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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Action of the Monroe Street Bridge

I am coping with my Rita-related unease by focusing on specifics. I have friends in Houston; my business partner grew up in Texas and has lots of friends in South Texas. It is hard to watch a catastrophe approach and have no way to stop it.

So I am shifting my attention to local stuff in Chicago's great Loop to keep my hurricane anxiety down. If you don't know downtown Chicago, the major train stations are just west of the Chicago River, a bit outside of the Loop. The Union Pacific Metra station is at Canal and Monroe; Union Station (more Metra and Amtrak) is at Canal and Adams. The bridges over the Chicago River that lead to the train stations are prime real estate for panhandlers, street musicians, and pamphleteers. One of the top "bucket drummers" in Chicago has staked his claim to a spot in the middle of the Monroe Street bridge. I usually don't tip the bucket drummers - they are mostly loud and annoying - but this guy has style. He plays a medium tempo funk beat in 4-bar spurts, then breaks to shout out messages. I will try to write out what I hear when I cross the bridge:

"boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boomcrack booma booma boom crack..boom..THANK GOD ITS FRIDAY!..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom..LET'S GO WHITE SOX!!"

That's the general idea. The Bucket Beater also makes brief observations about the people passing by, which he shouts out during the breaks (example: "Nice Dress, Baby!!"). Sometimes he shouts out something with a religous theme (example: "Just Love Jesus"). His energy level is high and he grins ferociously as he pounds and shouts. You just gotta tip a guy like that.

Outdoor bucket drumming season is winding to a close - when the temps drop, the buckets go away. Chicago's policemen are fond of rousting the buskers and panhandlers - a group of beggars are suing the Chicago Police Department, claiming harassment and violation of free speech right (yikes! Pleas for spare change is convered by the First Amendment?). On some days, my favorite Bucket Beater is absent, having been sent packing by Chicago's Finest. There are many folks on the street that should be rousted, but not the Monroe Street Bridge Bucket Beater.

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