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So long, Greg...Go Easy

I dream of the old days of the Hunter’s Inn.

Dennis, Dorothy, Louie, Doc, Marlene and Frank.

Then there was Old Joe, Tommy Pollock, Lloyd and Nick…and let’s not forget Greg and Jenny.

In particular, I remember the moment – every moment – when Greg and Jenny would come bounding in the front door of the bar, right out of the office.

Greg is the sole reason behind my love for anything Sinatra.

“Francis”, he said, “you can never go wrong with the girls if you’re playing Sinatra. The girls love that!” And you know, he was right. I love Sinatra, but Greg is the one that instilled it in me.

He’s also the guy that taught me that anything that could be put on a grill would only be made better with beer. Yeah, I know his secrets to grilling with beer, and I still use them on every bit of meat that ever even comes close to hitting my grill.

Greg was our sage in those uncertain and formidable days. Greg was our hero.

I first met Greg through my buddy Eric. Eric worked for him part-time – doing only God knows what cause it never seemed like he was ever doing anything substantial at all.

Greg was friends with Eric’s father. Greg was Eric’s hero.

Greg was one helluva role model!

I remember Greg as the guy that always had a drink in his hand and was always drinking but was always somehow in total control and never visibly drunk, no matter what was going on around him.

I remember Greg as the guy who somehow managed to set his apartment deck on fire while grilling with Eric’s father. Wish I was there for THAT one!

I remember driving to Pittsburgh in a U-Haul with Eric to help Greg’s mother move some stuff up to Erie. The first time I ever had broken egg and tomato sandwiches. Still live on them for breakfasts even now. Good stuff.

I remember Greg as the guy whose brother in Buffalo invented the east coast bar food, the “Pizza Log”.

I remember Greg as the guy that would intentionally enflame the idiot drunks at the bar just for a kick and a laugh. I can still see him giggling and sneering out from behind his mustache as he lit a new cigarette and flicked his lighter on the bar, meanwhile the drunks at the bar came close to punches over the dispute he had just started.

No wonder Greg was our Hero. Greg was a hero to so many of us…so many folks.

Greg was a good guy. Greg was our sage in those uncertain and formidable days. Greg was our hero.

Something is wrong, though. Greg is NOT one of the guys that was ever supposed to die. Not Greg. No way it could ever happen. But then it did. What the fuck?

Where has the sanity gone? Nowhere around here, that’s for goddamn sure!

We all need a Greg in this world. He would have fun at your expense, but he would never steer you wrong, and would most likely teach you something new about yourself in the doing. Greg was a good guy. I miss Greg. I miss those days.

Most tragically for me, I probably only saw Greg and Wendy maybe five times in the last ten years. I could always spot him instantly with that electric smile of his, no matter here he was in the bar. He was a perpetual shine whenever he spoke.

Who knows what he may have been facing in his last years. It was never my place to ask. Besides, Greg would never bother anyone else with his troubles. It just wasn’t his way.

I’m sorry, Wendy, that you had to endure this all on your own. I do know that Greg loved you beyond all else. It’s not something that was ever said aloud to me. It was something I could sense in seeing the two of you together. Greg was a good guy. I miss Greg.

I stood out in my driveway, smoking a cigar and looking out over the sunset across the lake as I was mulling all of this over in my head. Quite suddenly, a crack of sunlight broke through the waves of clouds and was for, just an instant, warming me. At that moment I could hear Greg saying, “Jesus, Francis…what are you blubbering about? Thanks for the thought and the mention. Now move on with it already. Go on. Get going!”

The clouds swallowed the sunlight spot and the closing sky was heavily laden with gloomy, dreary clouds of the pending autumn once again.

Greg was here and then he was gone. The parting words of a hero lost in the winds.

Such as our heroes should be.

But THAT was Greg. So easy. So fast. And gone.

Greg was our sage in those uncertain and formidable days.

Greg was our hero.

Go easy, Greg. We’ll meet up day not so soon, though...lots more to do.


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