Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: Invasion of the Rahmbies

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Since coming out for Chuy a couple of weeks ago, I’ve encountered no small amount of hostility from the Rahm supporters—the “Rahmbies” as I like to think of them. They can rationalize any inequities brought forth in the last four years because the shuttered schools, the ubiquitous gunfire, potholes and unplowed streets—these things don’t directly affect them. That’s where we live now: Rahm, in four short years, has made this an Us and Them city. A city of wealthy one-percent types, and then there is the rest of us. We’re useful because we can fix their cars, bus their tables and deliver their groceries.

The poor? I think he and his pal Rauner just hope they go away. Emanuel took a page from what then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg did to New York, and now Manhattan is an island of the wealthy and the people who do their dishes. The poor and the creative class were scattered to Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey. Emanuel, Bloomberg, Rauner and their ilk are succeeding in building a culture glaringly divided by economic class, and it is more pernicious than the machine politics we’re used to. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Mayor Garcia?

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of Rahm. People started to remember their street not being plowed, the furious murder rate, the shuttering of schools and the indifference signaled to our poorest citizens. Yep they remembered. Unlike four years ago, Rahm now had a record to run on and a great many people find this record wanting. Good on you Chicago.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is woefully underfunded he does not have one-tenth of what Rahm has; but with a lot of help from Bob Fioretti and Willie Wilson, he had enough to force this race into a runoff.

Mark my words Garcia is infinitely more likable than Rahm—he doesn’t carry himself like a smug, condescending automaton. There is a real human being in there who, four years after becoming a citizen, ran for office because he believed freedom demanded participation. He came in with Harold Washington and for a time helped change the way people thought about Chicago politics. Even with the seventies porn-‘stache, Chuy is capable of a genuine smile that isn’t just politics. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Real Face of Obamacare

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Chances are, the most defining achievement of the Obama administration is the passage of the Affordable Care Act, i.e. “ObamaCare.” After a long battle, the bill that was eventually passed was gutted by Republicans and Democrats alike. The point is that it passed. The reactionary among us want you to equate ObamaCare with a black, yellow or brown face when, truth be told, the greatest beneficiaries of ObamaCare are white baby boomers.

As much quarrel as I have with Guantanamo, drones and the continuous warfare, I must admit to anyone who will listen that Barack Obama saved my life. Without the Affordable Care Act, I would not be here. And I am sure it warms the cockles of your heart to know that my ample white ass was able to purchase health insurance. The true face of ObamaCare is ME. Male, mid-fifties, overweight, with one pre-existing condition that excluded me from the luxury of being able to buy “normal people” health insurance…. anywhere. I went for nearly two years without any health insurance. Insurance companies are particularly offensive to me because they pretend to give a fuck about you. I don’t know who to hate more, big pharma or insurance companies. Big pharma at least admits they are pigs and are in it for the money. What is odious about the insurance industry is that they pretend to care about you and yours: Right… I got your “good neighbor” right here, swinging. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Godspeed, Mr. Cub

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

An older man rolled a baseball to a troublesome little kid at a country club one day. The older man, his skin touched by a half a century of playing the boys’ game in sunlight, was Ernie Banks and the boy was my son—and he still has the ball.

It is widely known that I have not ever been a Cubs fan. But staring out of this window in a hospital room, baseball seems a million miles away right now and winter has decided to add to its cruel toll our greatest baseball player. Even if you were not a Cubs fan, you were an Ernie Banks fan, because Ernie embodied the very thing that Sox fans claim to hate the Cubs fans for: He loved the game. Let’s play two. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Dust Radio

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

As you may have heard, Tony Fitzpatrick had heart surgery last week. But our fearless columnist was prepared for just such an occasion, and filed this piece from his personal archive a few hours before going under the knife. We’re hearing good reports from the hospital and expect Tony will return to these pages in fighting form very soon.

By Tony Fitzpatrick

In his lifetime, the Texas-born guitarist and songwriter, Chris Whitley was, from time to time, criticized for the surreal turns his lyrics would take. His initial audience here in America thought he was a blues-folk rocker when they heard “Living with the Law,” his freshman effort for Columbia Records. It would not have been a bad assumption. There was plenty of Robert Johnson and Texas-radio kinds of sounds on that record; lots of dobro and grit, gravel and tumbleweed. It was a record of austere and American loneliness. It is one of my favorite records of all time for the very reasons some find it oblique. There is nothing easy about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Motor Gypsies at the Greyhound Terminal

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LunchDrawing#71KidGhost_bBy Tony Fitzpatrick

My first job out of college was managing the Burger King that was there. It was right before they shut down the place, so I was there for the tail end of the crazy. What I remember most when I walked through the bus station, in the waiting areas and on the walls, was the layer of funk that only diesel fumes, dirt, stale urine and extreme hot and cold can bring. Add to that, the rubbed-off silhouettes of butt cheeks on gray-blue plastic seats, with the grime all around. It smelled like gas fumes and dirty belly buttons. I never thought I would think that the inside of a Burger King would give me the feeling of “Fresh Air”, but at that bus station, it sure as heck did. Yeah, a part of me misses that place.
—Maureen Sweeney, real estate executive, child of the seventies

Lunch Drawing # 70, “Motor Gypsy”: this drawing and story has its genesis in remembering ditching high school and going downtown to hang around the Greyhound Bus station: where you could buy cigarettes, cans of Schlitz Malt Liquor, fuck-books and rolling papers—and nobody carded you because nobody gave a good god-damn. It was at Clark and Randolph and it was a pungent, down-at-the-heels purgatory for transients, people who had to travel economically, students and those down on their luck—all forced to ride the Dog. The hind-tit of American mass transportation. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »