By Michael G. Glab
— Twenty-Nine —
[It’s Friday, August 23, 1968, the week before the Convention. Protesters already are arriving in Chicago. And the trouble is only beginning. Welcome to the latest installment of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”]
It’s been an unusually cool summer in the Midwest. For weeks at a time the temperature has scarcely hit 70. But now at the end of August, the heat takes over.
The gang’s all here: Abbie and his wife, Jerry and his girlfriend, Phil Ochs, Paul Krassner, Stewie Albert and his girlfriend — the entire Yippie! establishment. Anthony Pontone, too. They’re here in the shadow of City Hall on the Civic Center plaza, late in the afternoon, for the opening act of the Festival of Life, the Yippie! alternative to the Democratic National Convention. Abbie and Jerry, trying to hold on to a grunting, kicking pig, pose for photographers. They’re smiling — Abbie and Jerry, that is, not the pig. Hell, yesterday she was rolling around in the slop on some little farm up north toward the Wisconsin state line. Now she’s in the smoggy, raucous, traffic-snarled Chicago Loop in the clutches of a couple of grinning freak political pitchmen.
Anthony’s amazed at how Abbie and Jerry can put the face on for the press. For all the nation’s news reporters and cameramen know, Abbie and Jerry are brothers, baby, peas in a pod, tight as soldiers in a foxhole, thick as thieves. Anthony knows better. He was with them last night when they came this close to strangling each other.
It had all begun after everybody had agreed that they should go out, buy a pig from some farmer, bring it into Chicago, and announce it is Yippie!’s candidate for president. Perfect, right? Straight out of Animal Farm. George Wallace and Tricky Dick Nixon, that bullshitter Hubert and the porcine Mayor Daley, all of them, they’ll say, are nothing more than hogs, at least in the metaphorical sense. Why not drop the pretense and just put up a real live porker for president?
Even Anthony had to laugh. The idea was born of the promotional genius of both Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. The whole bunch was practically falling off their chairs howling about the pig idea. You could tell by Jerry’s eyes — flashing and darting — that his mind was churning out ideas faster almost than he could articulate them. First, we’re gonna demand Secret Service protection for the pig, he said. Then we’re gonna get daily National Security briefings. Third, we’re gonna call for everybody in the world to vote in the November election because, well, America rules the world so, damn it, the world should be able to vote for its leader, right?
Oh, it was rich! Anthony noticed, though, amid all the roaring laughter, that Jerry was serious. As the laughter died down, Abbie started talking about what kind of pig they should buy. He was of the opinion that the pig should be small so it’d be easy to carry as well as, well, cute.
“No, no, no, no,” Jerry said in a loud voice. The room got quiet. “The pig has to be huge and ugly, just like Daley,” he said. “It’s gotta be disgusting. It’s gotta smell like pig shit, man!”
“C’mon, man,” Abbie said. “Somebody’s gotta go get this pig. Somebody’s gotta carry it. It’s a pig, dig? Everybody’ll get the point.”
Jerry shook his head violently. “No, no, no, no! This isn’t The Wonderful World of Disney. We don’t want Porky Pig. The politicians are disgusting so the pig has to be disgusting.”
“Aw, man, lighten up! For Christ’s sake, the pig isn’t the star of the show, we are,” Abbie said.
“That’s your problem, man,” Jerry said, wagging his finger not six inches from Abbie’s face.
Abbie jumped up and got close to Jerry. “What’s my problem, man?”
“You,” Jerry yelled back. “You’re the problem! Everything’s you!”
“Fuck you, man!”
“Fuck you! People are getting sick of you running this show — as you so aptly put it.”
“You mean you’re getting sick of it, right?”
“Yeah. I’m sick of it. You’re trying to turn this whole thing into your ego trip.”
“Come down off your high horse, dude,” Abbie said, turning away and waving dismissively.
“Uh uh. This has to be said: You’re an ego-tripper, man!”
“So this: the people coming to Chicago have to know who you are and what you’re all about. Y’know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna print up mimeos, man, I’m gonna pass them out at Lincoln Park. I’m gonna tell everybody just what you said, that you’re the star of the show. The people have a right to know.” Jerry raised his hands, palms out, and spread them wide like an advertising agency executive imagining a billboard. He said, “‘Abbie Hoffman — Ego Tripper.”
Abbie took a step toward Jerry. Krassner jumped up and stood between them. “Hey man, let’s settle down. What are we fighting about? It’s a pig!”
“It’s a principle,” Jerry shot back.
