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St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo


St. Nick’s Prologue

            This book is dedicated to the eighty guys who could have been, but never were. 


Every year since 1927 the Christian Brothers created a hell that changed the lives of


eighty guys. They were the lost souls, the sacrifice made during the roller coaster ride


through hell to prepare the one hundred and sixty survivors for life’s journey.  This story 


begins the first Saturday in April1960 when six hundred fourteen-year-old boys took an


entrance exam.  Two hundred and forty innocent lads walked into hell the first Monday in


September 1960.  Four years later one hundred and sixty men returned form hell, leaving


eighty lost souls to find their way back.  The Christian Brothers enjoyed watching the weak


wilt on the vine and succumb.  They referred to the carnage as the St. Nick’s experience. 


The students called it the meat grinder.  The Brothers tried to crush the will and spirit of the


individual, producing obedient students who didn’t question authority or challenge doctrine. 


At times it was a test of will for the students in Catholic prison.


The Outlaws fought back.  They created an underground that circumvented the


system.  These challenges forged them to who they became as men.  They were a group


of athletes who saw the reality of the game the Brothers played.  They understood the


consequences of who they were, and where they lived compared to the other guys who


went to Saint Ignatius or Riordan Catholic high schools.  The Outlaws never accepted the


meager portion of life served by the nuns, the brothers, or society.  They wanted what the


other guys had who lived in the nicer part of the city in new homes and went to better


schools.  They wanted respect and a chance to go to college.


            The Outlaws began the first Friday in November 1960. I was the fifth soph/frosh


football game against Mission High School, a public high school for poor Blacks and


Mexican.  The team had had a miserable week of practice.  Their Coach had called them


misfits and outcast because too many mistakes were made.  Mission had scored with their


first two possessions.  St. Nick’s was getting its ass kicked.  It was third and ten on the


thirty six-yard line.  The Coach was humiliating them by yelling the plays from the


sidelines.  Years of ridicule and intimidation by the nuns, living in the poor part of the city,


and surviving the harassment by the neighborhood gangs had festered.  Their frustration


gushed into a flood of rage and anger.  The players stood in the huddle and heard the


anger and the hurt in their quarterback’s voice.  They raised their heads and saw the fire in


Augie’s eyes when he said, “Gentlemen follow rules. We’re outlaws. We have no rules.


We’ll do what we have to do to win. We’re St. Nick's Outlaws."  A dormant St. Nick’s woke


up and became warriors that day defeating Mission High School 35-14.   Some of the hurt


was gone, but the anger grew.  The games became arenas to vent anger, frustration, and


earn respect. The Outlaws became blood brothers.  Each teammate had sacrificed himself


for the team and accepted the pain, the price paid by each warrior.  Augie led the Outlaws


to a championship their senior year, and respect.


            In the book My Blackberry Winter time is described as change rather than motion.


Motion is the movement of hands on a clock.  Change is depicted as a drop of water falling


from leaf to leaf on a tree until it hits the ground.  We are the drops of water passing from


leaf to leaf.  Each leaf is an experience in life, a passage of time until the drop of water hits


the ground, and the journey ends.





St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo









It was a cold windy Saturday morning in April. Three boys had been running for two


blocks, and stopped to catch their breath in front of the school entrance. It was a four-


story stone building with tall wide metal doors resembling a medieval castle. The chubby


boy was bent over, gasping for breath. His face was red. The other two boys, John and Ed,


were slender and quickly caught their breath. They entered the school and walked down


the cold hallway. Dim fluorescent lights flickered, giving the feeling of being watched from


on high.  Gray lockers two high lined the walls. The linoleum floor had layers of wax from


years of care and creaked as the boys approached a bulletin board.  A list of names in


alphabetical order with a room number was assigned to each name. It was eight in the


morning and six hundred fourteen-year-old boys would rather be anywhere but here today.


"I’m in room 205. See you later," said Ed, the shortest of the three boys, and ran


down the hall.  He disappeared into his assigned room.



"We’re in room 202," said John, the other slender boy with thick glasses that slid


down his nose.


"We’re late!" said the chubby boy after looking at his wristwatch. They ran to room


202, opened the door, and began to walk in. A man in a long black gown was introducing


himself to the class when he was distracted.  He yelled at the two boys, "Stop! You have


violated one of the absolute rules. You did not ask my permission to enter my classroom.


It’s two minutes after eight. You’re late. No one enters my classroom late without




The two boys were scared and confused. John said nervously, "Sorry we’re late,


Father," and pushed his glasses back up his nose.


"I’m not your father. I’m a Christian Brother. My name is Brother David." He pointed


at the chubby boy, the tallest of the three, and asked, "Can you speak?"


"Sorry, Brother David," replied the chubby boy.


"Sorry? You are late.  I did not hear you ask for permission to enter my classroom."


"May we have permission, Brother David?"   Forty-three boys stared at them while


they waited for permission to sit.  Brother David savored the embarrassment he had


inflicted.  "Permission granted. Now let’s begin."


They took the two remaining seats in the back. The chubby boy sat low in the


wooden chair attached to the wooden desk. The desk pushed against his stomach as


he squeezed into the chair. His pen dropped out of his pocket. He had to get up and


bend over so that he could retrieve the pen on the floor under the desk. While on his


hands and knees, he noticed two initials and a date that were carved on the bottom of


the desk: CR ‘37. He got his pen, and squeezed back into the chair. His belly spilled


onto the desk. He was sitting at one of the smaller desks in the room. 


The test was five hours long consisting of Math, English, History, Reading


Comprehension, and Religion.  Six hundred boys had reached a major intersection in their


young lives. Brother David began to take roll. As each boy was called one by one, he


approached the desk where Brother David sat, said his name, and gave a check for ten


dollars from his parents.  The cost of the placement exam was a donation to the Christian


Brothers Education Fund. Brother David gave a test booklet.  The Math test began at


8:10AM consisting of sixty questions with fifty minutes to complete the section. Next


were English and History. Panic began to set in. The frustration of not completing a


section and the realization that some were fighting a losing battle increased the tension


and anxiety that filled the room. Some of the boys began to cry because they had not


completed any of the sections.  “Are you sissies?  Crying won’t get you accepted,” said


Brother David.


One boy begged to go to the bathroom.  “Permission denied!”


The boy ran out the door and didn’t return.  The whimpering stopped.  They


accepted their fate.


 The Reading Comprehension section offered essays about Philosophy, further


compounding the frustration of the frail dying on the vine. Last was Religion. By then half


of them knew there would be no salvation at the end of the day. They were slowly roasting


in a hell of torment. At 1:00PM they had finished the last part of the test booklet. Like the


bewildered bull in the ring weakened by picadors and toreadors, the attrition of each



component of the test took its toll on their will and stamina. Some of them wished the


matador would end the event. Then Brother David spoke.


"I will now pass out paper to all of you. You will have twenty minutes to write an


essay telling us why we should consider you for a seat in September's Freshman Class


of 1960. Good luck, gentlemen."


For those who had not succumbed to a day without lunch and had survived the


five-hour ordeal, Brother David gave one last morsel to ponder.


"Take a good look around this classroom, gentlemen. Only a third of you will be


here in September. And of that third, only two-thirds will graduate. Only ten of the forty-five


in this room will know the experience we call St. Nick's."


"Do you have an extra pen? Mine ran out of ink. "




"Thanks. Good luck."


"Yeah. Good luck."


"My name is Cardenez."


"I’m Jim Ciaffi," said the chubby boy.


They smiled and began writing their essays. There must be guardian angels


because in a stroke of brilliance Ciaffi composed an essay that was one of the top ten.


Overall, he placed ninety-third out of six hundred which was good enough to be enrolled in


College Preparatory. Those who placed in the first one hundred and twenty were College


Prep. The second one hundred and twenty-one to two hundred and forty were delegated to


the College of Commerce. They were good enough for St. Nick's, but not good enough for


college.  Every six weeks for two years the students would be ranked from one through


two hundred and forty, knowing that come the end of the Sophomore year, only one


hundred and sixty would move on to upper division and get school jackets and rings.


In September Ciaffi would start on a four-year voyage to manhood, and would


discover much about himself. He would pay a price for his knowledge by experiencing joy


and sorrow, success and failure, love and heartbreak. It would be four years given to St.


Nick's that gave a blue-collar kid the ride of his life. The students were Italian, Mexican,


Portuguese, and Black from the poor section of San Francisco, but for four years of their


young lives, they were all Irish. They were "The Fighting Irish" of St. Nick’s.


St. Nick’s was the other Catholic high school that weren’t treated with the same


respect given to the guys going to St. Ignatius or Riordan. The guys who went to St. Nick’s


couldn’t afford to go to the other schools, though some had the grades to apply. The other


guys who went to St. Ignatius or to Riordan lived in the better areas of the city, the


Richmond, Parkside, and Sunset districts. The poor guys lived in the Mission, South of


Market, and the Bayview districts. The other guys were cool because of where they lived,


and wore stylish clothes.  They dated the cute white girls. They treated the poor guys as


outcasts, and laughed at them. Most of the cute white girls looked down on the poor kids. 


The other guys went to new schools and had good baseball fields. There were two arenas


where the poor kids fought the other guys for respect: the streets and the playing fields.


The poor kids believed they were equal when they played the other guys in sports during


grammar school. If there was a fight at the end of a game, the poor kids could handle the


pansies.  The poor kids accepted their fate for now, but they wanted good clothes, pocket


money, and a ticket to college. The cool guys motivated them.  Their only escape was


going to college by studying, hard work, and the possibility of a sports scholarship.  There


was no respect for an outcast, but there was fear of an outlaw. The poor kids grew up in a


hostile environment and fought for everything they had. The other guys grew up in a


comfortable environment. They were lords and ladies, and kept their distance from the


barbarians. The poor kids never accepted being inferior, that would be giving up. For now


they accepted being feared as barbarians.  They believed that they were as good as any


one.  Going to St. Nick’s was their chance to achieve respect, their ticket from the poor


side of the city to the Marina, Ocean Beach, Sea Cliff, and the cute white girls.
















Tucked in a pocket of San Francisco between the Tenderloin and Hayes Valley


was an island called Cathedral Hill.   The Tenderloin was the part of the city where you


could get anything anytime of the day. The vice squad called it the Tenderloin because it


was the juicy part of town, where a smart cop could make more money in a week, with


bribes and discretion, than an honest cop could in a month. The black pimps and hookers


lived and worked in the Hayes Valley. In the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah was


Cathedral Hill, seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. St. Mary's Cathedral sat


atop the hill, a fortress against sin. Two blocks north of St. Mary's was St. Vincent's


Catholic High School for Girls. Two blocks south of St. Mary's was St. Nicholas High


School for Boys. And two blocks east of St. Mary's on Van Ness Avenue was Tommy's


Joint. TJ's was a bar that served buffalo stew and turkey chili, and had the best selection


of imported beers known to minors. It was a meeting place two blocks way from school


where smoking was permitted. Warm-blooded males wearing red socks looked for curious


females with hems a bit higher and blouses unbuttoned a little lower.




Brother Malkey, or "Moonface," was the homeroom brother for 9C. He was about as


wide as he was tall, with a marshmallow body and arms that barely reached his waist.


Each day bets were made to see if Moonface would come to class without food stains on


his white starched bib collar. It distinguished all Christian Brothers continuing a tradition


more than four hundred years old. It seemed that Brother Malkey had a weakness for


chocolate. Later, that information would become invaluable when a certain athlete needed


extra credit to raise a C+ to a B-.


The Freshman Class was divided into six groups of forty each. The first three


groups: 9A, 9B and 9C, were college prep. The other three groups 9D, 9E, and 9F were


taught business. Ciaffi was in 9C, and his ranking was ninety-three. The first day in


homeroom they were given a schedule of classes with the teacher’s name, room numbers,


and a list of books to buy in the bookstore. Blue and white book covers were given to


protect the books.  The book covers were like the scent of blood among sharks. Poor black


teenage boys who had dropped out of school hated the candy ass Catholic school boys.


Each day the guys from St. Nick’s traveled through the shark infested Filmore and


Hayes Valley districts to go to school. Poor black kids looked for wimpy white mama's


boys and took their school jackets or rings. They would become trophies for the black kids 


and shame for the students. The book covers were also barriers to the cute white girls who


lived in the Avenues, Richmond or Parkside districts.  They went to St. Rose, Presentation


or Mercy High Schools. The cute white girls associated with the cool white boys who went


to St. Ignatius or Riordan Catholic High School. The cool white boys were from white-collar


families who could afford to pay twice the price for tuition at St. Ignatius or Riordan and


they were smarter maintaining a higher grade average. S.I. was the elite Jesuit high school


in San Francisco. Riordan was a new Catholic high school in the City for the Westlake,


Ingleside, and Taravel districts. If you went to S.I., you had money and brains. If you went


to Riordan, you had some money and brains. St. Nick's was the other Catholic high school


that the poor could barely afford. There were sixteen Catholic high schools for girls and


three Catholic high schools for boys.  If a guy wasn’t accepted at St. Nick’s, he went to


public school.  For eight years the nuns reminded the boys and girls of the embarrassment


of not being good enough for a Catholic high school.  It was like dying and going to hell. 


