Friday, October 24, 2014

Joel's Faux Pas

            I was displeased with the dentist I've been going to for the last five or six years. The only reason I went to him was because he was just around the corner and I could always get an appointment without waiting. As a result of my unhappiness with his work I put off going to a dentist for over a year. Fortunately I wasn't having any discomfort but nevertheless knew I needed a cleaning and a check up; when I was alerted to the possibility of having lung and or pancreatic cancer I said, 'what the fuck, if I'm going to be dead in a year, why worry about my teeth?' Since my reprieve I decided to address my dental issues. Fancypants demanded that I see his dentist who has a nice modern office just down the street. This was tempting because of his proximity, but I decided to go with Butcovich's dentist. Why? Because Butcovich's judgment has historically been much better than Fancypant's'.
           Yesterday I drove to Clark and Foster which is on the border of Andersonville. The dentists office is right across the street from the Hopleaf which is a bar-restaurant famous for it's vast selection of beers. The neighborhood is a far cry from the drab, down in the heels place I remember it being twenty-five years ago when I lived in neighboring Rogers Park. The dentist, who's Japanese, has a suite of modest but functional rooms on the second floor of an old office building. His mother is the receptionist and she made me fill out a five page questionnaire. By the time I finished the questionnaire I felt like I'd just written my life story. The hygienist was quite thorough. After complimenting my healthy gums she sighed, "if only your teeth were in as good a shape as your gums." This was not what I wanted to hear, however, I suppose having healthy gums is a plus. My next appointment is Thursday. 
           When I walked in the Ale House last night Lynn and Coach were seated around the corner. They always start Thursdays at Wells on Wells and by the time they get to the Ale House they are usually blotto. Ruben was down the bar and from the back it looked like blabber mouth Victor was talking to him. Fortunately it wasn't Victor - who's supposed to be in Texas - it was Joel. Joel, like Victor, is a man of Mexican heritage. He lived in the neighborhood for a number of years before he moved back to Texas. The last I'd heard he was married to a lawyer, had a child and was a city planner in Brownsville. 
         Joel was always a pleasant, upbeat fellow and generally well liked. He had a torrid affair with the artist which ended in a rather peculiar fashion; Joel, knowing full well that the Artist was a spoiled, high strung diva prone to temper tantrums, had the temerity to tell her that his ex-girlfriend was coming to town so he would be taking a brief hiatus from their romantic adventures while his ex was visiting. Predictably this did not sit well with the Artist and to this day if you mention Joel's name in her presence she is more than likely to spit in your face.
             To say that Joel has a history of making inappropriate comments would be putting it mildly. When he came to town the last time - which was five-years ago - when he saw the Artist he said, "you don't look as fat as people said you were." 
            Joel reads my blog. This I did not know. He was quite complimentary and asked me about the various characters in the blog (some of whom he knew) he leaned over with a sheepish grin and whispered, "I'm guilty of a faux pas, I asked the gentleman over there is he was Fancypants."
            The gentleman he was referring to was Coach. Now its possible he could have said something more insulting to Coach? Perhaps calling him a serial murderer, or a pyromaniac, or even a Republican, but asking him if he was Fancypants was right there with the worst possible insults imaginable. When I  looked over at Coach he was not smiling nor would I have expected him to be. Ruben, however, was smiling; he knew the depth of the insult as I'm sure Lynn also did.
            Joel is in town for a few days; his wife is a lawyer and is attending a convention. He promised to drop by the Ale House often while he's in town.

            This morning Street Jimmy seemed peppier than usual. He said he slept at the church. He continues to be concerned about "bi-polar." I rarely correct him but Fancypants does: "Jimmy, it's called ebola, not bi-polar."
           After reading a review of a new book on ebola I told the lads, " did you know that ebola comes from bats? And get this, one-fourth of all mammals are bats. The worst thing about ebola is the speed with which it mutates, in other words, Jimmy, if we don't contain it soon it will keep mutating until we're all dead."
          "Damn, tha's serious shit."
            Whenever I ask Jimmy a question, even though he heard me clearly he always says "huh" before he answers. When I pointed this out again this morning I said, "it really sounds dumb to keep saying huh."
             "I know wha' you sayin' it's jus' a habit I got."
             He is going to work for the nice white lady again today. "Las' time she give me forty-dollars. She say, 'Jimmy, you did a real nice job."
              Fancypants didn't think his injured hip felt good enough for him to walk over to the zoo. My back does feel much better so I think I definitely will take a walk this afternoon.   

