Kanye West Stole My Phone

Kanye West at LAX International Airport, Los Angeles, America - 31 Oct 2015

               Chance the Rapper does this thing for high schoolers every month where he hosts an open mic for teenagers to show off their talents, whether it’s reciting poetry, showing off choreography to a song they love, singing, or anything else. Throughout the show, between acts, as music plays loudly from the speakers, the auditorium is always abuzz with rumors of who the special guest will be. Chance, being the guy with connections, always brings out a special guest at the end of the night, sometimes an artist every person in the room knows and idolizes (such as Childish Gambino or Big Sean), and sometimes it’s an up and coming artist who deserves exposure. They walk on stage and sing two songs and give a short inspirational speech about staying in school or whatever and everyone goes home with their twitter feed blowin’ up.

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Chance The Rapper at the September 16 Open Mic

                   I’m happy to volunteer for this monthly event– it lifts my spirit to feel the energy the teenagers project in the auditorium. You can see the glow on their faces when they walk in and Chance is there, ushering them to their seat. He’s their hero, and he’s making himself available. He’s showing up for them. It inspires the teens, and you can’t help but ride that high with them through the evening.

                   When I talk to the teens, they always try and guess who the special guest is. “Drake is in town on tour, it has to be him!” they’ll say. Or “Chance just posted on Instagram something about SZA, I bet it’s her.” And of course, the one that always gets a mention is Kanye. Kanye supposedly is always “in town” and everyone wants it to be him. He’s like a mythical creature, always on everyone’s mind but never seen.

                 On this particular evening, the special guest was an up-and-coming vocalist who recently played Pitchfork Festival. After the open mic part of the night was done, Chance introduced her and she came out and sang for the room and got a great reception. Throughout the night, i’d stood in the aisle, near the stage. When she was about finished with her second song, I walked out of the auditorium to the lobby to prep for all the teens exiting.

                      I turned to my right into the lobby and saw Kanye West and eight dudes around him walking my way. I immediately thought “these kids are going to go insane.” So I followed Kanye and his crew inside the auditorium. Kanye stopped halfway down the aisle, as far as he could go without anyone spotting him yet and watched the crowd. I walked ahead, towards some other volunteers to give them a heads up.

                    “Everyone in this room is about to go mental,” I said to a fellow volunteer. I had my phone in hand, and pushed it into my back pocket. As I said those words, I turned to my left, noticing Kanye’s crew walking past me. Directly across the aisle from me was a little spot for wheelchairs that was empty. I quickly slipped through Kanye and his crew to get to the other side in order to make room for them as they walked past. I reached for my phone in my back pocket, but it was gone. It had been five seconds since i’d put it there.

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Kanye West at the September 16 Open Mic

                    The room erupted in screaming. My ears stopped working. He’d been spotted and the teens were going wild. This was me coming to terms with the fact that someone just grabbed my phone out of my back pocket while chaos reigned around me. Could it have been someone in Kanye’s entourage? Kanye himself? Or did I drop it? Deep down I knew I hadn’t dropped it because it wasn’t a complicated matter. I’d been in control of it, and then it was gone. I didn’t even feel it slip from my pocket.

                    The screaming continued as Kanye went on stage. I put on a smile and pretended everything was OK in case the person who stole it watched me from the stage for a reaction. At this point I knew it had to be Kanye or someone in his crew. There was no doubt. They were the only people I was in contact with during those 5 seconds.

                   Kanye went on one of his infamous rants, this time about dictionaries and announcing that he was moving back to Chicago. This went on for fifteen minutes, and then just as he came, he gave the mic to someone and walked off stage, past me, along with his crew, and into the night.

                  Chance dismissed everyone and when mostly everyone had cleared the room, some stayed behind to help search for my phone, humoring them by looking under chairs where I might have dropped it.

                    Someone let me use their laptop to search for my iphone but it indicated that it had been turned off. My suspicions were correct. Someone had stolen it, and turned it off so that I couldn’t trace it.

                    Of course the story was unbelievable to everyone I told it to. Still even now people don’t believe me, and I can never casually bring it up in conversation unless I plan on telling this story I’d just written out here.

                   When I got home that night I checked the Find My Iphone feature again on my laptop but there was no movement. Still turned off. The next morning I went to the store to get a new one (shilling out $450 to pay off the one that got stolen. Hello credit card debt!) and when I got home and started setting everything up, an email from Apple notified me that my phone had been turned on and located. It was now on the south side of Chicago.

