Tag Archives: Christmas

A STOLEN STORY

by John Jonelis

“Tell me a story, Uncle John!”

“A story eh?” My pal Loop Lonagan got in big trouble telling stories to Jim Kren’s little girl. “Y’know, Princess, in this case, maybe discretion’s the better part of valor.”

“But I always get a bedtime story. I can’t sleep without a bedtime story. Please, Uncle John! Pleeeeeeeeeze!”

How can a guy turn this kid down? “Okay Princess, just lay back and pretend you’re sleepy.”

“Make it a Christmas story!”

“Hmmm.” After a moment, one occurs to me—one I can steal. “Okay Princess, here goes. There’s this bright guy I know. Immigrant entrepreneur. I mean, Princess, he comes to this country and founds a startup company.”

“I know what it means.”

“It’s high tech. Agricultural analytics. Starts it during the dot-com crash around the turn of the century. Despite the lousy economy, it takes off big-time, goes public and makes me and the other investors real happy.

“His two sons work for him to build up the business. They’re his key employees and make fair salaries. The company adds a mobile app, enhanced AI, and thrives right through the 2008 recession. Years later, it’s still strong. Stock keeps going up-and-up.”

“That’s not a Christmas story, Uncle John! That’s business stuff. You sound just like my daddy.”

“Hold onto your red fur hat—I’m just getting warmed up. Papa loves those boys more than anything—wants them to run the company when he retires. Lost his wife years ago and these two are all he cares about.

“Now let’s look at the younger son. He knows he’s gonna inherit a lot of stock some day and can’t want to get his hands on it. He feels trapped and longs to run his own life while he’s still young. So on Christmas in 2006, he announces he wants his inheritance—right now. Like most kids that age, he’s full of himself—not seeing things from his fathers point of view, maybe not considering all the ramifications of what he says. But it’s kinda like telling the old man, ‘I wish you were already dead so I had your money.’”

“That’s not nice.”

“No it’s not and it gets worse. The young buck’s not interested in the company at all. Not planning to stick around. Just wants to cash out and enjoy life.”

“This is a bad boy, Uncle John.”

“Ah Princess, don’t be so hasty to judge. You don’t know what’s really in his heart. Now the company’s listed on Nasdaq, and Papa still owns 40% of the shares. He says to himself in his broken English, ‘That what they want? Okay!  Is Christmas!’ There’s a family trust set up, so he simply transfers his stock—all of it to the two boys.

“Right away, the young colt sells his stock on the open market. With all that loose cash, he feels rich. So he moves to Vegas. Lives the wild life. Gambling all night. Show girls. Maserati. Yacht. Private jet. Hangs around with movie stars. And lots of foolish investments that don’t pay off. He never calls or writes home. Doesn’t visit the next Christmas.

“Now the older brother is still working at the company. But as you might have guessed by now, the old man is really the brains of the outfit. The shareholders—especially that big VC firm that owns a lot of stock with a seat on the board—they all want to keep Papa running the company. The board of directors votes to keeps him on as CEO, with a fat salary—bigger than he ever paid himself.

“Now I want you to notice something: That move wrankles the older brother. He secretly wants to run the show, but there’s nothing he can do about it. So he hoards his shares and bides his time. He stays at his job, working harder and harder, trying to prove himself. Doesn’t like it that his father’s salary is coming out of his share of the company. Can’t wait for the old geezer to croak so he can slide into that big desk.”

“Ugh! How horrible! This brother is worse than the other one!”

“Right Princess. Pappy doesn’t have a clue what’s cranking through this guy’s mind. The kid works hard. He’s dependable. Therefore, he must be a fine boy, right? But he’s so secretive—so sour—never smiles—and for some reason that Pops doesn’t understand, the other one still holds a soft spot in his aging heart.

