Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fire Across The Street From The Ale House

                   Rubens cousin Becky called me yesterday and asked what would be a good time to return to the Ale House the paintings and silk screens I did of Ruben. Tobin had brought them to Ruben's wake. Several people have asked me where the painting of Ruben looking out from under the brim of his cap, and the baby Ruben portrait of the toddler with his martini glass and cigarette were. I'm fond of the pictures and will put them up as soon as the girls return them tonight. I was struck by a quote Rick Kogan sited in the first of a series of articles on Chicago taverns he's writing. The quote was from the famous Scottish biographer, Samuel Johnson: "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern."  Ruben was living proof of this sage observation. Old school taverns are more needed now than ever given our so called advanced state of morality. Television was harmful enough to civil discourse, but with the advent of iPhones and texting, ear phones and all other electrical devices, we have become a world of zombie, dullards  and anti-social bores.
              Ruben's life revolved around taverns. And now that he's dead there is a void that cannot be filled. I remember kidding him that we should keep a camera behind the bar for a few hours every night and have a reality TV show where Ruben interacted with the patrons and bartenders. I think it would have been a big hit but Ruben was not a chivalrous character, nor was he troubled much by abstract questions concerning morality. Ruben's favorite conversations were the ones where verbal anti-personal bombs, land mines, and exploding hand grenades were employed in take no prisoners discussions. Ruben observed his fellow bar patrons with great acumen, and was never shy about giving advice.  Gracie was the recipient of a great deal of his shared wisdom. I told Ruben more than once that he had missed his calling: "Amigo, you should have gone to California and started a religion. The people in California are remarkably gullible, and susceptible to charlatans and fraudsters. I could help you with the religion. You could call your religion Zotarianism. Zoty Zotar could be your god. It could be a religion devoted to pleasure seeking hedonists. You'd be the Buddha like leader."
             Ruben had no objection as long as I did all the work. Work for Ruben and myself has always been the deal breaker. Work tended to take much too big a chunk out of our day. It's a shame we were both so preoccupied with having fun, because Ruben had the persona and the verbal dexterity to become a tremendous religious figure. His girth would not have been a disadvantage -- in fact, he could have played up the Buddha angle. I'm sure Gracie could have designed several impressive articles of costume for him. Ruben approached drugs, alcohol, and food with a keenness of interest no theologian could possibly have exceeded. The bright look of happiness that swept over his face -- which was the size and shape of an inflated pigs bladder -- when he was engaged in eating, is unforgettable. 


          I was just waking up from my nap yesterday afternoon when Tobin arrived at the condo and told me that there was a bad fire across the street from the bar. The sound of helicopters had disturbed my slumber and now I knew why. She said she had to close the bar because of the intense smoke. "I drove Kim home because the busses were a mess. As soon as we can open, Kim will come back to bartend." After I got dressed, we walked back to the bar. We had to get there in a circuitous manner because North Avenue was blocked off, as was Wells Street. We had to loop around and come down Weiland Street. Because Tobin had let some of the firemen and cops use the bars restrooms, they let us through the barricades and into the Ale House.
             There were firemen, and fire trucks everywhere. My worst fear was that Second City was on fire. We get a whole lot of customers from Second City and if they had to suspend classes and shows for any length of time, it would really hurt us. I knew one of the fireman who was stationed in front of the bar. His name was Ron, and I used to play golf with him at Jackson Park. He told me that the fire started in the Adobo restaurant. It was a grease fire and quickly spread to the next building. A three thousand pound air conditioner had fallen through the collapsed roof. Ron introduced me to some of the other fireman. Three of the old timers knew Fireman Rick. He's been on disability for a couple of years and they asked me if he had finally retired. I told them that the only way Rick would leave the fire department would be if they dragged him out of his firehouse kicking and screaming. 
         The smoke was now less intense. While I was talking to Ron, who is an affable black man, Anne Marie came by. Frank, who was the policeman stationed at the corner of Wells, had let her through so she could get to Sedgwick Street. She seemed a bit tipsy. After I introduced her to Ron, she told him, "Bruce hates me."
           "No," I said shaking my head, "that's not true, she hates me."
            Anne Marie and I have not had a civil conversation in about five years and so this was a break through moment. I have a lot of fond memories of our former adventures together, and have been saddened by our current estrangement. After giving me an air kiss on both cheeks, she stepped over the maze of fire hoses and continued down the street. 
             At around five o' clock the fire trucks started rolling up their hoses in preparation for leaving. Jerry, who's now a paramedic, also was on duty, and he said hi. When they started letting people cross North Avenue on the west side of Wells Street 
I walked over to survey the damage. Adobo was gone. It was located in neat old white stone building and I doubt if they'll be able to save it. Some of the people who worked at Adobo were regulars of ours. I hope Alphonso wasn't cooking when the grease fire ignited.
            The Second City offices were destroyed, but one of the fireman told me the theaters were okay. I hope the classes are functional. The problem is the smoke damage.  When the bar finally opened we got a decent crowd. While I was talking to the Defense Attorney and the Inventor, who should we see walking down the street, but Dave and Rita from our Scotland trip. They came in and sat down in the window with us. The Defense Attorney is extremely fond of them and doesn't like sharing them with the rest of us. We had a fun conversation. While we were conversing, Rick the pilot came in. I hadn't seen him a year or two. He's living in a remote town in Ohio. He says he's got a place in Florida, too. I was exhausted so I went home for the first time all week before ten.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