Banishment would be better.


Going to school each day was an adventure. There was safety in numbers, so


three met four others at the bus stop, and the caravan began. The 24 Divisadero bus took


them from Noe Valley to Haight Street, where they took the 35 bus to Eddy and Gough


Streets. The 35 bus went through the Filmore and Hayes Valley, depressed areas where


poor blacks lived in apartments called Projects.  The housing had been built thirty years


ago with government funds as "projects for the poor." There was garbage everywhere,


broken windows, junk cars that had not run in years, and people standing on the corners


watching the world pass by. And here came the guys from St. Nick’s with gray slacks,


white shirts, blue sweaters, and those book covers. It was feeding time at the zoo and they


were fresh meat.  A hustler would ask for money. A shakedown meant losing your lunch or


getting pushed around. Ciaffi didn’t take a lunch to school and was big for his age. Most


of the poor blacks had dropped out of school and were a couple of years older than the


freshmen going to St. Nick’s. The awkward, clumsy, wimps were entertainment for most of


the poor blacks, who played with their prey like a cat with a stunned mouse trembling in


fear and shock. There were a few poor blacks who truly hated the white boys who had


what they could only dream about.


There was salvation: the girls from St. Rose. They got on the bus before the lads.


 They wore brown plaid skirts, white blouses, and brown sweaters. There was one rose that


was more beautiful than the others. Her name was Mimi. She had blue eyes, shapely legs,


and brown hair that was teased and held with hairspray as Annette Funicello in a bouffant.


Each day began when Ciaffi saw her and ended when she got off the bus. He wouldn’t


see Mimi on the way home, so he closed his eyes to see her again. One morning there


was a vacant seat next to her. The thought of being so close to Mimi and possibly


speaking to her was more than Ciaffi could bear. He stood about five feet behind her, so


that he could stare at her without her knowing. Finally the bus arrived at Eddy and Gough.


The best and worst part of the day was over as the lads got off the bus. Occasionally, a


wino sitting in a doorway would beg for dimes or nickels to buy cheap wine. These were


forgotten men, who once had had families, jobs and dignity. Now they roamed the streets


at night, sleeping during the day. At night they might freeze to death or get robbed by


younger wino's. The days were more civil and the liquor stores were open.


A typical school day began with Brother Malkey in homeroom.


"Good morning, Gentlemen. Tomorrow will be the first Friday of the month. Mass


will be at 7:15 AM at St. Mary's. We will meet here at 7:00 AM, take roll, and proceed to


church. Those who are late will get a day in jug. Those who arrive late at church get two


days in jug. The kind ladies of St. Vincent's have invited us to a get-acquainted dance


on the 28th. All of you will attend. All of you will dance with the young ladies and be


charming. Brother Philip and I will chaperon, along with Reverend Mother.  I will take


note of those not dancing and having a good time. This is high school, gentlemen. We do


everything together, one hundred percent.  You have a question, Barbato?"


           ”Yes, Brother. I don't know how to dance. I've never talked to a girl before. The


nuns wouldn’t allow it."


"Well, Barbato, you have a unique opportunity to distinguish yourself. And by the


looks on all your pimpled faces, either all of you poor devils just took a dump in your pants


or you don't know how to dance. Interesting. Very interesting."


Homeroom began at 8:00 AM and lasted ten minutes. Moonface would take roll, 


inform them of upcoming events, and take care of other matters such as who was on


the list.  The list was anyone who violated school policy, broke the rules known only to the


Brothers, or was suspected of intending to do something wrong. Jug was penance for


those who had committed sins of omission. It was from 3:30 to 5:00PM with Brother Benet’


(pronounced Ba-nay) the moderator. He was Filipino and a former All-American defensive


tackle at St. Mary’s College. He stood like a mountain with his arms out-stretched. The


young lamb would be told in a soft voice to kneel in front of Brother Bad Ass as he decided


if he should slap his prey with his right or left hand, or maybe both.  Then a bolt of lightning


came out of the sky and the sacrificial lamb lay flat on the floor with an indelible imprint of


Bad Ass’s four fingers and palm remaining on the victim’s face for three days.  The


remaining time was spent licking envelopes and folding newsletters for the alumni.


First period was Algebra, followed by Religion, History, and Literature and Speech. 


Then lunch was followed by Latin and English. There were ten minutes between classes


and forty-five minutes for lunch. Brother Philip taught Algebra. He had body odor, bad


breath, and was lazy to change his underwear. His breath could knock a hungry dog off a


meat truck. He drank and had a digestive disorder that gave him a scent of acid and bile,


hence, Brother B.O. Concentrating on Math was a chore.  Brother Malkey, Moonface,


taught Religion. Mr. Kepen, one of the layman faculty, taught Ancient History and was the


soph/frosh football coach. He was also a Captain in the Marine Corps reserve. His


specialty was tank warfare. Brother Zachary was a former Golden Gloves Boxer who


taught English Literature and Speech. Sometimes if you didn’t do your homework he would


lose his temper and get flashbacks, thinking that he was back in the ring. 


Once Schuller was caught copying Butler’s homework.  Brother Zachary windmilled


a vicious right to the side of Schuller’s head, knocking him out.  He had to be carried to the


school nurse. They explained that he had fallen down the stairs. Nurse Cooper was ready


for retirement, very naive, and had difficulty staying sober. She gave Schuller two aspirin,


filled out a form, and instructed him to return to class. Schuller was escorted back to class,


and sat dazed, starring into a void for the remainder of the class.  


Brother Michael taught Latin and ran the bookstore. He was younger than most of


the Brothers and was decent. Then there was English with Mr. Christman. He had just


graduated from St. Mary's College, a Christian Brother’s college, and had married the


daughter of the Chief of Police of Belmont a suburb south of San Francisco. The first


day of class bets were made to see if Mr. Christman had a beard. Bush had determined


that he didn’t have a beard, merely blackheads. The second day all of the students sat in


class wearing their jackets inside out. That was the first time an entire class was sent to


jug. Brother Malkey was in disbelief. It was the beginning of four years of higher education


for the students and the teachers.


Most of the guys didn’t know how to dance or speak to a girl. Girls didn’t speak


the same language. And worse yet, the lads would have to dress and act like gentlemen.


For some of them, hygiene and fashion were mysteries yet to be discovered. They used


handfuls of greasy kid stuff plastered on their hair every day, and on Saturday night they


would take their weekly shower. Between the grease and the crud, they must have lost ten


to fifteen pounds that night. It was a miracle the plumbing in San Francisco didn’t get


clogged up every Saturday night. Ciaffi’s older cousin Cheryl taught him how to dance and


act with a young lady. He removed all of the weeds in her backyard as payment in full.


Knowledge is power, but knowing how to dance was beyond cool. The lads took the bus to


St. Vincent's.  There wasn’t enough Brilcream or Aqua Velva to satisfy their new manhood.


They were cool studs. A few bought new black shoes called hooks imported from Mexico


that had two-inch heels, pointed toes and hooks on the side for lacing.  Some of the lads


didn’t have sport coats, so they borrowed an older brother’s coat. Ciaffi had his Easter suit


from the previous year. It was tight, so he said a special prayer to the Virgin Mary asking


that his suit not rip and that he not step on a girl's foot while dancing.


The theme of the dance was "It’s Now or Never," one of Elvis’ most popular hits


and number one for three months on the KYA Top Forty.   Exactly at 8:00PM Reverend


Mother stepped to the center of the floor, clapped her hands once, and declared, "The


dance has begun!" Panic set in.  The jukebox in the far corner began to play slow songs


easy to dance to: one step to the right, one step to the left, one step back and one step


forward like a box.  The nuns carried nine-inch rulers. If a couple was dancing too close


and a nun couldn’t place the ruler between them she told them “Space." If they were


reminded a second time to separate, the nun wrote the boy’s name in her little black book.


Catholic gentlemen shouldn’t dance too close to Catholic ladies for fear of frost bite from 


Catholic ladies who were frozen blocks of ice from the neck down after years of


intimidation by the "Nuns from Iceland." By nine o'clock Romero had his name in every


nun’s book, and in Brother Malkey's book. Reverend Mother personally escorted Romero


off the floor and out of the auditorium.  He set a record that night for corrupting the most


women in one hour. The lads were impressed with Romero’s sophisticated ways with




Ciaffi’s baptism by fire was near. He was chubby, wore braces, and had a pimpled


face.  Most girls ignored him because he looked like a fat sausage ready to burst out of his


brown Easter suit. It was a lady's choice.  A chubby girl stuffed into a pick chiffon dress


with fluffy brown hair glued with hair spray approached.  She had an assortment of fresh


zits that resembled red mountains with white tops. She advanced like a torpedo heading


for his starboard side. Ciaffi heard an alarm go off in his head. "General Quarters.


Battle Stations."  He had been hit amidships and was sinking fast.  Before he could put on


a life preserver, she had grabbed his hand, and they were walking to the center of the


dance floor. She spun him around and began to lead. He followed. She was a good dancer


and held him close. Her hair brushed against his face. The smell of cheap hair spray made


his eyes water.  He felt so cheap.  He had been nervously chewing gum all night. She


lunged and her hair fell on his face. Before he could gather himself, her hair was in his


mouth.  He was chewing her hair along with his gum.  His head snapped back in shock


revealing the Dentyne was now stuck in her hair. What should he do? Should he say


nothing? Should he say, "Pardon me, it appears that somehow your hair got on my gum?"



Beads of sweat ran down his forehead.  She thought he was aroused.  He was frightened


to death. The dance finally ended and before she could get her love hooks out, he ran to


the men's room and he stayed there the rest of the night. Eleven o'clock couldn’t come fast


enough. Jim Ciaffi sneaked out the back door, hoping he would never see her again.












The soph/frosh football season began the first week of October. St. Nick’s had


played four games, beating Balboa and Lowell, then losing to Lincoln and Washington. In


two weeks St. Nick’s would play Saint Ignatius. The team stunk. Mr. Kepen was the coach,


and had been very patient, but the team was getting worse. "It seems that some of you


have your own interpretation of what I call the weak side and strong side," said Coach




There are seven men on the line of scrimmage.  One center, two guards, two


tackles, and two receivers.   One receiver lines up about five yards away from the linemen. 


The second receiver the tight end, can line up with either tackle. The strong side has a


guard, tackle and tight end. The weak side has a guard and tackle. If you add motion, the


tight end takes one step back and the flanker steps up to the line of scrimmage. The tight


end now trots parallel to the line of scrimmage, aligning the offense’s strength against the


defense’s weakness. On the chalkboard it looks good, but it takes perfect timing to work.


The team looked like ballerinas on an ice rink.  Teague was the tight end. On offense, the


tight end is called the trigger. On defense, the tight end is called the key, the one who


unlocks the direction of the play. A tight end has to be a good actor to deceive the defense.


Coach Kepen yelled, "You guys are getting worse instead of better. By now you


should know the difference between left and right. You aren’t taking the time to learn your


assignments in the play book. Okay, I'll make it easy for you outcasts. We’ll have three


running plays and one passing play. If you can master those, then I‘ll add a couple of more




He was right, but he hit a nerve when he called the team outcasts. For eight years


the nuns had reminded them they weren’t good enough. The kids that went to St.


Cecelia’s, St. Bridget’s, and St. Thomas Aquinas had treated them like outcasts. Now in


high school it was tough enough to study, have football practice, and try to have a social


life. Most of the lads didn’t take football or high school very seriously. For eight years the


nuns had led them by the hand. They were cool studs now, hanging out at the pool hall on


Valencia and Seventeenth.  They could smoke and spit like older guys, and they wore red


socks. Guys looking for chicks wore red socks.


The team had four plays for Saturday's game against Mission High School.


Coach Kepen yelled the plays from the sidelines. The first series of downs he yelled


"One!" and they ran right, then "Two!" and they ran left, then "Three!" and they ran up the


middle. The team didn’t make a first down, so they punted.


The next time they had the ball, Coach Kepen yelled, "One! " The defensive


team from Mission knew that St. Nick’s was going to run right and stopped them cold.


Then Coach Kepen yelled "Two!"  They ran left and were stopped again. Then he yelled,




Augie, the quarterback, had figured out that this was not a game of football, but


punishment for not studying the play book.  "This is bullshit! I’m tired of being treated like


an outcast. I’m tired of all the shit we get from St. Ignatius and Riordan.  We’re as good as


any of them.  We can beat these guys and show Mr. Kepen that we can play football. Let's


line up like a run, but I'll throw the ball to whoever is open down the middle. We’re going to


do whatever it takes to win this damn game. We aren’t losers, God damn it. What do you 




The players heard the anger in his voice. Lines of dirt were washed away by sweat.


