St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
It was Monday, December 10th, and Jim arrived at 9:00 PM at City of Paris to
accompany Lupe home. She greeted him with her glad to see you hug, which was not as
bone crunching as her I miss you hug. Across the street was Joseph Magnin’s with a
display of an electric train circling expensive fur coats. The Salvation Army Band was
playing Christmas songs on the corner at Macy’s. It was cold and everyone moved
quickly from store to store. Lupe and Jim walked by Woolworth’s and the smell of roasted
peanuts was tempting. They got on the J Church, and Lupe snuggled close to Jim for
warmth. The trolley traveled alone Market Street, then turned left onto Church Street, and
wound through the backyards where laundry was hanging on clotheslines. They got off at
Dolores Park and walked up Liberty Street to Lupe’s apartment. Rosa greeted them with
cups of hot chocolate.
“It’s really cold tonight,” said Lupe. “This hot chocolate sure hits the spot.”
“The wind makes it colder. Are you going to cook for the elderly ladies like last
year, Rosa?” asked Jim.
“They enjoyed it very much last year. I was thinking of cooking again for them,”
“I’ll get beef sirloin and barbecue it for the ladies. When we go to Watsonville I
would like to bring something,” said Jim.
“They prefer chicken or pork,” said Rosa.
“I’ll bring both. You should have seen Lupe today. A lady wanted to buy a dress
and she asked Lupe to model it. The lady bought the dress for her daughter, but it only
looks good on Lupe.”
“It was an expensive dress made by an Italian designer, Oleg Casini,” said Lupe.
“He is the one who make all of Jacqueline Kennedy’s fashions, said Rosa.
“You looked real good, Angel.”
“Tomorrow we'll go to the United Grocer’s warehouse to get cans of fruit and
vegetables. Are you going to join us tomorrow?” asked Rosa.
Catholic Charities gave food, clothing, and shelter to anyone in need. St. James
parish was in the Mexican neighborhood with several households trying to raise their
families with meager wages, and went to Church to thank God for what little they had.
Father Felix knew who was in need, and organized collecting food from Safeway and
United Grocers. Every October he organized a coat collection for the poor. He gave
Thanksgiving dinners to the poor and at Christmas gave a party with toys for the children.
Father Felix never gave a sermon about donating money, rather he talked about helping
one another. They were a community of Christians, whereas St. Philip’s was a very
different parish with Irish and Italian, who were skilled blue-collar workers or worked for
the city. They owned homes and new cars, and were not sensitive to the needs of the
poor. Jim didn’t think about the poor before he met Lupe. They were faceless people who
were recognized only between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was a joy that money
couldn’t buy when helping others who truly appreciated the gift. It amazed Jim with all of
the food in this country how so many could be starving. He started to notice the food
casually discarded in restaurants, the fruits and vegetables that were thrown away at
Safeway, because the price was too high or too much had been bought. Before Jim met
Lupe he was consumed with his needs, but now he saw a broad view of the world and
wanted to help those in need.
It was Saturday, December 22, and Lupe was excited because it was the spring
fashion show at City of Paris with designers from Rome, Paris and New York for the
fashion buyers from Seattle to San Diego. The designers would take orders from the
buyers at the show and get ready for the spring season in March. It was special for Lupe
because each store in San Francisco sent one model to represent their store. Jim told
Lupe that she made the all-city team. Most of the models were white, tall, and slender with
blonde hair. City of Paris was putting their stamp of approval on Lupe and making a
statement, as well as Joseph Magnin’s with a beautiful black lady as their model. Jim was
very proud of Lupe.
Jim hadn’t seen Rudy’s partner, Jerry, since last summer, and was surprised to see
that Jerry had lost weight and his skin color was grayish. Jerry looked sickly and frail and
excused himself to go to the bathroom. Rudy helped Jerry as he took each painful step
walking to the men's room. When Rudy returned with Jerry, Jim approached Rudy and
said, “Jerry has lost a lot of weight.”
“Yes, Jerry has lost twenty-seven pounds and weighs 133. He couldn't find a
doctor who would treat him at first, because there’s a fear that homosexual men either
have herpes or a unique sickness.”
“Does he have cancer?”
“No. Since he became sick his immune system doesn't fight back, and he’s not
getting well. The doctors are scared to treat homosexual men for fear of getting what they
might have. I had to take Jerry to the County Health Department for treatment. They don’t
know much about his condition. He’s losing hope.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m devastated by this. I’m losing weight and don’t have the energy I once had. I
most likely have what he has from loving him. They can’t test or cure us of something they
don’t know about. The county health services are trying various treatments. Some
treatments make Jerry very sick. It seems that only fags have this disease. Life is so
Rudy paused and wiped the tears from his eyes with his dainty white handkerchief
with red roses.
