Tag Archives: Illinois

Rockford Sucks: A Love-Letter to my Home Town

Rockford is one of those cities that’s hard to explain to other people. It’s not an important city like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, or any other “big name” cities you’ve heard of. You can’t mention Rockford, Illinois to someone and have them understand what you’re actually talking about. Is Rockford a classy, small town in Illinois? A larger college town with a fancy economy supported by the mass of college kids in the fall and spring? An old, rundown, ex-industrial town like Pittsburgh? What exactly is Rockford? Hell, even people understand something upon mentioning “Omaha, Nebraska” as bland of a place as that actually is; Rockford is somehow even blander. Rockford doesn’t mean anything and it’s hard to explain something when it really isn’t anything at all. I can tell you what Rockford isn’t and that would be easier than describing what it is. Rockford is a lack of character. A shell in a way.

Rockford is close enough to Chicago to be described by it (“Rockford is close to Chicago…”) but far enough away for it to not really mean anything. Rockford is about 30 minutes away from the outer suburbs of Chicago like Elgin and Schaumburg and the miles of farmland in between excludes it from being a Chicago suburb. Sadly, Rockford would be more notable in this way. Rockford isn’t like Peoria, Moline, or Champaign where it’s its own shitty, solitary city, but isn’t close enough to Chicago to be a suburb. This leaves it in it’s own unique category of being “sorta near Chicago” but not actually part of the Chicago ecosystem.

Hell, we even renamed our airport years ago “The Chicago/Rockford International Airport” because being sixty miles away from Chicago still requires our airport to be named something-Chicago-something to be “notable.” Our airport, despite the name, has nothing to do with Chicago at all, except serving as a convenient location for diversions given heavy storms around the Chicago O’Hare Airport. That’s it.

Rockford is one of those derelict midwestern cities that has its days of glory well past it. The neighborhood I grew up in was surrounded by large and abandoned factories and buildings, and as a kid I always wondered what exactly was in them. I’m talking buildings that take up numerous city blocks that are five or six stories tall: what was left in their remnants? They weren’t being used anymore, but surely someone owned them? What was left in their carcasses? Most of the lower windows had long been shattered and boarded up after bored and mischievous teenagers busted them all out with rocks; you couldn’t even look in and see what the interior was like. The unbusted and boarded windows on the third story and above were obviously impossible to look through. These buildings always mystified me, long-dead symbols of something that Rockford used to be decades ago. Something that it wasn’t any longer.

Apparently the city used to be a heavily industrialized city, and I was told (I’m not sure about the factual basis here) that during the Cold War the Soviets even had our quaint and shitty city targeted by their ICBMs; decades ago Rockford used to be important enough that someone on the other side of the planet felt it needed to be destroyed in a nuclear first-strike against the USA. That’s something right? Sadly (not sadly?), this isn’t the case anymore. I was never concerned for a 9/11-style terrorist attack because of Rockford’s total lack of notability. If anyone wanted to make news, they’d hit a high-profile target. Not Rockford. Communism is long gone and no one feels the need to hurl nukes at Rockford anymore.

Rockford does have a few notable things about it though, if you could call them that. You might’ve heard of the Rockford Peaches, the female baseball team depicted in the Tom Hanks’ film A League of Their Own. You can even see the nearly-forgotten ticket booth that still stands near the river in a fairly run-down and shady looking neighborhood. The actual baseball diamond has long since been demolished and turned into a school. But the ticket booth still stands next to a bunch of shitty houses and small businesses in a neighborhood you probably wouldn’t want to linger in for too long.

I could’ve driven down here and took my own picture, but I also didn’t want to be bothered doing so. It’s not that big of a deal and it’s cold outside. Google Maps works just fine. Image from Google (obviously).

Rockford is also known for Sock Monkeys. No one ever explained to me why this was a thing. And I don’t want to read up on why it’s a thing either.

