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Author: pvbella

Learn How to Walk in a City

Image: PV Bella

Learn How to Walk in a City

If you want to learn about a city you need to walk. Large cities are a walker’s paradise. You experience the city from the ground up. People from other countries know this. Walking is part and parcel of their daily way of life. Tourists from abroad know how to walk. Americans are ignorant toddlers in comparison.

There are worlds of discovery in Chicago from the downtown area, the Magnificent Mile, Old Town, River North, the Lakefront, Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast, Hyde Park, Uptown, and other neighborhoods. Even walking off the beaten path of main arterial streets, strolling through side streets in neighborhoods is an adventure.

If you pay attention, you can learn some history while walking. Many buildings have commemorative plaques indicating a historical event that happened on the site or in the building. There are busts and statues of famous Chicagoans and others who contributed something to this city. Sometimes they are in out-of-the-way places, waiting for you to find them.

Every neighborhood I eventually lived in, I walked. I learned the pace, context, and nuances of the community and surrounding areas.

When I retired, I walked some of the neighborhoods I worked. A police officer sees places from the seat of a car, driving in square circles. You miss the uniqueness of the area. I worked in one place for almost ten years. When I walked it several times, I was surprised at what I missed or never realized existed. To this day, I still discover new things there.

I could go to any major city in the world and traverse the streets. I know how to walk on city streets. The first time I went to New York City, it did not take me long to feel right at home walking around. The same was true in other cities I visited, here and abroad.

Chicago was established as a city of commerce and industry. Time is money. Money is time. Chicago’s streets and public transportation system were designed to get people from one place to another and back efficiently. There is a hustle in the way people walk, especially in the business, shopping, tourist, and entertainment districts.

We walk with speed and purpose. Our only objective is to get from point A to point B and sometimes back as fast as possible. We do not have time to waste on lazy slugs who never learned how to walk on crowded sidewalks.

There are Rules of the Sidewalk for walking in crowded urban areas. The number one rule is, WATCH WHERE THE FUCK YOU ARE GOING!

It is not my responsibility to watch where you are going. I have enough trouble watching where I am going. Walking on city streets means dodging all the feral fribbles who do not watch where they are going. If they bump into you, it is your fault. They are the inconsiderate ones. They are in my way.

You walk. Walking means keep moving. You do not stop in the middle of the sidewalk, gawking at something or someone. You do not stop to take a selfie. You walk at the pace of everyone else. If you walk too slow or stop, you should get stampeded and ground into the concrete.

Walk on the right side of the sidewalk, leaving room in the middle for faster walkers who must be someplace yesterday. If you are window shopping, you stand as close to the building as possible, allowing pedestrians to pass by.

Members of the stroller patrol who have those asinine double or triple wide strollers should not walk in a busy area. They screw up the normal flow of traffic as they saunter with their spawns of Satan.

In this age of handheld communication, brainless techno-geeks walk down the street with their faces plastered to their phones. They are oblivious to their surroundings, other pedestrians, or vehicular traffic. It is incredible hundreds are not catastrophically injured or killed every day.

Phones are smart. People are stupid. Apple aptly named their iPhone. The i is for idiot.

If you have to text, sext, or tweet, step to the side, stop walking and do it. Let the rest of us normal people keep on our merry way.

One of the COVID-19 pandemic benefits was a vast reduction of humans in the commercial, shopping, and tourist areas. It was easy to walk and see things when you did not have the mindless masses causing sight blight. Now that restrictions are over, the hordes of pains in the ass are back, annoying us real walkers and making life miserable.

The only good way to learn about Chicago is to walk through it. But learn how to walk in a city first.

We Do Not Live the Ideal of the Fourth

Image: PV Bella

We are heading into the Fourth of July weekend. I see some neighbors loading up their cars to travel. Others are heading to the L with their suitcases, going to one of the airports or train stations.

When I was young, the Fourth of July was a celebration and feast. There was barbeque, all kinds of side dishes, pop, wine, and beer, desserts, and enjoying the company of family and friends.

As I got older, the Fourth of July turned into one of Chicago’s drinking and puking fests. Instead of homemade well-crafted food, people drink and eat all the crap that the ad companies brainwashed them into believing are “traditional Fourth of July fare.

