Friday, January 17, 2014

I'm just a product of my environment

The newspapers are filled with stories about Gov. Chris Christie and Bridgegate. It looks as though the Gov. may have closed the George Washington Bridge to mess with a local mayor who had messed with him. Apparently this is shocking.

To some people. Not to me.

For I live in Illinois. Of our four most recent governors, two are convicted felons. (One Republican,
one Democrat. We're very even handed here.) While Rod Blagojevich garnered the most national news because ... well ... he went batshit crazy, I have always found George Ryan more complex, interesting, and sinister.

When Ryan was Secretary of State, he found an interesting way to fund his upcoming gubernatorial run. He sold truck driving licenses to those who would prefer not to take the test. Naturally the result was unqualified drivers behind the wheel of big rigs all over the country. This was in the 1990s, before the dark consequences of an Al-Queda operative driving hazardous materials on an expressway could even be imagined. But what actually did happen was more than horrible …

In 1994, the Willis family -- Mom, Dad and six children -- were driving through Milwaukee in their mini-van. They were on I94 when a large piece of metal came flying off a flatbed truck. It hit their rear gas tank and the minivan exploded. All six children burned to death.

The driver had purchased his license with a bribe. He did not know that the law required him to conduct a pre-trip inspection of his truck. He did not understand the frenzied hand signals of other drivers as the piece of metal began to slide off. It came out in court that he could not speak or read English well enough to converse with the general public,  a requirement for earning one of those licenses. He never should have been allowed behind the wheel of that truck.

George Ryan won't accept responsibility for the License for Bribes scandal that gave him his start toward the Governor's Mansion and ended his career. But as governor, he did empty Illinois' death row and work with Nelson Mandela toward ending the state's barbaric death penalty. This is only my opinion -- the former Governor does not have me on speed dial -- but I think those were the actions of an old man trying to get right with God.

Then there's Mayor Daley -- or King Richard II as many call him. Now I adore the man. But he was always the kind of bare knuckle brawler that Gov. Christie seems to aspire to be. For example, Meigs Field. In 2003, Mayor Daley wanted to close the airport and make it into a park. The aforementioned Gov. George Ryan put some pesky ordinance in place that would keep the airport open until 2025.

That pissed Mayor Daley off. So he did what seemed completely logical around here. During the middle of the night he sent bulldozers into the airport to carve gigantic X's on the runway. He said it was to protect us from rogue terrorist planes in the wake of 9/11. No one believed it. The Mayor paid a fine and built his park.

Then there's Mayor Daley's nephew, involved in a one-punch homicide. And of course, Blago. And Mel Reynolds. And Dan Walker and Otto Kerner and .... The list is endless and it exhausts me.
So you'll have to excuse me if Chris Christie and GWB scandal invoke little more in me than a yawn.

Trying not to be annoyed

Saw the touring company of the musical Ghost with my friend Barb. Before the curtain we met for dinner at an upscale restaurant. She was 15 minutes late, as usual, and spent even more time than usual staring at her phone. She was constantly checking her email and even set up a meeting, while I was sitting there.

I kept trying to start a conversation but she'd give me short answers or lose her train of thought as she went back to her smartphone. Finally, I gave up and stared out the window.

I know she'd had a bad day, trying to meet a client deadline while saddled with a mutinous art director. I know she'd had a bad week, with the plumbing at their office so unreliable that she and her employees had to run across the street to a hotel whenever they had to pee. I know she's had a bad month, battling the flu.

But still, it pissed me off.

We see each other about once/month. It would be nice if she could feign interest in me when I'm sitting in front of her.

But I know that's not fair. There has never been a time when I've needed Barb that she hasn't come through for me. Not once in 20 years.

So I just have to accept the good with the bad with my theater buddy. Just as I have to learn to be more accepting of everyone. It's OK to be annoyed with people when they're annoying, and she was, but I must keep it in perspective.

Image courtesy of Castillo/