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Echoes of Stir: Four Hours in Joliet

An Englishman’s visit to America’s ‘Prison Town,’ filmed for “The Blues Brothers,” “White Heat,” and “Public Enemies.”
Neil Young
Photo by Donnacha Kenny
"Congratulations, Tom; you're one of the lucky eight per cent!" —Stir of Echoes (1999)
Joliet, Illinois is probably the American city which more people have dreamed more fervently of escaping than any other. But after spending four hours in 'Prison Town'—long synonymous far and wide with incarceration—I was sad to leave; I'll be glad one day to return. Fortunately, such matters are questions of personal choice. Many of the area's residents, including those not serving custodial sentences, have little realistic option but to remain—trapped by personal, social and/or economic circumstances that can feel as confining as any 6-by-8 cell.
"Joliet, or "J-Town", is racially diverse and is known as a crime-ridden city, although the area has shown much improvement since the 1990's... The east side is generally known as the ghetto side and the west side is known as middle class, even though there are projects scattered across the west side. the city is old and looks like a solid city, referring to the brick, limestone, and steel construction of many of its buildings. there are murals and public art throughout the city and [this] gives a nice contrast to the cold aspect of most of its architecture. Joliet can be summed up plainly as a gang infested, lower class city that most people are scared to even drive through, even though many areas of Chicago and its suburbs are much, much worse." —By '1houratatime,' UrbanDictionary.com, 2009
Despite such off-putting online guidance—and the well-meaning counsel of trusted pals—I elected to visit Joliet (pop. 150,000; est. 1852; pron. Jo-lee-it) in mid-March last year. A day-trip from Oak Forest, the peripheral Chicago suburb where I was staying, 24 miles up the Metra-operated Rock Island Line. I'd seen parts of Joliet before, of course—we all have, the city being one of those much-used locations which even cinephiles seldom think of visiting. Chief exception: hardcore devotees of John Landis's enduring cult favourite The Blues Brothers, which is bookended with Joliet Prison sequences.
The opening follows Jake Elwood as he's laboriously released from clink—the "ancient sandstone fortress" (in the screenplay's words) now known as Joliet Correctional Center. Located near the middle of town on Collins Street, JCC opened as Illinois State Penitentiary in 1858, ceased operations in 2002, and provides Dan Aykroyd's porkpie-hatted jailbird with his moniker 'Joliet' Jake. "I don't want to go back into Joliet Prison. The pepper steak they serve on Thursday nights is the worst," he later quips. The gate from which he emerges is now known as the "Joliet Jake Gate," its place in cinema history trumpeted by signboards in an adjacent micro-park.
The Collins Street jail pops prominently up in Raoul Walsh's White Heat, Michael Mann's Public Enemies and the first season of TV's Prison Break; Chicago native Mann also used Joliet's maximum security Stateville Correctional Center a couple of miles away in Crest Hill, the same spot where the prison riot takes place in Natural Born Killers. This is another historic "big house" (dating from 1925) whose oppressively spectacular 'F-House' contains the United States' only surviving 'panopticon roundhouse' design, closely following the principles of total surveillance notoriously devised by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
Parts of Henry Hathaway's cracking 1948 noir Call Northside 777  were shot here; celebrity inmate Richard Loeb was razor-slashed here, in the showers, with fatal consequences. Loeb and his partner-in-crime Nathan Leopold, who spent time in both Stateville and Collins Street, were the Nietzsche-admiring duo whose murderous 1920s exploits inspired—among others—Hitchcock's Rope, Richard Fleischer's Compulsion and Tom Kalin's Swoon.
Renowned films set in Joliet but mainly filmed elsewhere include George Roy Hill's California-shot The Sting and David Anspaugh's inspirational sports biopic Rudy—which does include a handful of genuine Joliet locations. Then there's exploitation king Herschell Gordon Lewis's softcore 1961 "nudie cutie" quickie The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, a chunk of which was filmed "over a long weekend" in the parking-lot of the Hilltop Drive-In—the popular local landmark which went bust under somewhat mysterious circumstances in 2001, and tops the provisional itinerary for my next Joliet jaunt.
Notwithstanding this direct and not-so-direct cinematic lineage, the elective presence of an English film-critic—making his way across country on a non-linear, stop-start two-monther from New York to Los Angeles—in such a place of "dodgy" reputation raised eyebrows before, during and after my visit. And my obviously non-local, north-east English accent invariably solicited instant friendly questioning.
