Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grace Littlefeather Turns 30

            Today is my daughter Grace Littlefeathers thirtieth birthday. When Ruben Four Toes asked her what she was going to do for her birthday Gracie shrugged and said, "nothing. I'm staying at the Dunes. I'm a recluse."
             For a while there was some confusion about Gracie's exact birthday. In order for her get into first grade in Riverdale we had to change her birthday from September 18th to August 18th. Some of my worrisome relatives felt that when she ultimately found out about this deception she'd be angry with me. I don't think we told her her actual birthday until we moved to Hyde Park and she was in Fifth grade. On August 18th of that year I told Gracie I had some great news for her.
            "What?"
             "Guess what, not only do you get to have a birthday today, but you get to have another one September 18th!"
              Her eyes opened wide, "how come?"
              "Because September 18th is your real birthday, and August 18th is your pretend birthday. You would have had to wait a whole year to go to first grade if we didn't change your birth certificate."
               "Do I get presents both birthdays."
                 "Absolutely."
                 The effects of this discovery pleased her enormously.
                 Gracie has been around in her thirty years: we were living in a cheap co-op in Rogers Park on the North Side of Chicago at the time of her birth.  We moved to Benton Harbor Michigan when she was four. My brother had a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the river and we lived in the house next to it for two years. We then lived for a year in Inverness Florida. A year later we bought my grandmothers house in Riverdale.  Grace then finished grammar school and high school in Hyde Park. 
                   Gracie was one of those rare children that was never exposed to nursery schools or stranger baby sitters. I sacrificed some of my best golf years being a stay at home dad. The benefits for Gracie of having a powerful, brilliant, handsome male role model have been immeasurable. As her father it was my intention to deliver her from the powers of darkness, and in this I have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.
               Grace was not a perfect child, but certainly when compared to all the other kids I know, she was definitely above average. So happy birthday to my precious little angel from heaven.

              I made a rare mistake the other day when I wrote that Touhy's birthday party was this Sunday when it is actually this Saturday. 
             Peace and love, peace and love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Greater Sense Of Clarity

             A few days after Roger's photograph appeared in Esquire Magazine I sent him an Email urging him to write a tell-all memoir. "Roger, it's obvious from the interview that you've acquired  a unique sense of clarity and you've got a helluva a story to tell." Although I'd seen Roger a number to times after his disfiguring surgery, it came as a shock to a lot of his fans to see the extent of the disfigurement after the Esquire article was published.  Roger sent me a message back asking me why I didn't write a tell-all memoir? I then replied that I lacked his sense of clarity, "and if you are afraid of hurting peoples feelings, publish it posthumously."  Roger replied, "well, you don't have any problems hurting peoples feelings, so you write yours first." 
           And so there we left it for a few months until Roger announced publicly that he was indeed going to write his memoir which turned out to be "Life Itself." I remember discussing "Life Itself " with McHugh after it came out and we both agreed that there were a lot of things he omitted that we would have liked to  have seen him include. Upon reflection I think he simply wasn't physically strong enough at that point in his illness to dig much deeper than he managed to.
               This morning, with a notable lack of enthusiasm, I headed off to the University of Chicago hospital to get the verdict on whether the nodule on my lung, and the lesion on my pancreas had grown in the last three months. I parked my car a half a block west of Stony Island on Midway Plaisance. Unlike Monday when I went for my C scan, today the sun was shining, the birds were singing and  squirrels were frolicking in the tree tops.  I always have mixed feeling when I walk by the old hospital. (It was on a similar day eighteen years ago that I went into that hospital feeling as good as any 56 year old white male has any reason to feel knowing that when I left the hospital after my prostate surgery I would never be the same.) Even after a forty minute walk I was still half an hour early. No matter, I only waited a few minutes before the nurse called my name. My blood pressure was high, but even to a casual observer it should have seemed obvious that I was filled with premonitions of an unpleasant, quick death.
             When my doctor came in I had to remind him why I was there. A middle aged man of regular habits he said, "how are you Mr. Elliott?"
             "I'll know in a  minute."
              He smiled, "I guess I should have said, how are you feeling."
               "Actually, I'm feeling quite well, thank you."
             "That's a good sign."
              After tapping the keys of the computer an uncomfortable silence followed. This struck me as a bad sign. Fortunately this was not the case, "Mr. Elliott, the nodule on your lung and the lesion on your pancreas are exactly the same size as they were three months ago. Cancer grows fast, I am reasonably certain that you don't have cancer. " 
              I could have kissed him on the lips but I didn't. 
              Even though he didn't think it necessary I thought I should  have one more C scan in three months. 
              "It's up to you. It is radiation, however, if there are no changes in three months you're fine."

