Have you seen that guy...?
People I like seeing/miss seeing walking around Chicago:
Walking Man: The guy who wears an out-of-date wide lapel suit (or maybe two – I think he has more than one) who is only seen walking around the city, from as far north as Uptown to as far south as Printer’s Row. Never riding the bus, never riding the el, never in a cab, never riding a bike… just walking, like he’s just a little bit late for something He looks like Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night (see photo), circa 1974, although a little bit weathered and leathery thanks to time. I’ve never seen him talk to anyone in the 15-plus (20-plus?) years I’ve seen him. People have tried but he just blows them off. Whoever scores an interview with him will become the most sought-after celebrity in Chicago.
Zoot Suit Guy: Pick a color of the rainbow and this guy appears to have a zoot suit in that color. Primarily seen around the Michigan Ave. bridge near Wacker, Zoot Suit Guy looks to be about in his late 60s or early 70s. He’s got a little fringe of grey hair around his head and looks like someone’s kindly old grandpa … until you catch a glimpse of that suit! Cherry red, shamrock green, royal purple…you name it, he’s got it. He’s friendly enough to actually talks to people. I never have and I suspect he’s a couple of deuces shy of a full house. But he seems harmless enough. I think I’ve even seen him talked to on television a couple of times.
“Jesus” About To Be Crucified Guy: I first saw him when I started hanging around North Broadway, about 1985. Back then, the strip between Diversey and Belmont was a hell of a lot skuzzier that it is now: transvestite hookers, bikers, drug dealers, drunks, etc. It was a great place. But every now and then, “Jesus” would walk down the street to save the day! Usually you’d see him on weekends during the afternoon – I suspect Jesus had a regular job during the week. He had the sandals, the robe, the crown of thorns (plastic?) and the life-size cross that he’s drag up and down the street over his shoulder like he was on his way to Calvary, just like you’d see in the pictures and movies! He’d only make about two or three passes, but it was a hell of a sight (no pun intended) when you’re sitting in a bar on the street sucking down a Budweiser. There was actually an interview somewhere, the Chicago Reader I believe, where a reporter talked to him. He was actually a sane guy but said he did it because he was “saved” from a life of drugs, etc. and wanted to help others.
Black Power Fist Guy: Mostly seen downtown in the Loop, he was definitely a wack-job, but a wack-job with style. With no visible show of fear, he’d march up and down the middle of the street on whichever block he chose that day with his tattered-gloved fist thrust into the air like John Carlos on the medal platform at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico. Back and forth between bewildered drivers he’d march, occasionally shouting something inaudible. He didn’t ask for loose change like most of guys who walked between the cars at a stoplight, nor did he try to clean your windshield without being asked. Just marching up and down the street, arm pointed toward the sky, fist clinched as if he was the last Black Panther on earth.
Soon-To-Be-Famous-Artist Woman: I didn’t see her too often, but she hung out along Clark Street between Fullerton and Diversey, trying to sell these crappy drawings of hers for a couple of bucks, crude sketches of people and places on the streets of Chicago that looked like a five-year-old drew them. They were a couple of steps above stick figures. When she died, there was an obit in the paper and everyone who had seen her wondered, why the hell are they writing about her. Then you read further and find out some local art bigwig decided that she was a genius, a classic practitioner of outsider art and her original drawings now sell for thousands. That day, everyone who walked by her and said “no” to her sales pitch gave themselves a good, swift kick in the ass.
The Human Statue Guy: Drive down Western Avenue near Foster and look on the west side of the street near the bank. You’ll notice one or two pigeons walking around. Nothing too unusual. Then you’ll notice a few more. Then a few more. Finally you notice him. A guy sitting there on a fire hydrant (ouch) covered with pigeons, like a human statue. You wonder why the pigeons are walking all over this guy, figure he must spread birdseed or bread crumbs over himself to get them to flock to him. Then you start thinking about what happens to those birdseeds and breadcrumbs AFTER they’ve made their way through the pigeons’ digestive tract. You picture real statues and recall that pigeons are not known for their sanitary bathroom habits. You conclude that when a pigeons’ gotta go, a pigeons’ gotta go and they pretty much don’t care where. You vow never to get too close to Human Statue Guy.