Thursday, May 08, 2008

Won't You Please Come To Chicago?



I'm back from three days in Chicago. While most of my days were spent in customer service training, I was able to do some research and to walk around the downtown area. At the microfilm room at the Harold Washington Library, I was able to copy articles from the Chicago Daily News (the best paper in the city at the time), the Village Voice, and the underground newspaper The Chicago Seed. The Voice had some excellent first-person coverage of the demonstrations from an outsider's point of view.

I read a sad reminder of just how intense the feeling was in those days:

NEW YORK (UPI)--A Columbia University co-ed, despondent over the defeat of Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy for the Democratic presidential nomination, apparently committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills, police said.

Beside the body of the student... was an empty bottle of pills and a note saying she had killed herself because "she was depressed over the defeat of McCarthy," police said.

-Chicago Daily News, August 31, 1968

And I read that in spite of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young song, Abe Peck, editor of The Seed, begged people not to come to Chicago:

It's a no-go.

Don't come to Chicago if you expect a five-day Festival of Life, music and love. The word is out. Many people are into confrontation. The Man is into confrontation. Nobody takes the Amphitheater [The International Amphitheater, where the convention was held] Cars and buildings will burn. Chicago may host a Festival of Blood.

-Chicago Seed, v.2, No. 11

The YouTube video, by the way, was a high school history project. The four young men who made it certainly deserved an A.

In my walk around the South Loop, I visited the General Logan statue where protesters "took the hill," walked through the lobby of the Chicago Hilton and Towers (formerly the Conrad Hilton), and viewed the site of the Grant Park battleground. Like most other people, I find omens. I saw a good one Monday night. There, on Van Buren Street between Michigan Avenue and Wabash, was a white Volkswagen Beetle. Not one of the new ones, but one that was on the road in 1968, when my character Helena was driving her white VW between the South Loop and the North Side.

13 comments:

Lisa said...

This is a great video and an interesting reflection. This song is one of those few that always makes me feel very emotional when I hear it. And I wasn't even there -- or very old at the time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, there's some history for you. It's good to flash back to stuff like this, to see how times have changed in some ways and not in others.

steve said...

Lisa--It's a powerful song, as is "Four Dead in Ohio." While I was a teenager at the time, and saw the Grant Park riots on TV, the director of "Chicago 10" was born after the police riots. (I haven't seen it, but am on Amazon's notification list when it comes out in DVD.

Charles--"We can change the world" might be the theme of the Obama campaign. I would hope that police riots of that scale are no longer tolerated, even if people still wink at small-scale police brutality.

Lisa said...

Last summer Scott and I saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at Red Rocks Amphitheater and they did lots and lots of their old songs, but Neil Young also did a ton of anti-Bush, anti-war stuff too. I can't say whether the reason I felt so reflective that night had to do with the politicized performance, seeing the four of them together or the incredible venue -- or it could have been all the pot smoke -- but I thought it was interesting that probably the largest body of political music has come from a band that's made up of two Americans and two non-Americans.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

The first thing that I thought of was my debate coach who was in Iowa at this time. She said that there was a feeling that "we as a group can accomplish something."

The second thing that I thought of was, "What if my children were at this?" I would not be able to sleep worrying for them.

steve said...

Lisa, I didn't realize that CSN&Y had written anti-Bush/Iraq war songs. Most radio stations today (since they're mainly owned by Clear Channel) simply won't play antiwar songs. But the Top 40 stations played "Chicago," "Four Dead in Ohio," "Eve of Destruction," "Universal Soldier," end even "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." The only song Mayor Daley banned during the Chicago Convention was the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man."

Tea, I'm sure there were a lot of sleepless parents during that week.

Your debate coach wasn't in Cedar Falls or Iowa City during that time? My reminiscence of that time can be found here:

http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html

steve said...

Tea--here's the correct link, I hope.

http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/2005/12/when-i-was-clean-for-gene.html

Emperor Ropi said...

In Chicago there were/are a lot Hungarians. They emigrated in the 19-20th century.

Sustenance Scout said...

Steve, the white bug is an amazing omen. Wow! K.

steve said...

Ropi--Most of the Hungarians in Chicago lived on the South Side, close to the stockyards and steel mills where they worked. By now, they're all over the city and suburbs. In South Bend, just west of Elkhart, Indiana, where I live, there's still an Our Lady of Hungary Catholic Church.

Karen--I was just amazed. Now I've got to put together the next chapter, which is eluding me, even though I know the actual events to weave in--the barricade at Lincoln Park, Hugh Hefner being hit with a nightstick, etc.

Lisa said...

Steve, the anti-war, anti-Bush stuff was mainly all Neil Young. It was pretty interesting to watch the performance and see the natural gravitation of Crosby to Nash and Young to Stills. It was a good, long performance and they did CSN&Y stuff, CS&N stuff and then they all did solo stuff. It was during this show that I realized that although I claim to be a CSN&Y fan, I'm mostly just a Neil Young fan ;)

bart said...

thanks for this steve, i was just a little too young at the time, but the spirit of the moment made an impression on me nevertheless... it was an extraordinary year in which our parents saw their worlds rocked to the core, there was a revolution unleashed which still resounds in an undercurrent of questioning intelligence and uncompromising enquiry...

keep well...

steve said...

Bart--Jules Witcover called it "The Year the Dream Died." Over on your side of the Pond, there was the failed Paris revolution, where the Communist Party collaborated with DeGaulle to put it down and the end of the Prague Spring. Interesting times.