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anti-Intellecualism Raises It's Ugly Head In The Ale House

             Some nights the Old Town Ale House lacks the intellectual heft that over the years I have tried to symbolize and cultivate. Last night was such a night. We have several regulars that think pretty much every complicated issue is a conspiracy orchestrated by a giant, amorphous, unknown entity. This is handy if you have little or no knowledge of history or politics. Hardware Nick and The Inventor are practitioners of this school of "thought." To them politicians are mere play things - meaningless figureheads. Economic policy is not that important, and a Supreme Court controlled by neo-Nazi's - irrelevant. When you ask them if starting two insane wars and not paying for them hurt the economy they merely shrug. Same with deregulating Wall Street. In their shadowy world it makes little difference whether Bill Clinton or W Bush is president. Whether they vote I don't know, but given their political views I can't imagine why they'd bother.
            The Defense Attorney has strong views on the possible trip to Scotland next year that is being planned by Pub Crawl Liz and Hawkeye. Hawkeye continues to display a frazzled, often perplexed persona these days, and when the Defense Attorney let him have it with her non-stop views on how the trip should be conducted you can see Hawkeyes expressions change like ripples of water in ever widening circles. Thank Satan I was present; we certainly didn't need another hysterical outburst like we had last year in the rental car office in Edinburgh. Hawkeye continues to have amazingly poor door recognition when he's lost in a conversation. One young person after another brushed by him unobserved while he jousted with the Defense Attorney. The Defense Attorney became so strident that eventually the Inventor had to settle her down.


           This morning Street Jimmy seemed unusually energetic as he swept the floor. He said he went to sleep early last night. "I slept on the El good. Nobody bothered me none." He said Hannibal Burris stopped by last night after I left. I saw the note that Mike left me that Hannibal had said hi. When the comedians Jay Larson, and Sean Patton interviewed me Sunday for their show Americas Best Bars, they spotted the portrait I'd done of Hannibal. A recent bit Hannibal did on Bill Cosby has gone viral. Although said humorously, Hannibal pointed out in no uncertain terms that Cosby had been accused by a number of women of drugging and raping them. What makes Cosby such a ripe target is his fake all american father-family man image. 
           The bigger Cosby got  the more annoying he became. The perfect father crap didn't bother me as much as his rants against other comedians working blue. Who the fuck does he think he is telling Richard Pryor, who has twice his talent, how to work? Anyway, a tip of the hat to Hannibal for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.
              Street Jimmy is mad at Ruben Four Toes: "He tricked on me. He tol' Gracie tha' I asked Arnette for a square."
              "Yeah, asshole, I heard about that. You know you aren't supposed to hustle people when you're in the bar."
              "Ruben gots no business trickin' on me."
               "Yes he does. And by the way he snitches on everyone. When Evil was bar tending he called the Health Department about her working with a bad cold. He called the Building Department on us because our tuck pointers were creating too much dust and it was drifting down the street to his house."
               Buzz Kill didn't show this morning.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


              When Butcovich showed up to do some work this morning Fancypants expressed his  concern about the loose toilet seats.
           After looking at the toilet seats Butcovich said, " they're cheap plastic toilet seats, who cares if they're loose." 
              Fancypants cares and when he continued to make his case Butcovich pointed at a dust-covered vent and said, "why don't you clean the goddamned vent."
             An embarrassed Fancypants assured him that he would clean the vent first thing tomorrow.
            When the weather gets chillier I have a hard time crawling out of bed. Normally I get to the bar before seven but not today. When I finally arrived both Buzz Kill and Street Jimmy were outside waiting for me. When I asked Jimmy if he was in a better mood this morning he smiled and said yes.
            "Jimmy, you make my whole day when you smile. You are my coffee in the morning. Your smile makes the sky bluer, the birds sing louder, the sun brighter and air smell fresher. "
           Jimmy smiled some more. He's badly in need of a shave and I suspect a shower, too. He said he slept outside the church. The zipper of his warm coat is broken so he has to pull it over his head to get it off. This requires a great deal of effort and he swore several times before he managed to free himself from his second hand attire.
           When he finished his sweeping duties he said, "done deal."
            "The question now is, how much do I pay you? You don't sweep outside on Wednesdays and yesterday you were pissed that I only gave you five-bucks for ten minutes work, so what I think I'll do today is give you three bucks..."
            He was no longer laughing. "We do it like we always do it."
           Jimmy lacks the special gifts that make a good negotiator. 
            "Yesterday you seemed to want to change the way we always do it."
           "We keep it the same."
           "Okay Jimmy, but the next time you bitch about money we will rethink your traditional remuneration. Any more complaints?"
             I then directed Fancypants to feed the rapscallion. 

