We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post to remind you to buy your Chicago city sticker. If you haven’t already, PLEASE buy your city sticker now. Or you will be ticketed and fined and charged a late fee AND you will still have to buy a Chicago city sticker if you live in Chicago. And don’t expect any mercy from the Chicago Police because they, too, have to buy city sticker for all their vehicles. If they don’t, they will be suspended for three days without pay. Their personal vehicles are policed by the police police. Someone has to police the police!
This year, I went to the Chicago City Clerk’s office on the first possible day to purchase my city sticker. I don’t want to be driving around without a valid city sticker and risk getting a ticket. It’s cheaper to buy a city sticker right away. Anyway, I couldn’t believe how long the line was at the City Clerk at 48th and Kedzie. And most of the people waiting in line were Mexican. I waited an hour and a half to buy my city sticker! But I was among the first Chicagoans to buy their city stickers.
Unfortunately, when I put the city sticker on my windshield, it fell off and landed on my dashboard. I had seen on the news how the initial shipment of city stickers didn’t stick, but I was hoping I would be spared a second trip to the City Clerk. But, alas! I had to return. And the line was even longer this time around. Luckily, Chicago extended to grace period to July 31, 2010, before they started ticketing and charging late fees.
I decided to go to City Hall the next day. The line was even longer, but I got special treatment because the replacement sticker line was very short. I was out of there in fifteen minutes! The City that Works! Sometimes Chicago lives up to its motto!
Domestic violence is a serious problem in many households. Law enforcement and public servants are required to report all incidents of domestic violence regardless of the victim’s wishes or fears. For example, if a woman is physically abused by a man, she should report the violence to the police in order to prevent future abuse. If the neighbors suspect that a woman is being beaten because of loud pounding sounds and her cries for help, they should call the police. If the police arrive and suspect that there was any physical violence involved, by either party, they must act to stop the violence. If the police observe any physical injury, they must investigate and determine the cause and perpetrator, and arrest the offender for domestic violence. If the victim refuses to press charges, the police must still arrest the offender if they suspect that the victim is in fear for her safety once the police leave. The police have the authority to make an arrest based on the physical evidence they observe for the safety of the victim. In the past, such incidents of domestic violence have resulted in death when the police did not act appropriately. In fact, most domestic violence calls are investigated very thoroughly by police to prevent further violence. And all public servants–police officers, paramedics, teachers, social workers, etc.–are required to report domestic violence.
When Tiger Woods had his “traffic accident” last Thanksgiving Day, I’m sure that police officers and paramedics across the country immediately suspected domestic violence based on their own personal experiences dealing with domestic violence on the job. This was a most unusual traffic accident. The timing was also suspect. On Thanksgiving Day everyone is supposed to spend time together as a family. But Tiger was driving at 2:30 AM. No one ever mentioned whether his home was his destination or his point of departure. Regardless of direction of travel, if you’re coming home or leaving home at 2:30 AM on Thanksgiving Day, you’re asking for trouble. And, why was Tiger laying on the ground unconscious and barefoot. Who drives barefoot at 2:30 AM? How fortuitous that his wife Elin was there where his Cadillac crashed and at the precise moment that he needed help. Luckily, she had the foresight to bring a golf club with her to rescue Tiger from his metallic coffin. She broke a window to get him out. But why where there two broken windows?
Also suspect was Tiger’s cooperation with the police investigation. Why didn’t he just meet the police investigators immediately upon being released from the hospital? Why did he avoid the police and have his attorney present Tiger’s driver’s license and vehicle documents to the police. I’m sure the police would have noticed whether or not Tiger’s injuries were consistent with a minor crash in which the air bag did not deploy. Without physical evidence, domestic violence cannot be proved. Was he protecting Elin? Was he ashamed to admit that he was a domestic battery victim? Was he protecting himself from future violence by not accusing her? Well, in reality, male domestic battery victims are never taken as seriously as the allegations by a female victim.
Imagine if Elin was lying unconscious and barefoot under the same circumstances with Tiger standing over her holding a golf club. The paramedics show up and immediately suspect domestic violence. Elin appears to be the victim, so the police are called. Tiger is immediately arrested for domestic battery. All the evidence–whether circumstantial or not–points to domestic violence. The authorities would rather err on the side of safety rather than risk seeing the victim suffer more violence.
