Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: The Relentless Wisdom of Anthony Potenzo, Volume 2

Dime Stories No Comments »
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

It was one of those nights at Three Aces, and it was one of those conversations you can’t quite believe you lucked into: Anthony Potenzo was explaining his aversion to all things monkey to his partner Big Lyle Aker and me.

“I hung around wit’ Jonathan Cain’s little brother when I was seven and they had a pet squirrel monkey—a vicious little bastard who threw his shit everywhere and wouldn’t shut up.”

Anthony pauses long enough to let a couple of women pass by in the crowded bar, and take a swig off of his Pabst. He furtively looks around before continuing: “We fucked with this monkey constantly—tapped him with an eraser on the end of a pencil, and screeched back at the little bastard. He was a prick. We made faces at him and flipped him off. We tried to teach him to screech ‘fuck you,’ thinkin’ maybe the little mutant could talk and we could make a few bucks, y’know.” A couple more people pass by and Anthony smiles and nods and halts the story once again. After they pass he starts again. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Owls Among Us

Dime Stories No Comments »

ohio-owlBy Tony Fitzpatrick

Among the cultures of the American Indian tribes, there are a myriad of beliefs about the owl. An owl on a rock near a lake or a river signified a particular tribe’s ownership of that place for fishing and trapping. The Iroquois of Ohio also believed that the owl was a protector from water monsters and devils, which would drown those who wandered too close to the water at night.

The Apache believed that a dream of an owl was a harbinger of the nearness of one’s death. Cherokee medicine men and shaman thought screech owls had the power to bring on illnesses as punishment. The Cree believed the small owls could summon the spirits with their other-worldly whistles and cackles.

A great many tribes thought owls could travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. The Dakota Sioux believed the Burrowing Owl held sway in the underneath—the world below the ground—and also acted as a protector for brave warriors, whereas the Hopi believed this same owl to be a god of the dead and a guardian of fire and keeper of all things underground, even seeds. They called the bird Ko’ko which means “watcher of the dark.” Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Just A Regular Slob

Dime Stories No Comments »

justaregularslobBy Tony Fitzpatrick

It happens all of the time with people–especially males–this appraisal, a mutual measuring-up; a silent visual calculus to see who is stronger, wealthier, better-looking, or cooler la-la-la. It’s stupid. It’s right out of nature, this seeking of primacy in one’s species. Women do it as well, but it isn’t nearly as comical as when men do it.

A few years ago, I was flying to New York and sitting in first class because I had the miles and I was really happy to be there for once. It was a really hot day and I took my long-sleeved shirt off and was just wearing a fancy T-shirt. I have a bunch of tattoos and while, lately, you see more tattoos in first class than you used to, for some folks it is still a surprise.

The guy sitting across the aisle from me kept looking over, and then shaking his head. Every ten or so minutes, like clockwork. Look over, shake his head and, toward the end of the flight, add a perplexed-sounding exhalation. I ignored it. I learned a long time ago that what people who don’t know me think of me is none of my business. I honestly, no shit, don’t give a fuck. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: For Those in Love

Dime Stories, Love & Sex 1 Comment »
Oh Baby-This Ache_100

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Love is a slippery fish. People perish every day for want of it, or a pantomime of it, as if they were on fire. Nothing has been lamented more than lost love, love gone wrong, or the making or unmaking of the human heart. It is written about ad nauseam in every annoying love song, each one being “someone’s song.” Makes you want to blow chunks. When your friends fall in love, they are disgusting—the cooing, the walking around with a simpleton look on their face, the spring in their step, the flush in their cheeks, the chipper-ass good mood they are always in. You want to slap the shit out of them.

You want to tell them: In a year, Bunky? She’s going to hate you! All of the witty repartee she giggles at girlishly now are the anecdotes she’ll be rolling her eyes at in a scant eight months. The lingerie? A year from now she’ll be washing the windows with it.

She’ll make sure you know, in no uncertain terms, what an annoying asshole you are, how disgusting your habits are, how you snore and fart and smell like a zoo animal, and how all of your friends are mentally deficient as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Atomic King of Nothing

Dime Stories No Comments »
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

I grew up on comics. The Sunday funnies, Marvel Comics, Mad magazine, you name it. I was enthralled with the grotesques and rogues who populated Dick Tracy. As drawn by Chester Gould, the criminals were physical mutants as well as psychological mutants. Their transgressive biography manifested in their physicality. The Mole, Mumbles, Flattop and such were ugly because their actions were ugly. Gould’s drawing was marvelous, and it introduced an ugly kind of violence to the funny pages. Criminals were shot through the head in this comic; the fruits of crime were always a violent end, the law was to be upheld with Calvinist zeal. Tracy’s justice is dispensed with equal proportions of righteous moral fury and abject cruelty and always upon pariahs and mutants and creatures of a kind of “otherness.”

Naturally, I was pulling for the geeks, mutants and criminals. They were the fascinating part of Gould’s narrative and I suspect Gould, himself, knew this and he relished great attention on making his grotesques truly grotesque.

