Letter From Milo: Rod Runs Alone

January 10th, 2011

I saw a ghost on Christmas morning. I was standing by my window, drinking a cup of coffee and staring out at the snow-covered street, when I saw the specter run past my house.

It was an odd-looking ghost, tall and lean, with a shock of thick black hair, dressed in skin-tight spandex and wearing gaudy running shoes. I had a hangover that morning and although I had seen this particular apparition around the neighborhood many times, it took a moment for the image to register in my fuzzy mind.

The ghost I saw was actually my neighbor and landsman, our state’s most celebrated politician since Abe Lincoln, the former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

I don’t see Rod as often as I used to, even though he lives a just few blocks away from me. Before his legal troubles began I’d spot him a couple of times a week, most often while he was taking his morning run. He was always friendly, waving, smiling and making some comment as he loped by.

I remember when my youngest daughter first saw Rod, shortly after he began his first term as Governor. She was ten or eleven years old at the time and I had taken her for a walk by the Chicago River on Wilson Avenue. We were standing on the bridge, tossing rocks into the river when Rod came jogging by.

He waved to my daughter, smiled and called out, “How you doing, sweetheart!”

The governor runs alone….

“Who’s that, daddy?” my daughter asked, as Rod continued on his way.

“He’s the Governor, honey. He runs this state.”

“What’s he doing here?”

“He’s our neighbor. He’s got a nice house a few blocks away.”

“Do you like him?”

“Sure, everybody around here likes him. They’re proud to have the governor for a neighbor. He’s like a neighborhood status symbol.”

“So, he must be a famous man?”

“Yes, he is. Another great thing about the Governor is that he’s Serbian, just like your daddy.”

“Daddy, what exactly does a governor do?”

Jokingly, I replied, “I don’t know about other states, but Illinois governors generally end up going to jail.”

“I ruined my own life.” is the opening sentence in Morry Frank’s wonderful novel “Every Young Man’s Dream” and it sums up Rod Blagojevich’s situation perfectly. He had it all – power, fame, respect, a future even brighter than his present – and lost it all because of his own foolishness.

In my opinion, the worst pain people can suffer is the pain they inflict on themselves. Rod has to live with the knowledge that he ruined his own life. It has to be the central fact of his existence. And it must be eating away at him every minute of every day. He may lie to his followers, he may lie to the media, he may lie to a jury, but late at night, when sleep isn’t coming easy and his mind is churning, he knows exactly what happened and who is to blame.

When I saw Rod jogging past my house on that Christmas morning, he seemed insubstantial and transparent, like a fat man who has lost a lot of weight and now bears a ghostly resemblance to his former self. Rod used to be a heavyweight, now he’s a non-entity, more of a sideshow freak than a main attraction.

When Rod was governor and I’d see him on his daily jogs, he was always accompanied by a bodyguard and followed by a trooper in a state police car. He was an important man, a big shot, someone who was pampered and protected 24 hours a day. In his position as Governor of the great state of Illinois he couldn’t even go for a morning run without an armed guard by his side.

Nowadays, Rod runs alone.

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