Reverse Darwinism

July 15, 2011

“I look busy, but I’m just drawing pictures.”

Huh. So, having been discussing animal collective nouns with my darling male companion last week, it caused me to remember I had once given conquistadors a collective noun classification. So, in search of the reference, today I stumbled across some old blog entries I had drunkenly or hungoverly pecked out back in those years, before I started keeping this blog, on a site no one ever visits anymore *coughMyspacecough*. Oh, I’m sorry, something in my throat. On Myspace, which no one ever visits anymore.

Anywho, if you’ve read these already several years ago, both of you, feel free to be excused to go have a smoke outside until I’m finished. All the rest of you must staaaaaay. 

Until then, I’ll post one a day for the next few days. Good? Good.

Note: it is entirely appropriate to accuse me of laziness for not wanting to write anything new right now. I actually have a good rant sort of worked out in my head, and also another ongoing bloggity project that’s been sitting dusty on an invisible shelf (that apparently collects real dust) for months. But, again–lazy. I’m getting there.

In the meantime, I give you Reverse Darwinism. Me, circa 2007. You lucky person, you.

Ahem.

“Hi!”

“Sources claim that Henry J Heinz began making ketchup in 1876. The recipe has remained the same to this day. Heinz was neither the inventor of ketchup nor the first to bottle it commercially. The tomato is a native of the Andes, and early in the 1500s, while living in Mexico a group of Spanish conquistadors discovered it, and the tomato followed them back to Europe.”

Evolution rears its ugly head yet again, apparently. Here I am looking up the history of ketchup (as one spends one’s time doing during one’s lunch break), only to read here that the first tomato ever discovered apparently had the ability to follow (and keep up with) a group of conquistadors… (Shit. is that right? Myriad of conquistadors? Gaggle of  conquistadors? An invasion of conquistadors? Let’s see….murder of crows, pride of lions, school of fish, silliness of Republicans, herd of sheep, bellowing of bullfinches, flock of camels…)—we’ll say ‘disco of conquistadors.’ Why? Because it amuses me.

BABY! My heart is full of love and desire for you!

Moving on… I believe this suggests that the original tomato had, at least, legs, and then certainly arms for balance, likely opposable thumbs for wielding weapons (so as to survive when conquistadors get into a scuffle, as conquistadors tend to do), and a prehensile tail (clearly for hanging onto branch and limb when attempting tough terrain). Which just makes you wonder, I think, how we as humans have affected the evolution of the tomato so much that we have simply caused its appendages to fall out. Clearly our global footprint is deeper than we thought. This concerns me very deeply.

Pow!

My message to you is this: before we can inflict any more harm on the state of the world’s vegetation, quit pulling the vine off the tomato, or else someday—if evolutionary history repeats itself—our tomatoes will simply be red, round balls, inherently vineless and incapable of forming their distinctively pleasing shape. For the love of god, people, do it for the Earth. Okay? Who’s with me?

This is all true, by the way. Don’t bother looking it up.

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Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Today I was recounting the story of the Pied Piper to a dear friend, suggesting that my friend could have used a more humane way to have killed the mice in my apartment three years ago (since he’s just about to kill a mouse living in his apartment—formerly our apartment—when he gets home today):

.

Me: If you kill it, you’re a murderer.

Eddie: …if you’d live there still…you’d want it dead. IN FACT – you gave me the task of doing that at the old place on Honore and Milwaukee.

Me: I told you I didn’t want to know what became of them. I just wanted them to not be there.

Me: I didn’t expect you’d kill them

Me: I just…..I don’t know…..thought you’d start piping and they’d all follow you out….

Eddie: What?! You expected me to play a tin flute and have them follow me out the door and down Milwaukee Ave?!?!

Me: And out of the city, yes.

Me: Don’t act like that’s unrealistic when you know damn well you’re just being lazy. It can be done.

Me: It’s done all the time.

Eddie: FALSE

Eddie: It cannot be done.

Eddie: I don’t own a tin flute, and I don’t play one!

Me: You didn’t own mousetraps before we had mice either, but you bought those.

Eddie: Where the fuck am I gonna get a tin flute?

Eddie: You know what…it doesn’t make a difference. This is stupid.

Me: Just because I’m making sense does not make it stupid, Eddie.

Eddie: No sense, whatsoever!

Me: Alternatively, I suppose, you could have tried a recording of flute music and danced holding something that looked like a flute.

Me: They’d never know the difference.

Me: But I guess some people can’t be bothered.

Eddie: [he inserts AIM angry face]

And then the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin really sunk in. How is this a story told to children? It’s horrifying! Not to mention, what kind of shady-ass deal is that?

