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From the Vault of Art Shay: The More Things Change

By Staff in News on Mar 2, 2011 5:00PM

Politics has descended to signs and portents, all of us being pulled by the lapels — real or symbolic — into one camp or another with the big prize being election. In the Jewish shopping ghettos of Chicago and New York, the word for the worker who would drag potential customers into the shops was and still is "schlepper" — the Yiddish word for puller.

Many a Yiddish joke is centered on schlepping. My favorite: potential customer schlepped into Maxwell Street shop is offered a suit not quite his size (and costing too much for his budget anyway). "Your competitor across the street," he lobbies, "sells my size - and for only $22."

"So why didn't you buy it there?"

"Because he's out of stock."

"When I'm out of stock I sell it for $17.50."

Customer schleps himself out the door into the grasp of other schleppers.

Our recent orgy of Daley replacement saw schlepping at its operational best and worst. That precious miasmic political atmosphere, TV time, was wooed, won, lost and mostly bought by candidates with a good grasp on the technique, if not the lapels of their candidates and their opponents.

Rahm rumbled through the train stations. Like bank robber Willie Sutton, who explained his predilection for banks by stating matter-of-factly that's where the money was, Rahm appeared on platform after platform of people. His non-white foes showed up wherever visibility was likely to underline the fact that Emanuel's skin was embarrassingly white.

Paint shop and home made signs dueled for our eyes and the lenses of our TV news cameras. Why pay for TV time when a cute child suddenly jumps up for a candidate to kiss while the camera zooms in? Did you ever see an NBC halftime closeup of a buxom, half-clad co-ed holding a sign saying, "CBS is Tops?"

Me, either.

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Nelson Algren's Chicago, is also available at Amazon.