This one is not about online dating…
It was 1978. I was a sweet young thing, about 20 years old, when I travel to Dubuque, Iowa to visit my boyfriend who is doing summer stock there.
Jeff is off to rehearsals, leaving me to my own devices. (Which BTW, were nonexistent back then… No cell phones. No laptops.)
The dorm room where they put him up is heating up from lack of air conditioning. I threw on my little white eyelet sundress with spaghetti straps, a pair of heels, and took off to explore. After all, how much trouble can a girl get into in Dubuque, Iowa?
Having just arrived the night before, I had no idea where I was. The sky was blue and the sun shone brightly. I figured since I was on a college campus, neighboring areas should be pretty safe. I decided to treat myself to a post coital, coffee and croissant. If such a thing existed in Dubuque, I was determined to find it!
I hadn’t planned on this becoming the sojourn it soon became. Heels and a sundress were not the proper gear for trekking. I was lost and my feet knew it! They started whining at me.
The neighborhood seemed to be deteriorating somewhat. While it was populated with beautiful Victorian homes, instead of being “painted ladies” they looked more like “fallen ladies”.
As beautifully as my day had begun, it began to go south as there wasn’t a soul in sight to ask for directions. Finally I am greatly relieved as I approach a three-story Victorian with an old man pulling weeds out front. He smiles at me. The answer to my prayers.
“Good morning!” He said.
“Good morning!” I beamed.
“Beautiful day today.” He replied.
“It sure is!” I found instant relief by chatting up this charming old man.
“Do you know where I might find the nearest restaurant?” I queried.
“I’m here visiting and I seem to have lost my way. I’d like to find a place for coffee and a light breakfast.”
“Sure! I know a great place!” He replied with great enthusiasm.
“Is it far?” My sandals were giving me blisters
“No! It’s right here.”
“Right…Thank you. But no. I’m looking for a restaurant.”
“I know. There’s a great little café right upstairs.” He said with great zeal.
“You mean there’s a restaurant up there?” I asked.
In my own defense, it wasn’t unusual, in the 70s, to find restaurants and cafés springing up in former residences.
“Well it’s just a little cafe. But it’s one of the best in town! They may not be open just yet, but I’ll ask them to make you some breakfast.”
“You’re teasing me…” I said.
“Come and see for yourself.”
I enter this three-story Victorian with a sense of anticipation, adventure and relief. However, I’m becoming a bit skeptical as we pass the second floor with still no restaurant in sight. Could it be a rooftop place?
As we reach the third floor, he opens the door to reveal a tired apartment with dirty, faded green carpeting and tired, overstuffed burgundy furniture, circa 1930’s. As though it was frozen in time, everything was from the 1930s with one exception. Above the mantle, taped to the wall was a huge “Keep On Truckin” poster. Really!
“This isn’t a restaurant!” I chided.
“Sure it is! Well, not really. But let me make you some breakfast.. Come in. Please!” As I entered, I felt a little sorry for him. Maybe he’s just lonely.
“I really can’t stay. I’m meeting my boyfriend for lunch.
” Oh…come on”. He coaxed. “Please just visit with me a bit. I’ll make some coffee.”
“May I just have a glass of water please?” I ask, ever so politely.
“Sure. Come and sit while I put on some coffee.. It won’t take long.”
Coffee sounded rather good to me. I take a seat in the little kitchen nook at his formica and chrome dinette set. I’m seated between the table and the window as he begins making small talk.
He asked the usual questions. I told him I was from the Chicago suburbs. He said he was quite familiar with Chicago because he worked in Chicago for a number of years.
“Really? How nice. What did you do?”
“I was a hitman for AL CAPONE. I was the youngest guy on the crew. And the only Polish guy. Which was a big deal, cuz everyone else was Italian or Irish. If Al told me to make a hit, I made the hit!”
“That’s funny.” Okay, so he’s a weird, old guy who is really eager for some attention I guess.
“It’s true.” He said.
He tells me he ended up residing in Dubuque because it was one of the places Capone’s gangs used to hide out. The other being in Wisconsin, because they were both in different states and jurisdictions, but still close enough to Chicago.
He hands me a glass. Thank god! I was so thirsty by now. As I go to drink from it, I noticed something floating in it. As if that wasn’t gross enough, there is a distinct odor coming from the glass..
“What is this?” I inquire.
“Schnapps!” He says with pride. “Go on. Drink it!”
“No. Thank you. Can I just have some water please? Then I should get going.”
He hands me a glass…with water…and more mung. Ugh. I pretend to drink some.
“I was one of Al’s favorite guys.” He continues.
“He knew he could count on me to get the job done quick and clean. I never got busted. At least they could never pin anything on me.”
By now I’m thinking, regardless of who he is, this guy is CREEPY. Time to bolt!
“Well thanks. I’ve got to get going.”
“Those were the days…” he continues to reminisce. “Broads and booze galore. Girls with big gorgeous knockers like yours. Let me see them!”
WTF! WHERE AM I?? I start to rise and try to dislodge myself from behind the table in my little sun dress and heels in this tiny kitchen
“Let me eat your pussy. I’ll make you scream for more! I always drove the ladies crazy…. Let me…”
I’m finally able to get up when he pushes the table into my legs, forcing me against the wall he starts coming for me.
“Let me just suck your titties. I bet they’re sweet. You won’t regret it.” He reaches up, presumably to grab my breast, when I push the table with all my might hoping it would crush him where he clearly lives . He began to falter as I knock him over.
I ran past the “Keep On Truckin'” poster, thinking, “No shit!” and head for the door. What if this guy has a gun?
He chases me down the stairs. I’m one flight ahead of him as I finally make it out the door and take my shoes off so I can run faster.
He gives up the chase about three houses down, yelling, “Come back!”
Like, oh sure. I’ll just do that! Let me go pick up some coffee and donuts for us and I’ll be right back. Just how I want to spend my day…UGH!!!
I frantically run another block. It wasn’t until I cool down that I notice the straps on my dress have given way while running and I have holes in my stockings. Great! Like I wasn’t already feeling vulnerable enough?
I finally find a bar and a hardware store. I enter the bar to get change to use the pay phone and call Jeff to come and rescue me. My dress is now strapless and I’m in a bar 11:30 AM in Dubuque Iowa. UGH! Get me the hell out of here!
A few years ago I caught part of a documentary on Al Capone. They mentioned a Polish hitman on his crew. All I could see was the “Keep On Truckin'” poster and a glass of schnapps with mung floating in it.
Lesson: Don’t ever assume that because someone is older than you, that they are naturally kind or smarter than you.
My generation was taught to respect our elders. As a kid I found that confusing. Some of my elders were terrible people and I knew it. This guy was living proof that it’s TOTAL BULLSHIT!
Being older doesn’t mean a damn thing intrinsically except you’re older. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I taught my son to believe that respect must be earned. And if it got him in trouble in school for not offering blind obedience, he should never be afraid of the dreaded phone call home. I’ll fight to the end for his right to NOT FOLLOW ANYONE blindly…ever.
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