[Columnist’s Note: Life has been rather hectic for me lately, so I asked an old (pardon the pun) friend from Chicago to step in and pen this week’s column. I trust you will enjoy Melvin’s musings as much as I do. ~ S. Grutzmacher]
Before I get into what I’m going to say here, I suppose I should say how it is I’m saying what I’m saying. See I never learned to type and I got no time to learn no computer but one of the gals here at the hotel, Samantha, offered to type this out on her computer after Grutzy called and told me his problem. So that’s how these words are getting to your eyes. I should say that Sammy’s typing this just like I say it, so if it don’t look right its just cause of my way of talking.
I was burned out once like Grutzy but I got over it when I started working with the kids after school. Started up a Little League team with some other folks for the kids at Cabrini. Cabrini’s long gone now, but then so is my burnout. I told Grutzy he’d get over his burnout once things got busy up there he said I was probably right. I also told him to get out on a baseball field from time to time since that was sure to make him better and he said I was probably right about that too.
When Grutzy called I asked him what I should tell you folks about and he said just about anything I felt like. This didn’t help me so much so I asked him again and he said just write about some of the things we talk about when he calls, so that’s what I aim to do.
Grutzy always thought the story about my name was a good story, even said he’d like to write it all down sometime. Guess now I get to tell it myself in words.
Item #1: Like most of my folk who have any history in this country my family was slaves way back. The story goes that on a hot September night in 1864 in south Alabama my granddad was born. He was the first son my great grandparents had born after three daughters, though only one daughter was still alive on that night. The way I heard the story, right after the baby was born, the curtains lifted away from the window for the first time in 17 days and the heat began to break.
The very next morning the missus who owned my great grandparents and their kin gathered them all to tell them that a man named Sherman was coming and that they were all free. Seems the missus thought if she didn’t have no slaves, the plantation wouldn’t be burned. She was wrong in that, but that’s another story.
So my ancestors all of a kind of sudden find themselves to be free which meant a lot of things one of which being that they didn’t have any name. See, slaves back then, if they had any last name at all, took the name of them who owned them and now my kin weren’t owned. So my great granddad and great grandma started thinking during the course of the day about how their fortunes had changed; about how they now had a son and about how they was free and about how the heat had broke and they decided Coolbreeze seemed to sum up everything all at once. So they took the name of Coolbreeze and they named my granddad Sherman Coolbreeze.
My father was born 20 years later and I was born 33 years after that, in 1917, the sixth child of my parents and the fourth boy and I’m the last one still alive.
Item #2: I got to know Grutzy when he was working over at the bookshop off Rush Street not far from the hotel where I work. We met through a mutual friend and got to talking a few times and pretty soon it became a regular thing for him to stop by and talk. Now, even though he’s way up in Wisconsin he still calls me about once a week and we talk about just about anything that comes up, same as we used to.
A few weeks ago we were talking and he was telling me about how Spring had arrived and how he could tell it was spring even if he couldn’t feel the warm air or see the world getting green. I asked him how that was and he told me it was cause all these cars keep driving by with loud music coming from them. So I asked him what kind of music and he said mostly rap music. Then I asked him about the drivers and he said mostly teenagers and I asked if they was all white kids and he said yes. So I said, we call them “Tickets,” and he said I’d have to explain.
So I tell Grutzy about how most of the kids around where I live don’t even listen to rap music and about how most rap music is bought by white folk. He told me he knew that but that still didn’t explain “Tickets.” So I told him that everytime one of my folks sees a white folk driving by or walking by or whatever listening to rap music we think of the money that’s going out of their pocket and into the pockets of our folk. And I tell him that its not just the singer that makes the money, its all the people who help out the singer with the making of the record and with the shows and all.
So before I can finish telling him about “Tickets,” Grutzy figures it out and says to me, “’Tickets,’ as in Meal Tickets, right?” So I say yeah, that’s right and he says “Melvin, that’s beautiful. I like that!”
That’s one thing about Grutzy I always liked. I introduced myself to him as Melvin and he has never once called me anything but Melvin. He introduced himself to me as Steve but I call him Grutzy and if you want to know why I’ll tell you. I call him Grutzy because I’m 93 years old and I can call anybody any thing I want to and he understands that too.
Item #3: That’s all for me. I’m tired and I’ve taken enough of Sammy’s time. Maybe we’ll try this again sometime if I’m still around. Until then tell the “Tickets” to turn it down but tell them to keep buying.