Like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and other amateur drinking and puking holidays, the Fourth turned into just another day or three-day weekend of drunken revelry.

In the city’s drunken and porcelain bus stupor, we forget the reason we celebrate, the Declaration of Independence. The document that preceded the war and bloodshed against the colonial Brits. The document started us on the road to forge a nation and a noble experiment of governance.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness .”

Since those ideals and words were written and embodied, we have fought tooth and nail to deprive each other of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are still fighting today, 245 years later. We will keep fighting each other because those were ideals that could never be met. The Founders did not take in the human condition when they penned those noble ideals.

We might be equal in the eyes of God, the Creator, the Great Comedian, or whatever you call them. We have violated those unalienable rights on a mass scale since the formation of this great nation. Sometimes I think the Great Comedian is laughing at his cruel joke. He created some people to thrive and others to struggle and suffer.

To this day, we are still fighting for equality, or the new term, equity. We are fighting the federal and state governments, the two clown show political parties, the City Hall circus, and each other.

We may live in peace, but the only harmony is the cacophony of voices demanding their rights while excluding the rights of others, claiming the bull manure of culture, values, and morals. We are fighting a news media that opines rights are not inalienable. At the same time, they bitterly cling to their right to publish horse manure.

So, people celebrate the Fourth in drunken stupidity. Instead of celebrating the ideal and vowing to do better, they forget the past and present sins. They focus on clinging to the porcelain bus.

The Fourth of July celebrates a noble ideal. Maybe we should start living that ideal instead of squabbling about who has the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There are only two great equalizers in life. Birth and death. All babies are created equal at birth, naked and wet. We are all going to die. In between, we are clothed and wet-brained.

Musings From the Park Bench

Image: PV Bella

Last March, when Chicago shut down due to the COVID pandemic, I took a walk every day, weather permitting. Though the weather was somewhat mild, there was still snow on the ground. Once in while some new snow fell.

 I would walk between one and two and one half miles. There are two large parks bordering each end of my neighborhood. There is a decent sized plaza on the main commercial strip too. I would stop at each spot to sit on a park bench for a bit.

As I sat and rested or drank coffee, I observed the people in the area and the activities they did as the weather went from winter’s end to spring. Sometimes I kvetched, daydreamed, ruminated, doodled, or just cleared the cobwebs out of the fine French sieve that is my brain.

I listened to various news stations on these forays. At first, most of the news was pandemic related. It was all numbers. How many people in Chicago were infected, how many died, how many tested. On and on. The pandemic dominated the news cycle locally and nationwide.

I carried a camera and notebook on these excursions. Over the course of eight months, I shot over 6000 photos. I carried a notebook to jot down thoughts or things I noticed.

From those park benches I watched children climb trees and the sculpted lamp post in the plaza. As the weather warmed, hammocks were popular, strung between trees. Some practiced tightrope walking, stringing practice slack lines between trees.

Picnics and parties were held in the park, all social distanced. Some were more elaborate with buffet tables and a table used for a bar, along with the ubiquitous coolers for beer. As spring turned into summer, people were married in the parks and had their “receptions” there.

Children’s birthday parties were held, with inflatable decorations and all the other things parents buy to decorate and celebrate.

During the warm weather, there were live performances in Giddings Plaza. The star shaped stage has electrical outlets for amps and other devices. On some days there were several performances.

During the course of the pandemic, I learned more about my neighborhood than I did during the 13 years I lived here. I made many discoveries about the place I call home. I made cordial relationships with some of the employees working in businesses that remained open.

One thing I noticed was the generosity of my neighbors. There are several birdhouse looking structures on the parkways or peoples front lawns. They were filled with food and personal hygiene products for anyone who needed them. People left bins with canned and dried foods in front of their homes.

Popular bars and restaurants started crowdfunding to assist their laid off employees. One restaurant offered free Thai food to children with a purchase. One of my neighbors knitted large butterflies on coat hangers. She put them on her lawn, with a sign, asking people to take them. This lasted for a few weeks. The butterflies were in front of homes or stuck in lawns all over the neighborhood.

I saw some changes. Older homes being torn down and replaced by new homes or McMansions, raised gardens in the parkways, gardens on patches of grass at corner intersections, and gardeners tending their plots. Gardening became popular.

