By Alexis Thomas
My first job was as proprietor of a lemonade stand at the corner of Belmont and Clark, an intersection of smut, littered with empty PBR cans, Dunkin’ Donuts-stained napkins and transsexuals in ripped fishnet pantyhose. It was the epicenter of the counter-cultural lifestyle. If you lived in Chicago, dyed your hair blue and believed punk rock could save the world, you’ve probably spent some time at Belmont and Clark.
My dad owns The Alley, an alternative-lifestyles store that sells everything from neon-colored sex toys, leather jackets, pins, one-hitters, spiked collars and bondage gear to Doc Martens.
Saturday mornings, dad and I packed Dixie cups and pitchers of Crystal Light lemonade into the back of his Cadillac hearse. The hearse was decked out in Alley decals and for ten years was his main ride. He drove it throughout Chicago neighborhoods promoting his store and lifestyle.
I’d sit on the corner as dad watched the foot traffic of Cubs fans, punks and everyone in between. But no one bought lemonade from me. Instead, their eyes crossed and noses wrinkled as they looked at me like an orphan misplaced by her parents before a show at The Vic and a whiskey sour at L&L Tavern.
Kids with mohawks and leather jackets sat next to my lemonade stand with their jelly donuts and cigarettes. Skinheads, oi punks, riot grrrls, ’77 punks and metalheads crowded into tight circles and broke into the kind of fights that were all fists and snot and blood.
Just as I was about to give up on my lemonade stand, my dad yelled over the walkie-talkies in the store, “You all better go out there and buy some lemonade from Alexis when you’re on break!”
The Alley rescued my business from bankruptcy as every employee handed over a dollar for my lemonade. By the end of the day I had made ten dollars.
The Belmont and Clark I knew at 8 years old got lost in the rubble of punk rock’s Armageddon. And before punk could revive itself, gentrification filled its void. Today, the Belmont and Clark I knew is an abandoned history. Read the rest of this entry »