February 17th, 2003

flavored with age

My city was gone

Here it is 2003, and Chicago is still thugging like it's Capone. At least 21 dead in a nightclub stampede at Epitome, a corporate-run fun factory on the near South Side.

Early word has it that a group of women were fighting, and someone busted out a can of Mace, which led to the stampede towards the exits. For the love of Christ, people.

Twenty-one dead, at least ten critically injured. I hope someone goes in lock-up for a good long time for this, although it’s hard to imagine anyone getting fingered out of such a crush. And there better be some serious questions of the management of this club – questions about their security, questions about their exits, questions about their failure to follow the fire code (there were more people hurt in the stampede than were allowed to be in the restaurant area, suggesting that some serious overcrowding was going on).

We spend all our time pretending we can stop terrorists, and then let some numb-fuck with a can of over-the-counter pepper spray take out 20+ people. Really gives you hope, doesn’t it? This city is run by a dictator, our murder rate is #2 in the nation, there’s been a rash of mob killings, racial tension is at a ridiculous peak, and now this. It seems like the only publicity we get anymore is bad publicity.

The funny thing is, I’ll probably see something this week – maybe even today – that makes me fall in love with Chicago all over again.
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Meanwhile, back on the sane side of the world

Looks like the East Coast wins weather bragging rights this year. They're buried under a foot and a half of powder, while we haven't broken a foot this year and probably won't. I could say something patronizing about how we don't let snow shut us down so easily (school cancelled, my ass!), but you know what? That's a lot of goddamn snow, and it's all what you're used to, right?

And while I hate to lose my scoffing privileges, the fact is, Minneapolis always beats us for cold and upstate New York always beats us for show (three feet is an easy winter in Syracuse), but they don't front because they aren't headline-grabbing show-offs like Chicago and New York are.

Truthfully, I sort of like the blizzards. The first huge one we had here, in '98, was quite thrilling: I decided to walk up to the convenience store on the corner, just to see how long it took. It took half an hour, and the store is a block away. Trudging through snow that came up past my knees made me feel adventurous and cool (well, cold), and it was breathtaking to hear the absolute flood of silence in a city that's noisy every minute of every day. People stopped their cars in the middle of busy streets rather than try and get any farther in the snow; a semi truck had crashed into the mattress factory right near my building and stayed there, blocking traffic, for three days. I'm glad I don't have to live in it all the time, but it's intermittently fascinating: a glimpse of post-apocalyptic (or pre-civilization) life, a reminder that nature has still got us all in check.
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Today in neo-conservative America

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The real terrorists

On Wednesday of last week, the Supreme Court in Belgium agreed to hear the case of plaintiffs who lost family at the massacres of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. In response, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Foreign Minister of Israel (and the former Prime Minister of that freedom-loving nation) recalled his country's ambassador to Belgium, promised a "very stern response", and referred to the plaintiffs as terrorists.

The attorneys representing those plaintiffs have drafted a response that I think is elegant in its muted outrage. You can find it here.

To quote a small but important fragment of the letter:

"Our clients are not 'terrorists,' but ordinary people who were raped, tortured, and wounded; who were forced to witness -- and relive everyday since -- the slaughter of their children, parents, husbands and wives."

This is why language is so important. This is why we must remember that irony is not dead. This is why I am obsessed with what people say in service of their needs.

We are tooling ourselves for a war of aggression which we justify by forging non-existent links to 'terrorists', and by claiming that Saddam Hussein, if left unchecked, would attack Israel, the 'sole democracy in the Middle East'. At the same time, victims of a bloody massacre orchestrated by the military of that democracy uses the word 'terrorists' to describe the families of those victims.

An apology seems hardly sufficient.
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Roach coach

Here's some advice you're probably not stupid enough to need:

No matter how hungry you are, don't buy anything off a catering truck that you cannot identify by sight. And if you DO buy it, don't EAT it.

Mmmmmmm, stomach-clutching gastric agony.
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Common cause

I have this ongoing fantasy/fear that one day I'll be captured by Arab terrorists.

And, desperate to save my big fat back-bacon, I tell them that I'm (a) a political radical and (b) half-Saudi, and that they should let me live, because, well, I'm not really on their side per se, but, hey! Sala'am aleichem! Come on, already.

So, perhaps because they're a bunch of dupes, they let me live, and take me hostage. And we're all sitting around the bunker, you know, eating shawarma, talking a little soccer, getting a little Stockholm syndrome thing going. And, eager to make common cause, they teach me some Arabic, we discuss the Ismaili rift, talk about how much we hate Israel, that kind of shit. And after a while, we're getting along like a house on fire.

Then they ask me to teach them something about MY culture.

No, I don't know the Britney-Spears. No, sorry, I didn't see 'Titanic'. Uh, you know, I just never got around to it. 'Entertainment Weekly', huh? You know, it's funny, I never read that. Um, no, actually, I. Um. I don't think 'Everybody Loves Raymond' is. You know. All that. Er. Funny.

Ha ha.

Um...Jandek? Do you like Jandek? No? How about Stan Brakhage? Everybody likes Stan Brakhage. Never heard of him, eh? How about 'Transmetropolitan'? You guys read that? No? Uh...I like Japanese noise-rock...and, uh, do you read B.S. Johnson? Hmmm.

That's when they start oiling their sidearms.
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I take it all back

Surprise, surprise: the dumb-ass fuckhead who let go with the mace in the middle of a crowd WAS a club security guard. Off the AP wires:

>CHICAGO - Hundreds of screaming guests rushed the exits of a crowded nightclub Monday after security guards used a chemical spray to quell a fight, and at least 21 people were crushed to death or smothered in the panic, officials and witnesses said.

>Firefighters responding to the scene found a number of locked or blocked doors and used sledgehammers and pry bars to open some of them so that people could be rescued, Fire Commissioner James Joyce said at a late morning briefing.

>"There are people trying to get out that could not get out," Joyce said. "Locked and blocked doors are a contributing factor. We can't explain how management or ownership would allow that."

>The locked doors are a fire code violation, Joyce said.

Motherfuckers. Anyone remember the Hamlet chicken plant disaster, or any number of other situations in the last 20 years where people have died because management locks or chains shut the doors?

Shut 'em down, shut 'em shut 'em down.

(As an aside, I think it's awesome that my city's fire commissioner is named James Joyce. If he starts talking about how the fire was caused by 'the insertitude of the void' I'ma shit myself.)