The day the circus left town

pawn shop postcard
I'm not making this stuff up. Hardly.

Late last night, the guy sweeping up after the very last elephant was a woman. She sat in front of her house and held a small sign: “Free Gov. Blagojevich.” I wanted to tell her that Blago isn’t governor anymore, and he isn’t in prison yet, but instead it hardly seemed worth it. There’s just something not very interesting about the Blago train, now that he’s been convicted.

It was more interesting three years ago, when we lived in a condo across the hall from The Guys. The State of Illinois rented the unit as a crash pad for Blago’s security detail. I hated how their Crown Vics took up so many parking spaces out front, and how they left a rusting Weber grill on our shared back deck, and how they used garbage bags as curtains in the living room. But they were a novelty, and some of them were genuinely nice. Peter the postman gave us the low-down on who was in charge of who, and what the deal was with “the football.” It was fun to watch The Guys muttering into walky-talkies as they scurried from condo to Blago house, looking solemn and authoritative about exchanges that probably consisted of, “Gotta pee, be right back,” and “Is there gas in Crown Vic #3? I’m making a lunch run.”

When the indictment came down, that was a fun time to be in the neighborhood. We saw the first flush of reporters and news trucks, and didn’t realize yet they’d be a three-year fixture. It was the dead of winter and I admired their tenacity, sitting out in the cold, waiting for a shot of Blago walking from his front door to his SUV. Because you can’t have a news story without live coverage of someone getting into their car.

On one dog walk we watched The Guys execute a complicated maneuver to get Blago out the side door and into a waiting Crown Vic up the street, all without the news crews realizing he’d left the house. This required three walky-talkies.
When The Guys suddenly moved out, one cold day in January 2009, leaving only their rusting Weber and some cable wires, the parking improved. My friend Peggles moved in across the hall, and like everyone else we could exclaim over how vehemently, almost exuberantly, Blago was denying everything. His problems seemed to make him more chatty than usual, and as he jogged through the neighborhood—alone now, without Crown Vic #4 trolling behind—he’d wave vigorously, and say something like, “Isn’t this great?” as he loped by. His Teflon factor was staggering.

One morning during the first trial, I let a reporter into the lobby as I returned from a dog walk. It was a sub-zero day and I was tired of skirting the cameras on the way back from the park, when every extra step cost another centimeter of numbness in your toes. She followed me to the building and asked if she could just step inside to warm up and ask a few questions. I don’t remember the conversation, something about, “Is this media circus upsetting the neighborhood?”

“Oh yes. It’s upsetting the neighborhood.” Who was I kidding? We loved being able to kvetch on corners and post on Facebook about how annoying it all was. The helicopters I could do without, but the spectacle was nicely surreal and mostly contained to court days. And when he was mostly acquitted after a hung jury, it was just another example of how screwed up the system is and nothing changes. Always good food for neighborly conversation.

But yesterday, after the conviction, it all became less interesting. We were out on a dog walk when the verdict was announced, and on our way home two reporters stopped us. “Do you think justice was served today?”

“We haven’t heard the verdict.”

“Guilty on…what is it, Bob, 17 counts? Seventeen of 20 counts.”

“Oh. Wow.”

“So, do you think justice was served today?”

“Um, yeah. I guess.”

“Would you say justice had been served?”

“Yeah, I’d say justice was served. Wait, I’m not sure what that means. I think he did some stuff he shouldn’t have, and now he has to pay for it.”

“Yeah, can you spell your name, please?”

Suddenly there’s nothing to bitch about. Justice has been served, whatever that means. There are still blips of interest, like yesterday when he told reporters that he hates to think that “some” people in the state “might think” he’s not fighting for them. That he had the presence of mind, there in that jumble of reporters outside his door, as his wife stumbled up the stairs in tears and he hastened to join her, to keep spinning. That still staggers me, but now it’s none of my business. It’s something for him and his family to suffer through. Nothing more to see here, folks. We promise you a shot in his jump suit, sometime later this year.

On this morning’s dog walk, we avoided Sunnyside and possible reporters. Instead we headed to Ronan Park. Coming back, cutting across the lawn at Manor and Lawrence, we passed a postcard in the grass. It seemed to sum things up, so I put a biscuit under it to get Django in the shot. I guess we’re all showmen at heart.

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  1. I still don’t understand the need for the helicopters. They know where he’s been, and where he’s going to. Do we really need to monitor the progress of his car as he makes his way home? Probably not. I’m not sure anyone really cares all that much at this point.

    Also, I’m pretty sure we saw those same signs taped to a bus stop on our run this morning. “Free Governor Blagojevich” Thought it was odd too, because he’s no longer governor. And he’s not even been sentenced yet. And I doubt anything could really free him from his own delusional mind.

  2. Also, for some strange reason I know have “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan going through my head. I think it was your line about sweeping up.

  3. and I’m really glad it wasn’t a manhunt! 🙂 But seriously. I love your blog. You look at life with such interesting perspective and humor. Thank you for sharing!

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