After a while, I started seeing a few of the same people daily. On their porches, walking by, in the plaza, or the coffee shops. Nods turned into hellos which turned into brief conversations.

While sitting on those park benches, people approached and chatted for a few minutes. I also observed how during the course of a day the changes in people coming and going in the local parks and the plaza.

The pandemic gave me an appreciation for outdoor spaces, which most of us in Chicago take for granted. I made new acquaintances. Most days, I just walked or sat alone but never felt lonely.

A Tale of Two Petes

Image: PV Bella

Allessio was born in Sicily. He came to America as a young man settling in a postage stamp town in Southern Illinois. He worked in the coal mines. There was a large Scotsman miner, Pete Ross, who befriended him. They became known as Big Pete and Little Pete. Alessio was called Pete for the rest of his life.

Pete married an immigrant Sicilian, whose family owned the local hotel. They eventually had nine children. Pete was an entrepreneurial sort. He had a large personality. Pete could have given lessons to Dale Carnegie about making friends and influencing people.

Pete owned a home and subsistence farm. During prohibition, he made beer, wine, and cooked alcohol, selling it to the locals and shipping some to St. Louis and Chicago. He also ran a white tablecloth restaurant out of the home to provide alcohol with dinner.

There is a story about the Ku Klux Klan. It is a tale best not told. It is shrouded in the smoke and fog of truth, myth, and legend.  The Klan hated Catholics and immigrants, especially if they appeared to be prospering. Suffice it to say the Klan sued for peace with Pete.

After Prohibition, Pete moved his family to St. Louis. He opened a tavern that served food. He was known for his congeniality and compassion. He would feed those who were down on their luck.

Years later, when the neighborhood started turning Black, he only saw one color. The color of money. He served any and all who came in. When crime increased and robberies were prolific, word went out in the neighborhood. “Leave Mr. Pete alone.”

Pietro emigrated from Sicily in 1901. He came through Ellis Island. He settled in Brooklyn. He eventually made Chicago his home. He lived on the 800 block of Cambridge Street. The neighborhood was called, “Little Hell.” It was a horrid slum known for high infant mortality and murder rates. In later years the area would once again become known for violence. The name was changed to Cabrini-Green.

Pietro became a butcher. He started to prosper and opened his own butcher shop at 1823 W. North Avenue. He owned the building. His family lived upstairs. He too helped those in need. He extended credit to those who were short of money but needed to feed their families.

Like Pete, Pietro cooked alcohol, made wine and beer during Prohibition.

During the late 1930’s Pietro developed cancer. Doctors said treatment and surgery would only give him a 50-50 chance of survival. Pietro decided to return to Sicily to see his family one last time.

In 1939, war broke out in Europe. Pietro was refused entry back to the United States, as an undesirable alien. After his family spent months corresponding with the authorities, they received confirmation that Pietro would be notified he could return. Unfortunately, he died two weeks prior to that. He is buried in Sicily.

This tale of two Pete’s could relate to anyone during the early part of the 20th Century. It could be a tale of two Stosh’s, Moishe’s, Clancy’s, or Spiro’s. It could be the tale of Mexicans, Chinese, South Asians, or Southern Blacks, who came to Chicago during the Great Migration.

It is a tale of people who started with nothing, built a life, and owned a small share of the American Dream. They were not rich or even what we consider middle class. More important, they were not poor.

They lived through turbulent times. They were discriminated against. They were hated. They were the other. They came through the Great Depression. In spite of all that, they prospered.

The two Pete’s sons went off to fight for something called freedom during World War II. Their daughters married. The sons and daughters worked hard, raised their families, and had their slice of the American dream.

The American Dream meant one thing to the native-born, the immigrant, and the Blacks from the Great Migration. It was providing for yourself and your family. It meant having a small slice of prosperity. A roof over your head, food on the table, and clothing on your back. It was a steady job or small business.

These people did not ask for much. They were content with the basics of life. Life was simple to them. Work defined what and who you were. People were as proud to be a butcher, laborer, or saloon keeper as a doctor or lawyer.

The American Dream is not a collective ideal. It is individual. It means something different to each and every one of us. There is no one dream, one set of American values, one size fits all.

