Photo credit: Chicago Man

1. The hometown proud. I was at a punk show at Metro in ’86 or ’87, probably a Naked Raygun show, and some band from Minnesota was the first band on the bill. They sounded like a weak imitation of Husker Du, or maybe early Soul Asylum. I liked those bands, but this band was bad. About three songs in, the crowd started getting bored. During a lull between tunes, a guy standing behind me bellowed, “GO BACK TO MINNE-ANNAPOLIS!” and the room broke out in a cheer. For years afterward, I would shout that at no one in particular whenever I felt unhappy for any reason. “GO BACK TO MINNE-ANNAPOLIS!”

2. The anti-Stalinist. I was waiting at The Jewel’s to pay for my groceries. Only two cashiers were working and the lines were long. An old man standing in front of me turned and barked, “THIS IS WHAT I PAY TAXES FOR?!!?” I shook my head sadly, and he turned back around. To this day, whenever I feel frustrated for any reason, I feel the urge to scream, “THIS IS WHAT I PAY TAXES FOR?!!?”

3. The incomprehensible. I was at a fast food place up in Lincolnwood, just across the town line, a real classic Chicago hot dog joint (I don’t think it’s there anymore). Actually, I was at this fast food place at lunchtime many times for about a year when I used to work in the neighborhood. The place did good crowds for lunch … office workers, cops, hardhats, everybody from around there. The procedure there was to place your order, they’d give you a number, and you’d pick it up when the number was called out. Pretty standard, except the old man running the counter, shouting out the order numbers – he was exactly like something from an old SNL sketch – had a very thick Greek accent, and nobody could understand what he was bellowing. It sounded like “BLIPTY-BLEE! BLIPTY-BLEE!” and PORTA-BLEP! PORTA! BLEP!!” The guy would belt out these … numbers … and nobody would respond. Nobody could respond, not confidently. We’d all stand there looking at each other. “Uhhh … I think maybe I had the blipty-blee. No, wait, the blipty-blee has cheese on it. That must be the blipty-blebba. That’s yours.” Even today, whenever I don’t feel like giving a straight answer to a numerical question, my first impulse is to blurt, “BLIPTY-BLEE!”

4. The gentlemanly. I was in a taxi on Sheffield heading toward Wrigley Field for a Cubs game one Saturday afternoon. We – The Des, S____, and I – had caught the cab down on Belmont, and I don’t know why we were bothering to take such an absurdly short cab ride, only a few blocks north to Addison, but it was S_____’s idea, and he hated the Cubs, so maybe that had something to do with it. The cab driver was a middle aged man from some country on the Mediterranean. Very animated guy. For the entire short ride, he never stopped howling. As we inched up a leafy block on Sheffield, the driver spotted a pretty young blonde walking a Jack Russell terrier. He turned around toward the back seat and grinned conspiratorially. “Here I show you is how to do this,” he growled. Then he stuck his head out the window and, still driving, hollered, “I LOVE YOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUU(‘re dog)!!!” The blonde barely seemed to notice, but the cab driver was laughing his head off. “See what I do? See? She cannot say I harass her, because I say her dog, not her!” Just today, as I was walking to the Edgewater Produce Market up by Clark and Catalpa, I saw a young blonde woman sitting on the grass next to the 7-Eleven with a very pretty German shepherd. Although I’m a pretty impressionable guy, I resisted the imperative to wail  …

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss is one of the many aliases used by a Tom Long of Chicago, Illinois (not to be confused with other Tom Longs of Chicago or elsewhere). Tom was active in xerox zine culture from the late ’80s through the early ’00s under the Colicky Baby Records and Tapes imprint, and several examples of Tom’s mail art periodicals are filed deeply and safely away at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Department in Iowa City and the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York City. Every so often he posts things at http://colicky.blogspot.com.

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