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RockyG666 63M
1748 posts
8/8/2013 4:08 pm

Last Read:
10/2/2013 1:45 pm

Troll boy

Troll boy

It was 1996, the year after I separated from my wife, and the year before the divorce was finalized. I had taken a job in a very fast paced small print shop where the owner was verbally abusive to me. I previously had a really good job with really good people, but the company had moved 45 miles out of the city and I wasn’t able to keep up with keeping a vehicle up to the commute. I was thrilled at first to find a job in the city proper, rather than downtown or in the burbs. This shop was just off fullerton and ashland, which was very near to a dear friend, ricky, down the block from the practice place of a band made up of close friends (including ricky, their drummer) and also just a mile away from the gallery which was my home away from home in those days. As I settled into this job, however, I had to come to terms with a slave driver of a boss who called me terrible names and was never happy with anything I did.

Eventually, one day after I had suffered through a particularly nasty tirade, I calmly got up from my desk, grabbed him by the throat and pinned him up against a wall. I told him that I would immediately start looking for another job, that he would apologize to me and watch his mouth until I did, and that he would give me a good reference. He was a small man (in more ways than his stature) and I scared him to death. He apologized and agreed and I found another job within 3 weeks. The economy was much better then, and I got really lucky too. I landed the job that I would keep for the next seven years, until I was hospitalized last summer and began my current foraging for careers situation.

Before that happened, I usually would be pretty wired and upset after work. I often would drive a few blocks down fullerton to where it crossed the chicago river, crawl down the side of the embankment there, and sit on the riverbank next to the fullerton bridge and play my guitar. There was a big mall behind this spot, but they hadn’t done anything to develop the riverside area yet. I have been there lately, and it is a sort of park now. In 1996, it was still just a barren desolate area. Other than the occasional river rat, it was exactly the kind of solitary city verses nature locale that I am fond of playing my guitar in to unwind. Soon after I found and became comfortable in the spot, Troll Boy moved in.

He was kind of gooney looking and probably twenty something. He wore the same clothes since the day I first met him, but there was nothing unusual about them and I can’t seem to remember any details about them. I think that he had a red flannel shirt, but I am not certain. He had longish brown hair and a very scraggly mustache, but no other facial hair. I remember thinking that was strange, because he didn’t smell like he ever bathed and I couldn’t imagine that he would shave. He had a hint of a southern accent, but was not overly yokel, and it could have just been a south side affectation. Chicago southsiders often consider themselves to be rebel stock and somehow acquire a very unchicagoish drawl. In the season that I knew him, I did not really have too many lengthy conversations with him, but he seemed to me to be fairly intelligent.

By “moved in,” I mean that quite literally. Troll boy did not just bunk beneath the fullerton avenue for shelter from the storm, he made it his home. Both sides beneath the bridge were fenced in with chainlink fence from the ground along the river to street level where they met concrete. The riverside was open, but it was the river, and considerably lower than the shelf of troll boy’s home, and neither offered any visible access. I never did figure out how he got in there, or moreover how he had gotten all his furnishings in there. There was no breach in that fence anywhere that I could see. My spot was just alongside the fence and I had never even considered beneath the bridge to be an occupyable spot before troll boy occupied it. I had gone running from the rain more than once, and had I been able to get under that shelter of the bridge I likely would have done that instead.

Troll boy figured out how to get in, and he made it his home. He completely furnished it with things I would guess that he found on the streets or in the alleys, the kind of stuff that people discarded. The first thing that he moved in was an old sofa bed. It was an especially big one, and I wondered how he could have even moved it himself, let alone gotten it into the fenced in space. I asked him about this and he just said “If I tell you, then you could get in here and take it.” That was one thing about his personality that I learned early on, he was completely distrustful of everyone. Sometimes, I would come down to my spot after work to find him sleeping on the raggedy mattress that the sofa contained. It was a king size bed and he would sprawl on it as if he wanted to utilize every inch of it. My playing would always wake him up, but he never complained, he would just roll over and listen to me.

He was a good audience. I was playing adult comedy music at the time, and he was intelligent enough to get my jokes and innuendos and would always laugh and applaud or tell me “I like that one.” I guess that it was mostly bottom feeder stuff, and it did not take much intelligence to understand. But that was what I was doing at the time. I remember that I was working on a song about my exploits at the gallery that the line was “I’ve been fishing in a shallow, stagnant pond,” that he really liked. I would guess that he fished some, he had a few poles in one corner of his “house,” but I’d never seen him fish. Or eat for that matter. It was when I was working on that song that he asked me why I called him Troll Boy. I told him that it was because he lived under a bridge, but I don’t think that he understood the reference. He asked me if it would be ok if he called me Guitar man, and I said sure. We never asked each other our names.