"Why did you want to come to Joliet?" asked the barmaid at Andy & Sophies' Bar on Hickory Street in the residential, low-rise Cunningham district, a few blocks up from the city-bisecting Des Plaines River.
"Well, I'd heard stuff about it, and I thought I'd come and see for myself what it was like—"
"—It's horrible!"
Photo by Donnacha Kenny
Less than an hour before, walking south on Bluff Street towards Cunningham, the river to my right, I'd scribbled a slightly different phrase in my notebook: "It's perfect." A quotation from Paul Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express (which I was re-reading throughout my Oak Forest stint), namely the chapter where he finds himself in the back-of-beyond railway-station in the windy wilds of Patagonia, a train-stop serving the village of Ingeniero Jacobacci:
"The train had gone in one direction, the Jacobacci passengers in another. So only I was left, like Ishmael. 'And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.' It was cold in this dismal place, but I had no choice but to wait four hours for the teeny-weeny steam train to Esquel. But I also thought: It's perfect. If one of the objects of travel was to give yourself the explorer's thrill that you were in a remote place, then I had accomplished the traveller's dream. The train travels a thousand miles from Buenos Aires, stops in the middle of the desert and you get out. You look around; you're alone. It is like arriving. In itself it is like discovery—it has that singularity. The sky was full of stars in unfamiliar constellations, and even the moon was distorted, like an antipodean version of the one I was used to."
Ambling along Bluff on that late Saturday afternoon in mid-March 2015, a pint of dark Founders' beer warming my system, I thought I'd found my Ingeniero Jacobacci: a remote spot which suddenly yields transcendence, a hard-knock epiphany. Alone in an unlikely place, very far from home, a town where I knew no-one and no-one knew me. This particular stretch of street is unremarkable at first glance—just a road, flattish on the river side, steeper on the other, running between the usual detached but modest clapboard-style houses one finds all over the north-east and mid-west of America. But its ordinariness was, for me, part of its appeal. An ordinary, sleepy sort of spot; seldom visited, rarely photographed, almost never written about or celebrated in any form. But one capable of delivering, at such a moment— and for anyone receptive and/or "lucky" enough to sense it—a quietly overpowering sense of place.
The friendly presence of an attentive, responsive black-and-white cat was a definite plus. Memories were also stirred of the underpopulated, monster-haunted Detroit suburbs immortalised by cinematographer Mike Gioulakis in David Robert Mitchell's It Follows. I didn't feel in any particular danger—but nor did I disregard the talk I'd heard of Joliet's gangland problems. The latter concern perhaps explained why I was so particularly alert, so attuned to every detail of my environment, to every colour and sound, near and far. Somewhere beyond, the clank of a heavy train passing over a Des Plaines bridge; that moaning horn—a sound that accompanied me in so many different parts of America over the two months, most of my journeys executed by public transport. Beneath my feet, manhole covers from the foundry in Neenah, Wisconsin.
The air no longer warm, but still temperate enough for a Spanish-speaking family to be sitting outside enjoying a barbecue in their unfenced back garden—just feet from the river, within sight of the low and blue-ish Ruby Street Bridge up ahead. This is one of five blockily massive "bascule" bridges—the kind that can split in half, the two parts rising up to allow vessels to pass through—that span the Des Plaines in Joliet, each dating from around 1933, each a quietly colossal marvel of industrial engineering. Their vast mechanisms, heavily lubricated with viscous black gunk, oddly redolent of eastern Europe—I flashed back to Gdynia in Poland, to Riga in Latvia, remembered that many families from such parts ended up settling in such industrial corners of the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
There are similarly striking bridges 60 miles downriver in Chicago, of course, but they have to compete for attention in an overpoweringly crowded urban landscape. The bridges of Joliet, however, are—with due respect to those dourly picturesque houses of detention and correction—by some way the city's finest adornment. I stumbled across these wonders in happy ignorance, having done only cursory online research into Joliet before departing Oak Forest. When I'd told my host Donnacha that I was going to spend some Saturday afternoon hours in Joliet, he'd been bemusedly discouraging. Nothing there; nothing to do; go to Chicago instead.