For some, the dream is nothing more than a job or a paycheck. For others, it is pie in the sky topped with ice cream and a gilded cherry on top.

The two Pete’s were free men. Freedom was a simple concept. Being able to be what they wanted and having the ability to provide for their families. Others like them were no different.

The two Pete’s were my grandfathers. Men I never knew. Because of them, and their lessons passed down from my parents, I am living my version of the American Dream.

The greatest lesson I learned from my parents, they learned from theirs, the two Pete’s. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Yeah, life and living together in society is just that simple.

Call Center Scams

Image: PV Bella

 A while back, I received a call from the IRS Criminal Police Division. Before a human answered, a recording played, informing me it was the IRS calling and the call will be recorded.

The human then came on the line and told me the IRS audited my returns for past years and discovered I owe several thousand dollars to the government. I could hear a dog barking in the background. Does the IRS have a canine unit?

The caller then stated that I would have to pay immediately, or they would come to my home, along with agents and local police, to arrest me. I could pay with a credit or a debit card.

I informed the caller that I refused to pay. He repeated the threat about police and agents coming to arrest me. I replied that they should bring plenty of men, guns, and ammo because I am not going down easy.

The caller reminded me that the call was being recorded and asked me to repeat what I said. I did, and he hung up.

Some months later, I received a call from Social Security. The caller said they detected fraud on my account, and I owed a refund. If I did not pay immediately, I would be arrested and deported. I told him the same thing I said to the IRS scammer. The caller became verbally abusive with profanities. He did not realize he was dealing with the master of profanity, obscenity, and vulgarity. He hung up.

Before I installed a scam APP on my phone, I would get multiple calls a day about my car warranty insurance. With the APP, they go to voicemail.

I do not understand something. We have the best cyber intelligence in law enforcement, intelligence, and the military. The Feds can hear a snake farting in the middle of the Amazon and pinpoint its exact location. Why can’t they pinpoint these call centers, and send a drone to destroy them, doing us all a favor?

That would truly be our tax dollars at work.

Thinking About Death

Image: PV Bella

I read an article about how thinking about death affects the way we age. If they admit it or not, people my age think about death and the process of dying. If we are honest, we hope it comes fast and painless.

Death is inevitable. The reason we are born is to die. God is the Great Comedian. In his omnipresent humor, he created the Earth. Then he created humans. On the seventh day, God rested, packed his bags, and left. He’s been on vacation ever since.

God’s Earth has been trying to kill off the human species since its creation. Poisonous plants, predatory animals, insects, earthquakes, plagues, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, volcanoes, extreme weather, and all of Mother Nature are in an eternal conspiracy to kill off the human race and erase it from this planet. Then there are Mother Nature’s partners, other humans, doing her work through wars, murders, accidents, and other deaths.

God just laughs and laughs.

Experts tell us we should prepare for death. It is healthier than ruminating about it. We should tell our loved ones how we feel about them and why. We should leave behind things to remember us. Prepare our wills and other documents and leave them with a trusted loved one. The list goes on and on. Geez, who wants to work that fucking hard?

Death is a business, a big business. The funeral sector is just one big upsell and hustle. The casket, obit, mass cards, flowers, and other items big and small run up the bill. Then, the church hits you up for some big bucks for a religious ritual. It is all facilitated through the undertaker.

We changed how we talk about death. People no longer die. They transition or pass. What do they transition to? Kidney stones pass, not people.

One thing I do like, we stopped mourning the dead. Now, we celebrate the life of the stiff in the casket. Yeah, yeah, some loved ones will weep, grieve, and mourn. After a short while, they realize life goes on without you. They savor your memory.

Wakes are full-blown multi-media affairs with big-screen televisions, tables of photos and mementos, and music. I guess next, there will be cocktails and dancing or gaming stations.

None of us want to die. All of us are going to die. There is no choice in the matter. Death is the great equalizer.

We die young.

We die old.

We die peacefully.

We die screaming in pain.

We die quick.

We die a slow torturous death.

We get killed by murder or accident.

Death is a fact of life. We are born to die.

I left instructions for my death. I do not want a wake. The last thing I want is people gawking at my pancake-made-up face and coifed hair. You want to see me, do it while I am alive. I want to be cremated, hopefully, stuffed with powerful fireworks.

