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Granta 126: do you remember was published in Winter 2014. Buy this issue
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A glimpse. That’s all.
The kid brother of a brilliant newspaperman - Denise DeClue - I was granted the glimpse in 1975, at age 19, when Denise and her first husband, Chris the Communist, took me to O’Rourke’s on Halsted Street. That’s where it was happening.
A big-eyed kid from a little town, in the big city of Chicago for the first time. When people asked Denise where she was from, it was, “Boonville, Missouri, wanna make something of it?” When they asked me and I told them, it was followed by, “When’d you get out?” because, in the rest of Missouri, Boonville was mostly famous for the Training School for Boys. Our dad ran that joint.
Big brown eyes. Lean, with learning looks. Impressionable. So O’Rourke’s is where it’s happening. This is a city. This is Chicago. Men are Chris the Communist and Don the War Correspondent and that pudgy Ebert guy with the sharp, incisive wit, talking about Governor Moonbeam. Women are Denise the Newspaperman and Mike Tuohy and Pat Colander; women are beautiful and wonderful and tough and dangerous. And they talk to lean youths with learning looks!
We drank. We toasted the small-town boy in the big city, and the brilliant newspaperman, but mostly, that night, April 17, 1975, we toasted the glorious victory of the indigenous people who had overcome the colonial oppressors. It was a glorious night and we were one with each other and with the Old People throughout the world.
Perhaps Ebert is right that “few of the regulars often seemed hung over.” But at least one of the tourists was, on the morning after. I learned that hangovers hurt and that sometimes a victorious victory by freedom fighters can be followed by brutal torture and executions – that was the night the Khmer Rouge liberated Phnom Penh – and that what looks glorious through the bottom of a shot glass may lose color when reflected off a cup of coffee.
But some things are as true in the morning sunshine as they are in bar lights: Women are beautiful and wonderful and tough and dangerous. Thanks Denise and Pat and Mike.
- Greg DeClue
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