If you’re not black and male, don’t read this book. But…
…Do you have family?
Or have you ever fallen in love? And then fallen on your face?
If you and I are just color and gender, we have nothing in common. You shouldn’t buy this book.
But have you ever feared, hoped, laughed until your ribs hurt and cried yourself sick?
Have you run the one major race: the human one and found yourself thinking “This is one crazy situation…”
Do you love a good story? The kind that someone tells at a party and has you laughing out loud? Do you enjoy a
modern tall-tale that makes you hold someone special a little bit closer?
Then guess what? We have a lot in common, you and I. This book is for you. You may even feel it’s about you.
You’ll find that no matter who you are and where you come from, you and I are not as different as we would
think. And that being said, since I love a good story, so do you.”
Run a 5K and feel the pounding of every step, worried that you’re more tired than you hoped you’d be! Go on a blind
date where the food is really the better part of your evening! Laugh at elementary school moments, jump at the echo of
possibly undead footsteps in the church next door, and cry when the news of a sudden death pulls your heart from your
Black Parakeets Only Hatch in December: A Black Man’s Exploration of Life, Love and Northwest Indiana is a collection
of anecdotes and vignettes of life growing up in the urban city of East Chicago, Indiana. Nestled between the big city
presence of Chicago and the gritty, misrepresented aura of Gary, East Chicago is a brew for a common life experienced
“Our Father” and “Come as you are”
Brothers and sisters. Our Father and Church Mothers.
This was the first family I really met.
Don’t get me wrong, my first family, my blood family was and has always been Mom, Val, Kim and Jamie. Years later, down the road, we added Ryan aka “Boy.”
Growing up though, they were just…already there. You know? Like the kind of “there” that allows one to unfortunately take someone for granted? They were like fingers, you’ve had them since birth so you kind of just…have them. You need them. You would cry if they were gone but you just have them.
Now, in church, growing up a chunky little Baptist kid, the family presented was different. The “brothers” were an assemblage of men in the church. They were deacons. In my memories, they were a brush-stroke of brown.
Some were tall. I remember several who towered like buildings made of cinnamon and mahogany.
Some were short although compared to my brother most seemed smaller. Some were heavy with barrel chests and bellies that looked pregnant.
Some were thin. These were usually the oldest ones. They had long faces and sunken cheeks. Glasses thick like windshields and necks that stretched out like telescopes.
Deacons also were known for the “echo.” When they would greet or speak, they would repeat things in mid-conversation. They would say “Brother Johnson, how ya’ doin, how ya’ doin’?” The reply would be “Fine, fine.” Or there would be those that would announce they had seen you by screaming “Hey now, watch out! Watch out!” I never understood the echo.
Still don’t, still don’t...
“A title we held with distinction” and “Ghosts and Rats”
“Why is it called East Chicago?”
I always got that question thrown my way like I was the official rep of the city. That’s one of the two ways you could tell someone wasn’t from around the way. They were bewildered by the concept that my town had the legendary big Windy City in its name but was not in Illinois. The other tell-tale sign that someone was not a local was the obliviousness to the difference between the Harbor and East Chicago.
Same city but different places, sharing the same zip code didn’t mean a thing.
East Chicago was the overall city’s name but to us Harbor kids it was also the dissimilar place over the bridge. It looked different, felt different and, much like Oz, was where the palaces where. City Hall, the big restaurants and the biggest high school were in East Chicago. The Harbor had Guthrie, the skeleton of Main Street and the hospital.
The harbor was for function. East Chicago was for exhibit.
Weekdays as a Harbor Rat (a title we held with distinction) usually meant being in-doors and doing homework...
“Every Morning, I’d see Violet” and “Taking Law to the Lawless”
I was a sheriff in fifth grade. That’s right; I at the ripe old age of ten or eleven, was a lawman.
Washington Elementary was like any other grade school in Northwest Indiana. Kids played, almost endlessly around the clock. It seemed as if we ran games of tag and ball from sun up until sun down. Books and classes were speed bumps. They blocked our way between sessions of tireless legs soaring over cement segmented with yellow stripes for parking.
I was a patrol. A safety patrol and I took my job seriously.
I was a law man bringing law to the lawless, bringing justice to the badlands. In truth and in retrospect, I was a giant dumb ass. Even worse, I was a dumb ass with a bright orange fluorescent belt, making me a target for any passerby with half a sense of humor...