The Pied Piper nances into town and tells everyone he can deal with their rat problem for a fee. Fine. That makes sense. So, the townspeople are like, yeah, shit, get rid of them if you can. Then the Pied Piper plays a little whimsical tune on his pipe and leads all the rats out of the city and into a nearby river where they drown (Daley, are you reading this?). Doesn’t sound like hard work to me. In fact, there was music, there was dancing, I don’t remember hearing he got bitten by any of these rodents or contracted a plague of any sort—sounds like a decently good time. Like the Mary Poppins of pest control. Let’s not forget how much fun it was to tidy up the nursery. For every job that must be done there is an element of fun; we all know that, don’t we, gentle readers?

So, the townspeople are like, “Yo, that was nothing. You wanted us to pay you these inflated prices for something that required little effort and like 1 billable hour on your part? Screw you. I’ll give you half that.” Or, depending on what version you read, “Screw you. I ain’t payin’ it.” Now, granted, the latter is a pretty tight-wad way of dealing with it, but still.

And the Pied Piper is like, “Oh, I see. No, no. That’s fine… Uh, no worries here… Why don’t you all just go to church, and I’ll hang back here and just make sure I’ve gotten all of them? Yes.” And then, naturally, he leads all their children to death in a cave, and some sources say molestation and dismemberment.

I’m sorry, what? Did I miss a step? The townspeople got cheap on a rodent job the Piper was already overcharging them for, and so he exterminates all their kids? Say, what kind of piper is he, Chicago Local 597??

…Joke. Sheesh…

Am I wrong, or is that is a total overreaction on the Piper’s part? Like, whoa whoa whoa, I don’t think it really called for that. Maybe short-sheeting their beds or ordering a bunch of pizzas to their house or something. Leaving bags of flaming feces on their doorsteps.

Can you imagine hiring an exterminator for silverfish, then the guy comes to your apartment in a pied hazmat suit and goes “Hey you, silverfish! Scram!” And the silverfish take off as he’s handing you a bill for $4,000. And you’re like, “Dude, I will pay you about $100 for that; there was virtually no labor or cost of materials involved.” So, he’s like, “Fine,” and shoots your toddler? “Guess we’re square then.” You would be pissed. Because that is a completely inappropriate reaction in the dispute. If anything, he could try haggling a little. And did he even bother to get the deal in writing? No. He just twirled around in two-toned clothing playing on his little musical instrument.

Ridiculous.

In case you were actually interested, some historians postulate that the idea of the Pied Piper was really just an allegory of death falling upon many children of the area, possibly due to the plague. More widely believed still is the theory that this story was used to explain the disappearance of the children when many of them emigrated to found their own villages during the German colonization of Eastern Europe. …And there are a number of other theories that involve things likely not written by Albert Camus or William Golding, too, if you find either of those last two theories to be too rooted in fiction.

The Murder Basement

March 22, 2010

(Note: this is not an actual photo of my former basement)

I am not crazy, damn it. At least, not with regards to my sensitivity to supernatural beings. I will admit to a heightened sense of paranoia and a major case of stopped-tracks ear-twitching that I experience in the event of creepy noises that come from strange places, things that fall over with seemingly no reason or visible motivation, or spontaneous smells and sudden changes in temperature. I’m well-aware that these are things that just happen sometimes, and still when I go to investigate what’s caused them, I don’t rule out supernatural occurrences from my list of culprits. More often than not, this proves to be overly suspicious on my part of the situation at hand; drafts, for instance, always get the better of my imagination.

Nonetheless, I know the difference between freaking myself out over a totally normal thing and the feeling of an actual presence, and I do feel presences from time to time. Sometimes where I live.

When I lived in my studio apartment over at 432 W. Surf St. from 2008-2009, I absolutely hated going down into the basement to do my laundry. This is one of those very old buildings that had formerly been a hotel in Lake View back in the early 1900s, and so the rooms were set up like old hotel rooms—a wall light mounted on either side of where a bed clearly had been, French doors, a tiny kitchenette with a little eat-in section. It was positively adorable. (See image below for what the kitchenette looks like, taken off the leasing site.)

It was also very poorly kept up. Every time a tenant would leave, the property managers would plaster over anything that needed it—I could barely put nails in the walls because the wall would crumble around them, and there is actually a place in my kitchen where I could push my finger through the wall if I applied enough pressure. This should not happen on a normal wall, in case you’ve never had walls and are wondering. This is the opposite of a wall’s purpose.

Rather than keeping the wood runners and wood on the French doors looking nice, they had painted them over white (even the glass on the French doors). Nothing worked well. My ceiling and bathroom wall was growing mass amounts of mold until I complained and they came and painted over it with more white. Yeah, shitty management company.

