[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #9 in November 2009]
I was born smack dab in the middle of the Great Baby Boom,
Nineteen Fifty-Three, with the H-Bomb and Josef Stalin’s death.
The fourth of seven children, for which I shared a room,
So the Sixties came on quick – Vietnam and crystal meth.
I went to Orchard Hill Kindergarten Farm School.
Now Oak Forest wants to raze their buildings,
So they can no doubt make a financial killing.
My friends still live there! This isn’t cool!
I suppose it’s time to start another grassroots campaign,
We’ll have to fight the sprawl mongers all over again.
This ugly socio-economic pattern keeps repeating itself,
Greedy bastards are always putting farmers on the shelf.
Let’s ease on down the road to today’s nightmare situation.
We had “duck and cover,” Camelot and near nuclear extinction.
Brains blown into the lap of our finely dressed first lady,
And then everything quickly got real, real shady.
While we were trying to groove on the Beach Boys
And find out what the Beatles and Stones were all about,
The war got hot and some of the older lads got deployed.
A thousand deaths a day made it sure look like a rout.
“Why were we in Vietnam?” That’s a good question!
To kill lots of people, obviously, but for what?
The reason was never provided in our mainstream lessons.
Anyone with a conscience was hit hard – right in the gut.
We didn’t know anything and we were in lily-white suburbia.
What were we supposed to do with our fragile young lives?
Well, we could sing “Up with People!” in glorious a cappella,
Or spit the bit, smoke pot, take acid and hang out in dives.
It’s a helluva way to “come of age” but what are you going to do?
We divided ourselves up into socialites, greasers, jocks and heads.
Everyone was alienated so we all ended smoking the Boo.
A few of us sought a real life education, to supplement the meds.
There was a “generation gap” against us, our parents and the cops.
Growing up in Tinley, I must say, we pulled out all the stops!
So when our campfires were rudely raided in our cozy woods,
Someone would toss some bullets down, which wasn’t all that good.
Alcoholism, suicides and drug addiction would be the fruits.
For good measure the state would make us prisoners, too.
It was kind of cute, to see your friends in court without a suit.
But what about life and love and raising a family or two?
For a brief while, the city did give us some genuine direction.
We’d empty the high school and head down to the loop.
Gigantic anti-war rallies traded exhilaration for intoxication.
You don’t feel so atomized amidst an anti-authoritarian group.
But even after the world watched the week-long battle of Chicago,
Where even my Dad got tear-gassed (and he was a delegate, too!)
Shoot to kill, shoot to maim, in the late sixties, things got really dark.
It led to the horrific assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.
We had an Iranian exchange student, who we invited into our gang.
He was the son of a two-star general in the Shah’s army, no less!
His name was Bahram Salimi, but everyone called him Sirhan Sirhan.
He got a helluva “education” because everything was such a mess!
I went to college in 1971, but quickly dropped out in the spring of ’72.
Nixon and Kissinger bombed Cambodia (again) and all schools struck.
I stayed on strike, packed a bag and with a buddy, decided to truck!
“Higher education” at this time of turmoil, just wasn’t the thing to do!
For two years, I lived in barns, in communes or in somebody’s basement.
I’d sleep by the side of the road, with ants crawling all over my face.
I had to get the taste out of my brain of such a shallow, scripted placement.
I’d live my life for myself as a free-thinking man, at my own frenetic pace.
But I came back to the south suburbs of Chicago, the only “home” I knew.
I got a job and I got a wife. Then we got a house and a cat or two.
In Hazel Crest I would live from 1977 until 1990, in isolated angst.
I still wrote, while I played the game and hung out with my finks.
I switched wives in 86 and this one was a real live keeper!
We had a boy in 88. I still remember his baby blue sleeper.
So we moved to rural Monee so he could live in nature,
And that was the beginning of my ultra active future.
I quickly learned we had moved into a place called “The Footprint.”
And that the state and various corrupt politicians wanted our land.
Of course, the sellers and the realtors gave us no hint,
But the deal was they were scheming on a gigantic airport plan.
The whole of Eastern Will County would be totally transmogrified.
Never mind about the several generation farms and rolling terrain.
These business and politicos wanted their own cash cow gravy train.
Another slight problem was that the airlines were absolutely mortified.
This had been going on since the late sixties – this target on our backs.
Thought up by a State Senator named Aldo DeAngelis and his hacks.
They wanted their own O’Hare / Tollway patronage bonanza, too!
