor, why would you be so hung up on people you’ll most likely never even have the opportunity to meet? I wonder about the quality of life that celebrity addicts lead. If they lead any type of life at all… P.S. I miss Karen!!! P.P.S. I’m in full ’80s mode until the end of the year…