Guadalupe


On the door of St. Petronille Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Guadalupe is a common first name in Mexico. In Chicago, I have met both males and females who have this name. My sister’s middle name is Guadalupe. The adult nickname for Guadalupe is Lupe for both genders. Small children are called Lupito or Lupita, depending n their gender.

In Chicago, I knew a male Lupe who hated his name because non-Mexicans had trouble accepting his non-American name. They also mispronounced Lupe as “Loopy.” He hated this. But his name was Guadalupe Gonzalez, so he remained Lupe because he wanted to honor the name his parents had given him. He learned to not only accept his name, but also flaunt it, much to the annoyance of all non-Mexicans within earshot.

When I bought my house in Bridgeport, one of my tenants was named Guadalupe. she was a single mother with three children. As I later learned, only her youngest son was a U.S. citizen. I bought a four-flat because Derby foods was about to close down and move to Sylvester, Georgia. My plan was to rent out three apartments that would pay the mortgage while I was unemployed. All the tenants came with the building. Guadalupe lived in the second floor rear apartment.

Guadalupe spoke hardly any English, but she understood most everything that was said. Her daughters were seven and six years old. Her son César was one. César, coincidentally, was also the name of the previous owner of my house. In fact, I bought my house from him. Well, it turns out that the previous owner was in fact César’s father, but he didn’t even worry about his son’s wellbeing at all. Guadalupe had to go to the welfare office to fill out some paperwork for her son, but she needed a ride and an interpreter. I offered to help her because she was struggling to get by. At the welfare office, I translated the social worker’s questions, which Guadalupe answered. Finally, we get to the question, “Who is César’s father?” Guadalupe has a hard time answering. The social worker turns to me and asks, “Are you César’s father?” “No,” I said. “I’m just her landlord and I was trying to help her.”

One day, she told me she couldn’t pay the rent. She was already about six months behind, but I didn’t have the heart to evict her. Eventually, I told her that I would have to evict her. I just couldn’t afford the mortgage unless all my tenants paid their rent. She was packing up one day when a nun stopped by her apartment to ask for donations. Guadalupe told the nun that she was moving out because she wasn’t working and couldn’t afford the rent. The nun said that her church could help her with the rent and find her a job. The nun talked to me and asked me not to evict Guadalupe and her children. She promised that she would pay all the back rent and find Guadalupe a job.

Well, this was a very agreeable arrangement for all of us. When Guadalupe needed repairs or rooms painted, she would make dinner for me afterwards. She didn’t like that I was always in a hurry to leave, but I was always so busy back then. Once she told me that she wanted her living room painted again even though I had just painted it about three months earlier. I wanted to know why her living room needed to be repainted so soon. She told me that her son had written on the walls with a magic marker and she couldn’t wash the walls clean. I refused to paint again. She told me that if I didn’t paint she would move out. I didn’t paint and she moved out.

I saw her about a year later. she had moved about two blocks away. She wasn’t feeling well. She had another baby a few months earlier and she never fully recovered from the delivery. I asked her if she had gotten married, but she said no. The father of the baby was her present landlord. She was sorry she had moved out from my building. That was the last time I saw her.

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Mr. Macala


Mr. Macala, 1976 Gage Park High School Yearbook.

When I think of influential people in my life, I don’t often think of teachers. Some teachers merely teach, but others offer valuable lessons that don’t sink in until much later in life. So when I think back to influential teachers like Sister Laverne at Holy Cross School and Enrico Mordini at Divine Heart Seminary, I also recall Robert Macala and would like to add him to my list of influential teachers. Whenever I recall him, it’s as Mr. Macala, as we were taught to address our teachers in high school.

I met Mr. Macala at Gage Park High School because he took my picture for the chess team and when I won a trophy at a chess tournament at the La Salle Hotel in downtown Chicago. I’m not sure how he found out that I had won the trophy, but he came looking for me with his camera and took a picture of me with the trophy. If I’m not mistaken, I believe that he called two girls walking in the hallway to come in and pose with me for another picture. I suppose to give me this aura of being a sexy chess player. I may just be imagining some of the details about the girls as I recall the incident. But it seems so real now as I imagine it. Forgive me if I have embellished the story. Lately, I’ve been recalling events that I have never experienced!