“I really appreciate life now, what little there is left. At first I felt betrayed, but then
I realized that he needs me to take care of him now. My fear is who will take care of me
when it’s my time?”
Rudy paused again. “I’m sorry.”
“There is no cure for what we have. Our lives are over. I’m so hurt. We have no
one to turn to. Since our friends have found out about our condition, we are no longer
Rudy went to the men's room to check Jerry. They returned and Jerry was tired.
Rudy helped him to a chair. Jerry slumped into the chair and watched the fashion show.
Rudy couldn’t concentrate on the show and twice attended Jerry who had fallen asleep
and slumped into the chair.
Rudy began to tell the story, “Jerry met a Jamaican at the Safeway in the Marina,
an upscale part of the city near Fort Mason. The store was a meeting place to pick up
lovers. The Jamaican man was so dark and had great muscle tone, he fascinated Jerry. I
was very trusting of Jerry, and now I will have to pay the price. The Jamaican man
introduced Jerry to poppers, an aerosol can that is inhaled, and it stimulates your sex
drive. The Jamaican man was a flight attendant for Air Canada, and he had encountered
several men around the world. Jerry told me that he had never met anyone with the
stamina and energy the Jamaican possessed. Jerry also spoke of a professional football
player he met at the Sutro Baths by the Cliff House, and described the powerful way he
loved. Then Jerry noticed black spots on the bottom of his feet, and sores on his back and
chest that never heeled, just festered. Now that Jerry is dying he has told me of his
indiscretions while we were partners. At first I felt betrayed, but now I accept fate.”
Jim was not aware of the underworld that homosexual men inhabited and that they
were vulnerable prey. The fashion show was ending, and the audience was applauding
the models and the sponsors as they each took one last walk on the stage. The black girl
from John Magnin’s received the most applause because she was very graceful and put
the most energy into her presentation. Jim waited for Lupe and told her she looked great.
They waved to Rudy as he helped Jerry walk to the exit. Jim explained to Lupe that Jerry
was weak from an illness.
Lupe talked about the fashion show all the way home, but Jim couldn't stop thinking
about the situation that Rudy had fallen into. Jim continued to wonder why only fags were
afflicted. Throughout history people had always been sexually active. Why now? Why
only them? Rudy said that it was no coincidence that only fags were afflicted, and
believed that there was a conspiracy. What bothered Jim more was that Rudy believed
that John Kennedy’s death was a conspiracy. It seemed too convenient that the lone
gunman was conveniently killed.
Lupe nudged Jim. “You’re not paying attention.”
“Sorry, Angel. I was thinking about Rudy’s friend Jerry, and how quickly his health
“It really bothers you.”
“I’m sorry. Please start again and tell me about the show.”
“Why does it bother you?”
“Because it seems so unfair that only homosexual men suffer from a disease that
has no cure.”
“What do they have?”
“The Doctors don’t know, Angel. Only queers get it and never get well. Then they
slowly rot and die.”
Lupe began telling the events of the show, and Jim tried like hell to concentrate, but
he kept on seeing the look of tragedy in Rudy’s hollow eyes. Soon the J Church trolley
stopped at Liberty Street, and they got off, and walked up the hill to Lupe’s apartment.
Rosa had left a note and she had cooked rice with pork and vegetables with chili. She
would be home at eight . Lupe wondered if her mother understood what she and Jim were
doing with their spare time. Rosa was spending more time with her elderly lady friend. “I
hope her friend isn’t sick.” said a concerned Lupe.
Jim was eager to love Lupe, and she needed fulfillment more often. When they
finished, Lupe rested her head on Jim's chest and hugged him. He massaged her back.
“I don’t understand how this can be a sin when two people are in love,” said Lupe.
“Love is never a sin.”
“It violates the Church teachings.”
“Those are laws written by men who have never experienced what you and I have.
How could they know what is right or wrong when in love. I read a poem at the used
bookstore on Haight Street while waiting for the bus. It was written by a local poet in the
underground press. Now I know what is meant by ‘until you lay naked by my side’ in the
“What does it mean?”
We hide in clothing, shielding who we are. When we lay naked, there is nothing to
hide. You have knowledge of me. That’s why they say carnal knowledge, having the
experience, knowing you intimately.”
Lupe rolled over and said, ”Love me again.” She rubbed against him and he
became erect. He positioned himself on top and entered her. Her passion was stimulating
and Jim fulfilled her. She rested for a moment, then spread her legs and told Jim,” I want
you to finish.” She held Jim and admired him as he loved her.
