The Tepid Ringleader

South Side Bar

Before reading this story keep in mind I am describing the events as I witnessed them. The vernacular and slurs that are used were essential to telling this story. The foul language and misconceptions of some characters captures the mindset and ignorance that unfortunately still exists where I was born and raised. There are no safe spaces here in this place. I am not writing this for shock value or to offend people. This is just a story about where I was before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This piece was hard to write and it may be a little grainy. Please be advised.

In the year 2001 I was twenty-five years old and I was working at steel company on the south side of Chicago as a grunt. All day long I swept the ugly oil stained concrete floors and loaded trucks. I also had the privilege of cleaning the most viciously vile employee rest rooms that ever were. It was a place where Latin King graffiti mingled with key etched Swastikas on the walls. Those restrooms were the shit house door on a tuna boat. One time a guy got stuck in one of the stalls because he was a plump, sicko hillbilly trucker and I had to grab a steel bar to pry the door and frame open to get him out. I hated the job from the word go. I was already almost six years out of high school and had no direction. The only good things about my life at that time were beer my girlfriend and playing in a rock band called the Lunts. The name of the band had been conjured up by an old Chicago joke. What are the three streets in Chicago named after a part of a females anatomy? Paulina, Melvina and Lunt. The Lunts jammed on nights and weekends and we all got pretty tight musically plus we were all great friends. I was still living at home with my parents after an unsuccessful attempt living with a friend in a small apartment. My girlfriend at the time was also living with her folks while she was attending college to become a therapist her name was Kristine. She had a great sense of humor and she liked to have adventures. Kristine was a knock out. She was twenty-eight years old and was raised by very strict Latvian parents who pegged me for a loser. I did not really care what they thought but her folks were very influential on Kristine. Her parent’s house always smelled of cooked fish and bleach. All of the furniture had hard vinyl slipcovers and the décor was reminiscent of an “upscale” Balkan restaurant with plastic flowers on the tables, wooden carvings of biblical scenes all over the walls along with family photos and one picture of Elvis.

My parents house was great and I love my parents very much but my Dad was in the bottle all the time and he constantly embarrassed me when I brought Kristine around, not to mention I was older and felt like a loser for living at home at that age. I just slept there, ate there and tried to keep real busy so I would not get sucked into the drama. The friction between my mother and father made it difficult to stay around there as well so Kristine and I would go to bars a lot and rented cheap motel rooms to have some privacy.

In 2001 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened I was at work, in a loud steel plant that was cutting rolls of steel and bars. I was in the break room where some dockworker was stinking up the joint microwaving fish sticks. He used the crusty employee microwave that looked and smelled like a cats litter box with spaghetti sauce all over it. This guy would put the nasty, rubbery fish sticks on Wonder bread with ketchup and actually enjoyed eating them with a pleasant smile. I heard some trucker on the pay phone saying, “It’s fucking crazy man they crashed into the world trade center. I think they blew up the White House”? I thought to myself “what the hell is this nincompoop rambling about”? I was more concerned with the foul odor in the break room. I went back to the plant to unload a truck and all of a sudden the whole place seemed to stop. The steel slitters, bar cutters and welders just ceased. All of the plant and office personal started listening to radios glued to the speakers. I went in for a listen and the place was silent except for the radios blaring the latest news. Holy shit! The shop foreman made an announcement and asked for us to gather in the conference room to watch television reports. The workday ended at about 11:00 am. After seeing the footage for fifteen minutes on the television I went back to the break room, waited in line for ten minuets at the payphone to call my parents and Kristine to talk about these awful attacks that were captivating the entire world and all of the lines were jammed I got the old operator recording “beep, beep, beep all lines are busy please try your call again later “. The foreman asked us to try to get back to work and if we were scared, sad or did indeed had family that was in or around the areas affected by the events that had occurred that morning we were allowed to go home for the day and nearly everybody left the building. I went directly to Durbin’s Tavern up the road from the steel plant and sat in a barstool in shock as I guzzled pints of Old Style beer while watching the terrible events unfold on television. After copping a good beer buzz I drove home to check on my parents and younger brother who was also living at home at that time. As I was working my way home home people were flooding the streets with American flags and were marching towards a Mosque that was two towns over from my work place. People were pissed off, scared, and vengeful. It was chaos. There was so much traffic because people were running to get survival supplies and rations at the Food 4 Less supermarket. I saw crates of bottled water and canned goods in the back of a Buick station wagon that were packed so tightly the rear hatch door was secured to the bumper with a flannel shirt and the muffler was scrapping the pavement. It was truly a scary and awful day I will never forget as it was for many.

