Interview: Jeff Mueller (Rodan, June of ’44, Shipping News)

my condition has been worsening as the week progresses. today i had to go to the pharmacy and get a prescription for some kind of eye drops or gross shit. my voice is broken, my eyes are bloodshot and teary, my nose is clogged shut, there’s pressure in my head that won’t relent. but other than that, things are pretty good. here’s a portion of the jeff mueller interview for you to read. i finished the tim furnish interview (four pages) and i’m working on tim midgett but i’m all out of batteries so i probably won’t finish until tomorrow. after that it’s rich fessler and i’m done with the audio tapes. the total package of material right now stands at about 112 pages, 1.5 spacing.

EL: Pretty much my experiences with Chicago to this point were reserved for spending time with family in Willamette or when my sister went to Northwestern. When we’d come into Chicago it was mostly like Michigan Ave. and some other select places. It gives you a very different opinion of the area, and when you come into the heart of the city like this area it’s totally shattered.
JM: Yeah, the North Shore… it’s a different place. We’re up there a lot, painting or coating finishes or painting murals and stuff, and the only people that can afford us, my boss and I, they all live on the North Shore. That’s where all the money in the city is. It’s predominately white people that commute into the city to work and then go back home at the end of the day. Most of them are super nice and great, it’s fairly culturally dull. There’s not so much life there.
EL: Generally, would you say the city is culturally aware for the most part?
JM: I think it’s probably one of the last segregated cities in the United States. Um, the north-side is predominately white, the south-side is predominately black and the west-side is predominately Hispanic. Economically–not necessarily the amount of income that actually comes into those families or people who live in those parts of the city–but economically as far as the way the government in the city distributes tax dollars, you can certainly tell how those parts of the city are maintained based on where the money is coming from. The schools on the West side are in tragic need of repair, more so on the south side, but on the north side the schools are… they’re not great schools, but they’re definitely in better condition and have better teachers. The same holds true for hospitals.
EL: Would you say that the people can still come together in their respect for the artistic movement, or…
JM: I think the artistic community is one of the most integrated parts of the community. The Mexican Fine Art Museum is on the southwest side. It’s more south than it is west. People from all walks go there to involve themselves in it. The galleries on the north side, it’s more central Chicago actually, will work really hard to curate shows that people from various walks of life can enjoy. But as far as like, jobs and the cross section of people in the schools… it’s pretty strange. It’s one of the substantial reasons why we left the area we were living. I don’t want Leo, my son, to grow up in a school that’s like that, all white people, because it’s not socially fair for him to get that understanding of the way the world is.
EL: I mean, I guess my only basis for comparison would be New York because I spend a lot time there, but—
JM: Do you find that New York is pretty integrated?
EL: Well, I have friends who… none of the people that I know went to the New York public high schools, so in that regard I would say yes it’s very segregated. You have the families who can afford to send their children to the more high-end private schools and then pretty much everyone else is left to fill up the public schools. I mean, when you walk around on a day-to-day basis you see integration but then there’s that kind of… undercurrent that segregation exists. You get that because–and they have it here too– you have the Little Italy area and the Chinatown area and I think that inherently, even though it’s something that has history to it and has a continual presence, it says something about the inability of people to integrate.
JM: Yeah, right, I feel… I agree. I think New York is totally segregated. I mean, the boroughs are all even divided into their own little isotopes. And in this city it makes perfect sense, I mean, this neighborhood five years ago was all Latino and Ukranian people but with the introduction of a new alderman, this guy Manny Flores was voted in during 2001 and he’s very much for urban renewal. They’ve taken a lot of the dilapidated buildings, destroyed them and built these new condo monsters that inflate property taxes and families that have lived here thirty or forty years can no longer afford a six thousand dollar a year property tax, so they’re forced by design to leave their homes.
EL: That seems counterproductive.
JM: It’s counterproductive for cultural ethnicity and cultural growth, but as far as the wealth of the city is concerned then no. It makes sense to me, I just don’t agree with it. It’s sad, I’ve seen people that have lived here for so long just kind of getting booted. I think that probably at some point there’s a lot of suburban area that are moving back into the city. A lot of people from the west side, the far west side, smaller cities that are thirty miles or twenty miles away from here are moving back into Chicago because the neighborhoods are, visually, becoming better. I think that the suburbs at some point are going to become inundated with all of the people that have been kicked out of these areas. I think that it’s a pretty dour experience based on what those neighborhoods and what those subdivisions have to offer.
EL: Is it like musical chairs in that it keeps shifting continually? You mentioned that the new condos force people out. Don’t those people up and move somewhere else together? Doesn’t it perpetuate the…
JM: More than likely. I think that they try to stick together, but it’s harder though. If you’re getting squeezed you’re probably just going to find wherever you can. We rent a place. We rent an apartment and our downstairs neighbors is our landlay’s brother and he’s somewhat debilitated through diabetes. Our rent is super cheap and we have a nice apartment. It’s not a nice building but it’s a nice place. Over the past two years since we’ve moved in there I’ve seen probably a third of the original residents just leave. First move, second the buildings get torn down, third a new condo gets built. So I don’t know where those people are going to go. Hopefully they get to find a place.

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