Bob Bloom Roofing

The south side of Chicago

So I was at the gas station at 55th and Ashland this morning filling up my tank. The first thing I thought of was how this used to be my neighborhood on the outer boundary of Back of the Yards. I used to wait on this corner for the bus whenever we went to the Museum of Science and Industry. Sometimes we would eat at the Burger King on the corner there. I used to deliver newspapers in that neighborhood. Then, the neighborhood changed and it became the “bad side of town,” but when I hear that I have to laugh because it was also called that when I lived there in the 1960s. So I’m getting gas there this morning and I’m getting dirty looks from people who think I shouldn’t be on their turf. I just smile at them, knowing they don’t know that I feel comfortable right there on their turf because it’s still my turf.

The second thing I thought of was Bob Bloom Roofing. You see, I was pumping gas when I looked up at the roof in front of me, when I wasn’t watching my back. I saw the black tar that repaired a once leaky roof. When I owned my house at 1018 W. 32nd Place, my roof started leaking. At first, I was in denial because I couldn’t afford to get a new roof. I talked to my brother Jerry the fireman because it is a well-known fact that all firemen  have a side job because of their work schedule that gives them forty-eight hours off after working twenty-four. In fact, my brother is a also painter on the side who will paint apartments, houses, and just about anything else on his days off. In college, he majored in art. So he’s overqualified to paint your house, just in case you’re interested.

Anyway, I told my brother about my leaky roof. Yes, it continued leaking despite my denial. Jerry recommended Bob Bloom Roofing, a fireman who worked with him. Off-duty firemen seem to gravitate toward jobs that involve ladders. Jerry gave me his phone number and Jerry promised to talk to him before I called him. This is how Chicagoans take care of each other. They recommend a contractor who is trustworthy and then they’ll call him up and tell him to take of his brother, or whomever.

I never actually met Bob Bloom Roofing until years later. To this day, I still think of him as Bob Bloom Roofing because whenever we spoke on the phone, he always, but I mean always, called himself Bob Bloom Roofing. He was always advertising his company. And that’s why I still remember him, I mean his business, all these years later. Anyway, I called him up and explained my roof leak to him. We couldn’t find a mutually convenient time to meet in person at my house because I was busy every day and evening for the next two weeks, but I really needed the leak fixed. Bob Bloom Roofing suggested that he could go check out my roof on the way home from the firehouse. He left me a message saying that it would be an easy repair and he would only charge me about $150. I agreed and within three days my roof was repaired. I mailed the check to Bob Bloom Roofing’s home and we were both happy with our business transaction.

A couple of years later, another section of my roof leaked and we went through the same process to repair my roof. I never actually met Bob Bloom Roofing until one day my brother had a party at his house and he invited a lot of his firemen friends. As I wandered through the party, I would introduce myself to the firemen, who are not exactly known for being polite guests. Eventually, I introduced myself to one fireman who responded, “Hi, Bob Bloom Roofing!”

You gotta love Chi-Town!

Patrick McDonnell

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!
Patrick, Adam Méndez, Delia, David, and Rick at my twelfth birthday party.

Patrick McDonnell was my best friend in the second, third, and fourth grades at Holy Cross School. He was the smartest kid I ever knew. He had moved to Back of the Yards in Chicago from Ireland with his father, his brothers James, Leon, and Michael, and his sisters Cora and Margaret. His mother had died in Ireland before they came to Chicago. They lived next door to the firehouse on the corner of 45th Street and Marshfield.

I loved going to his house after school because we had fun visiting the firemen. Since he was a year behind in school because of his move from Ireland, he was older and wiser than me. Whenever I needed the mysteries of the universe explained to me, Patrick was there to explain them to me so that even I understood them.

Once, we were standing in the crosswalk on the corner of 46th Street and Paulina. I was about to cross the street when he stretched his arm across my chest to prevent me from crossing. Much to my surprise, a car drove right in front of our path. I was so amazed that he knew the car was coming our way. “How did you know the car was turning?” I asked him. “I saw his turn signal,” he said. “What’s a turn signal?” I asked. And he explained the Rules of the Road to me, edifying me about another one of the mysteries of the world, as only Patrick could. He performed a visual reenactment of our incident with him as the car and his eyes as the turn signals. He said he knew the car was turning left because he saw a left turn signal. He then winked his left eye repeatedly to represent the car’s left turn signal. For some reason, I always remember Patrick’s freckled face reenacting the left turn signal.

When his family finally moved to the suburbs—I don’t remember which one—he came to my house to say good-bye. In retrospect, I should have gotten his new address and phone number. On the other hand, he didn’t ask me for mine, either.