South Side Story


I learned a lot about Chicago when I attended Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, Indiana. For example, in my World History class, we went on a field trip to Chicago to visit the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. My father had taken us to what I thought were all the museums Chicago had to offer. Mr. Gibson, our history teacher merely told us were going on a field trip without any further explanation.

As we approached Chicago, I was surprised we were going to Chicago for our field trip. Even though we had visited the Museum of Science and Industry many times, I had no idea the Oriental Institute was nearby. I was very impressed by the museum. I was surprised by the many things I learned at the seminary. None of them relating to becoming a priest.

I learned that people in Indiana were fascinated with Chicago and visited my city quite often. Some of my classmates often asked what it was like to live in Chicago. They wanted details! To me, these were mundane facts, but I told them how I lived on the south side of Chicago, near where the Union Stockyards used to be. I told them how I attended a Lithuanian Catholic church and school, how I used to deliver the Chicago Sun-Times, Tribune, Daily News, American, and Today. I also delivered to Polish newspapers, the Daily Zgoda and the Chicagowski (I’m not making this name up!). These rural classmates of mine were truly fascinated by all these details.

Occasionally, I went home on weekends. The first few times, I took a Greyhound bus from Plymouth, Indiana, to downtown Chicago. And then I would take the CTA the rest of the way home. One of my classmates, Jim, was so curious about Chicago that he offered to have his mother take me to White Sox park, which was close enough to home so my father would pick me up. He lived in Whiting, Indiana, so his mother wasn’t driving that far out of the way. He was so excited to be in Chicago! He enjoyed waiting with me for my father in the stadium parking lot. We did this a couple more times.

One of the activities we did together as seminarians was watch television premieres of blockbuster movies. I remember watching Love Story because the upperclassmen made it sound like the coolest movie ever! I was surprised that many of my fellow seminarians cried at the end. There was a lot excitement when West Side Story was scheduled. I must confess that I had never seen the movie. In fact, I had never even heard of West Side Story. Everyone was shocked by ignorance. They just assumed I had seen the movie. I had no idea what the movie was about, and I was afraid to ask after all the teasing I suffered.

Well, I loved the movie! I loved the movie, the acting, the music, and the dancing. But I especially loved Natalie Wood as Maria. Of course, many seminarians were crying at the end. I couldn’t believe how these supposedly tough guys cried so easily.

Anyway, West Side Story suddenly made me the expert on gang life because I was from Chicago. I was always asked questions about the movie, gangs, and what it was like to be Puerto Rican. I explained that I was not qualified to say what is was like to be Puerto Rican because I was Mexican. That didn’t matter. The questions continued.

The next time we had a holiday weekend, my friend Jim offered to have his mother take me all the way to my house. All the way home, he kept asking if there gangs in my neighborhood. If the gangs were like the ones in West Side Story. If I ever saw anyone stabbed. The questions just kept coming all the way home.

I told him that, yes, our neighborhood did have gangs, but they didn’t dance like in West Side Story. I did see someone who was stabbed, but the not the actual stabbing. Jim kept prodding me for details. I told him about how a rival gang drove into our neighborhood to challenge our local gang. They shouted from their car as they drove past them as they played baseball in the park. Suddenly, their car stalled. Our gang ran up to the car with baseball bats. They hit the car a few times before it started up again and they took off.

I told Jim all these details, and then some, and he was enthralled by these stories. On the way home, he asked me where exactly I saw the stabbed person. His mother was interested, too, so we drove past the exact spot where I saw the stabbed person picked up by an ambulance. Before they drove me home, I had to show them where the rival gang’s car had stalled and where the other gang was playing baseball. Jim and his mother loved the tour I gave them. They finally took me home.

When I returned to the seminary after that weekend, I felt that everyone looked at me differently. Obviously, Jim had told everyone about his south side tour on the way to my house. To me, my life was just a normal life.

French class


When I attended Divine Heart Seminary, Latin was no longer the required language for freshmen and sophomores, so I studied Spanish. My sophomore year, I continued to study Spanish, but I also took French as an elective. I was the only sophomore in the class and the rest were juniors and seniors who had abandoned Latin. There was a certain mystique to study French ever since the seminary hired Miss Lundi to teach French, who partly responsible for me enrolling in her class. Ever since I was little, I had this desire to be fluent in at least ten languages. So there I was anticipating studying Spanish and French. However, when I returned to the seminary from summer vacation, I heard the rumor that Miss Lundi would not be returning to Divine Heart Seminary. The details of the rumor were sketchy, which made it all the more salacious! The previous year, Miss Lundi had found a teacher’s pet who was an all-around varsity jock in his senior year. He was tall and muscular and as hairy as a caveman. Rumor had it that their friendship blossomed into a full-blown romantic tryst. But for the fact that he was already eighteen years old, no crime had been committed. However, Miss Lundi was not asked to return to the seminary.

Well, we were all abuzz wondering who would teach French to us. We also wondered who would be lucky enough to become the French teacher’s pet. We were all full of hope and high expectations. On my way to my first day of French class, I could sense that there was a lot of excitement in the hallway. In fact, a couple upperclassmen rushed past me to get good seats in the classroom. In the process, they bumped into me and my glasses fell off my face. Another student ran past me and accidentally stepped on my glasses. I picked up the pieces and put them in my pocket since I could no longer wear them. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I would soon learn. Well, when I walked into the classroom, the class was staring at the new French teacher. The whole classroom smelled of expensive French perfume. She was hot! Only I couldn’t really tell without my glasses. I was judging on the basis of the reactions of my classmates who were so painfully obvious as to how they felt about her. She had long black hair, blue eyes, a svelte figure, and beautiful legs. Oh, yes, I’m a leg man! I may not have learned much French that year, but I did learn that I was a leg man! Much to the dismay of the students in the front row right by the new French teacher, she immediately assigned desks by alphabetical order. As luck would have it, I was stuck all the way in the back row in the corner at a desk with horrible sight lines. She immediately began the class by introducing herself in French and the entire class of adolescent boys just melted, this author included. Actually, “melted” is not the most accurate word to describe our physical reactions as teenage boys with an over-active libido, if you know what I mean.