Cheap Trick, a fairly famous rock band popular in the 70s and 80s also came from Rockford. Strangely I’ve never really listened to them. In fact I feel less inclined to listen to them because they came from Rockford, like I feel pressured to be a fan because of the city I live in or some shit. Their most famous work is At Bufokado (really At Budokan but my attempt at spelling it as “Bufokado” was hilarious enough to leave in place) which actually is a pretty decent album. As for the rest of their discography? I have no idea. At Bufokado was good at least. All I do know is Rockford — the city, the actual government apparatus that is Rockford — felt that Cheap Trick was notable enough to plop signs up of them randomly around the city. I’m especially aware of the one on Spring Creek Road. It shows a bunch of old musicians with Rick Nielsen, their guitarist, looking like a fucking immature kid. Like that’s his look or something. With the stupid guitar with the five necks to it for some reason. He always has this goofy smirk on his face and something about him is immensely punchable (maybe he isn’t that bad). Cheap Trick. Rockford. Yay.

CHEAP TRICK!!1!!1 I’m kinda tempted to find the signs depicting the other band members — like a Rockfordian scavenger hunt — and since I’m a Good Rockford Residence and kinda a nerd for random classic rock knowledge, let me name the other three members: Bun E. Carlos, Tom Peterson, and Robin Muthafuckin’ Zander. Did I get them right? I don’t know.

Note: Rick Nielsen looks even worse when he was sporting a beard/goatee thing. Everything about that look oozes child molester. I don’t know how he ever thought that was a good look for him. Go Google it.

OOoo and before I forget, Fred VanVleet, a big basketball player dude, also grew up in Rockford. He won the 2019 NBA Championship playing with the Toronto Raptors. Yay? I mean cool for him, great job!, but who gives a shit that he grew up in Rockford? It doesn’t make Rockford any cooler; it’s not Rockford that made him win the NBA Championship.

The biggest thing Rockford has going for it (if you could call it that) is the aforementioned and terribly-titled Chicago/Rockford International Airport. UPS set up a fancy air hub back in the 90s — supposedly UPS’s second-largest sort facility — which drove literal tons of cargo volume to the airport. In the past few years Amazon has also begun setting up shop at the field and appears to rival UPS in the package delivery business. While air cargo companies don’t make the biggest news, the airport is rather lively, employing thousands of people to sort, ship, and load packages onto airplanes. In a city of 150,000 (as the sign on West State Street claims it to be at least) package and cargo companies might employee perhaps 1 or 2% of the entire city’s population. While no one really knows about it, the Rockford Airport Chicago/Rockford International Airport is a large cargo airport, one of the largest in the US (according to the link, the 19th largest. Well…). This is probably helped by the total lack of passenger and airline traffic allowing cargo companies to have the airport all to themselves. As the meme goes, it’s ain’t much but it’s honest work. It’s also where I work. (Surprise)

It is the popular and chic thing to talk total shit about Rockford. Everyone who lives here rips on the place nonstop. You can’t help but understand them to some degree. Rockford, as I’ve described, is kinda a black hole of nothingness. There is nothing notable about this place at all besides a few kinda random bullshit things. Old, derelict buildings. An old baseball team they made a movie about. The goddamn infernal sock monkeys. Fred VanVleet. AND CHEAP FUCKIN’ TRICK! It is your typical, bland, and unremarkable midwestern city seemingly well past its prime with nothing for its citizens to be proud of. You can’t make a career here outside of retail and customer service. Even if you find a cushy upper-management job in Rockford you’d almost certainly be working in customer service. Even shipping packages is another form of customer service. To really make something of your life you need to escape, at least to attend a college or a university, only returning with a degree to do something semi-notable.