Pain was replaced with anger.  They raised their heads and saw the fire in Augie’s eyes.


A surge of energy ran through their bodies. He ignited them. The team broke the huddle


and ran up to the line of scrimmage. The defense thought they would run up the middle.


Augie faked the run and threw the ball to Teague, who had run to the outside then back


inside, and was wide open. He ran to the end zone for a touchdown.  A dormant St. Nick’s


woke up. The defenders from Mission were stunned. Mr. Kepen was stunned.  Augie ran


off the field and shook Coach Kepen’s hand.


"Great call, Coach," said Augie loud enough for the other team and coach to


hear. Mr. Kepen smiled and told Augie it was their game to win. The next time St. Nick’s


had the ball, Augie called the plays. Mr. Kepen stood and watched as they beat Mission


35-14. They had come together as a team and had a leader. At the end of the game,


Coach Kepen congratulated them. He made Augie team captain on offense and Jensen


team captain on defense. Typically, this was done before the first game of the season, but


they had not shown him much in character or leadership until that day.


"Each week I‘ll add plays and raise the level of the game. You guys are going to


show me that you're not outcasts. I believe you guys are damn good. With my help and


your dedication to the game and the team, we can be champions one day."


Goosebumps ran up and down the player’s spines. They yelled and jumped for


joy. "Remember this feeling, men. Carry it with you every time you suit up."


He had called them MEN. They had never thought of themselves as men before.


They never thought of themselves collectively as a team, but only as individuals playing


a game of football, showing off their athletic skills to one another for mutual respect. 


The following Monday was football practice. Augie showed up for practice with the


word OUTLAWS written on the back of his St. Nick's sweatshirt. The next day all of the


players had OUTLAWS on the backs of their sweatshirts. They were outlaws, not


outcasts. The team had come together. They had a leader, and now they had an


identity. They were committed to being the best. Augie had made the team believers when


he said, " Gentlemen follow rules. We’re outlaws. We have no rules. We’ll do what we


have to do to succeed. We are St. Nick's Outlaws."











Every six weeks the students had exams. Grades were posted on the bulletin board


at the entrance to the cafeteria, ranking them by grade average from one to two hundred


and forty. At the end of the first year, forty would be cut. The unfortunate student received


a letter from Brother James the principal informing him that he was no longer enrolled at


St. Nick's because of his deficient grade average. There was a sign in the administration


office that the students saw each day: "Time is passing. Are you?"


Homeroom began promptly at eight with Brother Malkey.


"Good morning, gentlemen. The grades have been posted.  Some of you are on the


edge of a cliff. If you thought you could get by on charm and beauty alone, I am sorry to


inform you that it is not so. Those of you on the soph/frosh football team with a grade point


average less than 2.0 are disqualified for six weeks until grades are posted again. All of


you that have a grade point average less than 2.0 or have received a D or F will have


deficiency notices sent to your parents."


Some of the students thought high school would be parties, chicks, adventure,


and a little indiscretion now and then, at least for the first two years. They had been in


cages for eight years in grammar school.  Ciaffi went to St. Philip's Grammar School.


The nuns were from Belgium, the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, B.V.M., Big Vicious


Monsters. Their heads were shaved.  They wore habits that were very uncomfortable and


on warm days their habits slid back and forth from the sweat. The nuns wore heavy black


gowns from their shoulders to the floor, covering their black stockings and shoes. Each


nun accepted a life of hardship and loneliness. They must have doubted their faith often.


These were cruel and bitter women who tried to make the students good Catholics, but


instead the nuns fostered rebellion, hatred and insecurity. The boys referred to St. Philip's


as State Penitentiary.  High school was a jailbreak.  It meant that they didn’t have to go to


nine o'clock mass every Sunday morning, wear a tie to school, or serve six o'clock mass


during cold winter mornings.


This was high school. The lads were young bucks testing their prowess. Their


minds and bodies were maturing. Now when Ciaffi saw a girl, he had a feeling that he


had not experienced before. Could this be the devil at work filling his mind with girls


instead of sports? Why was he having those dreams of naked girls without faces? One


night he had one of those dreams and experienced a sensation that was similar to the time


he had touched the electric socket. It tingled down there. Then there was a rush and he


was wet. He thought he was bleeding to death. God was punishing him.  His mind began


to recall all of the things he would miss because he had sinned. He wouldn’t see another


World Series, drive a car, or know the scent of a fair maiden when deflowered. He was too


scared to look down there, so he lay there praying that he wouldn’t die. After a while it


seemed that the bleeding had stopped. Later he fell asleep.


Morning came, he was spared, and sat in homeroom with Moonface. Fourth period


was Literature and Speech with Brother Knuckles.  Ciaffi would have to give a speech


about his summer vacation. Bush sat in the front of the third row, right in the middle. He


had big teeth and lips. He could flex his nostrils so they would expand and retract. Bush


had many talents. He could touch the tip of his nose with his tongue. He would do anything


to make you laugh or forget your speech. Once he taped a picture of a naked lady from a


Playboy magazine to his shirt. When Landes was about to begin his speech, Bush opened


his jacket and revealed an image that terrified Landes, who was seriously planning to


transfer to Mount La Salle to become a Christian Brother. Landes became so scared that


he began saying the Act of Contrition in Latin. For two months Bush reigned holy terror,


until it was his turn.


Bush came to class and Mazuko was sitting in his seat. Mazuko always looked


confused, as if he got off on the wrong planet. He was tuned to AM radio when the rest of


the world was on FM.  It was payback time for Bush, and Mazuko was as crazy as a


shithouse mouse. Bush began his speech and was distracted when Mazuko put his


handkerchief on the desk. He slowly unfolded it. Bush's voice cracked. Mazuko held a live


snail with two fingers and raised it over his mouth. Bush stopped his speech and stared in


disbelief. Mazuko carefully squeezed the snail, so that the slimy green guts could dangle


before they dropped on his tongue. Bush ran for the door and the men's room. He did not


make it. Just as he closed the door, the students heard the splat of his vomit as it spilled all


over the floor, the walls, his shoes and his pants. Bush was sent to Nurse Cooper.  She


gave Bush two aspirins and asked the janitor wash his clothes. Brother Zachary thought


that Bush had stage fright and told Bush that he could finish his speech after school, when


it would be just the two of them.


Class continued with Ciaffi and Bautista giving their speeches with one eye on


Mazuko, and the other on Brother Zachary. The bell rang and it was lunchtime. Finally


class was over. Bush was sent home when his clothes were dry. He never bothered


anyone again. No one asked Mazuko if he had really swallowed the snail. Mazuko had


certified himself as a citizen from the other side of beyond.


English was the last class of the day, and the lads were restless. Most of the time


they didn’t have their homework completed. It was forty of them against Larry Christman.


Mr. Christman was about five foot six, weighted about 150, wore glasses and had a baby


face. Twice Brother James had stopped Mr. Christman, thinking he was a student smoking


on the school premises. Mr. Christmas had tiny penetrating eyes, and looked like a


bookworm. It was difficult trying to respect a teacher who looked younger than most of his


pupils. Scully had started calling Mr. Christman by his name spelled backwards; Yrral


Namtsirhc. There was a television show called Mr. Peepers, starring Wally Cox. Mr.


Christman was Wally's twin brother. Mr. Christman thought he could get some respect


from the other lay teachers by having one of the lads clean the faculty coffeepot each day.


It was at the discretion of Mr. Christman who he would deem worthy of such an honor.




"Yes, Mr. Christman.


"What is a subordinating conjunction?"


"Is that when two words are put together, so they sound like one?"


"Scully, you are truly amazing. Just when I think I have determined at what level


of ignorance you reside, you prove me wrong. You have created a level below bottom."


"Why thank you, Mr. Christman."


"Scully. You have won the prize."


"Do I get to go to Disneyland?"


"No Scully. You have been chosen to be the first, and I am sure that you will not


be the last, to stay after school and clean the faculty coffee pot."


From that day on, one of the lads won the prize each day. Some were more


lucky than others. Some of the lads distinguished themselves as purveyors of Epicurean


talents, while others served a mysterious brew that could be used to patch roofs. At first it


seemed like a good idea. The teachers would have a clean coffeepot and a decent brew


of coffee. Mr. Christman received some respect from his fellow teachers and Steinway


got even with Mr. McTee. Steinway was a handsome Mexican stud with a great smile and


an even better move on the girls. Mr. McTee was an upper class American Literature


teacher in his mid-twenties. He wore thick black-framed glasses and had acne scars all


over his face and neck. He had a beard that tried to cover most of the damage, but his


pained expression told of a youth who had suffered the cruelty that only teenagers can


inflict. He was the junior varsity football head coach. He hated slick guys like Steinway.


The brothers and the lay teachers had the authority to challenge anyone who


they perceived as violating school policy. If there was a suspicion that students were


exchanging homework or notes, that was a violation. Steinway had better things to do with


his time than homework. There were all those girls waiting to experience "The Makeout


Prince." If he could only put what it was that he had that was so irresistible in a bottle, he


would quickly have become one of the youngest millionaires.


Jeans was a short dork with big ears like Alfred E. Newman, who was on the cover


of Mad Magazine. Jeans was smart. Learning came easy, but for him, girls were on a


distant planet. Steinway needed Jeans for homework and notes. Jeans needed Steinway


for knowledge and inspiration.  Steinway told all to anyone who gave him an audience. Mr.


McTee had overheard Steinway's exploits and discoveries. It seemed that Steinway was


on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And why would a stud give a dork the


time of day? One day Mr. McTee caught Jeans giving Steinway homework.  Steinway


and Jeans were put on the list for a week in jug. The homework was for Mr. Christman's


English class, so he signed up Steinway for a week cleaning the faculty coffeepot.


Steinway waited for the right time.


It was Tuesday after class and Mr. McTee was telling Mr. Meyer, a History teacher,


that Friday night he was going to score big time with a dumb redhead with big tits. He was


bragging that he had been making this babe so hot and bothered that she would beg for


his salty dog.


"Tonight the ground will shake and Big Red will feel so good that she’s going to hurt


all over," he told Mr. Meyer.


Steinway's older brother was in the Navy and told him that the Navy used salt peter


to preserve meat until they discovered that it also prevented erections.  Nothing is worse


than being at sea for three months, paying good money for a good piece of ass, and not 


getting erect.  Steinway stole three ounces of potassium nitrate, saltpeter, from Brother


Crater’s chemistry lab. Mr. McTee had his own thermos for coffee that he filled from the


faculty coffeepot.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after class, Steinway put one ounce


per day of saltpeter in Mr. Mc Tee's thermos while he was cleaning the faculty coffeepot.


Friday night came and it seemed that the old salty dog could not rise to the occasion and


enter the love palace. Mr. McTee had spent more time than before getting big red in the


mood for love. She was about to explode, and Big Mac couldn’t pull the trigger.


Monday, Steinway looked for Mr. McTee. Mac was not at school. He was home


recuperating from a head injury. Apparently big red thought that Big Mac either was gay


or did not find her stimulating. Sexually, she was on fire. In a rage of humiliation, she hit


him with the bedroom lamp, giving him a concussion and ten stitches on his forehead.


It was months before all of the pieces the story came together. That night there was a


complaint by big red’s neighbor to the Police Department. She was yelling every obscenity


she knew at Mr. McTee who was yelling in pain. When the ambulance arrived, the Police


were gathering the facts and trying to stop the bleeding. The next day the story was told to


some of the policemen at the Ingelside police station by the Officers answering the call. In


time the story spread to the Parkside Station. Officer Foxy Gannon was visiting fellow


officers at Parkside who told Foxie, who told his son, Ted, who was in 9C with Steinway,


who told Steinway about Big Mac's big fizzle. A year later after Mr. McTee had resigned,


Steinway told some of the guys what he had done.












It was Thanksgiving morning, 1960. Jim Ciaffi was thankful that he had finished his


second encounter with hell week. Each school year consisted of two eighteen-week


semesters, fall and spring, with exams every six weeks. Hell week was the sixth week


when all hell broke lose. All assignments that had to be resubmitted because they were


incomplete and all chapters that a teacher didn’t cover because of poor class pace where


due Monday and Tuesday of hell week. Those two days were like digging foxholes,


sharpening bayonets, and cleaning your rifle, while listening to an advancing enemy. The


exams were three hours long, eight to eleven and noon to three, Wednesday, Thursday,


and Friday. Each teacher took pride in creating exams that couldn’t be completed in three


hours. Brother Benet gave three or four math questions that took more than three hours to


finish. He enjoyed the frenzy some of the students went through the last ten minutes of the


exam. He counted off the last ten minutes every ten-second: nine minutes fifty seconds,


nine minutes forty seconds, and so on. Imagine being blindfolded, your back against a


brick wall in front of a firing squad and Bad Ass is counting off the last ten minutes of your


life in ten second increments. That was hell week. The second exams were finished and


Jim was maintaining a 2.8 grade point average.