Back to the younger buck: By the second year, this kid’s portfolio takes a dive, and at the same time, he’s going through money like water. Kid starts looking for work. After all, he was a big executive at a successful company. Impressive LinkedIn resume and all. But now it’s the great recession of 2008 and all he can get are temporary consulting jobs. He forms a startup company, crunching numbers for big investment houses and actually raises some capital. But not enough. Goes belly up within the year. Figures he’s a failure and he’s ashamed to let his father know how bad things are turning out for him. So he doesn’t visit the family that Christmas either.

“By the third year, he’s broke, can’t pay the rent, and gets evicted from his hotel suite. Most of that year, he’s living in his car and scrounging food, feeling mighty low.

“Don’t cry, Princess.”

She sniffs. “This is a terrible Christmas story.”

“Wait and see. Finally, the kid hits rock bottom and comes to his senses. I mean—hey—he’s starving to death. He decides to go home. Even newbies at his dad’s company make a decent living. He’ll confess everything to his father—his failure, his waste—he’ll apologize and beg for a part-time job. Nothing special—maybe an internship or some low-level gig on probation—something like that. He knows it’s more than he deserves.

“Out of the blue, Papa sends him an invite to Christmas dinner and a plane ticket that year, so he texts that he’ll come. Spends the whole flight practicing his confession.

“On Christmas Eve, the old man gets restless; hires a limo and goes out to make a few preparations. Phones his secretary with special instructions. Stops at Mens Wearhouse and lotsa other places. Gets to O’Hare and hangs around for hours. I mean, this guy hasn’t even heard from his boy in three years! When the kid finally walks out the concourse, Papa runs to him, throws his arms around him, hugs him tenderly, tells him he’s glad he’s home. The kid hasn’t changed clothes in a year. Stinks to make your eyes sting. No luggage. Papa leads his son to the limo, arm over his shoulders, and tells his boy he loves him.

“In the back of the limo, the boy stammers out his practiced confession, tears streaming down his face, but his father will have none of it. ‘Stop—no more!’ he shouts. If there’s anything this kid ever learned, it’s to obey his father’s commands. Papa breaks out two tumblers and a bottle of Drambuie and leads the conversation into fond recollections and good times. Does most of the talking and the kid can’t help but laugh at some of the memories.

“Limo stops at the Union League Club and they take in a steam and swim and shower. The kid opens his locker to find a new shirt, jeans, sport jacket, shoes—the works. He can hardly believe it and again stammers out his confession.

Enough already! I not hear it!’ says his father, and the old man’s word is always final.

“When they get home, the place is full of Papa’s close friends and dear customers—maybe 300 people. A twelve foot tree sparkles with a million lights.  A live band pumps out Christmas music.  The aroma of good food fills the house. A caterer lays out an amazing number of enormous turkeys with stuffing and potatoes with gravy, and cranberry sauce, wine and all the trimmings. All that food takes up the big table in Papa’s baronial dining room and they set up a buffet line. People enjoy their meal milling around, indulging in lively conversation. When everybody eats their fill, out comes the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, ice cream, coffee, and brandy. The band leads the crowd singing carols. Take it from me: this is a great party! I for one, enjoyed every minute of it.

“Now the older brother works late at the office that night, as usual. One of the guests notices him out front, pacing in the snow. Papa runs out to him—doesn’t even stop to put on his coat. Begs the boy to come in and join the party. But the kid spits out words in anger: ‘I work for you day and night! I never refuse to do anything you say! Do you ever throw a party for me? But when this worthless bum—this son of yours—shows up, after squandering your money on women and gambling—you celebrate like some kind of idiot, disgracing us in front of all our friends and customers!’

“Papa hugs him and speaks softly to him in his native dialect. ‘On you I depend always. You are good boy. You own all my company stock. But your brother is home! After three years he come home! We must celebrate! Is like he come back from dead!’

“But the older brother won’t be consoled. He curses and shouts, ‘He should be dead,’ and gets in his car and drives off.”

I smile at Princess. She doesn’t look sleepy at all.

“What happens then?” she says.

