Mayor and Maggie Daley at Home


“Daley the son?” Lester snorted, “They’ll write books about him, Roger. Books.”

Not even Lester knew that the announcement of Mayor Daley’s retirement would come today. And Lester knew just about everything. The press release said “Major Cabinet Announcement.” When the Mayor spoke today, there were eight reporters in the room. Afterwards, the eyes of his security detail were wide with shock and none of them were answering the constant rings of their cell phones. This was a family decision. And only family knew.

So on this bright blue breezy afternoon in early September, a day when it seemed that the swirling winds of coming autumn simply wouldn’t stop, I skipped the afternoon coffee.and walked a couple extra blocks to Langes on Southport. Last of the old man bars in the neighborhood.

Wouldn’t hurt to get an early start, a few beers and shots with Lester. The Mayor was retiring. That was worth a drink. One way or another, that was worth a drink. Because this was big news

In Chicago, you don’t need a last name for him. He’s the Mayor. He’s been the Mayor for 21 years. No one had been Mayor for longer. Except of course his father. But not by much.

Pushing in the dirty glass door, Lester in his spot in the corner of the bar, hunched over staring into his Pabst Blue Ribbon, faded plaid hat and ancient eyes. I nodded to the bartender, held up 2 fingers, and there were two frosty PBR’s and shots of Jim Beam on the bar before I could even sit down.

“Think power Roger, before you do anything else, think power.’ Lester never bothered with hello. It was all one continuing conversation.

“But is this a good thing?”

“Pfftttt.” Lester spat on the floor. “Good thing! Which part of the airplane you looking at boy?”

“Huh?”

“I said, which part of the airplane you looking at!” He knocked back his Jim Beam and signaled for another. He knew I was buying. “You looking at the wings, the tail, the color of the seats, the size of the pilot’s chair? You ask if this is a good thing, that depends on which part of the airplane you looking at.”

“Not sure I’m following you Lester. Airplanes? You talking about the time the mayor sent the bulldozers into Meigs Field in the middle of the night? Tore up the runways and put in a park?”

“Ah, I ain’t taught you nothing, have I? No, I’m not talking about that. OK, how about this. When was the last time you saw a flower, Roger?”

“”Well, just over on Ashland I guess. On my way here. All the flowers spilling out from the planters in the middle of the boulevards . . . .it really is beautiful.”

“Who you think made sure all those flowers were planted? All those trees? Who do you think did that Roger?”

“Well yeah I know. I know the Mayor was into that stuff. But we got big problems here. We got crime. We got no jobs. Schools, taxes. A corruption tax of $300 million dollars a year! Lotta people think the Mayor is a crook! What’s up with the flower Lester!”

“Lotta people think the President is a Muslim too. Course we got all that. We got the made up problems and we got the real problems. We got an Olympic bid that didn’t work. We got a Children’s Museum that he wanted to build underground. We got it all here!”

“So why should I pay attention to the flowers?”

“You ain’t looking at the whole airplane Roger. You’re thinking like some kind of Senator or something.”

“You mean I should think positive?”

“Hell no! That’d be your worst mistake. Even worse than not seeing the flower. Of course it’s a friggin mess. Of COURSE it is. But did you listen to what he said?”

“He said it was time.”

“Then that’s your answer Roger. That’s your answer. It’s time. And when he said it was the right time for his family, did you see her smile?”

“Maggie? His wife?”

“Of course Maggie! Who do you think, the Queen of England!”

“But what does that mean, It’s time?”

“Here’s what it means Roger. It means that none of us know how much time we have. So when you start thinking about that, when you start thinking hard, when you see the whole airplane and you remember the single flower, then it’s time.”

“”I don’t know. A lot of people don’t like him!”

“So what?”

“And replacements?”

Lester interrupted. “He was a giant Roger. And all the boys lining up at the trough because they think this is easy? They think this is some sort of free ride? Start thinking about who among all of them loves this place like he does. Start thinking about who is tough enough to not be liked. It is a pretty small list.”

“So Lester? One more question. When you get right down to it, do you think he did it for her?”

“Maggie? Or Chicago?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well then, I’ll tell you the answer Roger.

The answer is yes. He did it for her.”

—————————————————–

“it isn’t hard to love a town for it’s greater and lesser towers, it’s pleasant parks or it’s flashing ballet. Or for it’s broad and bending boulevards, where the continuous headlights follow, one dark driver after the next, one swift car after another, all night, all night and all night. But you never truly love it till you can love its alleys too. Where the bright morning faces of old familiar friends now wear the anxious midnight eyes of strangers a long way from home. A midnight bounded by the bright carnival of the boulevards and the dark girders of the El.

Where once the marshland came to flower.

Where once the deer came down to water.”

Nelson Algren

“Chicago. City on the Make”

One Response to “Mayor and Maggie Daley at Home”

  1. Helen Gagel Says:

    Of course he did it for her. But how sad that “it’s time” has the aura of a death knell.

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