Chicago / Chicago

Uncle John

Uncle John

Uncle John lived a couple of doors down from us at our neighbor Bobbi Carrs house.

Bobbi ran a rooming house. the only two people I ever knew to live with her were Alec, 75 years old. german national. a very quiet, round old guy who walked around with his hands behind his back like he was contemplating something? nothing sinister, mind you? plotting? perhaps. most likely, only reliving his life through memories long past.

The other gentlemen renting a room was Uncle John. Now…John wasn’t my real uncle. I just called him that. John was in his late 60’s, early 70’s I’d guess? he was 6 foot something. to me? he might as well have been a giant.

As a boy, I thought Uncle John was the coolest guy around. former US soldier who served in WWI. a retired widower. His wife had passed of an illness twenty years prior. he never re-married. moving around the country holding various jobs to makes ends meet.  settling in Oak Park Illinois just a couple a doors down from our home at 830 Wenonah Avenue in the late 50’s.

Oak Park Illinois is located just west of the city of Chicago. a stones throw on the Eisenhower Expressway or The Ike as locals call it.

I’m not sure how it was that Uncle John and I started taking walks together?

I’d see him from the window and wave. he’d smile, waving back. I was about 4 going on 5 then.

Perhaps Mom saw it as an opportunity to watch her daytime soap operas without some ungrateful little sneak underfoot. I used to beg her to let me go with him.

Uncle John was shy and polite to everyone in the neighborhood.

I was grateful for his company. we got along. He listened to me blather about this and that. I had questions man. lots of questions.

If he had the answer. He was patient and kind and would explain things to me. If he didn’t? He’d let out a deep sigh. look at me and shrug.

I wanted to be just like him.

What I enjoyed most about our walks together was ignoring my normal boundaries. those set by my folks.

“No farther than the corner.” they’d say, “Stay on this side of the alley.”

Uncle John didn’t operate on that frequency. he wasn’t gonna be content just walking back and forth on our block.

I knew it. so did Mom I imagine?

Uncle John was a smoker, While on our walks together he always took the opportunity to light up a butt.

Sometimes we’d walk to Al’s Grill on Madison Avenue. Where he’d get a cup of coffee, I’d have a glass of water.

Al’s was a great place, typical fifties diner. long counter. several booths. if you sat at the counter you could see the cook. this big guy moving around in the kitchen. I’d watch him shoving the food through a small window to the waitress. wondering how he fit through that tiny window? did he live in there? was there another way in?

One particular afternoon as Uncle John enjoyed his coffee and cigarette, I was spinning myself around on the counter stool, content for the moment, trying to make a revolution without using my hands.

A Large Cadillac pulled up out front. A man in a black suit stepped out and headed inside.

He ordered 3 cups of coffee at the counter from the waitress. placing five dollars on it. She brought him his change. followed by his coffee to go.

I didn’t see the man from behind when I spun kicking the cups of coffee onto him and all over the floor.

He started waving his arms around. Shouting. mostly at me.

Uncle John got between the man in the suit and me.

“It was an accident. He’s just a boy. Look? I’d like to buy you the cups of joe to replace what you spilled.”

“What I spilled!?!”

My Friend held out his hands palms up. “Please the boy.”

The man glared at me.

I wish he hadn’t.

He leaned in to whisper something to Uncle John.

Who then looked at me and said, “we’re leaving.”

The man immediately stepped in front of us. Putting his hand on Uncle John’s chest.

I never saw Uncle John move so fast. he hit the man with something he’d pulled from his pocket. knocking him to the floor unconscious.

It was a blackjack he carried for protection.

The cook came out from the kitchen

“Do you know who that is? he works for Momo. you better get outta here quick. C’mon let’s go!”

Uncle John grabbed my hand and the cook led us out the back door into the alley.

“Run.” was all the cook said. “Run.”

We did. couple of blocks away we stopped. I looked at Uncle John who was breathing hard.

He kept asking me if I was OK?

“Who’s Momo?” was what I wanted to know?

“Robert, time to go home.”

He might as well have been Walt Disney for all I knew or cared.

Alec was sitting on the front porch of Bobbi Carrs house as we hurried up the street.

John said something to Alec. who got up and went inside.

We knocked on the door of our house. My Father answered. Mom came to the door behind him.

John asked if he could come inside a minute, first looking over his shoulder and up the street as we entered.

