December 10 - The Adventures Of Harold's Chicken Shack #82 And Other Windy City Folktales

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.
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.
"Who? Him?"
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.

Chicken Dick
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.

Chicken Bits
Harold's was enjoyed by all.
Except Veruca.
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.

Church's Smitten
Then we went to a Baptist chapel.
Kano the soundman wore a Danzig shirt.
God don't like it.
The walls of the chapel were decorated with portraits of Harold Washington and Martin Luther King.
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.

GP Ass
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."
Oh no.
He was.
6 miles in the opposite direction.
I started to give him directions.
"Hold on.  This bitch is calling me."
Oh Jerzy.
You're done.

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.
Veruca included.
They smiled and talked about Barcelona.

Verdict: Win

December 9 - Direction

Ursus Maritipests
Another early morning on the arctic beach.
Today we filmed polar bears.
Polar bears are those weirdos that decide to swim through frigid waters in the dead of winter.
I'm not sure what the purpose of it is.
Maybe people that dip themselves into active volcanos or run over small parts of their bodies with lawnmowers could better elaborate on the attributes of polar bearing.
But they were nice weirdos.
The director had them strip down a few times until he got the timing right.
It took a while.
The eldest polar bear was an Eastern European guy who laughed a lot and didn't take direction.
He kept ruining takes with loud Slavic interjections.
I liked him.

It was time for the polar bears to jump into the freezing lake.
I was looking forward to seeing the purposeless of it, but Veruca-
"Guys, we're really behind schedule.  We need you to load the gear and go."
So while they filmed the polar bears doing their thing, Jerzy and I had to drag the C-stands, flags, and diffs across the beach and away from the "fun".
It was like she changed the channel on a junk TV show we were watching so we would take out the garbage.

Kites Are Fun
Next was a kite flyer we met on Montrose Harbor.
He was quiet and didn't offer much in the interview.
Lots of no's and yeah's.
As an editor it's hard to cut to a guy with a kite and all he says is "no".
But wouldn't that be fun?
So I liked him, too.
He flew his kites in the windy biting anger of December while the crew danced to keep warm.
Kites are fun.

Pho-ender Bender
For lunch we went to a Tank Noodle, a Vietnamese spot.
Jerzy protested.
He didn't want to eat Vietnamese food, even though he didn't know what it was.
So he got a hot dog somewhere else.
I dropped the crew off and looked for parking.
On the second circle around, a spot had opened up in front of Tank.
I put my signal on and proceeded to back into the spot.
I heard a distant horn honk.
And honk again.
The horn kept up while I continued to back up into the spot.
Then I heard and felt a smack from the back of the long 15 passenger van.
It seems that horn wasn't all that distant.
I hopped out of the van to find a very angry man yelling at me.
He called me stupid.
He called me an idiot.
I asked if he was all right.
He yell-asked if I had heard him honking.
There was no real damage done to either vehicle.
He asked me what was wrong with me.
I dead panned a sorry.
He called me stupid one more time and drove off in a huff.
Luckily, none of the crew saw the nonsense of no consequence.
Veruca delivered pho to me in the van, where I would enjoy it in solitude while Run DMC's "Sucker MC's" was dissected on Fresh Air.
I inhaled pho, and exhaled.

Locations, Locations, Locations
The rest of the day was spent in the van while the crew filmed indoors.
Every now and then people would poke in and grab some crafty.
Chaz, the locations manager, hung out with me for a while.
He said I would be a natural for locations.
I listened.
That is probably my direction in this world.
Hey, I found a direction.

Verdict: Win

The Judy Green at The Hideout

My friend and pal Reid (All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, Beatlemagica) assembled a nifty guild of nomads (Roommate, Bitter Tears, Mucca Pazza, Fruit Bats), myself included, to augment his fine songs with The Judy Green.

Join us this tonight as we touch on many sorts of rock:
From big to bummer.
From butt to bumpkin.

They gave us the sweet slot, between Relaxation Record and AZITA.
It should be fun, and therefore will be it.

The Judy Green
Relaxation Record

Friday, April 22 • 10pm
The Hideout
1354 W Wabansia

December 8 - Snow Day Work Day

Icicle, Youcicle
Today we shot at the Millennium Park Ice Rink.
While they assembled equipment, I ran errands.
Veruca had me buy 500 of those hand warmer things.
The New Yorkers seemed to think they work.
While walking under the El,  I got a call from her.
"Tony, can you-" (THE EL)
I explained that I was under the El and could she please repeat herself.
"Can you-" (ANOTHER EL)
Sorry.  One more time.
I told her that I had been ice skating once when I was 9 and that I hadn't been very good at it that day.
I told her I would probably fall a lot.
Jerzy was not happy about having to ice skate.
He cited his race as the reason he shouldn't have to do it.
"How many black men have seen on ice skates?"
He told me that I owed him.
I sat in the cargo van and worked on my upcoming reading at Ray's Tap.

Ice Follies
Jerzy relieved me of my sitting in the van duties.
He scowled and complained about the spill he took on the ice.
I tried to point out that he was getting paid to ice skate.
He chose not to see it that way.
I made a joke about suing them for his injuries.
He seemed to like that.
"You still me owe me one," he concluded.