Let’s be realistic. A man can be arrested merely for an allegation of domestic battery. No physical evidence is necessary. It doesn’t matter if the offender is a high-profile celebrity or not. Charlie Sheen was arrested for domestic battery based on allegations. (Of course, Sheen also has a history domestic violence.) In the past, when allegations of domestic violence weren’t taken seriously, the physical abuse escalated to abuse. So, nowadays, law enforcement errs on the side of safety. The defendant will have his day in court where the burden of proof is on the prosecution in order to prove that a crime has been committed. But if the victim is a man, no woman’s group will ensure that he gets equal treatment under domestic violence laws. Domestic violence is not about equality.
The other day, I had the strongest urge to visit Barack Obama’s house. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly I had this great desire to visit a famous place in the news. I told my sons, “We’re going to President Elect Barack Obama’s house!” At first, I thought they would they would look at me as if I were crazy, which is their normal reaction when I suggest any new and exciting activity. I was wrong! They actually thought it was a great idea. Only that they somehow imagined that his house was very, very far away. I explained that he lived less than thirty minutes from us.
So off we went in search of Barack Obama’s house in Hyde Park. I knew the security would be tight because I watched the news and I saw the concrete barriers around his house. There were many, many Chicago police officers around his house–a two-block radius around his house. I told my sons before we even set out on our trip that we might not even get close to the Obama house, but we could at least visit the neighborhood of the President of the United States of America.
Surprisingly, I was able to park legally at the corner right near a police car that was guarding the closed off intersection leading to his house. As we approached the corner, the police officer exited her squad car and asked if we lived on this side of the block. I said no and she said we would have to walk across the street. Before I left our house, I had no idea where Obama lived other than in Hyde Park, but I figured I’d find his house once I saw all the police cars blocking off the streets. I really thought we would have to walk several blocks. But we were extremely lucky to park so close!
There were multiple police cars and police officers standing out in the middle of the barricaded street. I saw a group of gawkers taking pictures of a house, so I asked, “Is that his house?” and they responded in awe, “That’s his house!” Lo and behold! We had arrived at Barack Obama’s house. As seen on TV! My sons couldn’t believe I had taken them all the way to the front of Barack Obama’s house, albeit across the street. I took some pictures and then we walked away. The police officer who directed us across the street smiled at us and asked if we enjoyed our visit. We said we did and walked back to our car.
As we were getting into the car, I realized that this was exactly the kind of trip my father used to take us on when we were little. He would see something on the news and then take us there. He wouldn’t tell us where we were going. It was just like, “¡Vámonos!” and we would all pile into the car and go. Once, my father saw a chess master playing 25 boards simultaneously at a restaurant in Little Italy, so off we went to play the chess master! The next day, my friends at school told me they saw me playing chess on the news!
When the plane crashed before reaching Midway Airport in 1971, my father took us to the crash site despite the fact that on the news they told everyone to stay away. We were less that a quarter-block away and we could see the actual fuselage and tail of the plane that crashed! However, no one saw us on the news that time. Many people saw my father on the news many times over the years. He just loved the limelight. On the IRS tax deadline day one year, I was watching the news and they showed all the last-minute filers going to the downtown post office to get that coveted April 16th postmark in order to beat the IRS deadline. They interviewed several last-minute filers and all the while I thought, “What idiots! Waiting till the last minute to file their tax returns!” Suddenly, I saw a familiar face. It was my father! He was being interviewed by the news reporter. Somehow he always found a way to get on the news!
I guess by taking my sons to Obama’s house, I was keeping my father’s tradition alive. I didn’t get on the news during our visit to his house, but I realized that I did inherit my father’s thirst to go to where the news is. Ugh! I’ve become my father! ¡Ay! ¡Ay! ¡Ay!
Well, now it can be told. First, you must admit that you have a problem before you can solve it. My problem? I like to retrace my steps all the way back to my youth.
So tonight, I went to El Gallo de Oro, bought a steak burrito, and parked in Marquette Park by the Rose Garden to eat it, as I am wont to do. I used to do it all the time, but tonight I compared scenarios.
