Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: The Nation of Facebook, The Pornography of Grief

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Something odd often happens in the toneless and contrarian public square of Facebook. In fact I shouldn’t say “odd” because it always happens. Express an opinion, a thought, an observation and the trolls come out—like gremlins barreling out of a psychic clown car, they come rolling out full of indignation and venom and the kind of puffery one can work up from behind the safety of a locked door and a computer screen. And they are ready to stack asses.

I’d been watching the sad, brutal footage from Gaza over the weekend and like everyone else was horrified at the sight of shroud after bloody shroud of Palestinian children being lined up like so much lumber. A skip down to CNN and I caught Benjamin Netanyahu admonishing Secretary of State John Kerry, “Not to ever second guess him again.”

This pissed me off. Kerry merely urged restraint and rightly criticized the brutality inflicted upon Palestinian non-combatants—mainly children. He was suggesting that Israel had made its point and called for a cease-fire. Netanyahu was offended and decided to bitch-slap Kerry on the world stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: My Pal Penn

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

My pal Penn Jillette once owned a vehicle named Pink Death. It was a Ford Bronco painted a color Penn invented, called “Stripper Inner Labia Pink.”  So candy-colored pink was this car, that the guy at the body shop made Penn stand there and watch as they gave his formerly butch truck something like a hundred coats to get it the right blush of “Inner Labia Pink,” which is, “Stripper.” There is actually a paint-chip named Stripper.

Damn I love this country.

I spent a week zipping around Vegas with Penn on assignment from Playboy and it was a holy hoot watching people’s reactions to Pink Death. It were as if the goddamn thing were radioactive. Even twenty years ago in Vegas this was regarded as weird. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Murder City

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Bull#6_125

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is a bitter, humorless irony in the  wake of Chicago’s bloodiest weekend this year. “Chicagoland,” the  eight-hour  reach-around  CNN extended to Mayor Rahm Emanuel now appears to have gotten it wrong! The little man with the shiny shoes is beside himself with the Fourth of July weekend’s horrifying murder statistics: eighty-two people were shot. Fourteen of them died. The police shot a fourteen- and  sixteen-year-old and killed both of them.

Rahm fumes, flinging blame in any direction it will land: “Where are the parents?… Where are the community leaders?” Oh where, oh where, oh where? Here are the better questions: Where are the cops? Where are the jobs? Where is the leadership? Why do we keep hearing horse-shit about the shrinking crime rate while  our city’s children are being cut down by gunfire in the street? Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Relentless Wisdom of Anthony Potenzo, Volume 3—The Patio.

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Anthony Potenzo believes a good joint must have rules. That there are unwritten rules which most sentient, sane, bar regulars understand without explanation—the barroom social contract: “Y’know, stuff you don’t have to explain to anyone except the drool-cases and mutants,” he says. “You know what I’m sayin’? Stuff that people who walk upright already understand.”

 And then there are the rules you have to write down and spell out. You notice that the people who have to read the posted rules? Their lips are moving while they read them. Hell, their lips move when they read the comics or a grocery list. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Donald Chump

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There was a time when Donald Trump was easier to ignore. A squinty, arrogant, ego-driven billionaire, with a head full of piss-colored cotton candy. A Dope with more money than brain cells and an ambitious libido with a taste for model types. He was easy to laugh at and he was New York’s cross to bear—not ours.

His idiotic television show sought to breed mini-me versions of “The Donald” and damned near everyone who was on it was as detestable as he is. I caught it once, years ago, when Trump brought a dozen of these “Apprentice” drool-cases over to meet the late George Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium. Steinbrenner, a convicted perjurer and member of Richard Nixon’s creepy inner circle, being Trump’s idea of a role model.

It was your usual verbal mutual kneel-and-bob session with two rich white guys standing across the room from each other, pointing both index fingers at one another and declaring: “You’re a WINNER, George” and then “No Donald, YOU’RE the WINNER, and these young WINNERS will learn from a great man like you.”

It would make one ill were it not so achingly funny. They were practically talking each other off.

Then I realized it isn’t so funny, that the whole country would have been done an invaluable service had someone locked the door after rolling a couple of grenades into Steinbrenner’s office. The world would have been spared a baker’s dozen of avaricious assholes who use Preparation H for lip gloss, and two delusional billionaires.

