An Existential Review of Showtime’s: The Chi

by Charles March III

As soon as I heard the tense air emit from the brass instrument during the bittersweet symphony intro of the first episode, coupled with the drone footage or other artificial but artistic rendition of Chicago’s proverbial X’s & O’s street grid system juxtaposed behind the eponymous title, all of my senses were instantly transported back to the Windy City, where a stork once dropped me off, and where I would one day embody the blues.

It was the sight of these sweet home intersections of the human condition that really brought me back to taking in all the individual Block Club signs, which serve as warning devotionals from the inhabitants against integrity tarnishment, and were usually, paradoxically, the places where I unheedingly supported the narcotics industry, as I stood out like a sore thumb and tried to bum a more comfortable life. This image of throng microcosms really does well to capture Chicago at the cellular level.

As the episode proceeded into the bigger (shoulder) picture, I unexpectedly saw someone I knew come on screen, and I began to dissociate. It was in this heavily meaningful trance-like state that I started to realize how “real” this show was, and in that special moment, I knew we’d wind up going the intimate distance together.

This vicious cycle of nostalgia was compounded every time N tare Guma Mbaho Mwine’s character, Ronnie, said with his uniquely raspy, whisky-soaked molasses voice, “Previously, on The Chi…” It brought me back to my recidivistic spin-dry detox days in indigent, state-run facilities on the South Side, and it’s also this push and pull relationship The Chi does really well, especially with the children, who dance back and forth between innocence, and the brutal loss thereof.

Growing up in The Chi, you get constant reminders from the urban jungle skyline of what you’ll undoubtedly have to navigate as an adult, where the Willis Tower is like a horned devil that casts its shadow over you, and where his skyscraper minions pack people into themselves like survival of the fittest sardines who are trying to push the Lake Shore wave crashing envelope can of hope.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

However dark things get in the city, in the show, and in real life, the unbreakable power of the human spirit is always there to shine through, somehow finding beauty and togetherness in every tragedy.

Nevertheless, I was thankfully blessed to be able to move to Laguna Beach, the land of my MTV pandered, California dreams, due to needing some rest from the incessant mental, physical, and spiritual duress the “illest” state has a penchant for inflicting upon its residents.

Will I ever leave my Peter Pan Neverland-like locale for the full circle prodigal son redemption? I don’t know. This is something I ask myself a lot. But if I know one thing for sure, it’s that once The Chi has its Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde hooks in you, you’ll most likely meet your St. Valentine’s Day Massacre destiny there in a love/hate relationship kind of way.

Charles March III

Charles J. March III is a hospital corpsman veteran from the South Side of the Windy City. His work has been put out by Black Scat Review, Punk Noir, Chicago Tribune, Another Chicago Magazine, Maudlin House, Literary Orphans, Storm Cellar, etc. More can be found at LinkedIn & SoundCloud.


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