Jim and his father Joe were relaxing on a big comfortable sofa in the living room 


watching the Chicago Bears play the Detroit Lions.  Joe was wearing his Saturday slacks.


He had three variations of slacks: dress slacks, work slacks, and when slacks were too old


to wear for work, they became Saturday slacks for mowing lawns or sitting and watching


football on television. Joe always wore white shirts for dress and work, but on the


weekends he wore shirts with strange designs. Jim always thought that Mary, his mother,


got these shirts free at Weinstein's Bargain Basement, because they were so gaudy. Jim


fought with Mary when she wanted to buy him brown or green shirts with flying horses.


Soph/frosh football season was over and Jim was grateful that he did not have a


serious injury. He played offensive and defensive lineman in the pit: the line of scrimmage.


Each play was a collision of bodies that would finish in a twisted pile. It was almost halftime


and Chicago was leading when suddenly the phone rang. Jim and his father looked at


each other hoping the other would answer the phone. It rang a second time and Jim’s


mother yelled, "Is any one going to answer the phone?"


Jim answered the phone. It was Aunt Betty. She was crying.


"Hello, Aunt Betty. What? What was that? I’m sorry, I don't understand." Her words


and her sentences were fragmented from crying and gasping for a breath every now and


then. Jim could not understand what she was saying, so he gave the phone to his dad. He


sat up and looked shocked. A moment passed.  Jim could hear the dial tone.  Joe hung up


the phone and sat in silence.


"Who was it?" asked Jim’s mother.


Joe stood and held Mary.  He told her that Uncle Don had passed on. He was 42


years old. Mary began to whimper. Her brother Gene had died three weeks earlier. She


detested going to funerals. Two deaths in three weeks were more than she could bear.


Death was a fragile reminder of how mortal we are. Someone once said that if you want to


make God laugh, just tell him that you have made plans. Each night when Joe was a


soldier in World War Two, Mary went to bed afraid that she would never see him again.


The Depression and World War Two left wounds that never healed. Mary’s worst


nightmare was going to Joe's funeral. Death made Mary revisit the anxiety that she


suffered for three years while Joe was on recognizance behind enemy lines. He was the


only man who had graced her life.


They left for Aunt Betty's house before the twenty-minute halftime break had


ended. Mary was crying and Joe was trying to comfort her while driving their 1956 gray


and white Pontiac Chieftain. It seemed that they stopped at every light on Alemany


Street. Joe drove up to the corner house. There was no parking close by. Jim recognized


all of the relative’s cars. They had been the last to be notified and the last to arrive. This


bothered Mary a lot. When they reached the top of the stairs, the door opened before they


rang the doorbell. Uncle Richie gestured to come in. He was the second son of four sons.


Uncle Don was the third. Uncle Richie was bald and had a thin mustache. He tried to


smile, but it dissolved into a blank stare. He was the back slapping, loud one who said the


wrong thing at the wrong time. They entered. All of the relatives were already there. Token


gestures of greeting were offered by those seated. It was an uncomfortable feeling


entering a room with relatives who acted like strangers.


The living room had white carpet and blue sofas against three walls. They was a


large color television the corner. Most of the relatives still had black and white televisions.


Aunt Betty had a little French poodle named Fifi that smelled everyone, then sneezed, and


look at each guest with disapproval. The dinning room had a large table with more food


than could be consumed in three days. They own a grocery store and wasted food without


regard.  Gallons of milk, jars of mayonnaise, and leftover food left open to rot filled two


refrigerators. The cousins were in the bedrooms playing. There was no room to sit in the


living room, so Jim sat with his parents in the dining room. Mary felt that children shouldn’t


play at a time of death. Aunt Betty sat on one of the blue couches staring into space,


looking for answers that couldn’t be found. Her hair wasn’t combed and her blouse was


spotted with food stains. She was always so meticulous about the way she looked. Mary


and Joe were good Catholics. Her sisters and brothers were not.  They considered Mary


and Joe dull.  Mary’s sisters and brothers lived for today, and the hell with tomorrow. Mary


referred to it as "eating chicken one day and feathers the next."


Silence and tension filled the room making everyone uncomfortable, afraid to say


the wrong thing at the wrong time. Then a bombshell went off. Aunt Betty announced to


all that Uncle Don had canceled his life insurance policy last month. He had gambling


debts that had to be paid, and he thought he could beat the odds. Aunt Betty didn’t have


money for the funeral. She began to cry and sunk deep into depression.


Uncle Don was a gambler. He was fortunate to stay stateside during World War


Two at Camp Roberts, near Monterey, California. During the week he would lend money to


GIs at twice the price. He was a good poker, dice and blackjack player. When he came


home from the Army he bought Aunt Betty a diamond ring. They bought a new house, and


they opened a grocery store in the Mission district, near Sears. They enjoyed the good


times, letting the dice tumble and the chips fall.


In comparison to Uncle Don, Joe went to Italy, and lost his left leg two days before


his twenty-fourth birthday. Six months passed before he could come home to Mary. His leg


was operated a second time to correct the size of the stump. All amputated limbs were


standard fit so that the military hospitals could issue standard length prosthesis. Joe


needed time to rehabilitate so he could learn to walk again. He came home thin and pale,


glad to be alive. He was looking forward to getting his job back with the Post Office and


going to night school on the G.I Bill.


Uncle Don lived for Friday and Saturday nights. Those were poker nights, or


overnight trips to Reno, Nevada. They would drive 240 miles from eight at night Friday to


one in the morning Saturday and gamble until the money was gone or until Sunday noon.


Then drive back after being up for two days with little sleep to start a new week. Uncle Don


lost more money in a year than Joe earned in a year. Uncle Don was living on borrowed


time. He canceled the insurance policy on the store, then he canceled his life insurance


policy, because of gambling debts. All of Uncle Don's friends were gambling buddies.


There is no friendship when money is owed and you are a loser. Finally a bad heart, poor


diet, cigarettes and alcohol cashed him in.


The day of the funeral, Aunt Betty found out that not only did Uncle Don have


gambling debts, but a son with another lady. A lady with a little boy who looked like Uncle


Don came to the funeral. The boy was about three years old, he was shy and looked


confused. She was a plain looking lady, slender, about forty with thick glasses.  She and


the little boy approached Aunt Betty.


"I know who you are by the resemblance of your son. I had suspected something,


but refused to believe it," said Aunt Betty


"I am so sorry and sad to meet you this way," said the lady.


"So am I," said Aunt Betty. "What is your son's name?"


"Donny. I hope you don't mind, but this is the only opportunity that he will have to


see his dad. I thought that Donny should know what happened to the man who gave him


life. This will be the last time that you will see us. I am so sorry."


“Hello, Donny,” said Aunt Betty.


Donny looked at the floor.  “Say hello,” said the other lady.  “Hi,” said Donny.


Aunt Betty stared at the little boy as they left, and watched a part of her life


vanish as the little boy disappeared into the crowd by the door of the church.


Uncle Don's father, Resti, had a nephew named Fredo who bought half of the


grocery store business from Aunt Betty. Fredo was Godson to Resiti and could not say


no to Resiti’s very generous offer. Fredo was a butcher for Resti’s other son Richie.


Resiti trusted Fredo more than his own sons. Fredo became a partner in the store.


He and his wife Lisa became Aunt Betty’s best friends. Later Fredo helped Aunt Betty’s


sons. He taught David how to be a butcher and help Dennis get a scholarship go to


college. Fredo was the glue who held Aunt Betty and the store together. Resiti had


made his money during Prohibition and helped finance his four sons with their own


grocery stores. Now in the latter part of his life, he wanted to make sure that Uncle


Don's family would be taken care of. He also wanted to repay Fredo for his loyalty


during the bootleg days.


A month later the other lady wrote a letter to Aunt Betty, and explained that she


had lived a block from the grocery store. Uncle Don had delivered groceries to her


mother’s apartment every week. She was a single lady taking care of her sick mother.


When her mother passed away she felt empty and betrayed by God. She had prayed so


hard that God would cure her mother, and that she would find a man to love her. In a


moment of weakness, she gave herself to Uncle Don. That was their only encounter. She


moved to the Geneva district where she met a man who loved and took care of her. He


married her before she gave birth to Donny.  He was a good husband and father. Now her


son knew who his father was and who had given him life.


In a time of tragedy, when two women found the deeps of sorrow, somehow


divine providence had taken care of them. Uncle Don, by his selfish life and untimely


death, had become a catalyst that significantly changed the lives of two women. The


other lady had found love and happiness. Aunt Betty had a good friend and partner with


Fredo. Two years later she married Ed, the produce truck driver. He had admired her for


years while delivering fruit and vegetables to the store. He worshipped her and gave her


much love and happiness, until he died of lung cancer ten years later.


Christmas and New Year’s Eve passed quietly. Mary was still in shock over


Uncle Don's death and the difficult circumstances he left her sister Betty in. Mary and


Joe were hurt by the way they had been treated at the funeral. Nick, uncle Don's


younger brother, had too much to drink and criticized Joe and Mary’s conservative life


style. Things were said and apologies were made later, but the damage was done. Joe


and Mary spent most of their time together, leaving Jim, their only son, to himself. Jim



always felt that they were different, as if they didn’t belong. When they visited the relatives


they were tolerated, or criticized,  then talked about then they left.  As a young boy, Jim


recalled the uncomfortable feeling and hollow hugs from his aunts. There was jealousy


between the cousins, because he was an only child. Jim’s aunts each had three children.


His cousins thought he was a spoiled child, and thought he got anything he wanted. He


didn’t have the responsibility of a younger brother or sister, nor did he have to wear clothes


that no longer fit an older brother. Once all of the relatives went to Lake Beryessa in


Northern California for a Fourth of July picnic. All of the cousins went swimming, except


Jim. He was told that if he were to drown, his parents would lose their only child. He


watched from the shore and felt inferior. He never forgot that day. Somehow, he was on an


island by himself. He didn’t choose to be there, but there he was.


There was a rage growing inside Jim. It seemed that the only time he was able to


release this rage was when he played sports. He would explode with energy, his face


would get red, and he would yell to release the rage. Baseball was a confrontation


between the pitcher and him. That was a mild rage that he could control. But football


was different. That was a struggle between him and the offensive lineman or the


defensive players. He played both offense as a guard, and defense as a tackle. Football


was a pit where scratching, grabbing, biting, kicking and yelling were the environment. It


was a street fight with rules. At the end of a game he felt reborn. He never thought of


himself as a warrior, but as a survivor. Some games were more physical than others.


Some games were more satisfying than others. But there never was a feeling of


fulfillment. There was an appetite that he never seemed to satisfy. He didn’t know what he


was craving, but he knew that something else was needed.









It was a week before Valentine's Day and the freshman ladies of St. Vincent's had


invited the freshman gents of St. Nick's to a dance the following Saturday. The theme of


the dance was “The Twist.”  Chubby Checker squeezed in as number one for one week


between the King’s “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Most of the lads


still didn’t know how to dance.  There was a pep rally the Friday before the dance with Ace


O'Connor at the school gymnasium.  After the rally the students took buses to Berkeley for


the Basketball Tournament of Champions.


The pep rallies were special. Anything within reason was tolerated as long as no


one was killed or maimed. The first one was the best, because the freshman class didn’t


know how much fun and spirit it generated. Pep rallies were held the last period on Fridays


for special events: the first football, baseball or basketball games of the season, all of the


games against S.I., and championship games. St. Nick’s was four stories tall. The gym


faced the east side of Van Ness. It had hardwood floors with two portable basketball


baskets with backboards.  The gym was used sparingly and was in excellent condition.


The seniors entered from the fourth floor.  Next the juniors entered from the third floor.


Then the sophomores entered from the first floor. As each group entered, they were


chanting, "St. Nick's Fighting Irish, St. Nick's Fighting Irish." The gym filled with emotion.


As each class entered the noise level doubled and redoubled. The freshman class


followed the sophomore class, and when they entered the gym they were in awe.


The sophomores and freshmen had to remove their shoes, so they didn’t mark the


floor while sitting. For most of the freshmen, it was the first time they had experienced so


much noise, energy and emotion. Then Ace O'Connor entered the gym, the noise level


doubled and the floor rumbled. Imagine being in a room with a jet plane, New Years Eve


and an earthquake. It was the best experience they had in their young life. Ace was a


senior who led the school in cheers. The brothers and the lay teachers understood they


would be teased in good fun. Some had thin skin.


"For you girls in the corner (the freshmen) I'm Ace O'Connor. Do you girls know how


to yell?"  asked Ace.




"That was pathetic, girls. When you show the rest of us that you are men, then


we will treat you like men. Now one more time, girls."




"A little better, girls. But we don't just answer yes, we answer HELL YES. Now,


do you girls know how to yell?"




"All right now. Who Are WE?"




Ace would get every one in a frenzy and then he would start the cheers. They


were slightly irreverent pokes at the faculty.


