Friday, March 9, 2012

Big Ace and Dan

If you have lived in cities, in this case let’s say St. Paul, Minnesota, in the early ‘60s, and gone out to Como Park, you have seen or could have seen, in those small cages with those iron bars, sitting in a corner, a huge and grotesque ape. Strong, large, ugly and hairy, skin droopy faced ape. A true monster, if it was walking about freely. In its fullness, there was an ugly common perverted beauty in this ape.
When children seen it, they stepped back, griped their father’s hand, freighted and fascinated at the same time. The father in turn, would put on an air of repugnance, pert near a show—for various reasons, and the wife, or even single women in general—I might add, more often than not, seemed to be comparing the ape with… you got it, their mates.
In any case, had you lived in my neighborhood in the earlier years of my life, a citizen of Cayuga Street, called ‘Donkeyland,’ by the local police, there would be no vagueness to look upon, in comparison to the ape in the cage. It was likened to Ace, Big Ace. He was also, often called, Big Bopper, and we can add to that, his real name, his true name, Jerry S.
Sitting with the guys in the neighborhood on a hot summer’s day, on the church steps that is, after a long weekend drinking with his buddies, he was a sight for sour eyes.
Yes indeed, as the ape sat in his corner, the beast in the neighborhood sobered up, sitting in his corner—; there was a similarity, and let’s add an ‘s’ to that.
Big Ace, never having a job for the better part of his life, was tall and the ugliest thing in the neighborhood, no teeth, sunken in cheeks; his bulk, immense, his neck thick, his arms long. He was not dirty, but everything about him was uncommon to the eye. He was for the most part, taken care of by his family until they passed on, in his forties or fifties. There was something sensitive, simple and even kind about him, strong as an ox and just as dumb, six-foot-six, two-hundred and twenty pounds, if not more at different periods of his life; a best friend to many of us in the neighborhood, during different stages of our formative years.
He bought us all our liquor; he was ten-years older than us. And in spite of his debasement—not working at all, he was still proud of his ability to offer us younger folks a service: booze; buying booze for us with our money, which he drank his sum, and then some.
A few times, when a few older guys got to be twenty-one, the booze buying age, and we didn’t need Big Ace all the time, and he was told to put in his share of money in buying the booze he’d drink, he’d get mad, say, “I’ll have nothing to do with you-all.”
Up along Jackson Street, in the evening he’d go find old friends he once had—his own age, and drink with them or to the saloon and trouble the people there for a drink. And after drinking unbelievable quantities of beer, stagger off home to his mother and father’s house, where he lived until they passed on.
Big Ace was not a man of courage, or a coward. A thing had happened to him, which made him leave the neighborhood for a long while, abandon the neighborhood, but most everyone then was of drinking age. We all kind of felt he might hate women, or fear them. He didn’t call them “Bitches,” but he avoided them. For a long while no attention was paid to this trait of his. And he thus found a girlfriend, or one he thought liked him. But someone else like Mary as much who thought the same thing, instinctively the man felt in him a growing resentment of not only the girl but the other man, as a result, he had the courage to resent, and one night when the other man, Dan, walked through the streets to Mary’s apartment, Big Ace was there, but so was the neighborhood gang. Dan, known as Crazy Dan, had an instinct to pay Mary homage that night, and Big Ace was with her, or at least physically, surely not mentally. And Mr. Eye was there, the in-between man.
Everyone laughed unpleasantly at the situation, between Mary and Big Ace and Crazy Dan, both men about ready to fight one another over her, but Dan of course being the weaker of the two. The woman, Mary was somewhat tall, not real slender, blue eyes and dirt-yellowish hair—more plainly looking than anything else. Dan and Big Ace both chased the woman with a love as absorbing as a camel in heat—apparently she liked the attention or power, she allowed it, foolishly. Dan was a little fat man, he ran home got his shot gun and was going to shoot Big Ace.
In all of the Cayuga Street Neighborhood, there are better people to tell this end part of the story than I, ugly as it gets, and I have never told this story until now, Mr. Eye, who in fact, had nothing to do with the fight or Mary, I mean he was, or had not been a suitor, got in the middle of all this, walked about under their heated arguments, trying to calm them both down, and got shot with that shotgun. God forbid, he died.
That evening Dan tried to escape, get out of Minnesota. Down the highway he went. It was then the police picked him up.
I met Dan years later, after he got out of prison. He was working at a park, said to me—after I spotted him—“Please don’t hate me, or tell anyone where I work.”
The man looked hideous, shapeless, he even had his face changed somewhat, yet I notice him, and he had noticed I had: leering face, staring about as if he was consumed with my curiosity, as if he wanted me to guess, and I guessed right. Something in his eyes, his staring eyes told him that I had nothing to say about him bad, and he was right.