Monday, October 24, 2016

Victory, Oh Sweet Victory!

The Cubs are going to the World Series,
something they hadn't done in 71 years
Forget Trump, forget Clinton
When you wanna talk about victories
Jump right in and let out your cheers

The Cubs are an awesome group, proven right
- a solid team indeed
Throughout 2016, during both day and night
-the Cubs taking the lead
On the mound Arietta, Lester and Hendricks
curve balls, fast balls killing the opposition
While Baez, Rizzo and Russell... full of hustle
on the field, performing their mighty tricks 

The Cubs are gonna win the World Series
something they hadn't done since 1908
Put on your blue hats and blue jerseys
Oh yes, it's our time to celebrate

Rick J. Fico (2016)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Killed In The Line of Duty.

(From my memoirs)

The year was 1990 and this was the first year of the Las Vegas Mega-Resort.

The Mirage with its resident entertainers Siegfried and Roy, along with their White Bengal tigers was a place to go as were all the other points of interest I had been hearing about but never really had the desire to go and see for myself.

Maybe I was turned off by Las Vegas because of its reputation as a gambling mecca. Maybe because it was the place I was so excited about moving to when I was eight years old after my mother’s cousin encouraged my father that Las Vegas was the place for a man to stake his claim in the burgeoning casino industry.

Cousin Bob told my father, “Vince, with your bar-tending experience and mathematical aptitude you could make yourself a very decent living for you and your family.” It never panned out though. My father’s bartender experience and mathematical aptitude led him to drink up his earnings while neglecting the bills that were piling up at home.

And by the time I was ten years old, my dad’s bartender skills impressed one of his female customers so much that she fell in love with him as I suppose he did with her. His mathematical aptitude suffered greatly after he left his family on Thanksgiving Day of my tenth year. The subtraction of five people who loved him and depended on him didn’t fit into his equation as he left for Florida with his new love interest.

But now, I was becoming a changed man and the sour taste I had for Las Vegas was sweetened up a bit by the idea of an inexpensive getaway to a place where the sun was promised to shine endlessly and the wine flowed freely. In some ways, I was becoming a lot like my father. With my own mathematical aptitude and philosophical approach as well as an insatiable appetite for anything that contained alcohol, Las Vegas was a great idea. “And Ricky, wait to you see the showgirls there.” It didn’t take me too much effort to book a four-night vacation in glitzy Vegas.

May 6, 1990 the morning of my departure I awoke to the Chicago sun, blazing in through my easterly window. I went over to close the blinds and in doing so, noticed a few squad cars at the corner of Laramie and Fullerton, near the drug store and next to the bus stop where I would catch my first bus that would take me to O'Hare International Airport.  Hmm, I wonder what’s going on?’ I hadn’t time to ponder too much; I had to get a quick shower and a shave.

I got to the bus stop and noticed the big plate glass window of the drug store gone. Two Chicago police officers remained on the scene until a crew came out to board up the window. One policeman, he was rather hefty, a jolly looking man with a red face. The other cop, smaller in frame,  for some odd reason he reminded me of Barney Fife, but a more rotund Barny Fife. I asked,

"What happened?"

"The drug store was broken into early this morning," said the heftier officer, lighting up a smoke. "Whoever broke in, got away with a helluva lot of drugs. That part of the store had been ransacked."

"Destroyed," interjected the other cop. "By the way, do you live around here?" he asked.

I set my suitcase down. "Yes, right there," I said as I pointed to the apartment building a half block down the street.

"Did you happen to see or hear anything, say, about four or five this morning?" the other cop asked, flipping his cigarette to the ground, then stomping on it.

I thought about it for a moment and realizing that I was sound asleep about that time with the window closed I knew I couldn't have possibly heard a thing except maybe my cat chasing a ball around.

"No, I'm sorry, I hadn't heard a thing," I said.

I could see that they were staring intently at my suitcase. Considering the circumstances I’m sure they were probably a bit suspicious of the contents. For all they knew I could’ve been the perpetrator and the suitcase was actually full of prescription drugs instead of my three pair of shorts, two dress shirts and three pairs of pants. Oh, and a few pairs of socks plus my toiletries.

“So, it looks like you’re going on vacation,” the bigger cop said, now smiling.

“Yeah, I am,” I answered. The tension was broken; I was no longer a suspect, thank goodness. I felt more at ease. “I’m going to Las Vegas, my first time.”

Really?” he said, pulling another cigarette out of his shirt pocket. “Just be careful and have some fun,” he added, lighting up his cigarette. He took a long draw off it and blew out an enormous white cloud of smoke. “Well, I wish you lots of luck.”

“Yeah, me too,” said the other officer. “And if you get a chance, go see Hoover Dam. It’s an engineering masterpiece.”

