Thursday, February 14, 2008

...And We All Know What THAT Means!

Well, no. Although, let it be said, the infamous raid by Al Capone's gang on his illicit-alcohol business rival "Bugs" Moran's warehouse was really a brilliant piece of work.

Two out-of-town triggermen were dressed as Chicago policemen; two others, as plain-clothes police officers. This day in 1929, the masquerade party drove up to Moran's alky warehouse, on North Clark Street, and announced a police raid. Moran's foot soldiers were not terribly upset; such raids were common practice in Prohibition-era Chicago. They'd be taken to the nearest police station, booked on charges of making and selling illegal alcohol, then bailed out almost immediately by Moran's lieutenants. Everyone, in fact, was relaxed until the "police" lined them up against a wall, pulled sub-machine guns from under their coats, and proceeded to slaughter seven members of the Moran operation. In an additional act of brilliance, the two uniformed "officers" then pretended to "arrest" the two plain-clothes men. Thus, any witnesses to the incident may or may not have heard gunfire, but saw two "criminals" under "police" control! Simply brutal, but brutally brilliant.

No, actually the event on the table is St. Valentine's Day, the day for lovers [although, if they can, lovers should try to make EVERY day like St. Valentine's Day]. While the day is celebrated in many parts of the world, very few people know the story of St. Valentine. Actually, February 14th celebrates two early Catholic bishops who shared that name. The reason that the day is revered by lovers comes down to the actions of one of those bishops. Reputedly, he heard a young girl crying one day as he was travelling around his city. She was in love, but because her two older sisters were still single, she could not marry the man she loved. Bishop [not yet Saint] Valentine decided he could best help by providing dowries for the two spinsters.

Let's pause here for a moment, and concider the dowry. It implied [and still does, in those parts of the world where the practice is still followed] that women, in and of themselves had no value; however, if the price was right, a lucky young man would think about taking her off a father's hand. Further, just where did Valentine get the money for two doweries? One hopes it didn't come from the church's stores; that should have been used for the poor, and to operate the church [By the way, the father wasn't poor, according to the story. Just incredibly cheap].

Anyway, Valentine was able, by throwing bags of gold through an open window, to provide the "bride-price" for the two older sisters [Personally, I think he was taking a huge risk; if the father was as cheap as the story makes him out to be, why wouldn't he just keep the money for himself?]. Then, wanting to make sure his time and money to date was not wasted, he tried to deliver a dowry for the youngest daughter. But the father, who had become accustomed to seeing bags of gold flying through his windows, caught Valentine in mid-toss. He became the bishop's most prominent partisan, telling and retelling the story until people must have been just plain sick of it.
Then again, his daughters were married off, so what else did he have to talk about?

(By the way, neither of these stories is meant to imply that I don't like the idea of Valentine's Day. But the inevitable cynics out there who feel that the whole thing was inflated by flower stores and card companies may be on to something)

Anyway, I hope that you, as I, have someone to love who loves you as if you were a part of them [If The Woman I Love happens to read this today, that would be you. I am frankly unworthy of such an overwhelming love, but I thank you, and God, for it each day].

-Mike Riley