Friday, October 02, 2009

My Friend (Not My Cousin) Vinny

In 1981, while in self exile from my marriage and my family in Maryland, I live in Cicero, Illinois. At times, these were the best of times and at others they were the worst of times. I really missed being with my children, yet I cherished my freedom from my wife’s domineering family.

I first met my friend Vince while walking to a Cicero ballpark to play softball. I was playing in a Bar-League softball game and carrying a bat (an old Jackie Jensen model Louisville Slugger with a thick barrel – I had it since High School). Vinnie was also carrying a bat and was walking a few paces in front of me.

I caught up with him and asked him if he was playing in the 2 o’clock game. He looked at me as if I were crazy; then he answered and said “No, I gotta break someone’s kneecap.” I thought that he was being facetious and laughed. The look on his face told me that he was dead serious.

The next time that I saw him, about two months later, was in an up scale Italian Restaurant and Bar (and there weren’t many in Cicero at that time); I didn’t recognize him because this time he wasn’t carrying a bat. He yelled across the bar and asked me “Did you win?” I was amazed that he remembered me; we had had a very brief encounter a month or two before. I yelled back that I didn’t remember.

He got off of his bar stool and walked over to me and sat in the stool next to me. In a soft voice he told me that it was impolite to yell in a Restaurant. I was going to say that he yelled first; but I wisely bit my tongue. He introduced himself and I did the same. Little did I know that this was a start of a beautiful long lasting friendship.

In our bar conversation I learned that Vinnie worked for a Dutchman nicknamed “The Weasel”; although others called him BO Billy (but not to his face). The Weasel was the biggest bookmaker in the western suburbs of Chicago. His bank was Vince’s father-in-law.

Vince is a White Sox fan and loves the game of baseball with the same passion that I do. I’ve gone to several Sox games with him (usually the best seats in the house). I’ve taken him to several Cubs games over the course of the years; he always complained that we were in the cheap seats (Bleachers or Upper Deck).

Vinnie now works for the largest Construction Company in Chicago and it’s probably one of the top 20 in the US. I think, but I am not sure, that his father-in-law bankrolled their expansion some years back. Instead of a bat, Vinnie now carries a pen.

For the past 6 months Vinnie has been hounding me (via email) for the $19 that I owe him from last year. Now this is a guy that makes a two comma annual income. He lives in what my Dad would have called a mansion in the far western Chicago suburb of Naperville (5 bedrooms, swimming pool, 3 car garage and a circular driveway – all this on 1 ½ acres).

Vinnie and I have a standing annual wager. He bets $20 that the Cubs do not go to the World Series (he calls it a sure thing) and I bet a dollar that the White Sox won’t go (there is a reason for this that I may or may not explain later). I can’t recall how many $19 checks that I have written over the course of the years.

Last April, I did not send him his usual check. When he didn’t get the check in July he began to harass me; calling me a piker. Last night I called him to say that the check (sincerely) was in the mail but that it was written for $38 to include my 2009 losses (as I may not be around to pay up in April).

We spoke for more than an hour and he said “You know why I talked to you at the Restaurant that night, years ago.” I said “No.” “Because you seemed to be a good guy and I didn’t know too many good guys at that time.” He also said that I always made him laugh; that I was a funny guy who always faced adversity with a smile.

We talked about my health and physical problems. I told him that he didn’t need a bat because my knees were already shot. He laughed. I told him that a good day for me was when I only vomited once in the morning and didn’t crap in my pants. He laughed and then he cried!

The Beach Bum

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16 Comments:

Blogger alfredo_tomato said...

Good story. It was interesting how "alternative businessmen" had a very clear line between friendship and business. They may have been the biggest conman in town, but never play a friend.

Fri Oct 02, 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Loretta said...

Wow.. wonderful blog. please feature this article on the bizymoms Cicero community to feature these on their page. It’s free and the moms will love it.

Sun Oct 04, 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like time to get de-briefed,if you catch my drift.
Become a dependable guy,try the new loadmaster,crap & go.Takes a dumpin and keeps on pumpin.

Wed Oct 07, 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

I'm sorry to hear that your health continues to be so delicate. But it might have been worse for you if you hadn't sent in the check.... Old habits are the hardest to break. Old knees, though, are easy.

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