The first time I bought a burrito at El Gallo de Oro, I lived down the block at 3006 W. 64th Street and I only paid $2.25 with tax. But that was twenty-seven years ago. Today, I paid $6.06 with tax. Today, I barely finished my burrito, but twenty-seven years ago, I would also order two or three tacos or tostadas on the side. I would practically inhale all this food and I ony weighed 140 pounds, compared to my 180 or so today.
And Marquette Park isn’t the same, either. No one cruises through the park like in days of old. This used to be the place to hang out, to see and be seen by everyone. I don’t think anyone even noticed I was there tonight. Not even the police car that drove past me driving the wrong way.
On the plus side? I felt very safe there in my solitude reminiscing about my days of old when I was young and naïve and wouldn’t realize that the grease from the burrito had dripped on my shirt until the person I was trying to impress would point out the grease stain. Okay, I don’t miss the dripping grease all that much. I’m much older and wiser now.
When I lived near Marquette Park, there was a lot of racial tension. The neighborhood suffered from panic as the blacks moved closer and closer due to white flight. When my mother bought our house at 2509 W. Marquette Road, the neighbors said, with a sigh of relief, “At least you’re not black.” But we weren’t completely accepted.
No matter where you lived in Chicago back in the 1970s, there would be someone who resented you, regardless of your race. In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had marched in Marquette Park was greeted by whites who threw brick, rocks, and bottles at the marchers. We moved to Marquette Park in 1973 and people still talked about the Dr. King march. I was a typical teenager in that I wasn’t fully aware about the political events in Chicago or our neighborhood.
So, one Saturday in 1975, I was driving home from work at Derby Foods. When I got close to my house, all the streets were blocked off by the police and I couldn’t drive home. Helicopters flew overhead. I drove around until I found a side street that wasn’t closed. I managed to park my Firebird about four blocks from my house. I had no idea why there were so many police officers in our neighborhood, nor why all the streets were closed.
As I walked home, I could hear people chanting in the direction of my house. When I reached Marquette Road there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people lining both sides of the street. Reverend Jesse Jackson had led a protest march, but I had just missed it. The street was littered with rocks and bottles. A black man and a boy drove up Marquette Road and people threw rocks and bottles at his car shouting racial epithets. The car sped off westbound where he was greeted by more projectiles.
I had a difficult time crossing Marquette Road in order to get home. When I got to my house, there hundreds of people standing in front of my house. I couldn’t reach my front door, so I watched until the march was over and most of the people left. My younger brother told me how he saw police officers on horses near California Avenue. Someone blew up a cherry bomb near the horse and scared it so that it stood on its hind legs. Someone kicked one of horse’s hind legs and the horse and police officer both fell down. The police immediately arrested the offender.
One of my friends told me he was standing on the curb watching all the action when a little old lady gave him a brick and said, “You throw it! I’m too old!” When I finally got home, my mother asked me where I was. I told her that I was at work and that I had a hard time getting home. When my mother asked my brother if he was at the march he swore he was at his friend’s house. My mother didn’t believe him. She didn’t want the neighbors to think we were causing trouble. Little did she realize that all our neighbors were out there throwing things. The next day, my mother punished my brother for being at the march and for lying to her. She had seen my brother on the news near where the horse was kicked down. They had more protest marches after that, but that was the only one I saw up close.
Canaryville is a neighborhood that is south of Bridgeport and southeast of where the Union Stockyards used to be. I spent a few years there visiting friends who lived there. I was from Back of the Yards, so not many people from Canaryville knew me. I was risking life and limb everytime I went, but I liked the sense of danger I experienced every time I visited. When I left Divine Heart Seminary, I had to attend Tilden Technical High School at 4747 S. Union, right in the heart of Canaryville. As luck would have it, the school had a lot of daily racial fights between blacks and whites. But that was my school and I was stuck attending it. I made the best of a bad situation.
