Last night I stopped at the Ashland Dominick's to pick up some groceries, got more than I had planned, and walked out with three bags hanging off each arm. While my half dozen blue Dominick's bags and I were waiting in the bus shelter south of Popeye's, a red minivan pulled up and a smiling young man inquired if I needed a ride.
"Hey, Sam!" I said. "How are you?" I met Sam a year ago in December at the Holy Cross rectory, at the inaugural meeting of the group for neighborhood college students. Sam hasn't been back to the meetings much, but I've run into him once or twice around the neighborhood. I remember best riding the Ashland bus with him early one morning (maybe 6:30 a.m.). He was surprised to see someone like me on the bus so early in the morning.
But now here he is in a shiny minivan, and I'm waiting for a bus that's not coming. I bundled up my bags and got in. Sam wanted to know how my writing was going, all about my latest stories, etc. I asked where he was coming from and he said Juarez High in Pilsen, where he had hoped to get in a swim, but they had a meet that night and the pool was closed. "Lucky for you," he said.
Sam thought I lived at 55th, but I directed him to my place, which is a little north. "You have the nicest house on the block," he noted.
"Yeah, I do."
I asked him what he was up to. He just started his first job out of college, as a social worker helping people get public aid in Humboldt Park. He's only been at it about a month. "It's overwhelming, you know, and if you're a nice person, people will try to take advantage of you."
I asked what he really wants to do, and he said, "I want to write. Like you."
"Well, let's figure out how to get you some writing exposure," I said. I was going to talk with him a little more about this, but...
Yup-yup arrived on the scene, weaving down the street and rather jumpy, apparently high or hurting for a high, and certainly desperate for cash. "Oh, I can carry your groceries!" he offered/demanded.
Sam smiled. "OK,"I told Yup-yup. "Sam, I'll talk to you later." We agreed we'd connect through church.
Yup-yup got himself a couple of bucks and a bowl of Wolfgang Puck's chicken soup with wild rice for his trouble. His review of the soup: "Scrump-diddly-umptious!"
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