Sunday, March 23, 2008


My apartment is cold. I thought I was just being a little whiny until I went and bought a thermometer that records the highest and lowest temperatures—I discovered that according to the Municipal Code of Chicago, my place was at least 10 degrees colder than the minimum requirements in the code. My water was about 20-30 degrees colder than the minimums.
I prorated my rent by one day and sent my leasing office letters telling them I’d withhold rent every day the problems were not fixed (allowed by my lease). They insisted there WAS no problem, I was just unhappy. So instead of doing anything to fix what was wrong, they’re giving me a new apartment within the building instead.
It’s 10th floor with a view of the lake, larger than my place is now, and worth $300 a month more than my place—but they’re not increasing the rent until the lease is up. The day I signed my lease, I found that the building engineer had tried moving into my place before he found out it had been rented to me. I have a suspicion he was relaxed on the service requests until I moved out so he could have the place and THEN fix it, but I have no proof of this. At least I’m getting a better place; and who knows, maybe in a year I can afford and extra $300 for rent.
When I moved up here, I was hoping for a place I could stay for years. Now I’m moving twice in the first seven months. The good news is I’ve been so busy at work I haven’t had time to unpack a single box in the month I’ve lived here, so the move should be easy.
The gig at Harry Caray’s didn’t work out, either. They tried to make me a bouncer instead of a bartender, so I told them it wasn’t worth my time. If I’m bouncing, I may as well stay at Bernie’s. The guy who runs Harry Caray’s told me another place they own, The Gin Mill, may have a spot for me next week. Hopefully I’ll know something soon—having only one job isn’t enough these days.
My arm hurt enough to go to the hospital on Monday. No break, but a possible infection led to a Keflex prescription. They gave me a painkiller prescription as well, but the OTC ibuprofen I’ve been sucking down keeps it quiet. I bounced Friday and Saturday without anything really interesting happening.
There’s more to say, but now isn’t the time to say it. That’s too bad, because it’s REALLY worth saying.
Until later.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tin Pan Alley (A.K.A. Roughest Place in Town)

I love this town. Some of you know I'll claim to love even the things I hate when I find myself forced to deal with them. It's a defense mechanism. If I don't state that I love it, then I'll actively hate it, and then I'll just be miserable and bring everyone down around me. This isn't the case with Chicago. I actually, genuinely, love it here.

St. Patrick's Day in an Irish town is no joke. I bounced at Bernie's last night—the first time in a few months—and according to my boss, we kicked out more people than any single night in the years he's been there. Most often they were simply drunk, and we're not serving them anymore, so they have to leave.

Three fights broke out, and three times I was involved. The first fight was between customers; one of my fellow bouncers grabbed one of them and threw him towards me, I caught him and threw him out the door. He took care of the other. We thought the matter was settled until they started fighting on the sidewalk, which quickly went into the street. We ran out to separate them, and that was just about that.

The most fun I had all night was the second "incident". Just one hour after the previous fight, my boss threw a guy out who was so drunk he had thrown up in the bathroom sink. I was checking IDs just inside the door, and the bar has another door right next to the main entrance where the guy was trying to sneak back in to rejoin his friends (fun fact: when a person gets thrown out of a bar, his friends always stay to finish their drinks). This second door is exit only; it's always locked, but a push bar lets people out. Twice I caught this guy sticking his foot in the door after someone exited, waiting for his opportunity to sneak back in while I wasn't looking. But I was looking, and I kept a hard stare at him to let him know it.

Before long, the guy got really pissed. He came to my door and threw it open, and seeing him coming I blocked the entrance with my body. He gave me an all-out shove, so I had to wrestle him to keep him out. He grabbed my face, so I twisted around behind him putting myself between him and the outside. For a moment I pinned him against the doorframe while I handed my glasses to our cook, who had been having a drink at the end of his shift—then the fight was on.

