Tuesday, November 09, 2004

UPTOWN VALHALLA
By Emerson Dameron

Thursday evening, 8:34 PM. I jerked awake on my brother’s couch in Uptown. “At least I don’t have a hangover; that’s a goddamn miracle,” I thought, right before the railroad spike went in one ear and out the other. I glanced at the coffee table. I shoveled my hands in my pockets. Wallet and keys were not forthcoming.

Fortunately, my sibling had a few twenties stashed in a Pokemon Stadium cartridge on the bookshelf. I left the apartment and plodded toward a local jazz club, rubbing the fresh, acne-like bumps on my scalp. It felt like a TB test was coming up wrong. A nest’s worth of defiant hornets buzzed ‘round my circulatory system. These weren’t coke bugs. I know what those feel like. They look for escape routes, whereas these li’l fellas seemed to be on some sort of reconnaissance mission.

I entered the lounge, flashed the backup ID I stow in my right shitkicker, dropped four bucks on a pint and sat down. The jazz cats played some amelodic baloney, very proficiently. I know free jazz players have talent, but I’m a born rock ‘n’ roller, and their particular genius is generally lost on me. I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.

As the insects darted around the bulging capillaries in my eyeballs, my shaky hands lit a backwoods cigar they’d found in my breast pocket. This was not a conscious act. Nor were the slurred fighting words I launched toward the statue at stage rear. Indignant jazzbos shushed me, index fingers to lips, but I remained a limp puppet, filled with an incoherent tirade not of my own design. Two ink-heavy bouncers escorted me to the tarmac. I returned to my brother’s, rubbing my eyelids, lost in confusion. In thirty minutes, I was snoring and dreaming.

I awoke a full eight days down. I saw no signs that my brother had been home during my slumber. His cable was out. Chicago Tribunes were piled at his doorstep. Atop the heap, my brother grinned at me from page one, pissing on the Arc de Triomphe. I carried the papers indoors and pieced together the week’s events.

It seems I pissed off those jazz buffs but good. Even after my exit, they barked for my head. The mass hysteria overpowered the music. The band left the stage. And in its place, a floor-to-ceiling Blue Beam hologram of Miles Davis emerged. Miles told this roomful of soul-patched aficionados and their awkwardly fashionable girlfriends that THE TIME HAD COME, THE OVERTHROW WAS IMMINENT.

As one, the jazzbos paraded solemnly down Clark and stormed Wrigley Field. One alpha saxophonist hijacked the PA, and using a circular breathing technique an aboriginal Australian taught him while tendering a blowjob, spent ten minutes on one note, at the precise pitch that causes listeners to void their bowels.

With its khakis thus soiled, the North Side’s power elite took flight to the ‘burbs, and the jazz fans assumed control of the city. They burned every book in the library system that was neither a biography nor an autobiography of a jazz musician. Chicago’s history was now officially the history of Chicago jazz.

Before the smoke cleared, the French army descended on Wicker Park, spraying its borders with impenetrable cologne clouds and establishing a colony on erstwhile American soil. The residents did not protest, so George W. Bush did not send in the National Guard. However, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to declare holy war on the European Union.

Not one to risk his neck in the desert, my brother nevertheless enlisted when offered the opportunity to stroll Champs-Elysees, clocking street vendors with the butt of an M-16.

The United Kingdom remained neutral in the US/EU conflict, as the Irish Republican Army had conquered it while the world’s head was turned. With their fresh resources, the insurgent Irish issued a military strike on Cook County, USA, invading through a network of trans-Atlantic tunnels terminating beneath south suburban Gaelic Park.

Wicker Park was immediately carpet-bombed, effectively annihilating the world’s vintage industry and, with it, the American dollar. Legions of South Siders took up the Irish cause, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, who realized the bulk of US military might was stuck overseas and would not bail his fat ass out.

I needed a glass of water, but the faucets now ran with triple-malt whiskey, abrasive yet soothing. The sun shone through the windows, reminding me to brace them with masking tape. I ran a glass of the good stuff and plopped in a few ice cubes. A quarterstick detonated up the block. Everything was, for the moment, grand.

Emerson Dameron lives in Chicago. This story appears in issue #2 of his self-published unit-shifter Wherewithal. Contact emerson at hush dot com to secure a copy.

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