Shades of Gray

Yes, this image contains 50 shades of gray.
Yes, this image contains 50 shades of gray.

Today’s blog is more a series of vignettes than anything coherent. That means no superheroes, no stupid Floridians (a redundancy there), no scary science, just some stuff that’s been going on in my life. On July 2, 2016, I moved into a new neighborhood. Well, new to me, it’s been there for a while. I learned, quickly, that South Chicago, my new realm, is a long way from Logan Square, in more ways than just geography. Far from being a hipster metropolis it’s more like Mayberry with a funkier back beat. I’m surrounded by single family homes, nice people, a wealth of mom & pop businesses, and one bar which serves the whole community. Everyone truly does know your name there. Much like my life on the north side, I walk everywhere down there. I’ve met quite a few people that way. My new favorite human is a 70 year old toothless hooker who promises $5 blowjobs and $8 fucks if you’re clean. The price doubles if you smell bad. She offered me a “welcome to the neighborhood” freebie which I somehow managed to decline. Still, every night when I come home she’ll see me and ask about my day, talk about her family, tell me how long she’s been off crack (37 days as of this writing), ask about my writing and so on. I find the conversations fun and pleasant and find myself looking forward to them.

Slightly closer to my target demographic when it comes to conjugal relations, I met a nice lady named Lightening a couple of weeks ago. On our first encounter she noted that I could walk upright, had enough money to pay for my own drinks, and had recently bathed. As it turned out I met her minimum criteria for sex so I went home with her. To be fair, she’d been going through a lengthy dry spell after her divorce so her bar wasn’t really set all that high. I’ve talked about her a little bit on Facebook but this seems like a good place to fill in the gaps. She’s 45, a former Latin King, and swears like a trucker on meth. She’s also very funny, easy on the eyes, and capable of drinking me under the table.

Last week we found out her grandmother is very sick and not going to get better. Lightening’s son lives with his great-grandmother in Puerto Rico. But he’s all of 18 and caring for an elderly woman is not what he should be doing. He earned a college scholarship and that’s what he should be focused on. So, after working things out with her family, and saying goodbye to a job she didn’t like, she’s moving down there next week to care for her. Which makes this week our farewell tour. Don’t get weepy about it. We’ve only had 4 dates and a couple of one offs, it isn’t like we were picking out rings. That said, I’ll still miss her.

I know some of you are stuck on the Latin King part. She never joined. People rarely do. In Chicago, like any major city, where you grow up determines what gang you’re associated with. There are exceptions, of course. Derrick Rose was never a Gangster Disciple because he had a rare talent. His neighbors were not as lucky. Back in the day, before the cops made the brilliant decision to arrest all the upper level gang leaders, leaving the city with lots of heavily armed kids who had no one to stop them from doing stupid shit, gang life had a business structure. Yes, you could get killed, but the odds were it would be on purpose.

I’m not sure that’s as reassuring as it seems.

From all accounts the father of Lightening’s son, also a Latin King, was a decent man who cared for his son, held a good job, and was a regular member of his church. The drug and gun dealing just came with the territory. He died of cancer when his son was young. She later remarried and readily admits she knew she’d made a mistake within days after she’d said “I do.” Hubby #2 turned out to like the gang life and was far more active in it than she was comfortable with. They separated a couple of years ago and finally got divorced late last year. She doesn’t talk about it much but I’ve gathered this man was not a nice person and didn’t take his failure as a husband well.

Oh well, life marches on.

In other gang related news, last week I was standing at the bus stop at 87th and State. Next to me was a gentleman with numerous face tattoos, including a few tear drops. Yes, I know what those mean. Anyway, as we were standing there two young ladies walked by holding hands and looking very much like what they were; a young couple in love. As they walked away he turned to me and said “Cute couple.” I grunted an assent and said nothing more. After about a minute he turned to me again and said “My sister’s a dyke.” I laughed and said “Baby steps” knowing, full well, the nuance would be lost on him.

A few days after that I was taking the train home when he spied me and worked his way through the crowd to come talk.

“I should have said my sister’s a lesbian, right?”

I paused. The delicate nature of social etiquette was not going to work here, so I opted for Plan B.

“She’s your sister. Period. Just like you’re a guy I met at a train station. Or I’m a guy you’re talking to. People don’t need to be labeled. If you feel the need to elaborate say “She’s my sister and she likes heavy metal and ninja movies.” Fill those in with what she really likes.”

“Actually, she does like that shit.”

I laughed so hard I almost missed my stop. We got off together and talked for about half an hour more. Getting past the fact that he’s a person who’s literally committed murder, he seemed very nice.

It’s always good to meet new friends.

Some of you have asked why I don’t write more. The answer is that I have been writing. Quite a lot. But it’s all been for commercial release. If you really must read what I write, and I kind of hope you do, feel free to use the links below and have some fun.

14 Frogs – currently out on Bewildering Stories and is free to read online.

Legends Parallel – currently out on Hadithi Sambamba Comix NSFW

Janet Callahan: Rocket Queen – coming soon in Genesis Magazine

Clarity Girl – currently out on Gente Entertainment

KORZAC: NÖRDICON OF DERN – coming out in September on Bewildering Stories

The Loving Children – coming in November in the anthology The Dogs of War

The Brittle Riders – Full novel coming out on Azoth Khem Publishing NSFW

Pestilent (graphic novel) – coming February 1, 2017 (tentative), on GEE Comics NSFW

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