A friend and I held a yard sale not long ago in Roscoe Village. Around noon, a small boy marched up and presented an item he had pulled out of the shoe box full of unused darkroom equipment; his find, still unopened in its carton, was a small brush attached to a rubber cylinder used to clean film before printing. What he wished to do with it, I cannot guess. The price was written in red marker on a large white label: $1.50.
"Two dollars," he declared firmly.
It took me a moment to realize what he'd said. I decided right away that this was a rare opportunity.
"One dollar," I counteroffered.
He scrutinized me for a moment, then turned and ran across the lawn to his father, who stood at a distance waiting for his son to make what might well have been the boy's first barter. They conferred quietly in Spanish, their faces serious. The son returned.
I didn't hesitate. "Sold!" His expression of pride was certainly worth bargaining myself a loss.
Crossing the Chicago River via State Street one day, I chanced to see a scraggly-haired working-class joe chase down an even less well-kempt fella he'd spied tossing trash in the river. When he caught hold of the malcontent, he dressed him down thus:
"Hey! You throwin' garbage in the river? Well, why don't you get yer ass down there and clean it up? You fuckin' piece-a-shit. You fuckin' pig. We don't do that in Chicago. If you wanna throw trash in the river, you can go to another city. You can get your ass out of America. 'Cause we don't put up with that shit around here." Then he paused to look his captive over. "Why don't you get some real tattoos instead of that jailhouse shit?" he asked, amending his previous epithet to "fucking jailhouse piece-a-shit."