The Apostles of the Library L stop were all black, as they said the Bible said.
The lead two of the eight or so preachers wore robes. One of them held a sign saying which minorities were which of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Judah was the “Negroes” — their word, not mine. Puerto Ricans, Cubans and other non-white ethnicities were divvied Asher, Zebulun and the rest, although I should mention those don’t line up in the order I listed.
The robed man preached about sin and lies, the biggest being the whiteness of the Christ. After each line he spoke, the other Apostle in robes would preach a verse from a leather-bound King James. The other Apostles, the ones in street clothes, would nod.
The group held signs of Christ as a sword-wielding African griot warrior, of zeppelins marked U.S.S.R. bombing America, of the famous white Jesus head painting that adorns so many American grandmas’ walls and church rec rooms. White Jesus had devil horns.
A crowd gathered to listen to the preachers. They were all black too, save a procession of passerby whites who would listen a bit, then get nervous and leave.
I watched the Apostles — my word, not theirs — and their impromptu congregation, one of which was a security guard on a Segway.
I thought to myself, “Do I have to write about this? I have dinner plans at 5.”
This is my 28th story of my 1,001-tale quest and I’m proud to say, “Chicago, you’re too much city for me, you weird bastard.”
A concern when I started this project was that I might run out of things to write about, that this hadron of strange charm would prove unstable, the resonance decay.
Instead, I find the opposite problem. I see too much oddness and beauty and I can’t get it down quick enough. The problem becomes selection, paring down to 1,001 stories rather than building up to that Scheherazade measure.
Should I swing by the occult shop near my house to meet a Satanist?
Should I have talked to the grandmother with the purple punk streaks in her hair?
Should I have written about that pigeon I saw at the Jackson subway stop? I mean, it was a pigeon on the subway!
The answer, of course, is yes. Except for the pigeon.
Yes, every person, every thing, every moment is a tale untold. And every writer is a failure because 10,001 stories would not be enough to describe any place, much less a bastion of hate and love like Chicago. I will fail in this project, my friends. Not because I am bad, but because life is so much better. It’s so much more.
I’m heading off to a video game-themed burlesque I’m not going to write about. I’m also not going to say how my dinner went, other than it was fun and I hate too much hummus. And I gave the Apostles short shrift in this, I know.
Life is too horrible and good to worry about getting it all. There’s just too much. But I’ll never stop trying, my Chicagoan friends. It’s better to fail at the exceptional than succeed at the mediocre. It’s grandiose, but it’s what I feel.
Even if I give the Apostles short shrift.