He spoke with my parents in the front room a few minutes.

I went in the next room to turn on the TV. Hoping to squeeze in a couple of cartoons or some Three Stooges. Maybe Garfield Goose was on?

I knew I was in trouble. Though? I had no idea of the severity.

I thought I’d probably get a spanking? maybe no tv? very likely have to go to my room? dollars to doughnuts going outside to play was out.

I heard Uncle John leaving and went out to say goodbye. I told him I was sorry. he knelt down, looked me in the eyes telling me it wasn’t my fault. Then he mussed up my hair said goodbye and left.

Alec met him on the sidewalk in front of our house carrying what looked like….is that a gun?

Closing the door behind him, I thought, here it comes. Dad’s gonna yell. Mom’s gonna send me to my room. only they didn’t?

Mom came over knelt down and hugged me.

Then Dad walked over putting his hand on the top of my head for a second. before he picked me up.

Something was wrong.

We all went to bed early that night.

I slept in bed between Mom and Dad.

They sent my Brother and Sister to sleep over that night at their friends.

When they got home the next morning. my brother would explain that the man I kicked coffee on was a bad man. he might come looking for us, try to hurt Uncle John and me.

In the weeks that followed, word went out. someone was looking for an old guy with a little kid.

Questions were being asked.

It wasn’t good at home. everybody was acting weird. mood was wrong.

I had to stay inside for a while. if I did get to go out? my parents, brother or sister went with me.

Mom and Dad were constantly looking out the front door or back windows of our house, scanning the street and alley. certainly no one went out after dark. my brother and sister were driven and dropped off everywhere.

it was a Friday Night, the light in the alley behind our house went out. it never went out. ever.

Dad wasn’t home, Mom grabbed my sister, brother and I, we headed for the basement.

Someone was in our house. we could hear them upstairs.

Mom immediately called the police from the phone we had downstairs.

We all huddled in the corner quietly. listening in the darkness. terrified.

The police arrived, entered and searched our entire house. they could find no sign of forced entry. no signs anyone had been there but us.

I knew better. we could hear them walking around, our floors creaked. there was no mistaking the sound. Ask my sister. we all heard it.

Eventually things seemed to calm down.

Mom and Dad acted like Mom and Dad again.

I didn’t complain, a rarity in our household at the time.

A few years later after my brother graduated high school, and went off to college. my parents sold our house in Oak Park, moving us to a suburb north of the city of Chicago. I was 8 years old.

When I got to be my brothers age, I became aware of the facts. the man I kicked coffee on worked for a man who lived on our street.

That man was Sam Giancana. The Boss of the Chicago Mob. the man in the black suit who Uncle John belted worked for one of the most powerful mobsters in America. certainly in Chicago.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park.

My Brother Tom explained that Dad spoke with one of his guys. telling him what had happened. that it was an accident. the guy listened. then, made a call while dad stood there waiting. after the call? he told him, no one would bother me or our family.

No such assurance was made for Uncle John.

So? Unbeknownst to anyone, Dad gave Uncle John some money, he disappeared the next day.

I never got to take a walk with my friend ever again.

Every year on my birthday I would get a post card from him. usually from some place with palm trees and a swimming pool.

When I was 14 or 15 the post cards stopped?

Mom and Dad sat me down.

Uncle John died peacefully in California in 1975. he was 81 years of age.

No one ever came looking to harm my family. and they never found our friend.

Uncle John had protected me. Dad recognized that.

For all the negatives others attached to my father over the years. this time he got it right. This man had done right with his son. And it was his job to do the same for him. In a time when things like loyalty and honor meant something.

Funny how things work out? nothing ever happened.

You worry. you wait, the bad you think is coming, doesn’t.

On June 19, 1975, 67 year old Sam Giancana was shot in the head and neck at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park Illinois.

His killer was never found.

To this day.

Several times a year I take a ride to Oak Park and drive down our old street. I’ll Park. look at our old house, think of my childhood. Remembering those innocent days of my youth.

Then I drive down Madison Avenue. Al’s Grill is still there. Though, I stay in the car. I’m always afraid to look inside. maybe that old gunsel is in there? waiting for me?

I don’t take foolish chances anymore.

I just want another day. you know? another memory.

Sadly for me, Everybody is gone now. Uncle John, Dad, Mom, My Brother. Bobbi Carr, Alec. They’re all gone.