Anyway, Mr. Macala asked me to write a short description about myself and about the chess tournament and he would then publish the picture in the school newspaper. He asked me to write this with such great confidence that I would do it immediately. He just assumed that I was capable of such a simple assignment. But, alas, I never wrote the brief description and my picture never appeared in the school newspaper. He overestimated my capabilities, but I liked the fact that he truly believed I could do it.

I met Mr. Macala again in the summer of 1975 when I attended summer school at Kelly High School and he was the English teacher. I must admit that I had a very bad attitude that summer. I had just failed English in my senior year, so I didn’t graduate. I had to make up the English class during the summer. I truly believed my life was over. FML! That’s how I felt, long before the acronym was even invented.

I worked midnights at Derby Foods, the peanut butter factory, and then went immediately to English class in the morning. I had failed English because I worked and I didn’t sleep enough before my midnight shift. I often fell asleep during my classes. Plus, I didn’t do any of the reading or writing assignments. And, sometimes I didn’t show up to class. Was that any reason to fail me? Oh, yes, I also failed to write the required term paper!

So, I was greatly relieved in summer school when Mr. Macala announced on the first day of class that we wouldn’t have to write a term paper. The whole class breathed a collective sigh of relief! Perhaps the class wouldn’t be so bad after all. I don’t recall all the details about what was taught in class. But I do remember how Mr. Macala kept the class’s attention by straying from the lesson. He did teach us English, even though I don’t remember exactly what, and he also gave us writing assignments. I still have a book report and a couple of assignments that I wrote for Mr. Macala. I was so happy with the class that I actually saved some of the assignments instead of throwing them away as I did with all my other high school classes. Occasionally, he read student papers aloud and I was surprised he read mine. The assignment was to write a letter that you would like to receive. I tried to be funny and apparently he thought it was funny because he read it to the class. No one had ever read my writing to the class in high school before.

What I remember most are the lessons that were not part of the curriculum. He told us stories to entertain us. Some were works in progress, I’m sure, that he was perfecting for future use. He once told us a mystery story. “It was a hot summer day. We ate some apple pie, but there was still once slice left in the pan. We put the pie pan away. I took a nap and when I woke up–the last slice of pie was gone! I never did figure out what happened to it!” Perhaps this doesn’t sound like much of a mystery story to you, gentle reader, but Mr. Macala had a way of telling stories that kept you hanging on his every word.

The story that fascinated me the most was the one about how he started a backgammon club. He loved to play backgammon. Someone suggested that he start a backgammon club. So he put a flyer up at the local supermarkets asking backgammon players to send money to him to join a backgammon club. He was surprised when many people actually sent him money to join. He had to actually follow through with the club. Soon, he was holding backgammon tournaments with prize money. This proved to be a very profitable venture. I learned a very valuable lesson about capitalism, but I had never had the initiative to do anything comparable. I didn’t capitalize on this knowledge.

He also inspired me academically. He told us he wasn’t a very good student in high school, but discovered he was intelligent once he started college. I would remember this fact years later when I contemplated going back to school. I never thought I was a good student either. Ever! I recalled his words when I went back to school. I told myself to do all the homework for all the classes and study for the exams. My goal was to try to get at least a C in every course. Once I applied myself, I discovered that I was a much better student that I had thought. Eventually, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Thanks in part to Mr. Macala’s story of his student days.

After high school, I lost track of him. Jim, Vito, and I often remembered Mr. Macala. We all agreed that he was a little wild and crazy. But that’s what appealed to me about him. He was intelligent and a little eccentric. One Saturday night, Jim, Vito, and I were on Rush Street for a night on the town. Picking up girls, the way we always did. That was our joke. Picking up girls the way we always did. Actually, we weren’t very good at picking up girls at all. On Saturday night, one of us would ask, “What do you want to do tonight?’ “I don’t know” “Why don’t we pick up girls!” “Yeah! Let’s pick up girls. Like we always do!” We never managed to pick up even one girl! If a girl fell unconscious in front us, we couldn’t pick her up. Not even if we all lifted at once.

Anyway, we were on Rush Street picking up girls as per usual. Suddenly, we see a man standing at the entrance of a night club, actually called a disco back then. This man was flirting with every woman who walked by. He made comments to every passerby. He started telling us something when we approached him. We all recognized him immediately. “Hi, Mr. Macala!’ We were surprised to see him there. Now that I think back, it makes perfect sense that he’d be there!

Well, of all the teachers who greatly influenced me, Mr. Macala is the only with whom I still communicate. In fact, we are friends on Facebook! He now lives in Florida and he asks me questions about Spanish all the time. The roles seem to have reversed.

