Looking for Suck

suck

I realize that this post has a provocative title, and anyone who came here looking for porn is bound to be disappointed. There’s nothing of a sexual nature (I assure you) in this post, and if you’re looking for that, go someplace else. But if the title is intriguing, read on a little bit.

This afternoon my teenager and I were at Oak Woods cemetery on the South side of Chicago. It’s a beautiful place, with nearly 200 acres of natural beauty. I find cemeteries fascinating, and have written about them before in this space. But today we had a particular mission to find the gravesite of Adrian “Cap” Anson, the major leagues’ first superstar player. There are other things of note, and we saw most of them, but Anson was the reason we were there. We needed a photograph of his grave for a History Fair project. Once we had acquired that, it was time to explore a little bit.

After finding an Abraham Lincoln statue, and the Confederate Mound, and the grave of the man who invented Cracker Jack, the final thing that I wanted to see was a grave for a baseball player named Anthony Suck. He had only played in two games in the majors back in 1883, but his on-field accomplishments weren’t the reason I was seeking his grave. The man was born with the last name Zuck, and for reasons that only he knows, he changed his name to “Suck” instead. The word probably didn’t have the same overtones as it does today, is the only reason I can think of for why he might have done this.

I suppose that I just wanted to see a tombstone with the word “Suck” on it. No full name, no dates of death, and no other people buried by his side. Just a big slab of marble with the word “Suck” carved into it. Although it would probably be in all capitals, so it would read “SUCK.” I was already there at the cemetery, and will probably never find myself there again, so why not?

I had a map of the sections of the cemetery, but no more information than that. I parked my car, and the teenager chose to stay in the car, listening to the radio and texting her friends instead. I left the car running, and got out in search of Anthony Suck. I didn’t find him, most likely because there was snow on the ground, and I later learned that he has a flat headstone. I may have even stepped on it without knowing it. And, even if I had found it, I would have been disappointed, because apparently he’s buried under his birth name of Zuck. But I found something else that made the search worthwhile.

As I was wandering about in section B1 of the cemetery, I happened upon four cannons, a likeness of a soldier, and about four dozen graves. There was some story about who the soldier was supposed to be, but the elements had worn away the engraving, and that story is now lost. But it was a nice setting anyway, and the parting clouds on an overcast day made it even more so. I took a picture with my cellphone camera, and am putting it up on the Internet, both to honor the soldiers who are buried there, and to give anyone who finds this some sense of the beauty of the scene.

I walked back to the car, unsuccessful in my original goal, but appreciative of the fact that the men buried at that site had served my country, and helped to eradicate the scourge of human slavery. I don’t know anything more than that, but that alone is enough.

A scary Halloween

In another life, I used to be a schoolteacher on the South side of Chicago. For the first couple of years that I taught, our school was located in the shadows of three abandoned high-rise buildings, collectively known as the Lakefront Properties. They sat in a neighborhood known as North Kenwood-Oakland, along Chicago’s lakefront (hence the name) between 39th and 43rd Street.

One year, on Halloween, I got it in my head that some students wanted to vandalize my car. I really had no reason for thinking this, but fear can cause you to do some things you might not otherwise do. So instead of parking in the teacher’s lot that day, I parked on the other side of the abandoned high-rises and walked through them to get to school. It was the only time I ever did this, but it was a chilling experience, just the same.

What I saw, walking through the courtyard of buildings that hadn’t been occupied in over a decade, was very unremarkable. In fact, there was nobody on the outside of these buildings at all. And if anyone was on the inside, I never knew it. So the physical presence of anyone or anything in those abandoned buildings was thankfully not an issue.

But I had a very strange inner feeling as I made my way through these buildings. I could sense the despair and frustration that once pervaded the buildings. It wasn’t known as “The Low End” for nothing. When I emerged on the other side, in the place that I would have normally parked my car anyway, I realized that public housing was no way to live. I had seen nothing more than a few abandoned buildings, in broad daylight, but I could imagine what this had done to the people who had lived in the buildings, for any amount of time.

The buildings were imploded together on a bright, sunny morning in 1998. I likened it to the moment where the Titanic struck the iceberg, at least as far as the school was concerned. The school was shut down, and the building itself was demolished not long after that.

New construction has since filled in this space, and I went back there a few years ago, looking for any sign of what had once stood on that spot. I found none, and understood that was probably the point. For those living there now, there has never been any public housing, let alone high-rises that stood deserted for many years, in that area. But it was there once, and I walked through it. I was only trying to avoid having eggs thrown at my windshield, but I would up bearing witness to what a bad idea these high-rises really were, instead. May no one ever have to live in those conditions again.