Time To Settle Accounts
January 24, 2012: Curse words.
Less than 24 hours after my last trip there, I was back at the Billy Goat for lunch. I took my pop and chips to the back booth in the “Billy Goat V.I.P.” section, and then grabbed the day’s Sun-Times and, when it was ready, my double burger.
Seated in the back were three men speaking French, and a mother and her two young children. The kids were finishing their burgers, and the mother was giving them a history lesson. “It’s named after the owner, who had a goat,” she said.
Her children gazed at the photos, at the faces looking at them as they took big bites of burger and sipped on their pops.
A waiter walked in. “Anyone want anything from the bar?”
“No thank you,” the mother said. The kids were now done and she was hustling them into their coats.
“Gentlemen?” he asked the three Frenchmen.
“Ah, no thank you,” one said in a thick accent.
The mother and her kids threw away their garbage and left the room, and now I heard the Frenchmen speaking. I did not know what they were saying, but there seemed to be another history lesson happening. The man on one side of the table was pointing to photos around the room as his friends looked and listened. I heard the name “Ditka” and the word “baseball” and the words “cheezeborger cheezeborger,” the man imitating John Belushi and pointing from one wall to the other.
Then one of the French men asked the leader a question. From there, the tour guide of the group laughed, and leaned in close to his friends, shaking his head in anticipation of his story. In the stream of French, I picked out the words “Cubs” and “goat” and “curse” and “World Series.” The leader laughed at that last one, then telling his friends something about “1945” and laughing again.
They looked at him incredulously, and he nodded, reassuring them that his story was true, and pointing to a picture on the wall of Billy Goat Sianis and his goat as proof. They shook their heads, amazed. The leader leaned back proudly in his chair, his work done. Meanwhile, I grimaced silently. Even in France… I thought, but I stayed quiet and read my paper.
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