St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
It was Monday, the day before Christmas, and Foxie picked up C.J. at his home in
the Geneva district of the city. C.J. didn’t like driving in the city, and preferred to ride as
shotgun. Foxie drove with the belief that the other guy would most likely stop to avoid
hitting a squad car. Foxie’s Law stated that anyone who had a car accident with a cop
was in the wrong, even if the squad car hit the other guy. C.J. did not appreciate the
reckless way Foxie drove, and referred to Foxie as Barney Ohlfield, the Indy 500 winner.
“Slow down, Barney. This is Chinatown. They don’t give a damn if you’re a cop
or God. Jesus Christ, you almost hit that old man.”
“What’a ya mean. I missed him by two inches. I bet he shit his pants.”
The old Chinese man cursed Foxie in Cantonese.
“Screw you, Charlie. God damn chinks don’t respect nothin’.”
They turned left from California to Leavenworth, and left on Eddy Street. It was
the red light district, with all the girly shows and sleazy bars. The Rainbow Room was a
watering hole for pimps, pushers, and assorted losers who lived there from six in the
morning to closing time at two AM. The Hotel Leonard was a flophouse across the street
that rented rooms by the hour. By ten o’clock at night you were banging a used slut in
damp sheets. Chucker’s was a bar down the block owned by a Filipino named Charles
Formaleo, who preferred Chucker. He was the “Queen of the Loin.” Chucker combed his
hair like Little Richard and tied the ends of his shirt in a knot to show off his tummy. He
wore pants that were so tight that he rubbed his legs with baby oil so that he could slide
into them. The Greyhound Bus Depot was on Market near Turk where young boys sold
their bodies in the men’s room. There were no hand towels or rest in the restroom. The
Tenderloin was a swarming anthill of illegal activity ruled by Foxie and C.J. It was seven in
the morning, and the bums were scavenging the garbage left by the bars and diners, trying
to collect breakfast. Foxie always made a tour of the Tenderloin before stopping at
Blackie’s for breakfast. Suddenly he stopped the car.
“What is it, Foxie?” asked C.J.
“Hang loose. Some punk is wearing my sunglasses.”
Foxie got out and followed the boy. He caught up to him at the corner when the
light turned red. The boy saw Foxie and figured Foxie was going to lean on him, so he
ran across the street against the red light. C.J. drove up in the squad car to block him and
Foxie grabbed the boy and said,” Where’d ya get the shades?”
“I found ‘em.”
“Bullshit.” Foxie took the sunglasses from the boy and showed him the initials FG
on the left inside frame. “You got two choices punk, fess up or do time. Stealing from a
cop is at least two years. A sweet young thing like you in jail, your black ass will be red in
a month. What’s it gonna be?”
“I saw ya chasin’ the dude. I saw the glasses, so I took ‘em. I know where the dude
lives. If I tell ya, will you let me go?”
“You better not be shittin’ me, boy.”
“No shit. He lives on Eddy at the Lenox Hotel, second floor.”
“How do you know?”
“I buy dust for my mama. Room 208.”
“How old are you?”
“You go to school?”
“I don’t have time for school. I gota help my mama.”
“How many are there in your family?”
“My two younger sisters, mama and me. My daddy died last year.”
“You can walk, kid. Hey kid, here is five bucks. Buy some food for your sisters
and mom. Don’t be spendin’ it on drugs or booze. If I find out this dude ain’t at the
Hotel Lenox, I’m coming for ya. You dig, kid?”
The boy walked away and occasionally glanced back to see if Foxie was still
The boy stopped and turned. Foxie threw the shades at him. The boy caught
the sunglasses, and looked bewildered. “Gee, thanks.” He smiled and ran away.
“He ain’t going to buy food, Foxie,” said C.J.
“Maybe he will.”
It was Christmas Eve, and Lupe had to work until six o’clock. People were still
running around doing last minute shopping. The Salvation Army no longer played with the
energy they had two weeks ago. Christmas was quickly coming and soon a New Year
would begin—1964. Jim waited outside of City of Paris for Lupe, and a few minutes after
six Lupe greeted Jim with her bone crunching I missed you hug-- crunch.