In the weeks that followed that horrible catastrophe there was no escaping 9/11 in any way even if you tried to just block it out for an hour it was nearly impossible. When Kristine and I would go to one of our spots for privacy we usually kept the television volume on loud to drown out any noise, you don’t want disturb the drug addict or hooker getting pummeled who were in the adjacent rooms. I was raised to be polite and have some common courtesy, you know? I do polite things like flushing the toilet twice after a zinger in a public restroom and lighting match. I think things like that are a cornerstone that define our society. Anyway, this particular rendezvous was difficult because trying to make love while watching the twin towers come down over and over again on TV kind spoils the mood. We just kind of talked out our night, smoked some weed and we wound up at a bar on the southwest side of Chicago that was a known rough neck, working class type of joint. We liked shitty bars, they had moxie and the characters in there were usually just wasted locals looking for whatever, a hook up, drugs, a decent jukebox or just someone there to bitch their problems to. You know the place? It’s at the corner of nowhere and who gives a shit.

This particular night the place we wandered into had a bad feeling to it. It was angry and uneven like walking through a vat of Rich’s brand chocolate pudding. Nobody wanted to talk about 9/11 but everybody had something to say about it, a few shots of whiskey lubricate the brain and then the inevitable happens and someone pops off. “If I was over there I would shoot the sand you can’t trust those rag heads they hide in the sand. Just blow up the whole middle-east and take all the Goddamn oil, that simple!” was comment I think I heard first. Kristine and I had only been there for about fifteen minutes or so and all of a sudden I became a target for wearing a scarf on a cold November night. I saw some big south side Polish looking dude with a weight of three hundred pounds, a red devil face, gin blossom nose, buzz cut hair, hands like stone and he looked to be six foot three. He was wearing a heavily soiled Newport cigarette t-shirt. He started in on me, “Hey what’s with the scarf faggot”? I pretended not to hear him and Kristine started getting scared. I won’t lie I became freaked out because I was never a big guy in stature. I could take a punch or two but did not care for it. This guy could kill me easy. I fired back because I had a few beers and a shot in me and said “I’m only gay for big guys in Newport t-shirts” The guy then replied, “Oh, you are smart ass huh”? I replied, ”It’s better than being a dumb ass, nice t-shirt man. This guy is giving me fashion advice”? A few guys laughed pretty hard but this guy did not think it was very funny. He said, “You got a hot girlfriend, why do the hot ones always go for the faggots?” The bartender came over and poured the guy a shot of whiskey and he wobbled over to us and I felt that feeling of me getting my ass kicked yet again but now instead in front of the whole school it was in front of my girlfriend at a dead end bar. Against my better judgment I capitulated to this guys mind set and told him a horrible lie, “My mother bought it for me and she just passed away man. Gimme a break it’s almost all I have left of her”. The guy’s demeanor changed and all of a sudden he wanted to be our friend out of sympathy plus he liked Kristine I could tell by the bulge in his sweatpants. Yes I forgot to mention he was wearing gray sweatpants to adorn the stained, crusty Newport cigarette t-shirt. He bought us a round of Old Style beer and now we got stuck talking to him. He reeked as if wet garbage and canned clams had anal sex and he says to us, “What do you think we are gonna do to the sand fuckers that did this shit to us? I’ll tell you what, bomb them, bomb the whole fucking Mecca all of those fucking rag heads then the world will see what America is all about”. We just wanted to leave so I just agreed with him to avoid the conflict and I started stooping to his level just so we could leave without me getting killed. I started popping off to appease him and I got creative with it. I was saying horrible shit like, “If we nuke these dune coons the bomb will be so hot the sand will fuse together into glass and trap these rag heads between the earth and a sheet of glass. We can all go over there for vacation and walk on the glass to see the fear in their eyes. Then we can can build a Wal-Mart mega store on top of it”. After I explained how glass was made from sand and extreme heat he thoroughly loved my idea, thought I was smart and yet again another round of beers appeared. We could not shake this ignorant fucking guy until he finally disappeared in to the night about twenty minutes later. He probably went home and enlisted his ten-year-old son in to the Marines then beat the shit out of his wife after devouring an entire Banquet frozen chicken dinner. I’ll never forget that ignorant, racist asshole. I don’t remember his name but if you asked me to this day to pick him out of a police line up I could point him out immediately.