On becoming a man


Are you a man?

If you had the (mis)fortune of being born a male, you know that you must endure certain rites of passage to manhood. However, no one ever asked me if I want to participate in these rites. They were not optional. But they were thrust upon me. Unfortunately, no manual exists for these rites of passage. Sometimes, I didn’t even know I was undergoing one of these rites until after I had passed it.

The real question about all these rites of manhood is, “Is there a defining moment when you pass from boyhood to manhood?” You know, one moment you’re a boy, then something, je ne sais quoi, happens, and suddenly you’re a man.

I bring this up because my friend Jim, according to his father, had such an experience. Let me explain. Jim and I met at Gage Park High School in physics class and he encouraged me to join the chess team. We soon became good friends. In fact, we’re still friends to this day.

Anyway, we would visit each other at home and occasionally play chess. I got to meet his entire family because I visited them so often. Once when they went to a family reunion in Kentucky, I got to tag along. Actually, I think they needed another car and I was willing to make a road trip with them. I really liked Jim’s mother because she always laughed at all of my jokes. And I do mean ALL of my jokes. So, naturally, I always enjoyed talking to her. Jim’s father, on the other hand, sometimes made me feel a little uneasy. He always exuded this high-testosterone manhood, even when he fell asleep on the sofa with a beer in his hand while watching TV.  He was a hard-working man who enjoyed a beverage or two (especially ones containing any amount of alcohol) after work. Sometimes, he would talk to Jim and I. He enjoyed telling us about his work history. He was truly a working man. He was never unemployed the whole time I knew him. He always worked and he took great pride in that. Once, he didn’t like how he was being treated at work, so he quit his job and found a new one the very next week.

When I started working at Derby Foods as a manual laborer, Jim’s father was so proud of me. He held me up as the ideal role model of a working man. Suddenly, in his eyes, I had achieved manhood by virtue of being a working man. I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t like to see Jim be put down by his father. “Jim,” his father would say, “Dave and I are working men. I hope I live to see the day that you work.” Despite what he said, I felt very much the same as before, like an overgrown boy, but I wasn’t about to tell Jim’s father. I was a working man and old enough, at age nineteen, to buy my own beer and wine in the state of Illinois. Jim’s father was proud of my manhood. He soon started telling Jim, “If you ever worked a full day’s work and then drank a six-pack after work, you’d probably drop dead!’ He really wasn’t happy until one day Jim was working at the same factory as his father. But he would not concede to the fact that Jim was now a man.

One day, I went to visit Jim and his father answered the door. I could tell that he was either hung over or drunk, or both. He was smiling like  never before. I had never seen him in such a mood. I asked him if Jim was home and he smiled proudly. Jim came down from his bedroom just in time to hear his father say, “Dave, you should be very proud of your friend Jim. Today, Jim is a man!” He then put Jim in a headlock that looked potentially fatal. Jim immediately freed himself from his father. “See!” his father said. “Jim is now a man!’ He tried to explain further, but neither Jim nor I could fully understand him. But I had never seen him so proud of his son before. He soon decided that it was time to go to bed. Jim thought it would be better if we left the house.

Later, he explained that the night before his father had gotten really drunk and he was looking for a fight. He started up with his wife and he was holding her so she couldn’t get away. So, Jim grabbed his father, which totally surprised him because Jim had never had a physical encounter of this sort with his father before. So his father turns to assault Jim, but Jim managed to throw him to the floor. Jim really thought his father was really going to tan his hide. At first, his father was angry as he got up, but then he realized that his son was no longer a boy. Jim then yelled at his father to go to bed and go to sleep. Surprisingly, Jim’s father obeyed.

For a few months after that, Jim’s father would beam with pride and tell me that his son was now a man. Jim had stood up to his father–who if you believed his father’s stories. he had never lost a fight–who was a real man. Jim had knocked him, a real man, down. For a while there, I really envied Jim. He was a man now!

The Jungle


Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

I just finished rereading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. This is a book I knew about about since about the third grade because the Lithuanian nuns also mentioned it at Holy Cross School. The nuns always wanted to remind us that we didn’t always have life so easy. They would often describe the squalid living conditions of our neighborhood, The Back of the Yards, and the horrendous working conditions at the Union International Stock Yards. They stressed that education was the best way to improve our lives and that we should excel in grade school, in order to get into a good Catholic school, in order to prepare us for college. I always recall the incident about the boy who drowns in the street. Several nuns over the years described that scene. And we were so lucky to live in a neighborhood with concrete sidewalks, paved streets, and a sewage system. No one from our neighborhood ever drown in the street–that I know of.

