Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Save the Colt!

Wednesday, December 7, 2005, Wednesday Journal of OP


Remembering Colt ... Talk of the Colt building these days brings back a cherished boyhood memory, when Dear Old Dad would take us on the Lake Street car to go and see it. We’d get off at Marion and walk the half block west and stop to gaze and gasp.

Dad would put his arm on my shoulder and say, "There it is, Jim, the building time forgot." I never forgot.

"It’s art deco," he said many times. I didn’t have the gumption to ask what that was but knew it was special.

The whole family would go. We’d take our lunch and munch it while watching from across the street. Sometimes the peanut butter would not go down easily, as a certain constriction took over the throat—constriction at construction, of a truly wonderful building.

How different today, when to stand on that spot is to witness another construction in progress, of luxury condominiums for big spenders who one day might walk the New Street to Metra—will they call it "New," making every other street sound old?—and while they’re at it will help fund police, fire and trash-collection services beyond our dreams, not to mention schools, parks, and library.

But there are days when I could care less about that, when I look at such an ugly construction site and think that one day such would occur on the ruins of our beloved Colt.

Even today I meet or hear of visitors from abroad who have heard about our Colt and want to see it. "We came to see the Colt," they say, and are aghast at the news that the village quibbles at spending five-plus million to buy and restore it. They return to their native lands shaking their heads.

One can only ask, plaintively, is there a Cicero in our midst who can stand up and ask, "How long, how long, Oh Taxman, will you abuse our patience with your regressive views on Colt, insisting on the letter of a contract imprudently signed by village fathers and mothers a few short months ago?"

Is there a Balzac who can sprinkle our walls with a reproachful "J’accuse!"—thus to finger the perpetrators of sacrilege in our midst? And for what? To enlarge our tax base!

Finally, is there a Patrick Henry who can tell our burgesses, as he told those of Virginia about something else in 1775, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Colt or give me nothing!"? I ask you.

Weaponry ... Meanwhile, on another front entirely, a soft but persistent voice suggests to some citizens that even with excellent emergency response by police, there may be something walkers and riders can do to fend off harm. With that in mind, they consider gaps in Oak Park’s weapons ordinances.

There’s no mention of Mace, pepper spray, stun gun, or Taser. Knife and blackjack are mentioned only in connection with pawnbrokers, who must not keep either around. Air gun or bow-and-arrow or any other projectile-firing mechanism are ruled out for use, except arrows on a range supervised by the board of ed or park district—Ridgeland Commons on a slow day?—and blanks fired on stage, presumably for scary or other effect.

That leaves Mace, pepper spray, stun gun, Taser, knife, blackjack. The pepper sprays are good for eight feet, says TBO Tech-dot-com, the Taser for 15, the stun gun for no feet: you have to touch someone to stun him. It comes disguised as umbrella or flashlight or something else if the citizen wishes. Years ago on the West Side, a friend of mine in the projects said she had a friend who had to wait at night for a bus at Halsted and Lake. In her muff she hid a small pistol. The man who asked her for a match was a dead man. Maybe a spray or Taser shot would do it now, even in Oak Park.

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