First things first, Rod Blagojevich is such a Chicago name. Feels good to have that name back home even if it's attached to some of the heaviest federal election conspiracy of my lifetime. Even if he shook down a Children's hospital and will ultimately rot in hell for all of eternity. Even if you hated him on the Apprentice for not being able to work a word processor. Regardless of your stance on the guy, that's a name you want on your 16-inch softball team. At the parish fish fry this lent after handing out holy communion at the Sunday nooner. Put it on the back of a custom Bears #69 jersey. Whatever you have to do, just accept that the name Rod Blagojevich is in your starting rotation of great Chicago names.
Localized Eastern European nostalgia aside, it's also refreshing to have Rod home because I was always of the mindset that 14 years in federal prison was a bit too harsh for the charges. Sure he tried to sell Obama's senator seat while inundated with local outrage, but fast forward to the present and I think we can all agree that his criminal charges would be a mild controversy in today's political climate. Exactly *how* much things have changed can be debated, but what you can't argue is that - simply put - things *have* changed.
That brings us to the purpose of this blog.
We're here today to recap some of these changes. Not the heavy political and economic and blah blah blah bullshit. Someone with a cleaner vocabulary and more empathy can tackle that beast. For now, I just want to keep this to the practical things that don't hit the front page of Colorado's penitentiary newsletter. That means things like "The Cubs Won The World Series" or that we legalized marijuana and gambling don't make the cut. Instead, we're going to hit the small ticket life items that are sure to keep Rod guessing as he gets adjusted to The Outside.
Uber: Pretty simple to think about now, but 8 years ago you were walking to Halsted or Racine or Ashland or Damen or Western to get a cab. You were standing at Southport and Roscoe for 15 minutes with your date. You couldn't get anywhere reliably and the shit was so expensive. $27 cab from Lakeview to River North. It's raining and you forgot your umbrella because you don't check the weather and even if you did, you don't have an umbrella. Insert Uber.
At the time Rod went away, Uber was just an internet company buying advertising on Barstool Sports, handing out promos at CTA Stops. But then you'd go to use it and it would be like "first time users only" and you'd get salty but then still use the service anyways because it's a great service.
Dick Portillo Sold: Chicago and Portillos go together like lamb and tunafish. Approximately 57% of all beefs that I rate on twitter originate from Portillos. It's an all-time staple that Rod is likely going to run back to with open arms. But is he aware Dick Portillo cashed out years ago to sail his gigantic yacht along the eastern seaboard?
And along with the sale came a change in the beef? Maybe not as drastic to most amateurs, but us regulars noticed right away. There's no easy way to put this. The meat is different. Dick took his magic touch with him.
Jane Byrne Highway Construction: The main intersection of all southern, western and northern highways. The primary entry point into the city for any and all cargo. One of the biggest clusterfucks in American infrastructure without a doubt. This one will hit Rod extra hard because the construction was about 2 years deep when he went to jail. So it's not necessarily the news that the Jane Byrne got a facelift. It's the news that ITS STILL GOING ON. We're talking YEARS behind schedule. The pain and anxiety refuses to go away.
West Loop (generally): most of your wholesale grocers are gone along with a healthy number of "meat companies" and industrial warehouses. The vagrant population that occupied a significant number of vacant spaces has gone with it. In its place has emerged the densest population of 30-something intellectual materialists that treat every Monday-Friday like it's restaurant week. Not to be overly critical though - the bar scene is fucking aces. The babes flow like the ancient rivers of babylon. Dress nice and don't look back Rod.
Marianos Takes Over Groceries: Dominick's and The Jewel's are dead. No one saw it coming.
Sting Ray Record: I'm sure this made its way to the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Jefferson Colorado. But in the event it didn't, Big Cat crushed the Sting Ray record at the Shedd. Hope you don't have an important meeting in the next 10 minutes.
The Blackhawks Suck: Sorry Rod but the dynasty you left has actually crumbled. It happened as fast as it started. My guy Chief is still trying to process the demise, but generally speaking you can blame it on bad leadership. Not corrupt by any measure, so maybe not Rod's cup of great tasting less filling. But definitely incompetent and embarrassing.