I lived about a mile and a half away from school. After the first snowstorm, I was too cold to stand at the bus stop to wait for the bus, so I started walking to school in order to stay warm. I planned on getting on the bus when it eventually showed up. However, I walked all the way to school without ever seeing the bus. I didn’t mind walking at all since I used to walk seven and a half miles to town every weekend when I attended Divine Heart Seminary. The next day was even colder, so I left the house a little earlier and walked all the way to school without looking back over my shoulder for the bus. I ended up walking to school the rest of the year because I was able to spend the bus fare on magazines and books. A few months ago, I was talking to my cousins about high school and it turns out that they also walked to school so they could keep the bus fare for spending money.
I never had any trouble with anyone until I got near the school. Someone, they would either be white or black (I was an equal opportunity crime victim), would ask me for money, implying that I should comply with their request or they would use physical force if necessary. I never gave anyone any money. I always had a response for them. “If you need money, you should get a job!” Or, “If you want my money, you have to take it from me.” I would then give them my crazed look that implied they might get the money, but they would be sorry they did because I would inflict some pain on them in the process.
Surprisingly, no one ever accepted my invitation to take my money. Although I did get close once. Two Canaryville residents on their way to school saw me and told me to give them my money or they would beat me up, only not in those words. They looked like they were really going to beat me up but good. I collected myself and focused deep within. I clenched my fists and gave them a deranged look that I hoped would scare them off. Suddenly, they looked at each other, and as if by silent agreement, they walked away from me. They continued looking over their shoulders at me as they walked away. Then a police paddy wagon passed me from behind. They had walked away from me because they had seen the police! The police asked me if the boys had threatened me. I said that we were friends. I don’t think the police really believed me, but I stuck to my story. Those boys never bothered me again. In fact, they were so grateful that I didn’t rat them out that they even protected me on a few future occasions when I really needed some help at school.
Irma was a Mexicana who lived on my block when I was about ten. We lived at 4405 S. Wood Street in Back of the Yards and she lived two houses south of us, upstairs from my friend Carlos Mojaro. She was about six years older than me, but everyone in the neighborhood knew her. She was very pretty and friendly. She always had a boyfriend, but never for very long.
Of course, then all the rumors started about her reputation, if you know what I mean. Even when she wasn’t home, some guy would come looking for her. Sometimes they weren’t even from the neighborhood. Irma’s mother–I never did learn her name because everyone simply called her Irma’s mother–would always look out her second-floor apartment window and shout for them to go away and stay away from her daughter! There was no element of mystery here.
Everyone knew that Irma’s mother was also very friendly with the men in the neighborhood, but only more so than her daughter. She was a single mother raising a son, whom was rarely seen coming or going home, and a daughter. The whole family was very popular with everyone in the neighborhood except for all the neighbors who lived within a half-block of them. They also had a dog–no one knew her name, but we always referred to her as Irma’s mother’s dog–that would often escape from the apartment and wander the neighborhood, occasionally biting children who wanted to pet it. Their dog also developed a reputation of being overly friendly with the other dogs in the neighborhood, but somehow never had any puppies. One day as I was walking our dog Duke, he approached Irma’s mother’s dog out of curiosity and she tried to bite Duke, but Duke ducked and bit her first. Irma’s mother looked out her window and yelled at me. I tried to explain that her dog tried to bite mine first, but Irma’s mother just started swearing at me. There was no talking to her.
One day, I saw Irma go into her house with her boyfriend. I could hear her lock the door as I sat on the porch with my friend Carlos. A few hours later, her mother came home and Irma wouldn’t let her in. Her mother started to swear at Irma as she looked out the window down at her mother. She kept saying, “You better let me in right now!” But Irma went inside and closed the windows even though it was hot outside. By then a crowd had started to gather. Irma’s mother kept shouting, “I’m gonna call the police on your boyfriend!” Then one of the women neighbors started arguing with Irma’s mother because of her dog that had gone into the neighbor’s yard. Irma’s mother asked for a reprieve from the argument because her daughter was in the house with some guy and she couldn’t get in. I was sitting on my bike out in front watching the scene. There were well over fifty people watching.
Then, the woman tells Irma’s mother, “I’m not surprised your daughter’s in there with some guy!” “What do you mean?” asked Irma’s mother. “You daughter’s a whore!” Irma’s mother just laughed. “You’re a whore, too!” We were all expecting for a physical fight to break out, but nothing. Irma’s mother just laughed that off, too. Finally, the woman says, “I’ve seen your dog fucking all the other dogs in the neighborhood! Even your dog’s a whore!”
