If the joint had not been empty, somebody would have wondered what Mayor Rahm Emanuel was doing, wearing sunglasses, sitting up straight at a back table in a place called Jury’s on a clear blue-sky day in October.
It had only taken one call to get him there. All I had said was, “He’s back. And he will be writing soon. Come to Jury's. No one will be there. I’ll fill you in.”
Jury’s used to be a neighborhood treasure. But then it got sold, 2 guys tried to turn it into a low rent, college dive. So I knew it would be empty. And I had told the Mayor’s ‘associate’ to call in advance and make sure that my martinis were brought in from Tiny’s bar across the street. And that they came at a steady pace.
I arrived late. But the martini was chilled. And the Mayor, pushing the sunglasses down on his nose and giving me his best tough guy look said, “You said he was back. Where is he now? When will he write? And oh, “Who are you?”
“So he worries you, huh?”
The Mayor said, “He left us all. On April 29th 1997. After that? It was easier. For Richie. For Cellini. Imagine if he had been here? To write about Cellini. Most powerful man in Illinois. Gets a year in the pen? For shaking down a movie producer? And Blago? Too easy a target. 14 years. For failure to steal? ?”
“So then why are you here Mr. Mayor? Why did the message 'He’s back and ready to write,' get your attention?”
“I will tell you why. It’s because I do not need. The people of Chicago do not need . . .”
“Oh stop with the people of Chicago bit. No one will read this, right? He’s not writing this. I am. So it's just us talking. 20 people might read this. 7 will comment and 5 or 6 will rate it. So its just us here.”
“As I was saying, I do not need him now. The one man who could come in here. At this time. In Chicago’s history. And turn an 800-word newspaper column into a surgical scalpel. Ready to cut. All my plans. For the city.”
“Everybody’s got an opinion and a blog. Why would you worry so much about this one writer? I mean, he has---as far as you know, been dead since 1997. Right?”
“Everyone’s opinion? I don’t care. I don’t even listen. Sometimes my wife? Amy Rule? She will give an opinion. Take out the trash Rahm. Pick up your socks Rahm. That is her opinion. I don’t care.”
“So why him? Why would you be so worried about him? Enough to come meet with me, who you don’t even know, on the chance he’d still be around?”
“It’s because of the children. The children of the city of Chicago. I made a promise that I. . .”
“Rahm. You’re playing the children card to dodge the question. So let’s do this. Lets give you children. I believe you care about children. I’m sure others would argue. But I’m gonna give you “caring about children.” Now will you answer why it’s so important to you that he stay dead? You afraid he’d write a story about who you hire?”
I hired JC Brizard. Superintendent of Schools. Now he has resigned. All this. And no one asks me about the children. Is this fair? Is this right?”
Well, if he were here, and he were writing, what would you tell him about JC Brizard?”
“JC and I. We had a discussion. We decided that for the good of the children, he would move on”
“See? You did it again! You dodged the question. And you know what “he” would do?
“No. Don’t be cute Mr. Mayor. I’m talking about the one who worries you. Do you know what he’d write?”
The Mayor looked around the empty bar. Made sure no one was in sight. “What would he do? What would he write?”
“He’d write that you only hire two kinds of people. People like JC, who you can control. . .”
“But I. . .”
“Mayor. You didn’t let him speak at his first news conference. And you hired all his lieutenants."
“JC understood . . .”
“JC didn’t have the talent to do the job.”
“I know there were experience issues. Rochester New York had 32,000 students. We had 400,000 . . .”
“Mayor, you’re not listening. I didn’t say experience. I said talent. The innate stuff you are born with. Experience is important. Like the 62 year old woman who was Chief Education Officer and who will now be cleaning up the mess you made by hiring JC. That woman has experience. But she also has TALENT.”
“You know, we’ve been here 5 minutes hot shot. And I still haven’t gotten an answer. Is he coming back? Will he be writing again? Because it’s hard enough. . .”
“Mayor, I told you he’d write that you only hire two kinds of people. People you can control are the first kind. Don’t you want to hear about the second kind of people?”
“Listen,” the Mayor started wagging a finger in my face,” I am now certain, you are bluffing. He is not coming back. I am not concerned. The children of Chicago are not concerned . . .” and with that he pushed his chair back from the table, ready to get up.
“So you don’t want to hear about the second type of people you'd hire”
“No. We’re done. He’s not back. He is dead. You’re bluffing.”
“Tell you what Mayor, I’ll tell you anyway. Here’s who he’d write about. This second kind of people you hire? They are the ones with connections to power and money.”
“So you are saying, I am not acting in the best interests of the people of Chicago?”
“No, I’m saying you hire the wrong people for the wrong reasons.”
The Mayor reached for the front door of the empty bar and as he pulled it open, shouted back at me, “Well, thank goodness the people of Chicago don’t have to worry about him writing this. Thank goodness he’s not coming back!”
And with that, the old bar was silent.
Sitting alone at the back table, sipping my martini, I looked up at the windows out on to Lincoln Avenue. The sun was going down. No trace of the Mayor. Just some guy out on the sidewalk, whose face I couldn't see, walking north, tossing a 16 inch softball up in the air and catching it as he strolled.
And from somewhere very far away I heard this voice say,
“Nice try kid. But its 200 words too long.
So cut it.
Or get the fuck out of my newsroom.