Hard Seltzer: A fight I will wage until I die, Hard Seltzer vs. everything I hold dear to my heart. No one saw it coming. Like that scene in Braveheart when William Wallace gets betrayed by the Irish, everyone is surprised with the surge. And not to say Hard Seltzer needs to be banished, but remember that Rod is from Ravenswood, home of some phenomenal corner taps. Imagine his surprise walking in and seeing the cooler filled with 100 different varieties of peach. Going to be an adjustment phase.
Hookers: Still illegal.
Everything In Wrigleyville: Rod knows the Cubs won but is he prepared for no Taco Bell? No McDonalds or Red Ivy or SALT or the stand alone 7-11 that sold more chewing tobacco than any other 7-11 in the 2000's. You can go bowling now and buy a Harley Davidson and get a really expensive meal from a private equity owned "concept" restaurant. Then stroll on down to one of the brand new parking garages right by the Starbucks and drive your Ford Expedition back to Naperville.
Jussie Smollett: Imagine trying to understand this story a year after the fact. Probably one of the craziest scams I've ever even heard of and that includes all working forms of fiction. This one is going to sting Rod because Jussie is skating on any and all jail time, and he's conclusively the worst human being in America. Yet Rod's the one behind bars and rehabilitating his bad behavior. Makes you wonder what the word justice really means.
Bar/Restaurant Closures: Zellas, the Lincoln Ave corridor (Gamekeepers, Sedgwicks, Brick's, Stanley's), The Mid, American Junky, Keefer's, Ed Debevics, that Italian place on Irving Park Road that everyone loved, countless corner joints in Wicker and Bucktown and Ukrainian Village. Gonella bread just stopped delivering to Al's. Bari no longer uses D'Amatos bread while JP Graziano has beaten every deli across the Midwest into submission.
Open Road Tollways No Longer Brought To You By Rod Blagojevich: Quick google search to refresh you guys…
Everywhere you went in Illinois required you to pay homage, literally and figuratively, to Governor Rod Blagojevich. Kind of a savage move to spend tens of millions on the signage across the state, but part of me respects the move so much. Like you have to abandon any and all sense of self-awareness to accomplish this goal and Rod fucking did it. Only problem is that after he got sent to federal prison, the Illinois tollway sent that shit to the glue factory. Would be no different than coming home and seeing your girl tattoo'd some tribal signage across your initials on her ribcage. God would that suck.
Stanley's Produce Closes: Very localized but the Stanley's Produce at Elston and North Avenue was the single greatest accumulation of midwestern produce this side of the Mississippi. And don't even get me started on the pricing. Full Market Value never pointed True North so hard.
Michigan Avenue: not that you ever wanted to be here, but definitely stay away. It's chaos.
The Chicago Bulls: Turns out D-Rose actually never came back from the 2012 injury against the Sixers. The organization hasn't rebounded either and everyone hates their guts. Just last weekend Big Cat got #FireGarPax trending nationally, which was cool. But we need more.
Boat Watch: I'm sure this is no surprise but in case he missed it, we had a Boat Watch
Bowling Is Back: Put this one on my shoulders. Put it on the PBA's. Give it to the Big Lebowski's cultural status. Whoever gets the credit, I just want Rod to be prepared to sub every Wednesday night at Diversey River Bowl. By the time he was headed for jail in 2012, Bowling was dead. Now its back with a vengeance and the people of Illinois demand to see Rod's hook. Give the people what we want.
Maywood Racetrack: Eddie is still shaken about this but Maywood is no more. They're turning into an Amazon to house all the sex toy inventory. It's become explosive due to increased horniness due to wireless connections anywhere. You'll figure it out.
Dumping With Your Phone: Speaking of technology, a good clean dump on your phone is hard to beat. Rod probably has a ways to go figuring out his apps, but something tells me his time on the toilet is going to really improve first couple days out. This is an impact player.
Sears Tower: still called Willis. Unbelievable.