With restraint, it is possible to limit one’s order at Lezza’s in Elmhurst to what is pictured here. Plus two cannoli. And a pint of spumoni.

Photo by Neil Steinberg

Cut your bitterness with cookies

If you’re attending the DeSantis rally in Elmhurst Monday, at least slide by Lezza’s bakery to remind yourself that life isn’t all bad.

Elmhurst lures; it entices. Even on an ordinary day, just driving down 294, going somewhere else, it takes an act of will to pass by Elmhurst.

I see that green “ELMHURST” exit sign and have to fight the urge to pull off and hurry over to Lezza Spumoni & Desserts on Spring Road and ... well, it’s embarrassing. Stock up on mind-blowing spumoni and little white boxes of powder-sugar-kissed cannoli and big white boxes of biscotti and lemon knots and wedding cookies.

So when I heard that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to speak in Elmhurst on Monday — talk about a fish out of water story — the urge to head to Elmhurst is strong.

Opinion bug


But head over where? Yes, Elmhurst, but it’s big, for a little place. The problem, of course, is not only are journalists not invited to the Floridian fascist’s jamboree, but the public isn’t invited either.

DeSantis nudged Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 cappo John Catanzara, who discreetly invited his buddies to gather somewhere in Elmhurst to listen to the Sunshine State Savonarola. Who, if he stays true to form, will be heaping abuse on the far right’s designated villains of the moment: trans people, history teachers and whoever makes up the stuffed tackling dummy of their midnight fears.

Hence the secrecy. I like to think they’re privately ashamed — it’s the optimist in me. But the more likely motivation is it just won’t do to have the very untermenschen you are trying to purge from both the present and the past show up at your lawn party to wave signs and express their disapproval of your brand of backwater demagoguery.

Not that a protest is really necessary: The bare fact that DeSantis can safely expect the Chicago Police Department to show up en masse, to nod solemnly at the woes they are forced to endure by living in a society that tolerates those other than themselves, is condemnation aplenty. That Chicago police can be relied upon to cheer Trump 2.0 on is an indictment of the CPD culture more eloquent than 100 liberals could dream up.

Journalists live to poke their big bazoos into places they aren’t invited. If I learned of a klan rally, I’d want to eyeball another group famously uncomfortable with public scrutiny. As April approaches, I find myself musing if this year I should try to finagle my way into the birthday party for Hitler that occasional congressional candidate Arthur Jones holds.

Can’t you just see it? The big Nazi flag thumbtacked on a wood grain paneled wall in some low-ceiled Cicero basement. The red and black frosted cake from Jewel with “Happy Birthday Adolf!” spelled out in chunky sugar letters. The off-key refrain, “Happy birthday mein führrrrrrer! Happy birth, day, to yooooooooo!” Call me, Arthur. I’ll bring ice cream.

With DeSantis, the truth is I don’t need to be there. You just know that some officer will record the thing on his iPhone and toss it on Twitter, either proudly or obliviously, and there will DeSantis be talking about how, boo-hoo, poor hard-working white folk get a raw deal in America, and isn’t it high time to stand up to all these pushy immigrants and freaky trans school athletes and uppity public school teachers.

I shouldn’t make fun of the police. It must be terrible to be that afraid. So twitchy, they let themselves be played by an out-of-town sharpie like DeSantis. An ivory tower toff who graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School.

The drumbeat against Black history and trans kids and migrant workers is just chum in the water to gather the support of groups like the FOP Lodge 7 and get them to demand that taxes be cut for the rich while their grandmas’ Social Security gets slashed.

Maybe a few of those officers, after applauding their palms raw for DeSantis, will swing by Lezza’s and load up on cookies. Please do. To snake your hand into that box on the drive home, snagging a chocolate nut or a butter amaretti.

Suddenly, the possibilities of life open up and the world seems a kinder, better place, where no one need be feared or demonized, even if they have the wrong color or gender identification.

Of course, I feel that way all the time, cookies or no. But after all that DeSantis bitterness, some sweets are certainly in order.

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