Loomis and Taylor street, Chicago

I was looking through old pictures and found this.  The corner store closed around the time I moved to Pittsburgh.  Once in a while I’d venture inside, braving the stench of pee and rotted meat.  Behind the meat counter stood an austere 50 year old black man whose half rimmed reading glasses balanced precariously on the tip of his nose.  I never saw him read anything.  Working the register were two not-quite-obese, but dangerously unhealthy Indian men.  One maintained a jolly grin.  The other was angry and frazzled.  Good cop, bad cop, I guess.  They jawed at the customers, lazily ringing-up a row of black customers waiting not-so-patiently in line.

I would stand in the back of the line, pretending like I totally belonged.  Without fail I’d be ordered to the front of the line.  If you know anything about white people, (I know A LOT about white people) you can imagine my horror.  If there’s one thing we whities hate, it’s the appearance of having been granted white-only privileges in a room-full.  Funny thing though; rather than glaring with stone cold hatred, my brothers and sisters would smile at me politely, insisting that I move to the front of the line.  I’d pay for my rotten vegetables and leave, unsure of what had just transpired.

One day I got the scoop.  For years the shop had been grossing a measly 300K/year until Jolly began accepting food stamps as payment for cigarettes and rolling papers.  Business boomed.  In time, Jolly and Frazzle began selling money.  For $100 in food stamps, J & F paid $80 cash.  Business peaked at 5M in annual sales before Jolly and Frazzle were sent to prison.

Ah the old neighborhood.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell that rotten meat and wiz.  I should probably call the cleaning lady.