I miss my friend. I wish so very much we could take a walk and talk about that day so long ago.

I’ve got questions man, lots of questions.

You can’t ever go back. Nobody’s there anymore. You can only go forward.

We All Just Move On. We Have No Choice.

uncle-john-2

 

 

 

 

Friday Night. Shootin Pool.

Wondering what I’ll do when I’m through tonight?

The door opened.

In she walked. Long blond hair. with curves in all the right places. wearing some kind of party dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. a little overdressed for Mal D’s Billiards. Gals wore get ups like this to those fancy smancy clubs downtown. only thing the rabble in this place knew about clubs? were the ones the coppers put over the top of your noggin for cracking wise at em.

I was about to lose 50 bucks in a game of nine ball.

I put my money on the rail.

Mott’s handed me a drink. and said, “Watch this, Jimmy is a ladykiller.”

The Blonde was sitting at the bar talking to Mott’s friend Jimmy.

“That ain’t no lady Mott’s.

I knew the type. Not exactly a Sunday school teacher.

Jimmy excused himself to make a phone call.

She crossed her legs. leaning back on the bar.

Caught me looking her way.

Giving me the up and down.

Man can stand only so much.

I swaggered over.

Then I said “hi,” like a spider to a fly.

“Where’d Mr. Jimmy go?”

“Had to make a phone call.”

“You know Jimmy?” She asked me.

“I’m his parole officer.”

“You?”

“Oh? Oh My? we just met.”

She was practically in his lap for crying out loud. just met?

Jimmy reappeared. “Help you wit something?”

“Just keeping her company til you returned.

“Fade….Will ya?”

I tipped my hat to her. excusing myself. heading back to the tables.

Just my luck, lost my second game and another 50 bucks. I couldn’t focus.

I turned to see the blonde alone at the bar.

“What happened to Jimmy?” I asked Motts.

“Dunno.”

It was getting late. I walked over….

“Where’s Mr. Terrific?”

“He had to leave.” she said. “Men.”

Leaning on the bar. I told her. “You got us all wrong. He ought to have his head examined, leaving a beautiful dish all alone in this place.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.” she blushed,

“You remind me of the first woman who ever slapped my face.”

We talked a while, had a couple more drinks, she lived along the lakefront. wealthy family. she was trouble, no doubt about it. one look at those legs and that get up she was in and I knew. Trouble. no one wears a dress like that to a pool hall.

“So doll face what brings you in here tonight?”

“Suzie.” she said.

“Sorry?”

“Suzie, my names Suzie.”

“Gotta be someplace downtown with society fellas falling all over a dame like you?”

“Exactly why I’m in here tonight.” she told me.

“So you’re slumming it?”

“No, not at all. I just wanted to see how the other half lives.”

“And?”

“So far? mmmm.”

Smiling like the devil would smile at you.

I would have run away. but I was on my own.

I tipped my mitt.

We finished our giggle juice. and left together. Heading back to my place. Stopping off to grab a bottle of champagne from Larry’s House of Booze.

Halfway through the bottle, she told me she wouldn’t sleep with me tonight. I just smiled.

All we were missing was candlelight, soft music and our clothes at the foot of the bed.

I lit a candle. dimmed the lights. tripped and fell into the wall head first.

Staggering to my couch. Suzie knelt beside me, concern on her face. trying not to laugh.

I put my arm around her waist, pulling her close.

Again, she told me she wouldn’t sleep with me tonight.

I just smiled. looked into her eyes and unbuttoned her dress.

Lying there afterward, she asked if she could sing me a song.

Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had a naked woman sing to me.

She got out of bed, turned to me, clasping her hands together and belted out “Crazy for You.” By Patsy Cline.

Why? She wasn’t the devil after all?

Just a lovely woman looking for some companionship.

Who am I to argue with a lady?

In the morning. I awoke to find her still lying next to me.

“I thought I told you I wasn’t going to sleep with you?”

“You did? didn’t you? What happened?”

“Well? What’s a girl to do?” she said as she stretched.

After coffee, we got dressed.

“What are you doing later tonight?”

“I’m sure I can move my plans around if need be.” I told her.

She took her pen out. handing me a note .

It read.

Suzie,
1150 north lake shore drive. # 1707.
Bring Champagne. 9pm. 

The doorman of her building called to announce my arrival. directing me to the elevator.

17th floor.