"One for butterballs."




"One for Brother Malkey."




"One for jar heads."




"And one for Mr. Myers."




"One for freshmen caught smoking."




"And one for Mr. Christman."


"YY EE AA HH !!."


"One for you."




"And one for me."




"Another one for me.”




Then Ace led them in the whisper yell. They spelled Irish in a whisper, then said it in


a normal tone, and then they stood and yell as loud as they could IRISH. It was an emotion


that most of the freshmen had not experienced nor would forget. It bonded 760 students


together in spirit.


It was time to board the buses for Berkeley for the Basketball Tournament of


Champions. The games were played at Harmon gym on the campus of the University


Of California. Most the freshman had never gone to Cal before nor attended a


championship game. These were exciting times and they were only freshmen. Imagine


what it would be like as upper classmen.


St. Nick’s played Richmond High School for the championship. Most of Richmond’s 


student body was black. Most of St. Nick’s were minorities or white. Richmond was a


public school, and St. Nick’s was a private Catholic high school. Richmond’s best player


was the tallest man on the court, and St. Nick’s best player was the shortest. Richmond


had played St. Elizabeth's last year and lost. The game began with excitement, but soon


the students from St. Nick’s saw that Richmond was the better team. Jim sat with Walt


Gilmore, a chubby black, who he played football with. Mercifully the game ended with St.


Nick's losing by 23 points. As Jim and Walt were leaving the stadium, some blacks from


Richmond confronted Gilmore and called him a "White Niger." There was pushing and


cursing. Jim pushed two guys away from Gilmore and before they knew what hit them, five


other black guys jumped in. Jim and Walt were getting their asses kicked. It was over


Brother Benet ran over and started pulling guys off Jim and Gilmore. Jim had fallen on top


of Gilmore, and got the brunt of the fight, but Gilmore had injured his left knee. Walt had


surgery to repair the torn cartilage in his left leg.  He missed the rest of the semester


recuperating from the injury.


Jim visited Gilmore in the hospital a couple of times. They discussed how the fight


had changed many things. Gilmore couldn’t play football. He was the center and Jim was


the left guard. On defense Walt was the weak side linebacker and Jim was the right


defensive tackle. Often Jim would cut down the offensive linemen, and Walt would


make the tackle. Jim was the "Piano Man."  He read the keys, the player that indicated the


direction of the play, and Walt was the "Janitor," cleaning up what was left and get credit


for the tackle.  Walt had prepared himself for white racists, but nothing had prepared him


for blacks calling him a "White Niger."  He no longer felt comfortable with blacks or whites.


He had felt comfortable on the football field because he was a player, not a person of


color, and now that was gone. Jim told Walt that he felt comfortable being alone.  “No one


can hurt you alone on an island.  I feel comfortable when playing sports.  Those are the


two times when I’m happy,” said Jim. 


They sat for a while and didn’t say a word. They understood they had something in


common and just enjoyed each other's company. For some growing up was painful. They


no longer fit in their bodies. Their minds and their emotions were changing. It was a daily


struggle, an internal battle that they fought each day. For others it was an easy transition


into manhood, dating and having control of one's life.


The knee surgery didn’t heal correctly and Gilmore had a limp. That summer his


father was hit by a drunk driver one foggy morning on the Embarcadero.  He was flung


into the bay at Pier 46 and died. His mother couldn’t afford to send Walt to St. Nick's


the following September. He dropped out and Jim never saw him again.









It was spring time, baseball season, and the down side of the freshman year. Jim


was feeling comfortable with school and sports.  He was the starting right fielder on the


soph/frosh baseball team.  There was less action in right field than there was in left or


center fields.  When St. Nick’s was up, Jim sat back and watched the game or swung away


at bat. He enjoyed hitting.  There was something magnificent about the challenge between


a hitter and a pitcher. The sensation of glory when he got a hit, and the total frustration


when he committed an out.  A part of you died each time you struck out, but with each hit


there was new life. Long live the batter. 


Some of the lads from soph/frosh football made the baseball team. It was old times


again. There were the purist who saved themselves for baseball. Jim didn’t have the speed


or co-ordination to play basketball.  Baseball had a pace requiring moments of speed.  Jim


had enough moments of speed to play right field.  Football was a war, survival in the pit. 


Football was a baptism to manhood.


The best part about baseball was missing seventh period class on Fridays. The


team had to leave early to travel to the different schools in the city to play the games.


Seventh period was English with Mr. Christman. It took a month for him to figure out that


half the class was not on the team. There were guys leaving early for their own baseball


games. Romero and Steinway fooled Mr. Christman the longest, but eventually he caught


on, and they became candidates for the faculty coffee pot cleaning detail.


Someone once said that you put your best players in the middle and in left field,


and your donkeys on the corners and right field. There were three "beefy" guys on the


team. Jensen was on first, Zuppo was on third, and Jim was in right field. The gazelles


were in the middle and in left field. The beef had played football in the fall. The gazelles


were well rested. The gazelles got on base and the beef would bring them home. Mr.


Meyer was the baseball coach and saw division on the team. They had played four


games and beaten weaker teams. When the games were finished, the beef would be


left alone during showers and dressing. They felt like unwanted guests.


Zuppo lived in North Beach, the Italian neighborhood of San Francisco. His


parents were from Naples. His father worked for Gallo Salami as a butcher. Zuppo was


unpredictable, friendly one day and crude the next day. His nickname was the Bomber,


because he had the innate skill to retain digestive gases and at will dispense them with


deadly accuracy.  Jensen lived in the Bayview district. He had an older brother who was


retarded. His parents were very protective. Life was like living in a bird in a cage, but


sports were his freedom from the cage. Jim was the guy in right field with the piano on his


back. He would hit doubles and get thrown out at first. Speed was a state of mind that


eluded him.


The lads were showering. The Gazelles had left quickly for fear that one of the


beefy guys might speak to them. It upset Zuppo.


"Hey, I don't think we gotta kiss ass to dese guys," said Zuppo.


"I don't feel too romantic either Zup," said Jensen.


"Zup, how the hell did you pass the English proficiency talking like dat?" asked Jim.


"Well, I'll tell ya Jim, dere's times when I 'm downright articulate. But I don't wanta


show off too much, 'cause it would ruin my image. I can talk normal, but the Bari twins


think I'm in the Mafia. They dig dose kinda of guys. Man, I would like to have a love


sandwich with them."


"A love sandwich filled with baloney.  Lucky for us that you are so damn humble


Zup," said Jim.


“Articulate?  Wow, Zup, I didn’t think that you could say word with more than two


syllables,” said Jensen


"Kiss my big Italian sausage," said Zuppo.


"Hey Zup, If its so damn big, why the hell you need to tie a string around it, so


you can find it?" asked Jim.


"Go to hell. That ain’t no string. It's a rope so when I walk the dog I got control of


the beast." said Zuppo.


One of the joys of higher education was learning new ways to insult ones close


friends. It was referred to as cutting or capping one's ancestors or intelligence. The tighter


the friendship the more raunchy the cut. There were levels of profanity, depending on the


situation or person that one used. It was an art form that the lads practiced often to hone


their skills.


The beef played sports for fun and the respect they received from their fellow


players. The gazelles took the game very seriously. They had hopes of getting a


scholarship for college. The beef did not think about college. They thought about cars


and sex. The mind has a way of focusing on what it is deprived of most. They say


prisoners of war think a lot about food. The lads were prisoners of lust. Every lady was


an adventure waiting to be discovered.  Zuppo said that if they played hard and smart, it


didn’t matter what the gazelles thought. The lads started wearing their football sweatshirts


for practice, the ones that said St. Nick’s Outlaws. Some of the gazelles thought that the


beef had spent time in Log Cabin, a prison in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for juvenile


offenders. St. Nick’s next game was against Balboa. They had a good team, and St. Nick’s


would find out how good they were.


It was Friday and the team was warming up for the game. They felt loose and


confident. Batting practice was the best. Taking laps was the worst. After doing some


stretching and throwing, they were ready. The gazelles had to meditate and focus on


the intricacies of the game. The beef pondered the joy of having a double chili cheese


hotdog with a side of onion rings and a chocolate shake. When you took a bite out of one


end of a double chili cheese dog, the grease, the chili and melted cheese ouzzed out from


the other end and land in the wrapper. There was an art to licking a Doggie Diner double


chili cheese hotdog wrapper. Mr. Meyer coached at third base. Today the indicator was


skin. Each play had a sign: steal was cap and bunt was belt buckle. When Mr. Meyer


would flash signs, the next sign after he touched skin was the play or what they called hot.


St. Nick’s began with a walk and two singles. Then Jansen hit a triple clearing the


bases.   Balboa came up in the bottom of the inning and collected seven hits for five runs.


This would be one of those games where the team that got the last hit would win. The ebb


of the game changed to defense the next four innings. St Nick’s was able to squeeze out


runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings.  They were tied at five. The eighth inning


went by quietly, leaving the ninth for a hero and a goat to step forward. Some guys live for


the chance to be the hero. Jim was concerned about being the goat. St. Nick’s scored one


run in the top of the ninth, and they would have to hold on for the victory.


Balboa’s lead off batter walked and stole second when Macell, the catcher, threw


high.  The next batter grounded out to Zuppo at third. The pitcher was concentrating on


holding the runner on second and walked the next batter. First and second, one out, one


ball and one strike to Balboa’s best hitter when the Balboa runner on first started to run for


second with his teammate on second watching in disbelief.  Mackel threw the ball to


second. The runner on second ran to third.  The runner from first slid hard into second and


was safe, because he knocked out the ball from Falcone’s glove while making the tag. All


runners were safe, one out, men on second and third.  The next pitch the batter swung and


hit a frozen rope to Zuppo, who was playing deep at third base.  Zuppo caught the ball for


the second out.  The runner on third started to run for home when the ball was hit, and he


now had to run back to third base. Zuppo paused, then ran to third, and the runner slid


under his tag.  That should have been the third out and a victory.  The pitcher was upset. 


Mr. Meyer called time and walked to the mound.


"Forget it, Darren, and concentrate on the last out. Zuppo feels bad enough. Don't


make things worse."  Mr. Meyer walked over to Zuppo and said, "Let's get the last out and


take a win."


Zuppo grabbed some dirt and rubbed his sweaty palms. The runner on third was


dancing back and forth to distract the pitcher. Zuppo was pacing back and forth to cover


the base. Jensen on first was edging towards the hole between first and second. Mackel


was trying to make Darren concentrate on the location of the next pitch. It was supposed to


be a curve ball, low and outside. Darren served up a flat curve down the middle.   Macell's


mouth was wide open in shock. The batter has a split second to decide if the ball is in his


hitting zone. This one had hit me written all over it. He swung, and the bat cracked upon


impact. The ball slowly rolled to third base. The runner on third base ran for home. Zuppo


ran to get the ball. Jensen ran back to first base. The catcher ran to cover first base. The


pitcher ran home to cover the catcher's vacant spot.  Zuppo picked up the ball barehanded


and threw on the run, bent over to first, his only play.  The ball began to drift away from


Jensen.  He stretched his legs and lunged for the ball. The umpire watched the base and


waited to hear the pop from the ball as it hit Jensen's glove or see the runner's foot touch


first base before the pop of the glove. The glove popped just before the runner touched


first base. "OUT!" yelled the umpire. Zuppo lost his balance after he threw the ball and 


jammed his right shoulder when he hit the ground.  Jensen pulled the hamstring muscle of


his left leg trying to stretch as far as he could.  Darren was so consumed with the victory


he didn’t notice Jensen and Zuppo on the ground in pain.  Macell ran to Jensen and tried


to help him get up. Jim ran in from right field to help Macell, and both helped Jensen walk


off the field.


Darren felt bad and said he was sorry.  "It’s my first victory of the season guys,"


said Darren.


"It’s our fifth as a team, Darren." Jansen said.


"Next time you pitch give us a break and strike out some guys," said Zuppo.


"Okay, Zup," said Darren.


The gazelles and the beef showered and dressed together from that time on.












It was Monday morning April 22, 1961, and Jim’s birthday. He was sitting on the 24


Divisadero bus going to school. On Fridays after the game the baseball players took their


dirty uniforms home. Each Monday morning Jim brought his clean uniform to school. When


he got on the bus he walked by Mimi. She looked so beautiful.  He thought that if he sat a


few feet from her, she might notice him with his baseball gear. She might look at him and


smile. Anything was possible. Maybe she liked baseball players. He occasionally looked in


her direction. Mimi was busy talking to her girl friend about the dance she went to at St.


Ignatius. She met Rick, who was really dreamy.  He was a junior who had a job and a car.


He also was on the football team. Mr. Wonderful.


