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Open Letter

Welcome - again - to the City of Chicago. Other than maybe forgetting to pick up a snow globe with the Sears Tower inside at the airport gift shop last time, I'm not exactly sure why you're here a second time within a year or so. But I'm a fun guy, so I'm not going to raise a stink over anyone with enough clout to score a pleasant trip halfway around the world on someone else's American Express card. You're living the American Dream - having the rich, the powerful, and the beautiful cater to your every whim on someone else's dime . . . and you're not even American! So rock on, IOC folks! You're without question the envy of anyone here who still has a job. We're only a month or two into our nation's hopeless slide into the abyss of socialism, so soak up whatever we still have left of the good life while you can.

Otherwise, I hope you'cw arrived well-rested in your mission to take a closer look at Chicago, a town that hasn't been able make up its mind in 25 years over basic cable TV - so don't read too much into any of the posters you may see along your parade route professing the citizenry's support of the 2016 Summer Olympics. This is a city that used to pay dead people to vote. Twice. At least.

Make no mistake, impressionable IOC ambassadors: the City of Chicago has plenty of wonderful things about it, especially if you stick to the usual tourist spots and nobody in your party is hopped up on dope while standing under that colossal mirrored kidney bean in Millennium Park, or mistake a bar called Berlin for anything that might go on among the more conservative folk in Berlin the city. Whatever it is you'll be doing, I'm willing to bet it won't involve any heavy reading. Or maybe it will. The city's 2016 bid book is bigger than the city budget document the mayor's office comes up with every year, and nobody in the city council even bothers to read that before they pass it without asking too many questions. In a nutshell, a crack whore does a better job of managing money than the people who run this city because, well, the city is dead broke. It's so broke, it sold off its cash-cow parking meters for 75 years just to try to make ends meet this year. The city still collects on parking tickets written by meter cops of course, but signing away the right to all those billions of 25-cent pieces adding up year after year is like living on a deserted island and putting your bitchy wife on a raft so you can go live with your bitchy old mother-in-law in the grass hut next door. Sure, you'll still get your laundry done, but your prospects for getting laid anytime during the rest of your life are pretty remote.

Speaking of foresight, the fact that whatever brain trust decided to bring you to Chicago at the end of March when the weather tends to be raw and unpredictable - Jesus H. Christ, it just snowed last weekend! - instead of a month later when the city is gentle and has begun to become its prettiest kind of says something, don't you think?

But really, kind International Olympic Committee visitors, it's much more than that. If you have no pity for this city's citizens, then have pity upon your own countrymen who might decide to spend a major hunk of their life's savings to come to Chicago in the summer of 2016 - especially if they read The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson's awesome book about serial killer H.H. Holmes and how Chicago managed to pull off the 1893 Columbian Exposition by the skin of its teeth, to understand what sort of unfortunate things can go on around here when we go hosting long, world-stage events. True, our building inspectors have come a long way - relatively speaking, anyway - toward noticing out-of-the-ordinary things like gas chambers and lime pits and trap-door chutes designed to snare fair maidens looking to enjoy a ride on the world's largest Ferris Wheel, but if our own elected state and city legislators are able to screw their own people into submission, imagine what's going to be in store for some quiet, unassuming family from Djibouti just looking to enjoy a week of pole vaulting.

International brotherhood and civic pride my ass; it's all about the money. Esteemed IOC representatives, I'm not sure whether anybody associated with the city has told you this either, but Chicago - and the surrounding areas that encompass Cook County and all taxable surfaces on the planet Mars - is home to the nation's highest sales tax rate. The United States is a breathtakingly massive country, so that's a sizable accomplishment. I'm not sure what average people in foreign lands earn in a year, but the minute they run out of cigarettes and end up going broke once they pay $80 American for a carton of Marlboros (and that's before every store owner in the city doubles their prices on every possible thing anyone might think of needing) - there's going to be a social dilemma nobody was really expecting. Quite frankly, city government is annoyed enough with people who live here begging on the streets for spare change, and those who still have any aren't exactly falling over themselves to lift the station of those who don't.

And no, being a poorly-budgeted visitor with a delightful accent who might be more colorfully-dressed than the typical homeless Chicagoan won't make any difference, either.

From what I understand, public transportation is a major concern to you IOC folks. Being out-of-towners, it wouldn't surprise me if the mayor and everyone else herding you around for the next few days have somehow convinced you that those horse-drawn carriages around the scenic Water Tower is public transportation, and that all those elevated trains and buses criss-crossing the city really belong to Ford Heights, a destitute village 30 miles to the south.

Since the average, ordinary world is going to have to get around this city, you should know that our public transportation falls under the supervision of the Chicago Transit Authority, which happens to be the nation's foremost authority on running sweltering buses and trains that are hopelessly late if they're not otherwise busy running off the tracks or catching on fire. And that's on an ordinary day for the ordinary people who pay to ride them. Except old people. They get to be miserable for free. True, visitors from lands where sweaty, overcrowded trains topple over or go hurtling into ravines and rivers might feel like it's old-home week, but it's not something the typical commuter here feels cheerful about. Even more so once you pour in several million out-of-towners all elbowing each other in the kidneys for the same seat.

An efficient public transportation system, ease of travel, and affordable, clean amenities that leave a lasting and favorable impression on the world are important to you - and truly, they're important to us, too. That's exactly why you need to stick some other poor sap of a city with the 2016 summer games. We're still trying like hell to get the world to forget about Al Capone. And he wasn't even mayor.


Scott Buckner


Posted on April 3, 2009

MUSIC - The Last 10 Songs I Shazamed.
TV - MSNBC In Full-Blown Freakout.
POLITICS - The Cook County Soda Tax Worked.
SPORTS - Women's Hoops Pay Gap Persists.

BOOKS - The Mind Is The Body.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - A Breath Sanitizer For Blowing Out Birthday Candles!

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