when statues disappear
Sitting outside the Starbucks on Taylor street in Chicago’s Little Italy, I sip my latte macchiato. Something is missing but I can’t put my finger on it. I grew up here as a kid and it’s always nice to get back. Snag a plate of spaghetti and neck bones at Pompei. Buy a cannoli at Scafuri’s. But sometimes I just like to sit and watch the people coming and going. None of them look especially Italian. But then maybe Little Italy is just a brand, a PR name like Harlem in New York or Cork Town in Detroit. Little Italy—another ethnic meatball floating in Chicago’s melting pot.
A guy shows up. Plaid shorts hanging over his knees, belly hanging over his belt and a boy, maybe 8, holding his hand. He stands at the raised garden, a circle of bushes in the middle of the sidewalk. He looks around. Spots me under the umbrella.
“Hey!” he goes, “where’s DiMagg?”
That’s what’s missing. There used to be a statue of Joe DiMaggio in the middle of the flower bed. I shrug. Shake my head.
“I bring my grandson all the way from Peoria to see something Italian, something to be proud of, an he ain’t here. What the hell? I tried to tell the kid, he was famous. Great ball player. Joltin’ Joe. The Yankee Clipper.”
I nod, thinking, yeah he was a great athlete. Set some kind of hitting streak record. But he didn’t play for the White Sox did he? A New York Yankee right in the middle of Sox country. So what if he was Italian? Everybody’s something. What did he ever do for Chicago…baseball, yeah… but for Chicago? I’m not going to argue with the guy. Embarrass him in front of his kid. Anyhow, I’d have to interrupt him shouting, waving hands, “What the hell. They’re taking down statues all over the place. What’s this country coming to? You can’t even give a kid something to hang onto, his tradition. C’mon Mario let’s go to Arrigo Park. At least they got the Christopher Columbus statue there.”