Friday, September 26, 2014

Chicago: The World Class City - All Net and No Smelt

Romantics will delight in dining lakeside, with a view so close they can toss a coin into the ageless waters and wish for a love to match.
Economists will adore the prices. Shrimp, fish, oysters and other seafood are not only tasty but also a bargain for the pricey Near North Side.Both types of lovers quickly join the regulars at Rocky`s: anglers with their tackle boxes and police officers who dock department boats at the bait shop near Navy Pier.Among the more popular items are the large, french-fried shrimp ($4.50 a half order) and Rocky`s fish sandwich ($1.50), a treat for those familiar with fast-food versions. While both are prepared in a crunchy batter, the shrimp and fish themselves are moist and tender. -Manuel Galvan, Chicago Tribune 1987

Oh, My God! I'm so excited I could moisten my chinos!  Rahm Emanuel has bullied Jimmy Fallon NO Less into yet another vist to Chicago, A World Class City!

Jimmy Fallon came to Chicago when Skinny Sheahan invited Fallon to take the Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics and Rahm was given the full credit.

That's how it goes in Chicago. Anne McGlone Burke working for the Chicago Park District in 1968 runs the firrst Special Olympics in Soldier Field and the the Kennedy Clan takes credit.

That's how you get World Class, change historical facts, erase landmarks and stick to the narrative.

Chicago 2014 is a city with a silver bean, Pritsker Pavillions, Lois Wesiberg Dancing Dervish diversions, cows on parade, Marilyn Monroe softy-core-porn statuary and no where to grab a bag of fried smelts for under $12.   World Class baby.

Chicago was a town - My Kind of Town, Frank's Kind of Town a town that Billy Sunday could not shut down and one could park without taking out a second mortgage.

I guess I am just a grumpy old man who thinks that Toni Preckwinkle, Pat Quinn, Forrest Claypool and Rahm Emanuel could not carry  Wilson Frost's jockstrap. Shucks, I thought that thirty years ago.

When the Fire Department Gym and Rocky's Shrimp and Smelts were demolished to make room for Navy Pier parking, Chicago went from a Sears Roebuck catalog town to the edgy Abercrombie & Fitch world class city inhabited only by members of Smashing Pumpkins, BillyDec, Chief Keef and Richard Roeper and former Mayor Daley perched on a bench in the Viagra Triangle where he can smoke a stogie, as far as we know. -World Class, baby!

Me, I like smelts.  I like them pan fried, deep fried and when I'm Fully Kreuzened - live.  The absolute best was Rocky's.  Rocky's was the stuff of legend - as architecture and as cuisine.  The Italian family owned fried fish palace operated as a bait-shop, as well as eatery, "It`s named for Joe ``Rocky`` Panzo, who was born in Italy before the turn of the century and came to Chicago during the Roaring `20s. "

Rocky's was open from April Fools Day to Thanksgiving.

In 1981, I took my pal Mark Manning, who was in residency at Grant Hospital to Rocky's. Manning, now a semi-retired surgeon in Del Rio Texas, is a Southie from Boston and no stranger to fine fried fish, as in Kelly's on Revere Beach and the No Name over by 151/2 FishPier in Boston, waxed rhapsodic on Rocky's fare.  He had the clams, (" These OUR CrowHawgs, Hick, not clams!"), the shrimp ("These ain't shrimp they're midget prawns or something.") and then had his first ever smelts. Manning was hooked. . .or netted, by these fresh water sardines. Smelts were his caviar. "Hick, Pal-ey, lets stroll ovah to Rocky's" became his mantra throughout his stay here in Chicago, through his career as an Air Force Surgeon and to his recent call from Texas.  " Rocky's . . .I still get all weepy on that place."

Me too.

I miss alot of the great things that made this town - neighborhood saloons with one choice of draft beer and that great cork smell from the beer soaked and reuseable cork or wood pulp coasters; mom and pop stores, dime stores. butcher markets, pop in bottles, Ward bosses who not only tool a few envelopes, but the time to listen to complaints of anyone in their fiefdom and five very different newspapers who hired good writers.

I love Chicago.  I liked it better when it was a town.

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