Saturday March 14, 2015 didn't appeal to me as a good day to be in Chicago, this being when St. Patrick's Day—actually the 17th, of course—would be noisily and chaotically and prematurely celebrated. Green dye in the river, shamrocks in panoply, the whole shenanigans.  And I'd already taken the train to the big city on the Friday, spent the whole day and evening there; had crisscrossed the Loop, made architectural pilgrimage to the city's epoch-altering ur-skyscraper the Monadnock Building, then headed out into less-visited terrain in search of a cheap-but-decent place to get a haircut. Highlight of my trek was a shortish street, Carpenter, which I followed largely because of its name—fresh in my mind as I'd been emotionally knocked by out Starman on 35mm in Brooklyn just a couple of weeks before (John Carpenter has been my favourite director since the mid-80s).
Carpenter Street: so much to see, compressed within just a few blocks. Industrial lots, a couple of characterful houses, even a railway line. The street came to an end at Grand Avenue and I turned left onto this much bigger and wider street, seeming to stretch away into infinity. Headed along it, past small businesses and neighbourhood shops and quotidian restaurants, until I spotted that the smaller parallel alley was called Ferdinand (doomed winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby, one of horse-racing's saddest stories), so then followed that instead. Semi-accidental impulses; superstitious serendipities.
Ferdinand Street: the unassumingly fascinating rears of countless small enterprises, odd little yards and piles of detritus and cars and trucks, me walking quickly and (as usual) with definite purpose as if I had some business at urgent hand. After another hour or so's brisk progress I found myself in 'Ukrainian Village'; the giant cross-street of Western Avenue and as far as I fancied going for now (the Loop's skyscrapers now four miles distant, futuristic and incongruously gigantic on the horizon). I turned and headed back; my eye was soon caught by a Ukrainian-esque corner pub which I duly entered; sports-related conversation ensued with a bloke at the bar; one pint followed another and—ah well, tomorrow is another day.
Photo by Donnacha Kenny
By the time I actually got to Joliet, however, it was already 3:50pm—next trains back to Oak Forest the 4:15, the 6:15, then finally the 8:20—and I set foot in the unfamiliar city doubting I'd succeed in my simple mission. Descending from the station by what I quickly realised was the "wrong" exit—an unpromising, semi-residential zone, not much in the way of a city to be seen—I headed under a dingy bridge, followed the small "crowd" of fellow ex-passengers, spotted one of the jails, and next door the baseball stadium. Named after a hospital that's one of the area's biggest employers, Silver Cross Field is home to the wittily-named 'Joliet Slammers'—their crest a prison-uniformed, corvine "jail-bird" hemmed in by wire-topped prison walls—and can be found on Mayor Art Schultz Drive.
Schultz was the city's long-serving top dog: two full decades from 1991. The Democrat (Illinois has "gone blue" in all presidential elections since 1992) had been instrumental in steering Joliet—once a steel city—away from its reliance on correctionals to the promisingly lucrative and newly legal business of gambling. Harrah's, which had started off as a riverboat moored in the Des Plaines, now occupies a prime dry-land site right in the centre—a casino with 200-room hotel attached. It was here that the journalist Linh Dinh stayed in 2014 when he researched a colourfully informative 'Postcard from the End of America.'
"At only $53, my room turned out to be quite palatial, at least by my gutter standards. ...Such a deal, but Joliet in the dead of winter is hardly a vacation destination." Later, in conversation with a local in a bar: "There was nothing in my room about Joliet, no guide book, no restaurant guide. Nothing!" "Yes, of course," his temporary pal replies, "they want you to keep your money inside Harrah's."
I only came across Dinh's article months later, of course, and so proceeded into the centre of Joliet in a state of curious-minded innocence. Not many folk about—an atmosphere of eerie abandonment, even, which momentarily had me thinking that I should just turn straight around and nip back for that 4:20 towards Oak Forest (why not stay on all the way to Chicago and plunge into the emerald maelstrom of bonhomie and cheery debauch?). But no, I was determined to at least check out the Rialto Square Theatre, "Joliet's jewel," which I knew was only a couple of minutes' walk from the 'Metra' station.
The Rialto Square was built as a cinema, but opening night in 1926 was a stage-show, 'The Evolution of Joliet'—presumably tracing its origins back to when this settlement named after Louis Jolliet was a village called 'Juliet.' Inside and out, this is a brazenly spectacular manifestation of the ornate showbiz architecture for which Chicago's Loop is especially renowned. It was built by Rapp & Rapp, the firm responsible for the iconic Chicago Theatre, and its relatively narrow frontage is a gloriously deep, elaborate, well-polished fantasia of arches and complicated recesses.
