I walked into the Combination Club for the last time and all of the members were there to say goodbye. I was actually touched. It was wild considering I had started out tending bar one night a week. As they say, from humble beginnings. I was the beloved bartender. You have to understand that I had tended bar for most of my life and I wasn't a great bartender. Compared to the competition out here I was like the guy in the movie "Cocktail" (or whatever the name was). I immediately realized the difference of tending bar here versus back home.
My first time in the club the bartender was on a stool watching television. You could only order drinks during commercials (LOL). Therefore, my average skills of keeping a bar wiped down, asking about a refill before they actually had to call me was a unique service. The most important concept, was showing them I was fearless man of my word and I didn't give a shit. This can be accomplished a number of ways, the easiest - albeit most violent -was to fight the toughest guy. Unfortunately, that idea was off the table; the guy in question was a big badass and I really didn't want fight him unless I absolutely had to.
There are two ways to do things: one is with your brain and one is with your back. I prefer my brain.
Now luckily this man was also a friend of my brothers so we had met before and partied together. I knew I had to find an opportunity to establish my street credibility..."street cred". When the opportunity presented itself, we were at my brothers house and this guy was talking about his upcoming birthday. His birthday was in two weeks. So I say to him, "you know back home on your birthday you get hit in the face with a pie". He just looked at me. I said, "I'm serious at your birthday party in two weeks, I will hit you in the face with a pie! The only thing you have to do is decide what kind of pie you want."
So for the next two weeks everyone at the club would ask are you really gonna hit JoJo in the face with a pie? My reply was always the same "yup". Even his dad who had supposedly done some heavy lifting for mob guys asked you really gonna hit him in the face with a pie? "Yup!"
Finally it was his birthday party at the club. I told my brother he had to help me and as always he was eager to assist. My brother's job would be to distract him while I went to get pies.
I made my own pie. Here's the recipe:
Directions: take wrapper off crust, fill crust with bottles of honey, empty one can of the Redi Whip for topping...the last can is for yourself to catch a buzz by carefully inhaling the nitrous oxide. :)
I had all of the ingredients in my car. I quickly made the two pies and walked back in through the door with them in my hands. When you hit anyone with a pie, there can be zero hesitation. He never saw me coming. I called his name he turned and POW right in the kisser. The first one hit with such force people ten feet away got hit with creme, the second was a little off target and the shrapnel basically covered my brother. I moved up the totem pole very quickly and became the guy who hit Big JoJo in the face with a pie. People talked about that the whole time I was there.
I needed to get back to Chicago take this job and regroup. The night of the farewell party I didn't get a chance to shoot 9-ball to pay for my first class trip back. However, the members were all handing me farewell envelopes with cash, which totaled $2650.00, while Mary Jo slipped me $500.00.
I was heading back to Chicago to take a this job. I had my money and their money, totaling almost four grand in my pocket. I still had thee weeks until my job started - Monday March 25, 1987. My Dad always busted my balls over that date because that was Greek Independence day. He would say all the Greeks are celebrating freedom and you finally got collared and have to work; maybe or maybe not, either way I needed to rest and clean up before I would enter the real game!
I had made all the preparation for my departure. The car was packed with just my clothes. The few things I had acquired over my time, I gave to my neighbor. She was pretty but had some strange views.
She had this boyfriend who was a cop and a big time weight lifter - he was on the juice too. Sometimes when I would get home from work, after tending bar, she would be up and she would invite me in for couple of drinks and to get high. She was okay but if you offered me a million dollars to tell you her name I'd have to guess. Looking back, I guess we were more than neighbors.
The first time I saw her boyfriend he came over one morning, unannounced. We were still sleeping when there was a loud bang on the door that woke us. There was a mad scramble, she answered the door while I went out and up the back stairs. I felt a little strange as I wasn't the type to sneak away. So I decided to wait about a half hour and go downstairs to borrow an item. I just wanted to check this guy out!
When I knocked on the door, I understood the saying "discretion is the better part of valor". This guy was a monster. He looked like a coke machine with a head (haha). While he was very large, I also hold the belief that God made man but Samuel Colt made them equal.
Anyways, back to me leaving - we talked a little, I said my goodbyes to her and I left for work.
My plans were already in motion, I had called my two buddies to set up the after hours 9-ball game. I was hoping to make enough money get to Chicago from economy to first class! I have had both in my time. And, as you can guess, first class is the route to go.
My shift started at 6pm, usually only a few after-work guys would be there drinking. Tuesdays were steady but not crazy crowded. It was a good night to work! However, this night when I pulled into the parking lot, it was jammed. I thought, what the fuck - you have to be kidding me!
There is nothing worse than going behind a crowded bar, as soon as you walk in to start your shift. I was really bummed. This wasn't how I wanted this night to start. I parked the car and walked inside. To my surprise - it was a going away party! Most of the members were there and there was even a banner wishing me good luck. I was touched.
Although in the back of my mind I still thought about how my trip to Chicago was going to stay "economy". This is were a couple of the rules of the hustler's code comes into play: adaptability and always be prepared never be surprised. The only thing to do now was put a smile on my face and enjoy the party. Sometimes you just have to play things by ear while watching for an opportunity.
There are three Latin quotes I routinely use and this is one of them:
"Alea iacta est"
...which means the die is cast, an event has happened, or a decision has been made that cannot be changed. Julius Ceaser said these words as he crossed the Rubicon River with his Legions which changed the course of history!
Stay tuned for my next blog - the party and getting out of dodge.