Now the goof wants to sign our city. He wants to slap his name on the world’s most beautiful skyline. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Nature Calls

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The common starling or European starling was introduced to North America a couple of centuries ago by enthusiasts of Shakespeare. That’s right, Shakespeare. I had to read that twice myself. Evidently, the Bard was fond of the plucky bird’s gift for mimicry and a bunch of blue-bloods thought it would be jolly-good fun to have the little winged gangsters over here. The first thing the common starling did was muscle as many songbirds, including the lovely Eastern Bluebird, out of nesting spots as it could. It spread wildly, becoming one of the most successful species in the history of the continent. Particularly hard hit were the bluebirds, who were pushed damn near across the Mississippi River, damn near becoming  Western Bluebirds. Population-wise, they are just beginning to come back now in the last two decades. This is what happens when we decide to diddle-dick around with nature—we become the victims as well as the beneficiaries of unintended consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Chicken Store

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

All over the West and South Sides of Chicago there are still live poultry shops. It only now occurs to me that I’ve never actually been in one. Americans are particularly squeamish this way—we never want to look the creature we’re about to slaughter in the eye. We’d rather see it fried with some biscuits and gravy on a plate, or in nugget form in a small styrofoam box or, even better, chopped up with a bunch of vegetables in some soup. We’re not much for the blood and the feathers and the screeching death that comes along with butchering poultry.

A number of people have begun to keep chickens in their yards in Ukrainian Village to raise their own eggs and I have to admit it is kind of heartening to see a plump chicken or two walking the alleyways. You want to warn them that feral cats, large rats, raccoons and now coyotes also walk these alleys, and would gladly feast on them. But then you notice these are some big-assed chickens and when you get right up close and look them in the eye you see all of the madness in the world. These chickens are Chicago chickens and they just might be able to hold their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: A Night in Tokyo

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Some years ago, I visited Tokyo with the filmmaker John McNaughton. It was one of those experiences that has stayed with me and opened my mind to Asian literature and art, and broadened my view of the world. It also made me aware of the long lens with which the East and the West view each other. How little we know of each other and, oddly how alike we are. These are some of the thoughts I still have about this trip.

Li Po has been the best-known Chinese poet in Asia for about the last thousand years. He was a huge influence on the haiku poets, and is credited with being the seminal influence in the idiomatic languages of poetry and specifically, haiku. He was one of those wandering, searching poets who worshipped nature. Much like the Japanese haiku monk and poet Basho, who would be born a thousand years later, he was so great a poet that there are volumes of poems by other poets proclaiming their devotion to him—

Today I laid bare before you
all things stored in my heart. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories:  The Art World—An Occupied One-Percent Country

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The Art Racket_3001By Tony Fitzpatrick

A funny thing happened at Sotheby’s a few years ago. The consumers in the rarified art marketplace met Occupy Wall Street. I wasn’t there, but from what I’ve gleaned from those who were, the OWS crowd showed up in support of Sotheby’s striking art handlers, Local 814 Teamsters. The august auction giant beefed up the security and escorted the bigwigs in under guard—and, as Dennis Miller once said, “It was the sharpest bit of choreography since the Oswald prison-transfer.”

The auction folk were shocked—shocked I say!—to realize that the art market, too, is considered a valve in the malignant heart of the One Percent. If you notice, I didn’t say “art world,” though one can make a fairly decent case that many of its inhabitants are also the dreaded One Percent. And you know what? The OWS folks are right: the OWS people as well as Local 814, the Teamsters striking at Sotheby’s for a living wage (or I should say a living in New York wage), could not have picked a better target than that atmosphere and that activity—the goosing, cajoling and casual brutality of the market mentality, i.e. rich imbeciles measuring their worth in the reflective glow of  art.

And the art world should get its head out of its ass and ask itself just how the fuck it got there. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Some Etiquette Tips from Tony

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is a fancy-schmancy health club to which some very prominent Chicagoans belong. It is full of upscale lawyers, doctors, business-types, and famous athletes. It offers yoga, swimming, tennis, racquetball, squash—yes, Old Chap, squash—handball, boxing, Pilates (whatever the fuck that is) and spinning, which as far as I can tell means riding a stationary bike real fast to a really shitty disco soundtrack while  some very fit goof yells at you from his bike. In other words, this place is the goods. It also has all manner of  treadmills, elliptical machines and a weight room.

I only use the pool. I get in the slow lanes with the stroke victims, non-swimmers, fat guys and people who’ve just had heart attacks. I’m overweight, but I’m not like Orca-fat, and my goal is not to get fit or buff. My goal is to not fucking die.

Many of my friends there make full use of the place. Their workout is complex and varied: a half hour of cardio on the bike or the treadmill, fifteen minutes on the elliptical machine, a spin class (Really? Somebody has to TEACH you how to peddle a stationary bike?) and then thirty minutes of laps in the pool. Read the rest of this entry »