I sigh. “The old man—Uncle Ludditis, in case you hadn’t guessed already—he eventually retires and opens that bar he always dreamed about.  Rents me the back room for my magazine.  The older brother takes over as CEO and forces the younger one out.

“Uncle John!  That can’t be the way it turns out!  It’s not fair!”

“Why not?  Those are the consequences of their decisions.  The older one holds onto his 20% share of the company so he finally runs that show, a rich miser living alone.  The younger one learns from his mistakes, finds employment elsewhere, marries a good woman, raises two wonderful children.

“And Princess, their father loves them both deeply, no matter what.  His love is all he has left to give and he’s not stingy with it.  Close your eyes now.  Merry Christmas.”

Story credit: Jesus Christ, The Parable of the Prodigal Son –Luke 15:11-32

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More Christmas Stories:

BEST GIFT

A LOOP LONAGAN CHRISTMAS

THE BUM IN ME

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Big Corporations, big money, Conflict, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Culture, investor, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, Mobile App, Relationships, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

A LOOP LONAGAN CHRISTMAS

Clamps Portrait TJohn Jonelis

This is outrageous.  I’m concentrating on my computer screen when a huge mitt grabs me by the back of the belt and plucks me from my chair.  Next thing I’m dangled high over the desk, arms and legs flailing till I steady my balance and end up nose-to-nose with Big Bill Blair, our urban Paul Bunyan.

“‘Scuse me, Mr. Jonelis,” he says in a slow polite rumble that carries with it a stale smell of corned beef and cigar.

Big Bill slowly chews gum. Looks disinterested.  Acts like nothing’s unusual.

I know he once terrorized jobsites for Boilermaker Local 1, but he’s supposed to be tame now—supposed to be working for me.  Cripes, I even took him fishing this summer!  Yet this guy just reaches across my big WWII Air Force desk and picks me up as if I were a gum wrapper.

Canada 2014-8592p Bill Blaire SMALL A

Fishing with Big Bill Blaire

Abduction at Gunpoint

He turns his lazy gaze to the side. “Whaddayuh want I should do with ‘im, Mr. Lonagan?”

“What else?  Bring ‘im with.  Think yuh can handle ‘im all by yerself er what?”  I turn to see Loop Lonagan holding a huge Glock, giving the orders.  What is this?  Some kind of magazine mutiny?

Bill tucks me under an arm and we swoop out of the office (in the back room of Ludditis Shots ‘n Beer) and into the main dining area.  Between the pool tables, I see Alexander Harbinger, Mark T Wayne and Jim Kren tucking away potato pancakes while Donatas Ludditis polishes the bar.  Nobody glances our way.

ludditis-shots-and-beer-500

My Office

“Hey!  Look sharp!  Youse guys is all comin’ with me NOW!”  Loop makes menacing gestures with the oversized automatic.

First I see four sets of jaws hang wide.  Next they’re lined up behind us.  We move out to the street.

I scan for police.

Nothing.  Loop’s wagging that big pistol around and still nothing.  This is Chicago.

Like any ordinary citizen, I’m feeling a mite indignant by now and I jab an elbow into a tender place.  Bill doubles over and drops me to the cold concrete pavement.  Not wasting any time, I scramble to my feet and glare a challenge at Loop.  “What the—”

He puts two fingers to my lips.  “I’m warnin’ yuh John, don’t start up with me.   I had it up to here!” 

I pause a moment, tantalized by the thought that a clue to this madness might be forthcoming.

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A Clue to the Madness

The others crowd around, probably hoping for a fight while Loop keeps talking.  “Been plannin’ this shindig fer months ‘n’ nobody shows up.  Not a one!  Even set it a week early so nobody’s got an excuse.  My brother Boyle—” Loop’s voice alternates from angry to one pinched in mockery.  “—He’s settin’ up trains for Little Sean.  My sister Bridgett—she finally got an appointment with that oh-so-special hair dresser.  And Brianna ‘n’ her crowd all caught some kinda bug—‘n’ they’s so-so considerate and don’t wanna get me sick.  And Grandma ‘n’ Grandpa Lonagan—they’s way-way too tired after all that shopping.”   