                As I told the story to people in the following days, I showed them the email from Apple to really solidify an otherwise unrealistic story. As time gets further from when it happened, the more far fetched it sounds. I’ll never know if it was Kanye or someone in his entourage who took it, but either way, it’s a strange story that’ll probably follow me the rest of my life.

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Showing 45 those photos I took on vacation
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I Need You

When I was 20 I got a job at the Red Cross in Florida, 1,300 miles away from anyone I’d ever known. I met an ex-marine named Jake there and we started dating. We were like two strong magnets, forever being pulled to each other in whatever we did, and it made me happy that I didn’t get sick of being around him. We worked together, hung out at night, slept in the same bed, woke up, and repeated the process over and over. We always wanted to be around each other, and I think about it now with fondness.

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He thought I was goofy, and listened to my ramblings of the difficulty of being a religious person whilst also being immersed in the punk scene there. He was not religious nor into punk, but he was suddenly immersed in it (as well as involuntarily becoming a vegetarian, since we usually made food together). We were such opposites, which made it all the more surprising that a buff military dude who drove a Mercedes would be so enamored with a smelly punk girl with blue hair who rode her bike everywhere. I was surprised to feel such a connection with him, when typically i’d avoid someone like him back in Michigan.

After the year of working at the Red Cross was up, not knowing where our futures would end up, Jake drove me to the airport and we shared our last embrace in the departures line. I remember crying and feeling so torn apart.

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It was easy to fall into our old routines once we got back to our own states (he lived in Connecticut) because neither of us ever existed in each other’s hometown. We went back to hanging out with our old friends who had only heard mention of this other person in conversation when asked friendly questions about our time in Florida. It was heartbreaking to feel Jake’s absence but knew that he could never exist in the Michigan I knew. I know someone like him wouldn’t fit in my punk world, and I couldn’t mix with his college buddies in Connecticut.

After a year, I was dating someone who had the opportunity to drive an Italian punk band around the US on tour (foreign bands toured the country and play shows but always preferred to have someone from that country drive them around). He asked me if I wanted to accompany him on the New England leg of tour and I jumped at the opportunity.

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The tour was a lot of fun and I got along well with all the Italian guys, cramped into an Old Econoline Van, hitting the road every morning to get to the next city.

We decided to leave right after the show in Boston to get to New York City to sleep at a friend’s house so we had more time to hang out in the city the next day. As we were driving through the night, my boyfriend told me we were very low on gas. It was 3 am. We were in a part of Connecticut where we didn’t know how long it’d be until we got to a gas station. He was worried that we’d run out of gas before that. I pressed my forehead against the window and stared at the black trees speeding past the van.

“If it comes to that, I know someone who will help us.”

 

It’d taken me some time to get over Jake. It was surprisingly easy to pretend it never happened because it only existed in Florida, but he always crept back into my mind in those moments right before sleep took over.

We past a sign announcing the single digit number of miles until we’d get to Jake’s hometown, as if the state of Connecticut was trying to bring us back together. I breathed slowly in and out, glancing to the back of the van where the Italian guys slept. I wanted to sleep too.

I didn’t know how i’d explain any of this to Jake, after i’d call him. I wanted to believe that he’d laugh and understand completely. “Of course Karen and six strange Italian men and her new boyfriend would call me at 3 am from the side of the road after not seeing me for a year,” I imagined him thinking. “Oh that Karen!”

Instead I knew if he woke up from the phone ring, he’d need a few minutes to process who he was talking to, and then a couple more to understand what was happening. And then one more minute to understand that I needed him to buy gasoline and bring it to me. Part of me wanted this to happen. Of course I wanted to see him again. I would make out with him in front of my boyfriend standing next to me if I knew Jake wanted to kiss me.

We passed the exit sign for Jake’s town, and shortly after, my boyfriend saw signs for a gas station. “We’re gonna be alright, I think,” he said.

Jake was tucked under his blankets, asleep in his bed, breathing lightly in the quiet dark of his room as the camera panned out on a brown van driving towards the distance glow of a 7-11, him none the wiser, but me a little melancholic.

 

How Strange It Is To Be Anything At All

               Superfan’s are the best fans of bands. They go to every show, they make ugly homemade shirts with the band’s logo out of pink and black puff paint. They stand in front and scream all the lyrics and judge everyone at shows as if we didn’t know they were mere tourists. Honestly, a lot of superfan’s are annoying. Jordan, the superfan for a thrash metal band cleared the floor every time they played because of his abrasive karate kicks in the circle pit. He never bothered to go to shows his friends weren’t playing, never talked to anyone else, and seemed like a casual jerk. 

