We began the morning at a prep school in Obama's neck of the woods.
The students huddled in academic one-upsmanship, clad in pristine blazers and red ties.
They used words like "sir" and "good morning".
Earnest goes to school.
Chaz put me in charge of scouting lunch.
My first locations assignment!
I drove around Hyde Park and wrote down some options.
• Valois "See Your Food" Cafeteria
• Ribs 'n' Bibs
• Harold's Chicken Shack #14
In the scout, I inadvertently drove past Obama's house.
Barriers, secret service, signs.
Where Would Obama Eat?
Our second location was at the legendary WVON.
On the way down we passed Harold's Chicken Shack #2.
The crew really wanted to eat there.
But we had to get to WVON.
There was some buzz that Jesse Jackson was coming.
To get Jesse Jackson would be a coup.
Tensions were high.
Veruca was stressed out trying to get Jesse Jackson.
Jerzy was being difficult.
He wagged a "why are you so stupid" face at me while trying to communicate on the other side of a closed window.
I screamed at him.
"WHAT!!?? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!"
The gaffer was baffled.
"Why are people screaming?"
I got away from Jerzy and walked the halls taking pictures of framed pictures of Al Sharpton.
Veruca's accent pouted from a meeting room.
"Dew yew have okra? Alright, we'll have tew pints of okra..."
She was ordering lunch from Harold's.
I guess we were eating at Harold's.
And I was picking it up.
Harold's Chicken Shack #82
Harold's is very Chicago.
The customer is at the mercy of the business and is rarely right.
Every order is made to order.
You can place an order over the phone, but they will not start making it until a representative physically arrives at the location.
I was to enter Harold's Chicken Shack #82 on 79th and Cottage Grove at 1:15pm to begin the cooking of our large order.
Some buckets of chicken and a bunch of other stuff.
I approached the cashier behind the bullet proof glass.
She seemed guarded.
"Did a big British woman call an order in?"
I don't know why I used the word "big".
Veruca isn't even big.
The cashier knew who I was talking about.
Who else would be calling Harold's Chicken Shack #82 with a Queen's English dialect, besides maybe a suburban Jerky Boys wannabe?
The cashier was cute in her Cookie Monster hoodie and frownie face nails.
"I like your nails," I flirted.
She cracked a smile.
(Still got it!)
The lunch rush was in its twilight.
About five people waited for their chicken.
Though it seemed to be taking longer than usual.
A restless man in stained beige coveralls playfully pounded on the bullet proof glass.
"Hey! Where's my chicken!?"
The cashier pointed in my direction.
"Y'all are waitin' on heeis chicken."
The coveralls guy pointed at the guy on the stool next to mine.
She pointed directly at me."No. Him!"
I smiled like I had won a small lottery.
The coveralls guy rolled his eyes and shook his head.
A kid on another stool asked what I was doing at this Harold's.
I told him about the spots and Jesse Jackson and the crew from New York.
"They don't have Harold's in New York?"
At 1:30, while our chicken was cooking, Veruca called.
"Tell them to stop the order!"
I used the word "okay" like a chain lock on a motel door.
Veruca went on to explain that things were running late and that she wanted the chicken ready at 2pm, as opposed to 1:40. Because the 1:40 chicken would be cold by the time they were ready for lunch. So have them make another order ready at 2pm.
I wanted to explain that I was at the Harold's Chicken on 79th & Cottage Grove on the same side of bullet proof glass as the hungry folks who were vary wary of the white boy already making them wait for their lunch. That I was on stage in a theater. And for me to knock on the glass and announce "stop that order and make me another" would confirm that I am indeed the villain in this play. The villain and the fool. And! Harold's would not toss out a large made-to-order take out order and immediately start the same order for us. This wasn't a lavish hotel. There was no concierge. This was fucking Harold's Chicken Shack #82.
But a short circuit in my logic gland prevented the transmission of any sense from my lips.
All I could do was sigh.
This upset Veruca.
"Alright, fine. You don't want to do it. I'll just do it myself!"
And she hung up.
I watched the guys behind the glass.
They were on the phone with Veruca.
Their body language shifted, but stayed firm.
Harold's was not going to re-start the order.
So Veruca ordered another large order.
This way we would have fried chicken that was 20 minutes fresher.
I ended up spending over $200 at Harold's.
6 buckets of chicken, 2 buckets of fries, okra, fried mushrooms, coleslaw.