I knocked on her door.

She opened it wearing a full length mink coat. holding a Polaroid camera.

I Handed her the Bottle of Champagne. “I’m afraid I’m a little under dressed.”

Opening her coat. “What a coincidence? So am I.”

Thunderstorms crossed the city.

This time she put on the music and I managed not to fall into the wall.

It’s almost like we were meant to be together?

We had dinner a week later when she told me, I wasn’t her type.

Apparently her type involved swine with money who could wine her and dine her. take her to society functions. I didn’t have those connections anymore, nor did I really ever want them to begin with. You ever talk to the upper crust? Snooty, real snooty. But the ladies do like to dance under the covers…No matter what they first tell you.

She was a society dame. I was just some mug she bumped into for a couple of days in the spring.

It was a clean sneak. nobody got hurt…I took the rumble. hitting on all eight.

on the square.

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The Glass exploded above our heads. crystalized mist rained down on everyone seated in the place.

What the Hell?”

It took a minute to realize what had happened.

We looked up to where the glass had come from. at the top right corner of the pubs massive front window was a small circular hole about the size of a quarter.

I turned back to the Redhead. who was covered in it. “Are you OK?” she nodded and winced “I think so?”

Grabbing a towel off the long wooden bar on the far wall. I dabbed it in my water-glass. gently touching her back and shoulders.

“Stay still.”

The bar had gone silent, Walter the bartender yelled out? “Is Everyone Alright?”

A table of five pointed to the back wall of the place where a curious hole near the ceiling was.

A young man about 25 years old was telling his table mates,

I heard it! buzzed right over my head. 10 feet lower and you’d be calling an ambulance right now.”

Someone had just fired a shot from outside into Gingers Ale House.

But who and why?

I had met The Redhead about 3 hours earlier. she was standing at the side of the stage all alone. wearing a short green dress and swaying to the music. She was just a itty bitty little thing. Cute as a button.

I caught her smiling at me.

Perhaps? it was the silly grin on my face. I don’t know? dancing back and forth to Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys all by myself.

I had a groove going. enjoying the live music in front of me, free from the emotional torture of the past year. my divorce had been a life sucking kick in the balls. tonight, I put the wreckage of it behind me.

I was now…finally…looking forward to the future.

“You need to get out man.” friends kept encouraging me. they were right of course. sitting home in front of the television had grown old.

I’d decided to stop by North Center Street Fest after work to see a band I liked.

I told her, “I can tell the type of person someone is by a little quiet conversation.”

She suggested, “Gingers Ale House?”

Hailing a cab. I held the door for her.

As we entered, she grabbed my arm, cooing “Ooh a Gentlemen.”

Ginger’s wasn’t crowded that Friday night. It was still a little early for the regulars.

We took a table at the front of the room next to the window.

“So what brought you out tonight?”

I told her, “To hear the band, didn’t feel like staying home.”

“You can’t stay home on a Friday? that’s no fun.”

Our conversation flowed, she was easy to talk to. seemingly interested in what I had to say. I learned she was an actress in town. Theater, Commercials and Industrial Films mostly.

I asked her “Have I seen you in anything?

“Not yet.” she replied, “Just some small store front theater, few commercials. nothing national. I’m changing agents right now, taking some classes. I’m going to get some new Headshots taken next week.”

Moments later, we were covered in a glass mist.

I leapt into action.

Walter the bartender refreshed everyone’s drink after making sure his patrons were all ok.

Red excused herself to use the bathroom. I watched her walk away. her hips moving ever so….

Like a big old walleye, she had me, mesmerized. I had inhaled the bait.

When she sat back down she asked me what I did?

I told her, “I was a double naught spy.”

“Really?” she said.

Starring deep into my into my eyes, she asked teasingly. “Do you work under cover?”

I sat up straight, pulling my chair closer, leaning across the table telling her, “That’s the best kind of double naught work. All you need is a good bottle of Champagne and The lights of the city to make the opposition talk.”

“Pity, we don’t have a good bottle of Champagne?” she pouted.

Mustering up my best Scottish accent.

“But we do Moneypenny, Dom Perignon 96 back at headquarters, interested?”

I paid the tab and we left.

The cab pulled up to my building at 655 West Irving Park Road.

We drifted through the lobby, Our Doorman Steve an off duty Chicago Police officer was working that night.