Jim could see that today was not going to be a good day. As Mimi left the bus,


he smiled. She looked right through him. He wasn’t there. He could understand her not


being interested in him. He went to St. Nick's. She had S.I. book covers.  He was mad at


himself for being a fool. Girls like her only went with guys who went to S.I. or Riordan. He


felt worst than striking out. As she left from the back of the bus, two black guys sneaked on


after she got off. They were a couple of years older than Jim. One guy was tall and


slender. The other was chubby.  Both wore dark sunglasses.  Their clothes were old with


patches, and hung on them.  They began to hustle the students from St. Nick’s for money.


Jim wasn’t paying attention. He had just crashed and burned in a forgotten land.


"Hey asshole. I'm talking to you," said the tall, slender black guy.


Jim wasn’t in the mood for bullshit. He could still hear Mimi’s voice.  The black guy


was mad and grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "Hey, mother fucker. Gimme a


fuckin’ dollar, or I'll kick your fat ass."


The black guy put his face close to Jim’s and had bad breath. This was really going


to be a bad day.  Jim didn’t look at the black guy, and replied,  “I don't have any money," 


"You lying sack of shit. Look mother fucker I ain’t shitin’. I want a fuckin’ dollar."


The black guy was mad because a white boy had ignored him. The dude slapped


Jim’s face.  He had been slapped by nuns for eight years and Brother Benet’ had left an


indelible outline of his left hand on his face for three days the first time he went to jug. And


now some loser slapped him on his birthday feeling as bad as he did about Mimi. He


exploded. When he played football he felt rage that he released by yelling or making a


vicious tackle, but this was an eruption.


Jim jumped up and said, "You wanta fuckin' dollar, asshole."


He grabbed the dude’s throat and found new strength.  He squeezed and enjoyed


watching the black dude’s look of shook.  The black guy was having problem breathing. 


His eyes were wide.  The chubby black kid ran to the black bus driver.


"You gotta do sum thin, man. He's gonna kill da brother," said the other black guy.


The black bus driver stopped the bus and went back to stop the fight. The chubby black


guy got off the bus and ran down the street. The bus driver separated Jim from the slender


black guy, and  shook Jim in anger.


"Are you crazy?  You could have killed him!  Do they teach you to be a racist?"


The black kid regained his breath and ran off the bus like wild animal fleeing a cage.


"Get off my bus."


Jim was numb.


"I said get off my bus. Now!" yelled the bus driver. Jim felt like he had gone to


another time dimension and returned confused. What happened? He didn’t start the fight.


He had felt rage before, and he had lost his temper before, but not like this. This was a


transformation. Something had surfaced and now retreated deep inside of him. There was


a loss of control that concerned him. He got off the bus and waited for the next 35 bus to


go to school. While he waited he realize that he had enjoyed the confrontation. It felt like a


blindside hit on the quarterback, watching him fumble the football and seem to break in


half from the impact of the tackle. He hadn’t thought of himself as a mean person. 


When Jim arrived at school everyone knew about what happened on the bus, and


starred at him while he walked to homeroom.  The guys in homeroom avoided him.  


Brother James announced Jim’s name over the intercom system to report to the office


immediately. The black bus driver had filed a complaint stating that Jim had attacked the


black guy, and had shown racist behavior.


"Please explain the behavior you showed," said Brother James.


"I did not start the fight," said Jim.


"There was a fight? Did you forget who you are, and what school you attend? I


will not tolerate such behavior. You will spend a week in jug and I will instruct Brother


Benet to help cleanse you of these demons," said Brother James.


Brother Benet enjoyed administrating penance to those guilty of sin.  For five days 


from three-thirty to five in the afternoon, Jim knelt on a hard linoleum floor with his arms


outstretched. A chalk mark was made on the blackboard indicating the height of his arms.


If his arms fell below the line and Bad Ass saw it, he would hit Jim’s knuckles with a thick


wooden stick. After three days Jim couldn’t close his hands or write. His hands looked like


raw meat. He hid his hands from his parents the first two days, but by Wednesday his


parents saw the swelling and asked what had happened.  He explained that he had an


accident playing baseball.  Finally, Friday, five o'clock came, and his week in hell was


over. Jim had watched Bridge on the River Quai with William Holden. They were prisoners


in World War II and the Japanese were forcing them to build a bridge across the river in


the jungle. Now he knew how prisoners felt, and the tolerance to pain developed because


of hate. Jim hated Bad Ass, and discovered that hatred could over come pain.


Jim was embarrassed by the fight on the 35 bus.  His friends avoided him.  He 


started going to school another way. He took the J Church to Van Ness and transferred to


the 47 Van Ness to Ellis Street. Jim would never see Mimi again.  Some of the guys in


homeroom spread rumors that he was crazy, a wild man.  The island that he inhabited now


became even smaller. The rage that he felt was growing.  When he went to bat he swung


with more strength. Every now and then he crushed a ball. It felt good.  His body felt


different. The exercise was starting to pay off. He was getting rid of the baby fat and


starting to get tone and definition. He was a loner and did not need anyone. He hurt inside.


He felt different, betrayed, and didn’t have a circle of friends. There were too many


unanswered questions in his young life.  He had no one to turn to for help or advice. His


birthday had passed without a party or cake that year. His father was upset because the


fight on the bus and the embarrassment at school. Jim had ripped his jacket during the


fight and wore it ripped until he had worked enough to pay for a new jacket. He didn’t


start the fight but boy, did he pay for it. He thought that his tenth birthday was bad when he


received a dictionary for his birthday because Sister Florencia sent a note home telling his


folks that he was failing spelling.  This birthday was rock bottom. Life was very unfair. He


would never see Mimi again.  He wouldn’t forget the beating he got from Brother Benet,


and that his 15th birthday passed without notice.  The only escape from this cruel island


was sports and weight lifting. He lifted weights to release feelings of hurt and hate.  He had


to control his temper. He read books about breathing, Yoga, meditation, and Buddhism.


Jim came to the conclusion that he was not typical. Others were normal. He was different.


There were times when he wondered why life was so unfair.


A month had passed and Jim’s father Joe had found books about Yoga and the


Buddhist religion in Jims’ bedroom.  They talked about the incident on the bus, his feelings,


how things had changed. Joe said they needed to talk more. Jim explained about the fight


on the bus and that he now was ignored by his friends at school. He now when to school a


different way. Joe told him to buy a new jacket. He understood that he was going through a


difficult time. Joe told him that the friends he thought he had weren’t really friends, and not


to worry about them or what they may think. "I believe in you. Now show me that I’m right,”


said Joe.


Joe told Jim that his grandfather was dying a slow and miserable death from


cancer. It hurt Joe to see his father suffer. Joe never forgot that his father made him finish


high school, when most guys Joe’s age quit school. The others got jobs to help their


families pay rent and buy food. That high school diploma was the difference between a job


and a Government job with a future. 


Jim believed that prayer was for saying thanks, not for asking.  He began to pray


each night and asked for guidance.  He asked to be spared of this hurt.











It was Sunday morning, May 5th, 1961, Cinco de Mayo. Jim was in his bedroom


glancing at the Sunday comics. They no longer amuse him as before. It was time for the


weekly charade. He got up at nine, washed up, and dressed for 10:30 mass. He ate the


same breakfast with his parents consisting of waffles and bacon. The Sunday paper was


read and conversation consisted of, "Please pass the syrup." He left at 10 o'clock, and met 


Beller, Fataro, Borba, and Fantana at the corner of 23rd and Noe.  Then they met O’Gredy


as they continued to walk to church. 


Noe Valley was a tiny neighborhood of Irish and Italians Catholics. In the middle


of that close knit community was the corner of Castro and 24th Streets, consisting of


Bud's Ice Cream Shop, Henry Ferlong's Drug Store, Bank of America, and Maloney's


Grocery Store. Next door to Maloney's Grocery store was Pete's Smoke Shop. Behind


Pete's was St. Philip's Schoolyard. And on the other side of the schoolyard was the




Mass began at 10:30. The lads walked in, picked up a weekly bulletin, and tried


to look as God-fearing as possible. After a brief appearance, they walked to the side


door that led to the alley between the auditorium and church, and left. The lads went


through the auditorium and out the back door in the kitchen. Then they jumped the


fence, ran across the school yard, and jumped another fence into Maloney's Grocery


Store's backyard. The lads had loosened a section of fence so that they could go


through to Pete’s, then enter the back door, and walk into the spare room in the Smoke




The lad’s parents thought their sons were at church, but they were busy worshiping


false gods, playing poker, and smoking cigars.  Each lad chipped in a nickel to buy a five


pack of "44 Cigars."  Fataro and Jim had a few puffs, while the others were seriously


enjoying the pleasure and enhanced masculinity.


Pete kept all of the magazines and cases of cigars and cigarettes in that room.


There was a table with chairs in the middle of the room. The lads played jacks or better,


spit in the ocean, knock poker, seven card stud, no peek, or blackjack for pennies.  They


drank Coke and smoked cigars for the next hour and a half.  If one of the lads ran out of


money, he went into Maloney's backyard, where the empty beer bottles where kept,


grabbed empty beer bottles, walked into the store, and redeemed the bottles for five cents


each. Later, when the lads needed money to buy gasoline, they redeemed Maloney’s


empty beer bottle. Old man Maloney never figured out how teenagers had so many empty


beer bottles to redeem. Pete didn’t mind that the lads used his backroom. They put away


stock and cleaned up the place in exchange.  They learned how to survive without money.  


Pete was semi-retired. He didn’t need the income, but didn’t want to sit idle. The


smoke shop kept him busy and the work gave purpose to his life. He also read all the girly


magazines he wanted. The lads needed a place to hang out when they said they were at


church. The nuns tried to make good Catholics out of them, but instead they became good


spies, liars, and thieves.   They fought the system every chance they had. As fast as the


nuns stuffed religion down their throats, they defied the nuns.


At noon the lads left Pete's and walk to the Chinaman's Market on 23rd and


Diamond Streets. Chen Fong was an old Chinese man who owned a small grocery


store. He sold beer and cigarettes to minors, made great sandwiches for a quarter, and


sold firecrackers for the Fourth of July. Chen Fong knew that if he didn’t sell beer to the


lads, they would go to the Turk. The Turk was an old man from Turkey, who never married,


and sold beer and cigarettes to minors. The Turk wore glasses with thick lenses. He was


almost blind, and ran his hand across the counter to the cash register. When he opened


the cash drawer, he touched each tray to find the ones, fives, and ten-dollar bills. No one


knew his name other than "The Turk," As long as the lads had cash, there were no


questions. They were more discreet than others.   Fantana and O'Gredy looked older than


their ages.  Chen liked them because they called him sir with respect.


One night they were walking home from playing baseball and Fantana wanted a


cold Coors to satisfy his thirst. There was a belief that if you drank beer and lifted weights,


it added muscle mass. Fantana was serious about weightlifting.  Chen Fong's store was in


the Courts territory, a gang of about forty public school guys. Their older brothers had


begun the gang, and hung out at the tennis courts on 24th and Douglas Streets. The


current gang was more ruthless than their older brothers. They had no regard for anyone.


Some thought they were bullet proof and feared no one. The lads would have to be careful


when entering enemy turf.  Whenever the lads wanted to buy anything from Chen Fong,


they always went early in the morning. The Courts would stay out late and sleep in on the


weekends.  Fantana bought a six-pack of beer. He finished one can of beer and started a


second. Two Courts, Webber and Ferguson, approached them from Castro Street as they


walked along 23rd Street. If the lads had crossed Castro Street, the Courts would leave


them alone.


"Well looky here, a cold beer. Thanks, Asshole," said Webber, taking the beer from


Fantana’s hand.  “Ya got any more?”  Fantana was about to reply to Webber when


Ferguson took the brown paper bag he held with four cans.


"Where ya get the beer?" asked Webber.


Fantana had three choices: tell where he bought the beer, which ended their


transactions with Chen Fong and get his ass kicked; say nothing and get his ass kicked;


or make him an offer and maybe not get his ass kicked.


"The same place that you go to, " said Fantana.


Webber was not too smart and had a quick temper. "There ain't no place that I’ll


sell beer to us. Not even the Turk."


The Courts had given Chen Fong and the Turk a bad time. The Turk refused to


sell beer to the Courts, so they came back drunk and dumped his produce in the street.


Chen Fong didn’t like the Courts, because they were disrespectful and called him a chink.


He charged the Courts twice the price for beer, so they stopped going to Chen for beer.


O'Gredy jumped in and said, " We have someone who sells us beer."


"Who?" asked Webber.


"I can get all the beer I want as long as I have the cash. Can you?" asked




Webber and Ferguson thought that a cop's son would know those things and that


they could tap into their source.


"You guys get us all the beer we want and we won't kick your ass. Fair?"


"We'll sell you all the beer you want for cash. Fair?" said Fantana to Webber.


"You cocksucker. I should kick your ass just for the hell of it," said Webber.


"He did not mean it that way. We will get you all the beer you want for a buck a


six-pack. That's fair," said O’Gredy. Typically, beer sold for $1.25 a six-pack.