                   Tobin called me and said there is a fire across the street at Second City. The smoke is so bad she had to close the bar. This is not good news.

Scottish Highlights


           Things seem to slowly be returning to normal. Street Jimmy says "Ruben is at peace." Fancypants has a dental appointment which is always stressful for him. I haven't heard from Gracie in a couple of days. The crazy Russian lady stopped by last night. I find her sexy. She didn't speak to Hawkeye when he reported for duty. A lovely young Scottish girl and her Brit boyfriend came in. Hawkeye gave her the full Hawkeye welcome. I'm a sucker for the Scottish accent and at Hawkeye's urging I gave her some of my silkscreens that I had in the basement. While Hawkeye was chatting  with the young couple he had his back to the door. I don't get it. 
              Touhy made his second appearance in as many nights. He felt I should have had a more prominent role in the Ebert movie. I would have liked my description of the booze and beer tossing fight Roger and I got into over the chick with the big tits included, but I told Touhy I understood the time constraints.  
             A week ago bartender Mike got stuck in the outside storage locker where Fancypants and he keep their bikes. He sat in the tiny dark storage room until eight in the morning when he called Wheezy from the hardware store. There is no door nob inside the storage room and when the door accidentally closed he couldn't open it. Instead of calling me he waited until the hardware store opened and called Wheezy. She came over and turned the outside nob and freed him. What's so bizarre about his story is that I was in the bar at seven. And when I told Fancypants about Mike locking himself in the storage locker,  Fancypants told me to close the door on him. In thirty seconds he was out. "I just stuck this metal spike in the door and opened it." He said the metal spike was on a shelf inside the storage room.
            The Incredible Fling Band has been a big hit on the juke box. It's been the most popular album for the last week.


