By Christopher Johnson
Billy Goat is the place, man.
Blackhawks jerseys bleeding a pungent ocean of scarlet and Indian head.
The congealing of people into creatures called Chicagoans.
The crappy little tables laden with bottles of bubbles and hops,
Stained with suds and Scotch and the remnants of lost souls poured over ice.
The weirdly fanatic fans doing double-time to tell Homeric tales of their hometown
gaggles of skaters.
The taste of cheezeborgers tossed mercilessly by Greeks bearing gifts laden with
onions pickles tomatoes.
Cheezeborgers consumed and vomited forth like peregrines on a sweet Sunday afternoon.
Bearded journalists wearing gin-soaked ancient sportcoats from Penney’s and scribbling
out their guts over spilled beer,
Writing stories of sport’s sad and piquant memories,
Which have been vacuumed out from the insane ramblings of fans killing for
teams to slay to victory on the vicious ice.
Beer signs more than you can imagine—Bud, Miller, Schlitz, Michelob,
Beers of the good ol’ usa squandered like medallions on the edge of one’s consciousness.
I stare at the broadside of the yacketing sports fans and blare of things,
Wondering what makes them tick.
They are stripped down to their nakedness.
Relieved of their roles for one incandescent night,
Relieved of lawyering, doctoring, accounting, financing.
Drawn together in the essential essentialness of their voiceless selves that root root root
for the old home team the Blackhawks.
The back taste of onions sticks in my throat and my craw,
As I wait for the resurrection of dreams well past their due date.
Of honesty. Of meaning. Of brotherhood and sisterhood.
Of justice denied.
Do we live for happiness, or do we live for the birth of a world in a better place?
Crap. I don’t know.
Enough of such childish philosophies.
At Billy Goat Tavern, a mystery man Brilloed with a beard
Traipses around the tavern,
Staring and mesmerizing, murmuring, talking to no one,
Walking, walking, walking incessantly,
Violating the perimeters of Billy Goat Tavern,
As if no one ever loved him and he loved
At Billy Goat, I feel my bones ageing too fast,
Constantly fighting off a condition that can only be called sleep,
Staying the sleep of the dead,
Feeling my body slowly running down,
Betrayed by the energy of the universe.
The crisis of the bones.
The obsidian sadness of the mask.
Feeling one’s mortality on fire and burning.
Feeling one’s eyes setting at half-mast.
Now march west along Madison Street to the United Center and the whole migraine
Wind hawks like a million piercing souls,
Whipping around the corner to torture us.
I slip over mounds of ancient snow blackened to coal by the detritus of the city,
Harshened by the fierce and relentlessly cruel wind.
We the collective we of voracious hockey fanaticizing,
Sashay by the public-housing apartments stacked anonymously on one another.
The building is jaded and unforgiving in its ugliness.
Sliding on more sooted mounds of centuries-old snow that never melts
from the consciousness of Chicago.
I am torn apart by insane screams of bellicose parking attendants hollering park here park
For here you shall be sanctified!
Here you shall be saved!
So it is said in the Bible.
We march ever closer to the hulking monstrosity of the United Center, which looms like
Armageddon out of the dead of night.
We show our tickets,
And Armageddon swallows us up, spirit and soul.
Shockingly, there, in front of us,
The bearded man of mystery,
Walking, questioning, and seduced by the non-answers to the non-questions of
Billy Goat Tavern.
A portent for the beginning of our adventure in the search for lost souls on ice,
As we root for our heroes and desperately wait for something.