Saturday, July 31, 2010

Parents Need Patience

Parents Need Patience

  • I was perhaps five years old and riding in the back seat of our 1939 Chevy, Dad at the wheel.

    Donnie: "Daddy, why is this called the twentieth century when it's the nineteen hundreds?"

    Dad: "Well, from zero to one hundred was the first century. From 101 to 200 was the second century. From 201 to 300 was the third century . . . ."  (At about the tenth century, he began rolling his eyes, groaning, taking exaggeratedly deep breaths, and mugging at me in the rear view mirror.)   " . . . From 1801 to 1900 was the nineteenth century, and from 1901 to 2000 is the twentieth century."

    Now these were the tail end of my pre-logic days, and I was half convinced that he had tricked me somehow. Also, I had greatly enjoyed the faces and groans he had used to spice up his little monologue.

    Donnie: "Do it again."

    Dad: "Jesus wept!"

  • In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we lived in the third (from left to right) of four apartments in a row house. There was a cellar with coal bin and furnace, ground floor, and second floor. On the second floor there were three bedrooms. My parents had one, my brother and I had one, and the third was used as a playroom.

    One night when I was around seven years old, my brother and I were playing with blocks in the playroom. The light bulb burned out. The light fixture was on the wall, too high for me to reach, so I passed the news to my parents and returned to the playroom and my brother.

    A moment later my Dad appeared, light bulb in hand. He replaced the bulb and turned to us.

    Dad: "Now you've been sitting in the dark and at first this is going to seem very bright to you. If you look directly at it, it will hurt your eyes. Don't look at the light when I turn it on."

    My brother and I dutifully lowered our eyes to the floor, but I was skeptical about the "hurting the eyes" bit, and when Dad turned the light on I immediately looked at it.

    Wow! Major squint time.

    Dad: "Goddamn kid!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And Then . . .

This is the aftermath of the preceding post. BTW, the "My head hurts" comment at that post is from the Link Monster himself.

All that happened in the mid-eighties. In 1992 I moved to the east coast for six years, but came back to the Chicago area for a week every year to visit my friends.

It must have been around the 1996 or 1997 vacation that we had our nickel-dime poker game at the Link Monster's apartment. By then the local watering hole had been purchased, razed, and rebuilt as part of a different chain.

On entering the apartment I was shown *the bench* - the wrought iron bench that had provided so little comfort to Link. After the bar had closed for good, but before it was razed, Link and Jeff (R.I.P.) had stopped by one night and wrestled the bench into a vehicle, liberating it, if not from further abuse then at least from abuse by others.

Link's married and a father now, entering middle age and somewhat calmed down, and last I knew the bench had been delivered to his mother, safer with her than at any time I knew it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Who's Your Daddy Now?

One Friday night at the watering hole there were perhaps fifteen or twenty of us from the junk mail company. Sometime between eight and nine o'clock I became restless and decided to head for home.

Hearing me ask for my tab, the Link Monster got on my case about leaving so early, calling me all kinds of wimp, although in less delicate terms.

He was a beer drinker and I'd been drinking my usual, Bourbon Manhattans. This is high octane stuff. I eyed him for a moment, walked to an empty table, sat down, and motioned him over. He came and sat down opposite me.

Curious as to what was going on, a friend we'll call Bonch came over with his drink and sat down with us. Bonch and Link shared a house, so this was going to work out well. Link had a gleam in his eye, not knowing what was going to happen, but sure it would be fun.

The waitress came over and I ordered two Bourbon Manhattans, straight up. A moment later she brought them and as she set them down Link, who had never tasted one, looked at me and asked "Do we slam these or what?"

Perfecto! "Of course."

As the waitress turned to leave, I touched her arm and indicated that she should stay. Link and I slammed our drinks and I told the waitress "Two more."

She looked at me with some concern, and I reached into my pocket, pulled out the car keys, and gave them to Bonch. I looked expectantly at Link until he did the same. Satisfied, the waitress went to fetch two more. Bonch was grinning from ear to ear.

The drinks arrived, we slammed them, and I said "Two more." The waitress sighed and went off to order them.