                                 Back To Scotland

            I would have loved to have spent more time in Glasgow. It was poor planning to make it only half a day. Hawkeye has often accused me of having a "Glasgow face," and I now understand what he means. I saw so many dead-ringers for my parents, aunts and uncles as I walked the streets that for a moment I thought I was at a weegee board family reunion. At the first bar Donny O took us to I sat down next to a woman with large, serious brown eyes who reminded me of my late mother when she was in her thirties. Because she stared at me as one might do an intrusive rodent I deemed it judicious to moderate my enthusiasm. Her heavy Glaswegian accent was certainly like nothing that ever came out of  my mothers mouth. 
           The pubs Donny O took us to were interesting, but certainly no more interesting than the ones we visited in Edinburgh. What was interesting were the people. Glaswegian's tend to be grim-faced, serious folks. According to Donny O there is a resentment against people from Edinburgh, "take the art museums, the government subsidizes Edinburgh museums, but not the ones in Glasgow…" As we walked about Donny could not contain his churlishness. He wanted assurances of more money, and was not shy about letting me know this every twenty-minutes. The man was determined he would not leave things as he  found them. 
          The Irish Milkmaid and the Swedish sailor were game for anything. The Irish Milkmaid confessed to me that she was back to being heterosexual after living with a women for the previous ten years. I think that is a good call because she's a very sexy chick. The Swedish Sailor is a tall, stunning blond who is definitely not heterosexual. She has a real  eye for the ladies and spent much of the trip trying to score.  I found their company extremely entertaining as I did the Colonel, and Rita and Dave. The Colonel got loaded our second night in Edinburgh and when Hawkeye tried to sneak back to the hotel without her the Swedish Sailor sprinted after him and made him come back to the pub and take charge of his now staggering cousin. The Inventor and the Defense Attorney fit in perfectly with the gang. The Defense Attorney got along with everyone and the Inventor put on another eating and drinking show that was quite impressive. 
           Before we left Glasgow and said goodbye to Donny O Hawkeye took up a collection for our surly guide and I reluctantly chipped in thirty pounds. Everyone but the Sourpuss gang kicked in generously. For what ever reason the Sourpuss' and their friends only came up with five pounds even though they made it abundantly clear they were rolling in dough. The money boosted Donny O's lagging spirits immensely. Before we dropped him off at his home he showed Dave the house his father was born in many years ago. This meant a lot to Dave. 
           His pious discoursing concluded at last,  Donny shook my hand and said, "thanks for everything, Scott."
           On the bus ride back to Edinburgh I told the Colonel that although  Donny O had faults to numerous to mention, he had a lovely singing voice, and his poetry was not half bad. She agreed.
Hawkeye confessed that before he gave Donny O his tip money words had been exchanged.
           "Donny told me he was not happy with my threats of physical violence."
             "Well, Hawkeye, the man pushed you to your limits with his constant whining. You would have been perfectly within your right to have given him a bitch slap or two."
               Pub Crawl Liz was a trooper. Not only did she have to deal with drama queen Donny O, but the Sourpuss' made it clear that they were displeased with their lodgings as well as much of the itinerary. I told her everyone else was having fun and to ignore the negative vibes.
            While we were walking in the park in front of the hotel the Defense Attorney told me that what I thought was heather was not heather. An argument ensued even though I knew she was correct.
             After several days in Edinburgh we all marched over to the Waverly Station. We were going to take the train to the Highlands. There was a snafu with the tickets. Pub Crawl Liz said something happened to the stations ticket printer. We all waited nervously while Liz handled the situation. When Liz arrived with the tickets at the last minute, in his haste to get on the train Hawkeye almost knocked over a portly older women. I apologized to the women and said, "he's a typical thoughtless American.We are a nation of clowns, freaks and drug addicts. We behave like ghouls, vampires and vulgar swine. It's in our DNA. Once again I'd like to apologize for this abject reptile." The women' teeth were visible and her lips curled up into what I perceived to be a smile.
             I'd taken the train to Plotkin once before and it is a lovely way to see the Scottish countryside. Before we arrived in Inverness, where we were to change trains, the Colonel and I got into another political argument. I found patronizing her rather than my normal direct assault on her intelligence the most effective way of getting her goat. Fortunately she's not a grudge holder and by the time we got off the train in Inverness we were pals again.
             The Colonel confirmed my thoughts about advancing up the ranks in the military. "It's not who you know, it's who you blow."
                 Next, our stay in Plotkin. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ruben Gets A Memorable Send Off

