Chapter 59: “You belong to the city!” –Glenn Frey

“You belong to the city,” Glenn Frey’s single hit in the 1980s, best describes the “sad” state of employees of the city of Chicago as Chicago requires that all employees live within the city’s limits.

So what percentage of city workers live in Chicago? Let me provide a hint: Chicago’s employees are clever–like Chicago politicians. Actually, I don’t know the answer to that question, but neither does the city of Chicago.

All Chicagoans know friends and family who work for the city but who live in the suburbs. Why would you want to live on the West Side when you could live in Winnetka?

For Chicagoans, it’s fun to watch the cat-and-mouse game between city inspectors and its employees. “Suburban” city employees all have shadow residences in the city, either owned by one’s cousins or one’s mistress. Suffice it to say, it’s safer to have the “shadow residence” with one’s cousin. More about that later!

City employees boast utilities bills, phone bills–all in their name to prove Chicago residency. When accused, they plop down their bills featuring the address of their shadow residence. City inspectors are relentless but dumb. Les Miz’s Inspector Javert was less relentless with Jean Valjean. They frequently call in the evenings or sometimes even in the middle of the night innocently asking for Tony Pasquale, for example.

” Tony’s not here right now. May I take a message?” You know it’s a city inspector when he refuses to leave a call back number or hangs up before you finish your message. Plus, it’s usually the same guy who calls.

“Yo, Tony, just to let you know, a city inspector just called,” cousin Gianni reports.

The inspector catches Tony at home as often as he gets to talk to Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. But, Tony’s safe as long as he can present his utilities bills in his name to a panel of inquiry.

One city worker I know did get caught. Let’s call him Mimmo. (Mimmo is not Calabrese because no Calabrese would be this stupid.) Mimmo breaks up with his mistress whose address happens to be the address of Mimmo’s shadow residence. Mistake #1. Mimmo’s mistress is vindictive. Mistake #2. Mistake #3 goes like this . . .

“Is Mimmo Guzzi there?” a mechanical voice inquires in the most nasal of Chicago accents.

“No”, responds the ex, “he’s at home with his wife and children in Winnetka. Would you like his number?”

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About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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