Friday, June 8, 2012

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Life imitating art too closely for comfort?

“Maybe being a rebel in my family would have been selling patio furniture on Route 22.”

“Nobody takes it seriously, your honor. It’s the way we are. We got nothing better to do. We sit around talking.”


Television may well just be fiction. Yet what should we think when its scenes become way too real?

Because when I heard of the in-court statement made Thursday by organized crime figure Arthur Rachel about why he risked so much while in his 70s age-wise to try to commit more criminal acts, I couldn’t help but remember a scene from the first season of The Sopranos.

COULD ACTOR JAMES Gandolfini’s “Tony Soprano” character have hit the nail on the head as to why many people feel compelled to get involved in the outfit (a.k.a., the mob, organized crime, the Mafia) and stay there.

For the record, the first line about being “a rebel” was Soprano explaining to his daughter, Meadow, why he didn’t try to pursue options in life other than following in the footsteps of his father and uncle.

The second line was what Rachel said during his sentencing hearing on Thursday before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber when “da judge” asked him for a straight answer as to why an aging man who has spent a significant amount of his time incarcerated would even think of doing anything criminal.

Some people just seem incapable of conceiving any other life for themselves except for the rut in which they have landed.

IN FACT, WHAT may be the most troublesome part of Rachel’s ramble is his believe that, “What’s past is past.” As though we shouldn’t be concerning ourselves too much about anything he did.

So now Rachel gets his 104 months of time in a federal prison, of which he will have to do at least 88 months before he can be considered for early release. If he makes it (he’d be pushing nearly 90 by then) it will be a miracle.

Yet I can’t help but think the same attitude that we found all too entertaining a decade ago on television will ensure that the one-time jewel thief with organized crime connections already has a replacement in place – someone who probably equally feels their choices in life are inevitable.

What else is notable these days along the shores of Lake Michigan between Winnetka and Whiting, Ind.?

MO’ MONEY IN THE WORKS?: The minimum wage has come a long way since the days I worked jobs that legally paid it. I’m aging myself, but I recall the days of getting $3.35 an hour. Now, in Illinois, it is $8.25, and officials are considering measures that could eventually boost it to $10.55.

Which would be better than the measure being pushed by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., for a federal minimum wage law -- $10 per hour, which is bound to tick off all those states who call themselves “pro-business” but are really more concerned with putting corporate interests ahead of workers.

Jackson introduced a bill this past week calling for the federal minimum wage increase – just as he promised he would last month at various events, including a labor rally on the East Side neighborhood that paid tribute to the 10 people who were killed during picketing outside the now-former Republic Steel plant.

The worker in me says “good luck” to Jackson’s effort, which I’m sure will provoke a political brawl that may make the Republic Steel dust-up look like some love taps by the time this is all over.

WHO OWES WHOM?: There have been countless reports coming out of the sports sections and broadcasts in recent weeks – Chicago White Sox attendance stinks.

A team that is in first place in its division as we approach mid-season is barely getting 20,000 people into their stadium per game. White Sox fans should be ashamed of themselves for not supporting the ballclub better.

Which is a batch of bull (not Bulls)! I’ve never understood the belief that a ballclub is somehow entitled to capacity crowds for every ballgame. Teams that can draw well should thank their lucky stars for those moments, and not act as though it is the order of the world.

The reality is that attendance depends heavily on season ticket sales. After last season’s disaster, many White Sox fans cancelled their packages. That is the factor holding back the crowds this season. Now if this season’s good play doesn’t give them a boost for 2013, then there may be a legitimate issue.

Until then, just pipe down and enjoy the ballgame.


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