When I worked at Derby Foods, we didn’t have a union even though Chicago has always been known as a union town. And I didn’t realize at the time, but we didn’t need a union because all the other factories around us were unionized. Our factory paid us above-average wages and we worked under better-than-normal working conditions. They followed bidding by seniority for different job openings in the factory.

Regardless, I hated working there because I was a lowly manual laborer. The money was good, but I was unhappy about not being able to go to college. I continued working there because … because–just because. When I started at Derby Foods, about three-hundred people worked there. But over the years, the company kept modernizing by buying machinery that would replace employees. By the time I had eight years on the job, I was still near the bottom of the seniority list of about 134 employees due to the lack of hiring because of the worker displacement caused by the new machinery. Since I was at the bottom of the list, I had to work an undesirable work schedule. In food production, the plant and machinery have to be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Well, I had to work the midnight shift from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am the next morning. Regardless of what anyone says, the human body never fully adapts to a nocturnal life. The schedule was bearable until Saturday when I would get off at 7:00 am, but would have to return at noon to clean and sanitize the plant. Everyone else who worked the Saturday shift worked either days or afternoons, so they didn’t complain. Besides, they enjoyed working for time and a half because it was a Saturday.

I complained about my schedule to my foreman, the shift foreman, and the manager. No one thought it was a problem. I had no union with whom to file a grievance, so I called the federal labor law organization and they told me that my employer was not violating any federal laws by requiring me to return to work an eight-hour shift within four hours of working an eight-hour shift. Well, I was happy that I tried everything possible to improve my working conditions.

Then, it dawned on me! I’ll read The Jungle! I’ll find scenes in the novel that compare to my present working conditions! So, during my breaks and down time in factory, I read the paperback edition of The Jungle that I always carried in my back pocket. When I  was done, I was so grateful to be working for Derby Foods! I never realized how good I had it compared to the Stockyard workers in the early 1900s. Because of that book, federal laws were enacted, the Pure Food and Drug act in 1906 for one, in order to improve the lives of millions worldwide. The unions in Chicago and nationally became stronger. I had forgotten the lessons of my dear Lithuanian Catholic nuns at Holy Cross School. But upon rereading The Jungle, I was grateful, nay, thankful, to be working for Derby Foods. I never complained about my employer ever again.

Work


Dr. D. running for the Beatrice Corporate Marathon Team.

I’ve often heard that “work” is a four-letter word. No wonder I try to avoid it at all costs. But wait, “word” is also a four-letter word. Hm. And so is “four.”

The more I think about work, the less I like it. I’ve worked all of my adult life despite never having a job that I really loved, or at least liked even a little bit. I mean, I can work very hard as long what I do isn’t classified as “work.” If I have to do physical or intellectual labor for someone else, and hopefully, for a salary, I’m unhappy and resentful.

I can workout all day just for the fun of it because I’m doing it just for me. Years ago when I ran marathons, I used to run more that one-hundred mile weeks just because I loved running marathons and I wanted to run my fastest marathon possible.

One of my pet peeves of having a job is having a boss who bosses me around. But worse than me being ordered about by someone on a power trip who loves to exert his or her authority just to show everyone who’s the boss, is having me in charge and having me order people around.

When I worked at the peanut butter factory, I did repetitive, monotonous manual labor. My first job was stacking sixty cases of peanut butter on wooden pallets. Each case weighed about forty pounds. I learned how to save a step here, an arm movement there. When you work eight hours doing manual labor, every motion adds up. That was the only way to conserve my energy so I wouldn’t wear myself out. Sometimes when the assembly line broke down, I got to rest awhile. Eventually, I brought a paperback with me so I could read during my breaks and whenever the line was down. Well, my bosses couldn’t stand to see me sitting there doing nothing, so they would always find something for me to do like sweep the floor, stack pallets up, etc. Well, no matter how many things I was supposed to do during that downtime, I always figured out a way to do everything more efficiently. No matter. I still always had time to sit and read. My boss finally gave up on finding more tasks for me.

