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Peter V. Bella Posts

Thinking About Death

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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

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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

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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

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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.

I Come I Shop I Conquer

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When I go shopping, I’m on a mission from God. I have my list, gas in the car, coffee, and my oversized reusable shopping bags. I plan my trip when traffic is the lightest. My time is valuable.

Shopping is not an experience. I do not need ambiance. It is not a long-term excursion. Shopping carts do not have luggage racks.

Shopping is a necessary chore to complete. I want to perform it efficiently and with speed. I want to go to stores, get my stuff, pay my money, and get out as fast as I can.

There is a new phenomenon in big box or club stores. This uncivilized cultural anomaly was brought about by savage primitive over-privileged and indulged twenty and thirty-somethings.

These primitives believe shopping aisles are gathering places, like wells, cooking fires, and village squares. Every place the village idiots casually run into each other is an excuse for a community meeting, social Kumbaya moment, or group grope.

These savages congregate, sometimes with their crotch critters, to hold gabfests in store aisles. While merrily hugging, air-kissing, gossiping, and sipping their multi-ingredient dairy-free coffees, they effectively block anyone from going down the aisles.

They are oblivious to the needs of civilized people who want to shop.

In the old days, this would not be a problem. One would just crash through them or loudly tell them to get the expletive deleted out of the way. Those days are long gone. Now, we must submit to the whims of savages.

Shoppers facing these savages will turn around to find another aisle or go all the way around and back to the same one to get what they need, then turn around again. They will avoid confrontation at all costs, no matter the inconvenience.

Shopping aisles are for people who are buying goods and spending money. They are not village squares where village idiots gather to catch up with each other’s dull, worthless, meaningless lives.

If this cultural trend continues, these people will start holding tailgate-style shopping cart parties in the aisles. Imagine twenty and thirty-somethings grilling brats, drinking artisan craft beer, and having a wonderful time in aisle 6. At the same time, their crumb-crunching crawlers gambol on the floor.

Since I come from the last generation of America, the Brave, I don’t care about anyone’s oh-so-tender sensitive feelings. I could care less about their self-esteem. I do not care about their infant or toddler sproglodytes.

I am on a mission. You are in my way for no good reason. You will be offended. I will get through. Mission accomplished.

I am not a total boor. I will approach you, tap your cart with mine, and say something like, “Please, do you ever so mind moving so I can get the f#$king whatever it is I came down this aisle for.”

I do not stop moving.

If you hesitate or show offense to your sensitive feelings, I will be pushing your cart out of my way. If your nose mining devil spawn is in it, that is your problem.

If you are a gaggle of geese honking your soup coolers, I will wade in with my cart so that I can get my needs. Your feather-brained flock is an obstruction to be conquered.

Some people leave their carts, blocking aisles, to gather someplace else and socialize. I like taking one of the shopping carts, preferably the most loaded one, and moving it to the other end of the store.

If you leave your cart unattended with your muff monkey, I will seek out a store employee and report an abandoned child in the aisle. I do my civic duty.

If you even think of criticizing my “uncivilized” behavior towards your savagery, be warned. Look up vile in the dictionary. The first definition is my name. I will send you out running and screaming for your mommy if you have one.

If I know one of the store employees or managers, I will ask them how to arrange a picnic or shopping cart party in an aisle. When he gives me a look of the pathetically obtuse, I will explain about the gossiping gropers having a great time in that now closed aisle.

I was thinking of getting one of those canned air horns and a large battery-operated blinking light. That would liven up their social community gathering experience when I come bowling down the blocked aisle, blinking and blaring.

Store aisles are not social spaces where you gather to talk about creatures named Kardashian, the color and odor of diaper contents, the hot personal trainer at the gym, or the latest pet trick your bumbling bratzilla can perform.

Aisles are not for a group discussion on lawn care, plucking and tweezing versus threading, waxing your nether regions, or the latest reality show.

Store aisles are for getting from point A to B to C, eventually to the checkout lane. Shopping is just that, shopping. Stores are not places where you loiter, blocking the aisles like gangbangers or dope dealers on a street corner.

Call me rude, call me insensitive, call me anything you like. I will shop. I will move you out of my way, verbally or with my cart.

While you are complaining to your oversensitive friends or store management about being offended, I will be in the checkout line.

