I went to bed last Thursday night a citizen of Chicago’s 46th Ward. I rose the next morning a citizen of the 47th. Without moving an inch. I don’t really mind; I’m not upset. For sentimental reasons, I’ll kind of miss having been part of the “Fighting 46th” for all these years – there goes another piece of my misspent youth, etc. But the 47th seems like a perfectly good ward for me. Despite the fact that I don’t have a personal nickname for it yet. I know it will start with the letter “F.” But the rest is undetermined. I’ve already rejected purely laudatory adjectives. No “Fantastic” or “Fabulous.” The “F” word presents itself for consideration, but I think not.

I’d open it up for public suggestions, although that would lack a certain symmetry. Considering that the City Council didn’t ask for any suggestions from members of the public as to which ward they’d like to be in, or how they’d feel about being cartographically uprooted.

If anyone cares about the fact that the city government conducted a ward remap without any public input, I haven’t noticed. Sandburg said Chicago’s shoulders were big; maybe that’s why it hasn’t mustered a shrug in response to this latest display of undemocracy.

I’ll tell you one reason I’ll miss living in the Fighting 46th Ward. It means I won’t live in the Medium Cool ward anymore.  As best as I can figure, Haskell Wexler’s 1969 classic movie’s Uptown, Chicago scenes were filmed in what was then, and still is, the 46th Ward.

At that time, the 46th was in the heart of Chicago’s “hillbilly” country – a North Side neighborhood that was the focus of a migration of poor, white Appalachians during the 1950s and 1960s.

But Medium Cool  is best known for its use of footage that Wexler shot live in the middle of the 1968 police riots during the Democratic National Convention.

Chicago ’68 – notorious and well-known to any of us aging lefties, of course – was Mayor Richard J. “Boss” Daley’s nadir. Or zenith, depending on your point of view. If you are, in fact, a Fascist.

I kid, I kid.

Chicago, incidentally, may well be the only city in the world – certainly one of the few – that has, on public display, a monument to a real-live, legitimate European Fascist. Actually, it has three,  all devoted to the same guy, Italo Balbo,  who wowed ’em in ’33 by piloting his own plane from Italy to the Chicago World’s Fair.

Balbo Monument

So it’s not necessarily hyperbole to use – or at least to remember – that particular “F” word in this town.

On the bright side, Chicago is hosting practically concurrent meetings for both the G8 and NATO this May.  Which should give City Hall an excellent chance to demonstrate its continued commitment to the Bill of Rights.

With that in view, I’m pleased to relate that Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn’t entirely revoked the freedoms of speech and assembly. Just gutted them.

Oh, and The Mayor’s patriotic reaffirmation that the people’s right to … something something (Rahm is a little fuzzy on the specifics) still exists – such as it is (with massive fines and jail terms attached, albeit) – doesn’t just apply to the duration of the G8 and NATO meetings. It applies forever after.

So I’ll sleep well tonight. Although I can’t say exactly where I’ll be when I wake up.

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss is one of the many aliases used by a Tom Long of Chicago, Illinois (not to be confused with other Tom Longs of Chicago or elsewhere). Tom was active in xerox zine culture from the late ’80s through the early ’00s under the Colicky Baby Records and Tapes imprint, and several examples of Tom’s mail art periodicals are filed deeply and safely away at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Department in Iowa City and the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York City. Every so often he posts things at http://colicky.blogspot.com.

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