If there is any money left, I want a party thrown to celebrate my life. A fete with good booze, beer, wine, food, and music to dance by. No one leaves until the last drop of alcohol is consumed.

I want to come back as a ghost. Not an evil spirit, but a bad boy ghost. I want to prank all the stupid people in this city who make living in Chicago so fucking miserable.

As a side note, I read that some funeral homes had postcards available when postcards were a big thing. What a wonderful idea. Mourners can send postcards to people out of town with the usual, “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here.”

The Picasso

Image: PV Bella

But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.” (Mike Royko/Picasso and the Cultural Rebirth of Chicago)

The image is a digitally enhanced photograph of the Picasso sculpture located in Daley Plaza. The statue was unveiled in August 1967. The statue was fabricated by the US Steel Corporation, with guidance from the then Civic Center architect and engineer. It is 50 feet high and weighs 162 tons.

The piece changed the concept of public art. It was art for art’s sake versus public commemoration. Art is supposed to evoke controversy, and Picasso did just that.

The Picasso looms over Daley Plaza like a perched Pterodactyl sitting on its prey. The statue’s eyes are the eyes of a cruel predator, full of greed, power, evil, and the dog-eat-dog philosophy that intertwines politics, business, and crime in Chicago. They are the eyes of corrupt politicians, and bureaucrats, gang bangers, developers, dope dealers, house flippers, sex traffickers, and all the other people out for the fast buck in this city of scoundrels.

The Picasso represents Chicago values. Get it while you can, as fast as you can, accumulate more, and hold on as long as you can. Chicago values are enshrined in the Eleventh Commandment. Thou shalt not get caught.

Beat up by a Blind Guy

Image: PV Bella

In 1990, I worked the midnight shift at the former Racine and Monroe police district. One hot muggy weekend, the wife and I decided to attend the Around the Coyote, an art festival in Chicago’s Wicker Park Neighborhood.

After a few hours of sleep, my wife and I headed to the festival. We were standing at the intersection of North Avenue and Damen. There was nothing between us and the opposite side of the street except a Black blind man the size of a linebacker and a mousy-haired middle-aged white hippie-looking woman with him.

I spotted a break in the traffic. The wife and I eased around the blind man and started to cross.

I felt a burning sting on my back. Then more. I turned to look. The blind man was wielding his cane like a whip. All the blows are landing on my back, then neck and arms as I flailed to repel his blows. Then, more on the shoulders and back as the wife started pulling me away.

The mousy-haired hippie woman was screaming at the blind guy and futilely trying to stop him from swinging. Finally, it got to the point I had to do something, anything, to keep from getting hit again.

Those white canes cause instant purple welts, and they hurt like hell.

I got ready. At the time, I was 180 pounds of rocking socking dynamite. All lean muscle, sinew, and speed. I cocked my arm and got the Sicilian soup bone ready to launch. I started the punch to knock the crazed blind guy into next Tuesday.

Midway to his chest, I froze. My brain started flashing the next day’s front-page headlines, “Off-duty cop beats up blind man.”

Wap, wap, wap. More blows.

Discretion being the better part of stupidity, I fled to the opposite curb.

I looked back, and what do I see? The blind hulk was coming in my direction with a look of malice and purpose, tap, tap, tapping that cane on the street and dragging the mousy middle-aged hippie, trying to hold him back.

I cocked the soup bone again. I told him to stop, or I would stop his heart. He slowed down and smiled. He said, “I just want to apologize.”

That is when things got ludicrous. To the best of my recollection, the conversation went something like this:

Blind guy: “Look, I’m sorry. Didn’t you see the car? The one where the mirror hit me? I was trying to hit the car.”

Me: “Didn’t you see me trying to cross the street in front of you?”

We both laughed.

When I got home, I checked myself in the mirror. My arms, neck, and back were a mass of purple welts.

After a long nap, I went to work. I was working in civilian clothes that night, wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. The watch commander was at the desk smoking and drinking a cup of coffee. He looked up.

“What the hell happened to you?” What could I say? “I got beat up by a blind guy.”

He had no patience for jokes that night and let me know it in no uncertain terms.

I insisted that a blind guy beat me up. I called home. The wife told him, “Mr. Tough Guy got beat up by a blind man.” I could hear her cackling laugh through the phone.

