St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
It was Thursday, March 30, 1963. After school Jim went to City of Paris to pick up
the set of glasses that he had bought for his mother’s birthday on April 5th. Mr. Crenshaw
asked, "Would you like to work here for the summer?"
"I have a chance to work on a fishing boat in Alaska. If that doesn’t work out, I’d
like to work here during the summer," said Jim.
Jim didn’t see Jacque, alias Rudy, the head tailor, and asked, "Where is Rudy?"
"One month ago Rudy and his partner were beaten up at a bar called Chucker’s in
the Tenderloin. Homosexual men go there looking for love, get picked up, and sometimes
they get robbed when they leave. Rudy has moved to the Castro district. He said they will
be safer there with a small group of men with the same lifestyle," said Mr. Crenshaw
Jim had heard stories of guys going to fag bars to hustle queers, and rob them in an
alley. They called it fag bashing. Some of the Courts rolled queers because it was easy
money. The fags never reported the crime. Foxie said it was like stealing from a thief. Jim
said good bye to Mr. Crenshaw, and picked up the set of glasses. Puff the magic dragon
wrapped the gift for Jim, and was able to light another cigarette while making bows.
Jim arrived at Lupe’s apartment and she greeted him at the door with her I missed
you hug. "How’s my cookie?" she asked while hugging him.
"I’m fine, Angel. How’s my girl?" asked Jim.
"What’s in the box?"
"It’s a gift for my mother’s birthday."
"Oh. When is her birthday?"
"Tuesday, April 5th. You are invited for dinner and cake."
"What should I bring?"
"Your beautiful smile, Angel."
"Seriously. What should I bring?"
"This gift is from both of us. We’ll buy a birthday card this weekend. Can I leave the
gift here until Tuesday?"
"Sure. What should I wear?"
"The same as going to Sunday mass, Angel. Ah, Angel, what’s burning?"
"Oh no! I forgot about the hot chocolate." Lupe ran into the kitchen. The
chocolate milk had boiled over on the electric elements on the stove. Jim followed her.
"It’s okay Angel. I’ll help you clean the stove."
"Thanks. I don’t burn things that often. I’m sorry."
Jim gave Lupe a hug and said, "You never have to say sorry. I love you. I like my
chocolate well done any way."
"Yeah. I like dark chocolate."
"No. I don’t have to say sorry."
"You wouldn’t do anytime to hurt me. It was out of your control. I can replace any,
but your love. That’s all that I want from you. Your total love."
"And you have mine Angel."
They heard Rosa coming up the stairs, and the door opened. "What’s that
smell?" she asked.
"I burned some chocolate milk, mom."
"That’s okay. I thought Jim was cooking again." They laughed.
"Rosa I’ll cook dinner tonight," said Jim and went to get a pot.
"No. No. I’m sorry. Please don’t."
"You really know how to hurt a guy, Rosa." They laughed and Rosa started
"Can I chop the onions and garlic, Rosa?" asked Jim.
"No. Each time you chop onions and garlic, I cry. I feel sorry for them."
Rosa knew that Jim had no intentions to cook in the kitchen. It was time for him
" Good bye, Rosa. I‘ll see you tomorrow, Angel."
"I love you Cookie."
"I love you, Angel."
Jim stopped by the Alley and visited the guys. Bordi and Baffi were sitting on
stools. Britski, Cowens and De Walt were sitting on an old sofa in the garage. They
were smoking and using an old hubcap as an ashtray. Jim walked in and said hello.
The guys replied, “How ya doing?”
Bordi said," The cops got the license plate of the car in the shooting at Pete’s
Smoke Shop. A lady across the street saw everything. She gave a description of the
car, the driver and the shooter."
"I never liked the Courts, but nobody deserves to die at seventeen," said Jim.
Bordi had replaced the famous tuck and roll upholstery with black seat covers.
For a month the coupe’ looked cherry. Now it looked plain. Cowens said, "It looks
like a hog with earrings." Bordi and Cowens were no longer talking to each other.
Whenever life got boring, Jim would visit the guys in the Alley. They were always good
for a laugh.
