A new book tells stories in the voices of famous Chicagoans, from Barack Obama to Rod Blagojevich to Oprah Winfrey. We talk with the author of Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm. Read excerpts from the book below.
Barack Obama Describes His Perfect Bowling Game to the Graduating Class, Arizona State University Commencement, 2029
I hadn’t seen that many turkeys in a row since my first White House Thanksgiving dinner. It takes twelve straight strikes to roll a perfect game, but if you would have asked me that the last time I stood on this stage, I wouldn’t have known. If you would have asked me that in 2016, I wouldn’t have known then, either. Richard Nixon put an alley in the basement and I replaced it with a hoops court. It was a new era. I was trying to make a statement. And at the time, I could still go to the hole. Fast forward eight years, eight long years, and it would seem I had nothing left to accomplish. My resume, even by the harshest of standards, appeared, at long last, flawless. Needless to say, I still had goals. Every man is haunted by something, and my ghost lived in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on a sound stage in Burbank, California. I joined a league. I rolled, at first, one night a week, then two, then three and four, until I was bowling four hours a day, every day. I hired coaches. I had the best equipment. I was obsessed. Then, three months ago, during an elimination bracket, tourney semifinals, everything clicked. I started well, felt good, but wasn’t watching the score screen, not until that first bird gobbled down at me from his perch. I’d never started with a turkey, and by the time the second appeared, I knew this was going to be a special game. I never even broke a sweat, not when the first reporter showed up and started filming, not when the ten pin almost wobbled back in place in the eighth frame. The moment I released that twelfth ball—what some might call the defining moment of my post-presidential career—I just knew, knew that it would find the pocket, that the pins would scatter, that I’d be the first black ex-president to accomplish this particular feat. Then, when the screen flashed 300 over and over, when Lou, the alley owner, showed me the place on the wall where my name would be etched in brass, when I called Michelle and she broke into tears, I knew that I had put the ghosts to rest, that I had answered my critics. That I had, at long last, provided a complete body of work.
Rod Blagojevich Negotiates His First Prison Tattoo, Joliet State Penitentiary
I’d rather you kept my neck out of this. No offense, but I’ve always considered guys with tattoos all over their fucking necks to have some kind of mental problem. The same goes for the fingers and hands; what kind of dumbfuck walks around with shit written all over their hands? To me, that reveals an essential lack of character, not to mention upbringing. Needless to say, I’d really appreciate if the face were left intact. In terms of what you’re going to put, a basic symbol could be nice, maybe a clover or a heart, but since we’re looking at all black, probably not. An outline of the fucking state of Illinois could work, for irony, or maybe the four stars and two bars of the Chicago city flag. I’d rather not go with someone’s face, as I can’t imagine those look good in twenty fucking years, not with all the sagging and wrinkling. In terms of writing, gothic lettering is clichéd. That, and any sort of exaggerated script. You can’t even read shit like that unless you’re right up on top of the fucking person, and we don’t foresee that ever happening, do we? “Mom” would be a sentimental choice, classy, while “Patricia” wouldn’t make me look so bad, either. What I really want to fucking avoid, above all else, is anything that would pledge my allegiance to a particular group, or anything that would imply ownership of me by any one of you. You have a golden fucking opportunity here that you can’t let go to waste—believe me, I understand—but think of when I’m out of here, when my supporters—and there are still lots of them—vote me back into office. It’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out and I’m back on top. When that happens, there could be a job for you. No, on second thought, there will be a job for you. All you have to do is make the right decision now. Realize who you’re dealing with. Think about your future: It’s the code I’ve always lived by, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a pretty good fucking code.
Ann Landers Advises Against the Use of Twitter
This isn’t like the razorblades in the apples. Or the rice making pigeons explode. Or my sister’s alleged “talent.” This, faithful readers, is real. While it seems like 140 characters could do no actual harm, studies—by Harvard doctors and scientists—have proven that prolonged use of and exposure to the Internet website known as “Twitter” is today’s primary cause of teenage pregnancy. Of course, our children are not having babies simply because they log on … though with all that can be found on this World Wide Web, you could see how it could happen. It’s the life path that Tweeting—so it is known—can lead them down. One Tweet leads to another, and before you know it, our children are listening more closely to their followers than their parents. What’s next? What’s after teenage pregnancy? The inevitable: crack babies. Yes, logging onto Twitter, according to those same Harvard doctors and scientists, has led to young pregnant girls—the very pregnant girls who became pregnant on Twitter—smoking crack and passing addiction down to their unborn fetuses. I don’t know if you have ever seen a crack baby, let alone a neglected crack baby, but it’s not an encouraging sight. Just imagine if that was your grandchild. Then what happens when these child-parents want to go back to school? To a football game? To prom? Either you’re stuck watching their babies while they’re out gallivanting or they start leaving their babies in Dumpsters, in broken-down elevators, and, sometimes, fire stations. Is that what we want? Parents, it’s time you took control back, said no to your children once in a while, spent quality time nurturing them, showing them the right way. They need human-on-human contact, not this cyberspace interaction they’ve grown accustomed to. And if some teacher or guidance counselor or friend wants to stand in your way? Watch it, bub! The next thing we know, the abandoned crack baby who calls you “Grammy” will replace some poor Dalmatian as the official mascot down at the local firehouse. Mark my word.
Tired of the Spaceship Comparisons, the New Soldier Field Responds to Its Critics
Captain Kirk is not the quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Neither is Luke Skywalker, Buck Rogers, or George freakin’ Jetson. I do not possess the power to detach myself from the old columned foundation, turn on my thrusters, and disappear in a flash of light. Ambassadors from other planets do not convene on my concourse, and not once, in my short history, has anyone ever phoned me to pick him up and take him home. Furthermore, a funkadelic master has never lured me to Earth with his slinky rhythms, and nothing has ever, on my watch, been stuck up anyone’s ass for the advancement of intergalactic knowledge. My coworkers are not small and green, nor are they hell-bent on meeting the drivers of pickup trucks returning to their trailers out in the middle of the desert. I cannot bend the laws of physics, nor can I travel through time. Warp speed is out of the question, especially with a union workforce. All of my materials can be found on our Periodic Table of the Elements, though if you’re looking to point fingers, ask the Metrodome what comprises her artificial turf. I do not shy away from black holes. Less than 3 percent of me is painted silver. The term “space-age polymers” is just an expression. On the bright side, no one is buried in my end zone, and I’m not named for a corrupt utilities broker. When it comes right down to it, you’d have to admit, you wouldn’t ask about any of this if the boys were making a go of it, the scoreboard singing a happier song. If Butkus or the Coach were still here. Or, God rest his soul, Walter. If Brett Favre were running for his life, the microphones picking up the crack of his bones. His head bouncing off my hard earth, his mind on a brief mission to Mars.
Written by Michael Czyzniejewski; Illustrations by Rob Funderburk