I arrived in Springfield, MA close to three in the morning. I checked into a Holiday Inn Express and took my traveling bag into the room. Check out was at noon which was perfect. I took my boots off, turned on the television and lit a joint. I sat back and pondered the trip tomorrow.
On any trip there is a dreaded section of highway. On the road from Boston to Chicago it's the section of Interstate 90 from Albany N.Y. to Buffalo N.Y. This is 378 miles of bullshit highway. Later in 2005, I made the trip back to the Laconia Bike Week as an Outlaw - another brilliant National (LOL). It got to be old to announce Nationals in locations that were less than desirable.
If you have ever driven this stretch of the road you know it's miserable. First, the road is cement not smooth blacktop so you can feel it. That's not the worse thing though, the worse part is the mile markers. The first one says 378 miles to Buffalo. The next sign will say 376 miles to Buffalo, then 374, 372, 370, 368 - you see what I am saying? It's like Chinese water torture...drip-drip-drip. It drives you nuts. I like to drive and not see a sign every 2 miles, otherwise it seems like you are getting nowhere.
I woke up at 10am and I was antsy and ready to go. My plans were to get to Buffalo, check in and hit the bars - maybe even go across to Canada check out the strip clubs. I know I also wanted to go across to see the falls side from Canadian side.
I made myself two nice lines, snorted them and off I went to make Buffalo!
378, 376, 374, 372, 370, 368, 366, etc...etc...
I walked out of the Combination Club a little buzzed but ready to start my journey to Chicago. I figured I would take a week to get there and then have two weeks once I got there, to hang out with my buddies. I got into that big Lincoln Mark V and headed to the expressway. It was around midnight and my plan was to go as far as Springfield, Massachusetts which was about three hours away.
Now if you have ever been out on the road by yourself there are certain preparations you have to make; you had to have munchies. My traveling munchies have always been cashews, pretzel rods, Mike & Ikes and, my favorite, orange slices. Don't forget the water. Now for the party favors - you have to remember everything has to be prepared ahead of time because you are alone and can't be taking your hands off the wheel to roll a joint or do a line! This trip was roughly one thousand miles, but also factor into the equation that the trip was going to be leisurely. I have done the one thousand miles straight through but there was no need for that this time - there was no rush.
Later as an Outlaw, I made more than my share of trips from Chicago to Daytona Beach, Florida - 1,100 miles with only stopping for gas. So for this trip the party favors would be twenty joints in a flip top Marlboro pack, four eight balls - two eight balls stashed in a gym bag and two others in glass vials which made it very easy to do while driving alone.
The road and the blow can really get you wired.
This problem is two fold: first, when you are by yourself you really don't know how high you are until you stop for gas and you have to talk to someone who isn't high. That situation can be tricky (LOL). Second, when you check-in to rest, it doesn't help you sleeping; so having a Xanax ladder is very handy. I really don't like them but they are a necessary evil.
When I left the Combination Club I was buzzed enough that I could make it to Springfield Massachusetts by 2:30-3:00am, check into the hotel and sleep until about 11am. The plan was to get up have some coffee and coke before hitting the road to do the grueling part of the trip - the dreaded New York Turnpike (Albany to Buffalo).
I often would think and compare todays road trip to the trip that the pioneers in covered wagons would make. Those people were cut from a different cloth. What determination they must have had! Well I too was determined to stay focus, rest up and do this job whatever it was...I really didn't care about the difficulty.
This would be the first step in my ultimate plan to run Chicago!
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.
In February of 1987 I was making my plans to head to Chicago. I was really excited - not so much for the job, but for the road. If you have been out there on the road you know what I'm talking about. The road isn't like anything else, you can only attempt to be prepared. If you don't know what you're doing, only bad things can happen.
Now when I talk about the road, I'm not talking about making reservation and having a daily amount to spend or specific sights to see!
I'm talking about getting in your vehicle and only knowing that you have to get somewhere. The only real "plans" I would ever make is for the day I was leaving (never a time), the car that would take me there, the money I would need and whatever fun drug of choice I'd partake in along the way.