Anyhow, the basement was totally removed from everything else. When you came in and went through what once was the lobby, you could either go up the shitty falling-apart staircase to the several apartment units or into the doorway to the left that led to a barely fluorescent-lit hallway for the basement. If you are smart, you avoid the basement area every time. It smacked of the basement in Amityville Horror. There was certainly a wild-eyed stepdad going crazy down there around some corner, waiting to take an axe to his beloved. Certainly.

Also, if mass amounts of mutant, standing-straight-up-and-hissing cockroaches weren’t enough to deter you from taking your laundry through this nightmarish stretch of hall (I could occasionally hear the faint sounds of Splinter training them to be ninjas),  then the eerie remoteness would have been enough. Removed as it is, there is also a multitude of doors leading to seemingly nowhere, doors without handles, open wires hanging from the ceiling, and one doorway that led into complete and utter blackness that seems to have a wall directly inside that possibly was just torn apart—wall guts lay strewn along the floor. You walk down the desolate hall, increasingly aware you’re being led out of anywhere public, and end up at a floor-to-ceiling door with a long, wide peep slot at eye-level cut out of it. No glass in it, just a hole shaped like a large Pyrex tube on its side cut into the door. Inside that door is a really weird laundry room.

Note, I only ever did laundry in here about 4 times while living there. Otherwise, I would take my laundry somewhere else and do it for much more money. That is how much it meant to me not to spend unnecessary amounts of time here. The room itself was strange enough—really old laminate paneling formed a wall to the left where a wall clearly had not been originally, and a doorway cut into that artificial wall that had been paneled over with the same laminate. The door frame was still there, but a wall was made where the door should open. What’s back there? Um, aside from a giant cockroach resort, spa, and brothel? I’m not sure. But it felt unpleasant to be back by that wall for some reason, I can tell you that.

The first time I went to do my laundry down there, I was minding my own business, loading things into the wash machine, when suddenly I stopped what I was doing. Note—generally, I am not afraid of ghosts. There have been times I’ve felt the presence of something, and as long as it doesn’t feel hostile, I often will just say hello and go about my business. So, let me just preface this by saying I wasn’t swept over by sudden fear because the basement was a little creepy. No, I was hit by a different feeling than fear. I glanced back at the door peep hole, suddenly, very much expecting a set of eyes to be looking directly at me from the other side. I was just sure of it. Nothing. So, I continued to load things into the washer.

But then it swept fully over me—my stomach was suddenly sick, like I had eaten something bad, and I felt very disturbed. I wasn’t sure why. Just very agitated, horrible, like something was very wrong, and I knew very much that I needed to leave. And I left. I waited for my roommate Eddie to get back home before I went down to pick up my stuff, because I was not feeling okay being there alone. That was the first time.

Eddie said he felt nothing down there, by the way; I was just being crazy. Okay. Fine.

I went down to do laundry a few more times after that, even once with another tenant (that time, we were standing there talking, and the entire front panel on the wash machine fell completely off in front of us. The wash machine had not been on, and we had not been touching it). And all was not well in the state of Denmark. Each time, I usually felt fine at first, and after a few minutes, the same sick feeling would come over me, and I’d need to leave. After awhile, the only time I went down there was to take guests to be like, “See? Huh? Right?” And they’d agree. One friend of mine didn’t even want to walk past the door into the room. He’d had enough, and he wanted to not be there anymore. I certainly didn’t argue.

But the rest of the time in that building was fine. My particular apartment unit never felt threatening at all, not even when I was home alone or had watched a scary movie. It was just that basement. I moved out after my lease was up, and since then I’ve only brought the creepiness of the basement up a few times. I fully assumed that something bad had happened in that laundry room back when it was a hotel, maybe behind that angry laminate wall, and that the remnants of the act still linger. But meh, not like I’ll ever know.

Then, last week a friend of mine was doing some research and came across this information: the building directly next door to my former apartment and another apartment, 2800 N. Pine Grove (less than a block away), were “among the homes occupied at various times by the founder and leader of the North Side Mob, ex-singing waiter and floral artist, Dion O’Banion, in the early 1920s. 2800 N. Pine Grove stands opposite the Commonwealth Hotel, where, a few years later, entertainer Joe Lewis was brutally attacked after he switched venues from a Capone-controlled bar (where the Panera now is on Diversey by my former apartment) to a North Side Mob saloon.” Ooo. That’s scary. Okay.

So, I’m thinking if this was going on in the building next door, very possibly someone had done some very bad things around the area. Perhaps someone was brutalized in the building next door, or even in my own building, or had hidden something there or something. Maybe, right? Maybe.

