Requiem for the Mattress Man | Bleader

Requiem for the Mattress Man


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  • Meaghan Garvey
I live right at the eastern border of Humboldt Park, near a few blocks of Western Avenue that are tantalizingly close to Wicker Park but which attract strangely little foot traffic, so the businesses that spring up there from time to time generally don't last long. For instance, a few months back a mattress store called Dreamakers opened up just south of North, and almost every single person who walked past it with me wondered aloud how long it would last.

It turns out, about a few months. But to their credit the people who ran Dreamakers did not go gentle into that good night. When it became apparent that people weren't going to just walk in off a busy and generally inhospitable stretch of Western Avenue, the owners decided to get more proactive about attracting customers. And that's when, to the great spiritual benefit of everyone in the neighborhood, they sent out the Mattress Man.

The Mattress Man wasn't the first costumed promotional device to have been deployed around here, but he was by far the most enthusiastic I've seen. The average person might find the prospect of being made to stand on the corner of a high-intensity piece of road wearing a hollowed-out mattress like a giant padded poncho to be a potentially humiliating prospect. But the Mattress Man not only dealt with the situation, he attacked it with elan, putting something apparently energetic and shred-heavy on his iPod and headbanging and air-guitaring his way past all received notions of what is or isn't embarrassing to do in public and just owning his shit on a level that most people will never even begin to fathom.

He was entertaining (especially when another dude in an extremely cheap-looking gorilla suit was deployed alongside him), but more importantly he was seriously, sincerely inspiring. He was a young guy and seemed like he probably had a million things he'd rather be doing with his sunny, early-summer Saturday afternoons than to shill for a mattress store. And when life gave him lemons he chucked those stupid goddamn lemons out of the way and got back to the serious business of rocking out as hard as he could all of the time.

In the simplest terms, the Mattress Man ruled. When Dreamakers closed up shop a couple of weeks ago I took to Twitter in sad disbelief that he was no more, and I found out I was far from the only person in the neighborhood mourning his passing. Local artist (and my 2012 Best of Chicago pick for Best Rap DJ and Hip-Hop Illuminati Conspiracy Theorist) Meaghan Garvey was so moved that she drew the above illustration to accompany this blog post. Without the Mattress Man's brightness that stretch of sidewalk seems even bleaker than it was before, but I like to think he planted a seed of inspiration in the hearts of everyone who encountered him in all his headbanging glory that would grow into a beautiful flower of freedom from the judgment of ourselves and others.

Looking back at it, maybe we probably should have bought more mattresses.

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