by: Lisa Buscani
The candle-lit processional meanders slowly down the Stone Park IL street, its homemade banners and signs flapping raggedly in the wind. The banners express the groups’ outrage in a hasty, amateur “I made this on the kitchen floor after I finished second shift” kind of a way, saying things like “Get it outta here,”“Close the Devil’s Workshop,” and “got morals?” in lowercase Times Roman. The largely Latino group is comprised of people of all ages: senior citizens, teenagers, families with kids who are excited to be included in something they don’t understand. At the front of the group, precariously guarding their candles from an impertinent wind, is a line of nuns, marching in their modern polyester business suits and brief, no-nonsense veils.
The sisters, more specifically the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians, have organized a prayer vigil to protest the strip club being built less than two feet from their convent property line. The club is imaginatively entitled “Get It.” No can ever accuse straight boys of a deft touch. The venue is scheduled to open April 1. It joins rival club “Scores” in a downtown that is less than three blocks long which already hosts four adult businesses.
Stone Park’s history of profiting on the shady is storied and notorious; long-suspected of its mob connections, it is said that Al Capone once operated a brewery there. Recently it has been the target of local, state and federal corruption. Village leaders and developers have simply shifted focus from the illegal to the barely legal, from champagne to The Champagne Room.
The conflict can be dissected in two ways. We can position the nuns in the pinched, no-fun persona they are usually forced to occupy, that of women too frightened or judgmental to have sex themselves, standing in the way of regular human beings with normal needs partaking in a little harmless rumpy-pumpy just to get through the night. The sisters stand, as they have stood for centuries, over our shoulders, wagging their bony, manicured, ringless fingers which smell like rose glycerine, reminding us of the skin-flaying hell and damnation that awaits us if we give in to that which is only natural.
They remind us that no one’s naughty bits should mingle outside the bonds of holy (read heterosexual) marriage. They look us up and down from behind their less-than fashionable pastel pink plastic glasses, find us lacking in content and character and insist that we follow their flawless guidance unflinchingly. They whip us into towing the conservative patriarchy’s line, no questions allowed, and if a little physical pain figures into the whole thing well then, that’s just the cost of spiritual business.
Or you can look at it this way: educated women who are on a committed spiritual path that few of us would have the nads to follow, try to talk the less-than-enlightened Stone Park fiscal titans out of creating yet another opportunity for the nubile yet scholastically underachieving women of that community to wrap themselves around a boring metaphor while dressed in conveniently placed triangles attached by dental floss jammed up their asses, gyrating to Motley Crue’s” Dr. Feel Good” or some other song that has long since lost its sexy edge.
The sisters are trying to steer Stone Park citizens away from the men who sit hunched like question marks over a watered-down jack for hours, gazing unblinkingly at off-limits titties, stopping only for brief, thrilling coke bumps in their freezing, cheap import cars; bemoaning the fact that they must buy that which they cannot win with charm or strength, mentally calculating what they must save up for a sad, spontaneous lap-dance emission. The sisters wish to avoid the hipsters who drive out from the city to enjoy the scene ironically, the women who grind against the working girls for their boyfriends or girlfriends’ benefits, who put over-priced bubbly on close to maxed-out cards, who have loud, drunken wee-hour fights in the parking lot.
Either scenario is bleak and not entirely accurate. The biggest factor behind the conflict is not the high-toned villainy one might expect. The business ignoramuses who regard a cheap pre-fab shed in a blighted field in Stone Park IL as the height of sexual sophistication are truly only guilty of two things: greed and a lack of imagination. Sex sells and Stone Park needs money; village leaders recently tried to fleece club developers for a cut of the proceeds in return for the proper permits and ended up embroiled a lawsuit. There are many businesses and services that the village does not have; the sisters suggest the venue be used as a badly-needed library. But somehow the powers that be don’t think about the possibility of a diversified economy; they don’t think their largely Latino public deserves anything beyond a cash-cow parasite tarted up to look exotic.
Stone Park isn’t wealthy; its people must milk their chump change for maximum impact. They can’t really afford the fiscal drain that businesses like strip clubs create. Strips clubs offer a service like any other, but it’s a service that lasts for few minutes and that’s if the guy paces himself. Meanwhile, the hard-earned dollars of the work go for booze and spank bank fodder; the tangibles goods and services that other businesses create are nowhere to be found.
Maybe the sisters know something we don’t. Maybe they drop to their knees in daily supplication in the spare, airless cloisters of their convent, and ask who’s ever up there to endow the community of Stone Park with a little ingenuity, with creativity and perseverance enough to give the village what it really needs rather than relying on the old tired bump and grind. Maybe it isn’t sin that’s the problem; maybe it’s ignorance and fear; maybe completely risk-averse businessmen shouldn’t go into business at all until they figure how their business will best serve. The question shouldn’t be “how much can we make,” but “what else can we offer?” Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that a group of women have made a vocation out of demanding that people do better. It’s obvious that the businessmen and leaders of Stone Park need a little nudge in that regard.
Lisa Buscani got her start in Chicago’s performance poetry scene and became a National Poetry Slam Champion. She has published one book of poetry, “Jangle” (Tia Chucha Press) and has been featured in numerous poetry anthologies. Lisa is a Neo-Futurist and writes and performs in “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”; she also appears in the “Late Nite Catechism” shows at The Royal George Theatre. Lisa reviews theater for Timeout Chicago, New City and Make it Better.com. She is a legend in her own mind.