"How do we know that you’ll tell the other guys not to kick our ass?" asked




"Trust me," said Webber and he and Ferguson laughed.


It was a no-win situation. The best thing was to let them have the four beers and get


the hell home.


"Sure. We trust you," said Fantana. "How do we know when you want beer?"


"Tom Browne is your contact. He is in your gym class, Fantana. Be cool and we'll


catch ya later. Thanks for the beers, " said Webber.


The lads didn’t plan to go into the beer and cigarette business, but sometimes


things just happen that way. They started buying beer, then cigarettes, and the next


Fourth of July Chen asked if the lads wanted to buy firecrackers from him at a good price.


He had a friend in Chinatown. They sold the fireworks to the neighborhood kids, making


them popular in the neighborhood.  The lads told C.J. O’Gredy who was selling


firecrackers, and. C.J. busted them. This reduced supply, which increased price with


demand constant. C.J. never knew that the lads were maintaining market share and


maximizing profits with his help. It was a sweet deal for two years, until Chen Fong died of


a heart attack one night in his sleep.


After lunch, the lads went home and changed into jeans and tennis shoes.


Depending on their mood, they played football, baseball or basketball at Alvarado


Schoolyard, or sat on Fantana's steps and hung out, or enter a transaction for beer or


cigarettes. Once in a while they hopped a bus and went to Aquatic Park near


Fisherman's Wharf, or Golden Gate Park, or Ocean Beach.  When they traveled from


their neighborhood to another neighborhood, they had to be careful not to be seen by


rival gangs. If the lads traveled in a group it was assumed that they were a gang, so


they always traveled two at a time, leaving at different times and finally meeting at their


destination. There was no honor in jumping one or two guys.


Each neighborhood had a gang that defended their territory. The lads never


considered themselves a gang, just a bunch of guys that lived on 23rd and Noe.  They


never thought of the name the 23rd St. Gang, and they didn't know how it began, but that's


what they were called by others. The lads were surrounded by other gangs, the Yard, the


Courts, Upper Douglas, Eureka Valley, and 30th and Church Streets. The23rd St. Gang


was a small in numbers compared to the other gangs. The lads supplied beer for parties


for the other gangs in exchange for not getting their asses kicked.  That meant they didn’t


get jumped went to the library or to Upper Douglas Park to play football on grass instead of


a concrete schoolyard.  When they left the neighborhood and traveled to the beach,


Golden Gate Park or Fisherman's Wharf, they were on their own.  Then they encountered


the Argyles or the Chariots in the Avenues, The Tongs or the Muns in Chinatown, the


Shoes or the Barts in the Mission district, and The Watusi Warriors in the Filmore. The lads


stayed on their own turf most of the time. There wasn’t anything out there worth getting


their asses kicked.





It was Cinco de Mayo afternoon. There were parties, a parade along Mission


Street, and all those pretty Mexican ladies. It was also in Bart territory. They wore


baggy black pants called Big Ben's.  Ben Davis was a clothes company that made work


pants worn by truck drivers and longshoremen. Their trademark was a gorilla, because


the pants were so tough. Only Barts wore Big Ben's and they had to earn the right to wear


them. Jim always admired Mexican ladies with brown skin, long black hair that fell to their


waist, and those big beautiful eyes that seemed to smile.


Jim lived on Sanchez Street. Around the corner on Alvarado Street lived a beautiful


Mexican lady, who always attended First Saturday mass with her mother. In the eighth


grade Jim had signed up for First Saturday mass, so he could admire her up close at


Communion time. Now she went to Mission Dolores High School. Her parents owned a


Mexican restaurant on Valencia and 19th Streets called La Rosa Cantina. Her father


played the guitar and sung for the customers on Friday and Saturday nights. Jim heard


him practicing the guitar at night, and enjoyed listening to the music. It woke up something


inside of him. He was comfortable with the music. His mother was Spanish and he


remembered hearing those songs as a child when her father Mike lived with them for


three months. Jim’s grandparents had separated, and it was very embarrassing for his


mother. Eventually her father moved to Mexico and lived with his brother in a small town


near Guadalajara.  Jim recalled his grandfather playing the guitar and singing the same


songs that her father now played. Jim was lifting weights in his bedroom with the window


open for air. It was a warm day for Cinco de Mayo.  When Jim finished a set of repetitions,


he noticed that the Mexican girl on Alvarado Street was staring at him through her open


bedroom window. She smiled. He froze and saw only her. There was nothing else on the


planet but her. She was beautiful, so beautiful. She peeked through and waved, "What's


your name?"


"Jim. What's yours?"


"Lucy." Her smile turned into a giggle and she disappeared into her bedroom.


Time had stopped. He was still holding the dumbbells. Her name was Lucy. She


was beautiful. How long had she been staring at him? He was sweaty, his face was red,


and he looked like hell. He couldn’t think of a more inappropriate occasion to meet such a


beautiful lady. If there was a black hole in space that he could have jumped into, he would


have vanished into oblivion. He wanted to meet her, but not like this. Tomorrow when


lifting weights he might see her again. He thought about her all night. She had captured his 


heart. He still heard her soft feminine voice.  He imagined being with her and holding her


hand.  It was the first time he had felt this way.  He had fallen off earth and landed in a


garden with an angel by his side. This was a new world, a loving and gentle world. Twenty-


third and Noe was a distant land of hurt and rage, fear and insecurity, suffering and


humiliation. This was so foreign, but comfortable. This was where he wanted to be, with


her, always. He prayed, "Please God, let it be true."


The next day the sun rose and Jim still inhabited the garden of angels. He woke


up late and missed the J Church streetcar at seven that morning. The next streetcar


was in ten minutes. He would arrive at school on time or spend a day in jug.  He was


reading the headlines in the newspaper stand when he caught a stare from the corner of


his eye. It was her, Lucy. She was smiling and said, "Good morning, Jim."


When the nuns harassed or punished Jim, he imagined an island in the South


Pacific that was paradise. He was with friends and each day was fun. It was a defense


mechanism to block out the Nun’s torture.  He created a paradise of escape to numb the


pain and give a feeling of comfort.  Seeing Lucy again gave the same feeling of comfort


and pleasure.


"Good morning, Lucy. You have a beautiful smile. It is good to see you again."


"It is good to see you again," she said.


Jim searched for words, but they were none. He was spellbound. He began to


hear a bell clanging. It was the streetcar approaching.  She got on the trolley and sat with


her girl friends. Jim passed by her and sat in the back. Two of Lucy’s girl friends turned


and stared at him. One smiled like she knew something. Lucy and her friends got off at


17th and Church Streets. As the streetcar started, Lucy and Jim’s eyes met and said


goodbye. Until tomorrow when I see you again, he thought. A day in jug would be worth


seeing her again.


Each morning thereafter, Jim entered the garden of angels. He got to the bus stop


at seven and miss the J Church trolley, just so he could see her and greet her while


waiting for the next streetcar. Jim ran the last two blocks from Van Ness Avenue to school


so that he wouldn’t be late for homeroom.


The first year of high school was ending, and Jim was learning the value of


teamwork and friendship.  If he studied, he was not as dumb as the nuns said he was.


Learning was fun. He no longer felt like the ugly duckling now that he knew Lucy. Jim’s


cousin Tony offered him a summer job working for Dino Bava, loading and unloading soda


trucks for $10 a day. Life was getting better. Jim hoped Lucy wasn’t a dream.









It was June 3, 1961, hell week, and time to dig foxholes and sharpen bayonets. The


students had avoided talking about hell week. This would be their first encounter with


comp testing and the realization that forty friends would fall. The sophomore class would


consist of two hundred, and the junior class would have one hundred and sixty. The


students knew the rules of the game, because the Brothers reminded them constantly,


"Time is passing. Are you?" The guys in college prep were serious about school. The guys


in D, E, and F classes weren’t given a chance to succeed, because it was implied that they


weren’t smart enough for college, so they were taught business to survive after high


school. Most of them never thought about college, and had other agenda in life. Guys like


Bush, Scully, and Zuppo believed in life, liberty, happiness, and the pursuit of women.


There were two groups of red-blooded males: the Y Boys and The CBs. If one were


to turn a female upside down, and spread her legs, she formed a Y. The intersection of the


Y is where paradise is found; the honey pot, the furry cave, where angels fear to tread, and


home for the Y Boys. The CBs, not Christian Brothers, but Cunt Busters, were purveyors


of the feminine morsel of love that was like nectar to the bees. The lads believed that each


lady was like an hors d’oeuvre, and that life was a buffet to sample and enjoy. Steinway


and Romero were in a league of their own. They were the pathfinders for those lost souls


who didn’t know the scent of a maiden’s flower. They told tales of love and lust, of a land


were girls weren’t frigid.  Girls who enjoyed being with guys and never said no. These


girls went to public school.


There were four ways to earn respect: being a good street fighter, a good athlete,


a lover, or a good student. Secretly the good students were admired the most, but were


never paid homage. The lovers were gods, the street fighters were feared, and the


athletes were respected. The highest compliment or token of respect was to say that a


guy was a good man. He was trusted, respected, and had earned the title. There were


assorted dorks, wimps, geeks, candy-asses, and bookworms sprinkled in the college


prep group. The majority of dufoz and dingle berries were in E and F classes. The


connotation of being in F class said it all. Networks were established to help one another


with homework, find women, lend money, get cigarettes or beer, and get backing in a fight. 


Most of the guys in college prep were not aware of the network, because they


concentrated on school and sports.  The guys in college prep avoided Jim because of the


fight he had on the bus, and because he hung out with the guys in D, E, and F classes. 


Jim’s best friend Steinway, the make out prince, introduced him to the network. Jim played


sports with some of these guys.  He could buy beer and cigarettes from Chen Fong or the


Turk. The network needed someone like Jim. The Y Boys, the CBs, and the athletes in D,


E, and F classes accepted him.  Jim knew all of the guys in D, E, and F classes, and spent


most of his time listening and observing.


It was finals and the last week for forty guys.  There was a sense of urgency, of do


or die.  It was finding out that there were three of you and seven of them in a street fight.


Monday the students scurried about rewriting term papers, handing in past due


assignments, and catching up on reading chapters that were suddenly assigned. The


Brothers enjoyed creating chaos and watching the frenzy, like sharks gorging on young


seals. Jim could see the fear in his classmate’s eyes. The Christians could hear the hungry


lions roaring.  Finals were tough, but trying to recall all of the subject matter from


September to June for comp testing was a task none of the students could imagine.   Only


when they dived into the depths of the test did they realize the distance required to return


safely to shore. Jim thought that the testing was devised to eliminate the weak, rather than


reward the effort of studying.  As they took each subject test it was becoming more difficult


swimming to shore, Jim saw the weak sink and being devoured by the sharks. The last test


was English. Mr. Christman delighted in watching Scully, Bush and Mazuko flail in futility


while taking the comp test he had prepared. Scully gave up halfway through the test, and


started to walk out.  Mr. Christman asked, "Scully, are you finished?’


"Yeah, Mr. Christman. I’m finished taking this crap. Find someone else to clean


your God damn coffee pot."


The class sat in shock and silence. Mr. Christman let Scully go without reporting


him for jug. The cat had played with the mouse long enough. Mr. Christman had a smile on


his face like a skunk eating shit.  Finally it was three o’clock.  Most of the students had


reached shore. When they left English class the students never saw Mr. Christman again.


He resigned and accepted a job teaching English at San Carlos High School, close to


where he lived in Belmont. The students knew that Larry Christman had received a low


performance rating as a teacher. Larry was never respected by any of the students or the




Steinway and Jim went to Tommy’s Joint to meet the next notch on the make out


prince’s pearl handle revolver.  Her name was Tina.  She was a cute Chinese girl with


beautiful eyes, who went to St. Vincent’s. Steinway would make a date with the girl, but not


go home with her.  They would meet later because he didn’t want to be seen with a lady


that appeared to be his steady.  There was always a new discovery waiting to experience


the prince and become history.


Steinway met Tina, and Prince Charming spun his web like the spider to the fly. He


he arranged a date with her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She was filled with


anticipation. The Prince had served an ace-- game, set, and match-- and walked away with


the young maiden’s heart.  Another pair of panties would hang on his trophy wall. 


Steinway and Jim got on the 47 Van Ness bus to go home. Steinway sat by the window,  


and watched the people pass by.  Jim asked him if he ever found the right girl.


"There ain’t no right girl.  Each girl is a curiosity.  I have an appetite, and when I am


satisfied, I move on."


"Don’t you want to find a girl and go steady?"


"Hell no. What for?  Do you eat the same thing for lunch each day? No way. Same


with women.  Each one brings something different to the table."


"Do you think you passed the comp testing?"


"Yeah. I don’t worry about grades. School is a meeting place for me. You see the


network we got here. That is where it’s at, man."


"Don’t you feel bad when you leave a girl?"


"No. I never make any promises. They know who I am and what I want."


