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The Stony Lonesome: A History Lesson

Feb. 14, 2015 — It is Valentine's Day and I will not be receiving any cards. There will be no phone calls, no visits, declarations of love everlasting, because I — wait for it — got no sweetie. I know, hard to believe, right? I'm sure that not a few of you singletons out there are thinking, jeepers, if a jamoke of his radiance and fabulosity can't wrangle a dame, then what chance have I got? Well, to be fair, I am secreted away in a concrete bunker here in the middle of the Mojave Desert and thus unable to bring to bear the full force of my charm and allure on the female populace. Besides, I did have a girlfriend when I came in here — a pretty good one, too. She thoughtfully chose to sever our association on my birthday last year. I will definitely have some backup auxiliary arms to fall into when the system and I part ways but that one wants no truck with convicts and will not even answer my letters. If you are wondering what sort of woman could sever all ties with a fella upon his entrance into prison and yet remain available to him upon release, I will tell you: a dangerously crazy one.

She was thought unattainable, but they don't call me The Girlfriend Whisperer for nothing. Many have tried and all have fled in fear for the integrity of their genitalia. But I alone stuck it out and she and I have an understanding: I don't say anything when she moves the refrigerator out to the front lawn and she doesn't cut off my johnson when I'm sleeping.

Bottom line here is I am honeyless and that gives me the right, nay the responsibility, the sacred duty, as a cantankerous curmudgeon in training with an axe to grind and a forum to do it in one of two things. One is to embark on an anti-love program in which I hurl buckets of sour grapes at all you romantic saps out there laboring under the delusion that you are anything more than rutting beasts in heat. T'other is to outline a dry, informative account of the history and meaning of Valentine's Day, deconstructing and demystifying it — accomplishing the same objective as Option A but more passive-aggressively. This second route is favored by newspaper columnists (it's like a blogger, only drunker) the world over who view holiday weeks as time off in which they slap together stock paragraphs and call it a day.

I figure, Why not me too? For the past 15 years or so I have given you people A-1 material. I haven't plagiarized, scrimped or phoned it in. You've gotten the rich cream right off the top while the dross goes to the rest of the world (the strain of producing this feature weekly strains my already limited faculties to the point of incipient moronism). Why not go to the Encyclopedia (it's like an Internet, only heavier), gather up a few factoids, cobble up a column-like structure and chuckle evilly as I sit back and count the money? Why not indeed? Just remember, you have been warned. If you want to preserve the magic and continue dwelling in your fanciful ice cream castles, now's the time to depart and go make googly-eyes at your snuggle bunny.

St. Valentine was a North Side society pimp in 1920s Chicago. Born Waldo Xavier Valentine, the "Saint" was an ironic designation given by his stable of multiethnic teenage whores when he purchased a decommissioned nunnery from the city from which to run his operation. A creative and enterprising young panderer, Valentine decided to extend the metaphor by outfitting his harlots in habits and rosaries before sending them on outcalls in the guise of alms gathering missions. The service proved extremely popular particularly among politicians and clergy and St. Valentine became a very wealthy man. He took to dressing in clerical drag himself and even adopted a priestly demeanor, besieging his charges to "go forth and spread the love" as they boarded the streetcar to go ply their trade among the movers and shakers of the Windy City.

The fetching young novitiates were known as "valentines" and hence became part of the lexicon of the day. "Send me a Valentine," a caller to the convent/brothel would say. "322 Rush Street." Businessmen sent each other Valentines in hopes of forging profitable connections; lobbyists sent them to politicians to nudge votes in their direction. Bosses rewarded valued employees with Valentines and it is even said that an enlightened wife or two blessed her husband with a birthday visit from one of the sexy sisters.

The Valentines became known throughout Chicagoland for their cleanliness and (next to godliness!), promptness, pulchritude and discretion. The Saint paid them well and treated them with care and respect and many young women graduating high school with no prospect but marriage to a drunken lout or labor in a clothing factory showed up at the abbey, ready to surrender their souls in Order of the Valentine. Thus did St. Valentine's roll expand and with it his financial holdings. He became a philanthropist and civic leader with strong ties to the Democratic political machine.

In 1923 the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to sanctify Valentine's operation and allow it to operate under the aegis of the Church making it only the third whorehouse that year to be so honored. St. Valentine and his flock had managed to legitimize and sanitize vice and the entire city was better off for it.

Or was it?

Over on the South Side a certain Mr. Alfonse Capone noticed that his prostitution revenues had fallen sharply and in addition had received reports that his army of scabby, scrofulous whores were threatening to organize and stage a walkout. Scarface, never the most benevolent employer, had the entire cadre thrown into the Chicago River with truck parts tied to their necks. Enraged at the loss of income, he assembled a group of enforcers armed with tommy guns who descended en masse on the Valentine convent in the early morning hours of February 14, 1924. In the ensuing carnage, Saint Waldo Valentine was killed along with 17 of his finest novices who selflessly hurled themselves in front of the bullets in a vain yet glorious attempt to save their patron. The remainder of the flock was taken prisoner and removed to Capone's South Side brothels, there to live out their days in syphilitic squalor as they were used up and tossed aside. February 14 was proclaimed by mayoral decree to be Valentine's Day and the bloody events of that day lived on in infamy as the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

The archbishop beseeched the Pope to fast-track the de facto saint's canonization and in early 1925 Waldo X. Valentine became the patron saint of (of course) prostitutes, but also of hairstylists and railroad brakemen.

One day not long after the ceremony, Mayor Aloysius McBoingBoing was sitting in his office, wistfully recalling his joyfull afternoons with the girls of the Valentine order when an idea came to him. He pressed the talk button on his intercom barked, "Lupita! Get in here!" to his secretary. Lupita scurried in, steno pad in hand. "Yes, boss?" She said.

"Lupita, will you be my Valentine?" the mayor asked.

"I thought you would never ask," said Lupita, crossing herself with one hand and unzipping her dress with the other.

Thus was a tradition born. 90 years down the road we've all but forgotten those sweet little sectarian hookers, but their legacy lives on to this day in the hearts, candy and flowers now representational of this sad day. Just remember, the next time you ask someone to be your Valentine, you're actually requesting they dress up as a nun and cater to your every perverted whim, sicko.

And that, ladies and jellyspoons is the real and true story of Valentine's Day. Anything you may have heard contradicting this account is either Hallmark propaganda or a communist plot. You can always count on the Stony Lonesome for the straight dope.

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