It was April 5th . Joe took Mary, Lupe and Jim to a French Restaurant on Geary
Street in the Richmond district near Golden Gate Park. Mary always wanted to have dinner
at a French restaurant. The menu was in French with sub titles. The waiter was helpful
when ordering dinner. Jim’s parents had a variety of shellfish in a thick wine sauce. It was
like a fish stew with vegetables. Lupe and Jim had roast chicken breast with vegetables
and small red potatoes. The food was good, but compared to a seven course Italian meal
at Christmas, this was a warm up lap. They left the restaurant, and saw an ice cream store
on the corner. Jim’s parents had Strawberry. Lupe and Jim had Chocolate on sugar cones.
When they came home Mary made coffee and served a white layer cake topped
with whip cream and sliced peaches. Lupe gave Mary the birthday card. Jim gave her the
gift. Mary was pleased with the card and liked the glasses very much. She gave Lupe
and Jim a hug, and said, "Thank you." Joe bought Mary a Sunbeam blender. She enjoyed
the blender more than the imported glasses, because she could use it everyday. Joe was
pleased that he had made Mary so happy. She said thanks to all and kissed Joe. He
blushed and was a little embarrassed that Mary was so affectionate in front of Jim and
Lupe. The glasses were a collectable that she would admire.
Later Jim walked Lupe home. He told her that he was able to get bleacher tickets
for the Dodger-Giants baseball game on Saturday April 21st. Lupe asked, "Are they
"No. Foxie gave me two free tickets. The game starts at one o’clock. We’ll leave
at ten and watch them warm up,"
"I’ll bring snacks. What should I bring?"
"Bring some fruit. This is your first game. You have to have a hot dog and peanuts."
"Okay. Can I get an autograph of Willie McCovey?"
They arrived home, Jim stayed a while then said good night to Lupe and Rosa. He
walked home and thought about his first baseball game as a varsity player. He was
excited. Friday St. Nick’s would begin the varsity baseball season and Jim was the starting
right fielder. Most of the players were back from the championship junior varsity team. St.
Nick’s should have a good season.
Finally, Friday one-thirty came and it was time for the players to go to the gym
and suit up for St. Nick’s first game against Balboa. Mr. Meyer was the varsity coach.
Duke, Brocker, Cain and all of the other guys were back. The players felt like a family.
They were twenty-four partners on a quest for a varsity championship. There are certain
relationships with brothers, families, and relatives. The relationship that Jim had with
Lupe was closer than family. The relationship with twenty-four guys for three months of
sacrifice, teamwork, joy, and sorrow was very unique. Each player depended each other
to make a play or get a timely hit. They dedicated themselves to a goal. It was like Coach
Kepen said, ""The sum of all. Each player is a part of the equation to victory." Only one
team would be champion and experience an elusive moment of absolute exhilaration and
triumph, that few experience. The memory of that moment lives on though the intensity
may diminish over time. The feeling of last year’s championship still ran through Jim’s
body. It would always be part of him. Then guys like Duke would remind the team that it
was just a game. Duke would always say, "Let’s have some fun." It was time to get on the
bus and go to Balboa stadium.
Balboa stadium was built for soccer matches and football. The portable bleachers
were removed to open up right field. There were no fences in right, so a hard hit single that
got by the right fielder became a home run. It was a poor facility to play baseball. Games
ended with scores like 17-14. Pitchers hated Balboa stadium and hitters loved it. It was a
typical game. St. Nick’s won 22-16. Duke’s earn run average took a hit and jumped three
It was Saturday April 21st . Lupe and Jim left for Candlestick Park to watch the
Dodgers play the Giants. Don Drysdale and Jack Sanford would be the starting pitchers.
Jim bought Lupe a program. She was able to get Willie Mc Covey’s autograph and other
Giant’s players who she admired. They sat in the right field bleachers, and watched Willie
Mc Covey on first and Filipe Alou in right field. Lupe enjoyed the hot dog and peanuts. In
the ninth inning Maurie Wills walked, and stole second. Willie Davis bunted Wills to third,
and Wes Parker hit a sacrifice fly ball to right field. Wills ran home and slid under Tom
Haller’s tag. "Safe," said the umpire. The Giants failed to score in the bottom of the ninth
inning and the Dodger’s won 4-3.
"I hate Los Angeles. They always beat us in football and baseball," said Lupe
with frustration that only a San Franciscan could feel.
"Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you look when you are angry?"
"You’re teasing me"
"No. You are really beautiful. I am going to bring you to more games."