Al Capone and his entourage were regulars here during their Prohibition-era pomp—Joliet a favoured base of operations, handy for Chicago but far enough away to give crooks a sense that the cops weren't breathing down their necks. Sixty-plus years later it was used as a location for David Koepp's (Chicago-set) supernatural thriller Stir of Echoes—specifically, the first-act plot-driving hypnosis scene in which Kevin Bacon's Tom Witzky is soothingly instructed by his mesmerist sister-in-law Lisa (Illeana Douglas) to envisage himself in "one of those great, old movie-palaces." The traumatic consequences unlock a "door" in Tom's brain, opening up long-dormant ESP powers possessed by only a small, lucky fraction of the human race. Complications ensue.
I'd somehow never actually seen Stir of Echoes when I visited Joliet—that oversight was finally rectified only a few weeks ago, in January 2016 during research for this article. I'd presumed that Bacon and company actually visited the joint, the theatre perhaps masquerading as a working cinema—Joliet has, after all, on many occasions convincingly doubled for its gigantic, much busier, noisier and (filming-wise) considerably more expensive quasi-neighbour.
But no—all you see is Koepp's film is the interior. Later in the evening I surveyed the scene, nipping into the lobby among hundreds of mainly middle-aged rockers on their way to see Get The Led Out: The American Led Zeppelin ('warning: fog, strobelike effects and haze will be used in this performance'). Opulent chandeliers, marbled splendour, the works. I couldn't see any of this earlier that afternoon, however—the doors were locked, so I had to be content with the façade while pondering my next move.
No barber in sight, not much sign of what one would call city-centre buzz (Donnacha's Irish brogue: "nothing there..."). A Latin American fast-food place caught my eye: Venezuelan Bowl, beef empanadas $1.50 a throw, plus tax. I walked and munched, diagnosing Joliet another victim of the dreaded 'doughnut effect' I'd recently witnessed in Rochester, NY. One by one, businesses prioritise car-driving customers rather than pedestrians and relocate to the margins of cities; the centres soon effectively become ghost-towns.
Mulling how I might best fill the two hours before the 6:15 train, I navigated back and forth around Joliet's central grid, noting the presence of the 'Route 66 Welcome Center' as main draw at the Joliet Area Historical Museum (closed for the day). Route 66, the most famous itinerary in the Americas and still synonymous with open-road car-culture freedom—completed, like the Rialto Square, in 1926—traditionally starts (or ends) in Chicago and ends (or starts) in Los Angeles. Any 'attraction' in Joliet is, given the city centre's obvious economic difficulties, to be commended—but it seems a very odd place to have a Route 66-themed display. Drivers heading west out of Chicago will want to put a few miles behind them before they even think of stopping; drivers heading east towards Chicago will want to get to the mega-metropolis as soon as they can. Who would break their journey in Joliet, apart from those aforementioned Blues Brothers nuts?
Next time I'm in Joliet, I'll try to time my visit to coincide with the museum being open. If nothing else, I'd like to see if/how they commemorate the city's illustrious showbiz offspring: present-day comedy stars Melissa McCarthy and Nick Offerman; John Barrowman from Doctor Who and Torchwood (who grew up in what he described as a "quintessentially middle-class conservative town"); prime 70s/80s beefcake John Beck (Sleeper, Rollerball ); and bad-girl queen of 1940s noir Audrey Totter (Alias Nick Beal; The Set-Up), whose small-screen appearances included a Texas-set episode of Route 66.
Also from Joliet: two formidable ladies best known among the non-cinephile crowd for voice-only performances in 1970s classics. Forcefully direct Irish-American actress Mercedes McCambridge, who for years gave her birthdate as St. Patrick's Day (she actually came into the world on March 16th), won the Oscar for her debut in All the King's Men, crafted sharply memorable supporting roles in Johnny Guitar and Touch of Evil, then provided the demon Pazuzu's mockingly gurgling rasp in The Exorcist.
