Archive for February, 2017
Steps that go nowhere, pedestrian walkways that dead-end into elevated bridges, doors that open out into mid-air; these structures are called ‘Thomassons’ and are what happens when workers demolishing or rebuilding an outdated structure leave part of it behind.
The term was coined by a Japanese artist, Akasegawa Genpei, based on Gary Thomasson. Thomasson was an American baseball player who was traded to Tokyo team the Yomiuri Giants, for a massive fee. for a two year contract. As soon as he hit Japanese soil though, he instantaneously became terrible, setting 1981s all-time strikeout record. However, due to being on a 2 year contract, the team had to keep him on.
For Akasegawa, Gary Thomasson was “useless” and also “maintained.”
The lovely thing about this story is not only finding out that a common urban phenomenon has a name, but also that this name has such an evocative genesis:
If I ever write a book, I can only hope it has as great a title as Thee Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s by Brandon Johnson
Johnson was put onto the world of Chicago gang cards through a card given to his Dad by a gang-affiliated friend back in the day.
Inspired by the social athletic clubs and political groups that preceded them, street gangs in 60s and 70s Chicago made business cards displaying their symbols, nicknames, territories, and enemies as a means to assert their pride, recruit new members, and serve as general tokens of affiliation.
It’s tempting to see the cards as quaint, especially with the prevalence of ‘Lils’ in the gang member’s names, but you could also draw a line from these groups to the terrible gun violence currently plaguing Chicago today, (though I absolutely don’t know enough about either current Chicago crime or these gangs to make any assertions).
That being said, there is some magnificent old-school naming going on here. I love the mix of 20s Chicago gangster – Mugsy, Lil Greaser, Droopy – and street warrior – Savage, Maniac – as well as the incredible gang names themselves – Insane Popes is amazing, but Future Chicago Players is also top-notch…