Revolutionary War Again?

My cousin and I were hitting a tennis ball back and forth over the net at our local Chicago courts. I won the game. My cousin wasn’t happy with some of the umpire’s line calls.

This led to reminiscing about the old tennis players.

“Do you remember that certain player, with the mop of hair tied with a head band, who uttered those famous words at the umpire,”You cannot be serious.”

“You bet I do, I loved the way he threw tantrums over bad line calls by the umpires.”

My cousin’s eyes glistened with excitement.

“He really acted up in England at Wimbledon. He used bad language, kicked the grass and pouted and shouted.”

“Oh, yes, I remember, although he acted up in America too, it seemed worse when he did it in England.”

“Why is that?” I said, egging my cousin on.

“Well, you know how the English feel they are so civilized. They like to think they’re more sportsmanlike than other people. They get uptight when an American comes to Wimbledon spouting bad language.”

“I think that’s the way John motivated himself on court, by arguing about everything,” I said.

“Yes, that’s right, I remember he would go nuts yelling at the umpire. Then he would compose himself and play an excellent next point.”

“You sound like you don’t like the English,” I said.

“Well, they like to make other people feel inferior, with their precise, languid way of speaking.”

“How’s that?”

“It’s the way they seem to look down their noses at you. And you know they do take high tea.”

I shook my head, smiling.

“Do you think the English should have apologized to John for all their criticism?”

“Yes, I do, where do the English get off criticizing a poor kid from N.Y. for mumbling a few bad words and  pouting a little?”

“I guess you won’t be going to England on your vacation.”

“Well, they should look to their own soccer fans for unsportsmanlike behavior. Nobody pays attention to the bad language their fans and players use. There’s a body count, instead.

“Is it that bad?”

“Yes, full blown riots in the stands and on the streets.”

“Well, I guess waving a team scarf is to tame,” I said laughing.

But my cousin’s face was very serious, when he said:

“ I think John should have spat in the umpire’s eye. The one that didn’t have the monocle!”

The Picasso

August 15th, 1967

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just picked up my new girlfriend. She was quite a catch for me, I don’t think I ever had a girlfriend as beautiful. She was blond with a long ponytail.

Well, anyway, to get back to my story. The plan was to go to downtown Chicago, wander around, have lunch and maybe take in a movie. But we got caught up in a crowd at the Civic Center Plaza.

“ What’s up?” I asked a bystander.

“ They’re unveiling Picasso’s gift to Chicago.”

“ Oh, he’s the guy that paints those funny pictures.”

“ That’s right, but this is supposed to be a iron sculpture.”

“ I can’t wait to see what it looks like,” said my girlfriend.

“ Well, according to the papers, it will be a sculpture for people who like to laugh at the ridiculousness of the human condition.”

Up on the podium, were the Mayor and several men of the cloth, giving speeches. I thought that strange because Picasso was an atheist.

Then the Mayor pulled the ribbon and the covering fell away. My girlfriend and I stood there with a thousand other people with our mouths open. There was some applause but most of the audience were silent.

“ What is it?’ my girlfriend whispered.

“ I don’t know,” I stammered.

Before us stood a three-dimensional, cubist sculpture standing 50 feet tall.

“ It’s a big ugly metal thing,” someone shouted.

“ If Picasso did it, it must be wonderful,” someone else exclaimed.

“ Chicago now has culture,” someone said sarcastically.

My girlfriend and I walked around the metal thing to see it from different angles. Most of the people still there, a lot left, shaking their heads, were standing stiff completely blank-faced.

The eyes of the sculpture had a cold mean look. One man said it reminded him of Al Capone.

We were at the side of the sculpture, when I said, to my girlfriend.

“ It looks like you in profile with your long ponytail.”

She just stared at me.

The guy next to us said,” No, it looks like a baboon.”

My girlfriend walked off in a huff and got lost in the crowd. I never saw or heard from her again.


