Wretched Refuse | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Private Eye

Wretched Refuse


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In 1981, during my all-too-brief time as a Chicago resident, I was introduced to many things: Blues music. Steve Goodman. The word "yuppie." Chicago dogs. Deep dish pizza. A new disease called "Gay cancer," later to be known as AIDS. I saw my first alternative newspaper, Chicago Reader. I could easily walk to Wrigley Field, so I did, to see the Cubs. I learned about public housing. I ate my first chocolate-dipped strawberry.

I worked for a country music magazine called CountryStyle, so I'd flit all over town in my Levi's 501s, a denim shirt and a really pretty Charlie One Horse cowboy hat. I was considered a fine country swing dancer in a couple of the trendy country bars that had sprung up through the city on the heels of the Urban Cowboy movie craze, on the simple predication that I didn't need dance lessons. My job even led me to have a couple VO and waters with Mickey Gilley, whose legendary Texas nightclub helped launch Chicago's fondness for all things John Travolta and Debra Winger. It was a fun time to be in Chicago.

Among the places I never entered, though, was Second City, the famous improv comedy club on Wells Street that launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner and two sets of brothers: John and Jim Belushi and Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray. I must have walked by Second City a dozen times and never entered. However, one night, some new friends—most certainly introduced to me at a brie and white wine tasting somewhere in Old Town or Lincoln Park—announced they were given the password to enter a secret little bar across the street from Second City, supposedly owned and frequented by either John Belushi or Bill Murray.

So, we went. Outside the bar, we huddled and cautioned each other not to ogle because whoever came in would certainly be a big star and just like us, they needed their private time. Once inside, it was clear that if privacy were sought, privacy was gotten because no one was there except us and some guy playing pinball. The guy playing pinball was either Jim Belushi or Brian-Doyle Murray. I only remember it was the brother of someone famous, and I chose them. And it doesn't matter at all because this is all just a long introduction as to who it wasn't: It wasn't Bill Murray.

At the same time, I was in the secret club—and Bill Murray wasn't—he was starring in the movie Stripes. I'll always recall the motivational speech given by Murray to his fellow sloppy band of recruits before their graduation march, where he said, "We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans with a capital A, huh! You know what that means, don't you? That means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We're the wretched refuse. We're the underdogs. We're mutts!"

Few truer words were ever spoken. I'm just now watching the U.S. Senate taking testimony from an underdog, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force—a man loved or reviled predicated upon whichever you trust more with your life, medical science or the contents of a common bleach bottle. Fauci's credentials include being the leader of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Moments ago, Fauci was questioned by a mutt, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, himself a dubiously certified doctor. If you're a member of the political left, you witnessed Fauci patiently dissect Paul with calm fact, reason and science. If you're an adherent of the political right, you saw Paul stand up to the Man, speak for all Americans who think surviving coronavirus is not worth the hassle and who just want to enter Costco without a facemask.

If he had starred in the movie Stripes, Rand Paul would've been cast as the unlikeable, smarmy, military officer who refuses to believe he is not better than everyone else. Unlike the troopers surrounding Murray during his movie speech, Paul is impervious to the truth that he, too, derives of bloodlines that couldn't cut it in Europe. Paul is afraid of that truth and refuses to embrace it lest he have to admit he is also a common man, though he can't ever be one. Paul is nothing without his ever-present arrogance, for it is downright arrogant for a failed eye doctor like himself to say to Fauci, "I don't think you're the end all. I don't think you're the one person who gets to make a decision"

Fauci responded that he is a medical scientist and doesn't make economic decisions. Fauci also reminded Paul that it was too early to tell if persons in meat-packing plants who have recovered from COVID-19 can safely return to work and that no one is certain if children are immune from contracting the virus—especially given the alarming news from New York City pointing exactly opposite.

Between those two we all have to decide if it's safe to go back to "normal." I've spent the past two months in Salt Lake City, and nothing is normal. Nor will it be until it's 1981 again. Americans don't want stats. Americans want their health, freedom, truth and safety. Other countries have that during this crisis. We are failing. We need Bill Murray to remind us that although we are all wretched refuse, we are all Americans with a capital A, and it's time to pull together because sure as hell, our dear leader in the White House is fully incapable of doing that.

Send feedback to john@cityweekly.net


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