A member of the floor crew at Chicago's United Center talks about his life in Chicago.
00:00 Footage from the 1996 Democratic National Convention at the United Center in Chicago. Balloons and confetti rain from the ceiling after Clinton’s nomination is announced.
00:24 “My name is Michael, and I’m with the floor crew here at the United Center.” Cut to an outside shot of the building, where Michael is standing in his uniform. “To me, politicians just make a lot of promises, and shake hands and kiss babies…I don’t see anything that they’ve done that’s worth voting for.”
01:32 Michael talks about preparing for his job while he walks the perimeter of the United Center. “You need your rest for this type of work,” he says.
02:18 Michael talks about caring for his six children on weekends. “Six kids!” the cameraman exclaims. “Absolutely,” Michael says. “I started young. I was 18 when I had my first son.”
03:19 When Michael began working at the United Center, he made $7 an hour and was promised a raise annually. “It’s good for me right now, but I need some benefits–insurance, medical benefits.” Without medical insurance, he works hard to keep himself healthy and in shape.
04:42 Cut to a shot of Michael standing on the sidewalk beside a basketball court. “I love sports,” he says. “So that’s what keeps me going. Take my mind off of a lot of things, after a day’s work.”
05:20 Michael talks about receiving disability payments for his alcoholism while taking care of his dying mother. “I used to get high with the fellas, you know, drink on the corners and smoke bud, just be hangin’ out with the fellas,” he says. “I had to leave all that shit behind. I go to meetings, therapists.”
08:31 Michael writes a letter to a friend on his computer. “The computer is our future,” he says. “If you’re illiterate to the computer, you need to know what’s going on.” He shows off a tattoo of the letters I.B.M. “They used to call me Iceberg Mike, but it also stands for the computer. I always wanted to work for IBM.”
09:29 Michael talks about being chosen for the “Team Member of the Month” award at the United Center, where there are over 2,000 employees. “A young lady–Amy–she nominated me because I fell asleep in Orientation, but woke up and answered all the questions…I don’t miss days and I don’t be late.”
10:04 Michael talks about the Democratic Convention over shots of convention-goers dancing the Macarena. “It brought a lotta jobs to the neighborhood…you could see a lot of people working. I think that’s what it’s all about: America working. People working.”
12:28 “The friends I grew up with–most of them, they’re either dead or locked up or they’re on drugs or something. I don’t even go to the old neighborhood no more. It’s like another world to me, on the North Side. You can’t run from what’s going on in the hood, but you can try to do better for yourself.”
13:51 Michael shows us around his new North Side neighborhood, where he lives with his girlfriend, Beverly. “It’s mild compared to where I come from, you know,” he says. “This is one of the roughest parts of the North Side. They call it ‘the Jungle’. But where I come from, this would be Kiddie Land.”
15:00 Michael takes us to Cabrini-Green, where his kids currently live in emergency housing after leaving the West Side. “We were lucky to live in this building–it’s one of the better buildings.”
16:23 Michael talks about his plans for the future. “My long-term goal is to own my own business,” he says. The cameraman asks about putting money away in savings or a pension. “To be honest, I don’t think I’m gonna live that long.”
19:40 Michael and Beverly wrap a birthday present for his daughter, Sheila. Michael explains that he named his daughter after his sister, who was stabbed to death in her apartment in 1985.
20:32 Michael tells Beverly about seeing Ted Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention. Footage of Jesse Jackson at the Convention plays as Michael talks about his own political disillusionment. “I just never vote, because I’ve never seen anyone worth voting for,” he says. “We have nothing but white presidents, you know. I don’t know how much they care about what’s going on in the hood.”
24:20 “Do you feel you get any benefit at all from the government?” the cameraman asks. “I feel I can govern myself, if you ask me,” Michael responds.
25:00 Video ends.