He’s suddenly serious.  “Then my new gal Irene and her family o’ forty cancel out.  That finally sets me off.  I’m tellin’ yuh, da table’s all set—lotsa wine, sixteen waiters, da works.  More fancy food than you can eat in a month.  You guys is all invited!  Wanna come?”  

I’m stunned to silence. Do we want to come?  To a Loop Lonagan Christmas party?  I picture the sumptuous feast waiting for us and my mouth waters!  Hell yes we all want to come! Besides, everybody knows how important this is to Loop.  He cashed in millions and millions on that big deal and for months he’s been planning this huge event.  And now his lousy miserable family—many that he probably supports, the ungrateful louts—they let him down at Christmastime, the poor sweet guy.  And we haven’t seen his new penthouse yet, either.  Sure, we’re all eager to oblige!  A little thing like kidnapping can’t stand in the way of friendship!  (Such is the state of my rationalization.)

Loop abruptly moves down the street.  Blaire herds us along like sheep, but Ludditis, Wayne, Harbinger and Kren all follow grinning at one to another.  This is gonna be good.

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Man on the Street

Mark T WayneThe line abruptly halts.  Loop is talking to a street bum and I move up to hear.  “…Big Bubba?  Great!” says Loop, “and Old Man Percy?  Yeah, he can come along too.”  Then he sees me standing close.  “John, this is Fred.  I told you he’d be an asset to the magazine.  That was a long time ago and it looks like yuh missed yer chance.  He accepted the post as my personal sekertary.”  Fred shakes my hand while Loop keeps talking.  “Fred here rounded up some o’ my old street friends and a couple I ain’t met yet.”  Loop is smiling now.  “And I got Lonny and Lucile to come.  They run that terrific diner.  And Kate and Lafonda, too—they been workin’ at that joint forever.”  Loop spreads his arms in an expansive gesture.  “That makes Sixteen!  We yank all them extra spacers outa da table and it’ll be just right!  There’s gonna be one waiter fer every guest!”

Then he waves an arm.  A bright red stretch Hummer—it must be fifty feet long—slides to the curb sideways with the sound of squealing brakes and tires.  A fine, fat Santa Claus sits behind the wheel.  I think he’s smiling.  A tall, distinguished-looking man in a bowler hat steps out and holds the side door open in a deferential and inviting manner.

Naturally, we all pile in.

Some go straight for the car bar.  I sit back and watch.  Turns out the bowler hat’s name is Meadows—Loop’s new butler.  Loop hands him the Glock, which instantly disappears in his tailored coat.  I wonder how many other weapons he carries in there.

Along the way we stop and pick up various individuals and soon arrive in full celebration at a swank high rise with a view of Lake Michigan.

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Loop Lonagan’s Penthouse

Santa opens a door and we spill out like Cheerios from a cereal box except there’s nothing uniform about us.  I wonder if they’ll even allow us in this place.  True, Loop is wearing a suit that easily cost $2,000 or more and Meadows is impeccable.  Alexander Harbinger always looks distinguished and Mark T. Wayne might get away with his white flannels.  But Lonny and his crew came straight from work at the diner.  That guy still wears a greasy apron over a greasy undershirt.  Then there’s Fred and his friends Big Bubba, old man Percy, and a couple of guys named Pete and Eugene—right off the street.  And of course, Ludditis and me—I’ll leave that to your imagination.

A doorman wearing shoulder boards opens the huge glass entrance and stands at attention.  He doesn’t blink an eye as we file past.  Loop leads us to an elevator.  “This one’s mine,” he says.  The door opens to his key.

It whisks us straight to the penthouse.