Discretion was Steve’s thing. he’d chat you up normally, though if you were with a lady? he would say good evening, open the door and most importantly not slow your roll.

A Pro if there ever was one that Steve.

I pressed the number 41 in the elevator. she leaned against me, looked into my eyes. I put my hands on her waist pulled her in, kissing her. the elevator stopped and we got off.

I opened the door. the full expanse of the downtown skyline was the first thing you see when you enter.

At night with the city lights twinkling in the background? it grabs your attention pretty quickly.

The place was no bigger than a hotel suite. one large room, full of windows that face south down Lake Shore Drive to the City. there is a small kitchen off the hall and a bathroom. once you see that view? mee-o my-o.

I moved into the kitchen to put the Dom on Ice.

Martin Denny drifted out of the speakers.

“Would you like to dance?”

Red nodded, then held up her hand for me to wait. taking her shoes off. standing before me in her bare feet. I took her hand in mine, placing my other around her waist gently twirling her so she could she the lights twinkling outside.

Slowly, swaying in each others arms.

After a couple of glasses of Dom, she headed to the bathroom, looking over her shoulder as she went, teasing she’d be right back. I leaned on the register cover on the windowsill looking out at the city.

The door to the bathroom opened, she glided over. the back of her dress was undone. looking up, Red battered her eyelashes. “What about that interrogation you promised? ” her dress slid to the floor.

“I don’t think that’s going to be necessary Miss Moneypenny.”

Lifting her onto the register. she wrapped her legs around my waist.

At last, all was right in the world. it had been a long time since I had a woman in my bed.

For a while now, I had been looking for someone like this. call me crazy I think she was too, something in her eyes said so. that and the fact her dress and panties were on the floor in front of me tipped me off.

I pressed her hips and back against the window.

Behind her, the window suddenly spider-cracked. it began to break into pieces.

Grabbing me around the shoulders and neck. She screamed.

Broken glass dropped onto to her back and down to the street below.

Thankfully I had a good hold of her.

I wouldn’t have liked to explain to the police or her family as to how she fell 41 stories with no clothes on.

Or what exactly was she doing up on that windowsill? I spun her away from the broken window onto the bed. nervous laughter erupted.

“Are you ok?” she nodded yes.

“Don’t move.” I ran and got a damp towel, dabbing lightly on her back…..once again.

Leaning forward Red started to laugh hysterically. I thought at first she might be crying until she lifted her head.

I held her face in my hands and kissed her.

I found out a few days later.

The phone rang, it was Red. she needed to see me right away…..

“Of course you do baby. I understand.”

Turns out? I didn’t. She was married. that would be a problem. shame too, it was all going so well. I had hoped it would last a little longer.

Did I miss the signs?

She wasn’t wearing a ring? I never heard her mention her husband once?

To be fair, I never asked. Didn’t think I had to? She sure wasn’t acting married the past three nights.

I told her the truth. if I had known she was married? nothing would have happened.

Suddenly, I was the other man.

Wasn’t that long ago where someone else was the other man. now? I was?

I knew all too well how that felt. looking at it from a different perspective doesn’t make you feel any better. lovely as she was? it would end badly.

Leaving my building a few days later, Steve was at the front desk on the phone. he waved and nodded at me as I passed him.

I stepped out into the night, the punch caught me flush on the jaw. I staggered back through the window of our building.

The glass shattered, the guy who hit me jumped into a car and sped off. Steve called the police along with an ambulance. he was able to give them a detailed account of what happened.

Good man that Steve.

They would arrest Red’s husband the next day at home.

I woke up in the hospital. with a Concussion and a Broken Jaw.

“Good Boy meets Bad Girl….Damage estimated at Twenty Thousand Dollars……”

She came to see me in the hospital to apologize.

I couldn’t talk through the wired jaw. turns out her husband had been following her all along. he was the one who had fired the gun through the window at Ginger’s.

According to Red, he wasn’t aiming at us? she hoped I would be alright. that when I got better?

“Maybe we could get together for lunch?”

Lunch?

I would be taking my lunch through a straw for a while.

Redheads…..The Devils Children.

Thomas B. Hogan of the Yellow Cab Company, Chicago Illinois is seated at the center of the photograph. Thomas B. Hogan of the Yellow Cab Company, Chicago Illinois is seated at the center of the photograph.