But outside of all of this, what else does someone want from a city? I really think while some other cities are nicer, have more “going on,” have some semblance of a “scene,” especially in their downtowns, they’re all more or less the same. Sure, while Madison might be nicer, it isn’t some Eden-tier paradise to escape to. I don’t think any city is perfect, and while some are much better than Rockford by whatever metrics you want to measure, who actually gives a shit? While I hate Rockford just as much as the next Rockfordian, I guess I realize that it is home to me. These bombed-out, potholed roads are my bombed-out potholed roads. And the shitty Walmarts that constantly smell like marijuana? Well, they’re my pot-filled Walmarts. The forgotten husks of factories gave my childhood some mystery to think about. The bike path along the river, the lighted Morgan Street Bridge, the uneventful and dead downtown, the bums on the corners begging for money, and the drunkards stumbling around on the roads at 11 p.m., well, it’s all home to me.

The 4th of July Sucks

It’s that time of year again: the 4th of July. Also more appropriately known as Independence Day for obvious reasons. It was 243 years ago that the Declaration of Independence was signed where we (The United States) basically told England to go fuck themselves because we didn’t need them and their yuppy-ass tea anymore. Americans take this day off work to sweat in the July heat, grill out, and drink copious amounts of beer/alcohol while trying to blow their fingers/hands/arms off with fireworks that may or may not be illegal depending on what state you reside. When you look at what people actually do on Independence Day and compare it to the actual meaning of the day you’ll end up confused. But all of those things are somehow really stereotypically American so maybe it is fitting after all. Maybe July 4th is just a day for Americans to be unashamedly American drinking beer, grilling, and lighting off fireworks that came from China.

Perceived History Sucks

A quick history lesson: nothing really happened on July 4, 1776 besides the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Looking back this was important but the US wasn’t exactly “founded” on this day as most people seem to believe. The battles of Lexington and Concord (the start of the Revolutionary War) took place in 1775 and the Revolutionary War ended in 1783: over seven full years after the declaration was signed! Even more silly is the fact that the modern U.S. Constitution was a mulligan because the prior Articles of Confederation was dogshit and it was ratified in 1790: 13 fucking years after the Declaration. From an actual historical perspective July 4, 1776 — while a big deal — wasn’t as big as a few other key moments in our nation’s early history. I wouldn’t call it “the beginning” of the U.S. of A. at least.

A shirt that depicts the “U.S.A. began in 1776” ideal even if not explicitly stated.

Not that any of that matters because I doubt the average ‘Merican has any idea about what actually occurred 240ish years ago. We drink beer, grill, and blow shit up. Who cares? I imagine the typical ‘Merican believes that July 4 was the day that George Warshington rowed his boat across the Mississippi River, chucking tea overboard, while an eagle flew overhead with a 50-star red, white, and blue flag in its proud talons. He went to Warshington Dee See and wrote the constitution himself with an eagle-feather pen. Shortly after that, Samuel Adams created Budweiser Beer. That’s how ‘Merica really began.

Partying Sucks

Another traditional part of the July 4th celebrations is partying. People usually invite over their friends (or get invited over by friends if they don’t have their own homes) and sit around and drink beer or something. White People usually listen to radio-friendly 70’s or 80’s rock music where the same Motley Crue song you’ve heard 1,000 fucking times is played so you can hear it for the 1,001 time. I’m very glad we live in a more “ethnic” area of town; lucky there isn’t any White People around blasting their goddamn Dad Rock and drinking Budweiser while they wear wife-beaters and american flag shorts.

(I should note that I myself am white and even I hate the typical White People culture. Were fucking stupid sometimes.)

We apparently have quite a few Mexican (or hispanic) families that live near us because we’ve been hearing that typical ethnic-latino music all day today. It’s actually refreshing to hear something other than typical White People music and I can’t help but admire Mexican families for their ability to have real parties. White People parties are usually only like 10 people sitting around in lawn chairs not saying much to one another and it’s borderline depressing. Mexicans play music where the bass (It’s always really uplifting too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a depressing Mexican Party Bass Line) can be heard all over the neighborhood and they always look like they’re having a real party. There’s people swimming and dancing and jumping and smacking pinatas with sticks/bats/whatever and the kids are running around the yard like they’re on crack or something. It’s great to witness. 4th of July is no exception and the Mexican Bass is envelops the neighborhood like the July heat does except that it’s refreshing. It’s kinda ironic in a way that Mexican families pull off Independence Day better than White People do. Somehow I feel more American hearing Mexican Bass Lines on July 4th.

