Minutes (Chicago)

July 9, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard


  • The dry cleaner’s down the street has a pit bull in the portion of the building not intended for customers. The building is one story, and probably about 3,500 square feet. The front part, for customers, is only 500 square feet. The remainder is used, presumably, to clean and press clothes. Nevertheless, each time I walk past the building I can hear the dog lunging and barking at me through the metal grate of the second, street-side door. (They keep this open in the winter). I don’t understand why they would need a guard dog to watch over all those clothes. Maybe they have cock fighting in the basement.
  • My friend has a neighbor, an old Eastern European woman in her eighties. She wakes up every day and waters the tree outside on the street with a hose. She sprays a stream of water on its bark. She will do this for hours. She suffers the heat in the summer and each summer my friend is convinced the old woman will die. The old woman does not, though, and in fact the colder it gets the happier the old woman becomes. She perks up in the cold, her cheeks bloom pink and she struts around with a larger sense of purpose. She wears the same pair of shoes every day in the winter: old sneakers, she cut the toes out of the top so that her feet can wiggle and breathe in the cold winter air. She dumpster dives all the time and is all the time collecting loaves of bread. The daily bread she amasses in the winter (for in the summer she can hardly leave her porch), she then distributes amongst her neighbors. The old woman gives my friend a large bag of bread every day. My friend has never been able to put the bread to use; she’ll eat some of it and sometimes she makes bread pudding, but she can never consume all that was given. However, my friend can’t throw it away, simply, because the old woman will find the discarded bread in the neighborhood trash. Consequently, my friend has to throw the bread away in other neighborhoods. She has to sneak it past the old lady who’s eyes pierce most things.
  • A stranger with a foreign accent insists that he is from Chicago. “I have been living her for six months,” he says. “But where are you really from?” asks a woman drinking on the street. She speaks with a certain indignation, as though his uninvited presence allows her to be curt and, perhaps, less gracious than she might otherwise be. “What do you mean?” says he. “You have an accent,” she says. She rolls her eyes. “You can’t be from here. You must be from Europe.” The woman doesn’t look at him when she speaks. Rather she watches the dance hall across the street.  “Oh. You’re very clever. A little Columbo!” He admits nothing. It appears that these two  hear different things, likely at all times. “Why did you leave Europe?” the woman asks. Blankly the photographer reaches for her arm. “Don’t touch me,” she says. “Why does anyone leave anywhere?” he asks. They watch a man stretch outside of a dance hall. Another man walks up to the stretcher. They rub penises like one might shake hands. The stretcher returns to the dance hall and the pedestrian carries on his way. She asks the fellow what he does. “I’m a photographer,” he says with cagey eyes. “What sort of photographer?” asks she. “I take pictures. I am paid.” The woman seems to think he might take pictures of naked girls. “Why are you being so sketchy about it? Do you take dirty pictures?” He says he takes pictures of property and nothing more. Before standing up to leave, however, he says “You Americans are all the same. You talk so seriously about nothing.”

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