The main thing I’m trying to accomplish this morning is to stay awake long enough to hump my shit over to the Greyhound station (yuck) and catch the 10:45 Dirty Dog to Ann Arbor. I flew in from Seattle on a red eye last night, in a middle seat next to a smelly guy with huge biceps that kept colonizing my arm space. I spent the first half of the flight with my left arm in a state of fairly bad pain that I couldn’t really alleviate by repositioning it. When I started getting some sleep during the second half, Arm and Jammer bumped into me on his way back from the lavatory, and then the plane started shaking, sometimes violently, until 5,000 feet or so on approach to O’Hare. Thanks, American!
It was cheaper than flying to Detroit, though, and O’Hare is a more manageable airport with better ground transportation. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped Chicagoland’s neoliberal assjobs from jacking up inbound El fare from $2.25 to $5.00, just to hose the traveling public in a special way. They get off on that kind of sick shit. Some of these rents may trickle down to the operation and maintenance of CTA infrastructure, but if that’s the purpose of the fare increase, I’m Carl Sandburg, and my shoulders are even broader than Arm and Jammer’s.
Here’s an example of what the City of Chicago is not doing with its tax receipts. When I landed this morning, it was raining hard enough for my bags to get wet on their way to baggage claim, in a beautiful synthesis of weather, personnel, and infrastructure fuckery. It started getting light while I was coming into town on the Blue Line, and there were some really neat colors breaking through the gray over Lake Michigan and downtown. Sally don’t you. When I came out of the Clinton Station fifteen or twenty minutes after the brilliant salmons and reds, it was raining steadily and nothing but gray. This is not, however, a White Whine about Chicago having crappy weather. This is the Midwest. It’s been known to fucking rain around here, and this morning’s rain was nothing special.
So of course there were two or three inches of standing water at the intersection of Canal and Van Buren, right across the street from the Union Station parking garage. Why wouldn’t there be? This is the town where the aldermen deliver the goods.
This isn’t Las Vegas or San Diego, where dipshits in the streets department who get caught off guard by rainstorms can plead that, well, this only happens a few times a year, so, like, we weren’t expecting it. Chicago gets rain like this morning’s every month of the year, aside from a winter month here or there when it doesn’t get warm enough, and then it usually dumps a shit ton of snow. Standing water covering a crosswalk in a downtown intersection on account of an hour of light to moderate rain is the result of thumbs-up-the-ass behavior in the city government.
Or, more specifically, Rahm Emanuel trying to trash the unions again. The deterioration of the streets and the El system coincided with chainsaw massacres of public works budgets. The people who staff these departments may smack Mama Sugar until she yields the damn tit if she’s being ornery, but when they’re on the job, they get shit done for their pay. Neoliberals like Rahmbo consider this despicable. They like their servants poor, desperate, and, as the woke say, servile.
On my way into town this morning, I was approached at the airport by a well-dressed panhandler with a sob story about having had his car towed and being “in a jam,” saw a hunchbacked hobo of probably no more than forty board the train at Belmont with a lit cigarette after twice asking whether the train was going downtown (surely Rod Stewart will agree to see him tonight), and watched a guy struggle to fit a huge laundry bag-looking sack full of fuck if I know what in the way of clothes onto a narrow escalator that didn’t want to accommodate his heaping drawstring carpetbag of junk. Shit’s on the skids. Why dude needed to take all that shit downtown I can’t say, but it didn’t look good. Curbside at O’Hare, there were signs asking travelers to report homeless people they encountered at the airport to a private rehab agency for intervention. (We aren’t all on drugs, bitch.) What the police are doing about this is standing guard at arbitrary posts in the middle of concourses at Union Station dressed like they’re trying out for Latin American death squads, like Dog the Bounty Hunter aping a Secret Service agent. We have a security state, but we do not have security. One dasn’t do community policing by getting on good terms with the ghetto dealers and hookers until they rat out the kill whiteys, but closing public schools until students are forced to cross rival gang territory while the district hands out windfalls in the nine figures to Wall Street is cool as fuck.
None of this is cute. None of it is a series of foibles. It’s extreme misgovernment and dysfunction slouching towards third-world standards of performance and accountability. There’s a budget to hire cops to put on khaki jeans and get creepy in transit hubs, but there’s not a budget to install and clear storm drains. Of course, Chicago has been dicking around with this shit to varying but always unacceptable degrees since its founding. I don’t know whether anyone can definitely say why. If we blame it on Polish and Irish cops, we might want to account for why Polish and Irish cops don’t act like that in Poland and Ireland. Chicago has always had more than its share of mobbed-up thugs and greasy hustlers. This is unfortunate for a city that has a strong reason to exist as a transportation hub, among other things. In Vegas, a half-assed real economy grew up to service the mob rackets. In Chicago, the mob rackets congealed around a strong real economy, arbitrarily destroying those who kept this real economy running whenever they rubbed some thug the wrong way.
Some additional words about the Chicago Police Department are in order. NBC is totally out of line for lionizing the worst of the CPD. Chicago PD presents Chicago as somehow an underrated reservoir of middle-American values of grit, energy, and hard work, which apparently includes pinning a murder suspect to the ground behind a warehouse and threatening to gouge his eyes out with a bowie knife until he gives up his accomplices. To the extent that this is an accurate reflection of the real Chicago PD, and unfortunately it does have a basis in reality, it raises some troubling questions, such as why Chicago’s good cops don’t assassinate its rogues. Stauffenberg, what’s your twenty? A tiny handful of extremely bad cops are allowed to turn entire neighborhoods against the entire department, including its good cops, by engaging in extreme violence under color of authority to no ultimate good end. Jon Burge sent a bunch of innocent men to prison.
This idea of Hank Voight being a misunderstood man who lives by a misunderstood code that allows him to clear the cases other cops can’t crack is total bullshit. The CPD might as well commission MS-13 and Knights Templar hit men as district detective-commanders. A handful of crooked, out-of-control thugs are ruining a department with a lot of top-notch patrol officers, and NBC makes it out to be nothing worse than admirable men and women who are a bit rough around the edges. The real Chicago Police may not be able to keep you or your children from being gunned down in the crossfire of some gang war, but it’s fully capable of abducting you into a secret interrogation facility and torturing you with electric shocks to your genitals until you confess to whatever it’s time for you to confess.
At least I got to see the Chicago Fire Department–the real one, the one without all the Limeys and Aussies–respond to a service call at Union Station this morning. It was probably for the emotionally disturbed lady I saw yelling obscenities on her way into the waiting room. I don’t imagine the khaki guard was cool with that, although they deserved far worse for being such creeps. The neatest thing about this CFD call was that one of the responding firemen was fat. I don’t mean fat like Mouch. I don’t mean fat like Sam Dotson. I mean fat like Ronal Serpas, but sloppier and slower. Nobody’s actually falling out of a fifth-floor apartment window and getting impaled on a row of metal fence pickets. Nobody’s larping Backdraft. Not that I saw this morning, anyway. Big Boy doesn’t mind having a boring job. He doesn’t mind having a third slice of deep dish. It isn’t just the jacket that makes him look chubby.
I assume I’m about to see grosser fat people in closer quarters on Greyhound.