Author Topic: Homecoming  (Read 1745 times)

Offline Magic Wand

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Homecoming
« on: September 07, 2011, 07:06:09 am »
Back in Georgia, the rental car agent expressed annoyance at my refusal to accept a vehicle with a temporary tag that ultimately bled crimson and screamed, “Take me!  No one owns me!  I’m just a rental, best used in a drive-by or as a get-away car or simply for automatic assault rifle practice!” 



It had been over 12 years since I had visited the blighted, shooting gallery affectionately known as East Boogie, IL.  My decision to drive up from Georgia for two class reunions and to crash another one, seemed more and more ill-advised as I approached the dingy city from the dirty south.  I had grown so anxious and apprehensive as I approached the oppressive humidity rising, that I lowered all the car windows in an effort to catch the last breath of the suburban air(?).  I called a former schoolmate, for some inspiring words of wisdom along the way. 

“Hello, Mr. H.  This is Magic.  I am in southern Illinois, en route to your hometown.  Please say something…….ummm……..inspiring?”

The first “inspiring” words to erupt from his lips were,

“Why the hell are you going there?!!”

After explaining to him that now is the most opportune time to see a lot of the people that had escaped the Boogie and maybe not get shot in the process, he agreed that the journey may indeed be worth it.

My friend did not readily understand my anxiety about returning the city and reconnecting with my former classmates.  In a rambling barely coherent rant, I desperately tried to explain that I was afraid of   a.) not being remembered, b.) remembered for being weird, or c.) possibly taking a bullet to the cranium for no reason at all.  Twelve years away makes one automatically bougie, right?  That attitude ain’t tolerated in ESL!  While my friend is deemed a local hero and his accomplishments have become ESL lore, mine are definitely more low-key.  With no family in the city and no current ties, I am one of those outta-sight-outta-mind, or whatever-happened-to-that-one-chick? alum.   

Anyway, my friend took all of five seconds to encourage me with,
“Going to East St. Louis will make you appreciate all the other parts of your life!”

My friend was so right.
I do appreciate my life now.  I even appreciate the prospects and the ability to still dream. I have traveled places that many only dream of and some they’ve never heard of.  I have met some amazing people along the way.  The Gods have been generous with the Blessings.   I also appreciate having come from the Black Hole.  ESL makes all the other “’hoods” I’ve visited seem like Mayberry.   Growing up amongst gangstas from the pool halls and City Hall, that graduated from the skeezy part of the  school yard to the skeezy whole of the school district has made me pretty darned resilient to nearly anything. 

Two thirds of the way into our chat, the call was dropped and I knew that I’d entered that nebulous zone of potentially no return.  He was gone.  I texted him (while driving) a thank you for his encouragement, then prayed a silent prayer that we would some day chat again, as I entered the blasted out city, lined with depressing, dilapidated buildings in varying degrees of deterioration and decay surrounding where condemned buildings used to be.  In some places, nature reclaimed what the crack-heads had abandoned.  Trees and weeds sought sun from within crumbling homes, decomposing churches and collapsing corner stores. Shop City (formerly a central shopping area) had simply vanished with no sign of ever having been there.  It was all so surreal.  A drive down State Street found it desolate; devoid of activity in the areas that hadn’t already disintegrated.  For a moment, I considered, at 95 degrees and searing humidity, maybe it’s just too damned hot for the clockers and crack hoes to be outside.   Maybe they dealing from the Rush City drive-thrus. 

Later that evening, I spotted some of the more successful pimps and drug dealers at the class reunion decked out in the requisite bright baby-blue, pin-striped zoot suits, matching gators and gold teefes.  It was a throw-back to the 20s/60s/80s of flamboyant fashion, slicked-back hair and loud, arrogant attitudes.  Somehow the scenes and the scents were simultaneously amusing and comfortable.  I immediately felt ultra-conservative and conspicuous in my Christian Louboutin’s and  booty-length dreds. 

Game face on, entering the Regency Banquet Hall (alone) non recognition drew a few sharks circling me.  But I wasn’t afraid.  I’m a barracuda!  I was a “friendly” predator returning to the banks of the muddy Mississipp.  Let the signifying begin!

As my friend on the phone had warned, the happily married cheerleaders from high school now tipped the scales at roughly three-eighty, and the twice divorced or never married pom-pon girls bragged about their six kids and 17 grandkids, while all of them seemed to bitch about their eight baby-daddies.  I cringed at my own lack of contribution.  I lacked ass or children or baby-daddies.

No less than three chicks resembling the Sugar Hill Gang, that didn’t remember me, chided me for not remembering them!  Apparently they were ALL THAT back in the day and what a fool I was not to reckonize!  What is the proper response for not remembering someone that you were never friends with in the first place? 

Overall, the three reunions were alright.  Nothing extraordinary happened.  A few hugs and a lot of giggles.  Didn’t get drunk, didn’t get shot.  Don’t think I’m pregnant.  I guess that would make the trip a success, huh?
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." --Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Доверяй, но проверяй

Offline Battle

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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2011, 09:09:32 am »
It's really that bad in East St. Louis?

Offline Magic Wand

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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2011, 09:57:30 am »
It's really that bad in East St. Louis?

That depends.

Lemme put it to you this way:

My once idyllic college campus is now a graffiti-ridden, gutted-out ghost town.
The high school I graduated from is now a medium security prison.
My Jr. High completely vanished into what appears to be a football field.
Only 20% of my elementary school is evident and that part is falling in on itself.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." --Aristotle, Greek philosopher

Доверяй, но проверяй

Offline Cheirel

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Re: Homecoming
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2011, 03:07:56 pm »
Good for you for going Girl.

This only reinforces why I DON'T go to my reunions!