"Bill McMillan" 9 inches by 12 inches; ink on paper, $125
After Martin Luther King was shot, not only was Washington burning by Chicago was burning as well. During this time, I was still in undergraduate school and working with a friend as a Chicago Transit Authority bus cleaner. We used to clean buses. We had a minimum of work that we had to do and we could get that done by lunch. After lunch, we would sit in the back of the bus and do our homework. There was another guy that I worked with and he asked me what I thought about the riots and the burnings and I said, very truthfully, that I thought it was relatively ball-less. That if the rioters really wanted to make an impression they needed to go downtown and burn it because that was the only way the establishment would pay attention. Burning your own neighborhood was pointless. The establishment would just sit there and wait to collect the insurance money and the rioters would have nothing. So, don’t burn your own, burn something else.
Well, I didn’t know but the person asking the question about the riots was Tommy Dunn, William’s brother. Tommy told William that he had met this crazy white kid and William shared that he had met a crazy white kid too. Eventually we all wound up at a party together and realized that we all knew each other. We all grew very, very close very quickly until pretty soon I was a guest in their house. The story I am telling you is really just the build up to this part.
My dad used to say the difference between a good neighborhood and a bad neighborhood had less to do with color or economics than behavior. He said it was very simple. On a weekend in a good neighborhood you see people outside picking up the cans, bottles and trash and cutting their lawns. In a bad neighborhood people throw the bottles, cans and trash on the lawn. That is how you could tell.
Well, one time William and I came over to his house. I was driving and after parking the car in front, I got out and William looked down and he saw a can. He said “Oh, I’ve got to pick this up and take it in to the garbage. We will go the back way because if I don’t, the first thing out of my Mom’s mouth will be, ‘William I want you to go and pick up that can in the front.’ So he did and afterwards when we walked into the house and his mom said, “William” and he said, “I already did it Mom.” She said, “Thank you, son.”