Since my arrival at college, I’ve had a several interactions with Chicago’s criminal element. Yes, it’s difficult to believe, but Chicago does, in fact, have a criminal element. Sadly, the sun has set on the Day of the Mobster, and has risen instead on the Day of the Disorganized Street Gangs.

The 1920’s had Al Capone. 1960’s had the Sharks and the Jets. But in Chicago, in late 2005, there are only* the Fly Style Boys. Our sources indicate that the Fly Style Boys consist of about eleven Hyde Park residents, ranging in age from nine to nineteen and ranging in ethnicity from black to, well, black. Thus far, as a gang, they have committed exactly two crimes; destruction of property, and theft. The residents of Shoreland Hall are not amused. The Hyde Park police, despite our best efforts, have not yet noticed anything.

Of course, the Fly Style Boys have only been a gang for three weeks, so we ought to cut them a little slack. The graffiti on our walls indicates that they haven’t even settled on a handle - one rebellious little tyke appears to prefer the phrase “the Birdgang is in da houz” to the group’s more modest “F.S.B. fo-eva.” Three weeks, and I’ve crossed paths with these Fly Style Boys twice already. It would appear that Hyde Park just isn’t big enough for the twelve of us.

My first meeting with the Fly Style Boys took place just recently, in Chinatown (wait for it). Two weeks ago, some friends and I were in Belmont (the source of all things homosexual in Chicago proper) for a break from campus, and for haircuts. Or, as my Puerto Rican friend put it, to “get our hairs cut.” After pausing to admire the “Welcome to Belmont” sign, which features a caricature of an extremely built, half-nude man wearing a necklace of flowers and posing, we headed down Clark St. When it comes to haircuts, my city-savvy friends follow a strict “what the gay man says will look good” policy.

Unfortunately, it was a Saturday night, and so all salons were “temporarily closed for debauchery.” And, no, I’m not making that one up. With Belmont, there’s no need.

To hurry up the cakes, and to avoid revealing exactly how much time we spent wandering around Belmont looking for a hair salon, we decided to take the red line to Chinatown and see if anything there was still open.

It wasn’t.

What we did find there, however, was a group of three or four teenagers, and about fifty kids. For those of you who’ve never celebrated a child’s seventh birthday party, you should know; there’s something quite menacing about that many little people in one place. “They’ll go for the ankles,” you find yourself thinking, “I don’t stand a chance.”

Well, they didn’t exactly go for the ankles. What they did do, once the teens turned away from the wall (on which they had just sprayed the initials F.S.B., incidentally), was begin chucking rocks at us.

That’s right. We were stoned by children. The aforementioned Puerto Rican let out a womanly shriek and hightailed it towards the subway station we had just left. The rest of us made a valiant attempt to saunter away, while the rocks rained down around us.

That was how we met. I was just a carefree young freshman, innocent of the ways of the world, and they were just a bunch of world-weary rough tricks with a stupid name. It was a simple case of forgive, forget, and have one hell of a good story to tell when I got home. My second interaction with the Fly Style Boys changed all that.

It was the night of the big party at Psi U, one of the frats. It was a good night. Laughs were had, a few hearts were broken, and at least one calculus textbook was cracked open for That Big-Ass Test On Monday. And some really, reeeeally bad beer was consumed in great quantities.

But the real story began after the party. I was hanging out in Ollie’s room, watching a movie, when we heard Van (a.k.a. Roommate, a.k.a. Moron) come home. Tom Hagen was just making some movie executive an offer he couldn’t refuse, when Van and some of his guests started freestyling in the next room.

The story, as it unfolded later, was as follows: a bunch of kids (not students at UChicago) in a nice car had offered Van a ride home from Psi U, and he had accepted. When they got back to Shoreland, Van had invited them up to his room. This is, as they say in puppy obedience school, a big no-no.

While Van was freestyling, IN THE SAME ROOM, the kids stole his and Ollie’s ipods. They also managed to take some money out of his wallet, and a small vase that Ollie’s mother had sent.

Their other roommate, D.J. Dave (so named for his uncanny ability to play his god awful techno music at two a.m. when you have a test the next day) was in another state for the weekend, so fortunately his techno beats were safe.

While they were in the building, the Fly Style Boys also laid some heavy-duty graffiti down on our walls, and turned over a table. We also suspect that they are responsible for the disappearance of the soccer ball pattern beanbag chair, but no one really liked that chair anyway.

The police were, of course, alerted, and they wandered by at some point the next day to inspect the crime scene. The two ipod-shaped gaps in Ollie and Van’s dorm room failed to impress them, and they didn’t stay long.

It is unclear, at this point, whether the Fly Style Boys will be able to hold their own against other ruthless Hyde Park gangs such as the Lizards, or the Ghosts. Perhaps two stolen ipods and an orange plastic vase is the absolute pinnacle of achievement for your average street gang in modern-day Chicago. Will they strike again? Will they decide on an age requirement? And, most importantly, are they the Fly Style Boys, or the Birdgang?

I guess the world will just have to wait and see.

*for a given value of "only."

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