Welcome to Bridgeport Part 1 - August 1st I had been shopping around for a home for about a year - my first foray into the real estate market. I wasn't interested in the "buy and flip" properties, although I was looking for a typical fixer upper with some unique features. I wanted a home. I found something that had at first caught my eye, and then my heart - a smallish two story brick building, built at the turn of the last century, situated in the middle of a residential block in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood. It had started life as a mom & pop Italian bakery, fronting the double wide lot of the first generation's family property. It had been sold off and duplexed in the 60s, with each new owner making their requisite "upgrades", including a un-city-approved rooftop hot tub. I had barely enough saved to make the down payment, and would need to do some serious scrimping to make the mortgage every month on top of steady repairs, but my graphic design career was stable and I had many freelance opportunities to help with cash flow. This place was the live/work fortress I was craving. Moving day was a scorcher, temperatures in the high 90s, but went easy enough - one 16 foot U-Haul cube van was enough for my meager Ikea/thrift store collection, and with help from friends Paul and Al, we easily dispensed with the chores by mid-afternoon. We were soon on my roof, cracking beers, testing the plumbing of the hot tub, hoping for at least a cooling dip - but disappointingly, the tap was yielding rusty water at a very slow rate. I was about to remark in passing that the building inspector I had hired didn't catch this problem, when I heard it before I saw it - or at least the roof of it... The bass rumble of a V8 engine, at a lumpy and loud but factory idle, moving slowly from one end of the alley to the other. In between the rooftops of the garages on the alley, I spotted the source, a gold painted car roof creeping - a Pontiac, maybe? Slowed even more to squeeze by the U-Haul van parked outside my garage. Garage door still open and unmanned - something one doesn't usually do for long periods in certain neighborhoods - but while I was confident that this neighborhood was safer than others, I should go down to close it. The gold reappeared, disappeared, reappeared as it moved further down the alley. "Dan!" I turned to Al, blinking, still listening to whatever that was out in the alley now backing into a garage. So whatever it is, it's local. "Dude, look at this. Someone has stuffed steel wool in the faucet." With thumb and forefinger, Al was picking at the spout of the faucet, pulling out a brown, rusted mass. "Why would someone do this?" "Dunno..." I said, preoccupied with making a mental note to learn about whatever car that was, sharing an alley. Cars like that in the city are almost always a toy for somebody, and cash usually talks. Maybe I wouldn't have to look far for a new toy for myself. Paul asks, "How much you pay that inspector?" "I'm sure that faucet was the least of his worries," I said. "He told me that the foundation has cedar pilings - something pretty common for buildings of this vintage around here. At least they were in good shape. And that this hot tub being up here without the roof being reinforced is nothing but trouble, too. So you guys better get used to the idea of this thing not being here too much longer." "Bummer," Al says. "I was looking forward to gettin it on with you and Paul in here. With some chicks," as he grabs his package through his green khaki cargo shorts. Paul rolls his eyes. A wary but optimistic "Dunno, paisano" from me after pounding the rest of my beer. "Hey, if you guys want - go downstairs, cool off, grab another beer, have a look around - I'm gonna go pull the van in the garage." I make my way down the stairs leading to the roof, down the gangway between mine and the neighbor's garages, wrestle with the sagging wrought iron gate, and pat down the non-existent pockets of my silver Adidas basketball shorts for the van keys. Damn, inside, on the stainless steel island counter of the kitchen. Nab the keys, grab another beer, make my way back through the garage, open the door of the van to a blast of superheated, rental van-flavored air. In my wifebeater and shorts, I start to sweat even more as I start the van and roll down the windows. I pull the van forward, to start the process of backing in - there it is. The unmistakable prow of a 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix, backed in but about the first two feet or so hanging out of a run-of-the-mill two-car garage on the opposite side of the alley, four doors down. I decide to roll down the alley to get a better look. Maybe circle around the block, as I could use