I used to live with Mykki Blanco?

So, earlier today I was working in my office and listening to the Venus podcast as I often do.  I wanted to take a short break from information behaviour in geophages (Chatman, 2000) and had a look at the Venus blog where usually some interesting photos and videos have been posted.  I saw a link to a video for somebody called “Mykki Blanco” and clicked on it after having looked at some of the other videos.

The video in question is for a song called “Wavvy”.

I think it was playing in the background while I was on the phone and then I saw a second of it and thought “Hrm…that guy looks familiar”.  So I stopped it and played it back from the beginning.

Is that Michael Quattlebaum? I thought to myself.
So I Googled “Mykki Blanco”, and found this article. 

YES.  Mykki Blanco is Michael Quattlbaum, AKA, the asshole I used to live with.

It’s still kind of blowing my mind that the dude I used to live with is now some kind of minor celebrity.

In December 2005, when I came back from Peace Corps Benin, I got a job at a call centre in Rosemont and moved with with a friend of a friend in a place on Cermak in Pilsen.   The friend was Jail, who was a bandmate of Vanessa, one of my oldest and dearest friends.  For $150 a month each, Jail, me, and 4 other people shared a 3 bedroom apartment that we called “The Beauty Shop”.  It was upstairs from a real beauty shop, run by a Mexican trans woman, and we would have band play in our tiny living room.  One time Juiceboxxx played there.  Unlike Michael, Juiceboxxx was really nice and awesome.

I think Michael was like 18 or 19 at the time and a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a pretty prestigious art school for young pretentious rich kids.  He had already been living in the apartment with Jail when I moved into my room which was no bigger than a twin size fold-up bed and the space to partially open the door.  One of Michael’s friends from California, Kendra, lived in the closet.  Jail lived in the pantry.  Chase lived on the couch in the living room and Rita had a real bedroom, as did Michael.

After a few months Rita moved out and Amanda moved in.  There was never really a quiet moment, and the house was always filthy but it was really fun living in Pilsen at that time.  Just a few blocks away was Vanessa and the people at “Tha Blog Cabin”, down in McKinley park was the Junke Shoppe, and Liam and his roommates lived around the corner as well.  Sometime that year some kids also moved into an old flower shop a few streets away and started having shows as well.  It would have been amazing except I had a terrible 9 to 5 job that I hated and a 2 hour commute everyday.  But, after having been away from America for 2 and a half years I was really enjoying being in Chicago and close to my family again and part of a community of creative people doing interesting things.  I bought a sewing machine and took accordion classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music that year.

Michael always comes up when I swapping “worst roommate ever” stories with people I know.  Luckily I’ve never had a roommate steal my stuff or shit in my bed or anything. But Michael did something almost as bad after living with us for a few months.  Before moving out he demanded his full security deposit back and insisted on using it as his last month’s rent.  Failing to understand the simple maths involved we tried to explain to him that a.) he broke a bunch of shit and didn’t deserve his full security deposit back and b.) he actually had only paid $100 in security deposit which didn’t cover the entire portion of his rent for the month.  Nevertheless he would not listen to reason and refused to move out or pay rent, and then to make matters worse, he had his MOM call Jail to argue on his behalf.   His mom accused the remaining roommates of trying to take advantage of her son.  Rather than dealing with the rent himself he had his mom try to intimidate and threaten the rest of us.  The 4 remaining roommates then had to pay extra money to cover his rent and were forced to live with him for a full month at our own expense, basically subsidizing his existence despite the fact he had rich parents who could have easily paid his rent.  That was what left us all feeling quite bitter.

Later I heard a story from a friend who’s landlord rang him up one day a few months later and said “Some rich kids want to pay double the rent you’re paying for your loft, so you have to move out next month”. When the rich kids turned up to look at the loft apartment, it turned out to be Michael and his art school friends, and my friend had to move out. There might be some exaggeration in that story but that is how it was told to me and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

One of the less annoying but more funny stories was the one where I came home late one night and after locking my bike up I realised there was some kind of campfire going on in the backyard.  Getting closer I realise Michael and the other roommates were sitting around it naked, and then the invited me to join them.  I respectfully declined, and then later again that night a roommate came inside and tried to persuade me to join them in sitting naked around the campfire.  I think this was on a Tuesday night, and I was tired and grumpy and had to work the next day.  I said no, at the time.  If that happened to me again tomorrow, I might say yes this time.  It’s important to keep in mind this was in Pilsen, on a busy street with houses on either side, and our backyard was about 4 meters square.  I did find it funny at the time, and this incident is not what qualifies him, in my mind, as my all time worst roommate ever.

One of the more annoying things about Michael was that he and his friends threw a party, left a used condom in my tent that was in the back yard and burned cigarette holes in it.  I suppose it wasn’t really his fault; I probably shouldn’t have just left the tent out there for 2 weeks or however long I left it there, but I still like to cite that as evidence of him being a bad roommate.  There are other stories not really worth repeating, usual annoying roommate stuff like not washing the dishes or buying toilet paper.

But whatever, he was young back then.  I do also remember him introducing me to good new music and lending me a White Sox cap to wear to a game once.  He could actually be a pretty cool guy, except when he invited around his art school friends.  I have to admit that it almost annoys me that he is now semi-famous; because he was such a pretentious little shit back then.  However, that’s just my opinion and I don’t really want to trash talk anybody. Especially some one advocating for gay and trans people who seems to be semi-articulate and intelligent.  He moved out early in the summer of 2006 (under the not-so-wonderful circumstances I described above), and in August I left Chicago to start my MLIS at McGill.

This is a picture of Michael in the kitchen of our apartment.

Mykki Blanco aka Michael David Quattlebaum Jr., 2006.

Thinking back, I’d like to give Michael the benefit of the doubt.  He may have just been young and stupid and it may even have been his first time living away from home and sharing a space with other people.  I was once probably an asshole roommate as well.  Who knows, maybe I still am!?!

Me in 2006


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