So whenever I would go along the river on fullerton after work and he was there, which was often, I would say “evening Troll Boy” and he would say “evening Guitar Man.” He said “guitar” with the emphases on the first syllable rather than the second, like a southerner might. Over the course of that summer, he completely decked out his home. He got a table and a couple of chairs (although i would bet that i was the only company he ever got), a bookcase complete with books, and an armoire (a freestanding closet thing). He even got a tv even though he couldn’t plug it in anywhere. He had a broom too, and he kept the concrete floor of his home well swept. He secured a rebel flag up on the chainlink fencing on the opposite side from me. That was what led me to my southsider theory. Chicago southsiders are often inexplicitly drawn to that flag - that and jack daniels and large bottomed women.

Troll boy’s bridge was a fine home, and it was easy to see that he took pride in it. Like I said, we really didn’t talk much other than to exchange salutations, but one day I told him that he seemed intelligent and perfectly healthy and asked him why didn’t he try to get a job somewhere so that he could get an apartment. He looked at me as if I were soft and gestured with his outstretched arm so as to encompass all of his home beneath the bridge and asked “Why?” as if that answered everything. I didn’t argue and I never brought it up again.

As the weather started to change, I visited Troll boy less often. Too, I had gotten myself a girl friend, sara, and I had less free time. Then, I stopped down one day after I’d not been there in almost a month, and there was someone else in troll boy’s bed. The house looked different too. Everything was in disarray, the armoire was wide open and the television was lying belly up on the concrete floor with the picture tube smashed. Glass was all over the place. There were a dozen or so empty beer cans next to the bed. When I sat down to play my guitar, the person on the bed jumped up startled and said “hey, I’m sleeping here!” He was an older, more weathered man. His head was shaved bald and he looked angry. I thought ‘ogre’ immediately, but I didn’t say it. I said that I always played my guitar there, and I asked where troll boy was. He said “If you mean that punk who used to live here, he had to move out. This is my house now, and you don’t always play here no more!”

I got the impression that the ogreman was the main reason that troll boy ‘had to’ move, and didn’t really care about the spot enough to battle ogres. I guessed too that troll boy’s distrust of anyone else finding his secret entrance was not paranoia. To tell true, troll boy was really my only attraction to that particular spot anymore. That river runs all through the city and I knew of dozens of more peaceful places on it that were more convenient to me in my life at that time then. Even though we never talked much, troll boy and I were good friends, and I had always felt at home there in his back yard. Now that ogreman had conquered it, there was no warmth there anymore. I have only gone back there once or twice when I was in the neighborhood to reminisce. Even ogreman was gone then, as was the remainder of troll boys prized possessions. I always have wondered what became of troll boy, but I never knew his name and he didn’t leave a forwarding address. Nonetheless, I have explored nearly every bridge that I could find within a mile or so of that area, hoping to someday find his new digs. I have found some other ogres, and a river rat or two, and once, off of the north avenue bridge, a crying , but never again any sign of troll boy.

This city tends to just swallow up people like troll boy and me.

RockyG666 63M
1357 posts
9/10/2013 12:56 pm

hey mee oww. long time no cat?

i know the pacific gardens. i useta wander around downtown as a kid too. the el was a dime when they put it in. we would just go down there at least a dozen times every summer.


10/1/2013 5:47 pm

I like that you reach out to the troubled and homeless. When I had a car I got to do that sometimes. We have bridges like that too. I had a homeless friend who took me around to meet ones that might be dangerous to go by myself to meet. My friend Mitch had all new clothes and stuff in a nice backpack, and a wolf named Dine (pronounced Dinay) after his tribe. He was half Zuni and half Dine, from a rez in Gallop New Mexico. But he liked Arkansas. He was also a believer. He couldn't work because of a mental and emotional disorder. I never judge ppl anymore about not working after seeing him try. He liked sleeping out too.

He flew sign for money and then started getting disability too. He finaly went back home and I haven't heard from him in a long time. I used to have to talk him out of suicide a lot and it wore me out, and he knew it .He had an awful childhood and he was an alcohol fetal syndrom baby. is brother died because his mother passed out drunk on the way home from getting a bottle, sitting by a fire with friends and his brother rolled away from her and froze to death. Mitch was left on the County Courthouse steps and was adopted by a white couple. And there was abuse there too. He finaly got mad at me for something and never called back. We both have different numbers now so guess I'll never see him again. Sad.

"Love is Patient..."