“I’ll try to do that,” I said. Coming down the street was my bus. I was becoming more excited. I can’t wait to get to Vegas. “Well, here comes my bus.” I picked up my suitcase and walked toward the bus stop sign. “Well, it was nice meeting you two. I hope you find whoever was responsible for this break-in.”

“Oh, we will,” said the bigger cop. “Remember, win lots of money and think of us while you’re sitting poolside.”

“I will,” I said. The bus pulled up, the door opened. I climbed aboard and deposited my dollar-fifty in the fare box. As the bus pulled away, the two police officers were standing away from the curb, waving and smiling. Those guys were two of the nicest police officers I had ever met. I wish more were like them. I took my seat and closed my eyes. As the bus bounced down the big city street my mind turned a hard corner and suddenly I was taken to a darker time, a perilous place. I was thirteen years old. Alone, I stood against the world.

The shopping cart is heavy, full of pop bottles, occasionally the wheels get stuck in the cracks and clefts of the alley, causing strain and tear on my young, weakened muscles. I push hard though, I must make it to the Jewel Food Store to exchange the pop bottles for the deposit money; money that I’d use to buy macaroni, cans of tuna and jars of peanut butter and jelly – stuff that would save Wendy and me from dying of starvation. I hope she’s okay. I hope her Cindy Doll is comforting her while I’m on my mission. I hear a car; it’s behind me. Chills run down my spine. I pull the cart to the side, crash into a garbage can. Suddenly, I hear walkie-talkies – the distinct sound of static and transmitted voices. I become paralyzed.

Two doors open. The blare from reports of crime-infested activity becomes louder. Heavy footsteps follow. I slowly turn my head. Two blue men with their hands on their holsters are approaching. I struggle hard to become disentangled from both fear and hunger but I can’t move. I close my eyes, fearing the worst. Suddenly, a heavy object strikes my shoulder, pushes me down hard to the ground.

“Don’t you move, you low-life piece of scum.” And then, a heavy foot presses hard against my back, the smell of shoeshine polish and leather penetrates my nostrils. I feel like I’m going to vomit but there’s nothing in my stomach so instead I choke, now knowing that soon my life will be over.

“Where did you throw that bag of dope?”

I struggle hard to answer. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, officer. I didn’t have any bag of dope.”

“Don’t get smart with me, you fucking piece of shit. We saw you run and throw it as we were coming down the alley.”

I try to turn my head so that I could look up. But his foot changes position and moves up my spine to my neck. He puts all his weight down. I’m starting to choke again, nearing convulsions. Goodbye Mother. Goodbye Father wherever you are and goodbye Trish and Lenny and Wendy. I love you all.

By Rick J. Fico

(On May 13, 1990 Officer Raymond Kilroy and Officer Gregory Hauser - the two officers who I met at the bus stop one week earlier were both killed in the line of duty. Why? I asked. The two nicest cops I ever met. Not like those two cops who I encountered when I was so young, so very young.)

In memory: Police Officer Raymond C. Kilroy & Police Officer Gregory A. Hauser

Friday, January 22, 2016

Deliverance - Doing Good For Goodness Sake

Following was published in the book "Doing Good for Goodness' Sake: Heartwarming Stories and Inspiring Ideas to Help You Help Others."  I wrote this story after helping a Japanese couple visiting the United States for the first time who I met while working as a pizza delivery driver for Papa John's in Las Vegas.

If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers,
it shows that he is a citizen of the world,
and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands,
but a continent that joins to them.
~Francis Bacon~

Living the life of a pizza deliveryman, I'd often find reason to rejoice. More than the occasional $5 or $10 tip were the smiles of the children waiting at the door, and every once in a while, the unexpected.

I had just pulled into the busy parking lot after a string of deliveries. As I neared the pizza parlor I saw two people running toward me. A man and a woman, Asian looking, carrying big shopping bags emblazoned with the logo from one of the clothing stores that helped to anchor the strip mall. I turned into my parking space, a few rows back from the pizza parlor. I put the car in park and looked up. There they were, smiling, looking relieved.

All of a sudden, the back door of my car opened. I turned around. The couple had jumped into the backseat of my car. At first, I was confused as to why they would jump into a pizza delivery car; after all, it was evident from the sign on the top of the car that read "PIZZA" in large bold letters. Then, it made sense. They couldn't read English; they saw the car-topper and thought I was a taxi. That had to be it.

I got out of the car. They looked bewildered and followed. I pointed to the pizza parlor. They realized their mistake. Obviously embarrassed, they laughed nervously and walked briskly away. I went back into the store, thinking little of it.

A few minutes later, I stepped outside and noticed the same couple, across from me, looking like they were waiting for something. The woman walked away and a few seconds later she returned. I heard the phone ringing and took the call. A pickup. "Pie on screen," I told my coworker.

