I’m relaxing in the Liquor & Rubber Balls Sports Bar and Pants Pressed While You Wait (LRB’s), having a beer with Vera Lu Senz, sportswriter and North Side Chicago native. Midwesterner to the core, she congratulates me again on the Phillies’ season; Cub fan to the marrow, the trace of bitterness is palatable. I try not to gloat. I fail. Oh well. So I change the subject and ask her about Governor Blago.
“What a maroon,” she says.
What — for selling Obama’s Senate seat?
“Hell, no! Obviously it’s for sale! That’s how it works in Chicago! No, he’s a damn fool for getting caught. Even his enemies can’t believe how stupid he acted.”
Just following tradition, right? I mean, how many is this?
She makes a face. “Look, you’re losing perspective. Yeah, Chicago, Little Cairo, Illinois, we have a long tradition, goes back to ‘way before my time. I grew up when the first Mayor Daley ran the show; him and Fast Eddie Vrodlyak in City Council. The whole reason I went into journalism was Mike Royko, who made a living exposing these bastards. By the way, Fast Eddie just went down. Finally.
Corruption is a fond tradition, right? Like the Ft Lauderdale Boat Parade?
“Yeah, but about 150 years older. See, thing is, under Daley, Chicago worked. You had a problem, you called your clout, and he took care of you. Trash pick-up, problem with the school, DUI, little criminal matter, you knew who to call to clear things up.”
“Your clout. The committeeman, the connected guy in the neighborhood. He does favors, he collects favors. You stay on his good side, your kid gets a summer job, your street gets cleaned, your tickets gets fixed. You go along, you get along. Worked for decades until the goddam reformers start barking.”
And this is the tradition Obama came up in?
“Pretty much, although it was starting to break apart. Guys after Daley weren’t as smart. But Obama knows the game. This is why he’ll be a good president. All these folks talking about how wet behind the ears he is, they know bupkis. The man is an operator. Knows just how to keep his ass from smelling while he’s shitting in the same pot as the rest of them. And what he can’t handle himself, believe me, Rahm Emanuel can handle.”
Change we can manipulate.
“There you go. Hey. Your wife is from South Philly. Same damn thing, but with oregano instead of paprika. Believe me, the country is in good hands. We need smart tough city guys to handle Iran, Iraq, and Putin, not a pack of Christian hicks.”
You’re a funny girl. Lu. How ’bout dem Bears?
“Yeah! How ’bout another drink?”