                 The funeral home was in a part of the Northwest side that I'm not familiar with. Officer Bill gave me the directions; I must have copied them down wrong because when I found myself going down the main drag of Portage Park I knew I'd fucked up. It was rush hour and slow going. Finally, after asking a series of strangers how to get to the Northwest Highway, I located the funeral home. Unlike every other funeral home I've ever been to on the North Side, there wasn't an easily accessible saloon next door.  It was past six when I walked through the front entrance. It was not a pretentious funeral parlor like so many garish, tasteless Chicago funeral parlors. In fact it was rather austere. It was packed. The only familiar faces I recognized beside the families were Grass Hopper, Naomi and Sergio. A few minutes after I arrived the Defense Attorney and the Inventor walked through the door. Bob E. also was a late arrival. According to Sergio most of the gang from Old Town had been in earlier. The people assembled in the main room were almost entirely Mexicans. When I walked up to the open casket and stared at Ruben, he had a "I bid you one and all farewell," look on his cleanly shaven face. They had dressed him in his favorite stingy brim fedora, a natty sports jacket, with a beer bottle in his right hand. I couldn't help smiling. Even in the sport jacket you could tell how much weight he'd lost. 
               Although a few of the mourners seemed a bit shocked at Ruben's godless indifference as he lay inside his simple coffin, they nevertheless fell to their knees, raised their right hands, and made the sign of the cross. Watching Ruben's slow descent into death was too much for flesh and blood to bear, especially mine, but seeing him now in peaceful repose with a self satisfied smirk on his chubby, copper colored face seemed reassuring. There were no longer any traces of the persistent pain he was enduring. Ruben had been an outlaw, and in another era it is easy to imagine him laying in a desert filled with cacti's and a flock of starving buzzards circling over him like rotting carrion. He lived by his own code, and instead of being surrounded by a flock of buzzards he had spent the last three months of his life surrounded by highly paid doctors and hard working nurses. Ruben knew the angles and he played them well. He'd been cheating death on a consistent basis for the last twenty or so years.
              Over the years Rubens vast, shapeless, elastic face had been the subject of many of my paintings. Tobin had brought six of these paintings to the funeral home earlier in the day and the family had placed them near the coffin along with numerous photographs. My favorite photos were the ones of him in his youth. They ran the gamut from that of inveterate scamster, whiskey drinking whoremonger to not so innocent alter boy. A bent old man, his head tilted forward in order to look down at Ruben in his coffin, smiled. His eyes looked like pieces of coal that had been dropped into a small mud puddle. When he smiled you could see where his teeth were missing. Another man, with a wind-gnawed face and shaggy eyebrows also stared down at Ruben while rolling a tooth pick from one side of his mouth to the other. I was particularly struck by the contrast in most of the Mexicans hands compared to Ruben's. These were men and women who for the most part worked with their hands and you could see the calluses and missing, and half-missing fingers. Not so with Ruben, he had always prided himself on his soft, almost dainty hands.
             Ruben's cousin Becky introduced me to her elderly mother, and even more elderly aunt. Both women were in wheel chairs and Becky had to translate who I was to the two old women.  I've gotten to know Becky and Ruben's two sisters well over the last year, and they are remarkable women. I'd like to have a dollar for every time I'd been present when Ruben, his face suffused in anger, was barking demands at his family members. For the most part they remained stoic, however, if the situation demanded it they could return his insults in kind. 
             Ruben, although one of the first members of his clan to have graduated high school, had started working early in life to help support the family. His father had disappeared and Ruben had helped his mother put food on the table since his early teens. This his siblings have never forgotten. He worked the huge news stand at Randolph and Michigan Avenue when he was just a kid. I remember the news stand well; they sold out of town papers and magazines and must have done a helluva business. Ruben's youngest sister told me there was going to be ceremony at seven where people could get up and talk about Ruben. After the ceremony there would be a prayer. "I know Ruben wasn't very religious, so were just going to recite the Lords Prayer…"
            I was standing in the back of the room talking to Sergio when I saw Becky heading toward me. When she asked me if I'd say something I said I'd rather not. To get up in a room full of strangers and children in a highly emotional situation and try to say something unoffensive, seemed like something that should be avoided at all costs. When I expressed this to Becky she said, pointing at Sergio, "they're going to read one of Sergio's poems, so you can say whatever you want." Becky made it clear that it would mean a lot to the family if I would speak so I reluctantly followed her to the front of the room. So there I was standing next to Becky waiting for my turn. Ruben's youngest sister and his nephew burst into tears while describing the irascible family member that was presently residing in the coffin behind them. This was going to be tough. I had not prepared anything to say, so after just barely getting out of my mouth  how proud Ruben was of his family, and how they had somehow kept him alive for all these years against overwhelming obstacles (chiefly Ruben's intransigence and refusal to take care of himself) I described Ruben as an eleven-year-old juvenile delinquent. I suppose I should have spent more time on how much he loved life, and the pleasure he took from eating, drinking and hanging out with his friends and family, but I didn't want to hog the time.
             After the Lords Prayer I said goodbye to the Becky and the sisters. Before I left his eldest nephew asked me for the large oil I did of Ruben. I told him that was Ruben's favorite and it was important to keep it in the bar. "If you want one of the silk screens, help yourself."
             As I walked out into the parking lot the last pink slivers of the sun were disappearing in the west, and were turning into the color of dry blood.
               When I got back to the Ale House there were quite a few people who'd been to the wake earlier. Tobin had put out hot dogs and I was suddenly hungry. When I saw Sergio he gave me a protracted hug. He was as emotional as I've ever seen him. Ruben and Sergio had a love-hate friendship for many years, and Sergio was taking Ruben's death hard. He was sitting with Michael Shannon who'd been to the wake earlier. Sergio said he had to get Ruben's niece to read his poem because he wouldn't have been able to recite it without breaking up.
               "It was really a good poem, Sergio. Ruben would have loved it."
               Sergio wiped the tears from his eyes and thanked me.
              I sat up in the window for a while with the Inventor. Across the street I could see the frenzy of activity taking place in the hardware store. Tipre Hardware was in the process of moving half its inventory to a new location just west of Larrabee Street. Over the years we've taken for granted having a hardware store next door. It's going to be tough seeing them move. While I was drinking with  the Inventor the Defense Attorney unleashed a torrent of shrill, strident invective at Hawkeye in a piercing falsetto. It had something to do with dinner plans. I told the Defense Attorney to moderate her fury,  that this was an inappropriate time to act churlish. 
            She is not easily offended, nor is it possible to embarrass her; she gave me her patronizing, "how dare you Bruce look." When she continued to berate Hawkeye the Inventor, in a heavy-jawed no nonsense manner said, "knock it off." Her reaction was priceless. Her mouth opened wide and her eyes were bulging from their sockets in disbelief. At first she didn't seem to comprehend fully what had just been said to her, but when he gave her a longer, harder, more forceful, "quiet down bitch, and behave," look she was uncharacteristically speechless. I felt like patting the Inventor on the back, but restrained myself.
           Crack Whore Connie was predictably obnoxious. She had managed to get hard liquor and was shit-faced when she sat down with us. She's normally annoying, however, at times like this she's unbearable. She'd gotten up at the wake and described how Ruben used to grope her. In fairness to Connie, she's the last woman to have polished Ruben's knob and she actually loved him. Ruben always had a soft spot for Connie which is why I let her back in the bar. As bad as Connie was, when I saw Fatal Attraction walking (actually staggering) through the door I knew my troubles were just beginning. When Hawkeye looked at me for help, and Mike, who was bar tending, held out his hands helplessly, I walked over to Fatal and told her she had to leave.
             With her stroboscopic eyeballs and high arched eyebrows projecting pure hate, she said, "Why?"
             "Because you're drunk, that's why."
              "How dare you not let me in. This about Ruben, not you." It was evidently a point on which she felt strongly. As she moved her head from side to side defiantly she told me how much she hated me.
               "I hate you a hundred times more than you hate me," I said emphatically.
                "I hate you a thousand times more…"
                 "I hate you infinity plus one…"
                 " I hate you a hundred infinities whatever…"
                 "You can't have more than one infinity."
                 Her voice became louder and more emphatic as she described what a low-life good-for-nothing swine I was.
                 After she left Mitt was chuckling. He said he wished he'd stayed for the ceremony. "I had some great Ruben stories I would like to have told."
                  I was emotionally drained and sat down at the bar next to Grasshopper. He was one of the few people that Ruben liked visiting him. It was Ruben who gave Grasshopper the nick-name Grasshopper. Grasshopper is a very sensitive guy and was in a highly emotional state. The two of us said very little as we stared straight ahead. I didn't get home until quite late again. It's not going to be the same without Ruben Four Toes, that's for sure.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