I went to the front window and looked out. Again, the woman walked away, the man shaking his head. A minute passed, the woman returned, now shaking her head. That's it, I must find out what's going on.

"I'll be right back," I told my co-worker.

Before I approached, the woman had walked away again. The man looked exasperated. I looked toward the Starbucks. The public phones, I thought. That's where the woman went. She returned.

"No taxi come," she said tearfully in what was obviously the few words that she knew in English.

I noticed a card in her hand. "Can I see?" I asked.

She handed it to me. It was from North Las Vegas Cab, miles and miles from where we were.

I had my cell phone and called the number. Busy signal. Tried again. Busy signal. I looked up at the couple; they looked exhausted, defeated.

"What country are you from?" I asked.

"Japan," the woman answered.

"Where are you staying?"

She looked at me, confused. "No understand."


She nodded sheepishly. She opened her purse, pulled out another card.

"Ah, the Mandalay Bay . . . nice hotel," I replied. "How long have you been in Las Vegas?"

"Three day," the woman said, smiling. "First time, America."

I wish that I could take them to their hotel, I thought. But it was too far and I'm sure my boss wouldn't go for it. I was the only delivery guy. What I needed to do was to call another taxi service, one closer. There was a phone book in the pizza store. I motioned for the couple to follow me.

"Rest your legs," I said pointing to the chairs in the waiting area. They smiled and sat, relieved. They were exhausted and maybe hungry too.

I went around the counter and pulled out the phone book. I found the right number and dialed. "Where to?" said the dispatcher.

"Mandalay Bay."

"About twenty minutes," was the reply.

I related this to the woman who, in turn, relayed it in her Japanese to her husband. He nodded a sigh of relief.

I went around the counter back to the pick-up area. "Are you hungry?" I asked them, pointing up toward the big pizza sign.

"Yes, yes, yes," the woman answered.

"Would you like a pizza?"

The woman looked at the man, said something in Japanese. He smiled a very big smile.

"Yes, yes . . . cheese, cheese," the woman answered.

I put together a large cheese pizza, and slipped it into the oven.

"Six minutes," I said to the couple.

And then I asked them if they were thirsty.

"Yes, cola," the woman replied.

I pulled two 20-ounce bottles from the cooler, a few napkins, and two paper plates and handed them to my new friends. The woman rose, bowed slightly, and opened her purse. She pulled out a wad of American dollars of various denominations.

"No, no," I said. "On me."

She insisted. Again, I refused. "Please, pizza's on me. No charge."

She smiled, sat down.

When the pizza was ready, I sliced and boxed it before handing it to the Japanese couple.

The man drew a camera from his pocket. He took a picture of the pizza box and then had his wife pose with the two plates. Then, he gestured for me to stand with his wife, and he took another picture.

The man opened the box, and with the hot steam rising, he took a deep breath and exhaled with a smile.

"Good, good, good," the woman said. And then she set her plate down and opened her purse. She pulled out a little notebook, rose and handed it to me.

"You write address."

I wrote it down and then a few minutes later, the cab arrived and the driver came in.

"Somebody call a cab?"

"Yes, please take my friends visiting from Japan to the Mandalay. They're tired. You know, they came over here to do some serious shopping."

He smiled.

Two weeks later, I received a package. Inside was a beautiful Japanese card inscribed within: "We have heard about American hospitality but it was our first time to experienced it." Beneath the card was a beautiful tin containing an assortment of Japanese crackers, cookies. A few weeks before Christmas, it was the perfect gift.
Interior of card from my New friends

By: Rick J. Fico

Doing Good

Help a Traveler or Tourist

· At or near popular tourist destinations, if you see someone reading a map, offer your assistance.
· Look out for confused travelers on the subway, train, or bus. Ask if they need help.
· Offer to carry heavy luggage, especially getting on and off transportation.
· Help people who might need exact change for trains and buses.
· If a traveler is stranded and needs to place a phone call, offer to do it for them on your cell phone.
· If you know their language, assist in interpretation.
· Volunteer to take a photo for a group so that everyone may be included.
· Make recommendations to help tourists find favorite local restaurants, beaches, hikes, grocery stores, pharmacies, or accommodations.
· Be a tourist's guide for the day, and show them around your town.
· When someone you know is traveling, leave a kind note in their luggage.
· Buy a small souvenir for a tourist to take home with them.

Excerpted from Doing Good for Goodness' Sake: Heartwarming Stories and Inspiring Ideas to Help You Help Others by Steve Zikman (Inner Ocean Publishing). No portion of this material may be used, copied, transmitted, distributed or sent electronically, or by any other means, either in whole or in part, without the express written permission of the author. All rights reserved, Steve Zikman, 2004
"It's called Friendship because it is not only the vessel that Unites Nations but also transports Hope, Understanding and Goodwill around the World" 
By: Rick J. Fico

(More of My Quotes - see Linkin' Monuments)