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Peter V. Bella Posts

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.


Image: PV Bella

The day Jack died in September, someone asked me if I was getting another dog. The answer was a curt no. Since then, friends have asked the same thing, and the answer is a curt no. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the word no comes out so sharp.

The reason I will not get another dog is simple. Dogs are not human. Too many people treat their pets as if they are human or children. These people are insane. Dogs are not self-sufficient. A toddler learns to be self-sufficient. As they age, they become more self-sufficient and rely less on adults.

Dogs are totally dependent on humans for all their physical and emotional needs. They need us for the basics, food, water, shelter, and care if they become ill.  Dogs live in the present. Humans live in the present and the past. The past is our memories. The memory of Jack pains me every day.

Dogs know love and return it. For all we do for them, they provide little. But, the little they provide is enormous. Dogs provide companionship and bring daily joy to our lives. No matter how bad a day was or how sad or angry I was, seeing Jack waiting at the door window for me to come home made me happy.

Dogs give unconditional love. Need proof? Lock your spouse/partner and the dog in the trunk of the car for an hour. Which one do you think will jump out, wagging their tail, trying to lick your face, and happy to see you.

I never felt alone. Jack was always there, providing joy and comfort. He made me laugh with his antics. Sometimes, he was a knucklehead, which offered much-needed humor.

Some people think it is selfish not to get another dog since so many are awaiting adoption. I do not care what others think. I never want a being that is totally dependent on me again.

Knowing and feeling are two different things. I know Jack getting sick, and his swift death was not my fault. I feel that there were things I could have and should have done to prevent them. I know I did nothing wrong. I feel I should ask Jack to forgive me.

I will cherish Jack’s memory. When I look into the night sky and see a blinking star, I know it is Jack, winking one of those big brown eyes at me.

My father is old and crazy…

Image: PV Bella

My daughter has been a Cubs fan since kindergarten. When she was nine, her mother and I decided to give her a terrific Christmas gift. We would send her to Cubs Spring Training, which coincided with her school break.

Her mother has a friend who lives near Mesa. She made all the arrangements.

A few weeks before my daughter was supposed to leave, her mother called me. This was the first time my daughter would be traveling alone. Her mother was concerned about some fiend talking to her or trying something funny if you get my drift. She wanted to know what my daughter could say to stop this if it happened.

Now, I am Sicilian. This is not something you want to tell me or even have me think about. When it comes to protecting my family, this is the kind of stuff that could turn me into a cruel, malevolent, brutal, evil, inhumane, vengeful, salt the earth and blow up the world kind of beast. It is genetic. It is part and parcel of my DNA.

God forgives and forgets. Sicilians do not.

I came up with what I thought was a reasonable solution.

Just tell her to say her father is a hitman for the Chicago mob. “If you do not leave me alone, he will kill everything you love. Your mother, father, sisters, brothers, wife, children, dogs, cats, donkeys, chickens, gerbils, goats, everything you love. After that, he will kill you. He will take three or four days to do it. He will enjoy it immensely.”

Her mother did not think this was a good idea. According to her, a daughter should not talk about her father like that. Daughters should not even think about their father like that. Plus, she thought it was too extreme.

I thought it over for a few seconds and had to agree. It was extreme. I told her to leave out the part about killing the dogs, cats, birds, donkeys, and goats, etc. A daughter should not talk or think about her father murdering poor innocent animals.

Her mother did what she always does in these situations. She called me a SOB and hung up.

A few days later she called back. After discussing the possibility with my daughter, they came up with something better.

My daughter was always around my police friends. Most were my age- late forties to early sixties. She was comfortable around men and women who carried guns.

What did they come up with?

“Please leave me alone. My father is old and crazy and carries guns. All his friends are old and crazy and carry guns. Would you like to meet them?”

I guess that would put the fear into any fiend’s heart.

I told my friends about this. Some had daughters. They thought we should have tee shirts made with that saying printed on them. We were old. We were crazy. We carried guns.

What better way to keep the boys, weirdos, and fiends away from our daughters?

You know you’re from Chicago if you know…

Image: PV Bella

This is an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote for another project.