Thomas B Hogan (1879-1957) Originally from Ottawa Illinois. began his career as a groom, caring for horses in the Chicago area in the late 1890’s. while in Chicago he drove a horse drawn cab, until the advent of motorized cabs. one of Chicago’s first cab drivers, rising to the presidency of Chicago’s Yellow Cab Company in 1932.

From the farm to the big city. he worked his way up the ranks as people did back in those days by rolling up their sleeves and working hard. retiring in the late 1950’s.

He witnessed The City of Chicago in the Days of World War I and World War II, The Great Depression, Prohibition and Al Capone.

My Grandfather left this world a few years before I entered into it. He saw enormous change take place in not just Chicago, but the World.

I am proud of his accomplishments. and fascinated by Taxicabs.

His Experiences with the Taxi Cab Industry were quite different from my own. while he worked in it. I just use it as a mode of transportation to get around town.

I always have enjoyed being driven around in cabs. you get in, tell them where you want to go, they take you to your destination, and upon arrival, you pay your fare and exit the cab. that’s how it’s suppose to work. you don’t give them any crap, they won’t give you any. respect them, hopefully they show you the same. but the whole process has changed somewhat over the years. don’t get me wrong. some rides are still very pleasant experiences. and some are not.

So, Please forgive me Grandfather for some of the experiences I am about to share with anyone who may happen to read this.

My earliest memories of riding in a cab was being taken to or from O’Hare airport during the beginning of the Jet Age. I remember thinking it was a cool way to get around as little boy. and just who was that strange silent man up front driving us around?

When I moved from the suburbs to the city to reside my impression of Cab’s and Chicago Cab Drivers continued to interest me. it seemed like a tough gig, dealing with the traffic, the elements and the passengers. I’ve always thought most people who ride in Cab’s discount the man or woman behind the wheel. I’ve witnessed it first hand with those I’ve shared cab’s with. most treat them unfairly. they look down on them. don’t give them respect or any understanding. in just about any business there are good employees who take pride in their work, and the others who are tired or angry or bitter, possibly, this is the only gig they could get. and they hate it. It’s been like that for a long time I imagine?

I’ve had some awesome rides in Cab’s and met some really interesting drivers. I’ve also had to deal with some drivers who just suck big time.

I have been hit by two taxicabs as a pedestrian in my life. once was my fault. the second time? the cabbie tried to run me down for no other reason than he thought my life was worth less than his fare in the backseat. in the first incident I apologized and went on my way. only suffering the indignation of having my left pants leg torn off as I ran for a commuter train.

The second incident I was walking home and crossing a major intersection with the green walk light when a cabbie barreled around a corner, forcing me to literally dive out-of-the-way. the cabbie slammed on his brakes rolled down his window shouting profanities at me. I approached the rolled down passenger window shaken. I asked him if he was aware that he almost killed me? again, more screaming of profanities. when I leaned in the open passenger window to speak with the driver, I glanced at a incredibly scared businesswoman in the backseat. I couldn’t believe this guy just didn’t seem to care.

I’d like to state for the record I’m not exactly sure when his side view mirror got separated from his cab? Possibly it happened during the argument? I do know once he realized it. he exited the cab like it was on fire, grabbing me by the collar and rag-dolling me on the sidewalk. I looked at him, told him in no uncertain terms, “Take Your Hands Off Me!” by this time a large crowd began to gather.

The frightened businesswoman in the backseat had gotten out, shoving money at the cabbie, leaving in a hurry, disappearing down the sidewalk. the enraged cabbie continued to rag-doll me with one arm, screaming that I had to pay for the broken mirror. to which I replied sarcastically, “You Got a Good Case.” at this point the driver released me reaching for his cell phone, informing me he was calling the cops, I said, “You Do That.” a few minutes later one of Chicago’s finest arrived on the scene. he asked us both what happened. It was his story against mine. I believe? I told mine better.

As for the cement headed cabbie? in the end. he got the ticket, a court date, and no money for the busted mirror. I have since been a little more careful when crossing intersections. in a strange twist of fate, I ended up marrying a woman about 7 years later who had been hit by a cab in the city. I don’t believe it was by the same guy that tried to kill me. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if perhaps you have almost been taken out by an out of control cab in your day? or know someone who has had a close encounter like that of my wife and I?

These were times that I had encounters on foot with Taxicabs.

These instances didn’t sour me on Cab Rides. I still use them whenever I can.