My mother used to get mad at me because I didn’t aspire to get promoted or take better paying positions such as mechanic. My mother coached me as to what to say whenever I was approached to advance on the job. The boss would usually ask if I could do a certain task and I was supposed to answer, “No, but I can learn!” Every time I was asked, I would say, “No, I don’t know how.” “Would you like to learn?” “No.” And that would be the end of my climbing the company ladder.

Somehow, my mother would always find out about my new job offer and yell at me for not accepting the promotion. She would call me lazy and unambitious. Back then I was really into kung fu, so on my days off I would work out all day. I want to build up my endurance and stamina. In fact, at work I could work tirelessly for hours. Then, one day, against my wishes–due to a shortage of manpower–I was promoted to assistant foreman on one of the peanut butter production lines. Suddenly, I found myself having to boss my fellow employees around. And they didn’t like it! They liked me well enough as a coworker, but hated me as their boss. One possible reason was because I was younger than them. I was caught in the middle. My boss would give me orders to get certain things done, and I had to make the workers work. Well, absolutely no one obeyed any of my commands. So, silently, I started doing all the work that had to be done. And everyone just watched me. I didn’t complain. I just kept working, minding my own business. I didn’t know what else to do. At least, I wouldn’t get in trouble for not working. Eventually, everyone start working alongside me. I was shocked! When we were done, the foreman showed up and congratulated us on a job well-done. After that, I never bossed anyone around, but everyone did their job before I even had to tell them. Go figure!

What a riot


2509 W. Marquette Road, Chicago, Illinois

When I lived near Marquette Park, there was a lot of racial tension. The neighborhood suffered from panic as the blacks moved closer and closer due to white flight. When my mother bought our house at 2509 W. Marquette Road, the neighbors said, with a sigh of relief, “At least you’re not black.” But we weren’t completely accepted.

No matter where you lived in Chicago back in the 1970s, there would be someone who resented you, regardless of your race. In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had marched in Marquette Park was greeted by whites who threw brick, rocks, and bottles at the marchers. We moved to Marquette Park in 1973 and people still talked about the Dr. King march. I was a typical teenager in that I wasn’t fully aware about the political events in Chicago or our neighborhood.

So, one Saturday in 1975, I was driving home from work at Derby Foods. When I got close to my house, all the streets were blocked off by the police and I couldn’t drive home. Helicopters flew overhead. I drove around until I found a side street that wasn’t closed. I managed to park my Firebird about four blocks from my house.  I had no idea why there were so many police officers in our neighborhood, nor why all the streets were closed.

As I walked home, I could hear people chanting in the direction of my house. When I reached Marquette Road there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people lining both sides of the street. Reverend Jesse Jackson had led a protest march, but I had just missed it. The street was littered with rocks and bottles. A black man and a boy drove up Marquette Road and people threw rocks and bottles at his car shouting racial epithets. The car sped off westbound where he was greeted by more projectiles.

I had a difficult time crossing Marquette Road in order to get home. When I got to my house, there hundreds of people standing in front of my house. I couldn’t reach my front door, so I watched until the march was over and most of the people left. My younger brother told me how he saw police officers on horses near California Avenue. Someone blew up a cherry bomb near the horse and scared it so that it stood on its hind legs. Someone kicked one of horse’s hind legs and the horse and police officer both fell down. The police immediately arrested the offender.

One of my friends told me he was standing on the curb watching all the action when a little old lady gave him a brick and said, “You throw it! I’m too old!” When I finally got home, my mother asked me where I was. I told her that I was at work and that I had a hard time getting home. When my mother asked my brother if he was at the march he swore he was at his friend’s house. My mother didn’t believe him. She didn’t want the neighbors to think we were causing trouble. Little did she realize that all our neighbors were out there throwing things. The next day, my mother punished my brother for being at the march and for lying to her. She had seen my brother on the news near where the horse was kicked down. They had more protest marches after that, but that was the only one I saw up close.

Tony


Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

I met Tony Jr.–his full name was Anthony Borkowski Jr.–when I worked at Derby Foods, 3327 W. 47th Place, home of Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Derby Tamales. His father, Anthony Borkowski Sr.–also called Tony–wanted his son to work while he attended school at DeVry. Tony Sr. thought his son was getting too lazy by just going to school and not working. Tony Jr. was already twenty-two, but still had not graduated from college. He was a student at the University of Illinois Circle Campus–before it became the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)–and belonged to a fraternity, so he partied a little too much for his father’s liking. So Tony Jr. transeferred to DeVry and started working at Derby Foods.