“Let me carry that for you, Angel.”
“I bought sweaters for your mom and dad for Christmas. I hope they like them.”
“I’m sure they will. Are you hungry?”
“Yes. I could go for a big bowl of calm chowder and hot French bread with butter.
Can we go to the wharf?”
They walked to the Stockton St. tunnel and took the bus to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Ristoni worked at Allioto’s Fish Market and Grotto. Jim and Lupe walked in, and Jim
waved at Ristoni.
“Hey, Indian, what’a ya have?”
“Hey, Bruiser, we’ll have two bowls of clam chowder with French bread. This is
my lady, Lupe.”
“Nice to meet you Bruiser.”
Ristoni laughed. “Nice to meet you Lupe.”
“Angel, his name is Steve Ristoni. He’s a linebacker. We call him Bruiser.
“Why did he call you Indian?”
“My face gets red and I get a little emotional out there.”
“ Stuff happens out there.”
Ristoni brought two large bowls of clam chowder with hot sourdough French
bread and butter.
“Why didn’t you call him Bruiser?”
“Because our football days are over, Angel. That’s the past now.”
Ristoni charged them for small bowls. Lupe and Jim enjoyed the view of the
wharf and watched the fishing boats. The chowder was good, and Jim was with his
special lady. When they finished they walked to Ghirardelli Square and watched
chocolate being made.
They took the bus home and arrived at Jim’s parents' home at ten o’clock. Rosa
had arrived a few minutes before them. Mary offered hot Tom and Jerry’s with almond
“These cookies are so good, Mary,” said Rosa.
“I must have the recipe.”
Lupe’s face started to get red from the brandy in her drink. “Wow, it’s not like
drinking hot cocoa,” she said.
They talked about how fast the year had passed. It was eleven o’clock, and time
for all to leave for midnight mass at St. James, a High Mass that began at eleven thirty and
lasted until one in the morning. They were one family now.
Foxie and C.J. parked the squad car in the alley. C.J. would cover the alley while
Foxie crashed the front. Both men were out of uniform. It was a roust. Foxie walked
up the stairs of the Hotel Lenox to the second floor. A drunk had fallen asleep in his
vomit in the doorway. Foxie unscrewed the light bulb in the hallway and approached
Room 208 with his flashlight on. He leaned against the door and heard moaning, like they
were having sex. Foxie kicked the door open, pointed the flashlight at the surprised couple
with his left hand, and with his right pointed his .38 Special at them.
“What the fuck!” said the drug dealer as he rolled over to see who had busted in.
“Merry fuckin’ Christmas, asshole. You remember me,” said Foxie.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m the guy that’s gonna get a piece of your ass every time you deal. This is my
turf, and if you deal, you pay to play.”
“So you’re the man.”
“Ya, I’m the man. Nice tits, sweetheart.”
“Fuck you,” said the white whore.
“Some day you will. Hey C.J. ”
C.J. came in and handcuffed the dude. “Hey, man, what the fucks going on?”
“Get your clothes on, whore, and fuck off,” said C.J.
“Go to hell,” she replied sarcastically.
“Is that all you can say, doll? Can you say Merry Christmas?” asked Foxie.
“Fuck you, asshole,” replied the whore.
C.J., I think she has a problem.”
“Yeah.” C.J. took the whore’s clothes and threw them out the window. “Fuck
you, bitch,” said C.J. and threw her out of the room and slammed the door.
The whore pounded on the door and yelled, “You ugly mother fucker.”
It was a mistake calling C.J. ugly. He opened the door, grabbed the whore, and
slapped her. She fell to the floor. C.J. gabbed her by the hair and slapped her again.
She hit the floor and lay there with her mouth bleeding.
“Look asshole, it’s Christmas, and you can keep your fuckin’ drugs. I want
your cash. All of it. Every Monday I’m gonna look for you, and you better come across,”
“I figure a $150 a week is fair.”
“Say what? That’s almost half.”
“Well, you’re gonna have to hustle that much more, dude.”
“You wanta see bullshit? You wanta see a cell tonight? Are you a dumb son of a
bitch? If you want those cuffs off, tell me where your stash is.”
