Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: Christmas on Acid

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

When I was a senior in high school, my girlfriend, Denise, got her hands on a shit-ton of pink mescaline right before Christmas break. She was a pretty girl with huge brown eyes and a world-class rack, who had an immense appetite for life. I had never done mescaline before and the night I decided to try it with my friends, she had to work. She worked at a geriatric home in Wheaton and used to go in tripping. She was gentle and careful and with a head full of mescaline was really easily entertained by the old folks.

Me and my friends each ate a microdot of this stuff and decided to go see “The Omen,” which was a horror movie; nothing like a scary movie when you’re tripping to put you in the yuletide spirit. About ten minutes into the experience I turned to my friends and told them nothing was happening except I was vaguely giggly, so I demanded another microdot. Well, an hour later we went to the movie and it was really boring for the first five minutes until Damien, the son of the devil, is having his birthday party. And right when I was starting to peak, Damien’s nanny appears on a ledge sweetly calling to Damien, and then, as we notice the rope around her neck, she  steps off the ledge and  hangs herself. FUCK!!! JESUS CHRIST!!! Did she???

We then exploded into screeching laughter and applause. And all of the seats around us emptied.

Up on the screen, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, Damien’s parents, look like they are about to spot their shorts. It was a fucking riot—I laughed so hard I almost passed out.

My pal Joe looked at me in the dark and  asked: “Is it me … or did the nanny just pull the Dutch trick?”

I assured him that the Nanny had, indeed, just hung the fuck out of herself and that this movie was a classic and the acid was kicking in big-time. We made a lot of noise and at one point might have started even applauding again. This towheaded usher we knew as Eggy came over with his flashlight and asked us to keep it down. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Ferguson Burning

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

One of the more confounding and compelling foundational myths about the Obama Presidency is that it has somehow squared the racial and class-based inequities that plague our country. That we were now, as the pundits coined it, “post-racial.” (You know we’re fucked when political hacks start borrowing terminology from the art world.) We were now past the 400 years of oppression that singlehandedly created at least fifty generations of poverty. Yet I still hear whites say “Hey. They got theirs. They got their president, what are they bitching about?”
When I hear this I cringe and I realize that questions about race and class in our country were in no way mitigated by the election of Barack Obama, only brought into larger alignment.

One needs to look no further than the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to realize just how far in the weeds we are with the realities of class and race in Obama’s America. That unless young black men are dribbling a basketball or dropping beats, our fear of them paints a target on them. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: A Tribute to Jane Byrne

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

An odd thing happened with the death of Jane Byrne on November 14: She became beloved as we began to realize the worth and scope and vision of Chicago’s only woman mayor. It’s bitterly funny how some people’s value cannot be measured while they’re alive.

While Richie Daley did his level best to try to erase her from the city’s history, Little Janey Byrne, a tough Irish girl from Sauganash, hung in there like a pit bull. To his everlasting credit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel included Jane Byrne in every significant city event and this is not a small thing—there are still plenty of remnants of the old machine who vividly remember Jane Byrne, all hundred pounds of her, thoroughly kicking their collective asses in grand fashion in 1979. And to this I say “Good on Ya Janey—You knocked their dicks in the dirt.” You see, we Irish? We’re poets.

She was a favorite of Daley the first. The old man liked her and she could have almost been his own daughter. She came of age in the ungentle atmosphere of City Hall. She was around the rough breed of men who made public policy in this city her whole professional life and she realized the casual brutality of the Democratic machine was an all-consuming beast and one would be wise to tread lightly, to watch and to wait for one’s moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Ferocious Wisdom of the Illinois Voter

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Democracy is the theory that the common  people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
—H. L. Mencken

A funny bit of choreography happened on the victory stand for Bruce Rauner’s successful and expensive campaign for the governor’s office the other night. A rainbow coalition materialized: On the stand were Illinoisans of every race, creed and color. I’m sure that these fine folks were all CEOs and higher-ups in Rauner’s many business interests.

Hey, it could happen!

It was one of those feel-goods designed to make us believe that these are all “Bruce’s people” and, right in the middle, the Smiley Dunce himself—twenty-seven million dollars poorer, like it matters—and full of all manner of warm, fuzzy feelings for the working people his ilk have been butt-surfing for decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: A Change of Heart and of Mind

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Almost a year ago I decided to move to New Orleans. It was the day before Christmas Eve and my pipes had broken. I’d heard of this happening to other people and knew that it probably sucked but I was unprepared for the freezing filthy water and slimy primordial shit that filled the basement when it happened. Luckily I’m Irish, which means at any given time in my life, I’m related to seven or eight drunken plumbers. They live for this shit—overtime out the ass and other costs due to the fact it is forty below zero. Yeah, it was that day. It was colder than a nun’s ass on Good Friday.

