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Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2011: Full Report
C2E2 - An Ode to Recklessness, Nerds, and the Chicago PD

by Bamboo Dong,

Convention stories tend to start out the same way: “So this one time, I was out drinking with my friends…” This particular story is no exception, only it involved a couple of beers and some deep dish pizza—and ends with pickpocketers, a foot chase, two awesome cops, and four packets of heroin.

Loyal readers of Protoculture Addicts and frequent ANN forum goers may be very familiar with the name Jason Green, one of our freelance contributors, and a writer for St. Louis' Playback publication. The story begins with him, and two of his St. Louis buddies, comic book creator Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, and Brad King. It's worth pointing out for later in the story that Carlo is not only a terrific artist, but happens to have published a comic compilation of crime stories, of which I hope there is a revised edition that includes our adventure.

Tempted by the promise of grilled meats, Chicago's local Honkers brew, and a 10% coupon from Travelodge, we ended up at Exchecquer, a local restaurant that boasted in its menu as having the #1 deep dish pizza in the city, as proclaimed by the Chicago Tribune. Soon into our meal, a commotion was erupting from the kitchen. A homeless man had wandered in and started trouble with one of the employees, yelling as he headed to the door, “Get your hands off me! Don't touch me!” Naturally, all eyes were on him, as the diners rubbernecked a scene that we thought was going to be highlight of the night. I myself was excited to tell my friends about this minor disturbance, since, living in Orange County, we rarely get any excitement in restaurants beyond an indignant customer discovering that their chicken was not free-range.

Not a few minutes later, three people sat down at a table next to us. They looked scruffy, but I didn't want to make any assumptions, and any thoughts I had of moving my chair-draped purse were buried in shame. Who was I to judge anyone who just wanted a hot slice of pizza? But within a few minutes, they got up and left, and by the time I noticed they were gone, my eyes darted to my purse. It was open. My hand snaked inside, and I realized it was empty.

“They just took my wallet.”

A succession of thoughts raced through my head— how much hassle would it be to call all my banks?, how was I going to get to the airport tomorrow without any cash?, and then—how on earth was I was supposed to get through TSA?

I raced to the counter and asked the host whether he had seen the three people who had just walked out, blurting out that they had just stolen my wallet. He walked outside with me, but after scanning the mostly empty street, declared that whoever they were, were long gone.

Not so fast.

Three blocks down the street, I saw three figures—two men, one woman—who looked like the people that were sitting next to us. I started sprinting down the street, like Omar from The Wire, or every other cop show that I had ever seen. Behind me, I knew that Carlo and Brad had peeled out of the restaurant too, and were in fast pursuit as well. As we were rounding the corner, Carlo flagged down a cop car that had slowed down next to us, its drivers curious why we were running down the street like madmen. They squealed around the corner, and before I could process what had happened, two cops jumped out of the car and had cornered the suspects.

Thank goodness, because up until that point, I didn't really have a plan of action, aside from yelling, “Hey! Hey you!” like a fool. Brad told us later he was hoping he didn't have to get into a fist fight, though at the time, apparently none of us had considered the possibility that the three had weapons. Not a smart move, in retrospect. Positively stupid, actually, since each of those guys had about a foot on me, and at least sixty pounds.

We were so incredibly lucky that those cops had been there. Not only because they were big and tough, but they actually knew what they were doing. And they were mean. They were serious business. They were yelling at the guys like I had only ever seen on TV, and while the vast majority of my brain was still struggling to process what was going on, some part of me was definitely thinking, “Oh man, this is so cool! Real cops, doing real cop stuff!”

I was starting to question whether or not I had chased down the wrong people (that would've been awkward!), when one of the cops brought me my phone, and asked if it belonged to me. At the time, I hadn't even realized my phone was gone, so I was relieved and ecstatic that yes, it was indeed my phone. Within minutes, he had found my wallet, and my fears of getting past airport security were assuaged.

By that time, two more police officers had shown up, and they started assessing the situation. Not only had the trio taken my wallet and phone, but they were found with heroin. Of course, like the relatively naive folks we were, we all craned our necks to look at the officer's hand, curious what a parcel of heroin looked like. The woman had three packets on her, and, as the cop put it, “old boy had another one.” One of the junkies was already sweating at that point, and in a brilliant line that could've been pulled out of Southland, the cop said to him, “Looks like somebody's gonna be sick tonight.”

Whaaaaaat! Were we really participants in this situation? Did we really just chase down three junkies on foot? Did we really, actually get my stuff back?

When we walked back into the restaurant, we were met with apologetic faces. “Chicago's not like this!” they reassured me. “I'm sorry this had to happen your first time in the city!” they said. But I wasn't upset. I was happy the cops were there, impressed with the efficiency of their law enforcement system and their officers, and damned happy I had my things. Plus, we were still riding the highs of adrenaline that was coursing through our veins, and I know we were all thinking, “What a crazy con story!”

Let me tell you, I don't care what people say about us nerds. I don't care if people think we're wusses or whatever, but I'm telling you right now, nerds are scrappy as hell.

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