Thursday, March 24, 2005

Color Of The Day: "Indian Paintbrush"

Spent the day running errands- grocery shopping, getting my laundry together, buying materials for the paint job I have planned for the bathroom. I was walking west on 31st Street when I crossed paths with the fattest dalmation I've ever seen. She had this big round belly, like she swallowed one of those five liter kegs of Warsteiner you see in drug stores every summer. And she walked with a limp. She was leashed to a sixty-something gentleman walking with a limp himself and the assistance of a cane.

The dalmation sauntered toward me (I use the term "sauntered" loosely) and- sufficiently determined that I posed no threat, began nuzzling. I wanted to be certain, so I asked if the dog was pregnant.

"Nope," said the man with a slight Southern accent, "she eats human food."

Damn, I thought, then asked how much to get that big.

"Well, today she ate trout."


"Yup. A whole filet. Some cottage cheese, carrots, and celery."

I asked him if he wonders what that's doing to the dog's health. He said, "She likes it and it's cheaper than buying dog food."

I petted her a bit more then bid my goodbyes, the idle thought of tipping her owner over and stealing the dog persistent in my mind.

"We Knew Him As 'JJ'"

I- and a number of people I'm on familiar terms with- are having a hard time coming to terms with the knowledge that the man we knew as J.J. Jameson was actually Norman A. Porter, Jr., a convicted double murderer who walked away from a Massachusetts prison in 1985. I looked at the front page of the Sun-Times this morning and saw a handcuffed JJ and still can't fathom that this man is the same person who forty years ago killed a sales clerk in cold-blood.

Back in the glory days of the Unofficial Soup Kitchen Poetry Jamboree and Traveling Minstrel Show- and its headquarters at the Wolcott Inn on West Montrose- JJ was one of its many supporters. He lived in an apartment on Logan Boulevard back then; none of us knew that he was bartering his rent in exchange for services as a handyman. He seemed like a New England professorial type without the pretension. Whenever someone would ask if he was from Boston he'd quickly interject, "Maine." We shared words, drinks, and meals with JJ. The man always had words of encouragement for any of us. "Keep writing, Cholly. You're better than half the bastids in heah," he'd say whenever a poem I read at the Soup Kitchen's weekly open mike received a lukewarm response. We thought we were edgy and rebellious. JJ would listen to some of the talk coming from the Soup Kitchen brain trust and let out a bemused laugh, almost saying, "If you only knew."

I hadn't seen JJ in years, but as I looked at those pictures and read the stories I wondered how much of the old Norman Porter is still in there. The man's 65 now, with serious health issues to be addressed, which he certainly knows will happen now that he's back in custody. He got 20 years out of this ruse, and while I'm not a firm believer in the concept of jailhouse conversions, the man we knew as JJ Jameson has spent most of the past 20 years being penitent for crimes we didn't know he had the ability to commit.

God Speed, sir.

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