Jerry wasn’t going to back down. In fact, he clearly was ready to fight for his pig. “Fuck this,” Abbie said. He gestured to his wife. “C’mon, Anita, we’ve got work to do. We haven’t got time for this bullshit.” And they left, along with Krassner.
So it was left to Jerry and the rest to go out to find the ugliest stinking pig in Illinois. That is, one who wasn’t otherwise occupied running the nation’s second largest city. They found one. They called it Pigasus.
And now Abbie and Jerry and Pigasus are standing amid the crowd on the Civic Center plaza, turning this way and that, smiling for photographers, telling reporters about Pigasus’ political platform. But now a phalanx of Chicago cops elbows through the crowd. The cops arrest Jerry and all the others who’d gone up to the farm to buy the pig. Abbie and Anthony, too. Oh, and the pig. Abbie and Jerry are thrilled. This is precisely what they want. The cameras roll as the cops take Pigasus into custody. The quintessential Yippie! moment.
They’re all put in a holding cell at police headquarters at 11th and State. All except Pigasus, of course. No one knows what the cops will do with Pigasus, although they do have a giddy time posing with her for the photographers. It’s a little after dinner time. The turnkey brings a tray of sandwiches, bologna on Wonder Bread, into the cell. His keys and handcuffs and baton jingle and rattle with each step he takes. He’s pink and potbellied. Jerry and Anthony exchange glances, neither has to say it: the cop looks like, well, a pig.
But he’s a funny pig. “I got bad news for youse,” he says as he lays the tray down on the wooden bench. “The pig squealed.”
Meanwhile, in another police station some six miles to the northwest, Sal Sanfillipo stands in his boss’s office, enduring yet another chewing out, seething. This one is different, though. The Shakespeare District commander tells Sal the punk kid he kicked the crap out of on the corner of Armitage and California last night turns out to be the son of one of the ward’s top Puerto Rican precinct captains. “You screwed up,” the commander says. “This is bad. City Hall’s coming down hard on me. I got no choice now. My hands are tied. You’re going on suspension.”
“Aw, Commander, you gotta be kiddin’ me!” Sal says.
“Whoa, watch yourself, son. Remember your place. Remember who you’re talking to!”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry, Commander,” Sal says. “But with all due respect, we got the Convention next week. I’m all ready to do my duty. I gotta tell you, I’m lookin’ forward to it.”
The commander shakes his head. “I know. This isn’t what I want to do right now. I need every man on duty; twelve-hour shifts start Sunday at oh-three hundred. But there’s no way out, son. Go and sin no more.”
Sal salutes, spins on his heel, and exits his commander’s office. He walks directly to the Burglary room where he picks up a phone and dials a number handwritten on a slip of paper he’s carried in his wallet for a few weeks. A woman answers: “36th Ward.”
“Is the alderman there?”
“May I ask who’s calling?”
“Just tell ‘im it’s a friend.”
“I’m sorry, sir, the alderman is unavailable at this time. May I take a message?”
“Look honey,” Sal says, “tell ‘im his good pal from Ma Barker’s is calling, y’got it?”
“I’m sorry, sir….”
“Whoa! You tell ‘im just what I said. Believe me, sweetheart, he’ll wanna hear it.”
The receptionist emits an annoyed sigh. “Hold on,” she says icily.
Ten seconds later an agitated man’s voice comes on the line. “Who is this?” the man says.
“C’mon. You know. I’m your pal from Ma Barker’s.”
“What the hell is the matter with you?” the man hisses into the phone. “What the hell do you have to tell my secretary about Ma Barker’s for?”
“I didn’t tell her nothin’.”
“Officer, I know who you are. Listen to me. Do not mention Ma Barker’s to anybody anymore, cabeesh? That was a mistake, okay? I thank you for what you did for me that night. You did the right thing, okay?”
“Yeah, I know it was a mistake. And I know I did the right t’ing. That’s why I’m callin’ you. Now maybe you can do the right t’ing for me.”
So for the next two minutes, Alderman Rocco Bianco listens as Sal tells him about being suspended. The two men end their phone conversation cordially. Sal hangs up and leans back in his chair. He thumbs through a Sun-Times he finds on the desk. Not five minutes after his call to Alderman Bianco, Sal hears the Shakespeare District commander’s voice come over the crackly PA system: “Patrolman Sanfillipo to the office immediately.” Sal closes the newspaper and places it back precisely where he’d found it. He has a smug smirk on his face for he knows his commander will soon inform him his suspension has been rescinded.
To be continued
All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.