“Okay. It’s in a can of Crisco in the refrigerator.”
C.J. got the can of lard, opened it, and stuck his hand in. Halfway down there
was a plastic bag with cash. C.J. wiped his hand with a towel on the kitchen table.
“I’m starting to think you’re smarter than you look. You got about two grand here,
dude. It’s Christmas so I’ll just take half. Next Monday meet me at the Rainbow Room
at nine A.M., and be there with the cash. Now, from time to time I might need your help,
and if you do right, I‘ll do right with you. You dig?”
C.J. removed the handcuffs. “On behalf of the South of Market Street Boys Club
we thank you for the generous donation. Did you think I would forget it’s Christmas?”
Foxie and C.J. left the flat, and drove off into the night. The whore walked back
into the room. The naked couple stared at each other. “You owe me twenty bucks,”
said the whore.
‘For what? Get the fuck out.” The black man threw the naked whore out, and
slammed the door. It was minutes before midnight, Christmas Eve, and she stood in the
hall naked, bleeding, and cold. She began to cry and walked downstairs to get her
clothes in the alley. They were damp from the fog and dirty from the street. She
reached into her dress pocket and pulled out a tiny plastic bag of cocaine that she had
stole. At least she had something for her effort.
Father Felix was flanked by two altar boys as they began the procession down
the aisle from the vestibule. They wore green gowns with gold trim. Father Felix was
carrying a brass crucible with a chain containing burning incense. He swung the
crucible allowing the smoke to sanctify the church for the coming of the Holy Ghost.
The organist began to play Mendelssohn’s the Messiah and the choir in the balcony began
to sing. The congregation stood and waited for Father Felix to approach the altar. Then
he gave the crucible to the altar boy on his left side who put it on the rack at the side of the
altar. Father Felix genuflected in front of the tabernacle and bowed his head. He rose
and greeted the congregation in Latin, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation
responded, “And with you.” Father continued and said the Act of Contrition in Latin, “Let
us recall our sins. Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offending thee.....” Lupe
held Jim’s hand. Jim’s parents stood at his side and Rosa stood by Lupe. They knelt,
and asked God for forgiveness.
A High Mass has more readings from the Old Testament celebrating the birth of
Christ. Soon the Offertory passed to the Consecration, and then to the Communion. They
joined others who walked to the altar, and received the body of Christ and sanctifying
grace. Father Felix held the host with both hands and raised it upward. He then said in
Latin, “Oh Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Jim
was an altar boy for five years, and by instinct he began to reply in Latin as he walked with
Lupe to the front of the altar. The altar boy looked stoic and stood at the right side of
Father Felix with a gold tray that he put under the chin of each person receiving
Communion. The Priest said in Latin, ”The body of Christ.”
The Mass ended with the organist playing “Silent Night,” and the choir and the
congregation joined in singing. They left the church filled with the grace of God and the
Christmas spirit. It was one thirty in the morning, and they went to Rosa’s apartment to
enjoy hot coffee and Mexican cookies. They exchanged gifts that would be opened the
next day prior to dinner. Jim and his parents finished their coffee. Jim said good night to
his Angel. They hugged, and Lupe gave Jim one of her patented passionate kisses. Jim’s
warm breath met the cold night air and created steam. They said good night to Lupe and
Rosa, and left.
It was one thirty in the morning and everyone was asleep. Foxie looked into the
refrigerator and saw two slices of pepperoni pizza. He grabbed the dish a can of Coors,
and sat at the table and said, “Cold pizza and a beer. Merry Christmas, Foxie.” and he
toasted himself. Foxie felt good about giving the Boys Club the money he had taken from
the drug dealer. Now the Boys Club could fix the roof.
It was Christmas morning, and the coroner had tagged and bagged a Jane Doe.
The whore who Foxie and C.J. had rousted last night had shot up the cocaine, and had
bought a one way ride to the other side. The newspaper boy was delivering the Sunday
paper, and the low life of the Tenderloin began to crawl out of their holes, trying to face
another day in the forgotten part of the city.
More next week...