South Side - Culture shock


On the following day of the tour the group was supposed to visit the South Side and take in some of the local culture. The only problem was that, after the West Side excursion, the surviving tourists were none too eager to ever set foot on the streets if that involved crossing the road, which they expected would need to happen.

Philippe suggested that if we could get a hot air balloon to pick us up from the roof of the Crimson Majestic, we could resume the tour without needing to take the aforementioned risks. Unfortunately there were no hot air balloons anywhere in Con City, so this idea was quickly abandoned in favor of Larry's approach.

Our ever resourceful guide suggested that, since our group was now small enough to conveniently fit into a car, we should take the green pickup truck Paul had acquired a few days prior and which was still stashed in the garage beneath the hotel, and drive to the South Side. Since Stavros was afraid of heights, Philippe's second suggestion to hire a helicopter was quickly voted down. In hindsight, this had been a terrible idea.





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Traffic in the city was even worse than usual. In the Downtown we moved at a quite reasonable snail's pace but once we got to the South Side we quickly slowed to the speed of the wireless internet at the Crimson Majestic. The reason for this was that a mysterious crater had appeared overnight on Swift Avenue creating traffic chaos, not just because drivers and GPS systems had no idea which alternative route to take, but also because of the mass of people flocking to see the crater with their own eyes.

Many people believed the crater to be the landing site where a UFO from outer space had touched ground overnight to collect victims for gruesome experiments. The fact that no one had disappeared that night refuted this theory, but the UFO-enthusiasts countered that perhaps the aliens had simply dropped by for some fast food. The lack of dead aliens in the area seemed to refute this theory.

A more grounded theory was that the crater had been created by an explosion caused by plastic explosives, which someone had planted there in order to test their upcoming attempt at blowing up the City Hall. But this was nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of distressed citizens.

When we drove past the crater the tourists came up with their own theories as to what had caused it to appear. Stavros's bet was on a tanker colliding with a truck transporting dynamite. Philippe's suggestion was a more down-to-earth gas pipe explosion, while Gabrielle let loose her wild side and imagined the crater as the site of a meteorite impact. Larry believed the crater had been dug by a construction crew at the behest of the Mayor to manipulate the upcoming elections.

Whatever had truly created the crater, it did us no favors. It took Larry over four hours to fight through the traffic. Tempers were flaring by then, so it was only fitting that Larry parked in what is arguably the culturally richest part of Con City. Where better for a group full of cussing tourists to vent their frustrations?





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The South Side started out as a trade hub after the Great Flood of 1903. Over the years more than half of the piers lining the river on both sides were abandoned (with the plan of establishing riverside hotels at their sites in the future, which has yet to happen) and new ones were built in the North Side instead. The transfer of the piers has led to the gradual transformation of the South Side into a residential and entertainment district.

The outskirts are suburban areas, some of which count among the most expensive regions of Con City. The most notable example is the Rich Gardens Estate, situated in the southeast corner of the district. Favored by many for its relative silence, Rich Gardens Estate rests behind a set of hills that not only blocks the view from the Downtown skyline but also dims the traffic noise. Crime rates are of course still very high due to all the assassination attempts directed at the gaggle of politicians and retired businessmen living in the area.

The rest of the district is largely dedicated to culture. Several big multiplex cinema theaters are scattered throughout the South Side along with musical venues and playhouses, and sporting facilities like bowling alleys and pool clubs. One of the most famous cultural landmarks of them all, however, is the Con City Library.

The library building is a modern steel and glass monstrosity that barely resembles anything remotely like an institution dedicated to literature. The City Council had commissioned the new building in the late 1990s thinking that a modern look would attract a younger audience into the library. Instead it alienated the older readers who now prefer to go all the way to Greenwell to rent books from the Greenwell Library instead. This, in fact, is why the Con City Library is the South Side's most famous landmark: it is the least visited public building in the entire city.

This was where Larry parked the pickup truck. The tourists climbed out of the car in a foul mood. Stavros took one look at the library building and he already wanted to take a sledgehammer to the glass walls, until Larry explained to him that the building was a library and not the City Hall. The French couple's mood seemed to improve immediately upon learning this information. Their eyes brightened, they all but ran into the library.

By the time we made it in after them they had disappeared among the bookshelves and we did not see them again until a half hour later. They came back with flushed faces, as if they had been running back and forth between the shelves looking for a particular book. Alas, they had exhausted themselves for no reason, for they came back empty handed. In spite of this, they looked very happy.