Clamps and Bone 500

Clamps

It’s a strange feeling stepping off an elevator directly into somebody’s living room.  Clamps, an 85-pound bull terrier, enthusiastically greets each of us in turn, then disappears somewhere in the recesses of the room, tail wagging.  Turns out, Loop’s condo is the size of a furniture store.  A fifteen-foot-tall Christmas tree graces the room with thousands of tiny white lights and the most amazing collection of individual Christmas ornaments.  It’s flanked by piles of wrapped gifts.  Somewhere off to the side, a Swing band plays loud and lively carols.  Two blondes staff the bar and in no time, we’re all lounging on leather sofas singing along or listening to Mark T. Wayne tell ridiculous stories.  Old Man Percy sleeps in his chair.

Football Santa 500

Football Santa

Putting up my feet, I lean back to enjoy the music for a while.  Waiters rotate among the crowd balancing trays stacked with tall stems and tiny plates.  Ludditis cracks walnuts with his biceps.  He does that any time he gets a chance.  Harbinger is the only one who sits military-straight, a plate balanced on a thigh, a shot of schnapps held between two fingers.

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The Christmas Bash

Then a gorgeous buxom blonde, wrapped in a white towel, peeks out a door, bending low to best advantage.  In a heavy Swedish accent, she beckons to us.  Fred immediately floats toward her.  I’m thinking that guy’s pretty quick on the uptake.  Loop leans a hand on my shoulder.  “Hilda gives real good Swedish massages,” he says.  “And dis place’s got five hot tubs, all staffed.”

I look around and some of the other guests have already left to take advantage of the amenities.

The band plays Glenn Miller’s In the Mood.  Lonny and Lucile, now changed to formal attire, dance and they soon work up an enthusiastic jitterbug.  Kate surprises everybody by nicely filling out a slinky evening gown, bare back, neckline plunged to the waist, and Ludditis sweeps her away even if she’s sixty years younger.  They can cut a rug, too.  Lafonda, still in her waitress uniform, tugs Big Bill to the dance floor.  They make a good couple—she’s nearly tall enough for him, and certainly adequate in girth.

FREE SAMPLES - VODKA OR GIN 500

Open Bar

I’m polishing off my third round of spiced eggnog-and-cognac, when Fred emerges from the bedroom scrubbed clean, looking relaxed from his massage, wearing a big grin and a dark Hart Shaffner Marx suit.  If he’s Lonagan’s new secretary, he looks the part and then some.  After another eggnog, Big Bubba plops down beside me, decked out in spanking new Carhartts and smelling like a flower garden.  Amazing Loop had anything on hand big enough to fit him.  Eugene shows up in camo pants and an Eddie Bauer chamois shirt.  Loop says he can get these guys on the Bears roster.  If not—he just shrugs.

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Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Now Hilda and the other Swedish bombshells are packing the elevator, followed by a squad of haberdashers wheeling racks of clothing.

Pete sits with his drink, scrunched up, looking sour and desperately filthy.  Einstein 6bFor some reason, Donatas Ludditis is angry with the guy, and he’s waving his powerful arms in wild gesticulations.  Then the shouting starts.  “You not want Swedish massage?” says Ludditis.  “Why you not say?  Why you not give this old man a chance?  Now is too late!  Look, they all go!”

Pete utters a viscous curse and Ludditis gives it back double.  That cuts it and they’re at each other with bare knuckles.

In an amazing display of athletic prowess, Meadows grabs each by the shirt collar and hustles them to the elevator for its next trip down.  That accomplished, he brushes his hands and coughs by way of getting our attention, then announces, “Dinner is served.”

Old Man Percy jogs awake.

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The Feast

We file into a baronial dining room.  Loop must’ve scrounged the wood paneling from the Potter Palmer mansion.  The table is huge with delicately carved legs, fat as tree trunks—the sideboard enormous—the artwork of questionable taste and probably not fit for polite company.  I will not describe it here.