I ended up having a terrifying dream a couple of days after having found this information, wherein I had printed out my friend’s mob email and walked into the lobby of my former 432 W. Surf residence late at night. The place was a tomb—I mean, no one was stirring there (but then, no one really ever did. I often wondered if there were more than a couple other tenants even in the building, since it was a big multi-occupancy building, and I only ever saw like 3 other people). I had been about to walk up the steps to where my old unit was, but on instinct, I turned on my heel and walked into the hallway to the basement. I got inside the creepy hall of certain doom, and there was just this voice—either in my head or whispered at me, that said very clearly “GET. OUT.” I responded, “Okay, I’m leaving,” and turned around to go, only my ponytail was grabbed and tugged hard, and I couldn’t move. So there I was doing the Scooby Doo, running but not getting anywhere, until I noticed my hair had been caught (and hung) on the door hinge. I unattached it and started running toward the lobby door (which was being held open for me by an invisible force), still feeling like my hair was being tugged the whole way. I got to the threshold of the door, when my hair got pulled hard again, and it hurt. It was stuck on this outer door hinge now, too, inexplicably, so I freed it and went running out and down pitch-black Surf Street. Scary shit.

I told this dream to my friend, you know, to blame him for my interrupted sleep that night. A few days later, he sends me this:

“More nightmares—this one was your building:

SON OF MA BARKER ARRESTED – Arthur “Doc” Barker, son of gang leader, “Ma” Barker, was arrested here in his apartment at 432 Surf on January 8, 1935.

The real “Doc” Barker was a notorious criminal who committed various crimes throughout the 1920s and ’30s, from bank robberies to kidnapping and murder. His mother, “Ma” Barker, made headlines as the leader of the crime gang made up of Doc, his brothers (Herman, Lloyd and Fred) and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (so called, because of his sinister grin).

Doc was arrested in Chicago on January 8, 1935 and was sent to Alcatraz prison in 1936. A map found in Doc’s apartment led to the discovery of Ma Barker’s hideout where a shoot-out with the FBI left her and Fred Barker dead.

On January 13, 1939, Doc Barker and two other Alcatraz inmates attempted escape. None made it off the island however, and Doc was killed by a shot to the head during the melee.”

I just want to pause to say how much I love the word “melee.” Anyway, continue.

“In January 1935, agents of the U.S. Justice Department’s Division of Investigation–soon to be renamed the FBI–were closing in on the notorious Barker-Karpis Gang, nearly a year after their successful $200,000 kidnapping of St. Paul banker Edward Bremer. On the night of January 8, the G-men raided two apartments on Chicago’s North Side. At 3920 North Pine Grove, they arrested Byron “Monty” Bolton and two women. Another gang member, Russell “Slim Gray” Gibson, elected to shoot it out instead. Donning a bulletproof vest and arming himself with a Browning Automatic Rifle, Gibson ducked out onto a fire escape and was brought down by a .351 rifle slug which penetrated the front of his vest. He died soon afterward in a Chicago hospital. That same night other agents, led by Melvin Purvis, arrested Arthur “Doc” Barker and his girlfriend Mildred Kuhlman outside their apartment at 432 Surf Street. “Where’s your gun?” asked Special Agent Walter Walsh. “Home,” replied Doc Barker. “Ain’t that a helluva place for it?”

In the Pine Grove apartment, agents recovered a small arsenal, including a .32 Colt automatic, a .38 revolver, two B.A.R.’s, a 20 gauge Ithaca Auto Burglar gun, and a .351 Winchester rifle fitted with a Thompson foregrip and Cutts Compensator, along with a large quantity of ammunition.  A search of the Surf Street apartment revealed a Thompson submachine gun. The serial number was filed off but the gun later proved to be one taken from wounded police officer John Yeaman during the August 1933 holdup of Stockyards National Bank messengers outside the South St. Paul Post Office. Officer Leo Pavlak was killed in the same robbery.

Among “Doc” Barker’s effects agents discovered a Florida map, with the Ocala region circled. Barker refused to say anything about this but Byron Bolton was more cooperative. He revealed that Fred Barker and Arrie “Ma” Barker were living beside a Florida lake and that Fred enjoyed hunting a large alligator known locally as “Old Joe”; according to Bolton, Fred circled the lake in a boat, towing a pig as bait and hoping to shoot “Old Joe” with his Tommygun.”

WOW. Okay, this is awesome! That is some confirmation for me. That feeling I had had? I guarantee you bad things went on in this laundry room or behind those handleless doors. I’m now fairly certain I lived above a MURDER BASEMENT. Is that a term? It is now. But seriously, I could feel the undeniable ugliness and the negative energy, the ghosts of anguish past, stirring around in this room and that hallway.

I am way creeped out. And now I want to go back there with this knowledge, only I can’t. Apparently I have really easily grabbable hair.

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