This was just too, too much for Irma’s mother to take. She grabbed the woman’s hair and said, “You can call me a whore and you can call my daughter a whore, but don’t you ever talk about my dog!” Then Irma’s mother scratched the woman’s face. By then the police arrived and broke up the fight. The two police officers wanted to know what the fight was about and Irma’s mother said that the woman had called her dog a whore. She looked at the police believing that she was justified in attacking the woman.
Eventually, the police said that they came because a girl was locked in the apartment by her boyfriend. They went up to the front door and kicked it open. Both officers went upstairs. Everyone watching was excited because it had been a while since the police had been to their house. Well, Irma’s boyfriend ran out the back door and came out to the front of the house. He saw me on my bike and said, “You have to give me a ride!” Actually, he was much bigger than me, so he rode the bike and I sat on the handlebars. He rode a block away and took off running. I never saw him again.
When I rode back to Irma’s house, the police were out in front talking to Irma and her mother. I don’t know what happened after that because by then my mother came outside and made me go in the house.
Marina was a Mexicana whom I met when I was in the police academy. We met just by chance because the Chicago Police Department, in its infinite wisdom, divided all the new recruits into four different classrooms based on race, ethnicity, and sex in order to be politically correct. There we were, in the police academy gym, and the instructors asked all the white males to step forward. They were immediately divided into four groups. Next, they called the females who were sorted out on the basis of their gender regardless of their race or ethnicity. Then, the African-American / Black males were equally divided into the four groups. And last, but not least, the Hispanic / Latino males were assigned to a classroom. The department tried to avoid racial and sexual discrimination lawsuits using this system for hiring new police officers.
Anyway, Marina and I were assigned to the same classroom where the entire class was assigned desks by alpabetical order. Since her last name was Perez, she sat directly in front of me. Well, we became good friends because we were partners for many of the training activities. She was a very pretty Mexicana, but a little on the plump side. However, she could meet all the physical requirements for calesthenics, running, and self defense. I was single at that time, but she had a boyfriend then, so we remained just friends.
One day during self-defense class, we had to practice applying a wrist lock on each other. We had to command each other to walk in a certain direction, lay face-down, and then handcuff our “arrestee.” If the arrestee didn’t obey, we applied more pressure on the wrist lock until they complied. By then, I knew Marina well enough to joke around with her. The instructor observed everyone to make sure they were applying the wrist lock properly.
Well, when I had Marina in the wrist lock, the instructor told me that I did it well and then walked away. I took advantage of the fact that he wouldn’t be back for a few minutes. So, I steered Marina around the mat by tightening my grip on her wrist. I told her to get on her knees and she did. I told her to lie down and she did. Then, I asked her if she wanted to go out me. I was just joking, of course. She immediately said “No!” I applied a little more pressure on her wrist and she changed her answer to “Yes!” even though she had a boyfriend. Then, I told her to tell me that she loved me. With a little bit more pressure, she did. I just had to smile.
When I released her, she said, “You’re gonna get it!” Now it was her turn to restrain me! Well, I immediately apologized, but it was too late to be sorry. But I was surprised when she applied her wrist lock on me. I was able to control the pain. You see, I would just recall all the times that my mother used to hit me with the belt, the broom, the extension cord, or whatever else was within reach whenever I angered her. Thanks to my mother, I had a high tolerance for pain and Marina wasn’t able to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. Eventually, I just went through the motions and let myself be restrained. After classes were over, we saw her boyfriend and I told him what I had done. He wasn’t very amused, but I thought it be better if I told him instead of Marina.
Eventually, we finished our academy training, but I always saw Marina at traffic court since they assigned our courtrooms by alphabetical order. She later broke up with her boyfriend and invited me to go to her family Thanksgiving Dinner, which I did. Later, I went to her family Christmas party, but we remained merely friends. I didn’t see her again for a couple of years.