Fireworks Suck

We went downtown where the fireworks shot off are almost exactly the same as they have been for the past decade. I knew this before we even saw them, but nobody had to tell me in advance; they’re always the same thing. There are some small variations but they are minor and I just can’t bring myself to be excited that they made smiley-face fireworks this year. I quit being excited for fireworks when I was about 16 and I don’t see how anyone older than that still enjoys them. Over the people, traffic, and bullshit that they must deal with do these people really enjoy it still?

We parked a half-mile away and started on our hike to our traditional viewing spot; a spot a quarter-mile from where they actually shoot the damn things off. We get as close as possible to the river that splits our city in half, and across that river is where they shoot the damn things off. We can’t sit right next to the river because that is some special, locked-off area that only paying customers are allowed access to. I’ve never understood why people sit there as our free spot is just as good, but perhaps they offer beer or some special crowd experience. I don’t know. Either way we started walking to our traditional spot.

On the way to our traditional spot a few teenagers started following us. One was a really talkative teenager while his friend seemed to only listen; I never heard him say a damn thing. This isn’t notable at all until I really listened to the talkative one: he seemed to say the word “bro” at the end of every sentence like it was a period. I’m not joking, every sentence ended in “bro” and it only took three sentences for me to know something was comically wrong with the way he talked.

“Man, fuck that shit, bro.”

“I do what I want and no one is going to tell me otherwise, bro.”

“Yeah I know, bro! That’s what I’ve been fuckin’ trying to tell you, bro.”

“I know but you’re not listening to me, bro! I said fuck ‘em, bro.”

It happened like that for at least 10 minutes. I laughed my ass off every time he finished his sentences. Making this even funnier was the fact that this “teenager” was really only like 10, maybe 11. He was cussing like a sailor and saying “bro” to end every sentence. People really exists like this? This teenager boy isn’t being ironic? Bro.

“I do what I want and no one is going to tell me otherwise, bro.”

-Some Kid at the Goddamn Fireworks

Anyway, we get to the fireworks and they start on-time at 9:30 after mentioning the sponsors. I’ve never noticed it before but apparently the fireworks (called “SkyConcert 2019”) are broken into three “acts,” each separated by a mention of the sponsors. I don’t know if all cities do this but Rockford, Illinois always has some synced music to the 30-minute firework display, once again called “SkyConcert 2019.” The songs played were the same: the show always begins with the National Anthem, features “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong somewhere in the middle, and ends with the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky. I didn’t even know the closing song was the “1812 Overture” but a quick Google search for “firework finale songs” pointed me right at it. I mean it’s a perfect song for it, but currently it’s too perfect and now just expected at the end. Every firework “SkyConcert” I’ve seen has had this song plopped right at the end. Obviously.

Other typical songs are Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” and a handful of country songs that I don’t know the names of (because I don’t listen to shitty music). Since I was paying attention, I was actually surprised that the second “act” nearly all consisted of Shitty Country Songs, some kinda slow and emotional and others a bit more upbeat. It makes a sad sort of sense though; country music is by default the music that represents the U.S. of A. even if it is trash. I don’t know how this happened exactly, but it sure is shitty.

I was also surprised to not hear Katy Perry this year. This is one of those small, subtle changes that you don’t really notice and is what differentiates SkyConcerts from other SkyConcerts. I guess Katy Perry isn’t big enough to be in firework displays now?

Normally I despise people who take pictures/videos of fireworks, but this is mostly because they don’t account for the unique lighting situations that occur during in-air explosions. They slap their phone onto “auto” and smash the “photo” button and never look at what is actually captured. So you get overexposed and backlighted images that are garbage and people spam this shit on social media for some reason. Anyways, rant over, here is my best picture which looks like an electronica album cover ala Animal Collective.