Giving dad his due on Father’s Day

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Father’s Day. is Sunday. The Day of the Dad. The dude. Da man.

Dads will be opening gifts of ties, scents, shirts, sports-themed items, bottles of adult beverages, or other things. Maybe the grill will be fired up and burgers, hot dogs, steaks or chicken will be charred. Going out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner out might be an option. Or just a lazy day with the family altogether gathered round will be the choice.

For many of us, Father’s Day will be a day of remembrance. Our dads are gone.

The late folk singer, Steve Goodman remembered his father with the song, “My Old Man”. All of us are not songwriters or singers, except in the shower.

We can give our dads their due by remembering them, talking about them, especially to our children, or writing about them.

My dad was born to immigrants from Sicily who came to Chicago as part of the Brooklyn pipeline. Brooklyn is where many Italians first settled after coming through Ellis Island. They saved their hard-earned money for the promise of streets paved with gold in Chicago. What they really found was more hard work and no gold.

My grandparents first settled in “Little Hell”, on Cambridge Street. Eventually, the area would be turned into a different form of hell, Cabrini Green. Now, most of the area is upscale housing developments.

They moved and started a family. My grandfather bought a building in Wicker Park and opened a butcher shop. The family lived in an apartment above the shop. Dad became a butcher too.

Dad dropped out of high school at 16, like many young men of the Depression era. He went to work. He had a work ethic that he passed on to me. Work was the American dream. A job provided food, housing, clothing, and affordable creature comforts. The worst insult my dad gave was calling someone lazy.

Dad was drafted into the Army during World War II. He went to war. He was stationed in what are today exotic places. Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and New Caledonia. The only talk of the war we heard was about the exotic lands and some of the fun the G.I.s had.

Dad came home, returned to butchery, and eventually opened his own shop. When butchery changed and the supermarkets eased out the little guy he went to work on the trucking docks.

He did not complain. I heard the story about how he was shut down. It was never told in anger. Just a tinge of remorse. Dad had mouths to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. He worked on the trucking docks and took whatever part-time and sometimes full-time work he could get.

My dad was one of the smartest men I knew. Maybe the educational system was better in the 1920s and1930s. He was articulate, well-read, and could hold his own in any conversation. He knew and shared his love of Chicago history.

My dad knew people from all walks of life. From successful professionals, poor people eking out a living, and even some gangsters. He saw to it I met them all from an early age. He wanted me to see possibilities and learn consequences.

There were really only two things my dad had a passion for. His family and food. Dad was a foodie before the term was dreamed up. Grocery shopping on weekends was an excursion through various parts of the city. It could start before dawn around any holiday or special occasion.

My dad was a passionate cook, as was my mother. If they were risk takers, they would have been successful restaurateurs or caterers. After a large meal, especially a holiday meal, dad would lean back and say, “I could die right now and be a happy man.”

I was an adult before I really appreciated my father. Maybe because he talked about his life more. My fondest memories are just sitting at the table eating bread, cheese, olives, Italian cold cuts, and maybe a glass of wine or two. Just sitting, talking, and eating.

My dad worked hard. He had no vices. His family came first and foremost. I can’t make a movie or write a song about him. I can’t write his biography. It would be boring. All I can do is give him his due today. Remembrance.

My daughter is an adult now. She is not my little girl anymore. She constantly reminds me, “I’m still your little girl, I just not puny anymore.”

Maybe, someday when I am long gone, she will give me her due by remembering me. That is all I want for Father’s Day.

A Chance Encounter

I heard him before I saw him. In a loud, kindly voice, he profusely thanked the bus driver for something or other. He moved with the assistance of a cane, pulling a tattered overfilled shopping cart.

He sat down across the aisle from me. He moved slowly, using his cane for balance, as the bus lurched forward. His left shoe had a sole and heel two inches higher than the right.

Two young girls were sitting next to me. Their grandmother sitting on the other side of the aisle from them.

The elderly gentleman tried to talk to the girls. At first, he appeared addled. Maybe he was suffering from some dementia or another mental ailment of the aged.

He offered them hard candy. The grandmother politely refused, saying the girls did not eat candy. Every time a child came on the bus, he asked the parent if he could give them a piece of candy. He offered the adults candy too.

The gentleman had a pleasant demeanor. His accent was East European, so I thought.

As we rode along, he asked about my camera. He offered me a piece of candy. Then he opened up about himself. Becuase his accent was quite heavy, there were things I could not understand.

