Before you earn the right to rap any sort of joint, you have to love it a little while. You have to belong to Chicago like a crosstown transfer out of the Armitage Avenue barns first; and you can’t rap it then just because you’ve been crosstown.
Yet if you’ve tried New York for size and put in a stint in Paris, lived long enough in New Orleans to get the feel of the docks and belonged to old Marseille awhile, if the streets of Naples have warmed you and those of London have chilled you, if you’ve seen the terrible green-grey African light moving low over the Sahara or even passed hurriedly through Cincinnati — then Chicago is your boy at last and you can say it and make it stick:
That it’s a backstreet, backslum loudmouth whose challenges go ringing ‘round the world like any green punk’s around any neighborhood bar where mellower barflies make the allowances of older men: “The punk is just quackin’ ‘cause his knees is shakin’ again.”
“What’s the percentage?” the punk demands like he really has a right to know. “Who’s the fix on this corner?”
A town with many ways of fixing its corners as well as its boulevards, some secret and some wide open. A town of many angry sayings, some loud and some soft; some out of the corner of the mouth and some straight off the shoulder.
Happy belated birthday, Nelson Algren.