"Are they that different? Are Chinese girls different from white or Mexican.


"Each lady is an experience. Race has nothing to do with it. There are two kinds


of ladies: good lovers and those that ain’t."


Steinway and Jim parted ways when Jim got off the 47 Van Ness bus and


transferred to the J Church trolley. Jim thought about what Steinway said.  He didn’t


agree with Steinway, Lonnie, and the others who talked a good game.  There seemed to


be missing a piece to the puzzle. They were never satisfied, always stalking new prey. It


was like Jim’s Aunt Francis who went shopping every day to return what she bought


yesterday so she could buy something new today. For now, Jim was content with


knowing Lucy as an acquaintance. Sports and weightlifting were gratifying, he had new


self-esteem, and he was smarter than he was led to believe by the nuns. He was looking


forward to working during the summer with his cousin Tony, who was eighteen and living


on his own. Jim had several questions to ask Tony and could learn from him.  He was


searching to find himself.  He wanted to see if he met the true test of being a man. He had


left the chubby boy in the past, and now pursued life in a different body and mind.  He was


changing, maturing, and he was experiencing emotions as a man.  He was on a higher


plateau of life. With more experience and knowledge came more risk and hurt. Jim was


tired of being hurt, wearing braces, and having a bad complexion.  He was looking forward


to earning money and spending the summer with Tony.  He was looking for that missing


piece of the puzzle.





It was Thursday, June 13, and Jim’s first day working with his cousin Tony.  Dino


Bava was an Italian man who was hard working, trusting, and liked Tony very much. Dino


had four daughters, but no sons to continue the family name. Dino’s wife Gloria had had


complications giving birth to their last daughter. Tony was the little boy who always hung


out at the Bava warehouse on 22nd and Hampshire Street. Marco Bava was Dino’s father.


Marco Bava was the retired and respected Italian businessman who with Riesti, Uncle


Don’s father, had ruled San Francisco in the twenties and early thirties bootlegging.


Riesti was from Sacramento. He tried to support his wife and four young sons as a


farmer. In 1918 the Volsted Act created Prohibition making it illegal to sell, or buy any


alcoholic beverage. The Catholic Church needed wine during the Consecration when


bread and wine are blessed and become the body and blood of Christ. Beverage is a


traditional part of some cultures. French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italians drink wine with


their meals. It would be like a prohibition on eating meat. German people drink beer, and


the Irish and the Scots have been know to sip a bit of whiskey. Imagine the poor soldiers


who fought a war, saved the world, and came home to find out not only booze was


prohibited, but women could vote. My God! 


            Doctors have a term: "for medicinal purpose only." What is medicinal? Anything that


is construed as a cure. What could be more medicinal than the taste of warmth spirits on a


cool night? How better to celebrate a wedding or baptism than to share drink with relatives


and friends?  How could law enforcement enforce a law that no one respected?


Riesti quickly saw that no one was going to stop drinking wine, beer or whiskey. 


The local police in Sacramento looked the other way when politicians bought booze.


Riesti made a limited quantity of good Chianti wine that he sold to politicians and gave to


the Catholic Church that earned him their support. Bathtub gin and beer could be made


quickly with a good profit. Riesti made the beer and gin and Marco Bava’s trucks hauled it


to San Francisco. Marco was a produce wholesaler in San Francisco. Third and Paul


Street was the produce depot and slaughterhouses. Marco brought produce in his trucks


as a cover for the payload of booze hidden in the truck. If a cop stopped one of Marco’s


trucks, the driver was instructed to offer a twenty-dollar bill. If the cop was dumb and


refused the money then the cop ended up in a ditch with flies hovering over his dead body. 


Riesti and Marco made a lot of money in the twenties and thirties. When Prohibition ended


Riesti took over the produce business in San Francisco. All of the hotels, restaurants, and


grocery stores in San Francisco bought produce that Riesti distributed. Marco went into the


beverage business after Prohibition, selling beer, wine and soft drinks. He established the


bottling factories in San Francisco, and began with Coca Cola, later 7–UP, and Shasta.  In


1954 Marco sold his bottling companies and retired to Italy a rich and respected man.


Marco left his son Dino the territory rights to sell beer, wine and soft drink.


In1954 Dino Bava was a young man filled with ambition and had his father’s


reputation to fall back onto. Dino owned a warehouse on the corner of 22nd and


Hampshire.  It had two apartments on the top floor. One faced 22nd street and the other


faced the back. A Mexican family: Fernando, his wife, and three daughters: Dina, Lina, and


Tina lived in the apartment in the front.  Fernando was a butcher at a slaughterhouse in the


Bayview district. Dina was Tony’s age eleven, Lina was ten and Tina was nine.  Tony’s


father Sam was the master candy maker at Blum’ s Candy.  Sam spent most of his time


and paycheck gambling after work.  Tony lived around the corner on Hampshire Street and


hung around the warehouse because he liked Dino Bava.  Dino was Tony’s second father,


and treated Tony as his adopted son. Dino took Tony with him to pick up sodas or beer. 


Tony liked strawberry soda, and Dino always had a few extra strawberry sodas in his truck


for Tony.


By the summer of 1961 Tony had finished high school, and knew the beverage


business well enough for Dino to give him five routes, one for each day of the week.


Tony liked Jim and they often went fishing. Jim didn’t have an older brother and Tony


filled that void. Tony asked Jim, "What are you going to do during the summer?"


"Mostly, just hang out with the guys," said Jim


"How would you like to earn $10 a day?" asked Tony.


"Wow. Fifty dollars a week. $200 a month. Wow."


"Now hold on. I said $10 a day. I go to Novato on Thursdays and I need some to


help me. You’d work on Thursday only," said Tony.


Well, ten bucks a week was good pocket money.  Jim had never had ten dollars in


his hand. Sure he would go with Tony, even if he went just for breakfast and lunch. Jim


had helped Tony before unloading trucks and stacking cases of sodas in the warehouse


for breakfast and lunch. When Jim worked with Tony at the warehouse, Fernando’s


daughters or Happy Jack would come visit for a while. Happy Jack was a man who had


suffered brain damage during the second war in Europe.  His name was Jack and he was


legally disabled to work or function as a normal human being.  Jack was forty-two and


acted like a three year old boy. Dino and Tony had calendars with ladies in bathing suits.


Jack thought they looked funny. He had a laugh that made folks laugh when they heard


him. After visiting for ten minutes Jack’s mother would come looking for him, and bribed



him with cookies.  Jack would leave, and things were normal again.


Dina was a slender, plain looking lady who had a crush on Tony, and spent a lot of


time admiring him. Lina was a simple girl who didn’t wear a bra because of her lack


endowment.  She wore hand-me-down loose fitting jeans that hung on her lean body


below her waist revealing her hips and abdomen.  Tina, the youngest, was the wild one.


She was 16, five feet three, and 110 pounds of dynamite in a woman’s body.  Tony liked


Tina’s body, but had fears of Fernando chasing him with a butcher knife or going to jail for


statuary rape. Dina liked Tony because he had a good job and drove a maroon1961 Chevy


Impala.  Lina like any man who paid attentio $200 a month. Wow."


"Now hold on. I said $10 a day. I go to Novato on Thursdays and I need some to


help me. You’d work on Thursday only," said Tony.


Well, ten bucks a week was good pocket money.  Jim had never had ten dollars in


his hand. Sure he would go with Tony, even if he went just for breakfast and lunch. Jim


had helped Tony before unloading trucks and stacking cases of sodas in the warehouse


for breakfast and lunch. When Jim worked with Tony at the warehouse, Fernando’s


daughters or Happy Jack would come visit for a while. Happy Jack was a man who had


suffered brain damage during the second war in Europe.  His name was Jack and he was


legally disabled to work or function as a normal human being.  Jack was forty-two and


acted like a three year old boy. Dino and Tony had calendars with ladies in bathing suits.


Jack thought they looked funny. He had a laugh that made folks laugh when they heard


him. After visiting for ten minutes Jack’s mother would come looking for him, and bribed



him with cookies.  Jack would leave, and things were normal again.


Dina was a slender, plain looking lady who had a crush on Tony, and spent a lot of


time admiring him. Lina was a simple girl who didn’t wear a bra because of her lack


endowment.  She wore hand-me-down loose fitting jeans that hung on her lean body


below her waist revealing her hips and abdomen.  Tina, the youngest, was the wild one.


She was 16, five feet three, and 110 pounds of dynamite in a woman’s body.  Tony liked


Tina’s body, but had fears of Fernando chasing him with a butcher knife or going to jail for


statuary rape. Dina liked Tony because he had a good job and drove a maroon1961 Chevy


Impala.  Lina like any man who paid attention to her and made her feel pretty. Tina liked


Jim, because he was white, tall, and lifted weights.  Jim was innocent and afraid of Tina.


She was more woman than he could handle.


Tony told Jim that he had seen Tina with no top one day. "She got the best set of


tits I’ve ever seen. They’re firm with big brown nipples," said Tony with fond recollection.


Tina liked to flirt, and liked tall white boys.  Jim was six feet tall, and was starting to get


some muscle tone from lifting weights. Most of the local Barts were sawed off little shits


who wore over sized clothes to look bigger. On hot days Tony and Jim removed their shirts


when unloading trucks. Jim was a curiosity to Tina who lived in a Mexican neighborhood. 


Dina wrote Tony’s name on her book covers to imply to her girl friends at school that she


had a boyfriend. Jim liked Lina because she had a dark brown lean body that she enjoyed




Thursdays began at six in the morning with Tony picking up Jim in the soda truck,


and traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge 45 miles north to Novato. Their first stop was


the Dairy Farm Restaurant for breakfast. Tony and Jim had the workingman’s breakfast


consisting of three eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes, toast with jelly, and coffee. Then


they proceeded south to Ross, Kentfield, San Rafael, and Greenbrae making their


deliveries. By lunchtime Tony and Jim were in Larkspur where they ate at Perry’s Poor Boy


Deli. A poor boy was a large French bread loaf cut into thirds. Tony liked the end piece and


Jim liked the middle. Perry made the sandwiches with liberal amounts of mayonnaise on


both slices of bread. On one side he put ham, turkey, roast beef and cheese, and on the


other side lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, onions, and black olives. It took both hands to


handle a poor boy, and a man to get in down. They shared a large bag of chips and drank


a couple sodas to wash down the meal. Most of the hard work was done before lunch.


After a big lunch and a cigarette, Tony and Jim continued south to Corte Madera,


Mill Valley, Marin City, Sausalito, then home across the Golden Gate. Tony smoked and


offered Jim cigarettes. At first Jim choked and turned green. Lina saw Jim smoking once


in the warehouse, and told him he looked macho with a cigarette. Jim did not know what


macho meant, but if a girl who he liked approached him because he looked cool smoking,


then what the hell. That summer Jim began to smoke. Lina said she liked the smell of


tobacco on a man. Some of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, but the picture wasn’t


clear. You had to act a certain way with women, but what else.  Lina was a neighborhood


girl who knew nothing about sports or cars. She liked Jim admiring her.  On warm days


she wore loose tee shirts and let him admire her brown nipples when she leaned in front of


him.  Tina liked to tease and wore tight clothes revealing her sex body.  She knew how


crazy Happy Jack got when he saw the calendars with ladies in bathing suits. Once she


took off her tee shirt and showed her perfect body to Tony, Jim and Jack. Happy Jack went


wild with delight and chased Tina. Tony and Jim had to hold him while she put her shirt on


and went upstairs.  


By the end of the summer Jim had made $100. He stopped smoking when he


started noticing the tar at the end of his Pall Mall. That was the junk that went into his


lunges. Jim liked Mexican ladies, but not wild ones like Lina or Tina. Jim admired Lina


until she laughed at him the time she saw him eating fried chicken with a knife and fork.


Tony had bought boxes of fried chicken for lunch.  Jim’s hands were dirty from work, so he


used the plastic knife and fork in the box. Tony did not care how dirty his hands were. He


was hungry. Tony offered fried chicken to Dina. She ate one piece and drank from Tony’s


can of coke. He grabbed another coke.  She said, "We can share a can. It’s like a kiss.”


"I’d rather have the kiss," said Tony.


Dina gave Tony more than kisses. Six months later Jim attended their wedding.


Tina was there with a tall sailor with blond hair. Fernando didn’t like the sailor. Lina was


there and asked Jim for a cigarette. He told her he had quit smoking. Lina left him and


approached a guy in the corner who was smoking and looked cool. The guy was a couple


of years older than Jim.


Summer had passed and all those unanswered questions that should have been


answered remained. Jim was confused about girls. He thought that it would be best not to


participate in a contest when he did not understand the rules nor was very good. Soon


school would begin, it would be football season, and life would be normal.  Jim’s


sophomore year at St. Nick’s would be better because he knew the routine demanded by


the Brothers.  For now the puzzle wasn’t as important.  School, studying, and sports were


about as basic as it got. Right now basic was fine.






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