I met her again through her fiance who happened to work in my district. We just started talking one day after roll call and I learned that he would soon marry Marina. We became friends after that. He was Lithuanian so he had lived in the same neighborhoods as me. We had a few things in common. Well, when they married, they invited my wife and me to their wedding. When I asked Marina about his family, she told me that they weren’t too happy that he was marrying a Mexicana. They wanted him to marry a nice Lithuanian girl. So at the reception, the hall was evenly divided with the Lithuanians on one side and the Mexicans on the other. They had hired a DJ for the music, but they had also hired some Mariachis to play while everyone ate dinner to show everyone how wonderful Mexicans are. However, the Mariachis were late! And his side of the family was upset. Eventually, the Mariachis showed up, but dinner was almost over. The police had pulled over their van for running a redlight and the driver didn’t have a driver’s license or auto insurance. So it took a while before they got to the reception. Well, the Lithuanians were upset at the Mariachis and the Mexicans were embarrassed by them!
Cougar. No, not that kind of cougar! Read on see what I’m talking about.
Despite the lopsided score, the winners continued their losing streak in Chicago. That’s right. The police were criticized for shooting the cougar in a residential neighborhood, not far from Lincoln Park Zoo.
Well, the police are up against overwhelming odds in situations like this. In Chicago, when all other city agencies refuse to answer to calls that are technically their responsibility, the 911 center dispatches a police car to assess the situation. The police department is Chicago’s last line of defense–basically, to protect the city against civil law suits. All other city agencies may refuse to respond calls, including the fire department, but the police have to respond to every single call they receive regardless of how absurd it may seem to the average citizen.
I’m sure many residents who saw the cougar in their neighborhood called 911 to report it. And I’m sure they were surprised to see the police responding to the scene. Where was the Animal Control Unit? Certainly nowhere near the cougar. So the police show up, but it’s not like they could call the Animal Control Unit on their police radio to report a stray cougar because they are on a different frequency, in more ways than one.
When I was a police officer, several citizens reported some kind of wild cat on the lakefront in a residential area near some railroad tracks. I actually saw it running at a distance, but I couldn’t tell if it was a bobcat or a lynx or a lion, for that matter. There was nothing I could do as a police officer other than call the Animal Control Unit. When someone there answered their phone, they gave me the third degree over the phone. They wanted to know what I had seen. I said that it was either a bobcat or a lynx. But, no, they wanted to know exactly what kind of cat it was. I didn’t know. So they didn’t take me as seriously. Then they told me that they wouldn’t come out until I had secured it. What? How was I supposed to secure it? I even asked them to tell me how to secure it thinking they would actually know since they do work for Animal Control.
Well, they never responded to the scene because I couldn’t secure the cat, or whatever it was. Another time, some citizens called 911 and the police responded because there was a stray raccoon wandering around–but not just anywhere! This was in Mayor Daley’s neighborhood! This time I actually saw the raccoon up close on some rooftop patios right next door to the Mayor’s house. As I approached the raccoon, I could tell he was up to no good because he was wearing a mask. I cornered it, but I had to let it run past me because he tried to bite me. I cornered it again, but this time I didn’t approach it. I called Animal Control on my cell phone. Once again, they asked me to describe the raccon and they wanted the raccoon to be contained so they could just come by, scoop it up, and take it away. Then, I thought that they would come out sooner if I told them that the raccoon was next to the Mayor’s house. The voice at the other end immediately told me that they weren’t coming no matter what, now that they knew Mayor Daley lived close by. Once again, they refused to respond.
Why? Because their union was in negotiations with the city and the city wouldn’t give in on some of the issues. Well, I let the raccoon go because I sure wasn’t in the mood to get bitten by a raccoon that day, especially after that unpleasant interchange. So, I can just imagine what the police were up against when they received this call about the stray cougar. The officers probably asked for the Animal Control Unit to come to the scene, to no avail. They probably asked the dispatcher to call the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo to send a zookeeper with a tranquilizer gun to the scene of the cougar, all for naught. Then, suddenly, an officer sees the cougar rapidly approaching him, so he opens fire, sadly, in self-defense. The officer had no other recourse but to shoot or possibly, nay, more than likely, be attacked. Of course, the news cameras interviewed several residents who questioned why the police didn’t shoot the cougar with a tranquilizer gun. Well, because it wasn’t possible, citizens! The police are issued tranquilizer guns! Not in Chicago, the City That Works.