            Last night at the Ale House there was a squabble over olives. When the Defense Attorney pulled her prima donna act and insisted on extra olives Ruben Four Toes also demanded a dish of olives to snack on. Gracie was stern, "Ruben, we're low, no olives for you today."
              One could argue that Gracie was being unreasonable. Mitt chimed in that the first thing he would do the following day would be to buy Ruben some olives. 
           Anita and Lynn were going to a concert. Gracie wasn't sure  who the performer was. Gracie would have been a terrible journalist. 
           Tobin brought a red tray filled with delicious containers of food into the bar. Her sister Libby and her have been making food for people in need and these were the left overs. I had the mushroom dish and it was delicious.
          Tobin's niece just arrived in Katmandu. I'm not sure if they've removed all of the bodies from the mountain yet. Amazingly her niece is all set to climb the mountain in spite of the recent deadly avalanche. I have no desire to ever climb another mountain. I did some mountain hiking in Yosemite and Big Sur back in the Seventies and it was okay, however, it was on well worn trails and during the summer.   The niece going to Katmandu  reminds me of the time my uncle Hugh went to Russia right after the Chernobal nuclear disaster. While everyone was trying to get their loved ones out of Russia we were sending our loved one to Russia.
          Ruben tried to work his magic on Mierka. She exercised tremendous willpower and resisted Ruben's powers of seduction. I've always been an admirer of his hand gesture techniques, especially when he points in the direction of his invisible penis indicating that he desires oral gratification. It's sheer poetry.
         The Defense Attorney insists that she has never succumbed to a stranger who uses tongue gestures as a seduction tool. 
         When Ruben expressed shock at this she qualified her remarks: "I'm not saying I don't like oral sex, just not as a come on. I had a guy one time in a bar making licking gestures for an hour. It is definitely not a turn on."             

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five-Second Germ Theory

             D-Train looked a little down in the dumps when he walked in the bar last night. 
            "D-Train, would it cheer you up if I gave you a hug."
             "Not unless you have tits."
            "Well, maybe Ruben should give you a hug then?"
             Ruben said with characteristic good cheer, "it would be an impertinence for me to do otherwise."
               D-Train, other than an occasional fit of madness, has been been warming up to his upcoming change in work hours. He's even decided against getting a gun permit. "I live close to my bus stop and at five in the morning the 22 Clark St. bus should be on schedule."
             Hawkeye is displeased with the beers Gracie has been selecting. He was especially unhappy with Pumpkin and Shandy.
They both sound awful but I know that Gracie hopes to satisfy every taste. When I told Hawkeye that I would let Gracie know how unhappy he was with her ordering he shook his sallow head in despair, "please don't."
              Hawkeye went on to describe how hungry he gets around three in the morning. After removing a strange looking plastic bag from his satchel he said, "these are hermetically sealed hard boiled eggs. I got them from Walgreens." With a lewd smile he added, "feel them, they feel just like a set of testicles."
              He was right, they did.
               "I don't know Hawkeye, I would have to be extremely hungry before I'd eat hermetically sealed hardboiled eggs from Walgreens. Actually pretty much everything that is marked Walgreens is subpar."
                 D-Train and Hawkeye then proceeded to get into an argument about how many eggs a week it is healthy to eat. Hawkeye's position was "the more the merrier" while D-Train was of the opinion that eggs were responsible for prodigious amounts of cholesterol. 
               Shaking his virtually hairless head Hawkeye said, "it's the good cholesterol."
              While attempting to  illustrate his point Hawkeye spilled the bag of cashews he'd just opened on the floor. He immediately bent over and picked up the twenty or so cashews off the dirty floor, and then in what I perceived to be a serious lack of decorum proceeded to eat them. When I expressed my revulsion D-Train rushed to his defense, "if you wait five-seconds all the germs will be dead."
            "What about poop germs?"
             Both D-Train and Hawkeye seemed to think the possibility of poop germs on the cashews to be of trifling importance. I told the two men that I did not share their disregard for the practical aspects of life and that I felt poop germs were nothing to make light of.
           I think the reason that Hawkeye was in such high spirits was because he'd talked to Pub Crawl Liz the previous night about his idea for a Scottish pub crawl tour. Liz seemed enthusiastic and they planned on having further discussions soon.
              "Denise and Mike seemed interested..."
               I nodded, "I bet they would be. And I know the Inventor and the Defense Attorney would be up for it, in fact I bet I could easily find ten more people - "
               "Right now the direct flights from Chicago to Edinburgh are almost half. We would leave July 31 so we'd be there for all the fests!"


