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Blown Away by Windy City Elite

   
 
 

Though I cannot say it for sure, I am pretty convinced that the politicians of this city and state are stalking me. Yes, that is correct. Allow me to back up, and explain that the city and state in question would be Chicago, Illinois. Known for our winded politicians, which is actually what the ‘Windy City’ term means, we have quite a cast of characters in this metropolitan area. So maybe I am wrong in assuming that these fine people are stalking me, but for someone so shy in meeting those in the public eye, I sure do have my share of encounters. In a city of three million, I would say that is fate, to the point where, I may just pursue a career in politics myself.
Harold Washington, mayor during the late 1980s, was a big inspiration to me, even at the ripe old age of seven years old. Strong in stature, and pleasant in tone, I appreciated the way he could command an audience, and I was hooked. My excitement flourished when I briefly saw him with his usual cavalry on a trip to downtown Chicago. Little did I know that this would be the first of many politician sightings.
Though she can be gruff and stern in demeanor, I would not expect any less when meeting former Illinois Treasurer, Judy Baar Topinka. Being young and impressionable, I could not quite grasp the full extent of this experience, on a field trip with my freshman women’s studies class. I had the privilege of sitting next to her during her ‘girl talk’ with us, and I hung on her every word. I did this, in part, because she has the best smoker’s voice one can imagine; but also, because it dawned on me that she has done a phenomenal job of holding her own, particularly in a state where the boys do not always play nice.
Spotting a local politician at a Chicago parade is like spotting a needle in a stack of, well, needles. On St. Patrick’s Day of 2006, they were out in full force, it being right before a major election. Perhaps I had that “I can rally young voters behind you” look, because many of them shook my hand, including Forrest Claypool, running for County Board President, Secretary of State Jesse White, and my old buddy, Judy Baar Topinka, since she was running for governor. A few of them even handed me strings of green beads, and in this town, I will take the free gesture.
My favorite encounter with a local politician, aside from Barack Obama of course, was meeting Mayor Richard M. Daley. If my close friends were to read this, they might be shocked to hear this, as I had never been a supporter of the dear mayor, including his sweaty pink face when defending another city mishap, or his placing a positive spin on gentrification in the city, rather than working toward eliminating poverty.
But on this particular day, not to dramatize it, but the sun was shining, the weather was warm, the street was free of traffic. I was scheduled to open that morning at Fannie May Candies in Edison Park, and was about two hours into the work day, when I saw him. Dressed in his usual dark grey suit, beige trenchcoat and dingy brown hat, he walked outside of a neighborhood restaurant, and stood on the corner, directly across the street from my store. Free of his usual brood of followers, I saw him in a different light. He was simply having breakfast with his good friend, Alderman Brian Doherty, and two others whom I did not recognize, at a typical ‘greasy spoon’ restaurant, on a pleasant Sunday morning. I became a little frantic inside, assuming that they would of course want some chocolate after this dining experience. So, I was preparing all the things I would say to him. I would not comment on anything negative, I told myself. I would say hello, ask him how he enjoyed his breakfast, and then prepare his order like any other customer. Instead, the group crossed the street and walked past my store. I finally mustered the courage to wave to him, and then the Mayor, despite all his prowess and scandal and connections, looked at me, nodded, tipped his hat, and continued walking.
I felt that we had our moment. Now, about those parking tickets…


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