At Karzai’s Restaurant in Chicago


Outside Ahmed Wali Karzai’s Helmand restaurant at Belmont and Halsted in Chicago, thousands of people would spill out into the glittering rumbling celebration of joy that is the Gay Pride Parade for one sunshine day each June.

Before and after Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed, ran the restaurant, it would change hands every few years. Once it was a flower shop. Running a restaurant, or any small retail store, in Chicago is a brutally competitive business. Most close up shop in the first three years.

So in 1992 Karzai moved on. Went back to those stunning blue skies of Afghanistan. In business now with his brother. The President. And as Wikileaks tells us—- in perhaps more detail than anyone would want, without any real context to help us separate things people say, assorted facts, and truth into anything resembling a coherent story—-business appears to be good for the Karzai’s.

Back in Chicago, the restaurant is now called “Jacks.” It gets decent reviews. Across the street at an old diner, friends meet for breakfast. Buses rumble out back of the restaurant and then turn the other way. A block west, troubled kids flock from all over the Midwest to stand in front of a Dunkin Donuts, their piercings glinting in the street light nights. The Gay Pride parade still fills the streets with joy every June.

And the connection that we all have to an endless war, in the ‘graveyard of the empires’ a half a world away gets just a shadow closer.

Like a snake you thought you might have seen, but weren’t quite sure, slithering just below your street.

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