A group called R.U.R.A.L. was ongoing to challenge these fools.
My wife got me to go back to college and I became Valedictorian.
During my speech I ripped the government and their airport plans.
Afterwards, a visibly pissed and shaken president seemed disoriented.
It took all he had to keep my throat from his sweating hands!
Then, in early ’98, the shit just hit the proverbial fan.
The Crete-Monee School District had blundered into bankruptcy.
And two of our grade schools would supposedly, soon be closed.
A powwow of big shots, underscored this abject idiocy.
In four days’ time we quickly gathered a group of seventy-five,
To go off on these bastards, outside the Matteson Holiday Inn.
Gov. Ryan, Rep. Weller and Henry Hyde would shuck and jive
With the newcomer to this group – Congressman Jesse Jackson.
With our children and homes besieged at the same time
We were more than a little vocal, as you can well imagine.
At one point we barged into the lobby, to heat up the clime.
They made maids block our way to those political chickens!
We decided to up the ante and create a new, more active group
I named it STAND – Shut This Airport Nightmare Down!
I would now no longer be out of the anti-airport loop.
I would provide ideas, energy, action, sight and sound!
With a small group of other dedicated activists, we plotted,
To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
So, a detailed explanation was in order of how things rotted.
We became sources of information and set up a booth.
I used my d.i.y. ethics and a growing aptitude for the brochure
Anti-Airport Alert #1 was hot off the press and available in quantity!
The church where the farmers bought them for a handshake and a dollar,
Had the lobby festooned with posters about all of this insanity.
The three hundred families of R.U.R.A.L. were soon to grow
As we fanned out through these towns, holding teach-ins, you know.
Taking names and mailing newsletters, then our own newspaper,
I edited The Rural Standard – to catch up on the latest capers.
As we learned the issues and made the connections of those we met
We realized how this airport fight is but one point from this same set.
The Afrikan folks in Hopkins Park, fighting against a women’s prison
With their Maroon consciousness (and newsletter) gave us the reason.
Just as they are stuck in a hardscrabble area because of their skin
So too is the rest of the area, Chicago, state, country and world.
Robbins, Markham, Phoenix, Ford Heights are poorest in the land.
It’s a politically connected corporate assault on the boys and girls.
Chicago activists like to talk big, but accomplish little, or so it seems.
Seeing so many in the sixties, but few today, shattered my dreams.
I go down there and there are more ninja turtle cops than protesters.
New York has a half a million in an anti-war demo and we have 15,000.
We went to countless meetings, we organized and came downtown.
The Southside Punks would bang on buckets to create a ruckus all around.
We’d go to Springfield and barge in on the governor.
We weren’t afraid to spit it out, here or there!
One night we brought two boxcar taggers to paint a mural over.
It was on the side of a trailer from a nearby milk farm.
A gorgeous piece of a little kid standing up to a bulldozer!
I read them anti-government poems and other calls and alarms.
I hooked up with some farmers and we made some crop circles
We cut out a giant airplane in a field – with a circle and slash.
“No Fly Zone Over Peotone” was the headline of the front-page article.
All it took was a thinking through, a desire and eight dollars cash.
Three of them, in hay, alfalfa and soy beans gave the world a look-see.
My Sister said “Hey, Tony! I saw your NO AIRPORT thing in the paper.”
“It’s great to hear your voice, Sister! Where might you be?” (Copenhagen)
I took some pictures in a powered parachute, to save for later.
That amazing mural on wheels, we put in our parade, which was cool.
The whole town came out to tell the world how we felt.
We were showered with love all the way to the high school.
We explained again in a big assembly to all the children and adults.
Then we caravanned the truck and parked it in front of the Capitol.
We rushed in and held a news conference, denouncing those around us.
Like people in the city, those in Springfield, have no Peotone clue.
The demagoguery of Jackson is what the editorialists and politicians trust.
We marched in solidarity with city folks being forced out of their homes,
As Daley and his plotters decided to destroy the miserable high rises.
We do know, because a lot of those people were forced down here to roam.
Chicago Heights, – you name it. The suburbs are mean, too! Drama arises!
With no money and no jobs and so many recently incarcerated
How are these communities supposed to function while they wait?
The “pie in the sky” airport with decent jobs is not to be actuated,
No matter how much money is wasted and how many are hated.
It’s a stalemate situation, with the state taking a few plots of land
But we’re still here and here is where we will continue to STAND!
Because the more you learn about a situation, such as this,
You develop a resolve against the state, not to be dismissed.