‘The Best Damn Job in the Whole Damn World’

Roger EbertRoger Ebert is still hanging on (after surviving salivary gland cancer and having his jaw removed), and in his online journal over at the Chicago Sun-Times, he recounts a pretty hilarious story about innocence, legendary columnist Mike Royko, and the eye-opener place:

At about 8 p.m. on New Year’s Day of 1967, only two lights on the floor were burning–mine, and Royko’s. It was too early for the graveyard shift to come in. Royko walked over to see who else was working. A historic snowstorm was beginning. He asked me how I was getting home. I said I’d take the train. He said he had his old man’s Checker car and would drop me at a train station. He had to make a stop at a 24-hour drugstore right where the L crossed North Avenue.

The pharmacist was backed up. “Come on, kid,” Royko said. “Let’s have a drink at the eye-opener place.” It was a bar under the tracks so cramped the bartender could serve everyone without leaving his stool. “Two blackberry brandies and short beers,” he said. He told me, “Blackberry brandy is good for hangovers. You never get charged for a beer chaser.” I sipped the brandy, and a warm place began to glow in my stomach. I had been in Chicago four months and I was sitting under the L tracks with Mike Royko in an eye-opener place. A Blackhawks game was playing on WGN radio. The team scored, and again, and again. This at last was life.

“The Blackhawks are really hot tonight,” I observed to Royko.

He studied me. “Where you from, kid? Downstate?”

“Urbana,” I said.

“Ever seen a hockey game?”

“No.”

“That’s what I thought, you asshole. Those are the game highlights.”



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