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Published September 14, 2008

   I grew up a tomboy, in case you didn't guess. The only kids my age in the hood were boys. My sisters & I were all 3 years apart, I was the middle kid between them. I spent more time helping my dad w/working on the car, cleaning the garage & small home repair projects/painting the house, etc. While my sisters grew up playing w/barbies, makeup & doing their nails. I cut all the grass, front, back & back lot behind the fence. I shoveled all the snow, til 10 at night sometimes. My dad drove a truck in that crap all day & I'd be damned if he was gonna get stuck in his own driveway! These things made me more self sufficient , so I'm glad I learned how to work hard & do a job to the best of my abilities for little pay. I knew he appreciated it, to the extent that he bought a snow blower only AFTER I moved out! 

   One of the only other ways to spend time w/my dad was to hang out w/him while he listened to the cubs on the radio in the backyard (weather permitting) or on TV. Or watch the Bears on TV in the basement w/him while he drank his rum & cokes or beer. I had to wait for commercials to ask him questions, but he always shared his knowledge. He was an avid newspaper reader & listened to sports on WGN Radio most of the day while driving. He was one of those guys that could quote current stats on players accurately on a weekly basis. He knew his shit, but sometimes like me, would let his sense of loyalty blur the reality that existed- he loved his teams. He would get pretty quiet sometimes when one of his favorites lost, or be screaming mad when a ref or ump made a bad call. He'd use more colorful language at these times, but always apologized. Strange as it sounds, I felt closer to him at these times; I never knew him to talk like that in front of my sisters- letting his hair down so to speak, treating me like "one of the guys" or the son he never had. I felt priveledged that he included me in this part of his world that mattered so much to him.

   Two things I learned later, as I grew up. One: Not all parents drink every night & Two: If you are born on the Southside of Chicago, you're supposed to be a White Sox fan, NOT a Cubs fan. My dad always loved the Cubs & we never watched or listened to the White Sox. I found out later when visiting an "old neighborhood" friend who was now a bartender that this was how it was "supposed" to be...Picture a rectangular shaped bar w/a matching 3 foot drop drown box above. The interior of this drop down is wall to wall w/pictures of Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, White Sox... wait a minute.."Hey Ray, why aren't there any pictures of Cubs players up there? How can you work in a place that doesn- "Shut up!", he hisses at me under his breath! Crossing the 16' length of bar over to me in 3 long strides."Don't talk about the Cubs in here Laura! You'll get our asses kicked!" under his breath.This dumbfounded me. I had no idea that the rivalry was that strong. Dad never talked about THAT to me.. "Ray, when we were kids, you gave me a Cubs clock for a wedding gift! You gonna deny your loyalty to the Cubs & put up a front for these  people?" "You're damned right I am! We can talk Cubbies anywhere but in a Southside bar! Christ Laura!" Hell, it wasn't like being a GB fugdepackers fan in Chicago, was it? I guess so!

   Sad to say that today, in Chicago, you can buy Division rivals jerseys & shirts. NOT when I was a kid. I clearly remember seeing cars that bore their bumper stickers w/flat tires or broken windows. Or both! We just laughed..kinda asking for it...Which reminds me of a another true story I want to share w/you. My first truckdriving job was driving a flat-nosed Mack truck flatbed for a metal company. We sold custom cut aluminum, brass & copper in every form imaginable- sheet, rod, tube, bar, etc. I was making a delivery to AMF in winter, so was wearing my Chicago Bears jacket. Well this place was a huge warehouse (about the size of a football stadium) & across the way where there's another aisle, I can't help but notice this guy running the same direction as I'm walking. I walk fast- if you don't walk fast enough in downtown Chicago, you get run over! Finally he gets ahead of me & starts running my way at the next intersection. He's waving his arms, so I figure he needs to talk to the guy walking w/me. We stop, & totally breathless, he asks," Are you from Chicago?" I tell him yes & he hugs me. We start BSing & he says, " I gotta tell ya this one story, then I'll let you go..He & his friends are at a bar one wintry night watching the Bears/GB Packers game. There's a slightly obnoxious GB fan there, but he's behaving, so they ignore him. As the game wore on, 2 things became inevitable; 1) The Bears were NOT going to win & 2) GB fan is too drunk to have enough sense left to keep his mouth shut. He must have thought he was back home in WisCONsin or something cuz he's talking way too much smack about the Bears...So, after he made his final snide remark, they calmly took him outside, removed his GB jacket, duct taped him to a stop sign & put his jacket over his shoulders. Then they sat in the warm bar, laughing their asses off at the mouthy GB fan. Did I mention it was 10 below zero out? Hey, he had his jacket on! Other Bears fans would drive up & I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks. Best part was a few hours later when a Chicago cop pulled up to the stop sign. He stopped, looked at the GB fan, looked left, then right, then kept going down the street! C'ya!!

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