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Columnist
Waiting for Blago in courthouse of the absurd
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/20/2010 10:56 PM

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Nothing to be done.

We wait. We are bored. We can't go. We are waiting for Blago.

Impeached, indicted and incessantly reminding people that he craves his chance to tell the truth in court, former Governor Rod Blagojevich is thought to be ready to take the stand Tuesday in his government corruption trial. A few suburbanites are among the early morning crowd waiting for Blago.

"I messed up. I didn't get here until about 7 a.m.," sighs Roberta Frederick, 67, a retired nurse who lived in Schaumburg for 24 years, and is stuck waiting in line in vain for a shot at getting into a packed courtroom where Blago is expected to testify. "I want to hear him on the stand. He has a certain spice."

Good. A diversion comes along about 9:30 a.m.

"Hello, something going on here today?" Blago says with a grin as he knifes through the crowd and enters the courtroom.

About three dozen spectators who lined up outside the Dirksen Federal Building by 6:30 a.m. get tickets (often called "effen-golden tickets") to the spectacle.

Everyone else must wait, and wait, and wait.

"Should we go?" a woman says to her friend as she shrugs. But they wait.

Nothing to be done.

Legendary newspaper columnist and author Jimmy Breslin must wait even though he is famous. Sometime after 10 a.m., Deb Mell, Patti Blagojevich's sister, comes out of the courtroom to grab the 79-year-old writer and sit him on a bench with family, where Blago can pat Breslin gently on the back and offer him a plastic bottle of water, which he declines.

"I missed my express train," says retired pilot Floyd Johnson, 73, of Glen Ellyn, who waits in line. "So I got here 45 minutes later than I wanted."

The people are waiting for Blago.

"Every day, it's in the Daily Herald, so I took an interest in the case," says line-waiter Pat Pontrelli, 71, a retired truck driver from Arlington Heights who has spent so many days at this trial, the Blagojeviches call him by name. "I became good friends with Rod and Rob and Patti."

Still, Pontrelli waits with the others.

"You got some people for him and some people are against him," says Pontrelli, who supports Blago.

We are all born mad. Some remain so. A waiting woman speaks up from the midst of nothingness to pick fights with everyone about President Obama, immigrants, young people, voting, our rights and whatever opinions need correcting. She even confronts Rod Blagojevich about all the bad language he used on phone calls that were taped, and Blago's brother says, "I'm sorry. I apologize."

Another woman furiously scribbles notes about Rob Blagojevich's testimony in a large spiral notebook. She writes "$6 million," circles it, and then goes over it again with a highlighter. She says she's taking such exhaustive notes so she can know what she's talking about if she ever finishes that argument about Blago she had with an old high school classmate.

"At first, I think people thought we were cuckoo," says another woman, clearly confident that no longer can be the case. "I'm 'Blagogirl' and my mom is 'Blagomom.' My mom will come back when he's acquitted."

Nothing to be done.

"It's a part of history," says Gene Zalewski, 71, a retired school superintendent who took the 5:33 a.m. train near his home in Elgin and still didn't arrive early enough to start off his morning in the courtroom.

While we all are waiting for Blago, some are blessed to find things to pass the time.

"It's interesting to see the different people, so many personalities," Johnson says.

"We connected with the people from yesterday like we're old buddies," says Frederick, who hooks up with a kindred spirit from Winnetka as they discover happiness in people-watching.

Blago emerges at lunch and tells a group of school kids near the elevator that "righteousness shall exalt the king," or something similar that makes him sound righteous and exalted.

Then something really does happen.

Almost everyone has gone when Zalewski gets into the courtroom for the end of Rob Blagojevich's testimony and a surprise call for adjournment.

"It was great," Zalewski says before he heads to the lobby and stands next to Breslin at an impromptu news conference.

Perhaps today, we all will wait again for Blago. As for now, yes, let's go.