At that time I had a van, but no way would I want to do 1100 miles in that thing. During this same time, I was hanging out at a social club called the Combination Club. It was a pretty cool place with some major players that I had befriended. I filled in there a few times, tending bar. When I did that I usually ran nine ball games with three regulars. I could walk out in the morning when the cleaning crew showed up with about five to six hundred bucks. With the bar skim I'd have a total of seven to eight hundred bucks...not bad for ONE night. So I figured that would be my traveling money.
My plan was finally taking shape! I traded the 1983 van for a 1976 Lincoln Mark 5 - this car was going be great and really comfortable. With transportation set, my next point of action was to try to get a night to tend bar but in all actuality I wanted to be able to shoot some pool for my traveling money.
The woman who managed the place was my age and loved to booze it up. I spent many a night with her drinking and bullshitting about why some dunce wouldn't marry her. Most people think a hustler is a fast talker, the great hustlers know how to listen. Anyways on one of the nights doing this, I told her I was heading out and going back to Chicago. There was some sadness because I had made some true friends even made a few scores with them. But in my life I learned early you have to be able to turn your back to walk away and ignore any feelings. So after telling her this she asked if I wanted to work for her on the next Tuesday. This was perfect and I was set. I would work and shoot pool on Tuesday night and then leave on Thursday.
I had ten days before I had to be there so this could be a great trip, plus I could even have a few days in Chicago to see some college buddies. Everything was falling into place.
On the Tuesday before I had to tend bar, I stopped at the police department. I was looking for one of the cop bumper stickers to slap on my bumper to keep the state troopers off my ass while I was traveling. I always did that - I'm not sure it worked but I do know that I'm sitting here writing a book. It was a great bumper sticker too, it said "Just say NO to Drugs" donated five bucks to the cause and slapped that on the bumper.
Until next time...
Farewell night of work!
I returned to Chicago in 1987 after fifteen years of living on the road. I was hustling and living the life of a carefree rebel. In those years, I lived in Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Louisville, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Dallas - those are the big ones - there were numerous small towns along the way.
During this time the highs were high and the lows were very low. However, it became a way of life. Through drifting around I learned the "hustlers code" and I still live by it today!
As time went on I would be joined for short periods of time by my brother, Micheal. We were quite the team - following in the footsteps of the two other infamous James brothers, Frank and Jesse. My brother and I had always been close and I wonder if he was alive today what he would think about this whole book thing. I hope wherever he is, he's proud and laughing. He was a great brother but never understood you can't keep the gas pedal of life pushed to the floor 24/7 cuz that will shorten your life...and it did.
I began to develop my own laws that I would follow. If there were laws written by other people, the government or even God - I didn't care. If those laws conflicted with mine I didn't follow them and certainly did not obey! There wasn't many laws I made. I focused only on making those that involved good karma. I strived to be fair, loyal, and respectful to those who earned it and my elders. I believed that being a hustler was a way of life. I realized that it didn't matter what the size of the hustle or the stakes involved; the rules of the hustler were the same!
I was in Boston in February of 1987. It was an especially shitty winter and I was suffering through one of the lows - just hanging out. My mother called me and asked me (as she had done numerous times over the previous fifteen years) to come home because some relative had found me a job. In the past, I had always politely refused but this time I asked her where this job would take me and she told me my cousin Pete had a job opening where he worked. I told her I would take the job. She was elated and I was anxious because I knew it was time to go to Chicago to make a dream come true.
It was then I realized alea iacta est (the dice are cast)...
I would like to welcome everyone to our new website for "The Last Chicago Boss." This website will deal with everything involving our book. We will be adding merchandise and photos. I will also be writing blogs which include some of the stories that we were unable to publish! On our site, we are in the process of adding many innovative and enjoyable features that will enhance your enjoyment of our book.
We believe that our book "The Last Chicago Boss" is unique. It is the first book about motorcycle club life in Chicago - the city of Al Capone, political machines and numerous intrigues! This story is about me, the man who became the boss of the Outlaws after the long bloody war with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. I share the maneuvers needed to hold the city as our own - an Outlaw city, our birthplace. Holding on to the city while fighting cancer. Read about the joy and brotherhood! Then the final betrayal of a brotherhood born 80 years ago. Here's my story "The Last Chicago Boss!"