I despise the young scribblers working for the local online news media and magazines with no fucking clue about Chicago. Now and then, these dim bulb reprobates write pieces titled, “You know you are from Chicago if you know…”

Crayon-wielding toddlers who came from someplace else write these pieces. They do not know their ass from a hole in the ground, let alone anything about Chicago. They make shit up to impress the witless with their wit.

A longtime scribbler for one of the local papers wrote a book on the subject. He is originally from Ohio and lives in the suburbs. What the fuck does he know?

My bona fides? I was born and raised in Chicago. I know this city and its people like the back of my hand. I did not have to do research. Chicago is my blood, my heart, my DNA.

You know you are from Chicago if you know:

Howyadooin is the official Chicago greeting. No one gives a shit how you are doing. It is just hello.

The lovely unlovely Chicago epithet, Jagoff, can be a humorous, friendly put down or an insult.

You drink beer from a bottle or can.

You drink booze from a half-pint or pint bottle.

The definitions of canoodle, boodle, and boondoggle.

What a goo-goo is.

What a ward heeler is.

What a B-Girl is.

Mario’s on Taylor Street.

The Curse of the Goat.

The most popular member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

What a deuce, fin, saw, double saw, half a century, and a century is.

The meaning of buying a hat, pen, pencil, or tie.

The Who- me tribe.

How to open a fire hydrant on a hot summer day.

Who the Lincoln Park Pirates were.

The difference between a sandwich, sanguich, and samich.

What a stoop is.

What a frunch room is.

How to fish for smelt.

The nickname for smelt fishing.

You ask someone where they’re from, and they name a Catholic parish. Up until a few years ago, this was a South Side Irish thing. But the North Siders got into it.

You never, ever put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Never, ever is a long, long time.

Why you never ever put ketchup on a hot dog.

The Underground Wacker exists and why it was built.

You can navigate the underground Wacker/Michigan system without GPS. You can walk it on a rainy day to stay dry without getting lost.

Where to find places to drink after hours.

Where to gamble any day or night beside the OTBs and casinos.

How Mailbox Marilyn got her nickname.

Who “Crazy Mary” was.

Sixteen-inch softball is the only softball played in Chicago. Only grown-up boys with little balls play with twelve-inch softballs.

No real Chicagoan wears gloves to play softball. We take pride in our crooked fingers.

The meaning of “I was away at college.”

Why Lakeshore Drive was called “The last bastion of capitalism in America” by former comedian Shecky Green.

What bars open at 7 AM to grab a few after working the midnight shift or an early morning pick-me-up.

The two busiest days at Jim’s Original when it was on Maxwell Street.

What a listen sandwich is.

What Mild Sauce is and where to find it.

What a bucket of blood is.

Why round Chicago pizza is cut into small squares, and its real name.

Trunk music is not extra-large bass throbbing speakers in a car trunk.

There is no such thing as an honest politician in Chicago.

Three Card Monte (Molly) is not a dealer at the Rivers Casino.

You can tell the ethnicity of people by the food odors emanating from open windows.

Nothing is on the legit in Chicago. Not one fucking thing.

You can use ethnic slurs without offending people you know. People in Chicago talk to each other that way.

Last, you know, when traveling through or doing business in Chicago, our public officials and criminals do not take any shit, and they don’t take American Express*.

I am a Chicagoan

Image: PV Bella

“When you are born in a certain way, in a certain place, from certain people, you don’t really need to wonder who you are.” (Andrea Berti/Coltellerie Berti)

I was born and raised in Chicago. I live here and will die here. I am a Chicagoan. Chicagoans are my people. I know who I am.

Chicagoans have a sense of place. Chicagoans realize we are different than the rest of America. We understand the rest of America is different from us. They can stay that way, as long as they do not impose their differences on us.

Living in Chicago is a way of life, not a lifestyle. Chicagoans learned to live together, not always in peace but in harmony. We get along because that is the only way to live in a city. People who move here from someplace else do not understand this. They refuse to learn HOW THINGS WORK!

There is only one way to do things in Chicago, our way. The same is true in all genuine cities like New York, Boston, Baltimore, or Philadelphia.

Chicagoans do not tolerate outsiders or transplants publicly trash-talking our city. We are Chicago proud, Chicago strong. Chicago united. The transplants do so at their peril. No matter our differences, we will band together to take them down. We are proud, stubborn people who love this city.