a better approach anyway to back the van in, as the alleys are not that wide in this neighborhood. I roll up to the garage and get a good look. Baja Gold. No vinyl roof, but I already knew that from seeing the gold roof idling down the alley. Rally II wheels with fat blackwall tires. Appears to be a survivor - hood is up (the longest hood in the industry at its time), and the engine bay looks almost stock and spotless. The car is centered in the two car bay, the drivers' door is open, the engine off, hot metal ticking from cooling, the access door to the garage open, revealing a well tended backyard. This guy is set up pretty well for such a small space. Something tells me the Grand Prix is not for sale. Along the back and side walls are tool chests, workbenches, other standard garage items - a lawnmower, snowblower, lawn and gardening stuff, a huge pane of glass for some kind of storm window... I realize that with no one in the garage, I might be seen as scoping the place out to steal something, so I ease the van out of the alley and around the block. As I pull into the opposite end of the alley to begin the approach to my garage, I see a hulking figure in a dark t-shirt and shorts step out of the garage, close the GP's hood, and step back inside. I maneuver the van backwards into my open garage, and as I do so, I hear the GP fire up and do the same. Shutting the van down, I get out and poke my head out of the garage - the GP's garage door is still open, and at that instant, the hulking figure's baseball-capped head and shoulder also pokes out around his corner. And flashes a smile I can see from here. On impulse, I retreat back into the garage. Did he see me stopped in front of his garage? Was that some kind of warning? Or invite?... Staring at my shoes, spinning the van keys around on an index finger, sweating like a pig, feeling my hefty dick swelling in my jock, seeing the bulge starting to show in my loose shorts... big dude... nice car... maybe this would be a good time to introduce myself to the neighborhood. Smiling faintly with some resolve, I turn around to head back inside, to grab another couple of introductory cold beers, and I walk directly into Al, who had been standing behind me the whole time. "Dude, it takes you 15 minutes to park a van?" Al's eyes drop to my crotch, as I've been watching them do lately. "And parking a van makes you horny?" he says, with a smirk. I laugh, "Only for you, my friend." Dropping into a mock Goodfellas accent, "S'amatta? You tink you missin suntin? You wanna peeza dis?" I mock as I heft my jock's waistband out of my shorts, keys in one hand jingling with the motion. Al's eyes widen as he seems to be searching for words. I ask, "Aren't you and Paul going to the Elektrik Wizardz show tonight? I don't want to kick you out so quick after all the help, but it's after six..." "I thought you were gonna go, too..." He sounds hurt. I start moving back inside, as Al follows. "Maybe you guys should think about going without me. Y'know, moving day and all... tired, sweaty... maybe I should stay in tonight, settle in. Meet my neighbors. That's where I was, by the way - was checking out this sweet-" I break off. Don't want to give it away. "Sweet what? Ass?" Al says, scowling at me as I reach into the fridge for more beer. Obviously insinuating about my bulge. Al is a shorter, tightly packed, gorilla-hairy Italian endomorph, and if we hadn't been buddies for so long, I'd do his ample ass in a New York minute. By this time, lanky Paul has descended the spiral stairs and approaches, asking in a dog-style pant, "Sweet ass? Where?" I chuck him a beer which he picks out of mid-air. "All over the neighborhood, my friends. Bridgeport, home to multinational asses - Italian (giving Al an eye), Polish (a chin to Paul), black, white, plaid, you name it. And now my Irish ass. To Bridgeport - and my new home. Thanks for the help today, guys." We shake our beers, hold them airborne in a triad toast, and crack the tops to a spray of beer everywhere - something we've been doing as our own personal toast for years. For the next ten minutes or so we exchange pleasantries, where-will-you-be-laters. I have to admit feeling bad about shooing them out the door like that, they're big boys, and it's not like I haven't been shooed out by either one or both of them before. Paul is definitely the pussymonger out of the three of us, and will make no bones about not needing a wingman. But Al has been clingy, showing some homo tendencies lately, at both Paul and me, and at others. I want to see what's up with that, but there's a friendship at stake. Deep breath. I am now free, and it's getting on seven o'clock. Time to see who the proud owner of the GP is. Thinking about Al can come later.