The Captain hauled me into his office and got serious. He was concerned about a major beef coming down. I explained what happened and what did not happen. He appeared to be satisfied.

At roll call, he saved my name until last—the final humiliation.

“Now, we have Officer Bella, who may have made Chicago Police Department history today. Officer Bella may be the first police officer in the history of the department to get beat up by a blind man.”

There were loud hoots and hollers of peeling laughter at my miserable expense.

It only got worse through the years. Whenever the wife and I were out, and the talk was of fights, she would say something to the effect of, “Hey, Mr. Tough Guy, why don’t you tell them about the time you got beat up by the blind man?”

My daughter heard this story too. She inherited the best and worst traits of her mother and me. To this day, if she is with me and some cop friends, and the discussion turns to various escapades, she will remind me to tell the story about getting beat up by the blind guy.

Houston We Have a Problem

Image: PV Bella

Monday, June 21, was the deadliest day in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. The death toll keeps rising. Violent crimes are spreading all over the city- murder, mayhem, robberies, carjackings, burglaries, and other crimes. People no longer feel safe on the streets, beaches, downtown, or in the hospitality and entertainment areas.

Suburbanites and exurbanites will stop visiting out of fear. Tourism will drop. Locals will stay in their neighborhoods. The cultural institutions will also take a hit.

Business and tax revenues will shrink. The city may as well lockdown again as it did during the pandemic.

Before I retired from the Chicago Police Department, family, friends, neighbors, and others would tell me how safe they felt in the city. After I retired, things started deteriorating slowly. Now, it is at the point where I do not feel safe. No matter where I go, I am hyper-vigilant.

If I, a former cop, do not feel safe, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

The reason people felt safe was the way police superintendents handled the press. They assured the people the citizens were protected, no matter how strident or goofy the mayors sounded when asked. However, the superintendents also knew when to take the gloves off, increase the pressure on crime, and when to back down. It was a delicate balancing act.

The police brass knew how things worked because they were all from Chicago. They knew the city, the neighborhoods, and the communities. They worked these streets.

The deterioration started when the city brought outsiders in to run the police department. First, it was a retired FBI agent. The FBI is very good at what they do- investigations. They know little to nothing about policing. He did not last long, but the damage was done.

Now, we have a superintendent from Dallas, Texas, the equivalent of an urban suburb. He is far out of his league. He is like a kid riding a bike for the first time without training wheels. He weebles and wobbles, trying not to fall.

Worse, if there is a worse, the city leaders are captured by the social justice activists. Some are captivated by them, drooling and salivating like hormonally charged teenagers over a celebrity. If the city tries to take the gloves off and increase the pressure, the celebrity activists cry racism and “unleash the dogs of war”- mass protests. Just the threat of mass protests has the city and business community quaking in their boots.

Crime and violence are out of control. The police department is overworked and over-stressed, with days off canceled and working 12 hour days. Groups formed to help officers with families to run errands, provide childcare, and do other things. Others are donating money to provide meals to or cook at police stations. While all this is admirable, it does not take the stress off of an over-stressed department.

Overworking cops is a recipe for disaster. Aside from the health, family, and social issues, the added stress of long days and weeks takes a toll. In addition, tired and stressed cops are more prone to injury and anger issues. Those are just two symptoms of stress. Add to that the stress of not being allowed to do the job they were trained to do, there will be adverse outcomes for all involved.  No one benefits, not the citizens or the police.

By July, it is estimated that 500 police officers will have retired or resigned this year. If the retirements and resignation pace keeps up, the department will be woefully understaffed. This will put more stress on the police and the public.

As they said in the 1960s, it is going to be a long hot summer. It does not appear the violence, murder, and mayhem will abate. But, unfortunately, there is no political will to change the dynamic. Chicago and its politicians went from being a city of scoundrels to a city of cowards.

The new motto should be, I  won’t.

The Vulture Won

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The talent drain continues at the Chicago Tribune. Columnists John Kass, Mary Schmich, Eric Zorn, Heidi Stevens, Editorial Board member, and columnist Steve Chapman accepted buy-outs from the paper. Other columnists and veteran noted reporters are pondering their fate.

