Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Random Thoughts From The Corner of 31st and Halsted

I’m at the coin laundry wasting quarters on the Galaga video game instead of feeding them to the dryer so I don’t roll up ten pairs of damp socks. I’ve loaded my clean laundry into my pull cart for the three block trip back to the apartment and get outside when I spy the night attendant sitting in the driver’s seat of her Dodge minivan bouncing her big ass up and down. I look at her and think, “What the hell?” when I make out the faint sound of music coming from the car. I focus my ears a bit to hear what’s making her move like she just rubbed off a good one. I recognize the song as “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me” by the Geto Boys. She looks at me and now I’m bobbing my head up and down. ‘Cause this is the south side of Chicago I’m writing from and when you drop some classic old school shit like Geto Boys, you have to recognize.

Geto Boys was the shit when I was twenty-one and a punk: a pimp, a drug dealer, and a psychotic Jamaican dwarf from Houston rapping these unvarnished accounts of death and life in the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston. For this white boy who was expanding his musical horizons past Metallica and Megadeath, Geto Boys were gangsta in a way that N.W.A. couldn’t dream of being. Sure, Run-DMC was all cool and positive; Chuck D rapped about serious thought provoking issues; the Beasties were taking to the stage with giant inflatable cocks and paper plates full of cocaine; and 2 Live Crew just said “ho” and “bitch” a lot over Casio keyboard rhythms. But Geto Boys were the original Boys N’ The Hood. They had a song called “Gangsta of Love” where they managed to rhyme “hold ‘em” with “scrotum.” You just know that someone was inspired there by a quality teabagging.

The album that “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me” is listed features the coolest and most disturbing cover I’ve ever seen in my life outside of G.G. Allin records. The cover had Bushwick Bill, the dwarf, sitting on a gurney in a hospital. One side of his head is wrapped in bloody gauze, covering the socket where his girlfriend took his eye out with a shotgun. Willie D and Scarface- the pimp and drug dealer, respectively- are flanking this crazy fucking midget. They’re staring real hard at the camera and the low-rent lettering on the album read, “We Can’t Be Stopped!!” And that left an impression on me, because if this crazy motherfucking Jamaican dwarf can survive a point-blank shotgun blast to the head and only lose an eye, they probably couldn’t be stopped.

Anyway, “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me” is about as perfect a song as you can find in any genre. It’s four minutes of Willie D smoking killer weed and seeing things, Scarface packaging Gold Medal flour as cocaine, and Bushwick stealing candy from trick-or-treaters. But what set the song off for me was the guitar loop that was the backbone of the song. It was this sweet R&B riff, do do-do do do do do, do do-do do do do do. That guitar line sounded like it belonged in one of the better blaxploitation flicks, or when Jim Kelly’s picking out all those concubines in “Enter the Dragon”, then looks at the madam and says, “Forgive me if I forgot anyone. I’m very tired.”

The laundromat attendant and I finish our moment and I walk past the gas station. There’s this crew of white trash wiggers from the wrong side of Halsted huddled by a van trying to look hard. They’re failing miserably. There’s a jack under the van lifting it off the ground, but none of these dumbasses knows the first thing about changing a tire. At least, no one seems to be taking the lead in changing the tire. Instead, they dig their hands deeper into their pockets, scowl some more, and wait for this tire to miraculously change itself. They’ve got their stereo in the van booming out some old school DMX. Which is cool, I guess, except they’re more worried about rapping along with the radio and looking cool for the girls who are nowhere to be found instead of changing the tire. I feel like telling them that no one finds seven scrawny and damp teenaged dropouts looking at each other in the freezing mist to see who’s going to change a tire cool. I opt to just shake my head slightly at them as I walk by with my clean laundry, remembering that there was once a time when I was in their position right now.

I imagine if Bushwick Bill were here, he’d take that tire iron and start cracking kneecaps until that tire got changed.

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