I don’t really know how to report yesterday’s adventures. I took notes, writing down sights and streets…all mean something to me and probably to people who lived their lives in Chicago. For these, I will give what I wrote:
From Sally’s we drive Palatine Road to 290 south to the Harlem Ave. exit…River Forest. Looking for the place we lived during the third and fourth years of our marriage, I notice for-sale signs that read “Gagliardo Real Estate”. Bernie jokingly said, “I’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse.” River Forest was where bootleg Paul “The Waiter” Ricca made his home. We joked about the idea that once prohibition ended, gangsters had to find other work besides selling bootleg liquor and real estate might have been it. We lived in the upper level of a two-story stucco house. Bernie used to call it “the slum of River Forest”. True, it didn”t measure up to the high living abodes of most of the town. It is also where we spent the two poorest years of our lives as Bernie attempted to make a go of selling insurance.
From there we headed into the city. Here are my jottings as we went, streets and sites:
North on Harlem Ave., we pass Washington, Chicago Ave., Augusta where I see brownstone buildings typical of Chicago, Division St. At North Avenue we turn east., then north on Central to Grand Avenue. We stop to pee at McDonald’s after drinking the large coffees we’d bought from Mac’s in Palatine. Wherever we stop for a red light, there are homeless men approaching cars for a hand out.
I note the street sign, “Diversey Ave. – 2800 N.” In Chicago you can be in a place where you don’t want to be, but you can’t really be lost as long as you know the numbers. For example, when someone asks me where I lived in Chicago, I usually say, “The north side.” If a Chicagoan asks, I say, “4800 north and 1600 west.”
I note: Ramalah Arabic School, Tatay’s Oriental Mart, Pierogi’s Discount Store, Marisco’s La Bahia Family Restaurant, St. Ladislaus School, Bob-O-Rino’s Subs
We pass Belmont and Addison.
Poretta’s Banquets, Taqueria Amigo Chino Corner Cafe, Portage Park (All of the parks we passed bring back memories of cousin’s playing baseball in small neighborhood leagues sponsored, usually, by local bars), Gonzalez Mexican Restaurant.
We turn east on Irving Park. Bernie mentions that, had we turned west, we’d see the banquet hall where we had our wedding reception. Neither of us can remember its name.
At Pulaski, I remember that I am near my first apartment shared with Mary, who would later marry my cousin, Butch. At the juncture of Cicero, Irving and Milwaukee, I see the Sears store where I had my first real job selling shoes. Over the years, I have wondered if there is a link between my troublesome feet and that x-ray machine people would stick their feet in to see if their toes were being crunched.
Elston and Irving Park. Here is where my friends and I transfered going too and from school each day. We come to the “el” tracks (Elevated commuter trains). Lots of people getting off, Cub shirts and hats. We are near Wrigley Field. There must be a game today.
Mario’s Haircut, Brosa Roja Restaurant, Cactus Food & Liquors, featuring Keg Beer. Olga’s Deli, Pasedita Express. Horner Park and Revere Park. The Barking Lot (now offering home dog walking). Frank’s Cleaners, Snappy’s Shrimp.
At Ravenswood, we go under train tracks. I remember the night when I walked a girl to the train station. I was just a young teen and she was was probably in her late teens herself. She was one of my grandmother’s renters. My brothers and cousins and I figured she was a “wayward girl”.
At Ashland we pass Lakeview High School where I would have gone if I’d been a “public” kid instead of Catholic kid.
Myle Asian Cuisine Carry Out, State Farm (Honk if you need a bail out), Wascomat Coin Laundry.
We cross Broadway. On the northeast corner there used to be a soda shop/restaurant where I would spend the lunch money on Monday that my parents had given me for the whole week of lunches in the school cafeteria. Finally, approaching Sheridan Rd, there is The Immaculata High School in all her glory. Bernie park and I jump out of the car and run up and down the street taking pictures. The statue of Our Lady has been removed from above the front entry. It has been sold to an Islamic community. Muslims are known to honor Mary. Maybe they just moved it.
Heading to the north, we visit my old neighborhood where I jump out again to take pictures of the buildings my grandmother owned and I spent the first 14 years of my life. A couple watches me taking pictures and I tell them that I used to live here and who used to live in the house they are now renting. I take pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, of the building that used to be “The Sugar Bowl”, of Chase Park where my cousins and brothers and I played and did crafts under the direction of Ed Kelly. The Masonic Temple is now an American Indian Center and there is a Buddhist Temple that was not there 50 years ago.
We head up Ashland toward Rogers Park and we stop to buy a lunch at the Quick Bite: “Chicago hot dog and fries for $1.95.” Unbelievable. I buy a t-shirt and talk to the owner about the reunion and he starts naming all the Catholic schools that have shut down.
We find in Rogers Park the apartment building where Bernie and I first lived. A basement apartment for $95 per month. Becky was born there.
We head west on Touhy Avenue we pass through Skokie and I see a rabbi with black hat and locks crossing the street with preschoolers.
Zabahalal Meal now available at KFC, House of Prayer: “God’s Battle Axe Prayer Ministry”, Cholov Yisrael Easter Style Pizza (I wish we hadn’t already eaten. I wonder what Jewish pizza tastes like).
We turn on Elston Avenue. Coletti’s Restaurant is still there. Then right on Long Avenue. My parents bought their first home when I was a sophmore in high school and both my brothers were gone from home already. I take pictures of the house and of the little church on the corner where my father led an alateen group. At his funeral, they came and told us the stories of his faithfulness. He’d host a meeting even if there were only one kid, they said.
We drive north on Milwaukee and passed Superdawg that has these hot dogs on top dressed like Tarzan and Jane. My Aunt Hank always took me there for supper when I went to stay over night. She called it “Mommy and Daddy Hotdog”. I take a picture from the car, then another when we moved closer.
We turn into Maryhill Cemetary to find my parents buriel plots. We find them with the help of a caretaker. I have never taken pictures of their stones. I clicked one off of my father’s headstone…and run out of film. I should not have taken the second picture Mommy and Daddy Hotdog.
We head back to Palatine stopping at Portillo’s to get Italian beef sandwiches for supper. At the pick-up counter we watch the girl hand the sandwich bags to customers: “Number One-one-zero, you’re my hero”, “Number one-one five, stayin’ alive”, Number one-one-seven, taste’s like heaven”, “Number one-one-nine, time to dine.”
If you trudged through this day with me, you are no doubt from Chicago.