              After I left the hospital I walked through the quadrangle and found a sunny bench to sit on kitty corner Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House house. I then leaned back on the bench and let the good news sink in. Finally some good luck, and if I ever needed some good luck it was right now. After my trip to Scotland last year I was beset by a series of bad luck incidents: an unhappy woman,  a fucked up book deal, and an exotic non life threatening auto immune disease being the most prominent. All of these paled in comparison with having lung or pancreatic cancer.  As I sat in the sunshine I remembered my conversation with Roger about clarity and realized that after what I've been dealing with the last three months I now have clarity oozing out of every orifice in my body. The threat of pancreatic cancer  makes one focus and I am now focused. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Sensitive Touhy Prepares For His 80th Birthday Party

              Touhy came in last night. He's not as gimpy as he was the last time I saw him and says his new knee feels a lot better. His 80th birthday party has been rescheduled for this Saturday at the Billy Goat on Ogden. I'm taking Hawkeye as my date. As soon as Hawkeye tells me the color of the gown he'll be wearing I'll pick out his corsage. Touhy said he had just visited the former owner of Smerch's because he's very ill and not expected to live much longer. Bob, the former owner, although a bright fellow, was a colossal fuck up. If somebody wants to stick a pound of nose candy up their nose every day that's their business. Unfortunately Bob had the only decent joint on Lincoln Avenue and he let it go down the toilet which is a shame. When he could no longer look after the store himself, he put a young dip-shit in charge and he alienated all the regulars. I told Bob to let Frenchy run the joint but Bob's brain was by then so scrambled that he was incapable of making anything close to an intelligent decision. When Sterch's finally closed a few years ago about fifteen of their former regulars came in and told me that the Ale House was going to be their new hangout. They even wanted me to dump one of my bartenders and replace him with a former Sterch's bartender. The first time two of the Sterch's regulars went into the ladies room together I explained that unlike Sterch's, the Ale House was not a drug friendly bar, and no Sterch's people would be allowed to go two at a time into the restrooms. This ended the Ale House as their new hangout.
            Sterch's was a haven for disenchanted drug fiends. They could use the Sterch's regulars that are still alive today as poster children for what drugs eventually do to you. Tracheotomy's, rare cancers, and bizarre dementia's are just some of the maladies displayed but this gang of self indulgent perpetual adolescents. One legged Sarah the Midget was one of my favorite Sterch's characters. Mean, unpleasant, and hostile she eventually pissed her care taker off so much he shoved her wheel chair down the boat ramp next to the Yacht Club. Even though she drowned nothing happened to the care taker. Bob won't be at Touhy's birthday party because he's too sick.  Touhy was the only regular at Sterch's I know of that didn't take drugs. He was quite content being a hall of fame drunk.
               Last night Touhy seemed a little more introspective than he normally is. In fact he seemed lonely. In a clear resonant voice he told me that he felt slighted by some of his late wife's hoity toity friends. "The last time I saw Denise DeClue she acted like she didn't  know me. Lois and Colander are just as bad..."
             The purity of his emotions took me by surprise. "Well, I'm not shocked to hear this, they are all high strung, temperamental women and Mike (Touhy's late wife) was the alpha bitch."
             Touhy shook his head, "they don't think I'm important enough - "
            Acting from kindest of motives I said: " perhaps you are not aware that many of Mikes pals thought you were a less than perfect husband - "
             This of course was true, Touhy had at one time or another offended by word or deed, everyone of Mikes friends. What I found so impressive about Touhy was how steadfast Mike's defense of him was when faced with the never ending attacks on her less than perfect mate. Although they had not lived together for over twenty years they both considered themselves happily married. As marriages go I think it was above average.
               Earlier in the evening Ruben was explaining bitches to Coach: "they don't want to be treated like equals, they consider kindness  a weakness. I love no one but my cat."
              "Ruben, " I said, "you really ought to teach a class on bitches. You could call it Bitches 101..."
                "Yeah, " Coach added, "and then you could teach Advanced Bitches."
               Ruben nodded approvingly.
               When I got home I read Raymond Chandler's Long Goodbye for about two hours. I last read it about thirty years ago and I'm not nearly as impressed this time around. I read Chandler the same way I watch old Bogart, Robinson and Cagney movies - not for insights into the human condition but for pure fun. I love the stylized dialogue of the old gangster movies and Chandler's books,  and usually have no problem suspending disbelief. Unfortunately this time around Chandler comes off like a combination hardboiled detective with the heart of a male nurse. I loved the Long Goodbye movie which was directed by Robert Altman although it seems to have used very little of the book. 
             
