Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bucks to the Bookie


Back in the 1960s and 70s you may remember a lady named Nell Rose English.  She was a singer/pianist who performed at a piano bar on North Acadian Thruway near Choctaw Dr.  I don't remember the name of the bar, but this anecdote has more to deal with this bar's notoriety rather than its evening performers.

One day my wife, Gloria, was going out to the car and I asked "Where are you going?"  She said that she was going over to the ???Piano Bar to pay off a gambling debt for her brother, Tommy.  SAY WHAT!!!  No way.  I said "Honey, let's talk about this before you go gallivanting over there."  She said "Tommy gave me this $300 and asked that I go pay it for him. That's all!"  I said "No, that's not all.  Why isn't he going himself?"  She said that he was out in the Gulf shrimping and that that debt was overdue and expected to get paid.  

I then said "You are not going over there.  I'll deliver the bucks to the bookie."  She was relieved and gladly handed the money over to me. 

It was Saturday mid-day.  I figured maybe no one would be there mid-day on the weekend.  But I was wrong.

The bar was open, so I went to the bar-keep and asked for Mr ???  He said "What do you need with him?"  I said "To pay off a gambling debt."  He said "Wait here."

I waited. Moments later this big goon with a handlebar mustache appeared and asked "Who are you?"  I said I was here to pay off a debt for my brother-in-law, Tommy Gartman.  He said "You mean T.C.?"  I said "Yep, that's the one."  He said "Follow me.

So I followed him. We went through a door, then down a dark and dingy hallway through another door and another dingy hallway.  We came to a door.  He opened it and I was greeted by another goon. He was seated at a small desk and had a cash box opened.  Chewing on a big cigar he said "got me some money?" "$300 from Tommy Gartman." "You mean T.C.?" I said "Yes T.C." I handed  him the money, then waited.   He counted the money then said "okay, debt paid."  Again I waited.  He looked up at me and said "what are you still doing here?"  I said  "I am waiting for a receipt." 

"Cigar" looked up at "mustache" and chuckled saying "he wants a receipt." Then both goons started laughing.  I wasn't laughing, but continued waiting.  Then "cigar" spoke up.  "get out of here."  But my naivete persisted.  "I need my brother-in-law to know that it was paid."  "Cigar" said  "he will know when he realizes nobody's on his tail."  Hmmm.  I got the message, then left.

A couple of weeks later,  Tommy came in and I had a few words for him.  "I can't believe you expected your sister to deliver that money to those goons.". He said she was in no danger. I took issue with that statement and then told him that they wouldn't even give me a receipt.  Just like the two goons Tommy started laughing.  I said  "what the hell is so funny?"  he said  "you know nothing about this business do you." To which I said "all the more reason that we should not have been involved."

He said " first of all this is illegal gambling and second they don't do receipts because they don't want a paper trail. "

With that cheerfull "revelation" I just shook my head and said "Well, La-dee-dah. You've justified why you will NEVER again get Gloria or me to make your deliveries."

Tommy and I remained friends for the 40+ years left of his life, but Glo and I were never again asked to make any deliveries.

To be fair to Tommy, he seldom lost at gambling. And he was forever fun-loving and an eternal optimist. His passing in October of 2016 leaves a sad void in the lives of all who knew and loved him. 

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