When it comes to tipping the driver. I believe that I over tip. I do this as a way to honor my Grandfather and his memory. I’d like to think he would approve.

My rides are never boring, as a passenger I am always paying attention. eyes are wide open. sharing conversations with countless drivers, Good and Bad, Some really pleasant, Some really uncomfortable. Sometimes, the driver will lecture you like you don’t know squat about life and he has all the answers. I’ve ridden with drivers from Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America. I’ve listened to their dreams, spoken with drivers going to college, many hoping to get a degree to better themselves. some wanting to be doctors or lawyers or architects.

Early one morning on my way to work, I had a driver who was completely out of it. it took me a few blocks to realize this. once he missed the turn, I calmly mentioned it. he seemed not to hear me or care. So there I was, barreling in the opposite direction of my destination. looking at me in the rearview mirror through his glazed googly eyes. I told him he was heading the wrong way. he didn’t seem to comprehend what I was telling him. I finally had enough. “STOP The CAB!” I shouted. that did the trick. he pulled over to the curb, turned around, looking at me and angrily asks, “What’s Your Problem?” I quickly paid the fare and told him I thought he was on something. He went berserk. swearing at me, I exited the cab and he followed. a foot chase down the sidewalk ensued. he gave up after a block.

I’m not sure I’d trade an angry cabbie for a smelly one. Mr Furious I can deal with. But a Driver who smells like ass? there is no escape. Like in any bad relationship. You need to get out of it, and get out now.

Sometimes in the winter. you feel like you’re riding in a mobile meat locker. “Hey Pal? I’ll give you a couple extra bucks to turn up the heat.” at the end of one ride the driver had to pry his hands off the steering wheel just to collect the fare. then there is the hot summer months when a lot of older cabs have either no air conditioning or poorly working air conditioning. You’ll spot these cabs as they pass you on the street by noting the passengers hanging their heads out the open windows like a dog seeking relief from the heat.

It’s Always embarrassing when I get in a cab and say, “Thank You for stopping Sir.” only to find out my driver is a woman. Apologies Lady. Yes, sometimes my cab driver is the rarest of the species. The Female Driver. I personally love woman drivers. They are Friendly, Polite and Happy! What more can you ask? they always get a good tip from me. Woman drivers? I Wish there were more of them.

Getting into the backseat of a cab you never know what you might find. you might find a pair of sunglasses, an umbrella, a sweater or jacket, I found a pair of women’s panties one time. how I hoped that the fare before mine was an interesting one. sigh….where was I? lots of fast food wrappers are left on the seat or on the floorboard, the occasional cell phone, on the day after Saint Patrick’s Day you might see or smell the remain of some amateurs vomit. really nasty stuff too. I have found over the years a fair amount of Money. I turn all this stuff over to the driver. well? not the fast food wrappers or the vomit. but certainly the articles of clothing and phones and umbrellas. and no? I didn’t keep the panties. I left them on the seat. with regard to the money, I have had spirited debates with people about this. the driver will tell you the property of the cab and all belongings inside are his. even if he is only leasing it for that day or week. I have found up to $20 dollars on a few occasions. only once when I was a younger man did I pocket it. everyone’s initial reaction is Finders Keepers! later on I started to side with the driver. it’s certainly not my money. maybe the guy or gal who left it gave the driver a lousy tip? now I hand it over to the driver. I’ve have had more than one person tell me I’m a sucker or chump for doing this. I still look at it like it’s not my money. if I find it laying on the sidewalk? then….it’s finders keepers. but inside his place of business? my humble opinion is? it’s his. good karma to hand it over. I love the look I get from the driver when I do.

One of the problems I find today that exist in Cab’s are all the interior distractions. I am speaking about talking on the phone while driving. it’s gotten a little better with new laws prohibiting talking on the phone. but c’mon? you’re driving, you’re working. it’s ok for the passenger, he doesn’t have his hands on the wheel. I personally believe the passenger shouldn’t have to listen to you talk to your friend or wife on the phone. get off the phone. when the passenger exits? pull over and make your call curbside. this should apply to everyone. not just cab drivers but all drivers. there are enough distractions out there. if I catch you texting? I will request you stop the cab, and get out. and you get stiffed with regard to the tip. you could kill somebody you numbskull. one distraction I can live with? within reason, is when I get in and the driver is playing his music. I know a lot of you won’t agree. everyone is different, and most I realize want to ride in silence. and I can be like that. it depends on my mood and the time of day. the driver will usually turn it down to be polite when someone gets in. I usually tell them sometimes to turn it back up I want to hear what they are listening to? especially if it sounds interesting. I have been turned on to some very good music during rides over the years. even seeking out and purchasing some music I’ve been turned onto to. many a ride come to a close with me complimenting the driver on his choice of music.