While we waited, Link said "I have to go to the men's room." Up he got and off he went.

Bonch: "I think you've got him."

Donnie: "Why do you say that?"

Bonch: "Because he went like this." Bonch picked up a cocktail napkin and dabbed delicately at the corners of his mouth.

The drinks arrived, but there was no Link. After a few minutes Bonch and I got up to go check the men's room.


We went out the front door and saw Link sitting on a wrought iron bench, head between his knees and a puddle of vomit between his feet.

Bonch: "You alright, Link?"

Link Monster: "Fuckin' Richards."

That finished the night, of course. I went in and finally got to pay my tab, and Bonch drove us home, taking my car, with Link passed out in the back seat. Bonch said he'd pick me up in the morning.

The next morning, at about the appropriate hour, there was no sign of Bonch and Link. I called, got their answering machine, and began shouting "GET UP! GET UP! GET UP!"

Bonch picked up the phone and said he was about to leave, but "I don't think Link is going to make it."

On the way to work he filled me in. He'd had to half carry Link into the house and up to his bed. Having accomplished that, he went downstairs to get a bucket or something for Link in case he had to upchuck, and while he was down there he heard a thump. When he got back upstairs, he found that Link had rolled off the bed.

He then had to go back out to the car and clean up the back seat, where Link had orally disposed of some beer and some bourbon.

Apparently, Link woke up around six P.M. thinking it was six A.M. and called his boss to leave a message. She answered and he told her "I don't think I'll be in today."

"No shit."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Billy Visits Chicago

A year or two after I moved to Chicago, brother Billy came for a visit. I have mentioned that my area consisted of a large number of young women, many single, and a handful of men. When they found out Billy was coming, there was much enthusiasm for meeting him, and a Friday night out was scheduled. In the event, the party consisted of Billy, me, and perhaps ten of the women.

We began with drinks (and introductions) somewhere, then had dinner (in Old Town, I *think*), and moved on to a little dive that was a favorite of ours at the time, a joint with a jukebox full of sixties music, sawdust on the floor, and a bar and high tables with stools.

Billy had some adjusting to do, being absolutely surrounded by young women making a big deal of him. At one point he leaned across the table and in a low voice asked me "How do you stand it?"

At one point, Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction was played, and Billy and I got into a minor disagreement over a sequel that had been released, a sappy thing called Dawn of Correction that had reached #36 on the pop charts (OK, I just looked it up). He had the title right but I, for some reason, was certain that it was Dawn of Construction. There being no way to settle the matter at the time, we just dropped the subject (or so I thought).

The main event lasted for perhaps six hours, at which point the married women had to head for home, and things slowed down. In conclusion, Billy, three of the women, and I headed back to Old Town to a family restaurant for a final cup of coffee. Billy insisted on paying, the women stepped outside, and I followed a moment later, to find them doing a can-can to improvised lyrics professing undying love for Billy. By any standard, the evening was a success.

Several months later, I hosted our area's Christmas party at the Lakeview Men's Club. There were fifty or sixty attendees, half employees and half spouses and other dates. About halfway through the evening, Nicki, whom you've met before, called for quiet and announced that she wanted to present me with something. There was some grinning and giggling, so apparently they were all in on this. Having achieved the desired quiet, she approached me with a small, gift wrapped item and informed me that it was a gift from all the employees and my brother Billy.

This could not end well for me.

I opened it to find a pristine 45 rpm record in a sleeve, Dawn of Correction, by The Spokesmen. I suppose I looked as if I'd been caught with my hand in the cookie jar, because there was much laughing and pointing. At me.

That's OK, though. As I have said here before, I don't mind going out on a limb, and I also don't mind the occasional times when it gets sawed off behind me.

Nicki was *quite* pleased with herself until . . . until . . . her date - and this was their first date - began to speak. Apparently when he called for Nicki she was still wrapping the record. She explained the situation to him and how much fun it was going to be:
That Donnie Richards. He thinks he's
so smart. Well, we got him this time.
Poor Nicki turned red, scowled at him, and dropped him like a hot potato after that night.