ONE MONTH into a new year, yet old habits remain. hTC Lunchtime last week, and my corpulent cohort, Fats Drobnak, was downing the moussaka at Greektown's Ikaros. Favorite table, favorite dish. Greetings, old buddy, I offered. How did '95 treat you?
"Not much treatin' went on, 'cept Zino here, he'll th'ow in a baklava now and then an' forget to put it on the tab."
A generous gentleman, indeed. But I was inquiring about your view of the past twelvemonth.
"I got th'oo it, which some guys this far along di'nt."
A somber view, Fats. Surely there were highlights.
"One. When Cal hit 2131, that was a helluva night. Couldn't gone better leavin' aside Angelos runnin' his mouth. He was on longer'n the Simkins jury was out."
Understandable. The man is an attorney. Anything else worth noting?
"Well, yeah. American Joe, when he come out in favor of nudidity, plenty down my way scratched their heads."
As did many others. That was puzzling.
"Oh, he 'splained it. Claimed he's a businessman now, not a pol. Said he's in the privates sector."
I prefer not to touch that one. But speaking of politics, voters in New Hampshire will trek through snow later this month to exercise their democratic franchise.
"Snow? Knock it off, huh? Blizzard like to kill me. But only 'bout as many Democrats up there as we got Republicans on the east side an' with what they got to pick from it's har'ly worth the bother."
Could you elucidate?
"Sure. The guy with the goofy look who got all his dough from his old man, he's for a flat tax. What'll wind up flat is workin' stiffs' wallets which ain't got no bulge in 'em right now."
You refer to Mr. Forbes. But what of the GOP front-runner. Some substance there, no?
They don't mix
"Dole? When he come on after Clinton the other night, I coulda swore he was the unnertaker what handled Uncle Cas when he passed. Relieved Aunt Margaret of a G note when 3 hunnert would've got the job done considerin' what it was for. TV and him don't mix, but he mighta made it in the olden days. Couldn't cut the cigar smoke in the rooms back then, but plenty deals wuz. Tickets got fixed an' potholes, too."
Ghoulish, Fats. I never perceived you to be such a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.
"Don't even like goulash an' whaddya mean 'died'? I never been healthier, leavin' aside the ponies who they could be treatin' me better. An' like I said, findin' a Rupublican in Hollantown is like cashin' a 3 horse parley. Oney two chances: slim an' none."
You speak of the days of yore in local politics. Any cherished recollections?
Get out the vote
"I always like the time, musta been in the early '50s an' Lou Hofferbert or Joe Bertorelli, one, wuz tryin' to get out the vote. Mimi DiPietro had our precinct then, I'm pretty sure, so's he tracks down Big Stash on South Grundy an' tells 'im: 'Don't forget, Stash. Tomorrow's Election Day an' we gotta make a showin'. The senator sez make sure to vote for all the boys, OK?' And damn if Stash don't tell 'im: 'Hmmm . . . tomorrow. I'm, gonna be pretty tied up tomorrow, Mimi. How 'bout Wednesday?' "
Charming in its way. Do I have your permission to confirm the details with Stash?
"Won't do you no good now. The poor guy's got a bad case of Old-Timer's disease."
And perhaps the incident you describe was a precursor. But didn't you, a thinking citizen, ever stray from the strict party line?
"The truth? Coupla times I th'ew down the lever for Teddy McKeldin when he wuz runnin' for mayor and 'nother time for governor. Loved the way that guy talked; sounded a lot like FDR even thought he was brung up in South Bawlmer. If Tommy the Elder hadda knowed, he'd be spinnin' in his grave." What else comes to mind?
"Well, speakin' of Tommy, I my own self heard him tell 'bout when he was runnin' for mayor an' Jack Pollack who wuz boss in the 4th District uptown turned out a 8 to 1 vote for 'im. So Jack, who sure wuzn't any shrinkin' varlet, calls Tommy next day an' axts him to give a job to his deadbeat nephew. Tommy wants to know what the guy can do, an' Jack tells 'im, straight out: 'Nothin'.' 'Good,' sez Tommy. 'Send him down; that way we won't have to break him in.' "
That makes my day, Fats. you won't have to rely on Zino's kindness this time; dessert's on me.
Milton Bates writes from Baltimore.