Lupe thought about what Jim said. "Really? You really think that I am beautiful,"
"I really think you are beautiful when you are eating a hot dog or yelling at the
umpire." He kissed her on the top of her head. He bought her a Giants baseball cap.
She liked it, and wore it on the bus on the way home. They walked to her apartment. Jim
stopped at the stairs so that Lupe was eye to eye with him and said, "Has anyone ever told
you how beautiful you look with a baseball cap?"
She laughed and said, "You're hopeless."
"No young lady, I am absolutely in love with you."
She hugged him and said, "Me to."
They went inside, sat in the kitchen, and drank coffee. They talked about the
game. Jim sat and admired Lupe as she told Rosa all of the details of the game. Since
Valentine’s Day he had felt more in love with her. In the beginning she was the one
who smiled all of the time. Now it was him. He looked at her with the eyes of love. She
really was beautiful.
The next day was Easter Sunday and Jim’s birthday. His parents, Lupe and he
went to the St. Francis Hotel for Easter brunch. It was very fancy hotel with a large
ballroom, and a restaurant that had an indoor garden with displays of ice sculptures
surrounded with varieties of fruits, deserts, and entrees. Jim felt uncomfortable being
dressed up in fancy restaurant eating pancakes and ham. He sensed that Lupe felt the
same way. The cost of the dinner at the French restaurant and now brunch at the St.
Francis was starting to make Lupe uncomfortable. She and Jim were blue jeans, and
hot dog kind of people. Jim enjoyed relaxing with Rosa and Lupe eating pinto beans in a
chili sauce with rice. When Jim and Lupe left the hotel, she asked," Do rich people do
this every Sunday?"
"Some do. If we ever get rich, I won’t tell you."
After brunch Mary, Joe, Jim, and Lupe walked to City of Paris in Union Square.
They looked, touched, and dreamed about owning expensive clothes. After an hour
walk Joe drove everyone home and dropped off Jim and Lupe at her home. They sat in the
kitchen and listened to the Giants game on the radio. Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons
were very entertaining play by play announcers. Lupe cooked chicken fajittas for dinner.
Jim’s parents arrived at 5:00PM and they enjoyed having dinner with Lupe, Rosa and Jim.
Lupe baked a cake for Jim’s birthday. The stove was old and the back of the cake was
higher because there was more heat than the front. The cake was dry, but it was the best
birthday ever. The cake had seventeen candles. Jim had told Lupe the day before, "The
last time I had a birthday party was when I was eight, the year we moved from Naglee to
Sanchez Streets. I haven’t had a birthday party since then. I guess my folks couldn’t
afford birthday days then. It’s just lately since my dad got his promotion that we celebrate
Lupe gave Jim a birthday card that showed a couple walking along the shore.
Jim opened the card. Lupe wrote, "You are the happiness in my life. Thank you for
entering my world. I love you, Happy Birthday. Always, Lupe."
Later Jim and Lupe went for a walk and sat on a bench at Dolores Park. They
held each other and watched the stars sparkle. Every day with Lupe was special. Today
was very special. The fact that he hadn’t had a birthday party for nine years didn’t make
today special. What made today special was who Jim had shared the day with.
A few blocks south of the St. Francis Hotel is the City of Paris on Union Square.
A few blocks west of City of Paris on the fringe of the Tenderloin district is Blackie’s Bar
and Grill on Leavenworth Street. Foxie Gannon had Sunday breakfast there often, and
held court as "King of the Loin." Today’s breakfast guests were Brother Raymond and
Mr. Tillson from the Alumni Association. Blackie was an ex cop, who had deep black
circles under his eyes, and combed his black hair straight back with greasy hair cream. He
had a tattoo on his right arm of the Marine Corp insignia. Blackie was six feet tall and
weighed about two-sixty pounds. The bar was a dimly lit place that needed to be
disinfected with a blowtorch. There was dirt and cob webs everywhere. When you left
Blackie, you wanted to take a bath. The specialty of the house was chili that looked like it
crawled into the bowl. Foxie had a big bowl before Brother Raymond arrived. Mr. Tillson
arrived early, and had the dubious task of watching his friend from St. Ceclia’s and St.
Nick’s devour a bowl of Blackie’s chili that fought it’s way down into Foxie’s cast iron gut.
Mr. Tillson and Foxie had known each other since first communion.
