Yesterday was the last day of my short staycation. I went to the gym, fiddled around the house a bit, then decided to write a get well note to an old friend who has had a rough time with health issues this summer. I walked down to the local post office to mail the note, then thought I would do a vacation thing - sit at a bar and drink a beer at happy hour. I wandered over to the Firehouse Grill, a Southeast Evanston establishment that is housed in an actual old fire station (Fire Station #2, which was closed when a new, modern facility was built 2 blocks away). The Firehouse Grill is a solid family lunch and dinner joint, with a nice bar and decent beer collection. I walked in and pulled up a stool next to an older gentleman (pictured above). He greeted me politely, I reciprocated and we began a conversation. His name is Moselle, aka Mo, and here is what he told me (I am paraphrasing since I didn't record the conversation):
"I am 81 years old now. Been retired for 13 years. I came to Chicago in 1951 because there was no work for me in San Francisco - that's my home town. I came home from the Korean War kinda messed up. On October 23, 1950, the North Koreans blew me out of my foxhole. I lost my eye and I had lots of cuts and small injuries, but I recovered. Some might call me a disabled veteran, but I worked from 1951 until 1997. I was a long-haul trucker, and I loved it. No damned boss breathin' down my neck.
I been healthy all my life, except for my eye. I started smokin' cigarettes when I was 14, and I still smoke 'em when I got 'em. I will need to step outside a little later for a smoke, no offense.
I got four children - 2 girls and 2 boys. They all live out west. One of my daughters is a doctor. The other is a stewardess; I get free flights because I am her daddy. You get taxed on those free flights, though, so they ain't completely free. My daughter pays the taxes for me.
I just live a block and a half away from the Firehouse Grill so I come over here alot. I slipped on the ice and broke my hip last winter, so it is harder for me to get around. It takes a long time to heal a busted bone when you are 81. I hafta use a cane now. It's a good thing I live close to the Firehouse. My wife still works; I come when she is working. She works nights sometimes.
I love to fish. When I was younger, I hated fishing, but I love it now. I go all over. In the Chicago area, I like to fish on the Fox River, up north toward Milwaukee.
I sometimes get together with a few other Korean War veterans. We understand each other. It was a terrible war. People have sorta forgot about it, but it is still going on in a way. The North Koreans were a nasty bunch; looks like they still are. We might have to mix it up serious with them pretty soon.
I feel pretty good for an old man. I got used to having one eye a long time ago. The hip still bothers me; probably will until I'm dead. What the hell can you do about it? Can't expect an 81 year old body to stay strong."
Mo is an awesome guy in my neighborhood that I have never met until yesterday. Striking up conversations with strangers can be a wonderful thing.