We sit down to an elegant setting, a waiter stationed behind each chair.  Loop asks me to pray and I do.  I thank the Lord for our meal, our companionship, and ask him to give everybody here the guts to rely on the One who paid it all because none of us will make it on our own steam.  Lonagan is already fidgeting.  Kren is clearly perturbed.  A couple others look uncomfortable.  But there are those at the table who echo my Amen.

Then the food comes and keeps coming.  Pheasant, Duck, Goose with dressing and potatoes.  Wine and exotic fruit.  All the trimmings.  This is game harvested by Lonagan himself.  Yes, he belongs to a fancy hunt club.  Owns it for all I know.

I’m happy to see Ludditis rejoin the party and we dig in with enthusiasm.   I ask him what happened and he gives me a cryptic response:  “He called plenty but chose few.”  He gives no other explanation, but the words sound familiar.

After huge helpings of mincemeat pie and ice cream, Loop sets out a mahogany box of cigars.  Fred taps a cigarette from a pack and three waiters snap expensive lighters to life.  I stagger out to the showroom and select a big soft couch for a nap.  Before I nod off, I hear Loop yell, “Presents everybody!”  The band strikes up again and brings me pleasant dreams.

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Overnight Guests

Late next morning, I say goodbye to Santa Claus and his long red Hummer.  All is well and I’m content.  And there’s still plenty of time to recover before for my family festivities get underway.  But the rest of that crowd keeps it going till after the New Year.

Deep in my heart I utter a silent, Merry Christmas to Loop Lonagan.

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For more on Loop Lonagan [click here]

Photography by John Jonelis except for Donatas Ludditis and Mark T Wayne

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Bill Blaire., Bums, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Christmas, city, Derelicts, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Homeless, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, investor, sleeping on a sidewalk, the man with the twisted lip, vc, venture capital

THE BUM IN ME

Funding Feeding Frenzy – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan—investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

FFF LogoLoop Lonagan here. I’m headin’ out to this year’s Funding Feeding Frenzy. It’s the big event if ya wanna see all o’ Chicago’s best startups in one place. This time the FFF is happenin’ at a place called the Chopin Theater northwest o’ downtown and I wanna see how that’s gonna work out. Will there be a string quartet? They yusta hold it at a huge automobile showroom which seems weird but worked out. It had about half the floor space of McCormick Place and plenty o’ room fer hordes o’ people to roam. But this is gonna be a lot different.

One thing I wanna impress on your readers, John, is about Chicago itself. You know I love this place but face it—it’s a city with all the usual warts ‘n’ barnacles. And every neighborhood is different, so yer either at home here or yer not. Nobody never gave me no trouble. Maybe I’m no pushover, so I got an advantage. But if I’m gonna tell this story, I gotta give you the whole picture. And I’m gonna give it my best shot.

Clybourn

The Street

I’m comin’ in by train and can’t resist gettin’ off at the old Clybourn Station. From here, it’s only a mile walk to where I’m goin’. That looks real good on a map. But my advice to you is don’t do it. Get off all the way downtown and take a nice comfy cab to the event. This ain’t a bad part o’ town. Nothin’ like that. Just take my advice.

Once I’m on the Clybourn platform I draw in a lungful o’ cold air. It’s feelin’ like the Christmas season just gettin’ started up here and I got a wad o’ money in my pocket. I get my choice o’ passages down to street level. That always feels like descending into the bowels of hell. Mincing little concrete steps winding through grimy concrete tunnels. Once-yellow paint peeling off the walls. And the best part is you get yer choice o’ tunnels! They’s all the same!

It’s still early and the usual crowd is layin’ about the sidewalk. I step over Old Man Percy, ‘cause I don’t wanna disturb his sleep, but the others is startin’ to rise’n’ shine. I give a hearty good morning to Fred and Big Bubba and ignore Merry ‘n’ Pippin huddled in a corner—those two give me the creeps. Summa these people are new to me but you can’t never know ‘em all. Familiar faces go missing but still, there’s never no shortage. I got it on good authority that the poor will always be among us.