He lived alone. I was his carer, sounding board and friend. But he needed none of these. He was the most self-reliant man I ever knew, who loved his solitude for his thinking time. His mind was his companion.


I lived in the same apartment building. I used to visit him regularly to give him some company and to do things for him.That was when he turned 77 years old and his legs were giving out on him. He hobbled around the apartment with a stick. At this time he had been living alone for 30 years.

He told me he was an only child, he used to play by himself and he got used to his own company and he enjoyed it. He liked being alone with his own thoughts.

He lost his parents early, his father when he was 15, his mother when he was 25. Then he was an orphan. His wife died when he was 47 years old. That’s when his real solitude started.

We had many good conversations, he had solid opinions on everything. He watched a lot of news on the TV and he read all the newspapers. His apartment was lined with bookshelves.

“ You know all I hear and read is the media shouting at me. They try to inform you but all they do is leave you on the fence, undecided and confused.”

“ What do you do to rectify that,” I said.

“ Well, I don’t accept everything I hear and read, so I’m left with my own thinking. I wonder, can I trust myself? My intellect is limited but with a lot of things I use common sense acquired over the years. But, lately, the world seems to have gone crazy.”

“ I know there is a lot of injustice and unfairness in the world.”

“ That’s right, I’ve been disappointed so much through the years. I almost expect disappointment as a way of life. I cannot conceive of a world run the way it should be run.”

“ Maybe you’re expecting too much from the world,” I countered.

“ I get disgusted when the people I meet along the way all think in terms of the accumulation of goods and power. If I have more than you, I am better than you. Think of the drunken bum, who never worked a day in his life. Then he wins the lottery. Now, he is an eccentric millionaire. No longer a drunken bum. He, now, has power and recognition. Has he changed? Not really, but he’s accepted as a superior being now.”

“ Well, I read a columnist in the paper the other day and he said…”

The old man interrupted me.

“ See, this is another thing that aggravates me. My father lived through the first World War, Prohibition and the Depression. He had his ideas about life. What came out of his mouth, was my father speaking out. When I listen to people today, so much of what they say is from other mouths. I tell them, I’m looking for you in your conversation, but I can’t find you.”

I got up to leave.

“ Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, old fella,” I said, patting him on the shoulder.

“ You’re a real thinker.”

“ Yes, OK, I’ve got some thinking to do and I think best when I am alone.”

I left him smiling.


After work, the next day, I popped in again to see the old fella.

“ How are you today?”

“ OK, I guess, but I spent an hour looking for my glasses. Finally found them, memory isn’t what it used to be. The joys of getting old.”

“ Don’t you get restless and bored being alone most of the time?”

“ Not me, I’ve got my thoughts to keep me busy.”

I shook my head.

“ Don’t you get lonely?’

“ Not me, son, I like my own company and my thinking time. I find when I have “ me time”, I feel good.”

“ But don’t you get tired of thinking about concepts and conundrums?”

“ Not in the least, periods of solitude teach me to live with me, the one person I’ll never be apart from.”

“ It seems to me too much solitude would be difficult and painful.”

“ No, I find I need solitude to think. Being alone forces me to come to terms with every corner of my mind.”


The weeks went into months with the old fella telling me how happy he was with his own thoughts, feeding and exercising his brain with whatever problem he came across.

Then I left town for 3 years to work at another branch of my company. I often thought about the old man with his thoughts for company.

When I returned, I dropped in on him. I found him in a chair staring at the TV. There was a far away look in his eyes. Lots of books were strewn across the floor.

“ My brain is black,” he mumbled.

“ What’s that mean?”

The old fella’s hands were shaking.

“ It means my brain is dying and I am dying. My thoughts are all jumbled up, I can’t think clearly. I’ve lost my companion.”

I left his apartment feeling very sad and I was determined to get him some professional help.