I pulled him backwards, but he threw his weight into me, and we fell down hard on to the pavement. He turned to face me, but years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training kicked in. It sounds so cliché (like a cheesy spy movie), but it's true. I don't remember exactly what happened next, but within seconds I had him on his back, pinned beneath my weight. I secured his right wrist against the ground, rose up and planted my left knee into his chest, and grabbed his other wrist close to me so he wouldn't have leverage with either arm to take another swing. He made threats to me while the cook kept warning me not to hit him. He was subdued and that was all the situation required, but if I had hit him I could have been fired, arrested, and God knows what else. I held him like that until the cops came, and since it was 10:00 on a Saturday night in Chicago, the day of the big parade and dying the river green, it didn't take very long.

The guy kept a death-stare on me, shaking his head and repeating, "You don't know…" I'm sure the rest of his internal monologue was something like, "…how bad I could kick your ass if I wanted to." Not wanting to antagonize him further, I mentally responded, YOU don't know how many TEETH you would have swallowed if I hadn't been on the clock when you pushed me, mother FUCKER.

Later, customers with a front row view shook my hand and told me the coolest part was when I held him still with one arm while taking my glasses off before I cut loose on the guy. I'm sure Tery would have been proud. (

I really hope the owner lets me see the security tape.

I hit my elbow pretty bad when we fell, and since then I've been nursing a scrape that won't stop bleeding on top of a knot nearly the size of a baseball (Note, the elbow really sucks for this kind of thing. At least it wasn't my knee). I went and bought a reusable ice pack which is currently helping with the swelling, and plenty of ointment and ibuprofen for the rest.

That wasn't the last fight I was a part of that night, nor was it the funniest—but it was the coolest. I narrowly avoided two others, and finished off the night eating delivered pizza and drinking beer with my friends before heading home.

Tomorrow really IS St. Patrick's Day, and I'm bouncing at Harry Caray's. I wonder if that will be nearly as exciting.

I was going to write about the problems I've been having with my new apartment this past week, and how several angry letters quoting the Municipal Code of Chicago resulted in my getting (so far) $125 off my rent next month. Honestly though, the story I told instead was, I think, far more interesting.

I love this town.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Dance of the Moving Mountain

While it's a little frustrating living so far away from work now, I know that's not going to last forever. It takes me about an hour to get downtown, and another hour home, but at least it's an hour on the train. I spend it reading the news, or novels, or what-have-you. Not a bad thing, all told.

In any case, in about two weeks I start a new job at the new Harry Caray's in Wrigleyville (woot!) It's across the street from Wrigley Field. From the front door, you can see the statue of Harry Caray himself. This summer is going to earn me so much cash. The Cubs did pretty well last year, and with this the 100th anniversary of the last time they won the World Series, everyone's going to be paying a lot of attention. I already foresee how worn out I'm likely to be, since I won't be leaving my office job completely.

What's REALLY cool is that working so hard for so many hours let me pay off one of my credit cards this past week. Completely. And I was still able to replace my old, crappy boots and make rent. Ramen noodles taste so much better when I have that one less worry in my life, one less creditor to answer for, one more goal achieved. I'm tired a lot, but I'm so much more relieved day to day. No more stomachaches about whether or not I'm going to make rent. No more headaches over whether or not I can afford to eat.

No more nightmares.

I was also able to afford all kinds of new things for my apartment. It's frustrating having to re-purchase things I used to own (cookware, knives, that kind of thing), but I thought I was going to Russia for a time, and started leaving things behind I figured I wouldn't need again. 'S okay, though, as long as I can actually afford stuff. Hard work pays off and pays well, and the more I get ahead, the faster I get ahead. Finally, I'm making sacrifices and taking care of business like never before.

It wasn't easy making the decisions it took to get me here—but I'm here. I like where I am and where it looks like I'm going.

One step at a time.
P.S. If you missed it, I have a new phone number. Write me if you need it again.