           *

            Tobin wanted to borrow my car this morning. On the way to the bar we saw Street Jimmy coming out of the Mustard Seed. When he reached the bar he said that he'd slept in a nice warm laundry room.
            "How'd you get in there?"
             "Guy left the door open for me. I had to get up early 'cause I didn' wan' nobody to catch me. I'm thinkin' 'bout goin' to rehab before it gets too cold. "
              "Excellent idea, only this time go for more than three days."
             Both Jimmy and Faggypants said that Tobin was nice to them yesterday when I was gone.
              On my way home I ran into Jimmy on Hudson Street on his way back from the crack dealers. "Mutha fucka wasn't gonna sell me a rock 'cause I only had eight-dollars and I tell him for a stinky two-dollars you ain't gonna sell me a rock..."
            "And so did he sell it to you?"
            "Hell yeah he sell it to me."
              "Have a blessed day my brother." 

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Unpleasant Day At The Hospital

             I was not looking forward to getting my C scan today and as it turned out I had every reason to feel that way. I always get to my appointments early whenever possible and as it turned out I got to the radiology department almost an hour early. Unfortunately nobody at he hospital told me I was supposed to go the Radiology Department at the old hospital. Okay, I still had plenty of time. After I reported to the Mitchell Radiology Department I was told that I needed blood work before I could have my C scan. This is exactly what happened the last time, my doctor had forgotten to have me get the necessary blood work done and when he couldn't be located on his pager I threw a tantrum. Of course at the time I didn't know I had some questionable spots and nodules dancing around my organs like sugar plums.  So once again my doctor had to be paged while I waited impatiently. When he finally gave the okay for the blood work I went to the fucking blood lab. Naturally there was a long line. I had not brought any reading material with me because I could barely keep my eyes open when I left the bar. After about forty minutes I gave blood and then once again headed for the Radiology Department. When the women at the desk told me that it usually took about an hour for them to get the results of the blood work I exercised prudence and restraint. There was no point in being pissed off at the messenger. In a perfect world I would have found a comfortable chair, leaned back and closed my eyes, but I don't live in a perfect world.
         The waiting room had a TV blaring. There are few things in life I despise more than daytime TV. When I told the receptionist that I would be back in an hour she squared her shoulders and said, "it could be sooner than an hour." 
          "I can't stand to listen to the mindless blather coming from the TV."
           I walked down the block to the University Book Store. Things only got worse when I walked in the bookstore and they had rap music playing. I asked the pleasant black lady at the cash register where I could lodge a complaint about the horrific sounds emanating from the nearby speaker. She was courteous, but reserved. "I'm so sorry but that's not in my purview." After perusing the books for about twenty I bought some black tea from the deli and went back to the waiting room. Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell were involved in  some kind of tribute to Joan Rivers. I turned my chair the other way and gritted my teeth.
          Approximately two-hours after my scheduled appointment my name was finally called. The man who'd had his C scan  just before me was bleeding profusely from where they removed his IV. He was an odd looking little fellow. About eighty, he had little bunny eyes, a tiny button nose and virtually no chin nor was there a single hair on his brightly polished head. When asked if he'd kept pressure on the bandage where they told him too he nodded unconvincingly. He also denied that he was taking a blood thinner. He had to go back into radiology to get taped back up so I was further delayed . 
          While a nice fellow was hooking me up to my IV I asked him why the hell I needed blood work to get a goddamned C scan?
           "When we inject the iodine if you have bad kidneys your kidneys could fail. Your kidneys, by the way, are in excellent shape."
            "Well, I'm glad somethings working."
             The lady that administered my C scan was not a bad looking fifty-something year old. She must've called me sweetheart about ten times. I much prefer C scans to MRI's because you don't have to get undressed and they're about a tenth  the time.
               After I finally got the hell out of there I went to the Seminary Co-Op bookstore and found the book I was looking for. The new Co-Op bookstore lacks the panache of the old one.
               By now I was starving and so I stopped off at Valois and got  stuffed green peppers. 
                I won't know what my test results are until Wednesday. Do I feel lucky? No, I don't.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Street Jimmy "Lives Goood!"

