I know, I know, it has been a super long time. It comes with depression, a product of the economic circumstances I am currently in. I am pulling more than a full time week, making less than state minimum wage and clearing paychecks that won’t cover the monthly rent of a studio apartment. I am, in effect, making less per-hour than I have since I was in high school. I am making less per month than I did when I started college, & I am living with my parents…still.
Did I mention I was working for the government? Yeah, that’s why I get paid less than state minimum. The job ends in August & then I can’t get unemployment. So it goes.
It all causes a massive amount of depression, especially when mom tells you that, when she was making minimum wage she could afford two kids & a house. That’s great mom, but times have certainly changed. At my current rate of pay, I’d be living on the streets in weather colder than my Chicago has experienced in your lifetime.
When I was in college I was working a job that paid twice as much as I make now & actually had to implement a rule to keep employees from going to work on their day off. To be fair, it was a job in the photo industry & the people that the locations hired were usually the people that were hanging out there before they were hired. We hardly ever posted “help wanted” ads, we just recruited from the customer base. I was a regional manager, or sorts, a regional lab monkey, & had to largely enforce that rule, which was awkward, given that on the odd day that I had off & didn’t have school, I was tempted to swing by the nearest location just to kill time. Feed the habit. I can see where corporate would pass a rule like that, but all it really did was force employees to hang out at the competition on their days off. I know that for a fact, I did it & ran into my employees while I was there.
So it goes. That time in my life is gone & so is that industry. The living wage that came with it is gone too. As is the paycheck that let me make rent & save enough to wander a bit when school let out. It didn’t pay all that much, but it paid enough & I’ve always traveled on the cheap.
I really don’t think I could travel any other way, morally speaking. Not that I have the opportunity to today, but travel should be a proletariat thing, if it isn’t than you don’t really get to know anyone & that has always been the point. If you travel you want to pick up a little of the local slang, you want to meet people that you can feel free to call again if you ever wander back their way.
Presently, I don’t get out much. I don’t travel anywhere save the state capital. I get no sick days.
The next time I leave America, I really don’t want to come back. Ever. America, as they say, is banjaxed. I’m convinced that we’re going to burn. We are going to tear ourselves apart & even as I write this, I’m listening to what can only be fairly defined as partisan radio. Banjaxed. The thing is, the good guys, the people that know how to use words like “proletariat,” don’t have the numbers to win. This is largely because those words still hold a stigma that was dated when we had our first round of black lists. We are proper fucked. We are banjaxed. Broken. Vaya con dios America, you had your moments but you didn’t last nearly as long as Rome.
I think banjaxed is the right term, but it could only apply to computers. At least I’ve only heard it in reference to computers before.
I’ve had enough of it. Chicago might be a beloved home, but sometimes it is exhausting living in a community where the police felt the need to replace Michael with Jude as their acting patron saint. America, as a nation, doesn’t know enough to do the same.
My ideal future non American place of residence is Ireland. I’ve written about it in the past. It’s not exactly beautiful. The countryside looks a lot like rural Wisconsin, except there are hedges marking the property rather than fences & the skies are nicely overcast. The weather is a little more stable & the road signs are a lot harder to find, but yeah, Wisconsin. At least rural Ireland has road names when you get out of civilization, Wisconsin might have clearly marked signs, but they have numbered roads that don’t match with any known map or GPS.
Being from Chicago, I can’t complain about beauty. Chicago is beautiful, from moment to moment. Illinois is across the board ugly.
I want to relocate to Ireland because of the people. No, I am not insane. At least I don’t think I am. I really like the Irish, maybe not as much as Germans, but the Irish have a way about them that the German’s do not. Most importantly, unlike Germany, the stereotypical 1980s punk look has died off. The Irish will even answer you when you are clearly talking to yourself.
Like I said, they are a country without pretension. They seem to speak their mind, even when it comes across as crass. I’m with them on that, doubly so because it seems to apply to the customer/patron dynamic in Ireland & that dog won’t hunt in American business.
Sometimes, however, it is blatantly directed at you & with beautiful wrath.
“You’re not Irish!” OK, so they might get mad at the occasional foreigner that claims to be Irish. I can see where that would be a serious irritant. I’ve never claimed to be, in fact, I have a cap that reads “Chicago” that I wear whenever I travel abroad. I like people to know exactly where it is I identify with, just so they know the conversation they are walking into. It also plays well, from time-to-time. Occasionally, they’ll be educated enough to know a thing or two about Chicago & usually, well, its Chicago, you hardly ever hear the city is safe. Even when you hear about it from across an ocean. You know?
