There he was again this morning, boldly charging into the queue.
Been watching Mikey perform his feats of daring for what must be almost 30 years now. Must have been in his early 20s when I bought my first papers from him, So was I.
He's lost a step, but he still has game.
Mikey the Cardinals fan sells newspapers and magazines. His post is at the corner of Northwest Highway and Ozanam Ave on the northwest side of Chicago. He's got one of those curbside newsstands, once commonplace but now becoming scarcer and scarcer.
We took another hit last night.
Spring is about to spring, but not just yet, and the 5 inches of fluff has turned the beige lawns of Edison Park white once again. It looks nice, but it makes Mikey's daily grind more challenging. On dry pavement, he makes the dash from the curb into traffic effortlessly. He'll take a few seconds to exchange insults with his regulars, hand a Tribune or Sun-Times or both through the driver's side window, take his money, and then bid them a nice day. On slippery streets, he just hustles it out there, and makes quick work of it. No chatting, just working the queue.
And always, always, he proudly wears his St. Louis Cardinals cap, no matter the weather.
This morning, it was a winter coat, gloves, scarf, heavy boots ....and St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. He's got the red cap, the road cap, the alternate cap, the retro one, the blue one, he's got the full collection. Today it was the red one. Its brim had a slight dusting of snow, and his ears looked like they'd have preferred a nice toque.
It's only slightly dangerous being a WHITE SOX fan, and working up here in cubs country. That's just a natural cross-town rivalry, and while the arguments can get a little hot, they rarely escalate to bloodshed or murder. Most of the time SOX fans and cub fans simply make fun of the players.
"Sosa's corking and juicing!"
"Oh yeah? Well AJ Pierzynski throws like his arm is made of pudding!"
"Cindi Sandberg was fucking Raffy Palmeiro!"
"The Big Hurt is a lazy turd only interested in his stats."
That sort of thing. My standard repsonse to agressive cub fans has become simply..."2005."
That shuts 'em right up fast. Nothing like reminding a cub fan that they haven't taken a crown in a fuckin' century.
God I love saying "2005."
However, the rivalry between the cubs and the Cardinals is a different matter entirely. The most passionate and loyal sports fans on the entire planet are St. Louis Cardinals fans. Never seen anything like these people. Cardinals fans travel by the busload for the 3 and 4 game series' at Wrigley.
cub fans hate all Cardinals fans, especially the real hard-core Cardinals fans like Mikey.
When the cubs suck, and let's face it, the cubs always suck, Cardinals fans show up at Wrigley in huge numbers. There are games when you can hear the Cardinals fans cheering so loudly for Albert Pujols that you need to remind yourself the the cubs are playing a home game. (cub fans who keep a scorecard during the game spell it Poo-Holes)
cub fans absolutely hate Cardinals fans. Fights are routine out on Clark St. when the Cardinals are in town. There's always an incident or two in the stands. Somebody jacks somebody, and the next thing you know security is escorting some dude out of the park, and that dude is ALWAYS wearing a Cardinals cap, never one of those silly blue cub caps.
cub fans absolutely hate Cardinal fans, and yet, there's Mikey, running into traffic on Ozanam Ave, wearing his Cardinals cap in cub country, in a fuckin' snowstorm in February.Tempting fate.
He can't wait for the baseball season to start. For a guy like Mikey, there's always baseball.
I'm worried about Mikey. The bad economy has got to be hitting him hard. I buy my papers from him on Sunday, more out of nostalgia than anything else. It's all online now. I don't need the hard copies. The Trib is bankrupt, the Sun-Times can't be far behind, and the gentlemen of Edison Park just don't want to have their neighbors seeing Mikey handing a copy of Barely Legal in the car window.
Mikey's lost a step and you never get that back. They say the legs are the first things to go. Once the downhill slide begins, it's a tough thing to reverse. I'm afraid that one of these days, I'm going to pull up to the corner of Northwest Highway and Ozanam Ave. and see a bare patch of sidewalk where Mikey's newsstand used to be, another victim of time, progress and a bad economy.
He may go broke, and he will grow old, but he'll always have his beloved Cardinals, so it could be worse.
He could be a cubs fan.