There’s a common saying around here, and Chicagoans have doubtless either heard or repeated it. It has two variants, both meaning the same thing: “Civilization starts at Kankakee” or “Civilization starts above I-80.” The state is divisible into three parts: Chicago proper, the collar counties plus (non-Chicago Cook County and the adjacent counties), and downstate.

Downstate isn’t geographical per se. Rockford is north of Chicago, but it’s downstate because it’s “shitty.” If a place isn’t in the Chicago metro region, it’s downstate, and therefore shitty. I am surprised we haven’t moved to reinforce the Fox River with legions like the Romans did the Rhine. If we aren’t careful, our glorious Civilization upon Mare Michiganum will be overrun by the Germanic Downstate hordes, and the Chicago River will run brown with dip-spit.

Unfortunately, court-ordered DUI programming has recently forced me into the barbarian lands. In common Roman manner, I was driving home shitfaced after work, missing exit after exit. Before I knew it, I was downstate, beyond the protection of negligent CPD legionaries, and I was set upon by the forces of the barbarians, unaccustomed to the imperial courtesy of letting me go. Despite my Varian courage in the field sobriety test, I was overrun. Quintilius, well-whiskey redde!

However, this situation has presented the rare opportunity to study these people, and in Tacitian fashion, I am obliged to report back my findings. I have fortuitously found barbarians who speak our language, albeit in a broken manner. First of all, I have discovered that these people do not participate in the public festivals as we do. Laughably, they treat our June festival—the March of the Catamites—as an oddity! The Barbarians have strange customs indeed. Furthermore, instead of Mexicans in trucks, it appears that they have their wives prepare their meals, at least semi-regularly. Of course, this arrangement has resulted in a dearth of HR departments and nonprofit boards in their lands. Perhaps our influence will exhort them to correct their ways. It also appears that a scourge has befell them, and that thousands are dropping dead from opiates. This revelation shocked me. The next time I am at the Union League Club, I will have to inform those members in the pharmaceutical industry that their warehouses must have been raided by the barbarians. I do hope this revelation does not perturb them too greatly.

Thankfully, it seems the various governments (if they can be called that) of the Downstater tribes have taken measures to fight the scourge. I asked one of their kings what they expect of these measures. Forlornly, he anticipated that the eradication of opiates among them would only presage the return of methamphetamines. It appears that there is a dejection amongst them, an indication of the superiority of our own ways. I recommended that adoption of our festivals would lift the spirits of these poor devils, but I fear my sage advice fell on deaf ears.

Addendum: a dear reader has informed me of a John Kass sighting! According to my source, he was last seen supine in Greektown, drinking from the tzatziki tap. However, before my source could apprehend him and return him to his family, Kass had scurried away. I implore my readers to send me more information on this man’s whereabouts. If possible, try to catch him. I am told that a Souvlaki-bait trap has succeeded in the past. If caught, please inform Streets and San.


For all installments of “Transmissions from Chicago,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1