Eric Zorn, Steve Chapman, John Kass, and Mary Schmich worked at the Tribune for over forty years. Heidi Stevens worked there for more than twenty decades. About one hundred eighty years of talent and institutional brain trust are cashing out and leaving. All were gracious with their exits. Their reasons for leaving were not given.

More people will be leaving. Good reporters, columnists, sportswriters, business writers, photographers, editors, and others. These are people who cared about the news. The Tribune will be a shell of its former glory. They will also leave graciously.

Alden Global Capital bought the Tribune. When the deal was proffered, there were dire warnings about Alden. It was referred to as a “vulture fund.” They purchased the Tribune and other papers it owned. The signs are coming true. Alden is known for stripping assets, personnel and cutting costs to drive profitability. They are described as ruthless in their business practices. Like vultures, they strip the carcass until nothing is left but the bare bleached bones.

Alden currently owns over 100 newspapers and 200 other publications. According to the NewsGuild union, Alden cut staff at guild-represented papers by an average of 75% in one six-year period. (NPR.org) They brought their ruthless cost-cutting to the Tribune in short order.

The Chicago Tribune is not only a legacy newspaper but also a historical one. The paper is part and parcel of this city’s history. The Trib was established in 1847, while Chicago was a fast-growing young city. The original masthead logo was “An American newspaper for Americans.”

The Trib was responsible for creating the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Under the leadership of Joseph Medill, they established journalistic standards. Medill’s grandsons, who ran the Tribune, funded the Medill School of Journalism in 1921 at Northwestern University. It is one of the preeminent J schools and communication and marketing schools in the world.

The original Tribune building was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire. They continued to publish through another printing company. They went from horse-powered printing presses to whatever new technology came out. For many decades, they were international in scope, covering wars and other international events.

Chicago was a newspaper town, and competition between the publications was fierce. During the 1920s, the competition was so violent that Al Capone was called to broker a truce between a Hearst-owned paper and the Trib. Capone later claimed to deal with the papers, and their goons were as bad as dealing with competing gangs.

The Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building led to the development of North Michigan Avenue, creating the Mag Mile. The tower was sold by former owners, along with other assets. It is now a condo building.

When I was in college, Chicago only had four newspapers left. The Trib and Sun-Times were the morning papers. The Daily News and the American were the evening newspapers. Eventually, the Daily News and American folded, leaving the Times and Trib as the only two newspapers and editorial voices left.

Digital news was a boon and ruination of the newspaper business model. Many did not go online early enough. Others struggled to get their online presence right. Advertising rates for digital are way lower than print. Ad content is faster and cheaper to create. Papers had to sell more ads to make up for the lower price.

Some news sites are annoying to read because of all the pop-up ads, video ads, and their own videos. They also include paid content- clickbait- articles. This may be the next model for the Tribune. There is also a rumor that Alden will take the paper to a digital-only model, eliminating printing and other jobs related to publishing and distributing a newspaper.

It is a shame and an outrage that talented, great reporters and columnists feel they can no longer work for the place they called their second home. It is a pity that a local consortium could not be organized to buy the Tribune. It is a shame we will be stuck with a comic rag instead of a real newspaper.

The Trib will be owned by foreigners from New York, people from someplace else- who know nothing about this great city or its great newspaper. It would be better if space aliens took over the Trib. Alden’s reputation reminds me of a theme song- The Stripper.

The Tribune, a historical and legacy news organization, will be turned into a mere clickbait and paid content generator. In other words, a major pain in the ass.

Maybe Alden knows something few of us do not. In this nation of bark chewers and peckerheads, the average newsreader is more interested in clickbait than solid, hard-hitting news and opinion. Maybe the new reporters and columnists will concentrate on the lives of celebrities, like the Kardashians or the Brit twit royal family. They will publish social media selfies of hot bikini pics of middle-aged to senior citizen has-beens, like other tabloids.

A parade should be held for Alden. One side of the street can be all the knuckle-dragging drooling idiots who will buy into their bull dung and subscribe. The other side of the road can be lined with the few intelligent people left. We can throw rotten tomatoes and eggs at their executives and pencil-pushing cost-cutters. Maybe, the Great Comedian smiles on us, with flocks of pigeons flying over to whiten their heads.