Then they bathed and had dinner. A hour later Rosa arrived and talked about her
visit with Mrs. Lopez. Rosa knew what they were doing. She was young once and
understood what passionate love was like. She noticed the extra bath towel when doing
the laundry, and that the shower was damp on Saturday afternoons. Rosa hoped that
they loved safely.
It was Sunday, December 23, and Foxie Gannon was going to Blackie’s for a bowl
of chili and a beer for breakfast. He turned onto O’Farrell Street and was distracted by the
activity on the corner. A new face was dealing on his turf., so he parked the patrol car and
observed a black man in his early twenties selling drugs. Foxie was a firm believer in the
free enterprise system, as long as he got his juice. He had seen enough and approached
the black man to introduce himself. When the brother saw Foxie he began to run. Foxie
chased him for a block, but when he turned the corner the black man had disappeared into
the cracks of the Tenderloin.
Foxie yelled, “Next time, punk. Next time your ass is mine. God damn blood.”
A small crowd gathered and watched the frustrated cop vent his anger.
Foxie stared at the crowd. “What the hell you looking at?”
The crowd began to disperse. Foxie walked back to the patrol car and discovered
that his favorite pair of sunglasses had been stolen. “Son of a bitch. God damn it. That
was my best pair of sunglasses.”
Foxie walked to Blackie’s. He entered, greeted Blackie, and sat at his spot: at
the end of the counter. “Hey Blackie, how’s ‘bout a bowl of the good stuff and a chaser?”
“Coming up,” said Blackie.
Blackie served a bowl of chili with extra crackers and a bottle of Coors.
“This mornings been a real pisser. I was going to roust a blood dealing drugs, and
the son of a bitch ducks me. I go back to the squad car and my favorite pair of sunglasses
is lifted. Some punk had the balls to rob a cop. Christ, ain’t there no respect no more?”
“That’s the shits,” said Blackie.
One by one Foxie crushed a bag of crackers, opened it, and sprinkled the
contents on the chili. He got a bottle of catsup, turned it upside down and hit the bottle
twice, leaving two splats of catsup on top of the crackers. Then he got a bottle of
Tabasco sauce and shook it seven times. He mixed the ingredients, and spooned the
chili into his mouth quickly so that the chili could not escape back into the bowl. He
stopped for air and a gulp of beer occasionally. Blackie watched in amazement as
Foxie methodically devoured the chili. Blackie described it as watching a boa
constrictor crush and swallow a deer. Blackie timed Foxie, and if Foxie could down a bowl
of chili and a beer in less than a minute it was on the house. Foxie’s best time was a
minute seven seconds. When Foxie finished the last spoonful he threw the spoon in the
bowl and said, “No prisoners.”
“A minute three seconds. A new world record,” said Blackie.
Foxie sat back in the stool and caught his breath. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. A minute three seconds.”
Foxie sat slumped in the stool realizing that he was a mere four seconds from
immortality. “Just four seconds. Shit.” Foxie’s eyes widened and he sat up. He started
to lean forward. He extended his arms horizontally and began to bow his head when,
brooooot. “God damn, that felt good.” Foxie had belched and all was well once again.
“Catch ya later, Blackie.”
Brother Raymond sat alone in the chapel at St. Nick’s and prayed for guidance.
He had read the latest letter from Brother Paul that Brother Albert had submitted Brother
Justin’s name to the regents for consideration as a replacement for Brother Thomas, who
had passed away. Brother Justin would vote with the new breed and they would have a
majority by one vote. Brother Justin would have more authority as a regent. Brother
Raymond felt betrayed. Why was he chosen to lead the challenge against Brother Justin?
His days were now numbered as vice president at St. Nick’s. He would have to transfer to
another high school during the summer . He felt like Abraham’s son lying on the altar
waiting to be sacrificed for the glory of God. Brother Raymond lit a candle and knelt at the
altar. He hung his head and prayed. An hour passed and the flickering flame was
extinguished, leaving a trail of smoke that ascended. He believed that God would guide
him to do what was best, and that he would be God's instrument. He felt reassured that it
was out of his control now, and in the hands of God. He hoped his prayers would arrive in
time to beseech the heavenly Father, but feared that his prayers would fall off target. The
smoke from the candle had dissipated and it was time to retire for the evening. Brother
Raymond got up to leave and noticed a second flicker of smoke rising from the
extinguished candle, twisting upward, not in a steady stream as before. Was this a sign?
Brother Raymond left the chapel and walked to his room. The door closed and the light
was turned off. He lay in darkness waiting for the arrival the next day.
More next week...