             I was late this morning. Fancypants was already
busily at work. Buzz Kill continues to be demoralized by the vagaries of life. When Jimmy arrived he made no effort to conceal his unhappiness, " I lost all the money you give me yesterday."
          "And I'm sure you put it in your right front pocket."
           "I think I left it here."
             "If you left your fifteen dollars here I would have seen it."
             "Where else could I have left it?"
              "You're a degenerate crack head, who the fuck knows where you leave your money. Your brain is so scrambled I'm surprised you can still cross a street without getting turned into a pancake."
               Because it had been a bad night it took Jimmy less than ten minutes to sweep the floor as well as the sidewalk. When he acted pissed off that I only gave him five bucks I said, "you didn't do anything, numb nuts. I'm practically paying you a dollar a minute and quite frankly Jimmy, you're barely worth a dollar an hour."
             When a grumbling Jimmy looked like he was  going to take a nap I told Fancypants to fix him his food. After Jimmy was finished eating Fancypants let out a yelp, "Jimmy, you didn't drink your tomato juice!"
              "'Cause I hates tomato juice."
              "You're a moron."
               "You're a bigger moron."
               Before matters escalated I stepped in. "Danny, you know he hates anything vegetable, why waste perfectly good tomato juice on him, you should know better by now. Ruben won't eat vegetables either."
                 "They're idiots."
                 "Fuck you Danny, you an idiot."
                 "Jimmy , time to go."
                 "Danny cuss me out."
                 "Jimmy, a more disagreeable, unpleasant companion can scarcely have ever lived than you. You are an ungrateful little shit fly. Hit the road."
               He mumbled all the way out the door. I'm pretty sure the mumbling was  directed at me, and it wasn't flattering.               

Monday, October 20, 2014

America's Best Bars TV Show Visits The Ale House

               Yesterday I managed a quick nap before I had to hurry back to the bar to watch the Bear game. As I was crossing Sedgwick Street I ran into Street Jimmy. He was upset about Buzz Kill and was telling me why when a semi-decent looking blond about thirty was staring at us. She had violet eye makeup which gave her a hooker vibe. She interrupted Street Jimmy and said to me, "excuse me, I'm two dollars short for my car fare and I wondered if you could help me out?"
             Not surprisingly both Jimmy and I turned on her instantly: "you want two bucks for the fucking El," I exclaimed, "do I look like a complete asshole to you because if I do I would appreciate your being candid with me..."
            Jimmy was less polite, "who the fuck you think you is talkin' to bitch? He ain't gonna give you no money, you come 'round here in my territory an' askin' my boss for money? You're lucky I don't fuck your ass up."
            A women of less breeding and self control probably would have said something in response to Jimmy's harsh words but not the blond and she simply turned and started walking in the direction of the El station.
          The Bears were unusually bad. We were expecting a TV crew from America's Best Bars around one-thirty and by the time they arrived the Bears were hopelessly behind. The first order of business was getting everyone in the bar to sign releases. The producer explained the gist of the show to me: Two comics sit down at the bar and interview people. They miked Gracie and me as well as a customer named Ally. Tobin didn't want to be on camera. There were about fifteen members of the crew. Ruben Four Toes was politely asked to move down the bar and out of the range of the camera. Apparently the idea of a one legged four hundred pound Mexican in shorts wasn't as exciting to them as it is to us. 
         Fancypants was there and he was reasonably sober. He was wearing a tight black Gracie designed ale house shirt, a Gracie necklace and black pants with white stripes. He's rarely in the bar this late in the day and so he was doing a lot of socializing. D-Train was comatose which was hardly surprising. The bar was unusually crowded for a Sunday afternoon. I was surprised Liz Garibay, who does the bar crawls, wasn't there; she's the one that told the TV show about us and I thought they'd want to interview her.
            Gracie went on first and talked for about twenty minutes and then I went behind the bar and not only regaled the two comics, Jay Larson and Sean Patton, with my wit and humor, but did some impromptu drawings of the two of them. All told the TV crew was in the bar for about three hours. The show is on the Esquire Channel and will be shown sometime in February or March.
             While the TV crew was setting up a surly looking brunette walked up to the bar: "Why's the TV crew in here?"
            "It's for a TV show called America's Best Bars," I answered.
             "What's so special about this bar?"
              "That fact that you have to ask that question suggests that you are either retarded or from Indiana."
              "I've never been here before."
              "You have eyes, look around you. You are in the presence of greatness, embrace it."
               If she was angry she didn't show it.