The next day I visited him again. I knocked on the door, it opened a crack by itself. I walked in and found the old man slumped in his chair. There was a smile on his face. On the table next to him was an empty glass, two empty bottles of pills and a half empty bottle of whiskey.

Parallel Lives

Chicago, January 17th, 1924

It was cold and icy in Chicago that day, which was my 25th birthday. I had the day off from my bookkeeper job. My mother, Teresa, made me a small cake. I blew out the candles and my mother and I had cake and ice cream. It was just my mother and I, my father died four years ago.

I started reading one of my crime stories.

“ Dave Tanner, are you reading those crime stories again?”

“ Yes mother, I love crime stories.”

In one of the stories, I came across the fact that today was also Al Capone’s birthday and he was 25 also.

The whole city of Chicago knew there was an up and coming new gangster in town, named Al Capone. Prohibition had brought a lot of crime to “ The Windy City”.

Well, my birthday came and went and I didn’t give the Capone coincidence another thought.

Until one day: I was in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, at a bookshop that specialized in used crime books. All of a sudden I had the urge to go out on the pavement and look across the street at a tavern. I heard gun shots coming from the bar. Out walked a chunky fellow wearing a dark suit and a white fedora. He jumped in a black car and off it sped.

I knew Cicero had become a Capone stronghold. I must have just seen Al Capone.

The next day I read in the newspaper, “ Joe Howard, a small time gangster, shot dead in Cicero bar, Al Capone suspected. This substantiated what I had seen the day before. I had goose bumps when I saw the picture of the body laying in a pool of blood. Why was I drawn out to witness this incident?

That same day, after work,  I bought a magazine that had a story about Capone. When I paid at the counter I automatically put a dollar in the Tuberculosis Charity can. I had never done that before.

I now seemed to have a compulsion to find out as much about Capone as I could and compare it with my facts.

This is how it panned out:

Al Capone                                            Dave Tanner

Birth—Jan. 17, 1899                                          Jan. 17, 1899

Nat.—Italian American                                      Italian American

Occupation—Bookkeeper                                 Bookkeeper

Father—Gabriele                                                  Gabriel

Mother—Teresina                                                 Teresa

Capone’s father came to the US in 1894 at 30 years of age, from a small village near Naples. Ditto for my father. Capone’s wife is Irish American, my girlfriend is Irish American. My father changed his name from Tanneoli to Tanner to be more American.

I went to bed that night with my head buzzing. Maybe it was all a bizarre coincidence. We’ll see what happens. I slowly dropped off into a restless sleep.

The next day after work, I headed for a florist to get some flowers for my mother, she loved fresh flowers in the house.

As I approached the shop, I saw four men inside appearing to be in an argument. Then one of the men grabbed the other man’s arm and dragged him down to the floor. I heard gun shots ring out. Three men ran out and jumped in a car and vanished in the distance. I turned around and walked away fast.

I was a nervous wreck when I got home.

The next day I rushed out to buy a newspaper and read that Dion O’ Banion was gunned down in his florist shop. The shooters weren’t found. Capone suspected to be behind the plot because he then took over O’Banion’s bootlegging territory.

I dropped the paper to the floor and thought, why am I being drawn to these incidents? Is it because I share so many similarities with Capone.

I passed a homeless man selling pencils and dropped a dollar in his can. I’ve never done that before.

What’s happening to me? What does the future hold?




I was so upset over the two Capone incidents, that I had to tell my mother. I told her about all the similarities and the incidents.

“ You must be cursed,” cried my mother.

“ How can I break the curse?”

“ Do good deeds to counteract the spell. You have to do good in the face of evil,” said my mother, wide eyed.

“ Well, mother, I have given to charity after the two incidents.”

“ Good, continue doing good deeds.”

“ How come the curse just started now, on my 25th birthday?”

“ Because that’s when you became aware of the Capone similarities. Don’t question the mysteries of the mind, my son.”

Time went by and I almost forgot about the Capone curse.