As the weeks moved on I was able to get and apartment so Kristine and I could play house. We really needed to get away from our current living situations. She had drama at home and was constantly at odds with her father about her direction in life and her involvement with that “loser” boyfriend. “She go out. She no come home, then three o’ clock in the morning she come home. What you doing”? My home life was full of it’s own dirty laundry as I mentioned earlier my folks were always at war. My dad drank, my mom got pissed at him drinking and then she would start drinking. I always felt bad for them but I knew there was nothing I could do. I loved them but I could not stay there anymore. I had a chance to leave so I took it. My folks were happy for me and loved Kristine very much but me leaving cast my father deeper into the bottle. He had nobody to talk too anymore. My pops and I are great pals and we truly have a bond but the booze got in the way and I did not like my dad when he was really loaded on the hard stuff. He played the victim but he was never blaming the drinking for his problems, it’s a classic case of denial. My dad was always a hopeless romantic and even if he was pissed off at my mom he still put her on a throne because he was scared of being alone and loved her even though he was putting her through hell with the drinking. Pops was a functioning alcoholic. He worked a job he hated and it was third shift on top of it. He was drunk by eleven or noontime most days. My mom had a nine to five job and by the time she got home my father was a raving madman or he was out cold. He slept in the basement on a couch and my mom slept in a big empty bed upstairs after a few screwdrivers and a Xanax. This was their life. It pains me to write about this because I love my parents so much but I could not take it anymore and to this day I try to do the opposite of what they had done but that boozing is a thin line tightrope act with no net that I have to walk on. As much as I try to do the right thing I slip into my old man’s house slippers sometimes and it is scary. I don’t want that life. It hangs over me to no end. It reminds me of a shitty after school special I saw in high school detention one time called “I Am My Fathers Son”. Uggah!

Kristine and I settled in to our one bedroom apartment near Beverly. It was a dumpy apartment building, the kind that looks like a motel with the outside hallways. We were happy and our anxieties were going away. We had dinner together, had friends over and we finally had some privacy. I still hated my job at the steel company but I lived for the evenings and weekends. The means justified the ends. I was drinking more than I should have and smoking staggering amounts pot then again she was indulging in it to but she knew her limits. At this point Kristine’s cousin Anna from Latvia had asked to stay with us and assured us it was to be temporary. Anna and I did not get along, we were civil to each other but she thought her cousin was too hot for me and thought Kristine should be with a rich guy like a “daddy” which was what she up to. She spoke very openly about her position on me on a few occasions. I started to think she was right because I had no self-esteem. After all this bullshit from Anna for the sake of Kristine I agreed to let Anna stay with us and gave her a key to the apartment. Things got rough right from the get go. One time I accidentally over heard from Kristine’s parents a few things about Anna that rubbed me the wrong way. She was basically a gypsy in her hometown on the outskirts of Riga, Latvia where she was run out of town by a few angry wives that found out their husbands were bonking her for money. She was also impregnated with one of the men’s baby and she abandoned it leaving her baby with the man and his wife. She never looked back. She was only eighteen at the time but always looked much older. She had a tall, skinny body with that defined cheekbone Eastern European look that some guys are a sucker for. I thought Anna was empty, shallow and I never found her attractive although a few of my buddies liked her but they didn’t have to deal with her like I did. At the age of twenty-two she finally received a student visa to the States to escape her town from the drama, sadness, and trouble. She wanted to run away and she got her chance. Kristine’s parents agreed to look after Anna and she was supposed to register for school. Anna never went to school and took a job waiting tables. Two years go by and she started bringing shady guys around the house, then Kristine’s old man put the kibosh on her and kicked her out. Anna was now our problem. Kristine was tight with Anna visiting her on long summers along the beautiful Baltic Coast. Kristine wanted to help her cousin so I let a lot of shit go for her sake until one day the pot finally boiled over.

One fine cold winters night I arrived home from work around five-o’clock in the evening. It gets dark out earlier in the winter just like the taxes it’s one more thing I hate about Chicago. I walked up the stairs to our apartment and something struck me funny. All of our lights were on and I noticed the front window had been jimmied open and was flapping in the cold wind; the control arm to the window frame had been busted along with the jam job. I went to unlock the door but guess what? It was unlocked, “Oh fuck”! I walk into the front room and it’s freezing inside, my vintage Kenwood stereo is pumping out some gypsy Latvian folk music and there was a ruckus in the bedroom. I was reluctant about what I might find on the other side of the door but I busted right in. Anna was plowing some fat older Greek guy on our bed. She had shagged him so hard his hairpiece fell off. I later often wondered if he paid extra for that treatment? Would it be like, “hey baby, here is extra twenty on top of that two-hundred now fuck my toupe off”? My disturbance had shocked them and right away I slammed the door. I had more than of an eye full of harry Greek guy’s ass, a loose hairpiece, and the sweat, oh the sweat! Anna ran out in my blue bath towel and tried to clam me down. I was shaking, furious, screaming “Get that piece of shit the fuck out of my house now you dumb fucking bitch! Anna it’s time for you to go, don’t you think? I’m getting your clothes”! I grabbed a garbage bag and started putting her clothes in it and the fat Greek man barreled out of the apartment at lightening speed with his pants loosely hugging his knees along with his hairpiece and jacket in tow. He was mumbling with thick Greek accent “so sorry so sorry I did not know she was you wife, she never tell me shit”! He could have won the Boston marathon that fat fuck, he flew by me and out the door so fast I couldn’t get an insult in fast enough. Then it was quiet and I stood there with Anna in silence. She was just as shocked as me but knew she was in big trouble and soon to be homeless again. In a last ditch effort she let the blue towel fall to the floor and she stood naked not saying directly but inferring I will let you fuck me if we can just let this go. I told her, “Get your shit ” and handed her the plastic bag that I had started packing. She ran to get dressed and locked herself in the bedroom crying. Anna had lost her keys, broke into our apartment and turned a trick with some strange guy in our bed. I called Kristine immediately and demanded she drop whatever she was doing and get her cousin the hell out of our house. I handed the cordless phone through the bedroom door to Anna and told her to talk to her cousin about what she had done.