                   For the second day in a row Street Jimmy has shown unusual remorse for his unconstrained merriment at the news of his old friend Ruben's death. After he again explained how his behavior had been misinterpreted, he sighed audibly.  Jimmy seems to understand that there will be unavoidable consequences if the news of his unusual behavior gets out.
             "Jimmy, your secret is safe with me…"
            "You know, it was jus' the way you describe how he was laying in the bed with his eyes all bulgin' out real goofy like…tha's why I be laughin', it wasn' 'cause he be dead."
            "Jimmy, I know you liked Ruben. You pushed him in his wheel chair thousands of time, it's just that sometimes you behave like a foolish, silly rascal. I'm sure Ruben forgives you."
             Jimmy doesn't think he can go to the wake Monday because he doesn't have anything appropriate to wear.
            "We're all going to wear Baby Ruben T-shirts. Maybe I can give you one."
             "Yeah, I wants one."
              When I described what it must've been like up in heaven when Ruben ran into Fox, Jimmy's shook his head, "no, they don' gets to talk in heaven 'cause they be spirits."
             "What do you mean they don't get to talk?"
              "They jus' floats around."
              "Well who the fuck wants to go to heaven if all you do is float around. I want to talk to people and check out the broads."
               "Tha' ain't how it works."
                "So you're telling me that the payoff for living an exemplary life is that you float around and don't get to have any fun? That's total bullshit Jimmy. Why would anyone want to do that for eternity?"
                 Jimmy was perplexed, "there's some shit we ain't gonna ever know 'bout."
                "Well, you can shove your heaven up your ass. I want to go to hell where the action is."