Then came October 11th, 1926

I was walking by Holy Name Cathedral, on the 700 block of North State Street, about 20 yards ahead of me were five men. For some strange reason, I looked across the street at the windows of a rooming house.  On the second floor, I noticed two men with Tommy guns. The next moment I heard machine gun shots. I dropped to the ground. The men in front of me all lay bleeding by the church. I got up and ran away.

I later found out, Hymie Weiss, leader of the North Side Gang was killed along with two of his henchmen. The bullets that killed them were lodged in the cornerstone of the church.

This was getting dangerous now, I was only 20 yards away from a spray of bullets. Every time I passed the cathedral, I noticed the bullet holes in the stone. I proceeded to give a pint of blood to the local blood bank.

Two years passed and no Capone incident happened to me. But my mother died of TB, even though I had given quite a bit of money for research. I married my Irish girlfriend.

February 14th, 1929

It was noted in the newspaper that Capone was in Miami, Florida, basking in the warm sunshine. Capone was in constant telephone contact with his henchmen in Chicago.

It was a cold day in Chicago. I was walking on Clark Street after my run in Lincoln Park, when I saw a long black Cadillac pull up in front of the SMC Cartage Co. at 2122 N. Clark. Four men got out and went inside. Two of the men had police uniforms, the others in civilian clothes. Then I heard muffled machine gun spray. I high tailed it out of there fast.

The papers said six members of the Bugs Moran Gang were killed and one seriously injured. They called it, “ The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. Everyone knew Capone had set it up from Miami.

I went out and bought a bag of groceries and donated it to the local shelter. I was wondering when this curse of Capone was going to be lifted. The good deeds weren’t doing the trick. There had to be another way.

Then in the summer of 1930, I entered the lobby of the Lexington Hotel on the south side of Chicago. It was hot that day and I needed an alcoholic drink. I proceeded through some heavy oak doors into the speakeasy. I sat down at the bar next to a chubby man and ordered a shot of whiskey. The whiskey loosened my tongue and I started shooting the breeze with the man. I told him about my similarities to Capone. He seemed sympathetic to my plight. He then said if I ever needed a job to see him, Mr. Phillips at the Lexington. The pay he offered was astronomical.

We shook hands, he got up and turned around, that’s when I saw the scar on his left cheek. Two men came out of the shadows to escort him out.

I walked out of the hotel into the bright sunshine. I couldn’t believe it, had I just been talking to Al Capone? I remember the papers said Capone’s new Chicago headquarters was the Lexington Hotel.

A week later: A tall, well-built man, wearing a black pinstriped suit, two-toned shoes and a white fedora, walked through the front door of the Lexington. He carried a sidearm, a pearl-handled revolver, under his jacket, in a shoulder holster that hung four inches below the armpit, for a fast draw.

That man was Dave Tanner!

Man of the Family

My long lost cousin, LLC, told me about the time, when he  was 15, he became “the man of the family”, in Chicago.

It was the time he decided to join the school marching band, playing the bass drum. He had an ear for music, so his teacher said, so he was given the drum. He started practicing every night. He went through the house banging away.

His father had a fit and told LLC in no uncertain terms to quit playing, he was terrible. There was a God awful row, with his mother crying that her husband, the grump, was stifling my cousin’s musical talent.

The father shouted: “ I would trade both of you for a little peace and quiet.”

The mother packed up and took LLC to her sister’s. She told her husband she wouldn’t return until he apologized.

“ Now, my son, you are the man of the family,” said my cousin’s mother, tearfully.

LLC turned pale, he thought he might have to go to work now. Shock. Horror.

One day, LLC returned home to pick up some of his records, but his house key wouldn’t work. He banged on the door, he was good at banging now.

His father came to the door; “ Stop that knocking.”

“ My key won’t work.”

“ Of course not, I’ve changed the locks,” said his father, slamming the door.

