Time Stop!: How I Became The Leader of a Chicago Street Gang.

I couldn’t figure out how to fit “Koalas” into the title but that is a part for later down the line. This story is going back again to my high school days, specifically my junior year of high school. This is one of my first real excursions into Chicago and how it all turned fantastically wrong. It all started with a brand new art teacher, a poorly thought out field trip to a museum, and a hilarious case of miscommunication.

So in my junior year of high school we had gotten a new art class teacher. This man, who’s name I can’t honestly remember, was a fun guy to have as a teacher but a far too lenient one. Rule number one with me and my friends: never let us do whatever the hell we want. To start, this was a different group of friends from my college days and a far more rebellious one at that.

So nearing the end of the school year this teacher decided to have an art class field trip to an art museum in Chicago and then to a Cubs game for some reason. Not sure how baseball fits in with anything but hey I got to watch a free game. Now, this guy really shouldn’t have let us on this trip. By this point in the year he knew full well how much trouble my friends could get into and he told us full out that he didn’t want us there.

So it’s two hours from my where I used to live to Chicago and for the most part the ride went smoothly. He sent us all to the back so that we wouldn’t bother him but yeah it all went well. It wasn’t until we got to the museum that things started to go wrong. Believe it or not my friends and I were all big art buffs so we were actually excited to see the museum and honestly weren’t planning on screwing around. Trouble just seems to find us though.

So we get to the museum and we’re waiting outside to get in when our teacher turns to everyone and starts talking about our schedule. He said that we were to all meet back at the front of the building by 11:30. Now, what we thought he meant was that we would meet back at the museum by that time and THEN go in. That isn’t what he meant.

So of course we take off. I mean, we’re a group of teenagers in Chicago who have teacher that chooses to not pay attention to us. Why wouldn’t we leave? I want to stress the fact that we really did mishear him, we really thought that this was ok. So it’s not so much us being troublemakers as it is us being dumbasses.

We walk through Chicago for a while, taking everything in. At this time non of us were really too familiar with it. I mean, a bunch of country boys in the city we were bound to either do something stupid or… Yeah, we were just idiots. Eventually we found an oriental antique shop which of course immediately attracted us.

This place was really dull, though. I mean it was run by a nice old woman who seemed confused by our presence but in terms of what the shop sold it was pretty boring. It was more or less a disappointment with the exception of one thing. Way in the back of the shop there was this small container, something that you would expect to see canes or something or that nature being held in. This container, however, held several long wooden swords, the kind you would see people training with. So naturally we each bought one.

I need to explain my attire at this point because otherwise there’s no way for you to get the proper visual of us walking down the street with these. It was fairly warm out so I was wearing just a T-shirt and jeans with a Hawaiian leaf print over shirt and a big floppy fishing hat. Why? Because why the hell not. On the hat though was the pinnacle of my wardrobe, a small clip on stuffed Koala that one of my friends had brought along.

So here I am at the front of this group with probably the most ridiculous attire in Chicago outside of the art museum itself and we’re all carrying around swords flung over our shoulders. No packaging, no sheaths or whatever just BAM big friggin’ swords in the middle of downtown Chicago. After a while of walking like this we were obviously garnering a lot of looks and attention. I can’t remember which one of us said it but we dubbed ourselves the Chicago Koala street gang or something stupid like that. I think a few of us attempted a sort of strut as we walked down the street.

Eventually, it neared the time that we thought we would have to go back to the museum to go in. So my buddy CJ calls up our teacher and tells him that we’re on our way back and to double check when the museum opened. Now I couldn’t hear everything being said over the phone but it was obvious that he was pretty angry. Apparently the museum has already opened and we were supposed to have been there the whole time.

So we rush back to the front of the building and our teacher is standing there and the first thing he says is “Where have you little shit heads been!”. I found that pretty funny but he apparently did not. He yells at us for a while, especially when he sees the swords. Honestly, the expression on people’s faces are probably the best part of carrying those swords around. It’s like a mixture of confusion, anger and humor. Even our teacher how it a little funny that we had done this.

He tells us to get into the museum and not cause any more trouble for the rest of the trip. Of course the moment we walk into the museum we’re stopped by security guards, all of which seemed astounded that we would even think of bringing something like a sword in with us. We talk it over and they tell us that we can check the swords into this luggage area while we walk around. So we go over to the luggage check in and this poor girl has no idea what to do. It’s obvious that she had never had this kind of situation happen to her before. I mean how common is it for four teenagers to try to check in their swords. Eventually she tells us that they’ll have to store them under umbrellas because they didn’t have an arms section.

In the end we had about 15 minutes to see the museum and to be honest I remember none of it. After that we went to a Cubs game, this time without the swords though. Really, the game was probably the least interesting part of my day. While I moved to Chicago a couple years later I never really forgot my first real experience in the city. It’s not the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me in downtown Chicago, trust me you’ll hear those stories, but hey how often can you say that you walked down the streets of Chicago brandishing a sword and wearing a Koala on your head?


One response to “Time Stop!: How I Became The Leader of a Chicago Street Gang.

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