She sashayed back and forth across the classroom as she spoke. All eyes followed her back and forth as if watching the French Open. Within minutes, she began writing things on the blackboard in French. While her back was turned some of the students silently made irreverent and obscene gestures, but they stopped immediately when she turned to face the class again. She told us to copy what she had written on the board. Without my glasses, I couldn’t read a word. I asked her if she could read the board aloud. She gave me a quizzical look and I explained that my glasses were broken and I couldn’t read the board from the back of the room. She immediately moved me to the desk in the front row directly in front of her desk. The student whom I displaced was relegated to my desk in the back row and hated me for the rest of the academic year. To this day, I’m afraid to bump into him in some dark alley for fear of how he might avenge himself on me for the loss of the best desk in French class.

I took my glasses to the optometrist for repairs, but I wouldn’t get them back for two weeks. Two weeks! For two weeks I sat in the front row of French class and I still couldn’t read the board. I would copy the questions from the board and ask her if I had copied them correctly. She would stand at my side and bend over to read my notebook. Well, she had spent the previous summer in Paris and done a little shopping at many boutiques so she had quite a wardrobe of the latest Parisian fashions. She mainly wore low-cut dresses with high hemlines. She said that her dresses were décolleté, which if I remember correctly is French for, “I think I’ll show off my breast today!” So, when she bent over to check my notebook, I was exposed to quite a few. Soon, the rest of the class was asking her to check their work, too.Every boy vied to become the teacher’s pet. But she was too wise for them and soon stopped checking everyone’s work.

When I finally got my glasses back, our assigned desks were ours for the rest of the semester! She never even noticed that I now was wearing my glasses. When I finally got a good look at her with my glasses, I felt as if I had been blind until then. What I had imagined her to look like from a distance without my glasses correcting my nearsightedness paled in comparison with her actual beauty. She truly looked like a runway model who had walked of the pages of a French fashion magazine. Why the hell was she teaching French at a Catholic seminary? Well, rather than question God’s infinite wisdom, I decided to enjoy my newfound vision that actually felt like the super power of a comic-book hero. The beauty of the whole situation was that she spent most of the class sitting on her desk directly in front of me. Her dresses were marvels of fashion design. Like a good English composition, they were long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting. When she sat on her desk, her dress reminded me of the tidal movements of the ocean. Just as when the ocean causes a high tide on one shore, the waters will recede on another. So, too, her dress would emulate tidal movements. And I had the best seat in the house! If she wriggled too much while sitting on her desk, her skirt would recede up her thighs. If she pulled her skirt down too far, she would expose too much of her breasts. But the absolute highlight of the class came when she sat on her desk and would forget that she was sitting in front of twenty libidinous adolescent boys. She would actually cross her legs at the knees. As I sat right in front of her, I could see the color of her panties. After class, everyone would surround me and ask me what color they were. I was the pride and envy of French I.

That was the best French class I ever took, but I never did learn to speak French! Other than, “Je ne sais pas.”

Merci! Je m'appelle Dave!

Running


Even though it was 95 degrees, I finished 8th place in 2:44!

I’m enjoying my summer vacation from teaching so far. I get up whenever I feel like. I have a cup of black coffee while I rub the sleep from my eyes. I more or less kill time and stall before I go out my front door for my morning run before it gets too hot out. Lately, I’ve been slowing down on my runs. I’m not sure if it’s due to age and/or allergies. Of course, I’ve had these experiences before, even when I was in my twenties. I have been running, on and off again, since high school. I first started running when I was at Divine Heart Seminary when I joined the cross country team. For some reason I wanted to be on a school team because I thought it would be cool. My first race was the Marshall County Cross Country Championship in Indiana. Since I didn’t know any better, I ran alongside the lead pack right from the start. After about a mile, I suddenly slowed down to a crawl, or so it seemed to me. I’m not sure where I placed, but I received a ribbon. I have one run that I will never forget: I was running on some backwoods road in Camp Pendleton when I felt someone running alongside me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a coyote. At first, I was startled, but I continued running as if this were normal. The coyote and I ran together for about five minutes before we went our separate ways. Well, enough stalling! I am now going out for my morning run.

Hello, coyote! Where are you running to?

Hooters


Hooters, famous for their chicken wings

I finally went to Hooters for the first time in my life. Why? Would you believe for the chicken wings? All my friends who went to Hooters always say that they only go because they have the best chicken wing. We went to the one at 8225 W. Higgins Road in Chicago. Well, my high school friends wanted to get together for a little reunion. But we didn’t go to just any high school. We went to a Roman Catholic seminary! Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, Indiana. And there we were sitting in Hooters! By the way, the chicken wings did live up to their famous reputation. I even have a picture of me with a Hooters waitress. And that was before I started drinking. Now that I think of it, anyone who attended a seminary had to have considered becoming a priest at one time or another. It felt great to see everyone again. However, I’m not sure if I’ll ever go to Hooters again. Next time, we’re meeting at Chi Chi’s!

Would please bend over more when you set down those chicken wings?