Five years later in The Warriors—one of the best films about becoming inadvertently stranded on hostile (gangland) turf—Lynne Thigpen was a cuttingly sardonic delight as the nameless 'DJ,' repeatedly appearing to comment on the action and assist various bands of New York rowdies pursuing our eponymous heroes. A truly inspired touch from director Walter Hill: only the bottom half of her face is ever visible, Judge Dredd style—except with perpetually-immaculate red lipstick ("OK boppers, stay tuned...").
Thigpen amassed a respectable stack of film appearances (The Insider, Streets of Fire, Tootsie, Anger Management, Bob Roberts, Running Empty, that quickly-forgotten Shaft remake) but found much more suitable openings for her talents on stage. After winning a Tony in 1997 for An American Daughter she thanked "everybody in Joliet Illinois, who I know is [sic] watching." Dodgy grammar didn't prevent her name being given to an elementary school on Midland Avenue, across town from Elmhurst Cemetery where she was laid to rest in 2003—obituaries dubbed her a "Chicago actress" or, worse, "Chicago-bred."
A dozen years later, central Joliet itself exuded a certain funereal stillness as I mooched the streets at a quarter to five, the prospect of a haircut seeming recede with the afternoon light. Until, a block or so away from the museum, there it was. A small glass-fronted premises, just "BARBER" written on the window, lights on, some signs of life inside. If this joint has a name, it's 'Hookup Barbers,' 118 N. Ottawa. In I walk. Middle-aged black barber in dark blue barber-smock. No customers. Gloriously unreconstructed, slightly shabby 1950s decor. The real thing. "Are you my 4:30?" he asks, and I think he's joking. I come up with some lame quip in response, but it turns out he isn't joking, because in behind me comes the tardy, apologetic 4:30.
The gent courteously offers me the chair first but I decline; am happy to sit listening for half an hour—feigning interest in a magazine—as they discuss women, Joliet, Joliet women, Joliet business, Joliet crime. Eventually it's my turn, and the barber starts cutting my hair in a cautious, even feeble manner—no real sense of skill in those slow fingers. And I can't see how the haircut is going because, as is often the case with American barber-shops, my chair is turned away from his mirrors.
The stool is finally spun around; I see he's done a decent job, and head out into the crisp late afternoon air with renewed vigour. Just 45 minutes till the 6:20; time for one quick pint...somewhere. I call in at a convenience store for a bar of chocolate, hear a customer discussing the local crime situation with the checkout operator, wander around until I spot a big bridge—a bascule one, Jefferson Street Bridge, and I cross over, noting a series of huge, complex bridges at regular intervals downriver to the north.
Photo by Donnacha Kenny
The west side of the Des Plaines proves no more lively than the east, and after a bit of wandering I finally spot a bar. An Irish bar, of course: O'Charley's, standing alone next to its car-park, a hubbub of music audible from the street. I enter, and realise that the other patrons—a mixed bunch in terms of age, but with only white faces on view (the handful of folk I've seen on the street in this neighbourhood have all been young black men)—are wearing green clothing of some kind. I am not wearing anything remotely green. I am English, audibly so; I take my seat at the bar, order a pint of Founder's, listen to the raucous banter of patrons who have clearly been toasting their Emerland roots since before noon.
It's a slightly forced, self-conscious kind of jollity; no-one near me strikes up conversation and my own inclination to do so is uncharacteristically AWOL. The atmosphere—while far from hostile—isn't particularly engaging (Linh Dinh had better luck: "O'Charley's was pleasant enough..."). I sup up and leave, heading downhill towards the river and then down to what I see is Bluff St., deciding—as I walk along it—to skip the 6:15pm train and instead aim for the 8.20. Dark river, abundant post-industrialism, a reddish blue haze in the sky—suddenly, every vista feels like a potential James Benning film. Suddenly, I'm in my element.
I pass—and pause at—the Cass Street Bridge and the Jackson Street Bridge, see the Ruby Street Bridge ahead as I walk north, upriver, towards the distant point where the Des Plaines is formed by the confluence of the Kankakee and Illinois. The latter a tributary of no less an eminence than the Mississippi; Peoria its biggest city. Then I walk up the bank to my left, up into streets of regular-looking houses, and realise I'm in a Polish quarter: Polish-language signs outside the church (St. Mary Nativity, a gold crucifix atop its tall spire)—including one with a red circle and line through a gun, 'no weapons.' I keep going until a find a corner bar: Lety's Place, long and narrow, pool table at the far end, a scattering of youngish locals, vaguely Latino vibe heightened by a TV showing the Mexico-set early stretches of Seabiscuit.
