Grey Litaker is sitting on a bench not far from the beach, chatting with a friend. This nook of the Rogers Park neighborhood is far from crowded. You can hear some birds and a few people on the beach. Even the waves are quiet.
“I jokingly tell everyone that it’s the beach community of Chicago," Litaker says. "It’s got that kind of laid back vibe.”
The little concession stand nearby sells vegetarian hot dogs. Litaker is not a vegetarian, but appreciates a good “tofu pup.”
“I mean, they sell them right on the beach, I live next to a beach and I can afford to live here. So, no one move here so I can keep affording to live here!”
But you’re selling it so well!
“It’s a beautiful, wonderful, diverse neighborhood. So much stuff is great that it’s hard to pick something out,” Litaker says. “There’s like three comics shops. I mean, what can you say?”
There is one drawback to her idyllic beachfront community: it’s the northernmost point of Chicago.
“It’s real far from a lot of stuff, which is fine. I mean, there’s so much stuff to do here that it’s not too bad. But that commute is pretty brutal.”
That commute is to Shimer College, a “great books” college in Bridgeport on the near South Side.
“Everyone should go there, because it’s great and wonderful,” Litaker says, before reciting a Shimer rhyme. “'Sex, drugs and Socrates. We kick ass at GREs.’ It’s totally grad school prep. That’s all it is.”
This 31-year-old former chef is now a college student who works in the college bookstore. Litaker plays the bass, guitar and cello and is part of a new band, yet unnamed.
“Mostly we’re trying to break all the boundaries. We’re trying to say, 'Yes, we’re queer people in a band, but we don’t play dance music,” Litaker says. "So we’re mostly trying to sound like early Misfits. Angry. We wish the Rotten Fruits wasn’t a taken name. It’s actually taken.”
Litaker has plenty of time to think of a new name during that commute I mentioned. Right now, it’s an hour and 15 minutes, if the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line is behaving itself. It’s going to get even longer with more Red Line construction, which Litaker finds frustrating, but “super freakin’ important.”
That commute also allows for a lot of prime homework time. Shimer College students apparently have a ton of reading.
“Each of my classes clocks about 200 pages of reading a day.”
Litaker says that’s an exaggeration, but basically, there’s a lot to read. And you don’t want to show up for class and pretend.
“It’s better to admit that you didn’t read before discussion starts and then just not talk, then to try to act like you did your reading,” Litaker says. “Because you’ll sit there and you’ll be like, ‘Well, I think Alexis de Tocqueville really thinks that democracy is amazing.’ And it’s like, ‘I think if you’d actually read the homework then you would see on page 35 that actually what he says is that this is bulls----.’”
[Sorry about the censorship. The audio is uncensored, so click the player above to hear Litaker go on a roll about fakers.]
Litaker is originally from South Carolina, but moved here 13 years ago. That’s plenty of time to get clued in to Chicago politics, and plenty of time to get cynical about them. When I ask how Rahm Emanuel is doing as mayor, Litaker lets out a big sigh.
“Well, you know, frankly I can’t even say yet, you know what I mean? I’m so used to having a good lifetime to judge a mayor,” Litaker says, before issuing judgment anyway. “As far as I can tell, it’s like, ‘And Daley’s policies continue.’ You know, it just seems like more of the same s--- to me. If you have to be a part of that machine to get elected, I’m pretty much thinking you have to toe the party line on that one.”
Litaker’s got a lot more to say on this subject, about controversial Tax Increment Financing districts, about the condition of some public schools.
“The [tax] money is there. How [politicians] misspend it is really what I want to be looking at,” Litaker says. “Schools, parks, libraries, roads, infrastructure. I mean, if that stuff’s taken care of, you can be a raging douche bag. I don’t really care. As long as you’re not like a raging douche bag that wants to oppress people. You know, I really don’t give a s--- as long as the job gets done.”