There were little fireworks, big fireworks that go BOOOOM, smiley-face fireworks, red white and blue fireworks, sparkly fireworks, glittery fireworks, and fireworks that sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal just after milk has been added. The finale sounded (like it always has) like every explosive device they had as a spare standby was lit just to get rid of it with a constant rumbling ROAAAAR over the city for a few minutes. As a naive kid I actually thought they lit off spares at the finale while now I know it is all perfectly programmed to perfection with zero randomness. If anything I get joy out of seeing a firework explode way too low where you know it was a genuine accident because the rest of the show is so damn banal now. It’s cool seeing shit explode, but seeing it year after year so rehearsed and programmed makes it boring.

In Closing

So I went home and drank a Joose and Bud Light Chelada. I really went with Joose because I was in the mood to be as trashy as possible with my drinking today. I wasn’t trying to lie to myself here: I wasn’t happy and I felt dirty and I knew I had to drink as part of my 4th of July duties. Budweiser would’ve been the most patriotic choice, but Joose seemed a natural go-to as it offers 14% alcohol by volume, is cheap, and has a note on the side of the can that states: “PREMIUM MALT BEVERAGE WITH NATURAL FLAVORS….” Premium Beverage my ass, it’s trashy as fuck (I was going to post a photo but even that was too trashy.). But that’s how I’m closing off this shitty holiday. Have a fun and safe 4th everyone even if it is over. This holiday Sucks.

The Illinois Primary Sucks

(This is a dreaded “political post” but not about the typical dumpster fire. Maybe it won’t be so bad.)

The Illinois primary for Governor is Tuesday. This post is a little late in coming but with a deadline comes desperation which brings motivation. The primaries should mostly be focused on the democrats because our governor is a republican (Brucey Rauner) and will certainly win his primary. What’s more important is Brucey is pretty well hated in our state and we will (almost certainly) elect a democrat for our next governor. In effect we’re choosing our next governor based on whoever wins the democratic primary Tuesday. So who’s running?

We have three “big candidates”: J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, and Daniel Bliss. Surprisingly (really unsurprisingly), I know who’s going to win. It’ll be J.B. Pritzker. Why? Because he’s rich as fuck that’s why.

Here’s a link that, while a bit older, describes what these people make or are worth. I know they’re different numbers but you get an idea about how much money they have to throw around. Kennedy made over a million dollars last year, and J.B. made about 9 million dollars and is worth over 3 billion dollars apparently. Biss, along with his wife, made $55,000. Wow. Biss is poor as fuck.

J.B. will win because if you have three billion dollars you can spam ads everywhere. Every few days I get a goddamn Pritzker ad in the mail (which immediately goes into the trash), and I see other ads for the bastard everywhere. Facebook spams me with Pritzker ads and the TV yells Pritzker ads at me. That’s all anyone in Illinois hears about is Jay Bee Pritzker. It’s exhausting.

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A wild Pritzker ad appears! Seriously, these things are like Zubats in caves.

Politicians don’t win elections based on how decent their policies and ideas are. They’re successful based on how well they can get their names out to the masses. It’s one big, stupid popularity contest. You could have the best candidate ever but if they don’t have money to throw around they don’t have any chance of winning. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. Politics Suck.

You could also blame the voters. People walk into the booths on primary day with little idea of anything. They vote for the name that is most familiar. How many ill-informed voters will stroll in to vote only knowing there’s some democrat named J.B. running? Enough of them to guarantee victory for the guy. JB? Hmm. I’ve heard of him. And his name sounds cool! *Fills in bubble*

I’m sick of rich people being in politics. I get that “business people” are seen as good candidates for office, but damn, can we quit having billionaires running for things? Having a fuckton of money doesn’t show you can successfully represent people; it just means you have a fuckton of money. So say hello to our future governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker. He might be qualified and he might be a good governor and you should notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about specific policies. This is mostly because policies don’t matter and that’s not why he’ll win. He’ll win because he’s rich as fuck and can buy advertisements. That’s it. Once again, Politics Suck.