            The sudden drop in temperature has significantly effected my sleeping patterns. I am a child of nature and I'm sure some where in my distant path one of my forefathers had sex with a bear. I almost didn't  beat Faggypants to the bar this morning. He said that he did not sleep well: "I woke up at about three and had a few nibbles of some left over scallops in the fridge. Lucky I didn't have too much because I pooped my brains out and I think I had a fever. I feel a bit wrenched from my moorings this morning."
            "You poor dear. Would you like a hug?"
              "No."
              "Not even in the spirit of good, clean fun?"
               "Every fiber in my body seemed to be on fire."
              Street Jimmy was predictably late. We need him the most on Saturday and Sunday and for some reasons Sunday tends to be his most unreliable day. 
              "It was cold so I had to sleep on the train. The Brown Line all fucked up an' we jus' standin' there for an hour not goin' nowhere. There was a bunch of giants on the train - "
              Jimmy has been slurring and mumbling so bad lately it's often almost impossible to understand what  he's saying. "Did you say giants?"
             "Yeah, big funny lookin' mutafucka's, I calls 'em giants."
               "How big?"
                "Real big, an' they all gots funny looks on their faces."
                 "How many giants?"
                 "Lots."
                 "Where they sleeping on the train?"
                 "Uh, uh, they goin' to work or someplace."
                  There were a hundred more questions I wanted to ask him about the giants but I couldn't think one. When Jimmy said he slept good on the train I said: "How can you sleep good sitting up? Winters coming and maybe you should think about changing you shitty lifestyle?"
              "What you mean?"
                 I advanced my theory: "Give up crack and take control of you're life. Squirrels in the park live better than you."
                It was apparent from the look on his face that his whole mental outlook had changed: "I lives good."
               "Smoking crack behind dumpsters and sleeping behind garbage cans is living good? Giving all of your money to the crack dealer is living good? Let's go over to Mustard Seed and I dare you to say what you just said at a meeting."
                "I don' wanna talk about it nomore."
                Hoping to reestablish an atmosphere of conviviality and camaraderie I tried to cheer everyone up by singing the Jimmy song:
                     Jimmy smokes crack and I don't care, 
                      Jimmy smokes crack and I don't care, 
                     Jimmy smokes crack and I don't care, 
                      The policeman's on his way.
                      Jimmy runs 'cause he ain't no snitch, 
                       He threw his crack pipe in the ditch, 
                       When the judge asked Street Jimmy why?
                      Jimmy said: 'judge, it's cause I needs to get high.

