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Month: June 2021

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. ( 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

Image: PV Bella Collection

Father’s Day is tomorrow. 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 dining out might be an option. Or just a lazy day with the family gathered around 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 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.

Dad knew people from all walks of life. From successful professionals, people eking out a living, and even some members of a certain Italian organization. He saw to it I met them all from an early age. He wanted me to see possibilities and learn consequences.

There were 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.

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 feast, dad would lean back and say, “I died right now I would die happy.”

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 few glasses of wine. 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.

Image: PV Bella

The day I became a dad, I was awed. I held that tiny baby girl in my hands, her head barely the size of my palm. I did not want to let her go. I was holding pure love. Being a dad was the greatest accomplishment of my life. It was also the hardest thing I ever did. Children do not come with user manuals. You make things up as you go along. Most times, you are right. Many times, you err.

My daughter is an adult now. She is not the little girl anymore. She constantly reminds me, “I’m still your little girl. I’m 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. It would be the greatest gift.