            One band’s superfan was the singer’s mom. Joey Ramone was the mom we all wanted. Everyone called her that because she had bushy, brittle brown hair going just past her shoulders, just like Joey Ramone.  Nobody could figure her out but we all loved her. She ran up on stage and screamed into the mic her son held out to her. Sometimes they’d play “Blitzkreig Bop” or “I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement” and everyone would cheer and chant her name as she made her way to the stage to co-sing. Of course she knew the words.

             Jim was the superfan for another band I saw often, but what’s different about him was that he came to shows his friends didn’t play. He’d fallen in love with punk just like the rest of us and had to surround himself with like-minded fools. He was also the brother of my close friend Lori and a year younger than me, but I still looked up to him. He was always kind to me, which was appreciated because people often saw me as a jokester, and he always knew when I was being serious. Being kind also went against what I thought punk was about. From watching movies like “Suburbia” and reading books like “Please Kill Me,” I thought punks were crude and cruel before I actually became one.

               Jim was very traditional when it came to his looks. He had spiky hair, a big lock and chain around his neck (channeling his inner Sid Vicious), a bullet belt around his waist, heavy black boots and a torn band shirt. Nothing could hide that he was from a nice family, especially if you knew his sister, who was more reserved but just as anarchistic. He was too kind to everyone and had a bit of a baby face to be mean.

               I’d see him outside shows sometimes, once at a protest for a visit from the president to our town. “Lets practice civil disobedience, Karen,” he’d say. “Lets jump over that metal fence they just put up to keep us out.” He was always doing what I wanted to do (but never did), and since I hadn’t quite found my space and voice as a female yet, I envied his boldness to do whatever crazy thing he wanted. He’d always be the first to defend his friends if they got in a fight with an outsider, and I was glad to have him on my side.

As time went on and people left the punk scene and new people came around, I’d still see him at parties or shows and even if we didn’t talk, we’d give each other a knowing glance from across the room that read “you still here? yeah, me too.”

Last year.
Last year.

I lived with his sister eight years ago in a house she’d bought with her husband and Jim would come around and visit sometimes. He’d gotten into drugs years before, and was struggling with it. I never wanted to hold it against him or treat him differently because a lot of my friends were into heavy drugs, even if I thought it was a terrible addiction. He stayed true to his ethos and became friends with people who weren’t the best and that unfortunately affected him.

              I moved to another city and hadn’t heard from him until I found out that he’d killed himself recently. There are many things i’ve been grappling with since hearing about his death, feeling sorry and sad and mad and confused. Things I can’t put into words here. I hate how death always brings people together, and after seeing all my old friends, I hate that Jim has ushered in a new era. The era in which its no longer just our older relatives dying from cancer and old age, but our friends are cutting the cord also.

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My last interaction with him was when he was describing a new band he’d gotten into, a very non-punk band called Neutral Milk Hotel. We were in the kitchen and played the record for him and he sang  at me for the whole first side of the record, as if i’d never heard it the same way he heard it and he just wanted to make sure I understood its power. I got it, but knowing how powerful the music was, tried to play it cool.

It would have been perfect to play that first side of the record at his funeral but tragedies are never perfect I suppose.

 

Raking Sand

Last summer on a whim I rode my bike to the North Avenue Beach at eight in the morning. I put on my bathing suit and fitted a helmet over my matted bed hair. Getting there wasn’t hard–it was a straight shot down one street from where I lived. After locking up my bike, I discovered that someone had raked the sand, making the beach look clean and welcoming. Elton John’s “Honky Cat,” followed by “Hotel California” was playing on the loudspeakers as the beach employees set up their stands for the day. I went out into the water for once not worrying that my towel would get stolen and swam for a bit, just enjoying being the only person at the beach. An occasional jogger would run past, not looking at the great scenery on both sides, too focused on bringing the pain. I moved deep enough for the water to come to my neck. I turned around and looked at the Chicago skyline. It was right there. It was so beautiful and I was surprised to tear up at the sight and how it brought the moment together. I was unbelievably thankful to be there. After a few more minutes I got out and rinsed off and rode my bike back home, ready to start my day.