The barmaid cheerfully suggests I try an 'Angry Orchard' though I've asked about beers and it sounds very much like a cider to me. "No, it's an ale," says the barmaid, pouring me what turns out to be most definitely cider. This detail proves a handy conversation-starter with the twentysomething couple on the adjacent stools who ask where I'm from, why I'm in Joliet. They seem genuinely pleased that I've come out of my way to visit their town, and recommend I try "Andy's place" just along the street.
It's seven o'clock or so; time is running out; a pang of sadness. Andy's—to be precise, Andy & Sophie's Bar—deepens this pang. It's twice the size of Lety's, a fair-sized corner pub with ZiMNE PiWO ("cold beer") neatly hand-written in thick black marker-pen beneath the Heileman's Old Style sign out front—plastic signage that looks decades old. Spacious interior, thirty/forty/fifty-somethings at the bar sipping Old Style from smallish cans. The owners—a wiry, white-haired, octogenarian-looking couple—very busy preparing food, with assistance from a barmaid in her early twenties.
The corned-beef concoction being spooned into plastic tubs is for St. Patrick's Day—the real day, not the ersatz version being celebrated along at O'Charley's. "On a normal day," Andy (short for Andrzej, presumably) told the Chicago Tribune in 1999, "I slice about 75 pounds of beef, all by hand. Last St. Patrick's Day, I sliced about 650 pounds of corned beef. Since I started cooking here, I've probably sliced enough beef to make a line of sandwiches all the way to Poland and back."
Bloke on the next stool strikes up the chat, he's from the Philippines, has lived in the area for 30 years, stands me an Old Style. As we sip he tells me how much he likes Joliet, with the bar prominent among its virtues. Andy & Sophie (Wrobel, or maybe Wróbel) came over from Warsaw in 1974—Sophie still sounds like she arrived last month. The place doesn't seem to have materially altered much, if at all, since the days when Karol Wojtyła was just the energetic but obscure cardinal of Kraków.
Out of the way, here at the "end of America," it's like stepping into those Clairton, Pennsylvania sequences in the first, better half of The Deer Hunter. And I can only stay for 40 minutes! There's apparently a third good neighbourhood bar just along the road—I get as far as the door; hear tantalising hubbub; calculate that I'd have to down whatever pint I order in five minutes flat if I want to be sure of catching the Oak Forest 8:20. Reason prevails. Heavy-hearted I head back down Moran Street towards the Des Plaines, and for some reason pause and look back up the road. The colours of the March evening night catch my breath, lift my spirits. Yes, it's perfect. The beer and cider help, of course, but the atmosphere of this specific moment, the way the sky above and the streets below come together, these are what deliver this second unanticipated rush of transcendence.
I could stand here for hours, but there's a train to catch—and then, all of a sudden, there isn't: Donnacha calls my mobile, telling me he's finished work early and will pick me up in his car outside the Rialto Square around 8:45. My pace slackens as I pass the river-bank 'Route 66 Park' and slouch towards the Des Plaines; a clanking bell sounds, insistent and harsh, and the two halves of the Ruby Street Bridge rise steadily, gracefully, high into the cool air. Just as well I'm not in a rush.
—something like that, anyway, some Irish-sounding woman's name, the name of the vessel whose progress on the dark river from the direction of Chicago to the direction of (perhaps) Peoria has activated each of the Des Plaines' gigantic bascules, which one by one are rising as she approaches. I wait on the western side of the bridge, watching the barge-like boat slowly appear and pass by bearing her shadowy, unidentifiable cargo, and strike up conversation with a patient middle-aged woman halted in her journey to the eastern bank. She lives in an apartment building just a few yards away, has a great view of the water, likes to see the dapples of reflected light dancing on her bedroom ceiling, is paying a visit to an unwell friend who lives near Harrah's. She doesn't much like being out after dark, though. J-Town isn't a good place to be at night. Violence, shootings, rapes, robberies. I tell her that in my four brisk Joliet hours I've never felt in any real personal danger.
"You should have, hon! Anything can happen here. These gangs..."
"Well, I can walk pretty fast; I can usually head away from trouble pretty quick if I need to."
"Walk?! They'll catch you."
"And what if I just run?"
"They'll catch you. They'll catch you."


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