Prior to their reemergence, Stavros did his best to alternate between annoying the librarian and flirting with her. The librarian in turn alternated between wanting to slap him and slapping him. The recently single stock broker seemed undecided whether he enjoyed that. Larry decisively dragged him out of the library before the librarian could have called the police.

After Gabrielle and Philippe returned, Larry suggested to pay a visit to Rollo Stadium, which was just two blocks down the street. With the troubles of the previous day forgotten, the group calmly strolled down the street. No one was run over by a large black blurry shape resembling a Runamok Mustang.





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Rollo Stadium is the largest sports venue in Con County. Even bigger than the Greenwell All Stars Arena, Rollo Stadium is primarily a baseball venue, home to the legendary Con City Bears, the most successful baseball team in the history of Con City. Also, the only baseball team in the history of Con City.

The Stadium was, as expected, decorated by images of famous players of the Con City Bears, past and present alike. We were relieved that there was no bull standing in front of the building. There was, however, a large group of people standing there. Approximately twenty men wearing baseball caps, baseball jerseys, and carrying baseball bats. They were dressed in the colors of the Con City Bears.

Stavros looked at what he perceived to be the actual Con City Bears baseball team and his eyes lit up brighter than the headlights on a mack truck. His gaze suggested a profound understanding of the value of a piece of paper bearing the autographs of the entire baseball team. Like any good stock broker, he decided to approach the group and initiate a simple exchange of goods: his verbal praise of a baseball team he - as a man with no fondness for baseball - had never cared about, in exchange for their signatures.

It was a sensible business strategy. It had only three flaws. First, the men standing in front of the stadium were not the Con City Bears but a group of their hardcore fans. Second, the group was very angry due to the loss the Con City Bears had suffered against the Greenwell Grasshoppers, the baseball team of Greenwell, the day before. And third, Stavros was wearing a green sweater, and green was of course the color of the Greenwell Grasshoppers.





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The beatdown started so fast the Greek stock broker never even got past the first syllable of his first sentence. The rabid baseball fans were all over him, bludgeoning him without mercy, sending his teeth flying in every direction.

Larry silently whispered to us to remove and conceal any piece of green clothing we may be wearing. Gabrielle quickly removed her scarf and stuffed it into her purse. When she was done, Larry led a slow and careful tactical retreat.

We watched Stavros take the rest of his beating from behind the corner. Larry made a call to the police but the response he got was that every police officer in the South Side was busy maintaining order at the crater on Swift Avenue, and that any police officers from the Downtown could not make it here due to the congestion caused by the crater on Swift Avenue. Larry hung up and shrugged. "Looks like this is not Stavros's day," he said.





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About twenty minutes later the angry fans of the Con City Bears got bored and simply walked away. They went right past us, paying no heed to our green-less attire, and headed towards the Con City Library (for what purpose, we dared not guess).

Stavros was in terrible shape but alive. We picked him up and dragged him to a nearby bench. Larry ran off at a sprint to get the car while we tried to patch the barely conscious stock broker up. He tried to talk but we couldn't make out a single word on account of him no longer having teeth.

Larry came back driving very fast and told us to get in the car "right fucking now". The reason for urgency became clear as the angry baseball fans came running in our direction, or more specifically, in the direction of the green pickup truck. We threw Stavros in the back and jumped in.

Larry stepped on the gas and quickly broke the speed limit, knowing that the police would not be there to fine him for at least another four hours. He flipped the bird to our pursuers as the baseball fans vanished in the distance behind us.





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The Con City General Hospital is the biggest medical facility in the city. It is located in the northwest corner of the South Side, at the very edge of the district. Its reputation surpasses that of the one in Brickton, but that is not saying much. When we arrived, a nurse was smoking a cigarette right outside the entrance. Larry didn't even blink at that; he knew there was no time to be picky. He parked the pickup truck in the parking lot and we carried Stavros into the Emergency Department.

The Greek was taken off our hands by a doctor and two nurses who quickly put him on a stretcher and wheeled him into the emergency room. "You're going to be okay," Gabrielle told him before the door closed behind him.

An hour later we were told that Stavros had not survived the operation. The cause of his death was a condition called chronic mistreatment, which is the leading cause of death at the Con City General Hospital.

We left the hospital eager to return to the hotel. In the parking lot we were greeted by the unexpected sight of a police officer. He was standing in front of the pickup truck, looking at the license plate and talking to police dispatch over the radio. We casually walked past the parking lot and headed for the subway station.




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