I bumped into my buddy Stanley – you know, the one who sells bicycle parts now and got arrested by the police a generation ago? We got to talking about movies. He says Robert Deniro is his favorite actor but gets uncomfortable whenever he sees him in certain gangster movies. Naturally, I asked him why.
â€œWhy?!â€, said Stanley, â€œbecause I experienced my own private little ‘Goodfellas’.â€ Naturally, I asked him to elaborate.
“Well, remember when I told you how I worked for the Clerk of the Circuit Court in Chicago back in the early1980’s? I was there full time in the summer and part time during the school year ’cause I had another part time job closer to home besides doing the Maxwell Street thing on Sundays. Hey, a growing kid has got to have pocket money, right?â€ I nodded.
â€œSo, in the Clerk’s Office there was this fellow we all called Uncle Lou. He always dressed real nice, better some of the department heads. He had a certain quiet confidence about him. You had to work yourself into his trust slowly but surely. For some reason, he liked me- didn’t consider me competition, I guess. Now and then, he’d toss tips on the races at Arlington Park and usually they were right on. Made some nice extra dough, you know.
â€œIt came holiday time in December and our office was gonna have a big party. Uncle Lou somehow became in charge of procuring the food. He asked the supervisor if I could help him and the guy said it was okay.
â€œUncle Lou takes me to his car, tosses me the keys and says, ‘you drive, Stosh.’ No one ever called me Stosh except Lou. Here I was a 22 year old young punk, naive but not stupid. He tells me to drive his big, black Caddy to an address on Taylor Street on the Near West Side but that along the way we would make a few stops. At each stop the person he was talking to would always use the word ‘boss’ in addressing him. It suddenly dawned on me that maybe Lou was not so kosher- possibly connected to an organization that I wanted no part of.
â€œWhen we got to the address on Taylor Street, I parked the car in front of a bakery. We went into the store through the kitchen in the back and up a stairway that lead to the most gorgeous apartment one can imagine over a bakery shop. We grabbed all the food that his wife had made for the party and started our way back. However, we made a few more stops along the way and people once again shaking his hand and calling him ‘Boss’.
â€œAfter the the office party Uncle Lou said he wanted to talk to me. I was kind of nervous because I probably now knew more than I should but was also very curious to hear what he had to say. He came up to me to compliment me on my driving and asked if I would like to work for him. I didn’t know what to say so I told him I would think about it. After some deliberation and a couple of sleepless nights I decided this wasn’t a job for me.
â€œI didn’t know and was very nervous on how I was going to tell Uncle Lou NO. I went to his desk and sat down. He asked me if I had made my decision. I said , ‘thank you very much but my family wants to see me finish college.’ Of course, I never told the family what the job offer was. Anyway, he respected my decision and told me if there was anything I ever needed I could always come to Uncle Lou.â€
I asked Stosh, I mean Stanley, why a fellow like Lou who seemed to be independently wealthy and had people working for him would need to take a job in of all places a county court office. Stanley said the guy needed a cover and maybe a good health insurance plan. Who knew?
Years ago I filed for an assumed name business license and went to the City of Chicago Clerk’s Office. I was also wet the behind the ears at the time but knew from reading newspaper column guys like Mike Royko that city patronage workers expected a little payola in order to perform their expected chores. As I stood and handed in the filled-out form and money for the certificate, the clerk on the other side of the counter started to mumble and I instinctively said, â€œwhat? I don’t understand what you are saying.â€ He then put out a hand palm up. At that point, I pulled out two singles, gave it to him, and then he spoke in the Kings English, â€œI said you need to now publicize this. Put an ad in your local neighborhood paper. Next!â€
It always helps to have a goodfellow, huh?