It took four trips to fill the van with the steamy fragrance of fresh and fresher bird.
I snapped a photo of the cashier.
"You've got a nice smile."
Lauren and I have agreement.
I can flirt with other girls as long as they are behind bullet proof glass.
Back at WVON, the stress was suffocating.
Jesse Jackson was looking like a bail.
The pressure was on Veruca to make it happen.
I laid out the buckets of chicken in the meeting room.
"Where are the salads!?" Veruca demanded.
I had picked up some salads at vegetarian soul food spot on the way back.
I put them all in a large Einstein Bagels bag.
"Where's the Einstein bag?" I asked aloud to myself.
"The Einstein bag!!?" Veruca freaked.
The Einstein bag was in the corner, and I began handing the salads to Veruca.
"Calm down," I assured. "I said they were in the Einstein bag."
"No you didn't!" Veruca spat. "You didn't say they were in the Einstein bag! You said 'where's the Einstein bag?'. You don't have to be a dick about it!"
I froze, anemically holding a salad and my tongue, letting the silence speak for me.
She frantically arranged the table and left in a tense huff.
Chaz and the Stijn the VTR asked me why I was such a dick.
Harold's was enjoyed by all.
The Jesse Jackson thing was a bust.
He went to the TV station downtown instead of the southside radio station.
The client was trying to blame Veruca.
I kept my distance and ate chicken with Jerzy in an isolated production room.
He laughed about my trials at Harold's.
I was wearing a Second City hoodie.
Jerzy asked me if I had PA'ed for them.
I told him I had performed with them.
He seemed incredulous.
"Believe it or not, I'm funny, Jerzy."
I had to explain that I'm not a stand up or one of those guys that's always on.
I did so by being unfunnily on for a few seconds.
Pretending a chicken wing was a phone and yelling about it.
That sort of shit.
Jerzy just thought I was weird.
Curtis Mayfield played softly in the background.
I switched the topic to music.
Then we went to a Baptist chapel.
Kano the soundman wore a Danzig shirt.
God don't like it.
And Jesse Jackson.
Veruca didn't like it either.
Actually she was over it at this point.
She made off color jokes about the reverend over a dwindling pack of Marlboros.
It seemed she needed a little love.
Later while I assembled the jib, she gave me a wink.
I didn't know what to do with it.
There was no bullet proof glass.
All day long, Jerzy had been telling me and Chaz that he was no longer going to follow us.
He called us "Chicago people" and criticized the way we drove.
From now on, he was just going to use his GPS.
Our final location for the day was in the Fulton Market area, about nine miles north of the West Englewood baptist church.
Jerzy bolted away first in the cargo van while the crew loaded into mine.
"See you there, Jerzy."
We grinded our way through the rush hour clot of the impending Chicago spaghetti bowl.
I noticed Jerzy, who got stuck in the line for the Stevenson.
It's a common mistake, but a hard one to recover from.
Merging back onto a 55-mph highway is hard when you're stalled to a crawl.
But it can be done.
I passed him without pointing it out to Veruca.
We got to the location and waited.
"Where's Jerzy?" Veruca wanted to know.
"He's on the way," I vouched.
Jerzy had all the equipment.
We couldn't do anything until he arrived.
The talent showed up.
A former Chicago Bear who was giving back to the community through education.
An honorable man.
More people were beginning to inquire about Jerzy.
"Where is he already?"
I didn't know.
He gave me a ring.
"Yo! I just passed Damen on the 55. I think I'm lost."
6 miles in the opposite direction.
I started to give him directions.
"Hold on. This bitch is calling me."
Jerzy called back.
I gave him directions.
He knew he had fucked up.
But he blamed it on everyone else.
And then himself.
I played bartender.
He considered walking off the job.
"Let's just get through this last location."
Jerzy eventually arrived, over an hour late.
Veruca chose to reserve her venom for afterward.
But Jerzy's defense was offense.
He carelessly dropped gear and gave Veruca some snippy lip.
Veruca carefully explained that his tardiness had just cost her over $1000 in overtime.
Jerzy wasn't trying to hear that.
He stewed in solitude in the cargo van.
Bullet Proof Girls
The talent was nice and hit his cues.
He was a handsome man.
Football hadn't beaten his looks or brains.
During wrap, he found himself surrounded by a wall of women.
They smiled and talked about Barcelona.