No, you don’t know, you’re not from Chicago. Abroad, if you are wearing a “Chicago” cap, there are only one or two go-tos for the locals. The most polite of which is The Blues Brothers. Mostly, however, it is Al Capone. Occasionally it may be Obama, but mostly people not from America associate it with gang violence from the prohibition era.
I have always chosen to embrace it. Yes, Chicago is violent. It’s an honest enough statement. A few months ago, we had a front-page news article proudly proclaiming that there WASN’T a murder over the weekend. Saint Jude, mind you, not Saint Michael. There was a reason for that break of tradition.
I can’t be offended with what people abroad associate with my sweet home, particularly given that West Coast Americans don’t know where Chicago is, East Coast American’s hate us, for having alleys so our trash doesn’t pile up in the street & because we have a better skyline, & conservatives associate us with the mess in Detroit, which is in an entirely different state. It just goes to show you the geographical, political, & cultural knowledge of American conservatives.
Clearly, I am not in that group. Still, I know more than a few people that will claim that their 1/8th Irish heritage makes them Irish. In America I’m a Chicagoan & when I’m abroad, I’m Chicagoan. I play the “I’m from Chicago, I have no accent” card, even though I know how bull shit that is. Sha-Cow-go. Sha-kaaa-go. It depends on what part of the city you are from.
Still, I know a lot of American’s that will say that to people in Ireland, or Irish tourists in the US. Some of them are my friends that should know better. I can see how that would piss the Irish off…sort of.
With Canadians, this is wrong. With American’s, not so much, but I can see where the Irish don’t understand this rule.
This might need a little justification.
I once had an English couch-surfer. He was rather taken back by the Fenian flag on my apartment wall. Now mind you, he wasn’t offended. The British don’t really hold the partisan mentality that their Northern Irish Loyalist brethren do. Mike just thought it was odd to see a Nationalist Irish flag in a Chicago apartment. I had to explain to him that he was in Chicago & that everyone in Chicago was a little Irish. The point was driven home when he asked the Black neighbor downstairs if he was Irish & got an affirmative. He did identify himself as part Irish.
What the Irish, the real Irish, don’t understand is that, more than any other people on the face of the earth, they answered “The New Colossus” with the most gusto.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It’s a beautiful poem. America should embrace it, but we never have, & that is hurting us. Banjaxed, hey?
The Irish came in greater numbers than any other people. They were tired & poor & hungry & they came to the United States, walked off the boat, & went directly to war to free the slaves. It was the Irish that populated the major cities in the United States. It was the Irish that created Boston. It was the Irish that created New York. It was the Irish that created my sweet home Chicago.
It goes beyond just numbers. It was the Irish that United the East Coast with the West Coast. It was the Irish that tamed the Wild West. It was the Irish that moved from the back of the Paddy wagon to the front & from there to the government.
For better or worse, it was the Irish that created America. The British might have birthed us in blood, but the Irish forged us into a nation. It was the Irish that came to define what America was & in the space of less than a century, they had moved from the hated immigrants to the group that defined the American dream.
The thing is, the Irish, well, the Irish-Irish, the real Irish, don’t understand that when American’s, as ignorant as we are, claim to be Irish, it is really a thank you. Most of us don’t know the culture, most of us don’t even know what an Orange Walk is, we don’t know that the North is not in the same country, & we certainly don’t know that Irish is also a language, not just an accent.
As a people, we are ignorant of our own history, but some understanding has filtered through the mess of our education system & our fractured culture. It comes out the wrong way, it comes out as an ignorant traveler, ill informed of the outside world that claims to be Irish, but really, what it is, is a country that doesn’t know how to say “thank you for making us what we are & what we were in our glory years.”
America is banjaxed, to quote the Irish & if history has anything to say about it, we are going to turn into a bloody mess before it gets fixed. It was the Irish that fixed us the last time, this time it will be the Mexicans. A century from now, after we wash away the blood & clean up the mess, it will be Mexican heritage that all the American’s claim & it will be the 5th of May that we celebrate with the veracity of Saint Paddy’s day. That, however, is in the future & I want nothing to do with the mess that is going to precede it.
So if I could, I’d relocate to Ireland.
I want to do it because of the people, because they lack the pretensions that come with other cultures. I like the laid-back atmosphere of the country, I like having to ask several times to get something done, no matter how important it is. I like that the people will ask me “why the hell would I want to go there?” When I try to figure out how to go to some place as boring as the burned out crust of Michael Collins old home. And I love the brass language, I really do.
If I do get the chance to get out of this shit hole, I’ll proudly wear my “Chicago” traveling cap. Because you know what? Chicago is my heritage, I’m fucking proud of my city, & I know enough about history to be able to say “thank you for creating America, thank you for creating Chicago,” rather than “I’m half-Irish.”