People tell me these guys makes Fifty Gs just panhandling. I say it’s a buncha hooey. The idea got invented in that Sherlock Holmes story, The Man With the Twisted Lip, ‘n people been repeatin’ it ever since. If it was true these guys’d find a warm place to sleep. Ever try an icy Bridgesidewalk ‘round about Christmastime? And there’s more ‘o these people hangin’ ‘round than ever. That means more competition. That means harder times fer all o’ them. Sure, any profession’s got it’s elite that strike it rich, but that leaves the multitudes, scrablin’ fer crumbs.

The Professionals

I always say there’s a lot to bein’ a good bum. You feel so warm inside when you drop a buck in his hat. ‘Specially near Christmas. Makes your whole day. Some ‘o these derelicts play musical instruments and summa them is pretty good at it too. Come to think of it, these guys fill an important role in society. They’re public servants. Maybe the city should fit ‘em into their patronage system. It’d mean more votes for The Chicago Machine. After all, The Machine is politicians.  And politicians is people paid to be bums.

Hell, when you get down to it, there ain’t much difference between these guys ‘n’ me. Maybe I invest alota money, drink good liquor, sleep in a warm bed. But whadda I really do for the world? I been givin’ that some thought lately and all I comes up with is this—I provide liquidity. Sounds pretty shallow, don’t it? Let’s just imagine some day I make a big mistake and lose it all. They throw me on the street. In no time, I’m part o’ this crowd. Makes a guy think. Maybe I got a talent for it, though—who knows? But it’s a profession without nobility.

Of course there’s gangs and outright criminals in the mix. Then there’s a lotta homeless people with no hope. Alcoholics, drug addicts, and whack jobs. Minds gone over the edge. They say Old Man Percy’s got millions stuffed in the bank but he’s sleepin’ here on the pavement whenever they shove him outa the loony bin. You think you can change him? Think again.

The Scholar

Everybody’s awake now. I always ask if one of ‘em can recite a famous quotation. Gotta keep up the level o’ education here. So I calls for somethin’ Christmassy. I give ‘em a choice—Isaiah 7:14 or Matthew 1:23, whatever their preference—theys exactly the same text. And Fred rattles it right off while Big Bubba stares him in the face, mouth hangin’ open. Fred’s a real intelligent guy. He’d be a good addition to my team.

Note to John – Why not make him a reporter?

Note to Loop – Bring him around for an interview.

Anyway, Fred’s recitation earns a C-Note for every one of ‘em that’s present—even Old Man Percy and the two Hobbits. Except I peel off ten fer Fred. Hell, it really is almost Christmas. I know most of ‘em is gonna waste it but I ain’t tellin’ these guys what to do with their own money.

Then Big Bubba rumbles to himself in a deep bass, “Emanuel—I thought dat was da name o’ da mayor.” Whadaya gonna do with guys like that?

Note to John— I ain’t had no coffee yet this mornin’ after a real rough night. Too much booze and no sleep, so maybe you oughta clean up my copy. I think I’m runnin’ on like the old days—I mean before I got some college. Understand what I’m sayin’?

Note to Loop— I find your account lucid and concise. I’ll publish it as is. And a graduate degree in finance at the University of Chicago is more than “some” college.

Overpass

Stumbling over the Truth 

Fred and Big Bubba take me up on my offer of breakfast. There’s a good old diner along the way. That’s the real reason I picked this station. But before you get to the gentry part o’ town, you gotta walk under the overpasses. The Kennedy Expressway bridges make natural roofs fer the homeless and the piles o’ rubble at the sides reek somethin’ horrible. Yeah it’s raw but so is any city.

Another thing about cities is potholes. In good times there was always holes in the street. Now, with this economic depression it’s worse than ever. So we’re walkin’ down Ashland Avenue at a brisk clip, enjoyin’ each other’s company and I’m scannin’ around like any careful city dweller when the next thing I knows I’m on my face. Lousy pothole—right in the sidewalk of all places.

