The wine buzz tonight is taking my head into a tail spin. I guess three glasses of wine is too much for my feeble brain to handle. I just read a chapter of my book to Peg, and for once she didn’t fall asleep. Either the story was good, or she was awake. Earlier we went to a local place called Ryan’s Pub for a wine, and some fish. Being it is Friday during lent it is a meat less day. Ryan’s is a mile and a half from our house, and we have driven past it for ten years without ever going in to check it out. Well my virginity is gone, we walked through the portals for the Friday night fish fry. Lo and behold I spy my friend Al sitting at the bar when we walk in. This is better than I imagined. I ordered a Cab for my self, and a lemonade for Peg, and two Walleye dinners to go. We kibitzed with Al while we waited. I’m telling Al and Peg that the last time I was in this place was thirty years ago for a going away party for an engineer from work. Don’t ask me who was leaving I don’t remember, but I do remember the place. It hasn’t changed much in thirty years. Then I proceeded to talk about my old friend Pat from work who owned the place with his daily presence. He lives right around the corner a block away. A few minutes later a short thin guy with bowed legs, white beard, cowboy boots, and cowboy hat walks in. I ask the barkeeper Heather if that is Pat. She says “it sure is.”
I walk over to him fortified by four ounces of Cab, and greet him with “Hey you old bowlegged sum-na-bitch how are ya doin?” He looks at me with a long dumb look. “You remember me don’t ya?”
“Yeah, but I don’t remember your name.”
“It is me , Joe from Panduit.”
“Oh yes I remember now.”
First impressions hit hard sometimes, and when I looked into Pat’s face I saw an old man, a very old man, a lot older than I ever remembered him to look. Pat was a vigorous young tool-maker who grew up in suburban Harvey, Illinois and moved to live in Tucson, Arizona for a several years. He loved it there, and never got away from the cowboy look. He returned to Chicago to work at the Panduit plant in Tinley Park for his old school chum Roy Moody. Before Pat moved to Arizona he was a motorcycle racer. He loved speed on two wheels, and loved the adrenaline rush he got from speeding shoulder to shoulder around a clay track at ninety miles per hour. Of course his knees are shot, and he has lots of broken bones to his credit. When the weather was right he rode a motorcycle, when the weather wasn’t right he drove a pick up truck. He and his wife raised two kids on a mini-ranch in Frankfort, IL. He still lives there.
One of the most spectacular wakes I ever went to was for Pat’s first wife Bev. She and he were riding home on his Harley one Sunday night about ten p.m. with the Bike Club when a rider in front of him lost control,and began swinging in broad “esses” across the road in front of him. Pat T-boned him going sixty mph. The two bikes went in different directions. Pat’s wife who sat behind him like a proud Harley Girl went flying over his head and landed on her neck, crunch! She was dead with a broken neck.
Pat was President of his Bike Club and his wife was first lady. She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever laid my eyes on, and now she was dead at age thirty-five. The wake was in Frankfort at Gerardi’s Funeral home. Back then Frankfort didn’t have more than twenty-five hundred people and Gerardi’s was a small place. Because Pat and I worked together my wife Barb and I attended the wake. At the time we lived in Alsip twenty miles north of Frankfort. We approached Frankfort on US Route 30 from the east. I noticed many Harley riders going the opposite way. We knew when we arrived at Gerardi’s because there were motorcycles parked two inches apart wrapped around the entire building. I remember saying that if I kicked the first bike they would all fall over like dominos. The line of people attending the wake wrapped around the building too. We assumed our place in line and patiently waited. A number of big brawny Harley guys carried Pat out into the parking lot on a chair for him to get some air. His wife was dead, and he looked like he rolled over the road for a mile or two before he finally came to rest. Lots of black and blue with red raw abrasions on his arms and swollen head. He didn’t look too healthy, but he was alive. The big guys set him down in the center of the lot. The line of people walked past him to the parlor. He sat there swilling a beer accepting condolences like a man who has lost his partner in a bike accident.
Inside the Parlor, we finally got to pass Bev’s coffin. She wore her best Harley attire. Her black leather Jacket with the club emblem was hanging on the kneeler in front of the casket on display. She looked as beautiful as ever.
Funny what memories a little Cab, and a chance meeting of an old friend will induce.