If anyone embodies Chicago’s grit, humor, verve, and vitality, it’s artist, writer, actor, and budding ornithologist Tony Fitzpatrick. From his fiery takedowns of Rahm in Newcity to his quiet reminiscences of fishing for smelt in Lake Michigan, Fitzpatrick is the quintessential orator of the Third Coast. Here, an excerpt from his new collection, The Secret Birds, which pairs his etchings and essays.
Peregrine falcons nest in the tall buildings all over the city and are fairly surrounded by an endless supply of pigeons to feast upon. I watched this firsthand one day. I was walking across Daley Plaza when I saw an explosion of feathers about 50 feet over my head. It looked like a pillow had exploded. The luckless pigeon dropped to the plaza and the peregrine had spread her wings over her kill and proceeded to chow down on some squab. Pedestrians gave her a wide berth; some stopped to watch quietly, grateful they’d not been born a pigeon. I noticed all of the other pigeons got the fuck out of the plaza in a big hurry and nobody got within 20 feet of her while she ate. Peregrines are damn-near a perfect symbol for our city, in their beauty and cruelty. Chicago is that kind of city; you can hang on the cross, or you can pound in the nails.
GO: The Secret Birds runs May 12 to August 21 at the DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Free. museums.depaul.edu