The Press: Blue-Collar Pundit

Eight hours a day, five days a week, Mike LaVelle, 39, works as a hot-pipe bender in a Cicero, Ill., shop. Wielding a 16-lb. sledgehammer, the workman packs sand into lengths of straight pipe that are then heated and bent with a winch. When he isn't twisting hot metal, LaVelle is sweating over pencil and paper as the newest regular columnist in the Chicago Tribune stable.

LaVelle is something of an oddity even in Chicago's hardboiled, cigar-chomping newspaper tradition. He quotes Nietzsche and reads Walt Whitman and Jonathan Swift. He bristles with ideas but...

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