The gentleman was born in the Soviet Union. He studied and taught history.

He left home and wandered through Europe, picking up languages in places he lived. Italy, France, and Germany. He spent six months touring the Mediterranean. He settled in Athens, Greece for a period. He learned Greek. He traveled around the islands. The gentleman loved the islands. He referred to them as paradise, “as described in the Bible.”

He came to America 42 years ago. He said he lived in Chicago the whole time.

Before we could converse further my stop came up. We shook hands and bid each other goodbye.

He was an elderly gentleman trying to show kindness by handing out candy. Maybe he was just looking for someone, anyone to talk to him or listen to him. He meant no harm. He had a kind face. He appeared happy despite his physical ailments. The one thing I noticed, his eyes sparkled as he reveled in his tales of travel

As I walked to my destination, I thought about what could have happened. In today’s world of nosy busybodies, someone could have called the police to report this gentleman trying to entice children with candy. Maybe someone on that bus could have attacked him.

I thought about something else. That gentleman could be me in a few years or other people I know. People who are aged, have infirmities, and just maybe, looking for someone to pay attention to them, talk to them, or at the very least, listen to them.

I wish my ride lasted longer. I might have learned something. Knowledge is not just in books or institutions of higher learning. Knowledge is in people. People like this elderly gentleman who traveled the world and wanted to share his knowledge with a stranger.

Daytime Drinking

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I remember the first time I was in a saloon. I was four or five years old. My dad took me into a corner bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood. The building was old then and is still standing today. It is no longer a saloon.

My dad hoisted me on the barstool. He ordered a Green River pop for me and a beer for himself. The bartender was a tall, lanky guy, wearing a white shirt with garters on the sleeves. I do not remember much else except sitting on that barstool sipping pop with my dad.

There is something special about daytime drinking. I am not talking about the weekend afternoon drinking in loud, crowded sports bars where drunken puking fans cheer their favorite teams.

I mean drinking in a quiet neighborhood saloon during the week. These are not destination places. They serve people who live in the vicinity. These establishments are usually family-owned, some for generations. They open between 7:00 AM and noon until closing.

They are a dying breed. There used to be more saloons, usually on a street corner, on many neighborhood side streets in Chicago. Those were places of solace. You could spend time watching a ball game, reading a paper, magazine, book, or just stare at your drink pretending to think deep thoughts.

The bars smelled the same, stale beer and tobacco odors. Away from the windows, they were dark. The dark wood of the looming back bar added to the depth of darkness.

Daytime drinking was not for overindulging. It was one or two beers and maybe a shot of whiskey that you took your time drinking. Then, you went about your business. There was a level of comfort and familiarity in these establishments.

There might be a couple of guys playing pool. The click of balls breaking the silence. Others might be staring at the television watching sports. There was one saloon that ran porn from opening to closing if that was to your liking.

Sometimes you could strike up a conversation with one or two people at the bar. You might talk sports, jobs, your family, or anything and everything. In some of the saloons, you could place a bet on the horses or sports.

Most of the good saloons are gone. The places where the beer was so cold it hurt your teeth or get an inexpensive shot and beer. Sometimes there was a table with a spread of lunch meat or ham on the bone and condiments to make sandwiches. They also sold pickled pigs-feet, pickled eggs, and jars of pickles, a drinking man’s culinary delight.

Neighborhood people or local factory workers stopped in for a few on their way home or before their day of toil started. There were local characters who drank, Larry the Mailman, Gino the Gardener, Angry Bob, the Twins, and others with nicknames denoting their jobs or unique personalities.

Suburbanites moved to the city and ruined the neighborhoods. They demanded the corner and side street saloons be closed. It interfered with their sterile culture of manicured lawns, quaint leafy streets, or residential-only properties. They would rather drive a few miles to another neighborhood to get drunk and act stupid in themed bars. Getting drunk and acting stupid in your neighborhood is taboo. So is afternoon drinking. The stroller patrol does not want their crotch critters exposed to people leaving or standing in front of saloons.

One afternoon, I was shopping on Lincoln Avenue. On my way home, I stopped in a small neighborhood German saloon. I ordered a draft and a shot of Bourbon. Soccer was on television, Exeter versus Liverpool.