              This morning I overslept. I stayed up late watching Anthony's program on Vietnam. It was one of his best. Unlike Paraguay, all of the Vietnamese food looked spectacular. One would think that the Vietnamese people would hate our guts after the senseless war we inflicted on them. Quite the contrary; the people Anthony talked to seemed quite philosophic about their history and their place in the world. Most of the American men I've known who fought in Vietnam are still bitter. You still occasionally hear the ridiculous rationalization:  "if they would have just let us win..." In order to win we would have had to kill everyone in Vietnam and would that really have been winning?
            Buzz Kill beat me to the bar again and  Street Jimmy finally managed to be on time. He was making a grotesque snorting sound and when Buzz Kill - who's been very short-tempered and hyper critical of late - could take it no longer he yelled at Jimmy, "for christ sake blow your fucking nose."
          Faggypants  said he had a fun time yesterday and particularly liked the two comicsSean and Jay.
           Monday is the day Jimmy cleans the mats. The hardest thing about cleaning the mats is dragging them up and down the basement stairs. After he'd cleaned the mats and swept the inside of the bar and the sidewalk he collapsed on the bench and said, "all tha' cleanin' shit wore my ass out."
           "Hmmm, " I said, " you've worked less than an hour and your ass is dragging. Mexicans do that ten hours a day."
           Jimmy shrugged and said, " I ain't tryin' to compete with no Mexicans."
            "Maybe you should. They work all day and all night and they don't bitch..."
             "Dumb muthafucka's."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Street Jimmy On Time

                 A very animated, extremely defensive Street Jimmy confronted me in the bar last night: "The reason I didn' come to work this mornin' was 'cause when I be sleepin' dude snatch my bag an' I caught him an' so I knocked  his head on the iron bar an' so I had a cash bond - "
              "So you were in jail?"
              "No," Jimmy shook his head,  "no, 'cause a lady seen him snatch my bag an' so she told the po-leece tha' he took my bag an' so they hadda call an ambulance for the dude."
              "So you weren't in jail."
               "Then why didn't you show up because we needed you. The place was a fucking mess and Fancypants had to clean it up himself."
             Jimmy seemed stumped for a moment. " tooks a long time to straighten all tha' shit out. I lucky the lady was there or I woulda been arrested for sure."
             After giving Jimmy a long lecture on the importance of punctuality when it comes to be a valued Ale House employee he promised to be on time Sunday morning, and he was. No sooner had I turned the lights on than his distinctive knock could be heard. Not only was Jimmy on time, but he managed to be on time in spite of the work being done on the Brown Line.
           "I waited my ass off, three Green Line trains come by and two Blue Lines and I'm sayin' where the fucks the Brown Line train?" Jimmy then went on to explain in great detail the logistics of getting from one line to the other. "I hadda duck under the turnstile at Lake Street an' everybody be lookin' at me funny an so a dude says somethin' an I tol him, 'hey, I gots to get to work. Those trains fuck peoples up, 'cause it makes them late for work and they gets fired."
              When I offered to give him a hug for his dedication and loyalty he declined.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Does D-Train Really Need A Gun?

