Friday, March 4, 2011

The Old Timer's Gang...

The call came yesterday. It was Chuck Todd. Chuck is an old friend from yesteryear. I met him in 1975 when he was the used car manager at Courtesy Chevrolet. A 28 year old kid wandered in there and asked for the manager. I told him I was a recent transplant from Chicago and wanted to be a car dealer. Humble was the setting for the day. Chuck was and still is a towering man, standing about 6' 3" with a strong vocal and an even stronger IQ. He was intimidating to those who could be intimidated, but I made quick friends with him when he told me that he too was from Chicago. He sold me my first wholesale car, a 1973 Maverick, for $250. As I was pulling off of the lot, I heard a strong voice come over the PA system and it said, "Will the new Jewish kid from Chicago please come to the used car office"? With a reddened face, I complied. When I walked in, Chuck took the purchase order out of my hands and tore it into about 10 pieces and said, "In the event of a retail sale on a car, retail wins over wholesale every time". Then he explained that one of the salesman was writing a retail order on the car as he was wholesaling it to me, to come back another time and he'd sell me something else. I did and that began a 35 year relationship, both business and social.

The message that he left went like this. "Call me back, it's semi important." I did and he told me he was having lunch with Jerry Hendrickson and Dave Allen tomorrow, do I want to join them? Yeah, I did!!! I haven't seen those guys in over 20 years. I figured they were dead or hiding. These were 2 guys left over from my drinking and partying days. Immediately stories came to mind that had me laughing till my sides hurt. Jerry in particular had a drinking problem. Back then it was just funny though. He was married to a Mexican woman named Lupida. We all knew Lupida because she was always calling the bar and getting all pissed off at Jerry and hanging up on him. She always showed up to pick him up though, but not before reading him the riot act in front of everyone. When Jerry got too drunk, he'd call Lupida and she'd scream holy hell at him. One night, Jerry staggered to the pay phone at Dave's Bar and dialed his home number to alert Lupida to his condition. As he was waiting for her to answer, he sneezed. The sneeze caused his glasses to fall off of one ear and hang precariously, balancing on his nose. Then he sneezed again and his glasses went crashing to the floor, breaking both lenses. Just then, Lupida answered the phone and Jerry proceeded to ask her to pick him as he'd broken his glasses and can't drive. The entire bar broke up laughing, since Jerry clearly used the emergency of the moment to his advantage.

Another time, Jerry was clearly plastered to the point where he couldn't drive and Lupida would not pick him up. I had been drinking, but was clearly the more sober of the two. Jerry climbed into my car and I promised to drive him home. He was very adamant about asking me if I knew where he lived. He asked me about 5 different times and I assured him, I did since I'd driven him home many times in the past. As we started driving Jerry immediately passed out. As we drove along, I realized I was hungry, so I pulled into a McDonald's drive through. That's about when Jerry woke up and grabbed me screaming, You said you knew where I lived, I don't live here!!!!

Lunch was great, it was like an old timer's lunch meeting. When I walked in, the bartender said, "Hello Mr. Fisher" and his voice was familiar, but I had no ideas who he was. I tried buying some time, admitting that I almost didn't recognize him. The truth is, I didn't have a clue. That's when I realized it was young Pat, a kid who used to work at the old Polo Lounge, back then Pat was about 24. Pat was back working for the same guys at Eli's and his son, Pat Jr. was our waiter. His son was about 27. Pat was the guy that got me interested in Steven King books and I started with "The Stand". Thousands of old thoughts came back to all 4 of us and naturally the conversation went to who died and who was doing well. We had all about quit drinking and smoking by now, except Jerry who drank about 4 beers and held a cigarette and a lighter in his hands the entire 3 hours we talked. He only put them away long enough to eat his clam chowder, then took them out and wanted to excuse himself to go outside and smoke, but the conversation kept him involved.

Many years ago when I first moved to AZ, I worked with Dave. A neighbor and I opened a place on Cave Creek Rd called Cave Creek Sales. We sold cars and campers and did service work. Dave worked there when we bought it and he kind of came along with the property. He was a hillbilly from Iowa, but got pretty good at the car business and somehow made a good living. One night, my wife and I had a fight and I told her I wasn't coming home. Dave offered me a place to sleep on his couch, being a single man (and straight). When we got to his apartment in Sunnyslope, I noticed that the bathroom door was missing and only covered by a blanket. When I asked what happened to the bathroom door, he told me that he used it as a front door. so naturally I asked what happened to the front door and he said it was stolen! Humph, made perfectly good sense to me, but I still slept with one eye opened.

We sat there reminiscing for about 3 hours when it seemed like we'd all had enough. Jerry immediately lit his cigarette and choked on it. We all exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together again, but you know how that goes. Jerry took my number with enthusiasm, when he learned I had an active retail dealer's license. It seems he's got some trucks and nowhere to put them. Maybe we can all come out ahead?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had great fun!

xo Sherry