Sunday before last, at Arlington Park, I was standing at the ticket window, ready to place a bet, and I glanced over to see a large, squat man in a turquoise strapped t-shirt and a flat white hat. He was eyeing his ticket, and he looked familiar, so I walked one over, circling him to get a profile. I apparently startled his reptilian sensibilities, and the guys feral eyes rose, suspicious and squinting, assessing my every movement, flashing a metallic glare that said either can I help you, d*mbf*c*? or may I kick your a*s, sir? I immediately realized that I was staring down the famous Johnnies Italian Beef Nazi, strangely out of context, his imperious demeanor immediately shriveling me to a sweaty wad of uncertainty as I queried with a weak smile, You used to work at Johnnies, right? Now, anyone who has ever walked up to the counter at Johnnies with any question at all or anything on their lips other than a clearly articulated order would face the wrath of the Italian Beef Nazi, who, if he was in a good mood, would just give you some order, any order, and then thats what youd get for lunch. Time stood still as the Butcher of Elmwood Park, the Dark Angel of Beef looked at me, a goomba python ready to strike if provoked just one iota more, and hissed, Used to.
Johnnies wont be the same without him. Im going there tonight, just to see what it feels like to get a beef from a guy who doesnt look like he might have you for dinner.