"Hey, Brother Raymond. Good ta see ya. How ya bin?" asked Foxie as he
swallowed the last bit of chili for the second time.
"Fine, thank you Finnius," said Brother Raymond.
"Please Brother Raymond. It’s Foxie. Even my saintly mother calls me Foxie."
"Sorry, Foxie. Why are we here?’ asked Brother Raymond.
"Well I tell ya, Joe here and you have got concerns about St. Nick’s future and
"I don’t understand?" said Brother Raymond.
"I asked Foxie to help us Brother Raymond," said Jack Tillson.
"I still don’t understand," said a perplexed Brother Raymond.
"The meeting you and I had after you returned from visiting Brother Paul, well, it
seemed that there isn’t much that we can do," said Mr. Tillson.
"What is the purpose of this meeting?" asked Brother Raymond.
"I thought that maybe if Foxie heard something about Brother Justin’s habits,"
said Mr. Tillson.
"I don’t like what Brother Justin is doing at St. Nick’s, but I refuse to become a
merchant of filth. I have no further business here. It is Easter, gentlemen. Let us not
forget what Easter celebrates. Good morning." said Brother Raymond.
Brother Raymond left quickly and avoided touching anything. Jack Tillson looked
at Foxie and asked, "What now?"
"Ya wanta bowl of chili, Jack?"
Mr. Tillson was concerned that he may have alienated Brother Raymond, their
best ally. Brother Raymond walked the ten blocks back to St. Nick’s. He spoke to
himself and questioned God’s wisdom while he walked. When Brother Raymond arrived at
St. Nick’s, he went to the bathroom and washed his hands twice. He dried his hands, but
could still feel the filth of Blackie’s bar and the meeting. When he entered his room, he saw
Brother Philip waiting for him.
“Brother Philip, have you been waiting long?"
“No Brother Raymond, I saw you enter, and remembered that I had received a
letter from Brother Gabriel yesterday. When I opened it today, there was a second letter
addressed to you from Brother Paul."
"Thank you, Brother Philip."
"Should I know what is going on?"
"Brother Philip, I don’t know what’s going on." Brother Raymond began to open
the envelope and Brother Philip started to leave. "Please Brother Philip, stay."
The letter from Brother Paul said that he would use Brother Gabriel as his carrier
and trusted that Brother Philip was worthy of their trust as his carrier. Brother Paul
explained that Brother Albert had overheard their conversation, and would be a formidable
advisory. All of their correspondence would be between Brothers Gabriel and Philip, and
had to be burned. Secrecy and caution had to be used.
The matter had escalated to beyond Brother Justin. It was now the old guard
against the new breed. Brother Thomas had died the Thursday before Easter creating
a vacuum in the power structure at Mount La Salle. He was the mortar that that held
Mount La Salle together all of those years. It upset Brother Raymond that he wasn’t
informed earlier so that he could attend the funeral. Brother Raymond when to the chapel
to pray for guidance and the repose of the soul of Brother Thomas. The circumstances
were beginning to suffocate Brother Raymond. He was a pacifist that now was in the
middle of a battlefield.
The next day Brother Raymond approached Brother Justin and asked, "Why was
I not told about Brother Thomas’ death?"
"I did not think that it was necessary for both of us to go."
"You knew that we were old friends."
"I did brother?" I’m sorry, but I am not aware of your network of elders."
"Out of courtesy Brother James always let all of us know when a colleague died."
"Oh, really. Well I’m not Brother James, am I? Only a foolish man makes
assumptions. Do I make myself clear, Brother Raymond "
Yes, Brother Justin."
"Fine. Now let’s get on with the day at hand."
Brother Raymond began to walk away when…"Oh by the way Brother Raymond.
If you need to go to a retreat again, I would recommend going to St. Mary’s in Moraga.
They have retreats that are quite stimulating about the challenge of Vatican Two. I think
the next lecture is about obedience. I strongly recommend that you go."
"Thank you, Brother Justin. I will give it some thought.
"I recommend that you give it a lot of thought, Brother Raymond. I further
recommend that you give a lot of thought to your role here at St. Nick’s."
Brother Raymond walked away and felt like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene
asking God if it was possible to be spared from the suffering of dying on the cross the
next day. "Father spare me from this task. Let me pass this chalice."
More next week...