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. The neighborhoods used to be divided along ethnic and racial lines. Except in a few areas, neighborhoods are divided along class and economic lines. While many neighborhoods may appear the same, each is unique. The outer neighborhoods resemble early suburbs, which they are patterned on. Others are densely populated with a mix of single-family homes, apartment buildings, and small businesses to service the population.

Chicago has great open spaces. There are large parks in many neighborhoods. Grant Park is the jewel in the crown downtown. Lincoln Park stretches for several miles, hugging the lakefront. There are beaches from one end of the city to the other. Chicagoans make great use of these open spaces. During the summer, some get so crowded access is closed until enough people leave. There are sports leagues of all kinds utilizing the parks. People picnic and barbecue on weekends from spring through fall. Some of the larger parks offer concerts and other entertainment.

We have many venues offering entertainment of all types. We love our sports teams and have a love-hate relationship with their owners and management. Every sports season opens with hope. Sometimes they end in agony, others they end in celebrations.

Until the pandemic, Chicago was one of the most popular cities for tourism and business travel. Tourism numbers were up by the millions every year. People from all over the world came here. Unlike Americans who travel abroad, foreign tourists are not pains in the ass. They are more polite and less brash. There is a reason for the term “ugly American, and American tourists abroad deserve the title.”

Chicago’s people are its life blood. We help each other when tragedy strikes. We give to tragedies around the world. We are generous to a collective fault. Why? Because it is the right fucking thing to do.

Chicago is one of the best food towns in the nation. We have cuisines from all over the world and at every price point. Unfortunately, we also have the franchises and chains serving mung and dreck to people too stupid to seek out the real good stuff. I guess those promises of unlimited bread sticks and fake Mexican food appeals to the drooling, knuckle dragging, lessons (Lower than morons) who inhabit this city.

With the city opening up, the entertainment venues will be rolling again. We have jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, classical, opera, rock, and other genre venues to appeal to any taste. There are a few comedy clubs and other entertainment venues. We have it all, if they survived.

I, for one, cannot wait to day drink in a saloon, while watching an afternoon ballgame or Wheel of Fortune.

Welcome back Chicago.

“It takes a heap of sense to write nonsense.” (Attributed to Mark Twain)

Image: PV Bella

I created this site to give people insight into life in Chicago from my warped perspective. I will share some of my street photography, memoirs, and thoughts on food.

I am a curmudgeon and grumbletonian. I am old crabby, ugly, tired, mean, miserable, and ornery. Rage implies I am a stakeholder in the outcome of things. I am more annoyed than angry. I have no power to bring about change. I only have the meager ability to criticize the daily annoyances I encounter in Chicago caused by pestiferous members of the human species.

My issues are my disappointment with humans. The human species devolved into a malodorous swamp of chromosomal effluent over the past couple of generations. It is a good guess those generations of humans were the product of a eugenic alien cross-breeding experiment run amok at Area 51.

Now is the best time to be a curmudgeon. There are many reasons to kvetch. I take joy in pointing out the pernicious quirks of the low-grade forerunners of baboons who inhabit my city. If I am not upset about something, I do not feel right.

Complaining and grumbling are sports and entertainment. Hell, I have to do something to amuse myself in a world inhabited by annoying base snites.

I am not the common man or ordinary man. The worst thing in life you can be is ordinary. I am a malcontent filled with discontent, writing content.

I am educated. I speak five languages, English, Sarcasm, Profanity, Bullshit, and Truth. Sometimes, it is difficult for my brain to override my mouth or keyboard. If people are offended, it is their problem. Being offended is a choice. I am not responsible for other’s choices.

I explore Chicago neighborhoods, research their history, and learn more about the area’s culture. An avid photographer, I take pictures on these forays.

I am an amateur Chicago historian, delving into Chicago’s history, especially its criminal past. Chicago politics and crime are the DNA double helix of this city of scoundrels.

I spent almost thirty years in the Chicago Police Department. I spent over fourteen years working in Forensic Services. I witnessed and experienced too many things that are better left unwritten. One of the benefits of being a police officer was learning how to deal with annoying people. We mastered applied psychology with a modicum of wit and sarcasm.

My mind is like a fine French sieve. It leaks thoughts, ideas, and all the useless trivia stored in my gray matter. I am beyond sarcastic. I am a smartass.