Al Simmons, 5/29/2011
Current Occupation: Retired
Former Occupation: Writer/Businessman/Entrepreneur
Contact Information: Al Simmons was born in Chicago, Illinois. He is a founder of the infamous Blue Store Readings, Chicago 1971, birthplace of the Spoken Word Movement, the first regular reading series in Chicago since Sherwood Anderson held readings in his living room in the 1930s. He was Poet-In-Residence City of Chicago, 1979-80. He founded and was Commissioner of the World Poetry Association and served as commissioner to the WPA and the World Poetry Bout Association, (WPBA), Chicago, Taos, New Mexico, 1979-2002. He is the creator of The Main Event, The World Heavyweight Poetry Championship Fights. He lives in Alameda, California.
Chick N’ Ribs
That was the place for broasted chicken
And BBQ ribs, Chick N’ Ribs
On Granville Avenue by the “L”
Where I worked when I
Was seventeen years old delivering dinners piping hot
In exchange for date money.
I worked three nights a week, 5-9 pm,
For $1.75 an hour plus tips, about $50 a week.
She lived at the Granville Hotel
Down the street, an old respectable
Granite faced and redbrick twelve-story complex with a doorman.
She lived on the second floor in the corner
Facing east toward the lake.
She was the sexiest woman I delivered to.
She was young, petite, single, a brunette, dark and mysterious,
Plus she flirted with me and tipped well.
She had a curious wisdom about her.
One Friday night I knocked on her door
With her order
And a man opened the door.
He backed me out of the doorway
Into the hall closing
The door behind him and checked the hall
In both directions like some phony crook,
Then invited me in.
There were two of them in the room with her,
Rush Street types with disco shirts,
The handsome dark-haired
Grease ball that opened the door
And a tall stocky guy standing next to my customer.
She was sitting on a dining room chair placed in
The middle of the room, her right blouse sleeve
Rolled up haphazardly above her elbow.
I had never seen anyone high on heroin before.
The one who let me in said, she’s a little
Out of it. How much does she owe you?
I told him.
He paid me and
A couple of weeks later, the next time
I delivered her order,
She was alone and herself again, but
Instead of paying me at the door
Like she always did
She invited me in.
She took the food package from me,
Told me to wait, turned and left to
The kitchen. When she returned
She paid me,
Then sat down on her sofa.
I stood there. She wore blue jeans
And a black top.
She looked at me.
I stood there for a minute thinking.
Nothing came to me. I was working.
My car was double parked in the street.
My parking lights were on. There were
Dinners in my car, customers waiting.
I was flattered and confused. Flattergasted.
She was 10 years older than me. I
Felt like a fool.
She was a beautiful woman,
Less mysterious, perhaps.
I did the only thing I knew how to do,
I thanked her and left.
A Short Career In Crime
In 1955, my family moved to a new track home in the suburbs
Just west of Cicero Ave, in Oak Lawn, Illinois, on
The southwest side of Chicago.
They still had wooden sidewalks downtown, Oak Lawn
Five steps up above the poorly paved streets.
They are gone now.
The 5&10 Cent Store downtown
Was the Wal-Mart of the day
And I’d go there for the penny candy,
And occasionally nick a piece of licorice or bubble gum.
I had a system for stealing candy.
I would buy one piece
While having another piece hid up my sleeve.
It was a good system because it worked
And I never got caught.
One day I saw something shiny and made of brass.
I had no idea what it was.
It was round and solid and looked important.
It had weight. I picked it up and examined it, and
Saw the shopkeeper watching me
From the corner of her eye.
I thought about it, weighed the risk and
Took it anyway
And got caught.
The shopkeeper phoned the police,
Then phoned my mother.
When I got home I went straight to my room.
A short time later my grandfather poked his head in
My doorway and looked at me
And shook his head, and that was all he had to say.
I was so embarrassed.
To this day I have no idea
What I got caught stealing.
Perhaps for that reason nothing came of it.
It was too stupid and of course, I was a kid.
I had an addendum to my system.
I stole for fun and excitement, but
I always knew that stealing was wrong.
I also knew from watching movies
That kids get off the first time,
And told myself, I’ll be a thief
Until the day comes
When I get caught.
I kept that pledge
And held to my system
And never did any
He is a wise man
Who learns to
Rotate his vices.