Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This Bud's For You

When I was a teen I knew a lot of guys named Edward. Most of them went by the diminutive name Eddie. In my coterie of friends in High School there were three Eddies. Sometimes this was confusing because when we were talking about one of them some one would invariably ask “which Eddie”.

Therefore we gave them all nicknames. First there was “Fast” Eddie. Fast Eddie got his nickname not because he hustled pool but because he was a sprinter on the High School track team. He was fast.

Then there was “Easy Eddie” who got his nickname because of his gullibility, you could tell him just about anything and he would believe you. He always believed that we gave him that nickname because he was laid back.

Finally there was “Slow Eddie”. At first we called him “Fat Eddie” because he was 5’10” and weight 225 pounds. I think that we later changed it from Fat to Slow out of respect for Eddie. Or maybe it was because he threatened to sit on us if we didn’t change it.

Slow Eddie was indeed a character that I will never forget. He was a star offensive lineman on our football team. He could have been a great running back (because he was hard to tackle and take down), but he was too slow. I never saw him eating a lot, so one day I asked him how he put on so much weight. He said that he drank three malted milk shakes per night and chased them down with three quarts of Budweiser. This was at age 16.

In 1994 I was sitting in my favorite bar in Berwyn, Illinois, when in walks this big guy that resembled Bluto from the Popeye cartoons. He sits next to me, orders a Budweiser draft and asks me if I remember him. My mind goes blank, but I say, yeah you look familiar. He sez, “I’m Slow, Slow Eddie from High School”. Wow, he had gained a few more inches, grew a beard and added another 100 pounds.

He asked me if I lived in Berwyn and I told him no; that I was just visiting my sister as I do every year. We rehashed our life stories from the past 30 years. Slow then told me that he was a construction electrician and a union shop steward. He made more than $40 per hour stringing wire through conduit in new buildings and there was plenty of overtime available.

Every year since that chance meeting, we meet in a bar when I come to Chicago to visit my family and friends. I usually call him the week before I arrive and set up a date for our annual reunion. Since I was not going this year, I didn’t make the call.

Last week, Slow Eddie called me. “When the Hell are you comin’ out”? We talked about my health problems for a while and then he dropped the big one on me. After more than 45 years, he quit drinking Budweiser. I queried, why? He told me that it was no longer an American Beer. Busch sold out to some European conglomerate. Being in a Union for all of his adult life, Eddie only buys goods that are made in the United States from Companies owned by Americans. Sometimes this is a hard thing to do.

I promised to call more often and told him “good luck and stick to your guns”. John Wayne would be proud of “Slow Eddie”.

The Beach Bum

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