              The logistics of the wake Monday are going to be a problem. The northwest side of Chicago is not easy to get to during rush hour. A lot of people don't have cars and so we're going to have to do some car pooling. Tobin said she'll bring my Ruben paintings early if the sisters want her to. I said I'd come later and stay for the duration.


           Last night people were still learning about Ruben's demise. The Greek pilot was stunned when he looked up at the black board.  Michael Shannon was equally saddened when I told him Ruben died. Michael's  got an unusually large, savage face. His uncombed hair clinging to his forehead, he bent forward on the bar and rested his chin on his arm and stared up at the black board. Michael's not your average movie star, in fact he's the antithesis of the polished, publicist-image of a tinsel-town movie star. If you ever have a chance to watch him eat a tamale, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity. When the Tamale Guy came in with his tamales Michael bought six. In rapid-fire succession, barely taking time to remove the corn husk wrappers, he inhaled the first three in single bites. After devouring the three tamales in less than a minute he chug-a-lugged a small container of hot sauce. After he finished the hot sauce he repeated the process with the next three tamales, along with the remaining container of hot sauce. I'd never seen anyone drink hot sauce like they were downing shots before.  I was impressed.
            The crazy Russian chick that Hawkeye called the cops on the other night showed up while I was talking to Michael. She'd been to the beach. When I mentioned her untoward behavior Monday she said in her distinctive Russian accent that she had come to apologize --  and to show her good will she brought a raspberry pastry concoction for us. "It is a Russian-German dish, it is not too sweet, very little sugar. " When Lemar said he'd be responsible for the Russian chick I allowed her to stay. I wasn't in the mood to play hard-ass, and I have to admit that I find her amusing. I told everyone not to buy her a drink. She's reasonably attractive and has a nice body. Lemar seemed intrigued with her ass and fondled it on more than one occasion. She doesn't seem enamored with being called Anastasia. Once again I went home late.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not So Wasted Days And Wasted Nights