Revisiting a Murder

There was a span of time where the library had some really great speaking events. Authors would come and talk about their book and whatnot, but the really juicy events, the ones that I was interested in, were when experts on a niche subject came to do presentations about subjects like aliens being spotted over Lake Michigan, weird history, or how to listen to music properly.

The best presentation, by far, was this ex-cop who spoke about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1970 in Grand Rapids, Michigan (where I was living at the time).

Seventeen days prior.

The story goes that a couple was living in a house on College Avenue. They had gotten married seventeen days prior. The young wife was home alone when (police suspect) a person knocked on the door and, after she let them in, stabbed her thirty-two times. Once in the chest, once in the back, and THIRTY TIMES IN THE NECK. She was almost beheaded from all the stab wounds. The guy had photos and a blueprint of the house to go along with his presentation. He showed us gruesome photos of the crime scene, the woman’s dead body covered in red, doubled over. People in the audience gasped at the photo. Her face was hidden by her hair, saturated with blood. She was found on the floor in the kitchen, right outside the door that went to the bedroom. He displayed an outline of where the body had been found in the house.

There is no suspects in her death, and many believe it was a random person who killed her and ran off.

During the presentation I realized the house in which the murder took place was down the road from where I lived. After the presentation my friend and I walked a little further down the road to check out the house where the this atrocity happened.

The house where it happened.

We stood in front of the house, having walked past it a million times before, but now looking at it differently. In the front yard was a FOR RENT sign, and I wondered which apartment (there were two–the one where the murder took place was on the first floor) was available.

When I got home, I called the number. A man answered, and I told him I was interested in renting the apartment. He seemed cheery, and told me that it was indeed the first floor apartment and that he’d be happy to show me the apartment in the next couple of days. I told him i’d look at my schedule, not actually thinking about intentionally renting or going inside a creepy murder house. The thrill of talking to the landlord and finding out which apartment it happened in was exciting enough for me.

The next day I had to run an errand that took me past the murder house again. Knowing the first floor was empty, I walked up to the windows and tried to peek inside. I couldn’t see much and after a minute or two I heard a young girl speak, startling me, asking if I was interested in the apartment. She lived on the second floor and was returning home from somewhere.

“The apartment is open–I can let you though the front door and you can go right inside,” she said. “My landlord doesn’t mind.”

I thanked her and followed her into the house, not sure if I should be scared or excited to have such an opportunity. Through the front door was a small area with a staircase that went upstairs, and a door in front of me that went to the apartment in question. I thanked her as she went upstairs, and I wondered how I went from listening to a guy talk about the murder in a library auditorium to standing in the very doorway this woman’s murderer past through to kill her.

Now alone, I turned the knob and opened the door.

I thought for sure the apartment would look somewhat modern, stripped completely of its past. You’d expect an old-ish house to have a complete overhaul, giving it a more sanitary look. What I found was a time warp to a completely different era. Absolutely nothing had changed. I might as well have been there the day after she was murdered.

I stepped into the kitchen, hesitantly. The walls were a dingy, dark yellow. Looking to my left was the living room, its dark brown carpet with outdated sheer window blinds. There wasn’t a piece of furniture anywhere, which made sense, but also meant no one’s lived here for a bit. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the spot in the kitchen where the door to the bedroom was. I looked down. The kitchen floor was covered in vinyl flooring, in typical 1970’s decor. I walked over to the spot Shelly Speet Mills’s body was found. There was no evidence of blood anywhere, but it was hard to decipher between what stains had come from her murder and what had come from forty years of use.

I felt sick knowing all that I knew about this spot. The history of sadness in this place after the horrific act occurred. Her mother finding her. The moments alone with her before anyone showed up to help. Her husband coming home to find countless police officers milling about the apartment looking for clues while the woman he married two weeks prior lay dead on the floor.

I hopped over the spot I knew she’d died and walked into the bedroom. The floor was sticky, and there were rat traps along the wall. Crumbs of dirt littered the floor. One sad window filtered sun through a dirty sheet. It was as if my imagination of the murder had replicated itself in reality, and I was forever going to be trapped there. At any moment I was going to turn around and she would be standing there, bloody, her arms reaching out to me, as if pleading to bring justice to her murderer. I felt aware of myself there, then. It was quiet, I couldn’t hear the roar of cars driving past the house despite it residing on a busy street. I exited the bedroom, hopping once again over the spot, and half-skipped/half ran to the door. I whisped myself out the exit, to get outside before I was trapped forever in that house.