Canonizing Chicago's Alphonso Capone

In Chicago — city of the big shoulders and the even bigger grafters — we’ve opted to canonize a pathological killer. We sell Mafia Tours to visitors celebrating Al Capone’s criminal exploits during the 20s & 30s. Only passing notice of how his crime wave ended in a mad syphilitic death. And only passing notice of other Chicago celebrities like Carl Sandburg, Danial Burnham, Potter Palmer, Michael Jordan, and my Father who could be seen driving the lead car in the city’s 1933 welcoming celebration for General Balboa’s historic flight of the “white fleet” from Rome.

Dad lost any chance to get on the celebrity list shortly after the General’s boss Benito Mussolini partnered up with another celebrity by the name of Adolf Hitler. Italians were now the enemy.

The point is America’s historic love affair with free spirits who live and love to defy authority. There is Patrick Henry, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Geronimo, Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, Abbey Hoffman, Woodstock, along with today’s Skinheads and Survivalists. The politically correct term is Libertarian. Pretty much what the Tea Partiers say they are, even without always knowing what they’re saying.

Other cultures have their own iconic free spirits. The Brits have Robin Hood, the Scots Rob Roy, the French Joan of Arc, India Gandhi, South Africa Mandela. But lets remember, there’s a difference between those who defy authority for a cause, and just for the hell of it. The distinction is easy to see when the defiers and defilers are, say, street mobs after a big game. Not nearly so easy to see when they “occupy” that same street in protest to the 1% or the coming NATO conference or the next Supreme Court decision.

But here’s what IS easy to see. The way the defiers and defilers ripen with the years. In college, they thrive! in their first jobs, they take more care! in middle age, they settle! in old age, they can barely remember why!

In time, time is everyone’s master. Even crazy Al started picking flowers in his last years.

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  • No to mention that your average Portillo's is festooned with Alphonse's quotations.

    The notorious seem to be better remembered. 12 years out of office, Clinton is still remembered for getting a Hinkleman in the Oval Office (to use Garry Meier's term) rather than having signed welfare reform.

    Wonder how long it is going to take for Blago to get this kind of rehabilitation. Ryan was sure not the gunslinger (or crapslinger) Blago was.

  • In reply to jack:

    Blago may make it someday...but the years and the memories have to ripen awhile

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    Sort of like the time that someone said something really stunk in the building, and then, a couple of months later some people came back from Florida and said that their freezer full of beef quit working.

  • That kinda says it...

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