Tag Archives: cop

The Wrigleyville Riot or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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They look like a nice bunch of non-troublemakers.

As a kid, summer vacation meant loading up the family car and heading somewhere for a week to play miniature golf, sleep on the fold-out couch of one of my Dad’s old Navy buddies and possibly take an unplanned detour to someplace like the Rodeo Hall of Fame.  But now that the statute of limitations has surely passed, I can finally tell the story of our last family vacation.

When I was around 27, myself, my sister Megan, my brother Sean and Sean’s then-fiancée Beth all decided to go along with my parents on an annual trip they took with friends to go see the Cardinals play the Cubs in Chicago.   For the trip, the six of us loaded into a single car to approximate the comfort of flying in coach for five hours with the added bonus of my Dad being in control of the radio.

The first part of the trip went off without a hitch.  My Dad complaining about downtown Chicago traffic, going to dinner at an old-school German restaurant and accidentally visiting a gay bar along with my parents friends from church.  Typical vacation stuff.

The next day, we went to Wrigley Field to cheer on the Cardinals as they (possibly) beat the Cubs (maybe).  I really have no recollection of the game outside of the fact that I promptly cut myself off from drinking any more Old Style when I caught a glimpse of the trough in what seems to be the only Men’s Room in the entire stadium.

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Here’s a picture of us at the game.  There certainly doesn’t seem to be any evidence of intoxication or premeditation here.

 

Following the game, my family and about 2,000 of our fellow attendees decided to head to a bar called the Cubby Bear, which is within stumbling distance of the entrance to Wrigley Field.  And here’s where things start to go sideways.

While attempting to find my parent’s friends and some of Sean’s fraternity brothers in a bar where the phrase Personal Space probably only referred to a shot they made with Grenadine and Peach Schnapps, it became obvious that my parents were not that thrilled about being pushed up against someone in a sweaty Shawon Dunston jersey.  So we decided to leave the Cubby Bear.  As I led our group to the door, I managed to “excuse me/pardon me” my way through the thick crowd, walk down the narrow stairs to the exit and emerge onto the sidewalk off of West Addison.  I waited.  And waited.  No one else was behind me.

Full disclosure, I was not a witness to the next few minutes of this story.  For narrative and liability reasons, I thought it would be important to point that out.

Back in the bar, my Dad squeezed through the crowd towards the exit and nudged a tall, thin guy frat guy in his early twenties.  This polite young man admonished my father for bumping into him and my Dad apologized for bumping into him.  Frat Guy then called my Dad a “Motherf….”

(Quick aside about my Dad, who is a retired cop and is built like one of those blue mailboxes.  He is a man who would, quite often, come home from work and show his children how take down a larger man by pulling back their thumb.  I can’t say that his job regularly involved melees, but I doubt that any of my friend’s Dads growing up ever came home with a story about breaking up a bar fight in a parking lot following a wet t-shirt contest at a local disco.  Now back to the story)

“…ucker” and pushed him.  Once again, my Dad apologized and said, “We’re just trying to get to the door.”  Frat Guy then pushed my Dad back into my sister Megan, knocking her down.  Upon seeing Megan sprawled out on the floor, I can only imagine that my Dad experienced some sort of Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno transformation.  He raised his hands in the International sign for “I don’t want any trouble” and then rapidly smashed his palm into Frat Guy’s nose several times.  Frat Guy and his gushing nose tried to collapse but the thick crowd kept him upright.

I imagine the phrase “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” passed through my Dad’s head and he split for the exit.  Frat Guy must have felt that he still had more to say, and took a step towards my Dad, who had turned his back to him.  My sister Megan, who is five feet of dynamite, then jumped in and received an elbow to the face from Frat Guy for her troubles.  While she countered with a punch to his throat, she assures me that she was aiming for his face.  “He was really tall,” says the now-mother of three.

At this time I (Yay, I’m back in the story!) heard a message on the doorman’s walkie-talkie announcing that he was needed to help break up a fight.  No sooner had the thought “My poor family is stuck up there because some drunken ruffians started a ruckus” crossed my mind when my Dad came barreling down the stairs.   He crashed into a souvenir stand and continued running past me as my sister also emerged from the bar.  The souvenir stand owner yelled, “Hey buddy, you break it you buy it” to my fleeing father, and both Megan and the man who walked her down the aisle at her wedding yelled in unison “Hey, fuck you!”  My Dad then ran down an alley.

Needles to say, I had a couple of questions.

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Since Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs (a then-wholly owned subsidiary of the Tribune Company) told us to go to the Cubby Bear, aren’t they at least somewhat culpable?

As my sister began filling me in, my crying Mother, Sean and Beth also exited the bar.  Apparently, after Frat Guy once again attempted to go after my Dad and Megan, my brother Sean had put him into a headlock until the bouncers had kindly asked him to leave.

In the pre-cell phone age, if your father broke someone’s nose in a bar fight and then ran down an alley while removing his baseball cap to change his appearance for the cops, you were unable to simply text “Where u at?” So, as my Mom attempted to clean the blood off of my brother’s forearms with Bath and Body Works Vanilla-scented hand sanitizer, we decided that we should probably take a train back to the hotel before the police arrived.

Back at the hotel, my Mom paced and cried while her friends asked her if she might like to go shopping to take her mind off of my on-the-lam father.  Roughly an hour and a half later, my Dad, who was completely soaked, walked into the room and simply asked, “Are you guys ready to go to dinner?”