There was one wrinkly criminal whose name escapes me, so bedeviled by loose flesh that he had a pouch of loose flesh in his neck in which he hid a small gun and jewels; just crazy stuff, and I loved it. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Boozefighters

Dime Stories No Comments »

The Booze Fighters, San Diego, CA_100By Tony Fitzpatrick

“Johnny. What are you rebelling against? What ya got?”—Marlon Brando, “The Wild One”

There has never been a better recruiting tool for motorcycle clubs than this movie.

It is based on The Boozefighters. One of the first-ever motorcycle clubs in Southern California—it’s actually based on the Hollister California “riot” in 1947—an uprising so laughably tame it actually amounted to little more than six or seven Boozefighters being arrested for drunk and disorderly for drinking and racing their big American bikes in the streets of  the small town by the remarkably pussy police force (only seven cops—two of them  near retirement—they almost wet themselves) over a  summer weekend that scared the shit out of the locals, who’d evidently never seen anyone piss in the street before.

It was not more dangerous than any small-town parade with a few rowdy drunks thrown in. Well, a reporter got a hold of it on a slow news day and decided to paint it as the end-all of civilization. The tale of a marauding gang of motorcycle hoodlums proved to be catnip for the Hollywood imagination as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Year of the Gun

Dime Stories 1 Comment »
Black Petals/Tony Fitzpatrick

Black Petals/Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

“God, Guns, and Guts Made America Free”
—bumper sticker in Winslow, Arizona

A couple of months ago I wrote that the citizens of  Chicago were made less free by former Mayor Daley’s  outlawing of handguns in Chicago for almost his whole stewardship of our city. I wrote that as long as the bangers and criminals had guns, then we—the citizenry should have them as well. This perfect bit of logic fits in with my idea or fantasy that we can handle as much freedom as we are allowed. In fact, the more freedom we get, the better we are.

In my lizard brain, this idea fits in with some of my core beliefs—like the one that  is sure the Constitution is a perfect living document and guarantor of our freedoms. Never mind that this document, at the time of its writing, only ascribed three-fifths-human status to people of color. I thought the kinks had pretty well been worked out of it.

I especially held  with the idea that the Second Amendment was particularly sacrosanct, given that every despot, dictator, tyrant and genocidal shit-head in human history has, as a first step, disarmed the populace. Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, the list is endless. That, and given the city we live  in with its out-of-control homicide rate? It’s easy for Chicagoans to fall into the cynicism that tells us we are outmatched by the evil in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Send in the Clowns

Dime Stories No Comments »

Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Miami, Tuesday, 6am. He stares out from beneath the Days Inn sign, steeped in his own deep thoughts, slowly drawing in his Camel. Suddenly he looks over at me and says, “They let me walk around all night with a VIP pass stuck to my ass and nobody told me. The fuckers just let me look douchey in South Beach, man.”

I don’t know what to say to him, so I say nothing and keep smoking. This guy is a real estate man from Delaware. I tell him the VIP pass certainly didn’t make him look douchey. That it, for sure, isn’t the pass. He is relieved.

11:30pm, 15th and Collins, South Beach. A young Hispanic man is having a cordial if heated conversation with an escort, a zaftig Dominican girl. She is big everywhere, fleshy and sexy in a way girls in the seventies were. She’s wearing skin-tight, silvery sweats and sporting a camel-toe you could lose your keys in. They are haggling price.

I’m at Jerry’s Deli—kind of ground zero for all of the fairs at 15th and Collins. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Jazz Baroness

Dime Stories No Comments »

By Tony Fitzpatrick

She was born a Rothschild, an heiress of one of Europe’s great fortunes. The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, or “Nica” to her friends in the world of jazz, was a darkly beautiful, worldly muse to some of bebop’s titans—Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, to name a few. Charlie Parker, in fact, died in her apartment in New York’s Stanhope Hotel in 1955. The scandalous and racist media of the day covered the jazz great’s passing with all the salacious glee that the forbidden taboo fantasy of a famous-black-man-and-infamous-white-woman narrative allowed. This story was catnip for the local media, underlining the repulsion/attraction dynamic between the races that was at the heart of the fear and hatred so rampant in our country in the fifties. It was this very narrative that got the young Emmett Till murdered in the South. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: The Sky in Chicago

Dime Stories No Comments »

By Tony Fitzpatrick

A decade ago I took an Artist in Residency in Missoula, Montana at the University of Montana. I was always leery of visiting-artist gigs.  I’ve always found them a little annoying. The students are cool though. I’ve learned a lot from them and have hired some of them. One of the great things about young artists is they are willing to try anything. Their ideas about art haven’t hardened into inflexibility. Mid-career artists are a little overly fond of what they know and way too dismissive of those emerging talents that push the practice forward. This is particularly true here, in Chicago.

In most cases, I am twice the age of the other artists who work for me. I am grateful for what I’ve learned from them. They came of age a great deal more at home with technology and were able to make me realize its importance and how to use it as a tool. The more of their music, books and art I became exposed to, the wider my array of choices as an artist became.

The kids were great. What I disliked about the visiting-artist gigs were the  faculty. Yup, the teachers and the not-so-veiled resentment that sometimes hangs in the air like a spiderweb. Read the rest of this entry »