Would you believe it, he doesn’t want us back, thought LLC.

After a couple of weeks of separation, a neighbor asked what his mother was doing.

“ She’s going to Butte,” said LLC.

Now, he didn’t know what that meant, but he heard someone say it on the TV once. The neighbor didn’t know what it meant either. But she thought it must mean that the boy’s mother ran off with a man named Butte.

The neighbor told all the ladies in the  neighborhood. Then they told their husbands. LLC’s mother was seeing a Mr. Butte, a Romeo, a fortune hunter, a pool shark with a beard.

Well, when the father stopped for a beer and heard this from all the men in the tavern, he was like a raging bull. He went to the pool hall and punched the first guy he saw with a beard. The guy turned out to be the local gangster. So four of his henchmen proceeded to beat up the father with their pool cues.

LLC’s father ended up in the hospital. The mother asked her son if they should relent in their demand of apology. My cousin, being the man of the family, pondered this for a few minutes.

“ Let’s go to see Dad in the hospital. This “ man of the family” stuff isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

When mother and son were at the father’s bedside, LLC said, “ Dad, please can we all go home, I will give up the drum.”

His mother also said, she wanted her husband back.

Her husband said, “ Will you stay away from Butte?”

“ But Butte is in Montana,” said his wife.

Her husband grinned.

“ Good, wonderful, I must have really taught him a lesson!”



My Cousin Finds His Muse

My long lost cousin, LLC, likes my stories and he thinks I am a good writer. He has heard me talk many times about my muse. So, naturally, with LLC’s super curiosity, he wanted to know about the muse.

“ Is it like a fairy at the end of the garden?” He asks.

“ Not exactly.”

My cousin looked excited.

“ The muse originates from Greek mythology. The Greek God Zeus had nine daughters called Muses.”

“ Nine daughters, he must have been inspired!” Smiled my cousin.

“ Yes, he was, and these muses represented the arts and they were supposed to inspire us to be creative.”

My cousin looked out the window and had a dreamy expression on his face.

“ I have a vision of my muse. She has long flowing hair and a beautiful body. She is wiping my brow and feeding me grapes.”

“ Does she inspire you, cousin?”

“ Oh, yes, she does inspire me.”

“Now, my cousin, you’re getting to know a little about Muses.”

“ I want to know more.”


“ But now, seriously, I know when my muse is around because I feel a change in the energy in the room.  My muse has such an influence on me that I just tingle with creativity.”

“ God, cousin, that must be quite a spiritual feeling.”

“ It is, very spiritual.”

“ What is a muse like?”

“ Well, she is a strong woman who knows what she wants. She wants to inspire creativity in people. She has an urge to create and experience life to the fullest.”

“ Sounds good to me,” my cousin’s eyes were glistening.

“ Are you going to start a writing career?”

“ Maybe. Now how do you keep the muse around?

“ Well, you have to feed her.”

“ What!”

“ That’s right, she needs food.”

“ What kind of food does she like?”

“ In our lifetime we stuff ourselves with sights and sounds, smells and tastes, textures of different people, events large and small. All this data goes into our subconscious. These are the stuffs that feed the muse, and the muse grows.”

“ That’s very interesting.”

“ To feed your muse, you must always be hungry for life’s experiences.”

“ How do you handle a muse?”

“ Very delicately. If held lightly, the muse will fly. If held too tightly, the muse will die.”

“ How can I make sure she won’t leave me?”

“ There are no guarantees, but if you observe as you live everyday, noting the world around you, and read voraciously, she will not leave you. There will be times , however, when you might have to meditate when she strays afar.”

“ Does a muse have to be a person?”

“ My dear LLC, it can be anything that inspires you.”

“ Then I know who my muse is.”

“ Who is that?”

“ My bitch Labrador, Aphrodite, her love and inspiration are unconditional.”

“ Well, like my long lost cousin always says:


“ Different Strokes For Different Folks!”