CHICAGO—A spectral place, was 9009 Archey Road, tucked in a bend of the river on the South Side, with the night's mist rising. A tavern out of time.
On the walls were a faded Parnell poster, lithographs of racehorses, and portraits of the town's political thoroughbreds: Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathhouse John Coughlin, the great U.S. Sens. Paul Douglas and John Blutarsky, and assorted Mayor Daleys.
The barkeep, Dooley, was a man of stature. He poured with a liberal elbow, and was easy with his opinions.
"So, it's off to Dinver with you, to see our own dear Senator Barry be sintinc'd to the fed'rl penitentiary in Washinton," he said. "I don't envy th' man, what with the pa-apers goin' on about Putin actin' up and th' noocleer Pakistanis and Washabis flying airplanes into buildings and the oil companies having no safe place to invest their profits.
"Now for someone like John McCain, th' Raypublican—who's never met a man he didn't want to take a swing at—th' sit'ation seems ready made. On sev'rl occasins I've had to kick him out of here for throwin' punches at woman and man alike. He's a wee ol' fella, you know, with a Napoleonic complexion."
"But Senator O'Bama, you see, is a man of great tact and refinement," he said. "Many's th' night I've seen him at that very mirror, smoothin' his eyebrows, adjustin' his tie just so, reviewin' himself from every angle, after trowin' back an Evian or two.
"The man's a pote, at heart—Irish, you know, on his blessed mutter's side—and you can't be making your pomes and lyrical speechery if you're fighting a war with various Arabians in the Katchallstans."
"We must hope," Dooley said solemnly, "for an outbreak of peace and sirinity."
There was a call from the gloom for another round. The Whitechapel Club was closed, undergoing repairs after a mysterious fire, and at a table in the corner were the newspaper boys—Finley Dunne, Ben Hecht, Hildy Johnson, Lynn Sweet (one tough gal, she), Royko, and the rest. They were playing an obscure drinking game in which the primary rule appeared to require that, upon hearing the word "Zell," all had to groan and spit on the floor.
When Dooley returned from the tap, he asked: "Are you r'lated, now, to Cap'n Farrell, he who leads th' Democracy's marching club and band?"
I confessed I was not, though it is a small island.
"I went with Farrell to Dinver once, to watch Will Bryan get nommynated.
"The Bathhouse took us down to Calrada Springs, to see his zoo—imagin' buildin' a private zoo in Calrada with yr' boodle—and we took a kind of tram to th' top of th' peak, and had a lovely view of many utter mountains.
"The Calaradians, as I recall, were very energetic—hopping up and down th' hills in shorts, scramblin' up th' rocks, and riding their bicycles in great packs of circles.
"And Bryan," he said, marveling. "Now there was anot'er great han'sum speechmaker. Spellbound, were his crowds. A true celebrity.
"More's the pity. He lost three times."