Lee’s Paradise, Lost

by G.T.

I’m considering McDonald’s breakfast this morning. What is it about those hot cakes that are so exciting for a child? When I was a kid, Mickey D’s hot cakes were a big treat. Not that it was so hard to get them, but mornings were spent preparing for school, and the nearest Double Arches was across town. Give me a snow day and an order of hot cakes. I may as well have been in Heaven.
Today is muggy day, overcast, and gray. I plan to be sitting around, writing, and periodically taking my pup outside to watch him stare at the dull sky while I smoke and think about why a cheap breakfast makes life just a little more tolerable.

And about that poetry.

Sunday was a slow start with the poetry. After that unnecessary, but mandatory meeting (why yes, customers are important people), I fell asleep and didn’t wake until three o’clock in the afternoon. Upon waking up, I noticed the red blink on my phone, and received a text from my friend, Aug.

“I want to see snow again”

Aug likes the winter, because the harsh weather puts everyone in a bad mood. Nobody can be a party pooper. Everyone is miserable. That’s his logic. I find it enjoyable to stare out of a window during the snow fall, usually with a cup of coffee. Or hot cakes. All I could say to Aug was:

“That won’t be in theaters until December, however, some states receive an early showing.”

I brewed coffee and smoked most of the afternoon. Pacing in and out of rooms, making mental lists of things I must convince myself need to be done. Write this and that, clean my aquarium, but feed my fish first. Still didn’t get to the aquarium cleaning. Who’s first for some poetry?

Jeff C. (612) – Minnesota born son of a Lutheran pastor. Pledge brother. Vegan. Exercise buff. Jeff maintained, and probably still does, a strict sleep routine. Eleven o’clock in the evening at the latest even on weekends when most everyone was yelling drunk profanities at one another (myself included), and Jeff would wake up and yell at us. It would be obvious that he doesn’t smoke, and once tried bragging to me that he’s never spent any money on “smoking products”. Good for you, but if anybody would like to boast about not being a smoker, don’t boast to me, because my vices are guilt free. I don’t rationalize my vices, but I’m unrepentant about them. At 5:16pm.

“The body and
blood was taken
in the form of
tofu and rice
water. New age
dogma and tree
loving vegan
congregation,
but still must read
paper verses.”

Is Jeff an environmentalist? It worked for the poem, so he is now. Jeff and I have never been the best of friends. Even today, he only mumbles a simple “hello”, but that’s if I look his way. No response.

Jeff H. (763) – First met Jeff when I was a high school senior visiting IIT during a preview weekend for prospective students. He was a brother of Delta Tau Delta. Had a goofy sort of humor. My first lesson in fine wine came from Jeff, who worked as a waiter at an upscale restaurant in Indiana. Don’t smell the cork. It has something to do with 18th century assassins and poisons and what not. Of course watching suburbanite posers act fancy and sniff wine corks is funny to me now. At 5:48pm.

“They smelled the
cork but not
the wine when
poured fresh in
the glass. An
act of
fancy but
as it turns
out they did
nothing but
play false
etiquette.”

Hell, I don’t even know where Jeff is these days. No response. I should’ve put more effort into this poem and getting in touch with Jeff.

Odd as it sounds and certainly not the correct approach for this project, responses didn’t matter to me on Sunday. I was in such a forlorn way. Stagnant state of mind. My feelings had nothing to do with the project, or were a consequence of the poetry. A spontaneous emergence of feelings of idleness and sorrow. I haven’t done any writing in three days. This morning, I woke up with sinus congestion. I blame it on that. A lack writing, clearing the mind by putting pen to paper, always leads to physical side effects. In January, I didn’t write for six days, and boom! Strep throat. Never had strep throat before in my life. The headaches and stomach pains. I’ve got to write today, and get some fuckin’ hotcakes, too.

Jeremy S. (630) – This is my friend Jason’s neighbor. I vaguely know him, but when I began this project, I made sure to get his number. I wanted Jeremy’s number because of where he works. Jeremy has a job in the meat department of a little grocery store in Orland Park, and it’s part of a certain plaza that will be demolished in the near future to make way for an apartment complex.
Jeremy told me this a month ago, and upon hearing this news, it saddened the shit out of me. This plaza is filled with small businesses that make up some rich memories of my childhood.
Next to the grocery store is the Orland Park Bakery, where all of my birthday cakes were made when I was a kid. While the cakes were being made, my mom would shop at the grocery store, Randy’s Market, where I would sit at the bottom of the cart and pretend I was racing through the aisles. I recall cutting my fingers several times due to the jagged mesh of those old carts. My favorite pair of shoes came from Miroballi Shoes: a pair of blue suede New Balance walking shoes. A sad day when I couldn’t fit into those kicks anymore. And my first hot lather shave came from the Eastern European barber in that plaza. The barber barely spoke a word of English, but looked at me through the reflection of the mirror and said, “и вы любите бритье?” To which I replied, “Okay, mister!” I was only nine years old, but he shaved my whole neck and face, which was as red as a babboon’s ass for about a week afterward, but it the coolest experience. That single blade, sharpened on the leather strap, hot lather on a winter day. And after my haircut and shave, my mom took me next door for lunch, where I’ve had many a childhood memory. Lang Lee’s. I’ve been eating at this Chinese restaurant since I was four. My love for fortune cookies and almond cookies dipped in hot tea began at this restaurant. It’s been in business for decades, like many of these places. I could go on and on about Lang Lee’s. I just want to sit in one those dark booths, order General Tso’s Chicken, a Lee’s Paradise foaming at the brim of the goblet that it is served in with pineapple and cherry, and forget about everybody and everything. That restaurant is a form of what Heaven must be for the loner at heart. Quiet, dimly lit, and for me, plenty of Chinese food and a fully stocked bar. At 6:28pm.

“Traditional
butchers, chop
suey and red
nosed immigrant
barbers. A piece
of the old back
in the day town
commons that die
with it’s patrons.
Today is our past.”

That die with it’s patrons. True, because most of the customers are the elderly, and Orland Park’s younger residents prefer P.F. Changs, across the street, and Sport Clips for their haricuts, those dirty bastards. I’m not against change, and I know that nothing lasts forever, but I feel that this plaza has such good businesses. No coffee cakes or muffins in Orland can beat the Orland Park Bakery. Level the Panda Express, or even Panera Bread. I actually like Panera Bread, but they have one in the mall, and one across the street. The same goes for Panda Express. And Panda Express is terrible! Why destroy an award winning Chinese restaurant? Drive down Lagrange Road and that’s all you see, a ton of franchises and corporations, and if you miss one, don’t fret, there’s another down the road. Here on one corner is a modest, little L-shaped plaza filled with well known businesses, and the village of Orland Park wants to send it all to Hell. Change like this has no dignity. What a world we live in, where every street becomes a clone of the next with their identical marquees and signs of businesses no different than the next town and the one after that.

And to think that I was going to get hot cakes at Mickey D’s after this post. What a world. What a world.