I called the closest plumber and he fixed it skippy quick—it took four hours but it was worth it and I’d have paid anything. Between this, the shoveling, the falling down the front steps and damned near breaking my ample Irish ass, I’d decided I’d had it: Fuck Winter. Fuck Emanuel. Fuck Dibs. Fuck Snow. Fuck Slush. Fuck Mormons ringing your doorbell trying to talk Jesus to you. Fuck it all. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Some Thoughts on Crazy Horse

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Crazy Horse’s vision first took him to the South, where in Lakota spirituality one goes upon death. He was brought back and was taken to the West in the direction of the Wakiyans, or Thunder Beings…” —Wikipedia entry about Crazy Horse

I haven’t a fucking clue as to what the above quote is supposed to mean. Nor, I suspect, am I meant to. Native American and Indian lore wasn’t written for me. Still, the idea of a “Thunder Being” sounded powerful and poetic to me. As a kid I was scared by thunder and thought of it as something that walked the earth; a giant of some kind.  As I grew older, I rather liked it. It seemed something that nature had in its back pocket anytime it wanted to let us know who (or what) was in charge. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Notes From a Former Lifetime

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TheStrangeAngel_300b

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

If you drive rural roads, particularly the ones in the Midwest where the landscape is flat, you often see owls in radio towers at dusk or dawn. This is mostly when they hunt. When I was young, I hitchhiked everywhere (across the country a couple of times) and I remember being stuck on a road outside Galesburg, Illinois, which  is the very definition of “East Bumfuck,” trying to thumb a ride. I got picked up by a guy who was shuttling U-Haul-style moving trucks who drove me back to Champaign where I was not attending college. He gave me a job cleaning and servicing moving trucks, which I used to load up with my friends after hours and have rolling parties, with twenty goofballs packed into the truck, a keg and a boom box blasting AC/DC. We would stop at a townie bar in Urbana called Huffy’s, owned by one Earl Huffman, an ill-tempered drunk and bad pool player who, when angered, would start throwing pool balls at the clientele while ordering everyone to, “Get the fuck out, Skippy!  Chop-Chop!” Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: City of Killers

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“There are nothing but murderers in this room…”
—John Rooney (Paul Newman) explaining just who they are in the world to Michael “The Angel of Death” Sullivan (Tom Hanks), in “The Road to Perdition”

There was a lot wrong with the movie “The Road to Perdition,” but not a damn thing wrong with “Road to Perdition,” the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins. It is a moody, poignant story of the love between father and son, the unforgiving nature of the Irish mob and the primacy of revenge among the Irish—and we are some vengeful motherfuckers.

The movie was far too long, but Jesus was it beautiful to look at, shot all over Chicago and Illinois, as well as bordering states. The Midwest has never looked more bucolic and heavenly than it does through the late, great Conrad Hall’s lens. Sadly, it was Hall’s last film—a noble effort by director Sam Mendes and actor Tom Hanks who, at his best in it, made you believe that he could be a remorseless murderer for hire. He was cast against type, to say the very least. Paul Newman gives what is to be his last film performance and it is a gem, a study in charm and stillness and Irish melancholy. The film is worth watching for his work alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Of Hobos, Card Games and Bughouse Square

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The Letter 'S' 300

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Chicago is the greatest railway center in the United States. No one knows these facts better than the hobo. It is a fact that trains from all points of the compass are constantly entering and leaving the city over its 39 different railways. According to the Chicago City Manual, there are 2,840 miles of steam railways within the city limits. The mileage of steam railroad track in Chicago is equal to the entire railroad mileage in Switzerland and Belgium, and is greater than the steam railroad mileage found in each of the kingdoms of Denmark, Holland, Norway, and Portugal. Twenty-five through package cars leave Chicago every day for 18,000 shipping points in 44 states.” —”On Hobos and Homelessness” by Nels Anderson

Given that Chicago was the hub of the American railroad system, it’s not a surprise that the largest ‘”hobo jungles” were here. The area around North Dearborn Street (Washington Square–better known as Bughouse Square) was one of the safe harbors for itinerant men and women. In the years between 1900 and 1920, much was changing in American life and this part of the city, known then as “Tower Town” because of its proximity to the Water Tower, was known as a neighborhood of bars like the Dil Pickle Club, brothels and gambling dens. It was also the center of the newly realized avant-garde in Chicago. The nascent American art form of jazz could be found here. Although mostly on the South Side, it also had devotees among this crowd of free thinkers. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Welcome to Dystopia!

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

It isn’t hard to figure out where all of the dystopian entertainment is coming from lately. “The Leftovers”—based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name and about a Rapture-like occurrence  that disappears about two percent of the population and leaves a befuddled, confused populace in its wake—is probably the smartest of them, but they are abundant. “The Strain,” “Lottery,” “The Last Ship”… it goes on and on. It seems there is some jack to be made on the end of the world, the end of times, the apocalypse—pick one. It seems everyone is ready to write our obit as a world. Hell, it’s a bumper industry.

It was the same thing with the end of the millennium—the Y2K idiocy—the first Rapture, comets, la-la-la. The Mayan calendar wanted to rip up our ticket in 2012 and Nostradamus is forever inspiring idiots to fashion their doom-and-gloom gibberish to be mouthed by the same gullible drool-cases who buy into the “Illuminati” wolf tickets. Hell when my daughter was talking about this in eighth grade, I thought she said the Lou Malnati’s was coming and I was going to get pizza. I was thrilled. Read the rest of this entry »