I remember it like it was yesterday, only yesterday I cut the grass and pulled a few weeds, because Mike Regan made fun of me and my lawn again, " Hey, the Hickey Urban Prairie is in full flowering . . .I mean dandelion-ing. Jesus, Hick do you ever put any Scott's on this patch of weeds?"
Yes; yes I do. To my reverie.
1979 - I was beginning my fourth year as a teacher in Kankakee, Illinois at Bishop McNamara High School. It was August and school would begin in a week and went home for the weekend and tended bar Reilly's Daughter on 111th Street. The Chicago Ag School was still a working farm. Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Mike Bilandic was still in the big Chair on Five. Thin Lizzy Played at Comiskey Park with Carlos Santana and Eddie Money on August 5th, Boz allowed me to pick up a few bucks behind the bar. I also played guitar and banjo in the trio - Sons of Reilly's Daughter -but this weekend Berwyn Moose an eight piece rock big band comprised of talented medical students who played brass-rock Chicago, Ides of March, Buckinghams, Motown and jazz standards would be packing the place.
Two women worked with me; the one behind the bar was also an assistant manager and the other as waitress for the tables in the bar and out in the big beer garden.
I worked Friday afternoons from 11 AM to 6PM, when Denny Leake took over. I filled the coolers with Heineken's, John Courage Ale, Becks, Miller, Miller Lite, checked the barrels of Bud, Michelob, Guinness and Harp for the taps, cut fruit for the cocktails, washed the bar and glasses. At about 11:30 AM guys my Dad's age popped in for a few toddies. These guys, all WW2 veterans, were not huge on snappy banter, witticisms, opinions, cheerful bon mots, or other indicators for their collective semiotic evaluations," Give your ears a chance, Kid. Nobody likes a bullshitter."
Short of answers to," Got Sunnybrook?" verbal intercourse must be kept as secret as what these guys and their brides did behind closed doors - " Get me?"
I made great martinis, old fashions, gimlets and poured a well timed shot on request and with the promptitude earned by the killers of Japs and Nazis.
By three in the afternoon, tradesmen began popping in and pitchers of draft beer would stabilize the eight hours of hard labor with an evening of domestic joys. Crews of Street and Sanitation workers, electricians, wood butchers, fitters and laborers crowded Reilly's Daughter's beer garden and the waitress St. Pauli Girl's fists of pitchers out to the thirsty gents.
The Roman collar on a beer is as important as the aroma and the taste. I learned that no one wants a pitcher of flat looking beer and if there was not enough foam collaring the top the pitcher, all I need to do was stick a rolled up paper towel into the brew and give a few swift swirls. " Pitchers Up, Rennie!"
At five o'clock a gorgeous Asian girl took a stool right in front of the Jewish Typewriter - the Epstein - the cash register. I had been stuffing the trays with fives and tens from the last order and was gob-smacked by the vision of loveliness that I had turned to see. I was unattached.
As Mike Regan might offer, " What's it to you?"
Well, every man confronts destiny. I gave her my best dispassionate and professional, " What can I get you."
The beauty who seemed to have brought a personal spotlight on her charms smiled, " A Guinness please."
I put one up as directed allowing the magical black and cream colors to cascade and settle - sit - add more- settle and sit - do the magic with spoon to top off and place before the client for inspection and acceptance.
In Indiana some gump pulls once on the sacred black back & forth handles and plumps the visual equal to Quaker State 40 weight before a beer swiller - that is not a Guinness. That is an affront to St. James's Gate and centuries of porter acolytes who made Guinness synonymous with goodness. This was Reilly's Daughter on the south side of Chicago and not some shot and beer joint in Bum Hump, Indiana.
The Black Magic was about as good a pour as I could master.
" You really know your stuff. I usually get a glass of flat black water. I had heard that this a great place for Guinness," the girl who could shame Nancy Kwan herself had been pleased by my mean efforts.
A six Gimlet Man, veteran of WWII, called over , " Hey, kiddo, I missed a few of your cousins on Luzon a few years back."
Unfazed the pretty girl fired back," Wrong, my dear man. I am Chinese American."
That quieted the man.
" Sorry, these old timers do the same when some one seems too German for them, as well and then the jokes start."
"Yeah," I answered, " Have you heard about the deal at the German barbershop? Haircuts $4."
" $4," she drew out the pay-off.
" A dollar a side."
Again, I had gained smiling approval and even more exciting the old veterans were hitting the silk and heading home. I must plunge.
After collecting fees and tips from what would soon be called The Greatest Generation, I cleaned glasses and allowed the gorgeous woman to enjoy her Guinness.
She asked for change to play the juke box and played the The Logical Song, " I love Breakfast in America!"
Now, I plunged, "What is your name if you don't mind my asking."
" Linda. And you are?"
"Pat Hickey, I am a high school teacher in Kankakee?"
" Is that near here?"
" No, it is downstate a bit."
" I just took a job here in Chicago. I was born in China and moved to Los Angeles."
" What do you do," I asked in the most probing of 'none of your damn business but friendly Chicagoans always ask anyway' manner.
" I'm in TV -I will be anchoring the NBC weekend news."
" That's great. Have you found a place to live?"
" Yes, I have an apartment in Lincoln Park. NBC helped me find a really nice studio with great view of the park. It is near R. J. Grunts, that is a nice spot. Have you ever been there?"
I said no but that Boz the Owner used to hit the brunch there once in a while. I was breath taken, floored - stone in love. I asked, " Have you seen much of the south side? Would you care to see Marquette Park. I am off in twenty minutes and we could leave your car here in the lot."
" That will be nice."
And Linda and I headed out to Lithuanian Plaza. I pointed out Rockwell Hall at 71st the Home of the fruitcakes of the American Nazi Party.
Then I suggested that we take in the art deco memorial to Lithuanian aviators Darius and Girenas, Lithuanian Deli for some good old Loogan Kibinai
We walked around the lagoon and she took my hand. " This was a very nice visit to the park. Hard to believe that Dr. King was hit with a brick here, " she offered
I Knew that it was time to end our time together, " Linda, may I ask you out on a date? I would to take you to Baby Doll Polka Club and 6511 Club on Kedzie."
" You may ask, but seriously doubt if I will find time to seriously do anything but keep my job here, Pat. You will be going back to Kankakee and I will anchor the weekend News on Five. You pour wonderful Guinness and this Lithuanian food is a treat. but let's just leave it at that."
I asked," What is your family name, Linda?"
"My family name is Yu - Linda Yu. Will you please take me back to my car - this was very nice."
We drove up Kedzie, past the Nabisco Cookie plant and through Tommy More parish, Evergreen Park, past Mac Lang's on 103rd, where I took a right to Pulaski and then south to 111th Street and Reilly's Daughter.
Yep, I like to think that I spent some quality time of the south side with Yu. Linda Yu.
If the Ag School were open then I could have spent some quality time on the south side of Chicago with ewe.