Hello all. I was contacted this week by a man by the name of Raoul Duke-Grabowski. Apparently he has a journalist cousin who has covered motorcycle races in Vegas, a couple Super Bowls, and spent some unpleasant time in Chicago in the summer of '68, amongst other things. He's not fond of computers, so he asked me to post this for him after sending it across the Mojo wire (Just go with it. Please don't tug at the strings.) Follow the jump for his strange little tale.
"I feel the same way about the Packers as I do about disco and herpes." --- Raoul Duke-Grabowski
We were somewhere outside of Hammond when the drugs began to take hold, and not a moment too soon. When you've been pounding brats and kielbasa chased with copious amounts of Goose Island, Immodium and Pepcid are your friends. The forty minute run from the ‘burbs (and the $87 dollars in skyway tolls) is a lot more palatable when your guts aren't clenched in knots.
Suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like giant bats. "Holy Jesus!" my passenger screamed. "What are those things?" "For Christ's sake, they're just seagulls. Filthy things are everywhere around here. Get ahold of yourself," I chided. "I told you not to eat those goddamn tamales at the bar. That freak looked like he hadn't seen a bar of soap in months, and you buy food from him."
We kept on with the top down, pegged at a steady 11 mph up Cline Ave thanks to the seemingly eternal road-work, heading for our Holy Land. We crawled past the mostly abandoned mills on the way to Soldier Field, and the obvious comparisons leaped to mind. A once-powerful industry, the pride of the region, left ravaged and impotent by greed-heads and assorted swine, a shell of its former self; the privileged top-feeders laying waste to what had been handed to them, and to the hopes of those around them. Cheap imports, unfavorable trade agreements, entitled grandchildren - pick your poison. At least they still employ enough people to keep the whole area smelling like a wet dog. That's something, I guess.
The Impala groaned towards the skyway, protesting the abuse of second gear, until the giant Samoan bastard in the passenger seat reached out and jerked the steering wheel, veering wildly down an exit ramp. "As your attorney, I advise you to find a liquor store and buy as many intoxicants as possible," he explained. "Have you seen what they did in the preseason?" "Yeah, I guess you're right," I conceded, plowing over a median and into a parking lot.
We grabbed a half gallon of Wild Turkey, two cases of beer, and charged it to my expense account. Jostling our way past all the degenerates and back to the car, we loaded up the trunk and then ourselves.
The big V8 convertible barreled down the Dan Ryan with the skyline drawing closer and closer. Weaving around SUV's piloted by glassy eyed soccer-moms twisted on Prozac, soul-barren corporate hacks in their Beamers and Audi's, and vicious, meth-addled cab drivers, I hoped this visit would be smoother than some of my past ventures into Chicago. My time there in ‘68 had been terrifying, and even now the sight of a Chicago PD cruiser stands my hair on end and makes my head throb. Thankfully, my attorney is with me this time, if he could stay straight long enough to be of any help.
We merged on to Lake Shore Dr, our destination in sight. The solemn, inspiring cathedral I'd always known had been swallowed by a mescaline-fueled engineer's sci-fi experiment. At least they had the decency to leave the columns alone.
After parking the behemoth ragtop, we unloaded the trunk and reloaded ourselves. As distorted as it seems from the outside, I still felt awestruck as we approached, the same cold, chilling reverence I'd always felt as I passed through those walls.
We staggered our way through the concourse, winding our way around to the press box. I flashed our press passes and immediately grabbed a media guide and started cramming. I'd been in a scuba accident in the Caribbean and ended up in a decompression chamber for weeks, and then went on a king-hell bender for a day or twelve. I woke up in a rat-infested cantina in Belize with no recollection of having left Miami. Somewhere along my chemically-induced rampage things had gone horribly wrong. It was suggested that I stay where I was and lay low until things blew over. What these "things" were I still don't know.
This had left me cut off from the usual media outlets, and I had almost no knowledge of what had happened around the league during the offseason. My editor had gotten word to me two days ago that I needed to get back to the States and up to Chicago to cover the team's home opener.
I began poring over the program and immediately saw the additions of Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor. Taylor was a nice add, but I was shocked to see Peppers' name on the roster. I couldn't believe that prick McCaskey shelled out that kind of cash, especially after the Cutler trade. A pass-rusher of his caliber doesn't come along very often, and could pay huge dividends lined up next to Harris. After the disappointment of last season, I could feel the excitement starting to build. I should have known better.
Releasing Alex Brown had left a big question mark at the starting DE opposite Peppers. Adding Major Wright and Chris Harris could potentially upgrade the safety spots, but the CB's still had not been upgraded, nor had the O-line. Shuffled around, yes, but upgraded? No. Not even any real depth had been added. It boggles the mind that so much talent and potential could be assembled, and yet key areas could be left so barren. Cutler can have the biggest arm in the world, but it won't amount to anything if he spends the rest of his life rolling around like Stephen Hawking. Promising enough to tease, incompetent enough to crush your dreams; goddamn you, Angelo.
I looked through the draft list, and can't believe what I see. Another midget CB, an unneeded QB, two of the five picks completely wasted. Scanning through the cut list did nothing to quell the anger rising in my gut. Almost half of the recent draft picks are already gone. So much for the middle round gems.
I looked up in time to see my attorney puking on the shoes of a former Chicago columnist. "Jesus Christ, Duke," he whined. "Could you two show up sober just once??" That was it. All the pain and suffering and rage from the last 20 years, along with the hatred of that little contrarian hack's piss-poor excuse for writing all came bubbling to the surface, and I exploded across the room, screaming bloody murder. "You wife-beating (allegedly) talentless swine! I'm gonna rip your..." But I never got a chance to finish my threats. He bolted from the room and I crashed into a table spilling cheap coffee (laced with cheaper bourbon) all over the floor and collapsing in a heap. The big Samoan picked me up by the shirt. "As your attorney, I advise catching him and cutting his ****ing guts out." Sage advice I thought to myself with every intention of following up on it, but we were quickly intercepted by security. Tasers and nightsticks drawn, we were escorted from the premises, our press passes revoked.
We headed straight to O'Hare. I had to get out of the city before the Fear could take root. I caught a flight to Belize and headed back to the filthy rat-hole I'd been hiding out in for most of the year. Life is tough down here, you bet your ass, but no more painful than watching a team you live and die with fail year after year, seemingly unable to get out of its own way. I'm just swapping one sorrow for another. At least the hash is cheap down here.
---- Raoul Duke-Grabowski
-----"I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed. My father taught me that, along with a few other things that have kept my life interesting." Hunter S Thompson