Lastly, I want to talk about the characters I have been witness to over the years. one of my favorites, was a driver who was waving his hand through the windshield. alternating back and forth, pounding his hand on the horn like he was conducting an Orchestra. other characters of interest are the ones who feel the need to decorate the insides of their cabs with colored tiki lights and personal photographs or neon wallpaper. I guess this is normal in other parts of the world? a little unusual here stateside. there was one driver I remember who every inch we went from his Gas Pedal to his Brake. Gas Pedal, Brake, Gas Pedal, Brake, Gas Pedal, Brake! for like 20 blocks. I wanted to tell him take some driving lessons. In the end I refrained, while exiting a little sea sick. Then there is the frustrated Race Car Driver. Who won’t let anyone get in front of them, they always have to be out front. all I have to say is buckle up and hang on. 70 MPH in downtown Chicago is just nuts. out to the airport, fine? in rush hour traffic? not so good.

I often wonder who the first guy who came up with the idea of Taxi Cab’s was?

It certainly is an interesting way to get around town. Do me a favor? next time you get in a cab. don’t zone out until you get to the destination, next time, maybe pay attention to the driver, the route he takes, his skill as your driver, maybe, ask him how his day is going? you just might be surprised. I don’t get to ride in them as much now that I have moved back to the suburbs. when I can, I do. I must admit to you, I miss not taking them as much as I use to. my new commuting mode of transportation has been replaced by the train. and as much as I miss all those cab rides? I Miss My Grandfather more. I wish I had gotten the chance to know him. I wish I could have taken just one ride with him. I’ll bet he was an excellent cab driver. With a load of interesting tales.

Lost Our Direction

 

We’ve Lost our direction people.

I mean this literally.

In my 30 plus years of Grateful and Gainful employment in downtown Chicago.

I have been hit by a cab twice, once my fault, once the cab drivers. I’ve witnessed a guy stepping off a curb and being run over by a bus. (he didn’t make it.) I had a woman hit by a truck fly into my arms (she survived.) I’ve lost count of people falling, slipping, tripping and breaking Arms, Legs, Elbows, Knees and Toes in front of me. I began working in the city at a time when people walked the streets like one drives a car. orderly, like how traffic flows or should flow. and flash forward to today. where I’m not sure how to describe it?

I have been hit on the sidewalk by ice falling from a building, had a bird poop on me a couple of times from above, which is supposed to be good luck I’m told. and once I got sideswiped by a bike messenger in hockey goalies mask in the middle of the summer. I have been splashed with water by buses, cars and trucks. I was chased down the street one time by a cabbie who meant to do me harm. and like us all I’ve slogged through all kinds of weather. Traversing the city by car, bus, train, el, boat and my favorite by foot. I’ve tried to handle this with as much understanding, compassion and aplomb as anyone can possibly muster.

But today? I thinking of buying a Taser. The untraceable black market variety. I have been told that there are two different types available today. the first kind when applied to the umm? usually unwilling participant besides getting a pretty good jolt I’m told leaves a serial number burned or branded into the skin. the second expels confetti when used leaving behind the serial number of the taser used on the individual. this is why I need an unregistered model. I would prefer to remain incognito. I mean….there is really no need to involve the police. is there? Good, I didn’t think so.

Now of course the truth is I would never hurt anyone intentionally with a taser. the only way I would ever raise my hand to another would be to protect my wife or family. besides I am way too old at this point to put up my dukes and commence swinging at someone’s noggin. and I sure wouldn’t want anyone taking my instrument of mayhem away and using it on me.

I just wish that people would watch where they are walking. I do. sadly I know this will never change.  I just felt the need to perhaps alert others to the lurking dangers on the streets we all share. eyes open people. they are out there, and some of them mean us harm. some of them are just way too tied up in checking their E-mail or Twitter or Facebook pages to care about the impending collision heading towards them on the sidewalk just ahead. Bad craziness is out there on foot these days, it’s right around the corner on the streets of our fair cities.