A very long fifteen minutes had passed and Kristine had arrived to the apartment. I was searching the phone book for the number to the Department of Immigration. I was determined to get Anna deported I was so pissed off at her. Kristine went into the bedroom to talk to her cousin while I fixed myself a long tall vodka drink. Once the two vodka drinks entered my bloodstream I began to calm down and I had to try to understand what was going on. We all sat in the front room smoking cigarettes and I screwed the busted window shut. The place started getting warmer and more comfortable. “I’m sorry Anna but what you did was disrespectful, dishonest, really shitty and just plain fucking stupid” I said to her calmly. Anna, not really understanding English extremely well thought I called her stupid and jabbed back at me and said in her accent “you fucking stupid, you call me stupid”. I said, “No, what you did was stupid”. Kristine chimed in and said to her cousin “Anna what you did was wrong. I love you but now you have put us in an awkward position, how can we help you if you can’t help yourself”? Anna just cried. She was a victim I get that now looking back on it. She got screwed up because she was sexually abused as a child, she had a baby she never saw and it affected her no doubt. However she had opportunities when she got the student visa and came to the States. She had a chance to wipe the slate clean and do something positive but she chose to keep doing what she did best which was being a conniving Eastern European whore. “Do what you like Anna but you just can’t do it here” is what I told her. Kristine gave her fifty dollars to get a motel room for the night. The fifty bucks was just another chunk of change Kristine had given Anna to bail her out time and time again but Kristine stuck by her even though Anna was a user and took advantage of her cousin’s good faith and real love.

Anna was gone for the night and the next day behind Kristine’s back I anonymously called Immigration to make sure Anna was on their shit list. I did it out of spite and visceral anger towards Anna, plus I knew she was not going to get out of our lives and would continue to strangle my relationship with Kristine. A few weeks went by and it seemed nobody had heard anything from Anna. She seemed to have just disappeared so I just figured The Department of Immigration found her and deported her. I was so naive to think the system would prevail. One day out of the blue she called Kristine and told her that she was married one week ago. Her victim was named Frank Stambolla. Frank was a cash rich, fifty-something Italian American guy that was five foot six in height, had a bad case of gout and a very expensive scotch collection. Anna went to Chicago’s Gold Coast area affectionately known as the Viagra triangle and started hitting the bars. She did a lot of whoring and finally leached on to a guy who she knew would marry her in a few weeks time. Frank was an uppity arrogant prick who had a shiny yellow 1999 Corvette in mint condition. I know a little bit about cars and can honestly say the ’99 Corvette is hardly a gem of a car. Corvettes are massed produced and started getting ugly by the mid 90’s. Long are the days of the sexy and curvy Stingray body designs of the 1960’s and 70’s. Any way you slice it Frank was very rich, paunchy and gullible. He had a shitty self-esteem with a short guy complex. Frank had a three-bedroom condo in the gold coast and a huge eight-bedroom house complete with a movie theatre, full spa and swimming pool out in Burr Ridge, Illinois, an affluent area south of the city. Frank was smitten with Anna instantly because he probably banged her on the first night he met her and she was a seasoned Eastern European whore which is cohesive to a man of Frank’s caliber. She was rail thin, twenty-four years old and she looked good under his arm. I don’t know if he ever believed that Anna was taking him for a ride that poor old punter. I’m sure his friends at the country club probably tried tell the prick but he was in love hook, line and sinker.

Frank and Anna are a story for much later but long story short is Anna won the battle of Stambolla and took him for half of everything he owned. Kristine and I broke up a year later and I ventured on to an exciting job as a bartender on the north side of Chicago. I had always wanted out of the south side and I began a new chapter in my life babysitting beer swilling man-children at a neighborhood tap. I was free again but the real debauchery and chaos in my life was about to commence into a harsh reality I would have never imagined was possible. My demons had a grip on me and it set me on a path of destruction that I am still cleaning up after but at the same time I also had the best time of my life without actually realizing it. I fell into a toxic relationship that became an eight-year wrestling match of the drunk versus the junkie.

Sonny Vitkauskas 9/11/17




One Response to The Tepid Ringleader
  1. Shawn Reply

    Laughing and crying so hard at parts of this it was like time travel. Well done broheim. Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>