CHICAGO, March 4, 2012—Today is Chicago’s 175th Birthday. The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, Beirut by the Lake, the City that Works, Second City.
City on the Take and City on the Make.
From its inception Chicago was mired in a culture of corruption, a cornucopia of crime, thievery, and vice. There were really only three industries: white-collar swindlers, corrupt politicians, and criminals, mostly gamblers and whoremongers.
All worked hand in hand to achieve the American Dream of get-it-while-you-can.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between street walkers and political prostitutes in Chicago. They all vote Democrat.
A handshake, with a folded bill, was always better than a kiss. It was more sanitary, too. A broke politician was considered a dumb politician. The city council was known as the Grey Wolves, for its voracious predatory appetite for boodle and boondoggle.
Corruption is still prevalent, though way more sophisticated. Political donations through the right channels or donations to the right charities replaced the secret handshake and stuffed envelope.
Chicago has a history of hard work. People came here from all over the world looking for success. The American dream is still alive and well, as long as you are willing to start from the bottom, work hard, and work your way up. Everyone must pay dues, “pay” being the operative word.
People rarely cared who or what you were. Hard work defined you. Sloth was frowned upon. You might be called all kinds of disgusting racial, ethnic, or lifestyle names, but the absolute worst thing anyone could call you was lazy.
Chicago is the political equivalent of Middle and Near East dictatorships. There is only one religion allowed, Democraticism. There is no God but da mayor. The theological police of the Democratic Party - committeemen, aldermen, precinct captains, and other assorted bureaucratic hacks - also known locally as the machine or the Democratic Crime family, enforce the religious code with ruthless efficiency.
Ringing the bell is not a call to prayer. It is the first bribe of the day for the faithful.
Chicago has exported its political religious leaders to various corners of the nation, including its capital. They practice the political faith of friends and family and pay to play politics. Politics is business and political business is personal. The faithful are rewarded. Apostates are punished.
Chicago is known for its historic architecture and fine art. The blue bloods, who made their fortunes paying off the politicians, erected some of the greatest buildings in the world and brought art, culture, and refinement to the a rough and tumble burg.
The criminals brought jazz and blues from the south. They were the true artistic geniuses.
Just when you think everything is on the up and up, some new politician or bureaucrat is getting indicted or convicted of corruption. There was talk of changing the name of the Federal Metropolitan Correction Center to “City Hall,” in honor of all the political hacks who passed through.
Chicago has a great culinary history. The sanguiwich was invented here. No, Matilda, some fop with lace cuffs in Merry Olde England did not invent it.
Culinary delights include the “poke” chop sanguiwich with grilled onions, the Maxwell Street Polish with grilled onions, the beef sanguiwich with green peppers, the Lenten pepper and egg sanguiwich, the listen sanguiwich (pig ear), deep dish pizza, and the iconic sauseech sanguiwich.
With the addition of a large Mexican population, the pipe, a huge tubular burrito, became popular.
If you value you your life you will never been seen putting ketchup on a hotdog.
There are also fine dining opportunities: boilermakers with hard-boiled eggs and dill pickles, draft beer with pickled pigs feet, and the power breakfast of champions, pork rinds with orange or grape pop.
Chicago has a unique history in weaponry. There is the alley apple - the common Chicago house brick. The “Louieeville” slugger, the base-a-ball bat. Little league proficiency was defined by your ability to break kneecaps. Your ability to graduate from the minor leagues was determined by your talent at head bashing.
The Chicago typewriter, the famed Thompson sub-machine gun, was made famous here. Hunters preferred the sawed off shotgun. Shot putters loved the exploding pineapple.
Thanks to Chicago, Illinois developed great institutions of higher learning. Statesville Penitentiary, Pontiac Correctional Facility, Joliet Prison, and Marion Correctional Facility are just a few. When the criminals and politicians want to improve their lives, they “go to college”.
Chicago was home to an assortment of rogues and rakes: Snorky (Capone), Joey the Clown, Miami Frank, Weird Harold, Joe Batters, the Big Tuna, Murray the Hump, Greasy Thumb Jake, Paul the Waiter, Tough Tony, and Mooney, just to name a few.
Some of our more iconic politicians were known as Mr. Malaprop for their soaring rhetorical abilities. “The police are not there to create disorder, they are there to preserve disorder.” “The moss is on the pumpkin.” “How would you like to be scrootined?”
Then of course there is our unique lexicon - dese, dat, dose, dem, teefs, whoores, yutes, chumbalones, goofs, mooks, hooods, and mamalukes.
Chicago has a unique monetary system with the fin, saw, double saw and C-note. Mattress of America is the financial institution of choice.
So happy birthday, Chicago. To all you tourists out there, welcome. And remember, when travelling through Chicago, tread with care. You ain’t in Kansas anymore.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance writer and photographer, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone.
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