Had he jumped into the Chicago River to throw off the police dog’s scent?  Taken second place in a Boy’s Town wet t-shirt contest? Perspired through his shirt while taking The L to Schaumburg before realizing that he could no longer see The Sears Tower?  We may never know.

While my Mom worried that the incident would scare Beth off from marrying Sean (thankfully it didn’t), my Dad’s reaction to the entire event was to pretty much avoid ever talking about it.  Even now, I’m not sure how thrilled he will be with this story.

It was our first and last family bar fight and, deep down, I am still secretly disappointed that I wasn’t more involved.  It may have been my only chance to fulfill my lifelong dream of breaking a pool cue over someone’s back.

I guess it will just have to remain a regret.  Although, even at 4, I wouldn’t put it past Kate to get a little lippy with someone who bumps into her with a pitcher of Bud.  So, I guess I better keep in “running down an alley” shape just in case.

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Daddy’s home!

Me, my brother and my Dad on what I hope is Halloween 1974.

As Father’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to the man who has done, and continues to do,  the most to shape who I am today.  A man who, over these last 36 years, has made me laugh, taught me my values and occasionally driven me nuts.  A true original.  My Dad. 

My Dad isn’t like a lot of the other father’s I knew growing up.  Unlike some friend’s dads who seemed to consider their kid’s lives as an afterthought, my Dad always took an interest in what my siblings and I  were doing.  He knew our friends,  he was our biggest fan in whatever we chose to do and was always very willing to give the gift of his time. 

From the day I was born until I was in my mid-20’s, my Dad was a police officer.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to be called away in the middle of the night or to find out that the guy who said “Hi” to him at Burger King was someone who he had sent to the penitentiary for burglary.  My Dad took a great deal of pride in his work.  He loved it and I think he did it because he truly wanted to help people.  (Although the guy at Burger King may have had a different opinion.) 

My Dad is a very kind man but, as an ex-cop, he can also be a little intimidating.  He once avoided potential road rage when the belligerent driver of another car followed us into the parking lot of a Putt-Putt, only to apologize and drive away when he saw my Dad get out of the car.  My brother and I have decided that if we ever had to take on my Dad, we would have to surprise him, and at least one of us would have to be wielding a pillow case full of door knobs. 

While my Dad sometimes refers to me as the wheelbarrow, in that I only work when pushed, he has a work ethic that won’t quit.  In all his years as a policeman, I can only recall him calling in sick once.  A day on which he passed a kidney stone that, judging from the sounds I heard from the next room, was roughly the size of an avocado.  

Although his sense of humor has gotten goofier and goofier over the years, my Dad is a very funny man.  Full of stories and jokes, he is the center of most every party that he attends.   My Mom often says that friends make sure that he is invited to their parties and then let her know that she can come too.  While we may roll our eyes at the same old jokes, when he has a fresh audience….watch out. 

My Dad is like a human waterboard.  He can get anyone to talk.  If you meet him, be prepared for a barrage of questions the likes of which you have never seen.   Questions that run the gamut from “What do you do for a living?” to my family’s favorite, “Did you get any surprises for Christmas?”  (Which was asked of someone in May)  People tell him things within the first 20 minutes of meeting him that they have probably never told anyone in their life.  If you put my Dad in a room with Marcel Marceau, he would walk out with a vacation invitation.  People don’t open up to him because of some Dale Carnegie tactic or self-help book trick, it is because my Dad is truly interested in what they have to say.  My Dad makes people feel special because he listens.   

He treats everyone he meets like a friend and is the least self-conscious person I know.  I am fairly confident that he hasn’t purchased a single item of clothing for himself since he got out of the Navy, and will wear the same promotional giveaway t-shirt for years until my Mom mysteriously loses it in the wash.  He once cut the grass in a “Me So Horny” t-shirt that someone gave him as a joke for his 50th birthday and greeted some high school friends of my sister that had come to pick her up.  That t-shirt was never seen again. 

My Dad grew up with parents that he could never count on, and at some point he decided that he would be the type of parent that you can always count on.  I can call on him any time day or night and I know that he will be there for me. His word is gold.  If he tells you that he is going to do something, it will get done.  Unless it is an ill-conceived Father/Son project to revive a junkyard Camaro which came and went on the same tow truck, and spent the two years in between as wheeled storage unit in the garage.   My Dad’s self-taught automotive skills and my brother’s and my proficiency at holding flashlights and handing over screwdrivers just wasn’t enough to bring it back to life.  In all fairness, I would have probably just ended up sideswiping a Wendy’s drive thru anyway. 

As an adult, I can now look back and really appreciate all of the sacrifices that my Mom and Dad made for our family.  In addition to being a cop, my Dad worked a never-ending array of part-time jobs to make sure that my siblings and I could go to private school and to always be able to go somewhere on vacation.  There may not have been 4-Star accommodations, and my sister may have had to tell theme parks that she was 11 until she was well past voting age, but I have been all over this great land.  You have not truly witnessed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains until you have seen it from the back window of a beige Datsun 210 puttering up the side of Pike’s Peak. 

My brother says that if my Dad ever became famous, I could get rich impersonating him. At the very least I could be doing two shows a night with Tony Orlando in Branson.  What started as a trick that I sometimes used to startle my brother when he wasn’t looking or to generally annoy my sister (but unconvincingly sold to my Dad as a loving tribute) has, over the last several years, turned into an involuntary action.  I sound more and more like my Dad every day.  But as I have recently gotten married, and look to start a family of my own, I only hope that I can continue to do the best impression of my Dad that is possible. 

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

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