Tony Fitzpatrick's 'Dime Stories': Social commentary and art

"That is the way it is with this place. Beauty rages all around us. It is sometimes harder to see." (Tony Fitzpatrick/Dime Stories)

While other cities produce talented artists, Chicago produces legends.

What makes a legend? Prodigious output. That takes work. Hard work. A lot of daily hard work.

The city of Big Shoulders is the city of hard work. Chicago has never been about who or what you are. Chicago history is marked by how hard people worked. What you were, where you came from, or who you slept with was your own business. You put out work or you were shut out. "You workin?," was the unofficial motto of Chicago.

Aside from skill, craftsmanship, and talent, Chicago artists are or were very prolific. They produced vast bodies of quality work. They worked hard and often. They were and are machines, knocking out quality work over and over again.

Tony Fitzpatrick is one hard working artist. He is a visual artist, writer, poet, playwright, actor (stage, screen, television) and raconteur.

"Find a writer who has something American to say, and nine times out of ten you will find he has some connection with the Gargantuan abattoir by Lake Michigan- he was bred there,or got his start there, or passed through there when he was young and tender." (Henry L. Mencken/American Mercury 1933)

Tony Fitzpatrick has a lot to say. He is not shy about saying it, verbally, in writing, or through his paintings and drawings. He says what he means and means what he says on social media too. He can be crass, acerbic, irascible, and vulgar. Those are his finer qualities.

Mr. Fitzpatrick says a lot in his book, "Dime Stories". It is a collection of columns that appeared in New City, the free independent weekly newspaper.

Tony Fitzpatrick is a unique Chicago character. He embodies this city in his size- big shoulders- accent, and his prodigious works of art, writing, and acting.

Open heart surgery has not slowed Mr. Fitzpatrick down. He is as prolific, if not more so, than ever. Those of a certain age realize time is short. They want to produce and contribute as much as possible. They know they are always seconds way from the life taking widow and orphan making heart-a-stroke. Hungry worms and maggots eagerly await.

Tony Fitzpatrick is a productive machine. Art, plays, movies, television, writing, poetry, selling his works, you name it, he is doing more of it. That is the true Chicago Way. Work, hard work, productive work, prolific work.

This past Saturday, Tony Fitzpatrick held a book signing for "Dime Stories" at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. The Book Cellar is a great independent book store. What makes it great? You could imbibe wine or beer while shopping for books. How can that be a bad thing?

Tony Fitzpatrick in front of the Book Cellar.

Tony Fitzpatrick in front of the Book Cellar.

The Book Cellar was packed for this occasion. Fans of Mr. Fitzpatrick's lined up after the reading to get their books signed.

Tony Fitzpatrick is not a man of few words. He is also a man of, shall we say, choice words. He is more earthy than down to earth.

Fitzpatrick is a true Chicago guy. He is a hybrid mix of Studs Terkel, Damon Runyon, and Charles Bukowski. He knows his city. He knows his people. He portrays them with a mix of humor, anger, empathy, profanity, and grudging respect.

He is not safe for work, the tender ears of children or childish adults who are offended by everything. He is what he is, a man of his time and city. The combination of keen intelligence, street smarts, and toughness make him endearing.

"Dime Stories" is Tony Fitzpatrick at his best. His common man approach, his empathy, his poetry and art, his care and concern for what ails society, and his righteous anger.

He is funny while being offensive. Only the very best comedians, like Don Rickles, can pull that off. In one piece, he calls an elderly woman harassing him about smoking near a bird sanctuary, "whirling hearse bait". Good thing seniors have not joined the social media lynch mobs yet.

Here are a few more gems:

"Know this. When you see lots of naked people on television, banging like screen-doors, it's a good sign that you are still free."

"This is the way with us Irish. We contain great beauty, that which history has not been able to take from us, and we wield it with the best and worst intentions. Get in the way of our dance in this life, Boy-o, and we'll knock your dick loose."

"Every swinging dick  in the village has a camera, every cell phone. Every simpleton act now seems worthy of recording just because you have a cell camera. At my gym I saw one guy filming another guy while he shaved his sack... Really? You want a home movie of that?"

"There is nothing in the Constitution that says it is the job of government to protect you from yourself. The founding fathers did a fairly good job of ass-hole proofing our basic freedoms."

"This town has always been full of the cheapest variety of moralizers and holier-than-thou hypocrites who will tell you how to live... until they get caught taking a payoff, getting blown by a cheerleader, or spilling an eight-ball of blow in front of a table of detectives... Once the moralizer gets caught they admit "they" have a problem." When the rest of us do it, we're merely moral imbeciles."

"On occasion in life, one meets the irredeemable shithead. The asshole's asshole. The pork-sword who cannot find his better self- or get out of his own way. The art world is fairly littered with them. The slack-jawed dipshit, who is convinced they know a lot more than they do. The Tool."

Tony Fitzpatrick is transparently honest. What you see and hear is what you get. One of Fitzpatrick's qualities is he can disagree, be disagreeable, and still be your friend, unless you are dumber than a box of rocks. Then you better run for the hills or he will send you home crying to your mommy.

Read "Dime Stories". Buy it. Don't be a chiseler or cheapskate and get it at the library. The book is filled with wit, humor, anger, profanity, and humanity. Mr. Fitzpatrick's art makes the book visually stunning.

Dime stories covers a lot of ground. People, places, animals, friends, issues, politics, humor,etiquette, and art, to name a few.

Tony Fitzpatrick is a Chicago icon. A renaissance man for all seasons. Like many Chicago artists, Tony Ftizpatrick was leaving us. He was going to move to New Orleans. Fortunately, he changed his mind. He stayed rooted in his place in the world.

Chicago would be a sadder place without him.

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