Monday, February 22, 2010


I wasn't going to risk another car accident. That shitty , yellow car I was driving was going to sit in "MY" cleared off parking area in front of Mom's house. So I laced up my combat boots, put on my heavy winter coat, knit cap, gloves, and trudged the mile-and-a-half to Bruno's bar. Walking this kind of distance in Chicago during the month of January while enduring a 3o-mile-an-hour wind and temperatures of 15 degrees isn't for the faint of heart. The only people that are tough enough for this jouney are fools and drunks. When I arrived at Bruno's after my march through a foot of snow, it was like being in heaven! I felt the warm, rancid air hit my face. "Ah," I thought, "I'm home!"

I smoked cigarettes and shared lies with toothless, old retired guys in raggedy jackets. I drank shots of Rock and Rye with my draft beer. I'd tell the old timers my tales of running and finishing the marathon and how I was going to get back in shape. I did all of this between long drags on my Marlboro cigarettes, while sucking down shots. It was a lovable lunacy! I enjoyed every minute of this bullshit! The frozen Tombstone Pizzas we shared really tasted good, on these freezing, Chicago winter afternoons. It didn't matter that they were 3 years old and freezer burned. The booze made a guy hungry. If I had a good buzz going on, a Slim-Jim tasted like prime rib to me!

In January, I got a call from dispatch at the Heavy Equipment Operator's Union Hall to go to work at the Reynolds Aluminum Plant on 47th Street and First Avenue in McCook, Illinois. This was a Federal job, and it was going to last for the rest of the winter. I drove my pukey-looking yellow Ford to work for about a week, holding my breath for each trip. Every time I hit the brakes, I heard grinding metal sounds. My foot was flat against the floorboards of that old-whore-of-a-car. Sometimes I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I almost rear-ended some expensive car in front of me. "Jesus, Lord, save me!" Luckily, my money came in from the car insurance company, (I wrecked my Jeep in a head-on drunken collision) so I bought myself a brand new 1979 Pontiac Catalina. The car was beautiful. It was silver with red pin striping. It had beautiful, red fabric, velour bench seats. The car was loaded with all the goodies. I never saved any money; it all went to girls, booze, and cars! I thought this was the way it was supposed to be!

Somehow a new car gives a man a new outlook on life. I knew I was down on my luck, but I was enjoying this dishonest feeling of self-importance! "Who cares?...Screw 'em all!" It's nice to feel like a "million bucks", even if you're only worth two cents. I drove my new "baby" to the job with great care. I damned the snow and ice every day. I sure didn't want to wreck this damn car!

I made the drive anyway, because I had it made on the job. I was an Oiler on a big Lima Backhoe. The Operator running it was really laid back. After I prepared the machine in the morning, he let me go to the lunchroom so I could smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and play poker all day long with the other tradesmen. These men were on call to do various little jobs. We were all making big money. I kind of liked this arrangement! These Federal jobs are called "cupcake" jobs in our union.

The laborers who worked outside in all the snow and slop trudged in at noon in their muddy boots. We all smiled at them. We were all warm and comfy and greeted them for lunch every day. They all looked pissed off, with their red faces and muddy clothes. They scowled as they greeted us sarcastically by saying, "How's it going, easy money?" We all said, "Just fine boys." "How's your beautiful day going so far?" I loved all the man-type bullshit! I hung on to this job for about a month. It was enough time to get a "grub stake" and head out to Las Vegas. My brother Jim said he would store my new Pontiac in his garage for me until I came back home. I left the gray skies of Chicago for the glittering lights of world-famous Las Vegas, commonly known as the "Disneyland for Adults!" I swore to myself I wasn't coming home until springtime, when it was warm and the flowers were blooming!
from: my book "The Journey...Memoirs of a South Side Chicago kind of guy...available on

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