Tony Jr. towered over me whenever we talked. He had dark blond hair and wore round wire-rimmed glasses. He looked flabby, but was actually rather muscular. He could do any job at Derby Foods, including unloading the 135-pound bags of raw peanuts from the railroad boxcars (somthing I could only do for more than a few days at a time because that job exhausted me). He was always on time for work because his father always woke him and they went to work together, even if Tony Jr. had been out partying all night. Tony Sr. would pull off the blankets and announce, “Time to go to work!” with his heavy Polish accent. If Tony Jr. still didn’t get up, his father would push him out of bed and shout, “If I have to go to work, you have to go to work!’ Some mornings, Tony Jr. was a walking zombie.

Tony Sr. was a minuturized version of his son who never missed a day of work because he loved his job. He was quite a character in his own right, a man who was quite liked by everyone because he was friendly, had a good sense of humor, and could take a joke. Of course, people often tired of his standard greeting that always made him laugh, but no one else. In the morning, he would greet the women by saying, “Hey, good looking! What you got cooking?” No one ever responded to his question, so he would answer it himself with either, “Chicken! You wanna neck?” or “Bacon! You wanna strip?” The first time someone heard Tony Sr. say that, they laughed. Then after about the third time, they were just tired old jokes. After about the hundreth time, those lines became funny again when he used them on new empoyees. But everyone humored him because he was such a friendly guy.

On the other hand, he was disliked because he was a foreman and always wanted to earn his annual bonus by increasing productivity on the peanut butter production line. Number one on his agenda at work was that his peanut butter production line produce at least 100%. Sometimes, he would work harder than his workers rather than just stand there idly and merely supervise. He also was concerned about job security–so much so that he never told anyone how to start up the peanut butter processing machinery. He was so afraid that he would be replaced if someone else learned his trade secrets, so he would come in early Monday morning before anyone was at the factory to start everything up. He even did this while he was on vacation. Once he he was so deathly ill that he didn’t come in at 3:30 a.m. as he usually did. The shift started at 7:00 a.m. and there was no sign of Tony Sr. who had not called in sick. Since he had never missed a day of work, not even due to illness, everyone thought he had died. Even Tony Jr. was MIA. The assistant foreman drove to the Borkowski home and Tony Jr. answered the door. His father was so sick that he had overslept. Tony Sr. immediately got dressed and went to Derby Foods rather than reveal how to start up the machinery to his assistant foreman. The plant was then up and running, albeit a little later than usual. And no one learned how to start up the machinery until about two months before Tony Sr. retired. Tony Sr. insisted that it would take a lifetime to learn what he would attempt to teach in a mere two months. In order to avoid another plant startup fiasco due to illness, the plant superintendent decided that Tony Sr. would train three people to learn the startup procedure. Tony Sr. then started bragging, “See how important I am at Derby Foods. It takes three people to replace me! Maybe I shouldn’t retire.” But everyone insisted that he retire.

But back to Tony Jr. who was promoted from laborer to mechanic because he was intelligent, a DeVry student, and had great clout because his father was a foreman. He would have preferred to remain a laborer while he was in school, but his father insisted he get ahead at Derby Foods in case he wanted to make a career of it. Because of his father’s encouragement, Tony Jr. spent less time drinking and more time studying. It was about this time that Tony Jr. and I became fairly good friends at work. Sometimes we would go out to lunch together. The very first time we went, I had to laugh for two reasons. First, he said we should drive to the hot dog stand that was a block away, but he pointed out that we only had thirty minutes for lunch, so it was actually a very practical suggestion. Second, I laughed when I saw his car. He drove this tiny little Honda Accord. When I explained to him why I laughed, he told me that since he was so tall and husky, he had to shop around for car in which he would fit comfortably. The Accord offered him the most room. He was always very practical like that.

One day, he asked me for help with a composition he was writing for his composition class. I was surprised he asked me because I was not known for my intelligence at Derby Foods. In fact, everyone thought of me as the kid who dropped out of high school in order to work in a factory. Anyway, I told Tony Jr., “Why do you want my help? I only have a GED! You’re a college student!” I really thought I had him there! But no! He said, “You’re a published writer!” Okay, he had me there. I had some local publications. Whenever I was at Derby Foods, I often forgot about my accomplishments. But the main reason he wanted my help was because he had once seen me reading a grammar book. I can read grammar books the most kids read comic books. This really impressed him, so he asked me for help. Needless to say, he got an A on his composition!