                        Oh where oh where, 
                        Can Street Jimmy be,
                        Oh where, oh where
                        Can he be?
                        With his cash very short, 
                        And his crack all gone,
                        Oh where oh where
                        Can he be?

              Even after repeated warnings Street Jimmy was once again a Saturday morning no show. The only two days a week that we really need him are Saturdays and Sundays, and those are the days he's most likely to miss. Why? My guess is that he scores the most money begging on the street on the busy weekends and so he smokes prodigious amounts of crack and is therefore cracked out of his mind until sometime in the afternoon. I guess we can mark it down as one more of life's little ironies.
           Buzz Kill was prompt. Being an early riser he has become a regular at the end of the bar while Fancypants and I get the bar ready for action. He's still looking for a bar tending job; personally I think he needs to think out of the box. If his car is too old to drive for Uber then perhaps he could deliver pizza's. Howie survived delivering Chinese food and pizza for many years. (No word on Howie since he moved to Denver.)
          Fancypants has been up lately. After his bike accident several weeks ago his leg has been bothering him, however, he says it's feeling better now. I injured my back yesterday taking something out of the cooler and I can barely walk. It feels the same way it did when I tumbled down the hill at the Dunes three years ago. I understand why it hurt then, but to simply bend over and feel excruciating pain saddens me. This happened last week too and so now I'm going to have devise a stretching routine.
       Not only is Fancypants' leg hurting as well as my back but Buzz Kill's leg is causing him a great deal of distress, too. Fancypants described the three of us as "the walking wounded."
        I forgot to make the deposit yesterday and so after I finished with the bar I had to drag myself back home and get the deposit. It was raining which made things even more unpleasant. I drove back to the bar in order to lessen the agony. Just before I left the bar for home Son In Law, Gracie and the dogs arrived. 


        Last night at the Old Town Ale House D-Train explained his bizarre behavior last weekend. The reason he was upset is that he got his old work schedule back. This might seem strange to some people who don't know D-Train because for the past several years he's been whining about his new hours and yearned for his old schedule which enabled him to get to the Ale House in time to watch Jeopardy. Knowing D-Train as I do I wasn't the least surprised about his reaction to getting exactly what he wanted. 
        The best analogy I can make regarding D-Trains semi-nervous breakdown after getting the good news would be to compare his behavior with the nut case air controller that upon hearing that he was being transferred to Hawaii  blew up the air controller facility in Aurora last month. 
        As he was sober and alert when he came in last night I said:"D-Train, can I ask you a question that's been troubling me?"
         "Why do you need a gun?"
          "May I speak freely?"
           "Please do."
           "I'm going to have to get up at four-thirty in the morning and it will be dark, and I'll be a sitting duck while I'm waiting for my bus."
         Lee, who was sitting next to him seemed bewildered. 
         "Have you ever shot a gun?"
           "Have you ever shot someone?"
           "Not for many years..."
            "If you get a gun permit someone will just take your gun away from you."
             Mitt came in while this conversation was taking place.
             "D-Train, " he smiled,  "I'd love to take you gun shopping."
             Ruben Four Toes said that he hoped D-Train got a gun. There was a look on Ruben's massive face that was meant to emphasize his sincerity.
            "Ruben, " I said, "would you like to be sitting in a bar knowing that D-Train was armed."
            "Well," Ruben said thoughtfully, "now that you mention would be a  cause for anxiety."
           D-Train closed his eyes in order to focus more carefully on his reply, "I wouldn't bring a  gun into the bar because you have a sign that says no guns." The manner in which he said this suggested that he'd given the matter some thought.
           Juke Box Joe was in fine fettle. When Joe's around there's a great deal of affection on display. When PP came in, Officer Bill turned his back on Juke Box Joe and ignored his  good friend. I could see that Juke Box would need a good deal of cheering up so I regaled him with some of my favorite golf stories. The evening had been a festive one and soon Juke Box was again his old self.
           After Juke Box left I had an interesting chat with Jacob about the theater in general and acting in particular. After talking to him for a half an hour there is no doubt in my mind that he has the necessary tenacity to succeed. He certainly has the talent.