            Street Jimmy is a peculiar fellow. He's always taken grim pleasure in other peoples misfortunes, and has regularly gone out of his way to excite the antipathy, rather than the esteem of his fellow humans. So when I told him Ruben died I was not shocked when he burst into uncontrollable laughter. Johnny Ale and Anya, however, definitely were shocked and stared at the guffawing Jimmy in disbelief. No sooner had Jimmy pulled himself together than he commenced laughing again. I tried to explain to Johnny and Anya that this is the way Jimmy fights sadness and grief, "You're really sad that Ruben died, right Jimmy?"
           Jimmy made no attempt to disguise his glee "yeah, I jus' laughin' 'cause Ruben tickle the shit outa me, tha's all." This was followed by more laughter. 
            "Jimmy," I said, "sometimes I feel that I you and I are of a different species. At times like this I find you less than a desirable companion. Either you are sullen and depressed, or you're giddy and puerile. I know you are a man of treachery and violence, and having a conversation with you is like trying to reason with an annoying house fly, nonetheless, I respect your consistency."
             Jimmy had a vague, distant look in his eyes. "We all gonna die sometime, tha' jus the way it be…"
             Unfortunately I was unable to see the funny side of my husky Mexican friends death and sat in the bar glumly as a few of Ruben's friends came up to me and offered their condolences. Someone texted me that Ruben's wake was to be held on August 24 at Olson, Burke, Sullivan Funeral Home at 6471 North West Highway, between 3 and 9. (I know how to receive text messages now, I just can't send them or usually figure out who sent them to me.)  Brian the Piano player, and Nurse Kate came in and sat down next to me. Although they had their quarrels over the years, Ruben was very fond of Brian. While we were commiserating with each other who should walk in the door with smiling faces? None other than Ruben's sisters, cousin and one of his nephews and nieces. This was unexpected. After exchanging hugs with his diminutive, full figured siblings and cousin, I ushered them up to the window table and offered to buy them whatever they were drinking.
             "Whatever Ruben drank."
             "Well, Ruben preferred Cuervo, but he was on the no-shot list for the last five years. A couple of years ago he actually thanked me for putting him on the no shot list. He said it added a couple of years to his life."
             Johnny Ale said that Ruben drank Millers  and so I had him pour a couple of pitchers. For the next hour and a half we shared our favorite Ruben stories. There was a great deal of much needed laughter. The family had some great stories, and seemed to get a big kick out of my stories about Ruben when he was an eleven year old kid. "I was living down the street with my girlfriend, and obviously you ladies remember the dreaded McGuire kids Ruben used to hang around with…"
           They definitely remembered the McGuire kids.
"Well, the kids were terrifying everyone on the block, The McGuire's were the worst kind of shanty Irish, and they were a little older than Ruben and were constantly vandalizing cars, and doing cruel things to animals. I never confronted them directly because they'd get my car, so whenever they'd call my girlfriend names I'd get their bikes. I used to come home from the bars around three or four, and so at least once a month I'd slash their bike tires. I got Ruben's bike a couple of times, too. When they called my girlfriend a dumb cunt and a whore one time, I took wire cutters and cut all their spokes."
            Ruben's relatives thought this was a highly amusing story.
          "I told Ruben about this a few years ago and he was actually mad at me. He said they all thought it was the Puerto Rican's on the next block."
           While we were reminiscing about Ruben, Brian the Piano Player played some of Ruben's favorite songs on the juke box. They didn't know that whenever Ave Maria came on the juke box tears rolled down Ruben's fat cheeks. "It reminded him of his mother."
             The sisters then described how Ruben used to fight with his mother all the time. When Wasted Days and Wasted Nights came on the juke box they all sang along with it. Ruben's nephew often was a subject of Ruben's ire. He smiled and said, "Ruben always called me Pretty Boy."
            "Yes," I nodded, "he did. As much as he complained about you and your brother, he was really proud of you guys."
             It was great seeing Ruben's family, and when they asked me about Baby Ruben T-shirts, I had Grasshopper get them all a Baby Ruben T-shirt. It was agreed that we'd all wear the T-shirts to the wake.
           I felt in much better spirits after spending time with the family. When PP came in she was predictably morose. She described how she used to get drunk and call Ruben up in the middle of the night. She said she was going to miss not having him grab her ass and then holding up his hand triumphantly and exclaiming, "bam!" Mrs. Clown was the next Ruben pal to come in. She hasn't been in since Tobin barred her for extreme drunkenness. She was reasonably sober so I let her sit down. She said Clown has been in the same hospital Ruben was in. "He hasn't had a drink in over a year, but there's something wrong with his heart again. When I went up to Ruben's room to say hi he screamed, 'get her out of here. ' " Both Mrs. Clown and I thought this was very funny. 
            "Yeah, Ruben told me about it."
             Inexplicably some young kid came over and started trying to make out with Mrs. Clown. She was as shocked as I was. Lemar said he made sure Mrs. Clown got into a cab without the young Lothario. 
              I didn't get home until almost two.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Adios Ruben Four Toes

                Ruben's cousin Becky called me at seven p.m. and said they were going to pull the plug on Ruben in one hour. I told her that unless they really thought it was important that I be there, I thought it was a family situation. She said she completely understood. Somebody put the Amazing Fling bands entire CD on the juke box which seemed somehow appropriate. Crack Whore Connie just happened to come in a few moments after I heard the news. I let her have a Dewers and she thanked me for telling her about Ruben. Ruben always had a soft spot for Connie no matter how bad she behaved. Kate and Irish Chris came in and I'm glad they did. We reminisced about Ruben for a couple of hours. Sean, the cinematographer, also came in and gave me a hug. An hour later he said he got a text from Sergio that Ruben was dead. Of course anything you hear from Sergio has to be triple checked, but given the circumstances I told Johnny Ale to put Ruben RIP on the blackboard. Lee handled the art work. It was a tough night and I feel extremely bad. Ruben was an amazing guy, and not only was he irreplaceable, but he was my good friend. When Fox died it was really tough, and when Roger died I was equally distraught, and now Ruben. I felt bad when my uncle John died a few years ago, but he was in his nineties. Yes, Ruben was in terrible health, but it still hurts bad. Death is something you never get used to. This is a very sad day. I told Chris before I left the bar a few minutes ago that Sergio is a terrible source and that I hope Ruben is still alive  just to make Sergio look bad. That would he the best way Ruben could say goodbye. He was one of the funniest, cleverest, bizarre people I've ever known. Adios amigo.