                This little ditty usually brings a smile to Jimmy's face and this morning was no exception.
                  After I got done with the bar I decided to take a morning walk. The sun was out and with my jacket on it was quite pleasant. As I was walking along the boardwalk that circles the lagoon the guy walking in front of me was whistling. If you're going to whistle in public at least carry a fucking tune. He was a short moon faced man. Rather than telling him that I thought his whistling irksome,  I quickened my pace to keep from having my walk marred.
           A few of the maple trees leaves are starting to turn. I walked to Belden and turned at the Shakespeare statue. About two blocks from home my back started to act up. Fortunately I still had some yellow heirloom tomatoes and I ate them with gusto. The Bears are playing tonight at seven-thirty. San Francisco is such an overwhelming favorite that I think their players might take the Bears for granted. If the game turns out to be a train wreck it will not surprise me. 
     
                            
                            

Saturday, September 13, 2014

No Nukes! Pig Blood Compromise.

             D-Train seems to be bouncing back nicely from his vacation bender and I told him so. He accepted this compliment in the spirit in which it was intended. He has proven once again to be  a very resilient fellow. I asked him:"now that your brain has had sufficient time to dry out do you still want to nuke ISIS?"
           D-Train sighed, when he looked at me for a couple of seconds I felt like I had glimpsed into the secret tragedy that is locked within his tortured soul.  He weighed my remark carefully.
             "Yes I do."
              "Even a scum sucking toilet seat licker like John McCain doesn't want to go that far, D-Train."
              This appeared to displease him.
              "There is no other way to eradicate them. The Arabs won't help us."
             I didn't mince words: "D-Train, you misguided fool,  that has to be the stupidest thing you've ever suggested. You are a loony tunes dick-wad.  I am appalled."
            "I think you are overreacting."
             "Perhaps I am. Maybe you have said dumber things previously but I can't think of what they might have been."
             This did not cheer him up. Wishing to heal the breech I bought him a glass of wine.
              After a few sips of his wine an idea seemed to formulate itself somewhere in his mind: "If Obama didn't bomb them the Republicans would excoriate him. He has no choice."
             "I have no problem blowing up the ISIS dirt bags, but instead of nukes how about we drop hundreds of tons of pig blood on them. Once they get pig blood on them they can't go to Paradise."
            If I had just rescued him from a ship full of Somalian pirates he could not have been more pleased. A broad smile appeared on his face and we toasted to bombing ISIS with pig blood. No one else seemed to share in our merriment. 
           The Defense Attorney continues to be excited about her upcoming awards ceremony. It's a benefit for wrongly accused parents of child abuse. The Defense Attorney is in the front lines in the fight against  overzealous prosecutions by morally challenged DA's. She has shared a number of these horror stories with me over the years.
           She said my former sister in law would be there. Actually Bonnie is not a former sister in law. She married my former brother in law, Paul.  I played Bud Cupid in arranging that marriage. Bonnie was a bit of a groupie; at one time she banged a number of pro baseball players and then switched to media people. Paul, my brother in law at the time, was Mayor Jayne Byrnes top adviser. He was also a notorious drunk. The sister in law that he was married to was a back stabbing, double crossing shrew. She was also cuckolding him with another member of the Byrne cabinet. 
            One night in O'Rourke's Bonnie poured her heart out to me. She was in love with Paul and wanted to save him from the hellish marriage he was in. Being a man of not only high morals, but of action I said, "Bonnie, maybe you can save him. Maybe if you spent a couple of days with him you could talk some sense into him."
           "Do you think so?"
            "I know so."
            Paul, who was seated on the bar stool next to her, was passed out with his face down on the bar. He was not light and it took all of my strength to lug him out of the bar and shove him into my car. Bonnie lived near the lake on Wilson Avenue in a high-rise. I was exhausted by the time I'd dragged Paul into the elevator and up to her apartment. 
           Romance was in the air and not too long after that Bonny was pregnant. Rumor has it (Mike Touhy is my source) that when Paul asked my sister in law for a divorce she said it would cost dearly. Bonnie's father was a shrewd businessman. When my sister in law went to negotiate the price for a quicky divorce he offered her twenty-five grand. She countered with thirty. He then came back with twenty. When she said she wouldn't budge he said fifteen. I hope it's true because nobody deserved to get it shoved up her ass more than my former sister in law.
              The Defense Attorney says if I get a death sentence on Wednesday that I should not fight it but take an around the world tour. Denise also suggested this. I told them both that if I only have a year to live I think I'd rather spend my time settling  scores.
           

