PHD Flashback: "Sweater" Old Man John Brown

My Dad, Freddy the Beard, at a 9-ball tournament at Marie’s Golden Cue in Chicago, 1977. The “sweater” beside him was John Brown, an old timer from Bensinger’s who was a diabetic and my Mom would make sugar-free desserts for. I was with my baby brother Dino in the basement of Bensinger’s once, watching my Dad play and when the man my father was playing started punching him and my Dad had a bloody nose and his white t-shirt was covered in bright red blood. My Dad returned the beating to the guy and told John Brown, dressed in a coat and tie and hat, like all the senior citizens in the joint, to take my brother (maybe 3) and I(maybe 5) back to our mother. John grabbed my brother and I and walked us home(a whole block) above Kiyo’s at 2829 N.Clark Street. I remember how scared I was and in a state of shock from seeing all of that blood. I remember he held our tiny hands from the corner of Broadway and Diversey west to Clark, and north to our house. He walked us slowly and carefully taking the responsibility of protecting us with the utmost pride and seriousness. He felt, like so many other subterraneans, a fierce and inexplicable loyalty to my father. It was as if my father had a standing army at all times at his beck and call to protect us. All he had to do was snap his fingers or say the word. His connections to others always ran deep and refreshingly authentic. No one ever loved my father a little, they always loved him a lot. It may have been ten o’clock in the morning and my eyes hurt from crying and the sunlight once we opened the door out onto the sidewalk. Bensinger’s was in a dark and windowless, smoke filled basement. Time stopped inside there. And my innocence. #poolhustlersdaughter #memoir