Veruca had also taken a spill.
When Chaz tried to help her up, he ate shit back-first onto the ice.
It's on the B-roll.
Along with the laughter of the assistant cameraman.

The Skater With "A Following"
I helped set up the next shot in the skate rental, making sure all the skates poked artfully out of their cubbies.
"You're arting the shit out of that," the DP complimented.

We filmed while the skate rental shop did business.
The DP and I noticed that many of the skaters were black, debunking Jerzy's earlier claim.
Then we noticed a woman in a professional figure skating dress.
She had perhaps the most perfectly sculpted ass.
Its curvature was mathematically flawless.
Science would have to agree.

 \kappa = \frac{1}{R}.

She spun around and around in the center of the rink.
Like a toy made of candy.
Me and the DP stared.
She swizzled and twizzled.
She shot the duck.
She jumped a sheep.
She Sasha-spiraled, she choctaw-turned, she Besti-squatted.
She did a haircutter. a pancake spin, a Rittberger.
She even flutzed.
Me and the DP stared some more.
Then it was time to go back to work.

While wrapping at the skate rental, I noticed the woman with the perfect ass sprawled out on the ice.
Next to her on the ice was a gawky, Indiana-looking preteen girl.
It seems they had collided while the perfect-assed woman was continuing to show off.
I guess she wasn't looking where she was mohawk-turning.
I made several trips in and out of the skate rental, grabbing C-stands, sandbags, kinos and stingers.
The gawky Indiana girl was back on the ice having fun.
The perfect-assed woman was not.
She sulked inside by the lockers.
She hid in a ball, her head in her knees.
She seemed unnecessarily emotional and European.
A perfect ass in an imperfect world.

The Pitts
Jerzy had decided to still be mad about having to ice skate.
He stewed in the cargo van watching the gear while the rest of us ate lunch at Pittsfield Cafe, tucked inside the Pittsfield Building.
We ordered in its huge art deco lobby, reminiscent of where Clark Kent once worked.
I delivered a styrofoam cup of soup to Jerzy, then walked back to my French dip.
Halfway through, Jerzy called for another cup of soup.
Veruca seemed annoyed.
"Where are you going?"

Next was the bike messenger.
I knew him.
In fact, I remembered him from my very first year on the streets.
Augie was one of the first messengers to give me the nod.
When established messengers encountered each other on the street, they nodded.
The nod meant you were worthy.
Rookies, crusties, and losers didn't get the nod.
It seems stupid now, but receiving the nod from Augie meant a lot to me in the year 2000.
We caught up in the van while they set up the shot.
He's riding for 4Star these days.
We talked about all the times we've tried to quit messengering.
And how we always came back.
It was really great to see him.
It felt good to laugh like that again.
And for people in the production world to see that side of me.
A less quiet, more confident version of me.
The me that still has some dignity.

I drove the picture car that Augie followed down Wabash, east on Monroe, north on Michigan to Lake, down Garland Court to Lower Wacker Place, up Lower Michigan to Lower Wacker Drive, west to Garvey Court, south and back up onto Lake Street, east to Wabash, and south to Washington and The Cultural Center.
We were behind schedule.
Augie had grown tired of being filmed and not making money.
We kept him out longer than promised.
He signed a release form and vanished.
We hastily packed up the gear and rushed to the next location.

The City So Nice, It Has No Vice
We drove to Humboldt Park.
The New Yorkers likened it to Brooklyn.
They also called Lake Michigan "the ocean".
Everything is an imitation of New York I guess.
That cornfield over there is like New Jersey as seen from Battery Park.
Those pigeons are definitely from Flushing.
New York invented Greece, therefore democracy.
You win, New York.
You are important and original and the greatest thing that ever happened.
And you pretend to not give a shit.
Way to go.

Jenny From The Alley
We pulled into a snowplow company and set up.
It was soon discovered that in the mad dash to wrap the previous location, we had left behind a generator.
I was dispatched to retrieve it.
Rush hour traffic clogged the Ike.
I pulled into the alley where we last used the generator.
But it was nowhere to be found.
A $1500 ghost.
"We lost the jenny."
Surprisingly, Veruca took it well.
She sighed mostly.

I came back to find a chorus of coverall-clad ruffnecks spreading salt and lugging sand bags.
The lights from the snowplows lit the shot.
They were Chicago.

Movie Movies was the company that rented us the generator.
They are known for their horrible crappy gear.
In the van with the crew, I suggested that we could just put a cat in a cardboard box, shake it up, and Movie Movies would think it was a generator.
It got a pretty big laugh.
Except from Veruca.
"That's not funny!" she insisted.
But she was outnumbered.
The crew had taken the joke and were riffing it around the van.
"That's not funny!" she demanded.
Sorry, Veruca.
If people are laughing, it's technically funny.

No Sleep Til Andersonville (Park Slope)
I worked at the bar tonight.
I don't know how.
But I did.
I ate Harold's Chicken.
I drank Heineken.
I revised the Ray's Tap piece.
I kept going.

Verdict: Win