Friday, September 12, 2014

Street Jimmy Rejects Websters Dictionary

            Street Jimmy was particularly annoying this morning. Yesterday was the coldest September 11 ever recorded in Chicago. Although 46 degrees will seem like a heat wave in two months, it caused Jimmy to seek indoor shelter and Starbucks was the lucky recipient of his presence last night. Jimmy's been doing a lot of soul searching lately - if not a lot, at least some - and he confessed  that after talking with a lady at McDonald's yesterday he is willing to concede that crack is a disruptive force in his life.
          "She say, Jimmy, you gots no income. An' I tol' her I gots no ID card so I can't get no housing or income, an' I can't get no Link Card either. I tol' her it's cause I can't take time to go down an' take care of my business. I'm an addict so tha's why I don't take care of  my business. I be keepin' it real."
           This morning he was singing a  different tune. "The Uncle Tom security bitch at Second City say I gots to leave in front of their door or she call the cops on me. I tol' her call the cops, I be outa jail in two-hours, it ain't no felony I be doin'. Who she think she is?"
            "I'm pretty sure she thinks that she's the security lady and they don't want bums fucking with the people who want to come in their door."
              "Why you say I'm a bum?"
               "How about if I call you a beggar, would you prefer that?"
              "I ain't no beggar, a beggar get down on his knees, " Jimmy screwed up his crack ravaged face and continued in his most pathetic voice, "oh please give me some money."
               "And if what you're doing isn't begging, what is it?"
                "It's askin' , all I be doin' is askin'."
               "So you're an asker, not a beggar."
                Jimmy nodded, "yeah. I jus' put my hat down an if people puts somethin' in it tha' their business."
                "Do you want me to read you how the dictionary defines beggar?"
               "Who wrote the dictionary, the dictionary ain't nothin'."
               "So if we don't use the dictionary to decide what beggar means, what should we use?"
                "Common sense."
               "But Jimmy, if I may be so bold, you're a semi-illiterate crack-head, your common sense isn't worth two dead flies.
                 "I ain't no begger."
                 "Not only are you a beggar, you're a petty thief."
                 "Why you say that?"
                   "Because you steal stuff."
                    "True, but nobody be knowin' tha' less you tells 'em."
                   "When you try to sell people brand new stuff from a store what do you think people think?"
                      "Maybe somebody give me stuff."
                    "No Jimmy, people think you're a slippery character. Street beggars are slightly above pedophiles on societies shit list. Some people are crippled or too mentally fucked up to work, and I don't mind helping them out, but why would anyone in their right mind give an able bodied crack head money when they'll just take the money and give it to some parasitic drug dealer?"
                  "Hustlin' is work. Don' say I don' works."
                   "Begging is not work. You don't produce anything. Marx would disagree with you."
                  Jimmy thought for a moment. His concentration slightly jarred he frowned in a rebuking sort of way and said, "people's jus' give me money sometimes, wha's wrong with tha'? Clown used to jus' give me money. I seen Clown and Mrs. Clown yesterday. Clown be sober and Mrs. Clown seemed pretty sober too. I think they back together. I seen them go in the toe nail salon. One time Clown gave me pretty near everything in his pocket. An' yesterday Mrs. Clown give me five-dollar when she was goin' in Corcoran's."
                  When Jimmy resumed his tirade against the "uncle Tom security lady at Starbucks Faggypants, who'd been floating around the bar with his mop like something out of Swan Lake, screamed in exasperation, " enough, I'm getting sick of hearing you talk about her."
                "Yes," I concurred, "enough is enough."
                When I told Jimmy he had to leave with me he said , "how come, it rainin' out."
                  Putting my arm around his shoulder as I opened the side door I sang loudly:
                   Rain, rain, go away, 
                    Please come back another day,
                    'Cause Bruce and Street Jimmy wants to play.
                Jimmy chuckled, "you jus' now make tha' up?"
                "No, it's by a poet named Lord Byron."
                 "For real."
                  "For real."
                  "How he know about us?"
                   "Good question."
                    And there for now the matter rested.