“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein
HAPPY N. Y.
Things I hope for this year:
◗ Barack Obama makes it through all 365 days without a serious attempt on his life.
◗ The gamesmanship between Iran and the West peters out.
◗ Someone (besides me) comes up with the bright idea of imposing an embargo on gun manufacturing for at least a year. We’ve got plenty o’guns already; let’s chill on making new ones for a while, no?
◗ The Loved One continues on in sterling health.
◗ My faulty cardiac cellular structure does not betray me and go haywire just yet.
◗ Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, et al continue to make positive strides in their remaking of the entire Chicago Cubs organization.
Hoyer (L) & Eptsein: My Happiness Is In Their Hands
◗ Certain friends who suffer right now from mental and emotional distress can find relief.
◗ We move significant steps closer to:
- Universal affordable health care
- Universal affordable safe, secure housing
- Universal affordable access to education, including colleges and universities
◗ Thousands — nay, hundreds of thousands — of new visitors to this communications colossus.
The Electron Pencil Tower, Outside Beautiful Bloomington
THE ELECTRON PENCIL COVERS THE EARTH
How cool was 2012? I’ll tell you how cool.
The Electron Pencil drew readers from 176 countries on this mad, mad planet. I mean, we even got readers from such exotic outposts as Suriname, Cameroon, Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea, and Moldova. Truth. That’s what WordPress tells us.
Whoever you people are, thanks.
Our next goal? Mars.
NICE GUYS FINISH….
The hell of professional sports is that the best people are far too often the worst coaches.
For instance, Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith was fired yesterday after leading the team to an overall winning record of 81-63 in his nine years at the helm. He even led the Bears to a Super Bowl, where they were demolished by some guys wearing blue from Indy in 2007.
From all accounts, Lovie Smith is one of the calmest, most compassionate, most dignified men in the entire sports world. That’s quite an accomplishment when one considers the typical NFL field boss has the morals and character of a mafia don.
“Good” Isn’t Good Enough
But poor Lovie apparently lacked the cutthroat necessities to push his players and entire organization past the point of fairly good to that of dominant. He wasn’t a killer, as the term is defined in the uber-biz of games for pay.
Lots of folks who cheerlead for high school and college sports programs claim that participating in the games is great for the moral and character development of young men and women. Team play, they say, prepares youngsters for success in life.
My response? Man, I hope not.
Amateur sports have bought into the win-at-all-costs mentality of the pro games. Most states’ highest paid employees are the coaches of their university football or basketball programs. Character? Hah! Just win, baby.
The Next Bears’ Head Coach?
I don’t feel sorry for Lovie Smith, the man. He made a pile of dough disappointing the very demanding Chicago football fans. Neither he nor his children will have to worry about their next meals for the rest of their lives.
Our mania for sports (of which I, a live-and-die Cubs fan, am all too much a part) teaches us too often that good, civilized men are failures. I feel sorry for us.
PROGRESS, SORT OF
When I was a kid, my Uncle Vince and his family lived in the tony Chicago suburb of Northbrook.
Uncle Vince (who’s still alive and kicking at the age of 96, BTW) bought his home in the late 1950s when Northbrook was still ringed by farmland. He got in when the getting was good. Within 25 years, Northbrook had become one of the meccas to which extremely comfortable white families could escape from the big, bad, scary (read, increasingly black) city.
My own family was still in the city — admittedly on the outskirts, but, nonetheless, my suburban aunts and uncles would constantly pepper my parents with pleadings to “get the hell out of that shithole where people live on top of each other.”
Uncle Vince’s Northbrook house was straight out of a real estate man’s wet dream. It had a broad front lawn. A garage door that opened at the click of a button from inside the car (a wonder in that day and age.) An automatic dishwasher. Air conditioning (we had windows.) A chime doorbell, as opposed to our raucous buzzer. Uncle Vince’s backyard was more than an acre which, in my neighborhood, would have covered some half dozen homes and yards.
Seemingly every time we visited Uncle Vince, my cousin Tony would be washing his brand new Pontiac Grand Prix on the big driveway in front of the house.
A Rich Kids’ Car
I always thought that Uncle Vince was as rich as the Rockefellers. At the age of seven, I figured his home was a mansion.
The one thing folks in Northbrook didn’t have was black neighbors.
This fact was brought home to me one day when I overheard Uncle Vince telling my father about a horrible, alarming incident that’d happened on the block the previous week. Uncle Vince spoke in hushed tones, as if loath to shake up the women and the kids.
A black man had been seen walking down the street.
Someplace Other Than Northbrook
Neighbor had consulted with neighbor. Certain high-ranking municipal officials had been notified.
Uncle Vince tried to put a good spin on the incident. Perhaps the black man was in Northbrook to do some menial labor. Or maybe he was lost.
Then Uncle Vince and my father fell silent, as if in contemplation of a too-horrible alternative.
Not that my family’s Chicago neighborhood was an integrationist’s dream, mind you. One day, a couple of years earlier, while I was walking to the grocery store with my mother, a black man had passed us by, the first I’d ever seen in the flesh.
I gaped at him as he passed. Ma clunked me on the side of the head and hissed, “Don’t stare!”
Still, the man fascinated me. “Ma,” I asked once I was certain he was out of earshot, “what’s wrong with that guy?”
“He’s just going to work somewhere, I guess,” she said.
“Oh.” I pondered the situation and then came to a conclusion. The man had a job that made him extremely dirty. Perhaps he dug holes somewhere nearby. Why else would his skin be black?
“What?” she said, edgy, aware of the Pandora’s box lid being lifted.
“Why doesn’t he just take a bath?”
She clunked me on the side of the head again.
Only later, when I was eight, did I learn what the man’s problem was. Mr. Mitchell, our neighbor from across the alley explained it. The man, he said, was a nigger.
I went inside. “Ma,” I said, “what’s a nigger?”
She clunked me on the side of the head.
Eventually, I learned to duck when asking tough questions. I also learned that black men stayed out of places like Northbrook and Highland Park and Palatine and Glenview. It was no more likely that a black family would live in any of those places than they would on the moon.
Times change, though.
Michael Jordan lived in Highland Park when he was the toast of the town. When I was small and Ernie Banks was Chicago’s favorite black man, he had to live in the South Side neighborhood of Chatham, which was black. Progress.
Not A Good Neighbor?
Today, I learn that the rapper Chief Keef has bought a big, comfortable home in Northbrook. Chief Keef is not white Chicago’s favorite black man. His first album, “Finally Rich,” debuted a couple of weeks ago on the Interscope Records label.
The album includes the songs “No Tomorrow,” “Hate Bein’ Sober,” “Laughin’ to the Bank,” and “Ballin’.”
Chief Keef won’t be 18 years old until August yet he’s already gained a startling reputation. He’s been busted on a weapons charge and is being investigated in connection with the shooting death of rapper “Lil Jo Jo” Coleman — a homicide which Chief Keef mocked on his Twitter page. He has posted a video of himself firing a gun at a shooting range, a violation of his juvenile court probation. He has threatened critics with violence. He has also posted an Instagram video showing him getting a blow job.
Northbrook’s Very Own, Chief Keef
No, Chief Keef is not Chicago favorite black man. He’s not even a man yet.
He owns a home in Northbrook, though.
He’s made a lot of money in his short life so far. Money absolves a lot of sins.