Fred and Big Bubba haul me back to my feet and brush me off and I check for damage. Maybe a guy can get away with slashed knees and filth on his rumpled blue jeans but it don’t look right on a $2,000 suit. In an instant I go from Mr. Bigshot to a reject from the Salvation Army. But now I fit in with my companions, so I shrug it off. And I got a mile ahead o’ me to walk off the sprained ankle. But in a couple blocks we reach the nice section and the diner I told you about.

The Private Room

The cashier at the restaurant tries to push us out the door like we’re the Blues Brothers or somethin’. Probably thinks we’ll drive off the clientele. Phooey. Maybe this is a classier joint than Julio’s House of Jalapeños but hey—it’s still a diner, not the Chez Paul. So I ask for Lonny, the owner, and he leads us to a back room stacked with boxes. They lay a nice table for us and the room is perfect for planning out crimes and runnin’ poker games.

Big Bubba orders three stacks o’ pancakes. He butters every one of ‘em and drowns ‘em all in maple syrup. Fred sticks with a piece o’ pecan pie. But I dig into steak ‘n eggs with toast and A-1 Sauce ‘n’ bacon. And more important—a big pot o’ coffee for each of us. Round about the fifth cup I’m feelin’ a whole lot better. Fred smokes a cigarette. We talk. Lotsa stimulating conversation. It cheers me up. Now I’m ready—ready to meet with big money at the FFF.

Back on the street, Big Bubba and Fred part ways with a wave and a Merry Christmas. When I suck in the brisk air, I feel more coherent and alert—ready to pick winners, negotiate terms. Less than a mile left to walk off this sprained ankle. I think about them that puts their heads down on a frozen sidewalk and the ankle don’t seem so bad no more.

Note to John—Do I sound more coherent and alert now that I had my coffee?

Note to Loop—You’re always alert.

The Gentrification

Here’s another thing I find interesting about the city. Here in these gentrified sections you can never tell what’s inside a building. Alotta these are new construction or complete makeovers with big-time brands on their signs. Those buildings are nice inside—most o’ the time. But the others can surprise you. The outside of the Chopin Theater looks like a dump that’s been a dump for the last hundred years. Turns out completely different once you walk in the door. This place is gorgeous. A great spot for the FFF.

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater

A beautiful lady greets me like royalty. I check the layout. Nice lobby. Nice coffee bar. Nice theater space for the companies to present. Steep stadium seating so everybody can see. Doors and windows floating around the stage give it a class look. I figure them’s props for some production but it’s a bonus for us.

Chopin Theater Lobby

Chopin Theater Lobby – photo courtesy of theater

I take in the morning’s presentations. Then I go bummin’ downstairs. Wow! A huge room with a great spread of food and drink. This is way better than the old place. People can talk and strike deals while they feed at the trough and make all the racket they want. Meanwhile, the presentations go on in the kinda setting they deserve—quiet and focused. Kudos to David Culver and company for finding this spot and nailing it down.

Chopin Theater Stage

Chopin Theater Stage – photo courtesy theater

So what’s the FFF all about? One o’ the most important things in the world—starting brand new companies! That means keepin’ as many people off the streets as we can! So here I am wolfing down food, crackin’ jokes, and talkin’ to intelligent company. Lotsa stimulating conversation. It cheers me up. Just like breakfast with the bums. Now I’m ready—ready fer the rest o’ the day.

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater – photo courtesy theater

Listen John, I went off on a tangent and didn’t even cover the event yet. Now my batteries is gettin’ kinda low. I’ll buy some fresh ones and get back to ya later. Fer now, have a joyous Christmas.

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Continue to Part 3

Go back to Part 1

Links

Chopin Theater

http://www.chopintheatre.com/event.php?id=2275&pageId=soon

Funding Feeding Frenzy

https://www.facebook.com/FundingFeedingFrenzy

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. I do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not my fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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