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A few of the old man’s favorite things

Dude, I’m tellin’ ya………

I’ve been back from Nevada for a week now and it’s been almost two weeks since I lost my dad.

I have to say that I’ve been totally floored by the number of friends that have reached out, called, sent notes and messages. A few years ago, I was basically underground recovering from an illness of my own. I only spoke to my brother and a few other people. In order to stay out of trouble and stay healthy, I avoided almost all social gatherings and just focused on my job and my home. I avoided the people who were my friends for upwards of three years or more. Just to stay on track. But I came back around about 18 months ago and it was truly one of the best decisions I ever made. The outpouring of support from the people now back in my life has been a reaffirmation of what the Blues Brothers said——everybody needs somebody.

And within the messages and conversations that I’ve had with these friends, a lot of my dad’s passions and favorite things have been remembered. One girl that I still don’t see too often (or often enough? ) said she’ll always remember my dad’s “cool cars”. And he did have a bunch of them over the years. When I was out in NV with my mom, she recalled when she first met Dad. He had come over to visit his buddy who lived right next door to my mom’s family on Marshfield in Chicago. Turns out the buddy wasn’t home and my mom was sitting on her front steps letting her hair dry after having washed it. Dad apparently noticed her and waltzed on up and started a conversation while he waited for his buddy.

And when I asked what attracted her to him, one of the things mom said was that, “and he had a pretty cool car ! “.

Funny.

My dad always, always loved the 1950s and everything that came out of it. The cars, the music, the icons, everything.

He turned me on to Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Dion, and so many more of the big acts from back then. When I was out there, my family played a lot of his CDs and old record albums while we shared funny stories and memories of him. It was cool to hear Dion’s Runaround Sue and The Wanderer on vinyl. Or Wake Up Little Susie and Cathy’s Clown by those Everly Brothers. He still had a bunch of 78s and a phonograph player to play ‘em on.

He also had a love for Sherlock Holmes books and movies. He was always an avid reader and we shared a lot of books over the years. One of his all-time favorites was Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell. Studs Lonigan was the subject of a trilogy of novels of Irish life on the South Side of Chicago. We’re Irish and my folks both grew up on the South Side. So you could see how the stories would appeal to Dad.

The Sherlock Holmes books were his favorites later in life, though. He loved how the detective would use the most minute details to solve the crimes. The master of observation. Dad would buy books with a collection of cases and devour them. He had to have five or six collections with over 250 cases in them.

He was a life-long WhiteSox fan who never forgot the thrills of the 1959 “Go-Go Sox” pennant team. He loved to reminisce about “Jungle” Jim Rivera, Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, and his favorite player of all time……Hall of Famer Nellie Fox. He and I went to a good 25-30 Sox games together over the years; both at old Comiskey Park and US Cellular. When he lived in Chicago, we made it a point to take the recreation department’s annual trip to the game together every year. 

But it was the cars that he loved the most. He was the first one in his family to own a car—-a fact I only learned from my aunt a few weeks ago. One of his favorite stories to tell was when he rolled over one of his cars three times and escaped uninjured. He had pictures of old cars like a ’57 Chevy or a ’55 Thunderbird on the walls of the game room where we played pool. He loved to go to the Chicago Auto Show every single year and really missed it when he retired out-of-state.

He used to go to an old-fashioned “burger-and fries” joint on Harlem Avenue called Duke’s. It was a gathering spot for muscle car lovers and owners of classic cars from the 50s and 60s. Dad didn’t go out to bars or hang out with a group of pals too much when I was growing up. But anytime he was heading out on a Friday or Saturday night and you asked him where he was going, inevitably he’d say, “I’m gonna go on up to Duke’s. Wanna come with? ”

One pal he did visit with alot was a guy he knew since grade school nicknamed Ace. When he first brought me and my brother over to meet Ace, he was building a kit-car roadster in his garage. They remained friends until Dad’s death connected by their love of cool cars.

Everyone from the neighborhood I grew up in remembers my father’s baby-blue ’75 convertible. He would drive it up to our Little League games and when we won, all of our teammates wanted to ride in his car up to the Tasty Freeze for the celebratory ice cream that was traditional back then. He could be found every single Saturday afternoon washing and waxing that sweet ride. I don’t know how many times I helped him put the freshly cleaned, bone-white “boot” back on that car.

He positively loved it.

{One time I recall that my mom, my sister, and my brother and I went up to the Tasty Freeze for shakes one summer night in the convertible and a shake got spilled on the floor of the car. After a massive clean-up operation, we were all sworn to secrecy……a secret that was never revealed to him the rest of his life ! }

And that was just one of the number of cars he had when I was growing up. He’d exchange the one he had for another he liked about every four years or so. And they were all fast and sporty. Lots of horsepower. He was always quoting how much horsepower the damn cars had.

So those were some of dad’s favorite things that have been the root of several stories being bandied about the last few weeks. We’ve been remembering the joy he got out of all of these things and more…….a good, gory horror flick, a funny-ass dirty joke, all of the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, the Abbot & Costello routine Who’s On First, Laurel and Hardy, George Carlin, Ledo’s pizza, the old Riverview amusement park, and of course his beloved Chicago Bears (especially Walter Payton and Dick Butkus).

Thanks to my friends and family members for sharing their anecdotes and helping to celebrate the happy, good times we all had with Dad.

There sure were a million of ‘em.

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