Now that former Ald. Ed Vrdolyak finally looks destined to see the inside of a prison cell -- and not just while visiting old pals -- I find that one quip he once made to our columnist Mike Sneed keeps coming back to me:
"Hey, not even fishing is on the square."
Vrdolyak is a fascination, always has been. He's rich. He's powerful. He's got his health. So why has he lived a life of looking for the angles, cutting corners, dealing from the bottom of the deck?
In his own effort to explain what makes Fast Eddie tick, a federal prosecutor in court ruminated that Vrdolyak went for the easy money, in the scam he cooked up with fellow conspirator Stuart Levine, just because "he could." But that hardly gets to the man's apparent comfort with playing loose with legal niceties.
My guess is that the sarcastic remark to Sneed says it all. Vrydolyak's world view -- honed from growing up above a tavern in a tough neighborhood, watching his old man scrape to get by, seeing the rich swells on Lake Shore Drive with their privileged pedigrees -- is that a regular guy has to hustle a little harder and a little more in the shadows in order to compete.
It's a view that says only a chump believes the world is on the up-and-up, that the wealthy society crowd strung like pearls along the lakefront cut plenty of corners, too -- that's how they got to where they are. Their scams are just more sophisticated, involving more powerful contacts, better accountants and better lawyers.
Does that explain Vrdolyak? You tell me.
Better yet, tell me whether he's wrong.