December 20, 2012
The lack of measurable snowfall is but another sign of the apocalypse, yet snow it will and soon, and when it does, there is one thing you must understand.
There are no Dibs in Chicago unless Judge Dibs™ declares Dibs.
And I am Judge Dibs™, keeper of the Dibstitution™, the sacred text that guides us in the quaint Chicago street parking tradition loved the world over by free people.
But the snow that's forecast for Thursday isn't likely to be deep enough. So beware, lest you incur my wrath and that of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will soon receive me as an emissary, delivering a gorgeous portrait of "The Rahmfather."
City Hall knows that only when I call Dibs may you then mark your shoveled-out parking spots with milk crates, two-by-fours and other junk, maybe even four 50-pound sacks of monosodium glutamate. But not yet, my friends. Not yet.
Only if the snow requires much shoveling may you haul out your broken strollers, spoiled lava lamps, smashed speakers and mom's kitchen chairs. Violate the Dibstitution™ and you may contemplate your sins on the Tree of Woe.
"Yes, Judge Dibs™," said a man, rather meekly.
And you are?
"I'm Mike Brown, and you've subpoenaed me. Please be merciful, Judge Dibs."
Hmm. We shall see.
"I really like the whole Dibs thing," he said.
Brown, 41, a North Side real estate investor, isn't your average Dibs fan. He's thrilled by the rough justice that allows Chicagoans to shovel out a parking spot, then claim the fruit of their labor.
Brown and his friend Sandy DeLisle have also written a thoroughly entertaining book called "Dibs Chicago: The Winter Phenomenon of Parking Spot Saving."
And I'm not getting a dime.
He's charging $15 a copy — a steal at any price — and you can get it online or at the State Restaurant in Lincoln Park. Brown spent five years driving across the city, photographing weird Dibs junk, like the smirking penguin, a crazed Winnie the Pooh in a garbage can and the Streets & San Dibs House, with official city cones.
Brown also found truly strange Dibs markers: four 50-pound sacks of MSG.
"I found them in Belmont-Cragin," Brown said. "That's 200 pounds of Dibs, enough to last all of China for a month. You wouldn't want to mess with that person's space."
Never. Such a Dibser could crush your head like a pea.
Then I fell silent.
"Is something wrong, Judge Dibs™?"
Kinda, I said, telling him that his book didn't give me absolute credit for inventing the term "Dibs," which others have begrudgingly done. He wrote that "some" credit me.
"Won't happen again, Judge Dibs™."
But what really frosts my robes, Mr. Brown, is that I stupidly didn't cash in on the Beer Can Chicken craze, which I helped promote. Later, Williams-Sonoma made a fortune selling chicken roasters at highly inflated prices. And now you come out with a Dibs book, when I should have done it. I'm stoopid, right?
"Oh, no, Judge Dibs™, you're not stupid," he said. "I self-published this."
He's not stupid either, hoping to make a profit but promising to give some of the proceeds to charities. These include St. Jude Children's research, the Danny Did Foundation dedicated to stopping epilepsy-related deaths in children and another charity for cats. So two out of three is not bad.
"Don't be angry. I could make it up to you," Brown said.
"I'll be your bailiff in the Court of Dibs and shout, 'All rise!' and like that."
Great idea. Every judge needs a bailiff. So I questioned him.
Do you wear a Rolex?
"I bought one underneath the 'L' on Wabash and paid 20 bucks. Does that count?" Brown asked.
Do you own cars that your meager bailiff's salary couldn't possibly cover — say, a couple of new Bentleys and Corvettes with vanity license plates from the Illinois secretary of state?
"No, your honor," he said.
Not good. Not good. At least, do you own silk suits and hang out on the Viagra Triangle, and believe the people laughing at your jokes think you're funny and amusing?
"Unfortunately, no," Brown said. "Sorry. I don't even have the special loafers. I guess I can't be your bailiff then."
Someday, my lad. If your book catches on.
The good thing is that Brown has the soul, and mucho Dibs in his heart.
"Dibs is all about a Chicagoan putting forth the effort, or, as you have said, you could have your wife or significant other do the shoveling so you won't get a heart attack, as long as you're doing nothing but drinking something tasty. Like a sambuca."
Or a hot toddy or hot-buttered rum.
He also understands the severe breach of etiquette when someone disregards your legit Dibs. Or when some loser claims Dibs before snow falls.
"It's all about etiquette," Brown said. "You can't be aggressive. Or, as The Dude said in 'The Big Lebowski,' 'This aggression will not stand, man.'"
Yes, exactly. The Dude. The Dude would understand Dibs and the consequences of flaunting Dibs. The Dude could have been another Judge Dibs™.
"So do you like my book?" asked Brown.
Yes, I said. And what happens if it sells?
"Judge Dibs™ will visit me and tap me on the shoulder?"
"And Judge Dibs™ will be looking for a cut?"
Who can say? But Dibs is Chicago. And I'm Judge Dibs™.
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