There were a couple of guys my age at the bar. We started talking about gambling. We reminisced about how easy it was to place a bet in Chicago some years back. There were bookies everywhere. Bars, barbershops, candy stores, and other small businesses were fronts for book joints. Most of the elevator operators in downtown high rises and office buildings were taking bets. Bellhops in hotels were known for the ability to help tourists or business travelers gamble.

One guy was named “Doc.” You can’t get more old school than that. He was a horseplayer. We talked about going to the track, Sportsman’s, or Hawthorne to watch the ponies.

Gambling, drinking, carousing was a way of life for many. I rarely gambled even though I knew where to place bets. Gambling is for two kinds of people, the rare professional who knows what they are doing and suckers. Most gamblers are suckers, hence the term sucker’s bet.

After two beers and a shot, it was time to go. It was a pleasant hour spent with good conversation.

There is another aspect of daytime drinking that started more years ago than I can remember. You went to the saloon for one reason. To meet like-minded friends to watch Jeopardy and see if you can compete. That still happens today, so all is not lost.

Now that Chicago opened up after the COVID pandemic, the saloons, bars, and pubs are opened. Soon, I will find a comfortable friendly neighborhood bar to sip beer and let my mind wander.

Ode to the Voice of Chicago

Image: PV Bella

Congenital mutant muppets who come to Chicago from someplace else, speaking the King’s English, think and posit the Chicago accent is the worst in the country. They forget we kicked the King’s ass out of America and his oh-so-proper Brit Twit language.

The Chicago accent is a voice.

It is a strong voice.

It is a proud voice.

It is the voice of all the immigrants and races who settled here.

It is the voice of the neighborhoods.

It is the voice of the streets, sidewalks, streets, stoops, playgrounds, athletic fields, and stadiums.

It is the voice of the cigar chompers.

It is the voice of the factory workers.

It is the voice of the blue-collar workers, laborers, ditch diggers, hod carriers, and other tradespeople.

It is the voice of the cops, firefighters, and paramedics.

It is the voice of the neighborhood saloon, bar, pub, tavern.

It is the voice of shot and beer drinkers.

It is the voice of mayors and aldermen.

It is the voice of the people working hard to survive.

It is the voice of the steel mills.

It is the voice of the small grocers, bakers, hot dog vendors, deli owners, and butchers.

It is the voice of the afternoon and midnight shifts.

It is the voice of the cab driver.

It is the voice of the smelt fishermen.

It is the voice of the bleacher bums.

It is the voice of sixteen-inch softball players.

It is the voice of the horseshoe pits.

It is the voice of our grandfathers and fathers.

It is the voice of the horseplayers, craps players, poker players, and other gamblers.

It is the voice of people with callouses on their hands and dirt under their nails.

It is the voice of the tired, who toil to earn a meager living.

It is the voice celebrated in Chicago literature by Nelson Algren, James T. Farrell, and Saul Bellow.

It is the voice of artists and musicians.

It is the voice of professionals who grew up in this city.

It is the voice of the voiceless.

It is the immigrant voice- “The door open please, so out go I.”

The Chicago accent is not just one voice.

It is the voice of many.

It is a chorus, rich and melodic.

It is Chicaga, the frunch room, the stoop, cuz, da, dees, dem, doz, dat, dere, udder.

It is words like wanna, hafta, woncha, gotta, gonna, outta.

It is ged, goin, gimme, didja, couldya wouldja, canya, tellya, sez, and scrooten.

It is aks, gid, and wit.

It is teefs, hoors, yoots.

It adds an s to the pronouns and titles like yous, Field’s, and Jewel’s.

It is the sout side and nort side or souf side and norf side.

It is da old neighborhood.

There are goofs, mooks, mamelukes, chumbalones, and Mickey da Mopes.

There are sanguiches, samiches, and strimps.

It is pop, not soda.

It is the icebox, not the refrigerator.

It is the voice of dat guy. You know dat guy. Not dat guy, the udder guy, da guy dat does doz tings. Da guy who never has to be aksed to do sumptin for udder people.

The Chicago voice is us.

Thou shalt not insult the voice of the people of Chicago. Do so at your peril. Our voices will rise against ya. We will strike back atcha cuz dat’s what we gotta do.

By the way, Chicago dialect is the voice of a Columbia-educated Harvard Law School graduate who became a United States president, Barrack Obama.

Case fucking closed.